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How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children

How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children

If you’re a parent of young children living in the mobile internet era, it’s hard to resist not handing over a smartphone or a tablet to keep kids entertained when you really need them to be the sweet, quiet little angels you wish that they could be pretty much all the time. There are all sorts of great video and gaming apps designed for kids anyway, so why not?

It’s not the kid-friendly content you have to worry about – it’s the effect of excessive amounts of screen time your kids are being exposed to on a regular basis. The younger they are while their brains are developing rapidly, the more adverse the effects may be. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents of infants and children under the age of two should avoid exposing them to smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions and anything else that serves to entertain people through a screen.

Children who are older may benefit from apps and mobile websites that promote learning, but there’s no question that frequent and prolonged use of mobile devices may create problems in normal, healthy development and everyday habits. Here are some of the things you need to be aware of if you’re a parent who lets their kids play with smartphones or tablets.

They contribute to sleep deprivation.

Any form of media that has a screen emits blue light that tends to mimic daylight in a way that confuses our internal body clocks. Both children and adults rely on their circadian rhythms to regulate their sleep cycles, but when their eyes are exposed to this blue light too late in the evening or at night, it sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime and that it’s time to stay awake. One study found that infants and toddlers who watched TV were more likely to experience irregular sleep patterns.

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If your child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, make sure you enforce a strict cut-off time for smartphones and other media anywhere from 1 to 3 hours before bedtime. Instead, use this time to read a book to your child or have them read it to you aloud.

They promote sedentary behavior, which contributes to obesity.

Using a smartphone, a tablet or any other form of screen media generally requires a lot of sitting in order to pay attention to it. All children are energetic and have a natural urge to run, jump, skip, climb, dance and play, which helps them develop a strong and healthy heart, lungs, bones, muscles and brain. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that children and adolescents require a minimum of one hour of physical activity every day, and that one-hour minimum should involve moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity activity.

To keep your kids from spending excessive amounts of time hanging around the house with nothing to do but sit around and entertain themselves with mobile devices, try enrolling them in extra-curricular activities like gymnastics, swimming, baseball or soccer to encourage them to get moving. Or to save some money, you could even just make a habit out of taking regular trips to the park, setting up a swing set in the backyard, scheduling regular play dates with friends or getting your kids to help out with chores around the house.

They can cause eye discomfort.

Although it’s not currently yet known whether staring at screens for long periods of time can cause any permanent damage to the eyes, it certainly is known to cause discomfort. Both children and adults can experience it, but children may be more susceptible to developing symptoms depending on the unique ways that they use their devices. Commonly referred to as “digital eye strain,” symptoms usually include pain, fatigue, blurred vision, headaches and dry eyes.

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In addition to simply reducing the amount of time that kids spend looking at the screens of smartphones and other electronics devices, parents should take care to schedule annual eye examinations for their kids, teach them to position devices at an appropriate distance from their faces when using them, adjust the brightness of devices and instruct them to take breaks every 10 to 20 minutes that they’ve been staring at devices.

They can cause aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, back, hands, thumbs and other parts of the body.

Smartphone use forces people to tilt their heads down to look at them while moving their wrists and fingers in unnatural ways. Doing this frequently and for prolonged periods can cause pain and even permanent damage to bones and joints in the upper part of the body – especially the neck and spine. According to one leading Australian chiropractor interviewed by The Daily Mail Australia, an increasing number of children and teens are becoming hunchbacks because of their smartphone addictions.

The damage can be worsened by a sedentary lifestyle, so parents should encourage their kids to take frequent breaks and get physically active on a daily basis. It’s also worth talking to kids about the importance of proper body positioning when using their mobile devices and showing them how to lift their devices up higher to promote a more straightforward gaze. Parents can even just tell their kids to use their eyes to focus their gaze downward at the screen as a simple solution to minimizing the need to tilt their heads so much.

They may contribute to shortened attention spans.

Less than 5 percent of children in the U.S. were thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) before the early 1990s, but in the following two decades since then, that figure has ballooned to 11 percent, according to the CDC in a report from the New York Times. The rapid increase likely has to do with sociological changes, including how kids use the internet and mobile devices for both educational and leisurely purposes.

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Medication can be used to treat children who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, but even kids who don’t show any signs of the disorder should have strict limitations set by their parents for use of mobile devices. It’s good practice to avoid handing your kids a mobile device to quiet them down and distract them any time they act up. It may be pretty unpleasant to deal with, but focusing on teaching your kids to behave appropriately without technological distraction is far healthier for them in the long run.

They may inhibit the development of social skills.

The American Psychological Association has pointed out that there are currently very few studies and inconsistent findings regarding whether screen time negatively affects children’s social skills. But that’s not to say that it definitely doesn’t play a role. After all, more time spent looking at a mobile device means less time interacting face to face with friends and adults. A UCLA study discovered that overuse of mobile devices among sixth graders had numbed their ability to read human emotions.

In many ways, mobile devices can actually promote good social skills through communication platforms like instant messaging and social media – although not face to face, it can still have a positive impact on children who use it appropriately to support their in-person relationships. Still, parents should monitor their kids’ social behavior and consider talking to them if they suspect a lack of interest in spending time with friends, problems associated with bullying or odd behavior that negatively affects social interaction and relationship building.

They may contribute to higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Children who are old enough to use smartphones and tablets to connect with friends on social networking platforms may be negatively affected by the things that they see and experience. Since they’re still learning about the world around them and where they fit in, it’s common for children to use social media to compare themselves to their friends, invest a lot of energy into posting to impress others, and even worry about getting enough likes or comments.

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A study from the British Psychological Society found that the pressure for teens to be available on social media 24 hours a day and seven days a week was attributed to low self-esteem, poor sleep quality, anxiety and depression.

If you’re a parent of a particularly young child, you should have direct access to their social media accounts and limit the amount of time they can use them from a mobile device. All parents of children and teens should enforce rules about using privacy settings, treating others with respect at all times, and requiring any forms of harassment or cyberbullying to be brought to a parent or teacher’s attention. It’s also worth having regular discussions about the reality of social media so that kids can gain a clearer understanding of how it doesn’t necessarily reflect people’s real lives, and how certain forms of activity can lead to bad consequences.

They may impair brain structure and function.

Numerous studies have shown that excessive amounts of screen time damages the brain by causing gray matter atrophy, compromising white matter integrity, reducing cortical thickness, impairing cognitive functioning and debilitating dopamine function. A lot of the damage occurs in the frontal lobe part of the brain, which undergoes the most drastic changes in the early teen years to mid-twenties, and can affect everything from a person’s relationship building skills to their overall sense of well being. Even children who aren’t technically “addicted” to mobile devices are at risk of suffering damage to their developing brains if they’re regular users who spend several hours a day using them.

It’s time to take screen time limits seriously. According to integrative psychiatrist Dr. Dunckley, parents can eliminate their children’s risk of impaired brain structure and function by limiting screen time to two hours or less a day. She suggests that parents get their kids to do an electronic “fast” or “detox” lasting about 3 to 4 weeks as a way to reset the brain as opposed to moderately scaling back.

Smartphones have essentially changed the world as we know it, and even as adults, we need to be careful with how we use them. Children, however, are much more susceptible to experiencing more problems. Parents should educate themselves on best practices related to kids and mobile device use, stay conscious of their kids’ habits and work with them find the right balance in using them.

Featured photo credit: Randen Pederson via flickr.com

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Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Published on July 4, 2019

These 17 Life Skills Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility

These 17 Life Skills Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility

Teaching our children life skills that help them become responsible human beings is not something that can happen in a day or a week. It takes time, effort, and consistency in teaching them these skills over their entire childhood.

It is helpful to start when they are very young and build on their skills as they age. The more skills that are built, the more you have helped to raise a responsible adult going into the world.

Children will grow up, as time continues on whether we want it to or not, so it is our job as parents to teach them the skills that will make them responsible in adulthood. It is a process that takes years and dedication to helping your child develop these skills.

Below are 17 skills that you should help your child learn before they become adults and go into the world on their own.

1. The Ability to Cook

Every child needs to learn to cook before they leave home as adults. If they can’t cook for themselves, then they will be wasting money on going out to eat. They will also be more likely to eat less healthy foods, since processed meals require less cooking skills and can be microwaved.

Teaching them to cook entails the ability to use a stove first. Make sure they are old enough before allowing them to help at the stove. Safety first.

They can help with mixing ingredients and measuring ingredients from a very young age. Teaching them to cook, as they grow up and their own skills develop is helpful. As they mature, you can teach them more complicated cooking methods.

By the time they leave home, they should know how to use a stove and oven. They should be equipped with the skills to read a recipe and know how to follow any recipe. When you use recipes at home, walk them through the process, so you can help them learn these cooking skills. As you cook with your child, you can explain what specific cooking words in recipes mean, such as basting, sifting, and how to use measuring tools.

Teaching your child to cook is not a one time experience. It should be part of their journey into adulthood and the best way to help them learn this skill is to have them help with meals on a weekly basis. Each time they cook with you, take the time to explain what you are doing and why, so they can learn something new in the kitchen.

The ability to cook is something that can then grow and flourish in their adulthood. What a gift to teach your daughter or son the love of cooking and how to do it correctly!

2. How to Do Their Own Laundry

When I went off to college, I didn’t know how to use a washer or dryer. I had hung clothing on the clotheslines, folded, and put away literally thousands of loads of laundry growing up. However, the washer and dryer at our home were off limits for anyone except our parents to use.

I was about four weeks into college life when I became in desperate need of clean laundry. I had no choice but to go to the laundry facility on campus and try to figure it out. Thankfully, there was a young man there who knew what he was doing. He taught me how to use the machines and which products to use. He also suggested I purchase dryer sheets to prevent wrinkles in my clothing.

I am grateful for the time that he took to teach me how to use the machines and which products to use. I had the folding and putting away skills, so using the machines was the last component needed.

Before your kids leave home, teach them how to use a washer and dryer, so that they feel confident in going to a laundry mat and doing their own laundry. You should also teach them how to properly fold and put away the clean laundry. The best way to teach them is to have them do it themselves with you telling them how is done in a kind and helpful manner.

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Have your child fold laundry with you. Show them how to use your machines at home. Making laundry a part of their regular chores will help them develop responsibility while also helping you with the household workload.

3. Fiscal Responsibility

Children need to learn how to manage money so they can manage their money wisely as adults. You will find some kids are savers and some are spenders. That’s okay, but there is also a balance.

Teaching them how to be financially responsible with their money in childhood, teaches them how to be fiscally responsible as adults. One resource that is a great help is Dave Ramsey’s courses and books. Dave Ramsey is one of the best money educators in the world. His resources have been used by millions. They have online and in-person courses for adults. The website also has resources for parents to purchase to use with their teens and younger children.[1]

4. The Art of Small Talk

Small talk is essential to life responsibility. How is your child ever going to survive a job interview if they don’t know the art of small talk?

This basic skill is the foundation of social skills. They need to be able to know how to start up small talk with anyone. This is how friends and connections are made. Their ability to start a conversation through small talk is one of the most valuable skills they can leave home with. If they know how to start up friendly conversations with anyone, they will become more confident each time they use this skill. It leads to social confidence in all that they may pursue in life.

Someday they may meet with the President of a country. If they are confident in their ability to make small talk and have done it thousands of times, then the most important meeting of their life can be successful because they walk into the situation with confidence and the skills to socialize through small talk. Here’re 9 Ways To Make Small Talk that you can teach your child.

5. Typing Skills

My kids are always amazed with my ability to type fast on my laptop. I always tell them that it is something that they will learn to do too. “Someday you will type this fast too”, is what I often say to them.

Whether they enter the work force or head off to University as adults, they need to be able to type. The world is run digitally. Being able to type and use a keyboard are as essential as being able to speak the language where they live.

Can they survive in adulthood not being able to type fast? Sure, it’s absolutely possible. But if you want them to be successful and responsible, then teaching them how to type is essential. For almost every job, there is a digital component to that job. Being able to use that digital device and having the ability to type is essential. The more competent they are with their typing skills the better.

Being able to use a laptop and smart phone are very important, but those skills seem to come much more naturally to kids than to adults. They can figure out how to navigate an iPad or tablet with little to no direction in preschool. It is much more instinctual to them.

Let them learn these things when they are young, because they will need these skills in adulthood whether they want to work in an office, fill out a dating profile online someday, or write their own blog. The ability to type is essential for successful and responsible adulting.

6. How to Set and Achieve Goals

We must teach our children how to set and achieve goals if we want them to be responsible adults. They don’t need to set their life goals at age 12. But it is helpful for them to set goals that pertain to their life and the age that they are at.

Teaching them to do this when they are young, equips them with goal setting skills which are essential to being successful and responsible adults. Kids of any age can set short term and long term goals. You may need to help them with this process the first few times.

A great model to utilize with your children for goal setting is the SMART method. This Lifehack article can teach you How to Set Smart Goals. Learn this method for yourself, so you can also use it with your children.

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7. How to Stay Healthy Through Exercise and Good Eating Habits

Responsibility toward our body is fundamental to survival. If we can’t take care of our body, then we won’t live a healthy life and likely will limit how long we live. It is up to us as parents to teach our children about healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise. The example of our behavior is one of the most crucial ways that our children learn about leading a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some other ways you can teach your child about being responsible and caring properly for their body:[2]

1. Eat at least one meal a day as a family
2. Get your children outside and involved
3. Turn off the technology
4. Focus on extracurricular activities
5. Never use food as a reward
6. Make sure their school offers daily, quality Physical Education

8. Dressing Correctly

Being responsible for your clothing and appearance is important. If you walk around with missing buttons, you aren’t going to be very respected where you work. Your appearance is the walking billboard or who you are, whether you like it or not.

First impressions are often based on appearance. Being clean with unwrinkled clothing that matches and is also appropriate for the occasion is an essential life skill. If you show up to a job interview for an office job in a wet suit they will likely think you are crazy and you won’t be offered the job. This may seem like an extreme example, but showing up in a wetsuit for a job interview is just as bad as showing up to an office job interview in ragged jeans and a wrinkled old t-shirt.

What you wear on your body shows to others around you what you are saying about yourself. Do you respect yourself? Do you respect the event you are attending? Do you respect the people that you are meeting? Attending a formal wedding in jeans is not cool. This happens when adults are not taught the importance of their appearance and wearing clothing that is appropriate for the occasion during their childhood.

Teach them by your own example, but also be directing them in what they wear from a young age, so that they don’t make these big mistakes regarding their appearance in adulthood. This doesn’t mean you force them to dress a certain way every day. It does mean you provide guidance and explain to them the social nuisances of dressing for every occasion.

9. How to Use Tools and Do Basic Repairs

When your child leaves your home as an adult, they better know how to use a hammer and nails, change lightbulbs, and how to use different kids of screw drivers.

Things happen in life and being able to respond with basic repair skills is essential. This includes sewing.

For example, if your child is headed to their first day of classes and they are missing a button on their only clean shirt, what are they going to do? Duct tape it or sew it back on? If you have taught them correctly, they should know how to use needle and thread to sew on buttons and make basic repairs to their own clothing.

If the faceplate on an outlet in their apartment comes off, do they know what kind of screwdriver to use and how to screw the plate back onto the wall, rather than leaving dangerous electrical wires hang from the wall? Basic skills require some basic teachings while they are growing up and in your care. If a screw falls out of one of their toys, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to use a screwdriver to put it back into place.

When you teach them these skills early in life, you are teaching them to be responsible for their belongings and home. You are also equipping them with the skills to do basic repairs on their own.

10. Time Management

Kids start learning time management from an early age. Are we teaching them to procrastinate getting ready in the morning and then they rush out the door, only to forget their school lunch and arrive late anyway? Or are we teaching our children to budget their time in the morning, so that they know they should be dressed by 7:00 am, by 7:20 they have breakfast finished, and by 7:30 they have all their belongings collected and are by the door ready to depart for school?

Time management at a young age teaches them how to manage their time for the future.

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Letting them sleep in after you have attempted to  get them up the morning five times already, is counterproductive to teaching them good time management skills. If they have difficulty waking each morning, then they probably need to go to bed earlier. Teaching them to wake up consistently at a time that allows them to get ready and not feel rushed is important to helping teach long term time management skills. The same goes for getting to bed on time. These are the two most important factors that will affect their ability to get to their job on time as adults.

Teach them by your own example that it is more important to arrive early than to arrive late. Consistency in your own behavior goes a lot further than anything you can ever say to your child about time management.

11. How to Respond in an Emergency

Every child must know how to respond in an emergency in order to be a responsible adult. Does your child know how to call 911? That is usually the most basic skill that we can teach them about emergency response.

The next would be first aid response and CPR skills. There are babysitting courses for young teens where these CPR and first aid skills are taught.

Getting them enrolled in a first aid and CPR class, even if it is a one-day event, can greatly prepare them to be responsible in responding to emergency situations. You never know what may happen to them in life. Perhaps they have a job caring for children in college and one of those children chokes on a snack. Will they know what to do without panicking? Will they only call 911 or will be have the skills needed to perform the Heimlich Maneuver? These are skills that are priceless because they can save someone’s life someday.

To find a CPR and First Aid Class for your teen go to the Red Cross Training Services Website and enter your zip code to find classes near you. You will also find on this site that babysitting classes are offered, so your teen can learn how to respond in emergency situations when caring for children.

12. How to Clean a Home

Teaching your children not only how to clean a home, but also the importance of keeping a clean and organized home are wonderful skills that can help them become responsible adults.

If they have no clue how to clean a toilet when they leave home, they may never notice how dirty their apartment toilet is until a guest points it out to them. When you teach your children cleaning skills, you are also teaching them to notice where dirt, dust, and grime tend to collect in a home.

Teach them to clean by talking them through each task the first time they do the task. For example, mopping the kitchen floor. Teach them how to use the mop, what kind of cleaner to use, and where to find the mop and bucket in your home. Inspect their work when they are done and help guide them. Perhaps they missed the corners. You can praise them for cleaning the main area of the floor and then show them how to effectively get the mop into the corners.

Assigning them household cleaning chores that are to be done each week is a very good way to teach them responsibility. They are not only learning how to clean, but they are also learning how to be a part of a team. Your family is a team, so each person needs to take part in keeping the household up and running effectively, which includes having a clean home.

13. Pump Gas

If your teen becomes a licensed driver, you need to teach them how to pump their own gas. Full station gas stations are mostly a thing of the past. If you can find one, great, but it is not the norm these days. Teens need to know how to refuel a vehicle if they are a licensed driver. This is such a basic skill, but one that is often forgotten by parents.

Not all gas pumps are the same and they are not exactly self explanatory either. Take a few minutes and teach your children how to pump gas after they get their driver’s license.

Responsibility is also refilling the gas tank after they used the family car all weekend for their personal activities. Whether they use their money or your money is something you need to define with them. However, knowing how to actually use a gas pump is essential to the process. You don’t want them to be out on the highway running out of gas and then calling you because they didn’t even think to look at the gas gauge since they don’t know how to refill the gas tank.

Help them learn to be responsible with their vehicle usage, by learning how to refill the gas.

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14. Use Public Transportation

Public transportation, whether it is using Uber, a Taxi, or the local bus system is an essential skill to have.

For example, what if your 18 year-old daughter is on a date someday while away at college and her date becomes intoxicated. She knows she shouldn’t ride home with him, but she also doesn’t know how to get a cab or request a ride from Uber. What if the friends she calls are not available and the restaurant is closing? What will she do? Teach her how to use public transportation methods before she gets stuck in a bad situation. This is teaching your children responsibility.

If you are traveling to a different city and you are going to use the subway, then have them help figure out how to get to and from your destination. Teach them how to hail a cab when they are teens and you are together. That way they can do it on their own someday when needed.

15. Stick Up for Themselves

Children need to learn how to advocate for themselves, this is teaching them life responsibility. A day will come when their mom or dad is not there to fight their battles for them. They need to practice advocating and sticking up for themselves in childhood, so they can be prepared to do so in adulthood.

For example, if you have a teen who feels that they are being treated unfairly by a coach, it should be something that they talk to their coach about first. If you, as a parent, need to intervene later when things don’t get resolved, then do so. But for the initial talk with the coach, it should be the teen approaching the coach to discuss the issue, not the parent. You may need to help prepare your child with what they need to say and some key points to bring up, but then they can talk to the coach themselves. They need to learn how to advocate from themselves.

From a young age, parents need to allow children to stick up for themselves, so they are prepared to be their own advocates for the big things in life. Someday they may be laying in a hospital bed and they need to advocate for themselves to get the right medical treatments needed. If they haven’t been equipped with these skills earlier in life, then they will suffer in the long run.

16. Be a Team Play and Good Helper

Being a good team member is essential in life. We all need to work well with others in order to become successful.

Being a good team player should start in the home. They are part of team family. This means that they learn to be a helper in the home and part of making the household run well. They can be given weekly chores and task to complete that help with the running of the household.

Having them play in team sports also helps them learn to be a team player. Being a good team player and knowing how to help others is crucial to becoming responsible adults and productive members of society.

17. Have Good Manners

Good manners and being well behaved go hand in hand. A child who has learned good manners knows how to act in a responsible way in public. Children who grow up without guidance on how to act in different social settings can act socially irresponsible as adults.

For example, good manners includes bringing flowers or wine to a dinner party when you are a guest invited to a formal dinner party. If your child hasn’t been taught these things and they show up empty handed and dressed like they are headed for the beach, then they risk offending their host. Teaching a child good manners goes a long way in creating socially responsible adults.

The development of manners starts in the home. It is more than teaching them what silverware to use at a dinner party. Good manners also includes showing respect for others and using polite words such as please and thank you.

Respect for others is crucial to being a responsible adult. Those adults who don’t know how to respect others were likely not taught at an early age good manners or the importance of treating others as we want to be treated.

The Bottom Line

Raising children is more than feeding and clothing our children and ensuring they get a good education. Parenting involves teaching our children life skills that prepare them for adulthood. Starting young is best, but then again, it is never too late to start teaching anyone these valuable life skills.

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Featured photo credit: Sai De Silva via unsplash.com

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