The Sesame Street gang has a great message for kids who are already screen addicts.

Tell me if this rings true for you — usually the first thing I do in the morning is look at my phone. The first questions that cross my just waking brain are how and where can I find out what's going on in my (and the rest of the) world today? And if for some reason my phone's not nearby and I can't remember where I put it, I panic.

Sound familiar?


The average smartphone user taps, clicks, or swipes on their phone nearly 2,700 times per day. In the worst cases, it’s over 5,000.

Our children were born into a smartphone-centered world, and the addiction keeps starting younger and younger.

It's not uncommon to see children just over one year old working a smartphone. They already understand them as a method of entertainment. Who among us hasn't had a young child ask if they could play games on our phone? When phone use starts at such a young age, it easily becomes ingrained it kids' lives, which then often leads to that dependency so many of us hate to admit we have.

Phone addiction is real, but it's been so normalized in our society that very few kid-centered media sources have spoken out about it. Until now.

Sesame Street has decided to address cellphone addiction head-on with their new PSA which they created in partnership with Common Sense Media — a nonprofit that focuses on the relationship between  media, technology, and children.

The new PSA features several classic Sesame Street characters and a couple of new faces at mealtime. Our Sesame Street pals each go through the process of putting away their laptops, cell phones, and in some cases, even magic wands before starting dinner.

However, once they get to eating, Cookie Monster is still playing on his phone. His friends around the table clear their throats and remind him it’s a device-free dinner. So, in true Cookie Monster fashion, he stops texting and eats it!

Similar ads for #devicefreedinner have featured stars like Will Ferrell, but this one takes a unique approach by speaking directly to young children.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, influences are most powerful in the first few years of a person's life — around preschool, an age the producers of Sesame Street know quite well. The earlier we teach them healthy habits around technology use, the more likely we are to be successful at curtailing overuse of screens.

Second, Sesame Street is uniquely qualified to introduce kids to tough issues. Since airing about 50 years ago, the show has covered everything from divorce to identity differences (race, disability, culture etc) in a way that children can understand.

It only makes sense they'd join the fight against cell phone addiction, too.

We’ve got to protect the next group of kids from cell phone addiction. So far, folks are eating up the effort.

As with other forms of addiction, it's difficult but totally possible to end these cycles. Common Sense Media's decision to pursue this partnership shows that they are fully committed to fighting cell phone addiction right as it's starting — when their efforts will likely be most effective.

What's more, if we address cell phone addiction before they consume kids, they'll likely avoid the long list of physical and emotional issues that accompanies such a dependency.

Curbing kids' screen time also has the potential for even bigger impacts — like reducing the likelihood that they'll text while driving.

It's much bigger than just having our kids spend less time on their devices and more time in real life. It's about the safety, health and future of the next generation.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less