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Gaming And Social Media: An Epidemic?

Gaming And Social Media: An Epidemic?

Recently, I was interviewed for a doctoral program that is going to launch an online course focused on innovation in education. During the interview, I went off -topic and became totally impassioned about digital addiction and social media awareness. We were talking about why I do this work in the social-emotional learning landscape and I was trying to make the point that it’s all connected…

I believe, and the ‘research shows,’ that both behaviors digital addiction and social media usage are damaging our kids. Clearly, we see a generation of kids who lack focus and also young people who are losing (or barely learning) social skills.

There are two outstanding things to note: 1) Software designers, called Attention Engineers, are hired to develop software for video games and social media apps that “keep ‘em coming back.” They are built so that each time a kid levels-up in a game, dopamine in their brains drops down and creates a pleasurable sensation much like the feeling of cocaine1. On the social media side, consider likes and retweets. We are seeing kids and adults posting parts of their lives for validation from the external world, rather than receiving it from an intrinsic or internal source. Apps are built based on society’s weakness of wanting to find a sense of belonging or to fit in- it’s based on vanity. The larger issue (for me) is that the social media posts are often used with filters and the information or stories aren’t always true. Which means that people are commenting and liking on something that isn’t even real, it’s false information– hello!?! And then users are building up (or building down) their self-esteem based off those responses.

The issue for kids is that their brains aren’t fully developed yet. Meaning, they cannot self-regulate their own behavior, they aren’t making good decisions and they can become addicted. It is different for an adult.

As I am deep into this work and train on this (hopefully) providing solutions based on balance and decision making. I also see a large education gap in the way parents are managing social media and digital awareness with their own kids. I see it when I travel, in airports, when I am in restaurants, and even with my friends in their homes.

And it is definitely not a class issue. This is an EVERYONE issue.

So, of all places to get some real-time data, I went to the internet to ask my parent-friends three questions about this topic…

Meet Christine B. from New York:

1) Why do think it’s important to regulate screen time with young kids and teens? What are a few rules you have used in your home?

There are soooo many reasons to regulate screen time:

  • They can get caught up in the “video world” and not live/experience their own lives
  • No physical engagement
  • Lack of face to face interaction
  • Don’t want them to measure their worth through social media
  • Unregulated can lead to children making cyber “mistakes” – clicking on things they shouldn’t be, typing comments they shouldn’t, accidental exposure to things they shouldn’t see…

A few rules in our home – depending on age the boys have from no to limited screen time Sunday – Thursday – and the level of control for that depends on the child’s age. My youngest (11) doesn’t have access to his device, but I also have parental controls on his iPod. My middle (14) has parental controls on certain things with time limits as well that can be extended by me. I feel a 16-year-old needs a combination of boundaries and freedom as in a couple of years they will be on their own or off to college. For him – parental controls are off, but we have time limits he is supposed to manage himself. A two hour limit for gaming during the week if homework is complete. I can get on and monitor usage, and I spot check it and what he is doing on his device. I also have all passwords to social media accounts and will check from his device as well because most kids hide accounts from their parents. He isn’t aware of the level of access I have to everything and believes he has more freedom than he actually has. He hasn’t given me a reason to take access away. All of my boys must maintain 90 or above in all classes to have access to devices (although in classes that are more difficult for them that may lower to an 85 if they can’t get higher with full effort). I also have Wi-Fi turn off to certain devices/computers at 11. Lastly, I have to approve every app before it goes on and they can’t install things on their own without me–  it is blocked.

2) Why do you think some parents are resistant to instituting structure and rules for digital and social media time?

IT IS SO HARD AND OFTEN THE KIDS UNDERSTAND THE TECHNOLOGY BETTER THAN WE DO!!! I work in technology so it is easier for me – but the amount of places they can hide apps, what they do, etc. is crazy. My kids are amazed that I can tell them exactly what they were doing/looking at and for how long. But – I slip from checking and things get past me too! It is hard to keep up with the new threats and new things out there.

3) Do you agree or disagree that raising kids with social media and digital awareness is a part of raising the whole child in today’s climate? Why or why not?

BECAUSE I agree 100% – the problem is that we still aren’t aware of the effects of growing up in this digital age and the rules of social media etiquette are still being established. People think they can hide behind what is written on a screen, but we all know that isn’t true.

Meet Stephanie D., from Minnesota

Background: My niece is graduating from HS this year and my 11-year-old nephew moved in with us last July. He had a serious screen time addiction (mostly Fortnite) and we had to set some pretty strict limits. Prior to living with us, he had no limits for screen time and at one point he was on his PlayStation all night. He moved in with an Individualized Education Program specialist for oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, and depression. I think we’ve also seen a drastic change in the technology over my niece’s teen years. Some of our current rules have been modified based on trial and error as well as to keep up with the changing technology.

What are a few rules you have used in your home?

  1. (This came from my mom as well)- no TV in your bedroom until you graduate from high school.
  2. No PlayStation during the school week and only 4 hours max (tablet and PS) per day on the weekend.
  3. The tablet is allowed during the week after school and after all chores, homework, sports, and 4H stuff done.
  4. The tablet/phone is not stored in the bedroom at night and must be plugged into a charging station in our common living space.
  5. We have the passwords to all (it’s in our common password book-seriously pen and paper) and we do check social media, etc. We also have them unlock the device and log into specific apps so that both kids know we are monitoring. This doesn’t happen often but enough, so they know we care.
  6. TVs are in common areas. I don’t limit the time with this since I’ve read articles about screen time with passive brain activity vs. active. And ultimately, they just don’t watch as much tv as we did.
  7. We have other caring adults following them on the various social media accounts. This has been extremely helpful.
  8. As long as they are on our cell phone bill, we require them to share their location with us. This message has changed with my niece as she is now 18 and will be starting college next year (two-year community-no debt!!!!). I talk with her about how she needs to let us, or her roommates know where she is and that it is a safety issue.

Meet Jen M., from New Jersey

1) Why do think it’s important to regulate screen time with young kids and teens? What are a few rules you have used in your home?

Too much of one unproductive thing, social media, video games, tv, movies, Youtube deplete anyone of time being inquisitive, personally social, bored, physically active engaged in face-to-face, authentic conversation. And for children, who have little impulse control, it is way too easy for them to lose track of time and get sucked into meaningless time wasting.

2) Why do you think some parents are resistant to instituting structure and rules for digital and social media time?

For the same reason, they are reluctant to set any boundaries (bedtime, junk food, makers). It is hard to do. It doesn’t make you popular. So much easier to let them be out of your hair, occupied, easier to deal with.

3) Do you agree or disagree that raising kids with social media and digital awareness is a part of raising the whole child in today’s climate? Why or why not?

As with anything “new” we elders are reluctant to understand the necessity of it. But denying a young person to interact via social media would’ve similar to cutting the rotary phone line for Gen Xers. It is the way they interact, plan social gatherings, and ask homework questions. But allowing its use must come with parental education lest they succumb to bullying, become bullies, sext among other inappropriate online behaviors.

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A capture of an activity at our Inspiration Station at the BOOST Conference 2019.

It was comforting to hear from my parent friends who are equally passionate about helping their kids find balance and self-regulate their interaction with social media and digital technology. I definitely understand the need for technology and the internet etc. But I also predict there will be a backlash, actually, it has already begun– schools, expanded learning time programs, and community-based organizations are instituting policies and intervention and prevention programs. I believe, this is just the beginning…

So. how are you addressing your OWN relationship to technology? Do you model good behaviors with kids in program and at home? What do they see from you? They are watching…

For breakfast, as always coffee with MCT oil and a little cream.

1 Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Glow Kids, and a lot of Ed Week articles. 

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Author: @juliagabor

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In 2014, Julia was awarded the Women Making a Difference by U.S. Senator of California Lou Correa for her contributions in youth programming in Orange County, CA. In, 2013 Julia received the OSTI award from BOOST for her contribution to out-of-school time individuals by providing innovative approaches to support students, families and communities. Julia currently develops tailored training's and facilitates workshops for educators, non-profit organizations, mentor professionals and students. She works with you to create strategies for educational programs to enhance student success and a productive future. She also will establish effective practices for staff communication and leadership. As the Director of Education at WRiTE BRAiN WOLRD Julia is built, expanded and introduced the WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS curriculum into education communities across the country. WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS inspires creativity while applying project- based literacy and builds 21st Century skills. In only two and a half years WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS is being implemented in 41 states with 45,000 student becoming published authors of their own children’s book. While at the Tiger Woods Foundation (TWF), Julia launched a college internship program for sports management, hospitality, event planning and marketing majors from universities across the country. Julia develops specialized programs ranging from activity based curriculum in a variety of different educational areas to creating a collegiate mentor program. Starting in 2006, Julia managed a national character education program called- Tiger's Action Plan, a free youth development curriculum that focuses on leadership, goal setting, service learning and career exploration. Prior to joining TWF, Julia was a Coordinator for the After School All - Stars in Los Angeles, where she taught a range of middle school enrichment classes- from personal leadership to sports, to performance and visual art classes. Julia has been teaching/leading groups since she was a teenager working alongside her mother, who is an acting teacher and coach in the USA and Europe. Julia has served as a trainer/facilitator in disguised learning and cultural diversity throughout California. In 2009, Julia received the Honored Educator Award from California State Fullerton University for dedication to education in Orange County, CA. Miss Gabor is a graduate of the State University of New York, Fredonia receiving her bachelor's degree in the Fine Arts. She received her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Antioch University in 2012.