Q: We recently bought eReaders for our sons, ages 5 and 7. I am wondering if we should treat the time they spend reading on these devices the same as the time they spend reading library books or books from their own bookshelf? Also, I know that generally the concern around screen time is with attention issues, but are there any adverse consequences for vision associated with reading an eReader as opposed to a printed book?
~eCurious from Grand Isle, VT
Last week, the New York Times featured an article entitled “Unlearning Gun Violence”, which discussed the work of an epidemiologist who, after a decade of fighting TB, HIV, and cholera in Africa, returned to a life-threatening epidemic in his hometown of Chicago—violence. He uses the same techniques that worked in Africa, teaching perpetrators and victims of violence to prevent recurrence of this deadly cycle. Such secondary and tertiary prevention is effective—but after the fact. Prevention of future violence can only happen after violence has occurred, identifying those at risk for aggression and victimization.
One day earlier, a research report in Pediatrics detailed the dramatic increase in gun violence in PG-13 movies, tripling over the past 3 decades. Movies that any child can watch (hopefully, but not necessarily with parental guidance) are now more violent than those that are restricted to those 17 or older unless accompanied by an adult. One day later, I was asked to present research in support of a bill in the Massachusetts Senate that would appoint an expert commission to study whether and how video games and other interactive media influence and teach their users. Full story »
Q: My kids (10 and 7) have been invited to a number of Halloween-themed parties this year that are being held at their schools and at the homes of a few of their friends. Several of these parties will have scary movies, scary music, and in one case (the school’s) a dramatic reading of a scary book. I’m concerned that while all of these media are “for kids”, my kids may be too scared by them. Neither of my children particularly love Halloween, and two years ago, my eldest saw a relatively tame scary movie that gave her nightmares for weeks! How can I tell what scary media will be okay for my kids and which media they should avoid?
~In Need of Halloween Help in Lincoln, NH
A: Dear Halloween,
Our culture embraces scary media as entertainment in part because it can draw quick and reliable responses from the broadest audience—the primal human response of fear crosses cultural and language barriers with ease. Normal human response to something we fear is to avoid it, as your children are doing, or to attempt to master it, by seeing it over and over again. Many parents want their children to master fear, believing that it will strengthen and prepare them for the “real world”. Avoidance, however, may be the healthier response—not only is it a survival skill that helps your children recognize and avoid danger, but it is also an expression of their natural empathy for others—they don’t want to see others threatened or hurt. Full story »
A recent study revealed information that many parents may find troubling: nearly one in 10 young people have engaged in some type of sexual violence, by either coercing or forcing some type of sexual contact upon someone else. The study also suggests a connection between this behavior and being exposed to violent pornographic images. Michael Rich, MD, MPH, Boston Children’s media expert and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, shares his thoughts on what parents need to take away from this eye-opening report.
Michael Rich, MD, MPH
Investigating a health risk behavior once thought to be restricted to adults, research published last week in JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 10 percent of adolescents reported having forced sex with others or committing sexual violence. The most frequent age of first committing sexual violence was 16; 98 percent of those who first committed sexual violence at 15 or younger were male, but by 18 and 19, males (52 percent) and females (48 percent) were equally involved.
Those who reportedly committed sexual violence were significantly more likely to have used media that portrayed violent sex (hurting a partner while having sex), sexual situations (kissing, fondling and non-violent sex) and non-sexual violence (fighting, shooting and killing), as opposed to those who reported not committing sexual violence.
Research on the effects of violent media has shown that while “copycat” imitation of media may be rare, exposure to media violence shifts expectations about violence for many users who come to accept it as a means of resolving conflicts, are more likely to use it and are less likely to defend its victims. Full story »
Q: I was on Facebook the other day and noticed that my friend’s teens had Facebook profiles. I could see the entire profile of one (pictures, information, posts, etc.), while I only had limited access to the other (basically just her name and one picture). This made me wonder, what are the privacy options on Facebook? And what privacy settings do you suggest teens use? My teen has a Facebook profile, and I want to make sure her information is only visible to her real-life friends and that her privacy is protected.
~ Perplexed about privacy, Los Altos, CA
A: Dear Perplexed,
As a parent in the digital domain, you are on the right track by looking into what online platforms your child is using and the safety issues surrounding those platforms. Just because a child has turned 13 and is legally able to have her own social media site does not mean that she has the knowledge or skills to function on that site in ways that are safe, healthy, and consistent with good citizenship. Full story »
Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston
Michael Rich, MD, MPH
Q:So far I’ve only allowed my 5-year-old to watch DVDs that I’ve selected. Should I introduce some quality educational TV programs, or should I stick to my guns and keep her away from TV—and the commercials that come with it—for as long as I can?
-Tepid about TV, USA
A: Dear Tepid,
Your question raises some good points. First, there’s no reason your child has to watch TV. There are many different ways she can learn the same lessons…like books, creative play, and time outside in nature.
If and when you do decide to incorporate TV into her media diet, there are a few things to consider. First, choose the programs carefully. There are high-quality educational TV shows that she could really enjoy (in limited quantities). Which ones work best for her depends on both who she is as an individual and her developmental stage. Refer to child-friendly reviews of children’s TV to help you decide whether the content is developmentally appropriate for her. Full story »
Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston
Q:We have stopped our 17-year-old daughter from using Facebook a number of times due to angry and inappropriate postings. We put unrecognizable passwords in, but she keeps creating or restarting Facebook pages. I believe she has one now, and I can’t find it. She has probably blocked me. Is there any way of totally blocking Facebook from our home? She is unable to control her reactions and what she says. We are at a loss.
- Facebook Frazzled in Acton, MA
A: Dear Frazzled,
Frankly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to block Facebook from her (remember, in the days of smartphones and free wifi sites, blocking from your home is not enough). However, it sounds as if keeping your daughter off of Facebook—even if you did manage it—wouldn’t solve the problem. Her angry posts probably reflect what she’s feeling in real life, and it sounds like she’s looking for an outlet for those feelings.
It is important to remember where your daughter is developmentally as a teenager. At this stage, it is normal for your daughter to be exercising her independence and expressing how she feels. Social media sites serve these developmental needs well because they can be crafted by each user. The best way to address your daughter’s postings is by opening the doors of communication and engaging her in a conversation about them. Full story »
Children are using iPads earlier and earlier. Is it affecting development? flickr/remcovandermeer
Apple’s iPhone and iPad technology has revolutionized communication. The way millions of Americans interact with media, personal contacts and the Internet is now largely funneled through an Apple shaped logo. But are these machines so influential they could shape the mental and emotional development of young users?
Because these devices are so new, there’s not enough hard scientific data to know for sure. But the fact that more than half of the young children in the United States now have access to an iPad, iPhone or similar touch-screen device means the time to ask these questions is now.
So that’s exactly what Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Worthen did. Worthen spoke with many childhood development experts, including Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, to find out how touch-screen technology is affecting the development of millions of young users. Here’s a brief video describing what he learned.
Until more data is collected, the scientific community remains split on how touch-screen technology affects kids. But there is one thing that they all agree on: parents know their children best and should be the final decision-maker on if and when this type of technology is appropriate in their house.
Does your child use an iPad, iPhone or tablet? If so, are you pleased or worried about her reaction to its interactive nature? Let us know in the comment section or our Facebook wall.
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All information provided on diagnosis and therapy reflects the care environment of Boston Children's Hospital and related physician practices. It is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified heath care provider based upon actual examination of a patient's condition and history. Therefore, it should not be construed as medical advice for any particular patient's condition, and may need to be altered in different care environments. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.