Screen Time Dilemma

Screen Time
Screen Time

This post is a bit different, but a very important one, none the less. Have you seen this article from The New York Times? It’s titled: “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley” by Nellie Bowles. After reading this piece dated October 26, 2018, I was reminded of our old life, when my young teenage son was on his phone, computer, playing video games and watching TV, ALL of the time. It was a big part of what ruined our family life.

“It’s time to get off”, I would say to him.
“Okay, I will, I will, I just have to finish this game….post….video….text….movie….coding….fill in the blank. It didn’t matter that I turned it off or took it away, he found a way to get it back.

Over and over I would ask for him to stop and he wouldn’t or couldn’t. Part of it was our fault for letting him have the devices and part of it was his fault for using them. However, according to this article, it is becoming well known in the tech community that part of the problem lies with them too! Most of the big wigs in the industry do not let their own kids have much screen time and have at least monitored it. Steve Jobs’ young kids weren’t allowed to use Apple iPads! Bill and Melinda Gates wish they would have waited longer to give their four kids cell phones.

What positively changed for us was my son’s forced absence of screens. In the Wilderness Therapy Program my son went to last summer, at fifteen years of age, there was no screen use at all. Period. Cold turkey. Nada. What that did for his brain was let some “green” in and allow nature to cleanse and let his mind mature on it’s own. His mood became better. He actually could participate in conversations without constant distraction. Without the use, mis-use and over-use of screens, it made him a better person. He became less isolated and ultimately happier.

Another plus from no screen time, was that the majority of his anxiety went away. Bingo! What a concept. If we as adults, who already have formed brains, have a problem, how is a young person supposed to put down the screen? This article points out that the developers know how to program their content to go right to the pleasure centers of our brains. We are at a severe disadvantage that allows the devices to win every time, just like the casinos in Las Vegas, the house (the screen) will always win!

This article is eye-opening to the degree that those in Silicon Valley understand what their products are doing to the people they are selling to (us parents). One tech magazine higher up calls it closer to “cocaine than to candy” as to effects on the brain. Is anyone paying attention? I hope so! It’s all around us, and we are paying them to do it to us!

As far as our story goes, my son is able to use a computer to type some school assignments at the RTC. He still has no phone use and no internet use. When we visit with him, we talk about how we will move forward with technology in  the near future. The ironic part is that technology is an area of interest and skill for him. We will continue to explore and examine the pluses and minuses of that use. In the meantime, read the article and ponder why Silicon Valley is keeping this dark secret?

Staying positive,

WARRIOR MOM

Facebook for Six Year Olds……Really?

Facebook for 6 Year Olds?

 

Below is an important article written by Cecilia Kang and published last week by The New York Times. It is quite alarming to see what Facebook has up its sleeve for our kids and social media. I hope you join with me in letting Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, know how harmful it could be for the development of our youngest members of society. You can snail mail  letters to him at Facebook’s headquarters: 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Full disclosure: I am on Facebook. I am an adult. My brain is already fully developed. I do enjoy sharing comments, links and stories with friends and family. I am aware of the risks of overuse and addiction concerning social media and technology. I know limiting its use can be challenging for me and other grown-ups.


New York Times
“Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead to Facebook”
The New York Times Technology Section

By CECILIA KANG JAN. 30, 2018WASHINGTON — At the age of 6, a child is full of imagination and may not distinguish reality from fantasy. She is beginning to read and can’t grasp nuances in written communication. She also doesn’t understand privacy. Citing those reasons and more, dozens of pediatric and mental health experts are calling on Facebook to kill a messaging service the company introduced last month for children as young as 6.

 

In a letter to the company, they said the service, Messenger Kids, which pushes the company’s user base well below its previous minimum age of 13, preys on a vulnerable group developmentally unprepared to be on the social network.

The letter was organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that has successfully pushed companies to abandon marketing like a Pokemon Go app that sent children to fast food and other stores, and McDonald’s advertising on the envelopes of report cards in Florida.

Facebook’s new app for young children opens greater concerns, the group said. “Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts,” the experts said in the letter. “A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.”

The opposition to Facebook’s app adds to growing societal concerns over digital media and devices. Some big Apple investors called on the company this month to work harder to make the iPhone less addictive, and some former Facebook employees have warned about how effectively the service hooks users.

And academic research, including a study released last week, shows that the rise in smartphone and social media use tracked with greater unhappiness among teenagers. Messenger Kids is a texting-type service that a parent sets up for a child. The parent uses his or her own Facebook account for the child, but the app is otherwise not a part of the main Facebook service. The app doesn’t have News Feed or a “like” button, which some mental health experts have linked to anxiety among teenagers on social media.

But many elements of the social network are there, including emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting. Facebook says Messenger Kids provides a safer environment for children than many online experiences. The app has no advertising, for example. The company said it had consulted with the National PTA and several academics and families before introducing the app. “Messenger Kids is a messaging app that helps parents and children to chat in a safer way, with parents always in control of their child’s contacts and interactions,” Facebook said in a statement. But many health advocates say the app is still engineered to hook users, and that it is giving Facebook early access to its next generation of users.

“Facebook is making children into a market, and the youngest children will be more likely to get hooked even earlier,” said Michael Brody, a former chairman of the media committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

A version of this article appears in print on January 30, 2018, on Page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead in a Letter to Facebook.

How can the use of this new App not be of concern to parents everywhere? Why do kids need this? We have seen the increase of anxiety in our teens? Do we need to push it down to elementary aged kids, too? Will babies be next? This is insane! Please feel free to comment below. I will be sending a letter to Zuckerberg this coming week. Please join me!

Flabergasted,

WARRIOR MOM

Orthodontist vs Computer

Toothbrush

This is Day Two of The Ultimate Blog Challenge for October. If you are a new reader, welcome. My story is simple: I am a mom of a sixteen year old teenager. That’s it in a nutshell. You might be thinking, “Okay, that’s nice…” but a blog about that? Well, if you haven’t noticed lately the world is becoming inundated with technology and it’s causing a few problems. That is seriously true if you are a teenager with an iPhone, iPad, computer and TV. There is way too much screen time AND social media! A young person’s brain is filled with so much information and instant communication, there is NO down time to just hang out and be bored.

And for my family it has put us into crisis! Our once fun-loving interactions have become tense and no fun at all.

To pick up where the last post left off, my son was on strike, with silence and school truancy. He decided not to attend any of his high school classes for a week. It was also so abnormally quiet it felt like an Egyptian tomb in our house. My son engaged in NO conversation at all, not even a grunt. UNTIL, caught off guard in the basement while he was building something with wires, he answered a question about how it worked. He began explaining what he was trying to do, until he realized that he was talking and he clammed up once again. Darn, almost got him!

The difficult part is that I needed him to go to the orthodontist to get his braces checked. He was so close to getting them off and that part was something he was looking forward to. So I had to make a deal. “You go to the orthodontist and return to school and you can have your computer back with certain time restrictions.” We drew up a contract and he agreed to it….for the moment. I had a need (getting him to see the orthodontist and going back to school) and he had a need (to get his computer back again). Plus, by this time of two weeks away from friends, he was certainly missing them (and the marijuana, I’m sure, too).

So things returned to back to normal pretty quickly. No homework, no chores and minimal engagement. My frustration level put me on a mission of how we were going to get through this teenage mess. But at least for now, the braces were checked and school was being attended.

Hanging in there,
WARRIOR MOM

Right Under Our Noses

Backpack
To pick up where we left off last time, the answer to what was in the backpack was like an ongoing game of surprise and shock. Lighters, bongs, rolling papers, containers with marijuana buds, soda pop, candy, sharpie pens, and of course power cords and phone charging cables, you name it, it was in there. My son carried all this stuff around for himself AND his friends. His backpack was the UBER backpack of the group. Now that’s one way to stay popular! It’s what I have called being a WILLING TOOL!

As I shared the story of what daily life with our 15 year old teenager was like, with friends and family, we received responses and comments like, “Oh, this too shall pass” or “That’s typical of a teenager, don’t sweat it” or “Don’t you remember how you were as a teen?”. Frankly, after hearing those lines repeatedly, even their well meaning intentions became hard to take. We were zooming into unchartered territory and choppy seas. Seriously, we needed dramamine in our house on dry land just to survive.

Our son’s moods were controlled by the digital contact he had with his friends, by phone or computer. If he received good texts, he was somewhat nice. If the texts or posts were not, he was somewhat mean. If you asked him to do anything resembling a chore or household task, “I will, I will, later” was the response. Or with very good manners, he would often reply, “No thank you.” He also would grunt and roll over while laying in bed, binge watching any number of Netflix shows. Occasionally, we could bribe him to go see a movie like “Rogue One” or out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant. But no sooner would we get home, his moodiness began all over again.

One particular holiday weekend we took him to do his favorite activity: play paintball. Not an inexpensive hobby, in reality. Even if you have your own paintball equipment, the paint balls themselves aren’t cheap and that’s what you need in order to play! We thought we were connecting with him, doing the fun things he liked, eating the food he liked, going to the movies he liked. You get the idea, all about him, just to keep him engaged. During this period of time, for some reason he had the door to his bedroom back on the hinges. (That wasn’t always the case, because if a door gets slammed over and over, parts of the house start to fall apart, truly. So we removed his door a year earlier.) Can you say, trust factors?

Well, after what we thought was a good weekend for all of us, we smelled something unusual coming through the vents soon after we went to bed. We marched into a room filled with smoke and our son was just sitting there smoking pot. And what was shocking was that he totally denied it. We SAW it with our own eyes! WE SMELLED it with our own noses! And he said he WASN’T doing anything. I couldn’t believe it. Really, right in our own house? You’ve got to be kidding me. All I could muster to say to him was that I was really disappointed in him, and turned around and went to bed.

The next morning he acted as if nothing had happened. I was still realing and very upset. He went to school and I called a therapist, for myself. Now to put things into perspective, I know many kids do this behavior and some can handle it, but not my son. He was also failing in school but never want to talk about how to improve the situation. So the only way left to get his attention was to take the computer AWAY. And what happened after that was surreal. The saga continues…….

Anyone else out there have difficulty with teens and their moods? How did you handle it or get through it? I would love to read any comments you have.

Hanging tough! Thanks for reading!

WARRIOR MOM

Facebook Page

 

Announcing The Warrior Mom Life Facebook Page! Be sure to check it out today. It will be a place to share your stories with others and keep up on the latest info, articles, links and blog posts at My Warrior Mom Life. Click on the LIKE button and watch us grow! And don’t forget to tell your friends about us!

I’ve been asked, “What exactly is a Warrior Mom?” Well, it can mean many things, but in this case it is a mom or parent who never gives up. A person who is a survivor and it battling something out of their control. After all, everybody’s got something! And if you have a teenager in your life, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

You Are Not Alone


On our Facebook page, please feel free to share your tips on maintaining self-care, keeping a positive perspective and how to have a sense of humor even when your are up to your neck in shall I say, “stuff”! The biggest take away for me is to know that you are not alone! And that people around you do care! Let them in and you will be amazed at the support that comes your way.

Mixed in with all the good are those that want to give you “advice” on what you should do about this problem or that. Take it with a grain of salt. Thank them and move on. Or listen and take just what you want. Trust your own gut! Everybody’s story is slightly different. And it’s important to not compare. Just like many advertisements say, “your results can vary”. Keeping the negative at bay is not easy, but you can do it!
 

Unplug

And of course, it is advisable to just UNPLUG when you can. We all need some peace and quiet. Take a walk, go for a swim (as I will when I’m done writing this post!), read a book, call a long-time friend, weed the garden, play some rock and roll music or take a nap! Do something for yourself! It’s just like the flight attendants say when you are about to take off “In the case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first, then take care of those around you!” If you do this, you can be a Warrior Mom (or Dad or Grandparent or Person) too!

Please come visit me at The My Warrior Mom Life Facebook page today!

Sincerely,

WARRIOR MOM

 

The Middle School Years

I’ve always said that the middle school years are the lowest of the low and for my son that was definitely the case. In fact, he has recounted his 7th Grade year as the pits! (That’s my word. His word is not appropriate for this blog!) Seriously, things turned south for him at school and for us at home. We tried all sorts of things, therapy for him, therapy for us, meds for him, advise from family and friends for us. We did have some fun vacations, but we always said that our son was a great kid on vacation. We all enjoyed traveling. It always provided a needed break from the pressures of school.

Many New Friends

New friends popped up on the scene. Many new friends. So with the advise from our therapist who specialized in teens, we became friends with their parents. We got to know all the friends, even the ones that weren’t so “great”. Instead of saying “Don’t hang around so and so,” (which might have enticed him to want to be friends with them  even more), it became a scenario of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. Our strategy worked to a degree, but our son seemed unhappier and unhappier. He couldn’t and wouldn’t say why. And at this point, three years later, we still don’t know exactly what caused this unhappiness.

Paintball

We tried going to adventure and action movies with him. We paint-balled with him, at the venue where “moms play free”. I learned more about paintball equipment than anyone should ever know. We took him to his favorite Mexican restaurant to “keep him talking”. Nothing really worked for more than once or twice. Our therapist suggested some outdoor activities with groups of boys and older men, just to dig deeper into his primitive needs. It then became full on “WAR” (our therapist’s word). We were engaged in a battle of wills. And it felt like a raging war. It was a dark time.

Help Us Please, Teachers

I sent emails to all his teachers asking for help. Most responded, one of them actually “got him”. She said that our son learned differently and that he wasn’t lazy. The new century still hadn’t caught up with the learning needs for some kids. All the while, he floundered. We provided a tutor. He stopped going for help towards the end of the school year. We couldn’t make him do much of anything. I might as well put $ down the toilet and flushed. Our son always had special classes for extra help, but those classes made him feel different. Strike one! Not easy for a kid who just wants to fit in and be accepted. And he didn’t participate in sports because he wasn’t as gifted as other kids. Strike two!

Social Media Explosion

The biggest thing that happened during his 7th grade was the explosion of Social Media. I went to the monthly Parent Ed classes at the Middle School. I talked to every parent I could. I joined some of his questionable apps and tried to be a “watch dog mom”. I still had access to his texting and computer communication, but he was quickly locking me out by making new accounts and passwords. The worst part as a parent is when you notice that you are becoming a master detective and your subject is your kid. Let me say right here, it feels terrible. Strike three!