Don’t Freak Out About Screen Time, But Don’t Check Out Either

Child holds up reed basket he is weaving

Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.

First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.

Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.

“Don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”

To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.

When reading Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won (NYT March 31, 2020) by reporter Nellie Bowles, we need to consider the source: an adult with a fully formed brain.

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Gabb Wireless Phone Answers Parents’ Prayers

black touch-screen wireless phone for kids

At last, a sleek touch-screen starter phone made just for kids. The big difference: it can’t access to the Internet. “It’s not that it’s blocked. It really doesn’t exist on the phone,” says Stephen Dalby, founder of Gabb Wireless. “On our cellular network, the only thing you will find will be safe phones for kids.”

Being a dad launched Dalby on his design journey. “I had to get a phone for my son and I just didn’t feel comfortable with the options that were out there.”

As a first step toward a full-fledged smartphone, Gabb Basic has plenty for kids to learn. They can call, text, and use the calendar, alarm and calculator apps. What they can’t do is play video games, use social media, shop in app stores, send picture messages, or group text.

The price is lighter, too.

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Protecting Student Data: Parent Opinions Needed

School child in headphones next to computer monitor

With iPads and Chromebooks now supplanting paper and pencils in many schools, and students using a constellation of apps and programs, a unique digital footprint is being created for each child —one that could follow them for the rest their lives. But if you act now, you can help better protect students and their data.

Until Monday, December 9, the Federal Trade Commission is asking the public what should be added to the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. COPPA “prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection with the collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from and about children [aged 12 and under] on the Internet,” as the law states.

COMMENT HERE TO THE FTC

Whether you’re a parent or not, this is how to make a comment and why your opinion is needed now:   

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Parents Didn’t Need to Think Much About Attachment Until Now

Father lovingly feeds baby a bottle

Babies and their loving caregivers are naturally attracted to each other. Feeding a baby is a sacred time when lifelong bonds develop through tender caresses, late-night murmurs and loving, long glances.

But there’s competition now. A spare moment is an opportunity to catch up—with email, social media, and other digital demands on our attention.

Yet, a child’s vital need for Attachment remains. Without secure attachment, a baby can grow up more anxious and less durable in the long run. Without the opportunity to closely study a caregiver’s mouth and expressions, language development can lag. A child could miss out on learning the vital skill (for survival in life and in business) of learning to read faces.

Research is beginning to indicate that if the view of a caregiver’s face is blocked by a device or if a very young child is left to spend too much time in a 2-D screen environment, the trajectory of brain development can be altered, as in the newly-discovered syndrome seen in toddlers, Virtual Autism. Continue reading

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