Limiting Media Blasts When it’s Overwhelming

The new “normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic is round the clock briefings on how fast and furious the virus is spreading. The details can be too much for many, including children. Even adults can be overwhelmed with the hourly updates provided by every news outlet, on radio and even on social media.

Because there is so much “unknown” about this virus and it’s impact, helping children to feel safe, and secure is important. Talk with your children about the fact that this medical situation is new and that many health professionals are working to find solutions. Share only sound bites of information in doses that they can understand. They may have worries about their grandparents becoming sick; Children may wonder if their parents who may still have to go to work daily, will come home with the virus.

Have a family meeting and talk to your children. What questions do your children have about what they are hearing, and take steps to answer honestly, within reason, for what they can understand. If you are all home together, practicing social distancing, be sure to limit the amount of media that your children have access to. This may be the time to put the tablets and mobile phones away and find alternative board games, books, music and puzzles to complete.

If your children ask for television, perhaps family movie afternoon or evening could turn into some family fun. Limiting the hourly news feed will give everyone in the family the break they need and a chance to focus on fun as a family.

For additional information about how to tell your child about closure and postponements of some of their favorite activities, be sure to read, watch, or listen to “Talking to Your Kids Who Are Missing Out on Big Moments.”

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Screen Time and YOU

technology-momSTEM – or Science; Technology; Engineering and Math are classes that students will be introduced to as they become school ready. Many children have had plenty of access to technology through their use of a computer, gaming device or cell phone. These devices are preparing them to observe, think, navigate, and negotiate among other things.

A recent non-scientific poll hosted on our Science Of Parenting twitter account asked parents about how much screen time they support for their children ages 5 – 10 and 61% indicated 1 – 2 hours daily. 18% said less than an hour daily and 12% reported between 3 – 5 hours daily. It’s not hard to contemplate that much screen time when you consider schools use computers for some instruction and homework; along with television and gaming devices all popular with kids.

Adults too, are faced with decisions about their own screen time. And really, because technology has skyrocketed, screens are used in most all professions including medicine; education; agriculture and manufacturing, to name a few. When we asked adults about how many hours a day they were in front of a screen 76% estimated they were in front of a screen between 4 and 8 hours a day for work alone. In addition, 46% of respondents indicated they may spend an additional 1 – 2 hours daily in front of a screen viewing social media. And don’t forget the TV, adults reported viewing an average of 1 – 2 hours of television daily.

Managing screen time and finding a healthy balance for the entire family is necessary! If you should like to read more about screen time and health and wellness of your children, check out this Science of Parenting publication: Video Games and Other Media: Pros and Cons

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Screen Time and Attention Difficulties

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.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Video Gaming

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

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Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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