Archive for the ‘media and kids’ Category

From Maps to Apps

June 25th, 2014

Vacation day arrives bright and sunny. As the car pulls out of the driveway, you glance into the back seat to be sure the kids are settled. And settled they are – completely engrossed in whatever their smartphones and tablets have to offer. Is this what you had in mind for family vacation? Are you going to be nagging everyone (maybe even yourself) the whole trip to put the phones away?

It is well to remember that learning can happen in many ways. While the days of counting cars and playing the ABC sign game may be a thing of the past, family fun continues.

mapHere’s one example. Reading maps were a big deal when we traveled as a family. Someone would trace the route with a highlighter. We would use the legend to figure the distance in miles. Another person would check the population of towns we passed through and compare them to our hometown. Maps even had information about historical sites.

Now there’s an app for everything we used a map for – and more! Have the kids take turns with finding directions, checking out places to eat, sharing fun things about places, etc. You can make this into an electronic scavenger hunt (that dates me). The amateur photographers in the family can be responsible for taking pictures and creating a virtual album.

The point is to turn smartphones and tablets into a useful, learning part of vacation rather than a battle. And it’s still ok to occasionally have some “phone free” time. This too can become a game. Each family member gets to pick time during the awake hours each day when phones and tablets are taboo.

How do you handle this issue on your family vacation?

Donna Donald

education, family time, media and kids , , ,

Turn That Darn Thing Off!!

January 5th, 2012

During the recent holidays I spent three days with my kids and grandkids. Every single person arrived with their smartphone and a laptop or tablet/notebook. While we watched movies and football games, people multitasked – taking and sending photos, texting, checking email, playing games, etc. And yes, I was doing the same.

So I was eager to listen to this month’s podcast on Using Technology to Help with Parenting. An important distinction made early in the podcast was the difference between what and how adults use devices and programs and how parents use them.

I learned in the podcast that technology allows parents to be multi-functional. They use technology for information and communication and for emotional support from other parents.  The digital divide is closing with age being a minor predictor. That’s good news for grandparents like me who use technology constantly at work and at home! And people are using Facebook to keep connected with people they don’t see often.

So what does this mean for you as a parent or grandparent? If you are using technology to communicate with your child, that can be a good thing for checking in, sending reminders, etc. But there is a flipside.  Be careful not to micro-manage your child’s life or allow them to become too dependent on your constant presence. Children need to learn responsibility and problem solving and how to be independent.  Also balance these quick exchanges with the face-to-face interactions that are vital to relationships. Insist on some technology-free time. For example, during our long weekend together meals were “no tech” times. We enjoyed both the food and conversation without the interruptions of tech devices. Of course the rules applied to both adults and kids.

If you are using technology to get information about parenting, there is more out there than we can begin to comprehend. A search on any parenting topic results in endless options. I usually restrict my sources to the educational sites and I am going to add the Tufts University Child and Family Web Guide to my favorites list.

How do you use technology as a parent? And how do you filter the endless possibilities for information via technology?

Donna Donald

media and kids

Episode 11: Using Technology to Help with Parenting

January 1st, 2012

From podcasts to text messages and Skype, many parents are adding technology to their parenting toolkit. This month’s Science of Parenting podcast takes a closer look at how parents can use information and communications technology for parenting.

Related resources

Additional links to be posted with the news release

media and kids, podcast , , ,

Lions, Tigers and Costumes! OH My!

October 20th, 2011

I thought a lot about Grover the last week or two. Thinking about the fact that he and his pals on Sesame Street really are technically ‘monsters’.  Puppets yes, but ‘monster’ puppets all the same. As a preschool teacher many years ago I recall vividly the day of our fire station field trip. The firefighter led the children through the station & stopped in front of the truck then slowly piece by piece put on his fireproof pants, coat, gloves …. And then the hat/mask…… several children yelled MONSTER!!!!!!  And began to cry. I was horrified. Both because I had traumatized the children and because the poor firefighter didn’t know what to do. Young children (toddlers/preschoolers/even through early elementary ages at times) have a difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. As soon as the fire fighter put on the mask the human-ness was gone and the children’s brains thought monster. As adults we ‘know’ that the real human is still under the costume and the costume is creating a fantasy type character. Company/sports mascots, life size puppets, clowns and even Halloween costumes can fall into that fantasy category. My daughter was one of those children that was very scared of the costumed characters. We never went to an Barney Live or a Disney on Ice because the characters were roaming the halls mingling with guests. Even at 11 she still says “I’m not so scared of them but I really don’t like them mom”.  Have your children been scared of characters or clowns? What were some ways that you helped them through their fears?

education, media and kids, positive parenting, social-emotional , , , , , , ,

The Day We Got Our First TV

October 13th, 2011

Dare I confess I remember the day our family got its first TV – black and white and big enough to take up a whole corner of the living room. We watched sitcoms, variety shows, westerns, and baseball games. Some of that programming would now probably be deemed politically incorrect and inappropriate for children to view.

That said, two practices are still relevant today. We watched as a family (one parent always in the room or nearby) and none of us kids had TVs in our bedrooms. TV viewing was a family affair, not an individual pursuit.  

Today is a different time but parents still get to make the choice of how television is used in their homes. I listen to parents talk about how there isn’t anything to watch on TV even though we have hundreds of channels. They also complain about how much TV their kids are watching or what they are watching.

So Mom and Dad – time to put TV guidelines into place for your family. Sit down with your kids and together decide how TV will be used and when it will be watched. Maybe you don’t need a TV patrol in your home. But you do need discussions to arrive at a comfortable plan that fits your family’s values.

I might also add that your kids are watching you watch TV. They see how you use it for leisure, education, or background noise. They notice how much you watch and its importance in your life. Are you modeling what you want your kids to do also?

The University of Michigan Health Systems has some excellent information about television and children. Check it out at:

While you’re at the site be sure to also read A Guide to Managing Television: Tips for Your Family.

Which tip do you want to try with your family?

Donna Donald

media and kids

Grover vs ….?

October 6th, 2011

I am a product of Sesame Street. Yep, I counted with the Count and ate cookies with Cookie. And deep down I’m probably still in enamored with loveable furry ‘ole Grover!

According to this month’s podcast there are 34 years of research that shows I very likely went to kindergarten having ‘learned’ from Sesame Street! Knowing that tv truly is ‘teaching’ our children can be both exciting and frightening at the same time.  This month’s podcast addresses how we can sift through what our children should and shouldn’t watch on television.

As I think about what my children might be learning from tv, I think most about all of the different channels available. I only had three options. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the different programming options available. My girls and I enjoy several of the nature and real life types of shows on various channels, but have also watched the cartoon-y children’s programs. We like the options!

Do I limit what they watch – yes I try my best. Are there times that they may be watching something less than stellar in my opinion? Absolutely. As I was listening to the podcast I appreciated the recognition that different channels may have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ programming. That one channel may not be all ‘bad’ or all ‘good’. The bottom line was that I needed to pay attention to the different programs, watch them for myself and then determine whether it would be something I should let my girls watch.

What types of characteristics do you look at when you determine whether or not your children should watch something? 

Lori L Hayungs

education, media and kids, positive parenting , , , , ,

Episode 8: Children and TV

October 1st, 2011

Parents need to know what their kids are watching on television and steer them toward the “good stuff.” Learn how to determine what the good stuff is — listen to this month’s Science of Parenting podcast.

ISU Extension materials


Other materials

From the Science of Parenting Blog

media and kids, podcast , , , , , ,

What’s Old is New Again

August 18th, 2011

Sometimes the idea that what’s old is new again can be positive. But when I listened to the podcast and heard how the alcohol and pot of the 60s and 70s are now favored by teens – well, it wasn’t a good thing. We’re talking about the era I grew up in and yes, teens were doing plenty of experimenting and rebelling. However, it seemed to pass quickly for most and the consequences were not too significant.

Fast forward to today and I can tell you I worry about my grandkids and the choices they may make. The use (and abuse) of alcohol and drugs has been normalized and the behavior often glorified. There does not seem to be any rules to this game, but the consequences are severe.

So where do parents start? This sounds so simple – spend time together as a family. The podcast mentioned the alarming small amount of time dads and moms spend with their children. Time together is how you build affection and trust. This is the basis for communication.

Talk about yourself and the pressures and choices that came at each age. Be honest in sharing your own experiences.  That doesn’t mean I have to tell every little detail about what I did, or didn’t do. But I can share my mistakes and the consequences of my choices.  I can share my values and beliefs.

Allow for some experimentation. What I mean is it is natural for kids to experiment. That is how they learn. As a parent you can allow experimentation in areas where there is little or no long term danger. Let your child experiment with various school activities, part-time jobs, types of hair style and clothing. A wise parent learns when to close her eyes or bite her tongue. I choose to look past the trendy clothes and purple hair. The clothes change and the hair grows out. Instead i focus my energies on open conversations about choices that affect my grandkids’ futures. We may not always agree but they know they can speak freely with me.

Children are growing up in the same world as we adults live in but their experiences are very different.  The one thing I, and you as a parent, can do is be present. Do not turn over all influence to peers and media. Children and teens need and want, support, guidance, and caring from their parents. If that is what’s old is new again, I think it is a very good thing.

Donna Donald

media and kids, positive parenting, raising teens, safety

Discussing Celebrity Behavior

March 28th, 2011

Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton . . .  The list of celebrities who have been involved in recent scandals and outrageous behavior goes on and on.  The lives of superstars have become so fascinating to the general public that there are entire television networks dedicated to filling you in on all the celebrity gossip.  Some people even gain superstar status because they exhibit inappropriate behavior.

As a parent, it can be concerning to know that children are watching these celebrity scandals, and seeing the incredible media frenzy and fame that comes along with them.  So what can you be doing to help your children understand all this information?

First of all, it is important to talk to your children about how this information makes them feel, and what their thoughts are about it.  Children might feel shocked or disappointed by the negative and inconsistent behavior of someone they look up to.

Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings about the incident.  Don’t attack the celebrity (if it is a person your child looks up to, your child may feel the need to defend the celebrity).  Instead, talk about what might make a person behave like this.  Let your child know that celebrities and athletes are all human, and they all make mistakes.

During the conversation, you can also ask your child how the celebrity could have behaved differently, more appropriately.  This will help your child understand what appropriate behavior looks like, and how he/she can make good choices in difficult situations.

It is important for children to have role models to look up to.  Try introducing your children to local role models, who will demonstrate positive behaviors for your children.  For example, a firefighter, a policeman/policewoman, a nurse, or a teacher.  You can take this a step further by encouraging your child to be a positive role model.  Your child could do this by asking a classmate to play at recess, saving a spot for a new friend at lunch, or giving a nice compliment.

What strategies have you used to help your child understand inappropriate and inconsistent celebrity behaviors?

media and kids, positive parenting

Exergaming: A better option than sedentary games for holiday gift-giving

November 24th, 2010

If you want to buy your child a video game, buy a game that rewards physical activity. New research shows that playing some activity-promoting video games can be as beneficial as other forms of moderate exercise. For instance, adolescents who played Wii Sports Boxing showed physiological effects that were classified as moderate physical activity. Researchers concluded that children, ages 10-to 14-years old, who played eight hours of Wii Boxing per week, burned 1,990 calories; this is three times more calories than they would have expended if they were playing a sedentary video game. Researchers do not dismiss the importance of children engaging in traditional physical activities, such as walking briskly and running. However, if your child is going to play a video game, encourage those that reward physical activity as opposed to a sedentary video game.

Additional exergaming options include Wii Fit™, EA SPORTS Active,™ Dance Revolution™, and The Beatles: Rock Band. In fact, other research has shown that children who played certain video games burned:
• 125 calories in 15 minutes while boxing
• 92 calories in 15 minutes while playing tennis, and
• 77 calories in 15 minutes while bowling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between 6-and 17-years of age should engage in 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity most days of the week. Running and brisk walking are examples of aerobic activities that can improve your child’s overall health and reduce the risks for developing many diseases. Children should also participate in muscle-strengthening exercises at least three days a week. Also, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:
• Absolutely no screen time or video game playing for children under the age of three years, and
• No more than 1 hour of total screen time (includes playing video games) for children ages 3-12 years per day

If your child will be playing video games, find games that increase your child’s energy expenditure, heart rate, and perceived exertion, because many of these exergames produce effects similar to moderate-intensity exercise. More important, parents should remain mindful of the benefits of traditional exercise, as well as the recommendations for the amount of time children should play video games and engage in physical activities.

media and kids, nutrition , , ,

Children’s weight related to media use

October 8th, 2010

Did you know that media use has been linked to being overweight and obese? In the U.S., children between 8-and 18-years old spend an average of 44.5 hours a week using media and only 8.75 hours a week exercising. Children who spend too much time using media tend to be overweight. In fact, research shows that a preschooler’s risk of becoming obese increases 6% for every hour of T.V. watched per day.

Obesity is a major health concern and an epidemic for our nation, including our nation’s children of all ages. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2008 among adults and increased from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008 among children and adolescents.
Too much media use can increase body weight and reduce:

  • physical activity
  • reading
  • doing homework
  • playing with friends
  • spending time with family
  • metabolic rates

Parents must set rules and limit their child’s access to media and encourage healthy alternatives to media use, especially exercise.

Scientists have found that reducing the amount of time preschoolers watch television lowers their body weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • Absolutely no screen time for children under the age of three years
  • No more than 1 hour of total screen time for children ages 3-12 years per day

All children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate or intense aerobic physical activity each day. There are many alternatives to media use that parents can recommend to their children, such as:

  • Riding a bike
  • Playing outside
  • Going to the library
  • Attending a sporting or musical event
  • Playing with a friend
  • Walking a dog
  • Practicing a musical instrument
  • Playing a board game
  • Reading a book
  • Drawing
  • Swimming
  • Going for a walk
  • Participating in organized activities such as baseball, tennis, dance, and swimming, and
  • Cooking family meals together

For more information about preventing obesity, visit

media and kids, nutrition , , , ,


August 10th, 2010

Cyberbullying, or bullying via technology and/or the internet, has become the newest way to make fun of, ridicule, and victimize others. In a 2010 study of 12 to 18 year olds, researchers found that 83% of teens use a cell phone, 78% send text messages, 50% use Facebook, 38% use Myspace, 46% email, and 41% instant message. With this wide variety of technology being used by today’s youth, it’s no wonder that bullying has found its way from the playground to cell phones and computers.

It’s no secret that physical bullying is more common among boys, while relational bullying (bullying with words) is more common among girls. Given this fact, it might not be surprising to you that cyberbullying is most common among girls, although it happens to both girls and boys. Over 20% of teens report having experienced cyberbullying. The most common forms are hurtful comments, rumors, or threats online. Other forms include text messages, pictures, videos, or websites created about the victim. If not dealt with and solved, cyberbullying can have serious negative consequences for children. As a parent, it’s important to know how to handle such a situation.

To help your child stay safe from cyberbullying, here are some helpful tips:
• Keep your home computer in a location where it can be easily viewed. If your children know that you can see what they’re doing, they are more likely to use the computer for appropriate behaviors only.
• Become familiar with social networking and communication technologies. If your child tells you that he’s doing homework, but he’s actually instant messaging, would you know the difference? In order to keep your children safe, you have to know a little about these technologies: know what they look like, know what they’re used for, and know the lingo.
• Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Consider installing filters or blockers to keep your child from visiting dangerous chat rooms or from using the Internet in other harmful ways.
• Set guidelines for cell phone use, then enforce and monitor these expectations.
• Set guidelines for computer and internet use, along with specific consequences if these guidelines are not met.
• Have a plan of how you will handle the situation if your child is being cyberbullied. Stay calm and take steps toward finding a solution.
• Inform school administrators right away. Inquire about bullying preemption programs.
• Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Save the messages, pictures, or videos.
• Spend time with your child to let him/her know how much you love and support him/her.

bullying, media and kids, raising teens

Screen Time and Attention Difficulties

July 20th, 2010

Researchers in Psychology at Iowa State University recently completed a study involving school-age and college-age participants in Iowa.

Their goal: To determine how the amount of screen time affects children’s attention skills in school.

As mentioned earlier in this blog, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time each day for middle and high school children, and even less for younger children. The ISU study found that the average television and video gaming time was 4.26 hours per day. This is well above the recommended amount, but still below the national average.

When observing the classroom behaviors of these children, the researchers found that children who exceeded the recommended two hours of screen time per day were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems. Although many other factors contribute to attention difficulties, the investigators of this study feel that screen time may be a contributing factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Although they don’t know exactly why increased screen time is associated with increased attention problems, researchers speculate that it could be due to the fast-paced, attention grabbing effects of television shows. Today, television shows change screens every one to two seconds, and include many more lights, camera and sound changes, and special effects than in the past. Children who get used to this action packed, attention-grabbing entertainment may have more difficulty concentrating in a classroom that doesn’t have all these special effects.

So, what can you do to limit your child’s tv time?  Click here to find out more.

media and kids

Video Gaming

June 23rd, 2010

To game or not to game … that is the question! With high definition graphics, multiple levels and players, and even bouts against other users via the internet, video gaming has reached a new technological level. These graphics are appealing to children, but researchers and parents often want to know about the potential negative effects of video gaming.

While video games have some positive effects on children (fine motor skills, mouse/keyboard abilities, and visual attention skills), they have been shown to increase aggression in children, both in the short and long term. Even playing a hostile video game just once increases a child’s likelihood of being aggressive towards others in the near future. Continued exposure to hostile video games has the long term effect of making children more aggressive over time. In fact, regular exposure to violent video games increases a child’s likelihood of getting into a fight by two to four times! On top of this, spending too much time playing video games has been linked to decreases in school performance.

To avoid the negative effects of video games, parents need to pay attention to both the content of video games, as well as the amount of time children are playing the video games. Video game ratings serve as a good starting point for gauging whether or not a video is appropriate for your child, but don’t stop there. Parents also need to look at the content of the game. If the game involves aggression or harm toward others, this game is not appropriate for children and will likely cause increased aggression (even if the game involves cartoon characters).

When it comes to the amount of video game playing time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for recommended total screen time each day. This includes video games, television, and computer usage:

  • Under 3 years old = NO screen time
  • Elementary aged children = 1 hour per day
  • Middle and high school children = 2 hours per day

media and kids