Screen time

The horrendous 'momo challenge' for kids...

My daughter (who works in child after-care) recently brought to my attention that there is a horrendous ‘momo challenge’ circulating that is hacking children’s online games like Peppa Pig, Fortnite and Youtube.

Primary schools are sending out warnings to parents as the craze seems to have arrived in the UK. Some are calling it a hoax, but hoax or not - if your child sees this is will most definitely be disturbing and potentially dangerous. I was horrified when I saw the video! It promotes self-harm, inflicting harm on others and even suicide in a series of threats to the viewer who has to ‘complete certain tasks otherwise momo will come and hurt them or their families’. The visual guides are extremely real and graphic.

2 thoughts instantly. What is becoming of our world that someone out there takes the time to come up with material like this; and our children are so vulnerable. Although the BBC News reported that ‘The UK Safer Internet Centre told the Guardian that it was "fake news", there are still unofficial copies with footage of "momo" that have been copied so children could end up seeing these unofficial uploads and be exposed to the distressing images’. Knowledge is key and it’s important to know what your children may see.

If you have not heard about this and you have younger or potentially vulnerable children, please do a bit of investigating. Then - most importantly - make sure your children know how dangerous this hack is. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Help them to understand how to say NO to things that don’t sound or feel right.

Childline offer the following advice FOR KIDS: How to say no

1) Say it with confidence: Be assertive. It’s your choice and you don’t have to do something which makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

2) Try not to judge them: By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.

3) Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’: It takes confidence and courage to say no to your friends. Spend time with other friends who also aren’t taking part.

4) Suggest something else to do: If you don’t feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, suggest something else to do.

With internet safety there is lots we can do:-

Set up parental controls

  • Use ‘Parental controls’ to block upsetting or harmful content

  • they can also control how long and when they’re online, plus stop them downloading apps.

Talk to your children

  • Have regular conversations about what your child is doing online

  • Explore sites and apps together

  • Talk about what personal information they should share online

  • Create a family agreement about what behaviour is appropriate when they are online

Do your research

  • Check through websites your child is using

  • Change privacy settings

  • Turn OFF location sharing

I don’t want to advertise the momo site here - but google it or look at it on youtube so you know what your child may be exposed to.

It’s our responsibility to safeguard our children. Find out what you need to know and get it done.

Take a look at these sites for online safety help:-

Our Pact: https://www.producthunt.com/alternatives/ourpact

Site recommending apps: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-parental-control-apps/

NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

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Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from https://www.sleepfoundation.org

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Are we present? The impact our phones have on our lives.

I have been noticing more and more how many people sit, whilst with others, on their phones while half listening to what the others are saying. 

The impact this has on a person is not to be underestimated. How does it feel not to be listened to? How does it feel to not be important enough to get the attention from the other person?

On top of that, it can be seen as rude and dismissive to use your phone when you are with others. Think before reaching for it! Can it wait?

This might sound melodramatic but it does have an effect on more people than we might think. Children in particular feel this in a subconscious way and their reaction can often be to play up and be 'naughty'. At least they get some attention even if it's for a bad reason...

What is it about phones and how they have infiltrated our lives in such a massive way? How did we manage before?? To think we managed to meet friends out somewhere and travel without a phone is hard to understand in today’s instant and 24/7 society. The expectation to be reachable alI the time is both positive and negative. It is very convenient to be able to reach someone and check mails etc whilst out and about. But, what choices do we really have? Do we really need to have it with us at all times? To spend an evening with friends and family without phones is more unusual than usual. It makes me sad to think the youngsters of today will most likely never know what it is to be properly present with friends. I have yet to see a group of young people hang without someone busy on their phone. I know I sound like an old biddy and that we need to move with the times but there is no way that communication via apps will ever be as good as face to face. To read someone’s body language, tone of voice and use of words are skills that are important in life. I do hope we can help our youngsters to understand and learn this.

I am as guilty as most of us to feel dependent and when I left my phone in a shop by mistake recently, the panic I felt was immediate. However, having realised this I am now starting to make small changes. I'll have my phone on silent without any buzzing several times a day and at night. I leave home without it if we go out for an evening. (not all the time but small steps...) 

It is an addiction and like other addictions, we can be weaned off it and get more in control of it than the other way around. Have a think about your own phone needs. How does it impact your life? Your family's? Friends? What can you do differently? 

To be present with another person is to be there, listening, noticing and converse because we want to or need to do so. Having a device next to you tends to get in the way. 

Enjoy your next phone free conversation! It's amazing what we can learn.

 

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Gaming epidemic amongst kids and adults...

The gaming that a lot of our kids do has been worrying me for a long time. As always there are different views, mainly from the gaming industry who happily dispute any problems that are associated with them and their games.

To me it is common sense that allowing young children access to games that are 'suitable' for 15 and 18+ will have an impact. There is a reason that these age restriction are in place. Having said that, there is a serious addiction problem with adults too so be aware that as parents, we are our kids role models!!!

Here are some of the main points:

It may interfere with sleep. Getting enough sleep can be challenging enough for busy kids. They often have homework and after-school activities crammed into their weekdays and extracurricular activities and sports on weekends. Sleep deprivation is one of the main concerns we are tackling today. Mental health problems are closely connected to this.

It may cut into family time or personal interaction. When we are using technology such as computers, games, and TV, we are not interacting with one another. Since finding good quality time can be difficult for many families, allowing technology to cut into those moments is something parents may want to prevent as much as possible. 

While it can be fun to have a family movie night or play a video game together, the fact is that screen time means less face-to-face interaction time.

It may encourage short attention span. Studies have shown that too much screen time may be associated with attention problems. Video games were the primary focus though the researchers do state that any electronic media may have similar effects.

It may interfere with schoolwork. Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to have lower grades and read fewer books. Further, research has shown that cutting down kids' screen time may improve kids' health and grades.

It may lead to less physical activity. More screen time has been associated with reduced physical activity and a higher risk of obesity in kids.

It may expose kids to too much advertising and inappropriate content. Many television shows and commercials depict sexuality and violence as well as stereotypes or drug and alcohol use. Many commercials also promote junk food and toys in powerful and alluring ways that are designed to get kids to want these items.

5 Ways to Limit Technology

Admittedly, it is easy to simply turn on the TV or let your kids play a video game when they complain about being bored. However, there are many options when it comes to finding alternative forms of entertainment. Letting kids use technology with limits can be achieved if you keep some of these key tips in mind.

  • Do not put a TV in your child’s room. Having a TV in the bedroom has been linked to a number of problems including lower test scores, sleeping problems, and obesity.
  • Turn it off. When the kids are not watching a specific program, turn off the television. Keep it off during mealtimes and especially when they are studying or doing homework.
  • Help your child choose a video game or a show. The best way to know what your child is watching or playing is by helping her pick out a show or a game. When picking out a family film or game, read the reviews, watch previews, or ask other parents. Above all, know your child and trust your own instincts on what is appropriate.
  • Limit his screen time. Whether it’s one hour of TV and video games a day or a couple of hours a week, limit the amount of time your child spends with technology. More importantly, be committed and stick to those times you set.

I know there is a lot of pressure on parents in today's society but we do have a choice to have kids or not. We have to look out and do the best we can, who else will?

Enjoy each others company, go out in nature, play games without screens, cook, sing and create!

They are worth it.

Source: https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

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Half Term & Screen Time….

It’s half term and a chance for everyone to have a break from the school routine.  But for many parents, this comes with concerns and frustrations over how much time their children will spend on screens.  And, dare we say it, how easy it is to use the television, ipad or phone as a babysitter.

So, how much screen time is acceptable or how do you control your children’s technology use?

Think about how you taught your children about safety in other areas of their lives.  The hot water tap?  The swimming pool?  The busy road?  Did you just ‘ban’ them from using it – or did you teach them why it was dangerous and how to be safe? 

In this same way you can’t simply try to control what they do with technology.  You have to teach them responsibility and safety so that they own their own behaviour.  We do this through connecting with them, keeping communication lines open and being the parent (not the friend).

Think about how you feel when someone just says ‘no’ to you with no real reason.  It just makes you angry and want it even more.  If you just blanket rules, your children will fight back to keep control of this part of their lives.  It may work in the short term to get them off the device but won’t bring the desired long term result of responsibility and self-control.

Here are some tips:-

  1. Use age-appropriate limits and boundaries that are practical and achievable.   You must feel able and comfortable to manage them.   Write them down.  In an older child a contract is a great idea. (Use questions: What can they play, where, when, how long, with who?)
  2. Keep within the law.  Don’t let under-age children play age restricted games or sign up to social platforms underage.  Follow the rule of law.  And no - all their friends don’t play them!
  3.  Remember your goal is to achieve responsibility and self-control in your child.   Include them in the discussion if possible (over 8’s); don’t dictate to them.  eg: “We have maths revision to do today.  How do you want to plan your day to get this done – before or after some play time?”
  4. A trick here is to teach delayed gratification.  Teach your child patience and reward for that patience.  Everything doesn’t have to be now.  If they can learn to wait and receive the reward (ie screen time) later, they will learn a lot.
  5. Follow through.  Don’t renegade on agreed deadlines or rewards.  Don’t forget or delay again. 
  6. Be positive.  When they do manage their screen time and behaviour according to your agreed plan – reward them with positive feedback, acknowledgement and affirmation.

And remember – lead by example.  Practise what you preach.

Above all – they will COPY YOU – not listen to you!

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Screen or not or what?

Most of us know that kids love looking at screens. What most of might not know is the actual impact it has on them. A study from 2015 said that British children between 5-16 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day looking at screens!! That is up from 3 hours in 1995. Is this too much? Can this be addictive? What makes screens so enticing, not only to kids but us adults too?

With todays technology being so accessible, it is even harder to avoid our children's demands to watch a cartoon or play a game. This lack of natural breaks has led to many children not having what is called 'stopping rules'. They used to exist and we learned to wait and look forward to the next episode of the favourite show or even wait for your turn at a game console. These breaks are now disappearing as everything around us is becoming 24/7 and impatience is growing. When children learn that they can us their devices as soon as they are bored, have spare time or are unsure of what to do next, it can become dangerous. It's all about feedback. Children learn by misbehaving to see what their parents think, push buttons to discover what happens. Their devices however give feedback straight away! No need to wait, instant rewards.

Interaction with other children, reading other children's reactions and body language can not be taught on a device. This requires play and being without devices. Please allow our children to be children in the real world and not the virtual world! Everything as always within reason. Technology is here to stay but how much our children use it is up to us. We are their parents and more importantly their role models!!