Daring to Live Your Life Offline

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12.30.09

Media consumption: Does it have to be all or nothing? Can we find ways to fit tech tools into our lives sensibly and selectively in ways that actually work for us? In other words, does it have to be feast or famine? Why not figure out sensible diets that allow us (and teach our kids) to consume media rather than having media consume us? Are there experts we can ask about the best ways to adapt our own media diets?

The benefits in so many ways are enormous. But the dazzling growth of accessible digital media has been driving us helter-skelter. The forces let loose are not necessarily healthy. We are so dazzled by digital gadgets (and they truly are amazing!) that we forget to consider seriously how these will eventually impact our children and family lives — and ultimately the picture is not at all pretty.

Families with more media at home have less interpersonal interactions. Media-soaked digital kids are awash in gadgets from earlier and earlier ages, and most are unsupervised and consume mostly junk. Social, mobile, interactive robotic dolls will soon visit our children’s playpens and cribs. Parents feel helpless because they do not know — except for restricting and filtering — how to guide media-saturated kids’ into healthy media consumption. Social media are full of clutter, but the noise is intrusive, overwhelming, and often trivial — and actually often distracts us from and dilutes truly gratifying authentic human contact.

Technology has brought lots of good stuff that can go into a healthy media diet that will actually enhance our lives — in moderation and the right proportions. I wrote KIDS, PARENTS & TECHNOLOGY: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES to guide parents pay the right kind of attention systematically and comprehensively to promote healthy media consumption in the home from early life.

We some thought, we can commit themselves to pay attention to how we use media at home and elsewhere. We can become more balanced consumers of information and media to enhance or relationships, values, socialization, and intellectual development, yet and still have fun.

An Apple tablet will give developers a bigger sandbox. But how many will jump in?

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12.30.09

Buy an Apple iPad for Your Child? I personally love good technology and will probably get an iPad or something like it for myself. But before bringing a new gadget home, every parent must think through its impact on the kids and family life. Kids left to themselves consume media as they do junk food. The more the media, the poorer the grades and the lesser imaginative play and family interactions. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1/5 of those ages eight to eighteen now get as much as nineteen hours of media daily but report more unhappiness. I am also concerned that parent distraction by media might be damaging vital formation of youngsters’ brain circuits. I have seen mothers on their cell phones or texting while breast-feeding –surely they are not fully present with their infants at a key moment. Can such interruptions in bonding contribute to later brain-based problems, including to the recent rise autism? There can be great benefits to technology, but there are alarming trends and important unanswered questions. I believe that parents should commit to leading their youngsters towards positive uses whatever electronic media happen to us. They should plan media consumption as they do meals, and for the long run, as they do for college. By being fully present and applying sound child-rearing and family support principles, parents can now create balanced media plans that lead youngsters to the values and orientation they will need to succeed in an increasingly technology-rich world.

7 Tips To Release Your Stress In Minutes

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12.29.09

From a neuroscience POV, our brains are really wired to get the most mileage from social contact, and not necessarily from these types of activities. While these might work, so much stress relief advice these days is too self-centered, empty, and self-indulgent and over-concerned with diet, body, and self-centered thinking. What happened to touching base with a friend or relative — ‘I was just thinking of you and want to say hi’ — or showing a kindness to — or a smiling at, or laughing with — an acquaintance or stranger.

Here’s What I’d Like To Hear More of In 2010

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12.28.09

A great idea! Too many of us are uneasy – and kids ‘bored’ – and restless when the noise stops. The clutter of modern life — especially the noise and unfocussed energy that digital media bring into our homes, cars, and into our hands — are not necessarily good for our families and growing children. Connection is not friendship. Being present alone within one’ s self or together with family members are moments of intimacy too rare in our current life.

Here’s a NEW YEAR’S resolution for parents: I will take charge of my kids’ digital media activities to make them into safe assets for development and family life. I want to stay present and keep their minds and brains ‘green’. This will take an ongoing commitment, just like dieting or working on a marriage.

Tips for Controlling Your Teen’s Facebook Usage

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12.28.09

Adolescence is a period of experimentation often given to such excesses, usually harmless when transient and just require watching and waiting, or gentle nudges from parents. Over-reaction from parents can make things worse when they turn into power struggles. People of all ages — including youngsters — who pull the plug themselves on overuse of any digital media (including video games, social media, Internet, porn, etc.) are way ahead of those who either do not do so or cannot see the need to, or who insist that their excessive use is not a problem.  Excesses of any kind that are chronic or produce family conflict are often lightening of other problems and would not respond to mere filtering.

A much more important general issue, and one that requires much more parental involvement than mere filtering or limiting access, is how kids use digital media in general, how family life is affected, and what place these have in their lives. To raise a successful digital family, this area requires a systematic and comprehensive commitment from parents from an early age and expert guidance, as I give in myKIDS, PARENTS & TECHNOLOGY: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES.

KIDS, PARENTS, and TECHNOLOGY: New Blog Spot

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12.26.09

We are so dazzled by digital gadgets (and they truly are amazing!) that we forget to consider seriously how these ultimately impact our children and family lives — and ultimately the picture is not at all pretty.

Kids are awash in digital media and gadgets, and most are unsupervised and consume mostly junk. Parents feel helpless because they do not know — except for restricting and filtering — how to guide media-saturated kids’ into healthy media consumption.

Technology has brought lots of good stuff that can go into a healthy media diet that will actually enhance family life and child development. If shown how, parents will commit themselves to pay attention and get involved in kids’ digital lives constructively and to the benefit of all. Kids will grow into balanced consumers of information and media and family relationships, values education, socialization, as would intellectual development, and kids will still have fun.

The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade

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12.26.09

A thoughtful inventory to remind us that digital games can indeed be both esthetic, successful, and even pro-social, challenging all the hoopla that they are always toxic to children. Parents should join kids in playing these wonderful games. Here’s a NEW YEAR’S resolution for parents: I will take charge of my kids’ digital media activities to make them into safe assets for  development and family life. I want to keep their minds and brains ‘green’. This will take an ongoing commitment, just like dieting or working on a marriage.

The Best iPhone Apps for Kids

12.26.09

Here’s a NEW YEAR’S resolution for parents: I will take charge of my kids’ digital media activities to make them into safe assets for development and family life. I want to keep their minds and brains ‘green.’ This will take an ongoing commitment, just like dieting or working on a marriage.

Over the past decade of working with kids and families, I have seen how interactive digital technologies have invaded homes helter-skelter and have become lightening rods for conflict, while the potential benefits have received almost no attention. In my practice, I see more and more vacant kids and families surprisingly empty and superficial.

Connectivity has exploded. It is not the same as friendship nor intimacy. In fact, connectivity seems to trivialize intimacy and friendship, except for girls of at certain ages, where it may be developmentally helpful (although certainly not necessary.) Effects on the developmentally-essential process of mastering separation anxiety and evolving individuation have not been studied, but much seems to now be up for grabs as kids reach parents in a whim and impulse and parents over-schedule and hover over them. Personal boundaries are porous. Increasing clutter and noise seem to dilute and hide authenticity and genuineness. Younger and younger kids — infants and toddlers — are given videos and digital devices without supervision. Intelligent, mobile, social, pre-programmed dolls will soon be coming for play dates with infants in their cribs and toddlers in their playpens.

Studies show that kids over eight spend eight hours daily with some sort of media, often junk. Family members have fewer interactions in homes that have more digital media, and the number of such homes is growing. Video games get a lot of discussion and press. The picture is complex, but they do seem to enhance visual-motor skills and offer some socialization and be relatively harmless (except for the obesity enhancing sedentary-ness, time eaten up, and actual damage to kids in certain high risk groups.) Long-term effects are not clear. The whole process is driven by a robust and exceptionally brilliant entrepreneurial industry — software, media, and hardware — that is a miraculous economic engine, but not at all pro-social or family- or child-centered.

I wonder if parents are aware enough about all that is going on — it seems that we are really not active enough in managing the use of new technologies to benefit family lives with healthy media diets. So, I began working in this space about 6 years ago in therapy with kids up to 18 (see my presentation at the APA 5/09 www.mydigitalfamily.org > PRESS> PRINT and chapter 12 in my book, based on sound child-development principles to guide parents. )

This topic deserves much more discussion. Technology can be a real asset in the home, as it has been elsewhere. Conditions are changing at the speed of light out there as amazing new technologies seduce kids and parents alike — and not necessarily all for the good. And this is all likely to accelerate. Parents need to be more thoughtful, plan ahead, proactive, involved, and lead rather than merely react.

Neato Robotic Vacuum to Take Over Household Cleaning

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12.26.09

Another great application of technology in the home, and one that kids can easily appreciate and learn from. Explain to them how it works, and segway into other topics about using technology in their lives per my KIDS, PARENTS & TECHNOLOGY: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES.

Family Focus – Is TV Bad for Babies?

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12.26.09

Keeping baby’s brain green must be our first priority, since it is such a complex environment with sensitive – but highly resilient — ecologies. Managing media from early life is an important commitment — and parents go need guidance. This will take an ongoing commitment, just like dieting or working on a marriage.