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screen time

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Imagine if everyone adhered to these guidelines.


We know too much screen time is not good for us. We also know that younger folks are particularly susceptible to screen addiction. What we don’t fully know is how to effectively help teens and tweens manage the habit, especially when screens are such an everyday part of life.

However, psychiatrist, author and dad of seven Richard Wadsworth recently went viral after showing his own personal strategy for getting his kids to do something other than scrolling. It could be the perfect solution for parents to not only break screen addiction, but instill some other healthy ritual as well.

In the clip, we first see Wadsworth’s tween son doing deltoid exercises with dumbbells. Which he apparently got up at 6:30 am to do.

What could possibly incentivize practically anyone, let alone a preteen to wake up at the crack of dawn to lift weights? Read on.


Wadsworth then showed a typed out list of various tasks that must be performed before even setting eyes on a phone or tablet. The list included a short workout in the form of one mile on the treadmill or 20 minutes of another exercise.

Wadsworth explained that rather than enforcing strict rules, this method provides necessary structure without taking away choice.

“I’m not forcing my son to exercise every day, but I am setting rules and boundaries around his screen time,” he said. “He decided he wanted to have more time after school to play with his friend. And so in order to do that, he realized that he’d need to wake up a little bit earlier and exercise in the morning.”

In addition to exercise, the list included domestic chores like cleaning the bedroom and shared areas, finishing homework, doing laundry, preparing for the next day…and, perhaps most importantly…making sure the toilet is flushed.

“We have all of their screens locked away. And if they want access to any of them, they need to come ask us and we’ll go through the list together. And they’re not getting their screens until the list is done,” Wadsworth continued.

He also drew a comparison between screen time and sugary sweets, noting how most parents probably wouldn’t routinely allow kids to eat dessert before a nutritious meal, but instead allow it to be a treat.

“Just as you would hopefully have your kids eat dinner before they had their dessert, you should probably be having them do something positive…before they get on their screens." Hence why he tries to get his kids to complete their list before going to the phone.

And in case you’re wondering how Wadsworth’s son feels about all this, he reported having “so much energy for school” feeling “so much better” since his dad introduced the to-do list.

@doctorwadsworth #greenscreen #parenting #parentingtips ♬ original sound - Richard Wadsworth

Bottom line: kids need guidance from their parents. And Wadsworth recommends clear cut boundaries to help them develop good habits, “because if you don’t do it, nobody else is.”

Wadsworth’s parenting hack was well received, with quite a few grown adults saying they could benefit from this type of boundary-setting in their own life.

“Even I’m addicted to this screen. I have to tell myself to put it down all the time and I’m a grown adult. Kids definitely need this!” one user wrote.

Another added, “I need someone to do this for me (I’m 28).” To which Wadsworth replied, “we all need parents sometimes.”

Even with potential TikTok bans, social media isn’t going anywhere. The sooner parents can implement guidelines like these, the better equipped their kids will be at balancing tech savviness with tech dependence.

All photos courtesy of Biofinity Energys®

True

The human eye reveals so much about who we are. One look can convey love, annoyance, exhaustion, or wisdom.

Our eyes tell the world if we are getting enough sleep, if we’ve been crying, or whether we are truly happy (or just faking it). When looking at the face, the eyes dominate emotional communication—after all, they’ve long been known as the “window to the soul.”


While humans can look each other in the eye and learn quite a bit with just a glance, our eyes also let us know when they’re tired of scrolling through Instagram or texting GIFS to our best friend…even if our brains are not (because let’s be honest, a well-placed GIF never gets old).

When our eyes are strained from looking at a digital device, they usually begin feeling dry, tired, and/or irritated.1 This is known as “digital eye strain2,” something that can start to happen after only a few hours of looking at screens. Unfortunately, we can’t always stop what we’re doing—especially if we’re in the middle of teaching a class or giving a big presentation at work.

It’s a conundrum: our lives literally revolve around digital screens because we use technology for almost everything: work, school, play, communication, travel, banking, and news. But also, screens are taking a major toll on our eyes.

So what happens when our eyes have had enough, but there are still a lot of hours left in the day? There are several options recommended by eye care professionals, ranging from wearing blue light glasses to taking regular breaks and keeping your screen at the same level of brightness as your surroundings.

Another solution is Biofinity Energys® contact lenses. These contact lenses are designed for all-day wear, helping people's eyes better adapt so they can seamlessly and continuously shift focus between digital devices and offline activities. They are engineered with special Aquaform® Technology to lock in moisture, helping your eyes feel less dry. They’re also designed to help with eye tiredness (but you still need to take breaks!).

These monthly replacement contact lenses correct farsightedness or nearsightedness while simultaneously helping to reduce symptoms associated with digital eye strain, which is great for people like me who feel like they have to choose between blue light glasses or vision-correcting contacts just to get through a day at work!

Our eyes are obviously a very important part of our bodies, and we have to take care of them. If you’re interested in learning more about how these contact lenses can help your eyes feel less tired due to digital eye strain, head over to biofinityenergys.com to get your free trial certificate.

References

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020759/
    2. https://www.reviewob.com/how-many-americans-experience-digital-eye-strain/

    For over a decade, Apple's done everything in its power to keep your eyes, ears, and fingers glued to your cellphone. This makes their latest feature a little puzzling.

    Tucked away in iOS 12, the mid-2018 iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, is a feature called Screen Time. This feature will monitor user activity about app usage, time spent on the device, and more. It will also allow people to set limits for themselves. Parental controls are nothing new when it comes to pieces of tech, but Screen Time is a little different in that it's not necessarily for children.

    "With Screen Time, these new tools are empowering users who want help managing their device time and balancing the many things that are important to them," Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said during the product announcement. In effect, Apple is giving users the option to limit themselves and the time spent on their devices.


    A look at what Apple's Screen Time feature will look like on iPhone. Image from Apple.

    The need for Screen Time illustrates a growing consciousness around the issue of tech addiction.

    It may sound silly, but people are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices. Figures vary, but it's estimated that the average U.S. adult spends somewhere around four hours on their phones and tablets each day, a number that's climbed higher in recent years. Whether it's actually an "addiction" is up for debate (it's not currently listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but it and similar technology-related issues are being studied.

    Whether or not tech can actually be addictive, there's a lot of data to suggest that it's just simply not great for our health in large doses.

    If tech addiction doesn't exist, it's not for a lack of trying.

    In a November interview with Axios, Sean Parker, an early investor in Facebook and its first president, explained the driving question behind the company's development: "How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?"

    "That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments. It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

    To be fair, getting people to use a product as much as possible isn't exactly a remarkable goal for any company. Facebook just succeeded in ways other businesses haven't.

    Sean Parker addresses a conference in 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen.

    Some in the tech industry are finally asking questions and drawing conclusions about the long-term effects of dependency on technology.

    Former Facebook vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya told an audience at Stanford University that the "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created" pose a threat to society as a whole. "No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem — this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem."

    During its 2018 I/O conference, Google acknowledged that technology as we currently know it comes with some downsides. "Great technology should improve life, not distract from it," the company's Digital Wellbeing website proclaims. This new suite of tools, similar to Apple's Screen Time, comes with a simple goal: Ensure that "life, not the technology in it, stays front and center."

    Without a doubt, tools like those in Google's Digital Wellbeing and Apple's Screen Time are a good thing. But they're probably not enough.

    In his 2016 TED Talk on how "better tech could protect us from distraction," former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris laid out a plan to "restore choice" in the relationship we have with technology. The goal is to convince companies to pursue a metric of "time well spent" rather than simply time spent. Harris called on companies to judge their success on the company's "net positive contribution to human life," on designers to resist the urge to simply create unproductive time-sucks, and on consumers to "demand technology that works this way."

    A healthier relationship with technology requires companies to rethink their businesses as a whole. Tools like Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time on their own don't address the underlying issue.

    If you feel like you're having a tough time reducing your time on your mobile devices and you want to cut back, there are simple things you can do right now.

    As co-founder and executive director at the Center for Humane Technology, Harris advocates for better design. The organization's website is full of great resources, but none better and more instantly applicable than its list of ways to "live more intentionally with your devices." Here are five suggestions for ways you can cut back on mobile device dependence:

    1. Manage your notifications.

    CHT recommends turning off all notifications for everything except messaging apps, text, and email.

    2. Change your display to black, white, and gray.

    Did you know that you can make your iPhone display grayscale? CHT outlines how to do that, removing some of the bright colors that demand our attention.

    3. Sleep with your phone in a different room.

    Not only do phones have a nasty habit of keeping us up late when we're trying to sleep, but waking up next to one reinforces a habit that starts the day diving headfirst into technology.

    4. Reorganize your home screen.

    Think about what apps you spend a lot of time mindlessly browsing. Now move them to the second screen. CHT suggests using the home screen for "apps you use for quick in-and-out tasks."

    5. Use available tools and apps to help you.

    Tools like Digital Wellbeing, Screen Time, and third-party apps are designed to reduce distraction. Did you know that there's an app you can download that temporarily locks you out of other apps? How about an extension that blocks out Facebook's newsfeed? There are loads of productivity apps that  make your phone usage a bit more deliberate without having to cut yourself off from technology entirely.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook appears at Apple's 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference. Photo by Apple.

    Technology can be wonderful, and social media can connect us in powerful new ways, but remember that too much of a good thing can have its downsides.

    No one is saying that you shouldn't use the internet or your smartphone. Those things are simply a part of people's lives now. What you should do, if you want to, is set boundaries for yourself. If even the companies whose profits depend on getting people hooked on the use of their products are taking steps to help you dial things back, it's probably worth a shot.

    Jocelyn Stevenson's first granddaughter, Ismay, was born last year.

    "I was completely stunned by the impact it had one me," she said in an email. "Being a grandma rocks!"

    But Ismay lives in Boston. And while Stevenson was able to be there for Ismay's first month or so, she eventually had to go back home to the United Kingdom, thousands of miles and an ocean away.


    "I thought being a grandmother rather than a mother meant the distance wouldn't get me. Wrong!" she said.

    It's hard to be away from your kids, especially when they're so little.

    Stevenson said she visits Ismay as often as she can. "And for the rest of the time, we use FaceTime. Daily."

    Whether it's because of work, military duty, or living situations, a lot of people are in situations like these. They have to spend time away from their loved ones, so they use video chat programs such as FaceTime or Skype to stay connected.

    Photo via iStock.

    "FaceTime has allowed us to grow our relationship," Stevenson said, "even though we're not in the same physical space." When they FaceTime, Stevenson and Ismay play with finger puppets, learn animal sounds, and sing songs.

    But, Stevenson said, "I've been wondering what kids must make of it. What doe she think when Grandma is there reading her a book one day, and then [is] a head in a computer the next?"

    Turns out, researchers are pretty interested in how kids respond to video chatting, too.

    A team of psychologists at Lafayette College recently tested 60 toddlers, age 12-25 months, to see if they would learn better from video chats with real people or from videos.

    The experimental setup. Photo from Lafayette Kids Lab/Lafayette College.

    They were particularly interested in something called the "video deficit."

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, discourages a lot of screen time for kids, especially kids under age 2.

    Photo via iStock.

    That's because some research shows kids don't learn well from videos and other screens, especially when compared to interactions with real people.

    "A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens," the AAP said.

    But what happens if we move beyond Dora the Explorer and put a real-life person in a screen?

    That's what the researchers at Lafayette College wanted to test.

    For a week, half of the kids had FaceTime sessions with researchers. The other half got prerecorded "pseudo-interactive" videos (think of Dora the Explorer and her questions — "Do youuuuu see Swiper?" — and you'll get the idea). Both sessions tried to teach the kids to recognize new patterns and words.

    At first, all of the kids paid attention to the screen, no matter what was on it. But at the end of that week, the researchers tested the kids to see what they remembered.

    Lo and behold, video chat won by a mile. The kids remembered more of the patterns and words when they were taught by real people, even if those people were miles away.

    When it comes to young kids and learning, it's all about real social interactions, the researchers said.

    The kids "start to understand who that person is on the screen, and they’re able to get something meaningful out of the live video interaction with them,” said professor Lauren Myers, who led the study.

    No matter how much you love Dora the Explorer, she just doesn't have that real social interaction that a call with grandma does.

    Now, it's not completely analogous — the kids in this study had never met the person in the video before, for example. And the researchers only saw a real effect after the kids were about 17 months old. So more research will probably need to be done before we extoll the miraculous effect of FaceTime on newborns.

    But there's also no shame in letting your kids have some screen time with far-away loved ones. 'Cause this study hints that, for toddlers, video chats aren't just another form of entertainment — there's actually a connection there, and that's pretty awesome.

    We have enough to worry about when we're away from the kids we love.

    But on this whole "screen time" debate, at least, maybe we can breathe a little easier.