Screen Addicts and Ghost Apps: Can Families Go Device-Free?   

We Google random questions, follow world news, talk, text, snap photos of everything, check e-mail, get directions, watch videos, listen to music. Are we all device addicted?
Chinese doctors have recently begun to consider Internet addiction to be a clinical disorder, according to a New York Times feature Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children.  The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day,
according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP released these new recommendations for children’s media use: For school-aged children and adolescents, the idea is to balance media use with other healthy behaviors, recommending parents place consistent limits on the time spent using media as well as the types of media, and that screen time does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.  
It’s also becoming more difficult to keep track of what kids are doing on their smart phones due to the advent of ghost apps that allow users to hide other apps or content on phones by disguising them as other icons, such as a calculator. According to iKeepSafe, a coalition that tracks digital global trends, issues, and the affect on children, a popular ghost app is an Apple product called Private Photo Vault, which allows users to hide photos, text messages, contacts, and other online activity kids don’t want adults to see.

Common Sense Media, which has done extensive research into how all of our screen devices affect kids and families, launched a campaign focusing on family dinner because it found that many families struggle over whether smartphones and other devices should be allowed at the dinner table. A survey from the group found more than half of parents or guardians said they’re concerned about technology at the table taking away from dinner. Thirty-five percent said they've had an argument about using devices at the dinner table.
Especially as family time and holiday celebrations approach, the Common Sense Media Device Free Dinner challenge makes sense. There’s no better time of year to give our full attention to family and friends, put our screens aside, and live in the moment.

SEL Connections:
The fundamentals of social and emotional learning foster skills to support individual decision-making and emotional health for students and adults, alike. Students, parents and teachers can consider, or perhaps discuss together, these SEL connections to managing our screen time: 

Self-Awareness: Do you find yourself concealing your online life from others? Why? What you are doing when you're online? Why?

Self-Management: What are you not doing by spending time online? What affect is that having on your health?

Social Awareness: Do you find that your friends are always checking their phone or texting while you are together? How does that make you feel? What would life be like without social media?

Relationship Skills: Are you more comfortable texting or talking face-to- face?  Why?  How has the new norm of communication impacted your ability to get your points across to friends, family, co-workers, teachers, and others?

Responsible Decision-Making: What does your “digital footprint” say about you? How might that impact your future academic, career, and life long goals?

CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies

•  Self-Awareness
•  Self-Management
•  Social Awareness
•  Relationship Skills
•  Responsible
•  Decision-Making

Managing Technology at Home and at School 
Clearly technology is firmly rooted in our day-to-day lives and is not going away. Encouraging face-to-face interaction is key to help develop communication skills and self-control. Consider these tips for parents and teachers: 

In Your Classroom
Create assignments that require young people to interact with people from older or younger generations.

Consider using laptops and iPads only when necessary and having a no cell phone rule for older students.

In Your Living Room
Talk with your children about what Web sites they are visiting and social media sites they are using. Don’t be afraid to demand their passwords.

Model online restraint with a “curfew” for media devices, and establish (and enforce) family rules about cell phones, texting, Internet, and social media use.


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