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Hilber Psychological Services

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The Effects of Screen Time on Kids

The recent question of concern considers how all that screen time impacts the physical structure of your kids' brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. The National Institutes of Health hopes to answer this question by studying the adolescent brain development. Anderson Cooper, correspondent of CBS 60 Minutes, interviewed different researchers to get a better understanding the research we are looking for.

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 The first wave of data found significant differences in the brains of nine and ten-year-olds who spend more than seven hours a day of screen time, compared to those who don’t. These brains showed premature thinning of the cortex, the part of the brain that processes information from the five senses. The study also revealed that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests. While this research may take a significant amount of time to complete, researchers hope to answer not only how much time are they spending, how they perceive it impacting them, but also what are some of the outcomes. And that will get at the question of whether there's addiction or not.

 Dr. Dimitri Chrisrakis at Seattle Children's Hospital, speaks on the recommendation for parents to, "avoid digital media use, except video chatting, in children younger than 18 to 24 months." In his 60 Minutes talk, “Toddlers need laps more than apps”, Dr. Chrisrakis warns that babies playing with iPads do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world. This is a critical period for human brain development. Apps on iPads with lights, colors, and sounds are more stimulating to an infant than an original toy. His research proves that kids are less likely to put down an iPad while playing with it, than they are to put down a toy. Tristan Harris, former Google manager, explains that phones and apps are being designed to capture and keep kids' attention. Apps use specific techniques to get people to use the product for as long as possible.

 Until recently, it was impossible to see what happens inside a young brain when a person is focused on a mobile device. Dr. Bagot is among scientists who believe screen time stimulates the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which has a pivotal role in cravings and desire. The idea is that people are more likely to continue checking their devices in order to keep the good feelings. Teenagers now spend on average four and a half hours a day on their phones. All that time has resulted in a fundamental shift in how a generation of American kids acts and thinks. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University has spent years combining surveys of people since the 1960s. She discovered sudden changes in the behavior and mental health of teens born in 1995 and later, the first generation to spend their entire adolescences with smartphones. Twenge found that the percentage of teens who reported drinking or having sex fell. But the percentage who said they were lonely or depressed spiked. It's possible other factors may have played a role, but Twenge says she wasn't able to identify any that correlated as closely as the growing popularity of the smartphone and social media.

 It is difficult to say whether it's the specific things that teens are doing on their phones that's the problem. Or whether it’s just the amount of time that they're spending on their phones that is the problem. With new technological shifts, people become excited and amused without realizing the consequences until years later when it’s too late. Tech companies have created ways to monitor screen time or set time restrictions on apps, but most parents aren’t aware of these tools. Twenge believes smartphones, as well as most devices, are great when they are used for the right purpose. It is the excessive use of apps and social media that cause harm. She states, “it should be a tool that you use. Not a tool that uses you.”

 The purpose of this article is not to frighten parents, but to educate them on the effects screen time can have on kids. This is not to say remove electronics completely but beware of what part of technology is actually benefiting you, and what part is harming you. If your child is using an excessive amount of screen time, learn more about the tools that can help prevent this future addiction.

If you have questions about children development and the effect of screen time please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD 

Reference: Cooper, Anderson. “Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 9 Dec. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/groundbreaking-study-examines-effects-of-screen-time-on-kids-60-minutes/

The Best Way To ‘Discipline Without Damage,’ From Toddlers To Teens

In the article “The Best Way To ‘Discipline Without Damage,’ From Toddlers To Teens” written by Andy Hinds, In referring to the book, Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up, written by Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, the author summarizes how most parenting techniques can be replaced by a more concise list in order to connect with your child. Connecting with your child and understanding their emotional development is key. By using your emotional connection with your child to work out behavioral problems together focuses on your child’s feelings rather than their actions. Your child will respect you and your expectations for what “good behavior” is in your family and be able to follow them more appropriately when they fit their emotional development.  

Tired of putting your child in timeouts, using behavior charts to motivate them to behave better, or rewarding them for not acting out? If yes, then think about replacing your parenting techniques with these summarized skills to make it easier. Begin by recognizing that …

Children Have Needs

Keep in mind that your child has not reached their full maturity; that he or she can not quite grasp control over their emotions and actions at this time in their life at their current brain development. Try focusing less on your child’s behavior and more on your own behavior to see if you are still using imagination, patience, and compassion (Hinds) to create a trusted bond between you and your child. Use your emotional connection with your child to center your attention around…

  • Unfolding your child’s personality

  • Relaxing

  • Knowing that your child needs your understanding and acceptance of your child’s feelings

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It’s just a phase

As a parent, you may have demands, but your child’s brain “might not yet have the capacity to meet them” (Hinds). When this happens, try not fighting against the natural stages of child’s kid’s psychological and emotional development (Hinds), instead, realize that it is just a phase they are going through no matter how old they are. Ranging from 2- 17 years of age, children tend to...

  • Start off with having no impulse control where they can not regulate their meltdowns and frustration (ages 2-3)

  • Like testing their limits and exploring more of what they want to do instead of following you (ages 3-4)

  • Become more verbal and somewhat aggressive (ages 3-4)

  • Become more independent (ages 5-7)

  • Get better at regulating themselves (ages 5-7)

  • Start following their passions and interests in which they may need some guidance (ages 8-10)

  • Develop strong opinions and push boundaries (ages 11-12)

  • Become moodier (ages 12-17)

Now knowing that as your child grows, they will develop into their own individual, you as adults can “Adjust your expectations to your kids’ developmental stage” (Hinds).

How Damage-Free Discipline Works On The Ground

If you are tired of yelling and being frustrated with your child, attempt to perceive how your child feels and what it feels like to be yelled at for doing something wrong. Do you want your child to feel like every time they do something wrong they will be yelled at? Instead, try talking in a calm tone of voice and ask them if they need help with anything where you can figure out their problems together and make that parent-child bond even stronger.

Hinds suggests that parents can

  • Respond with connection: “You look like you are having a hard time,” “I will help you. Come with me and we will figure this out.”

  • Stay low: The more upset the kid is, the calmer you need to be

  • Answer to 5: Give a brief (5-word max) reminder of what your child needs to know at the moment: “Gentle hands.” “Kind words.” “That must stop.” “Put it down.”

  • Maintain Firmness With Kindness: Use a “no/I know” approach. Say no to what they can’t have and then acknowledge their feelings by saying “I know you are or feel …”

  • Give No Explanation: maintain your decision with no exceptions

  • Debrief Once The Dust Settles: Once your child has accepted the boundary you have established or enforced, remind them of the incident and its positive resolution along with what they could have learned from it.

As a result, your child will feel more connected with you because both of you have learned and practiced how to control your frustration, as well as understand where each other are coming from. This understanding and practice make your days go smoother.

If you have questions about children development please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References:
Lapointe, Vanessa. “Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up.” (2016). Canada: LifeTree Media Ltd.
Hinds, Andy. “The best way to discipline, from toddlers to teens.” (2016, October 21). Retrieved from www.fatherly.com.

Reminder: You can always leave an uncomfortable situation
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As a little boy or girl, were you ever at a sleepover, but something didn’t feel right, and you just wanted to leave? In high school, were you ever at a party and realized there was drugs alcohol, and no parents were home, and you just wanted to leave? Have you ever been on a date that was so uncomfortable, you just wanted to leave? In college, were you ever in a situation where someone was trying to get you to do something you didn’t want to, and you just wanted to leave? As an adult, have you ever been at a bar with some of your friends and someone else kept hitting on you and you just wanted to leave? The reality of it, is we have all been in an uncomfortable situation and forgot that we are allowed to just leave. The reason we stayed may have been because we were scared, we were embarrassed, or we wanted to please the people around us. This blog is a reminder to men and women of all ages that it is perfectly okay to leave a situation, regardless of what other people may think.

Erynn Brook shared her story through a twitter thread of the first time her mother taught her she was allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation and the many times after that she was reminded. Brook explains, “I was maybe 7, I think it was my first sleepover at someone else’s house… before I left Mum told me that if I was uncomfortable at any point, for any reason, even if it was the middle of the night, I could call her.” As Brook’s night continued, she was bullied by her friends and decided she wanted to leave. The girl’s mom tried to discourage her by saying “it was late, I could sleep on the couch, and that I was upsetting her daughter.” Brooks called her mom anyways. When her mom arrived in the middle of the night, the other girl’s mom apologized, Brook’s mom stopped her and said “don’t apologize for my daughter. I want her to know she’s allowed to leave, and I’ll be there for her at any time.”

As she grew up, there were many other uncomfortable situations Brook wanted to leave. Ranging from times her friends were bullying her to resigning from a job, she always remembered her mom’s advice. Brook explains that she is aware this is not a widespread idea. Most parents teach their kids to “just deal with it” or “don’t be a quitter,” but that’s not what this lesson is about. Leaving an uncomfortable situation is one of the hardest decisions. Leaving does not mean you are soft or weak, it means you are strong and brave.  

The most important lesson is that everyone is allowed to leave. There may be some situations, for some people where there is no way out. However, the important thing to remember, is that you’re ALLOWED to. You have the right and the ability to leave. A helpful part to remembering this, is having someone, like Brook had her mom, to always be there to remind you it is okay to leave and help you get out of the situation. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable, regardless of your age or gender. YOU are in control of your life, YOU set your own boundaries, and YOU are allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Marfice, Christina. “Powerful Thread Reminds Us We Can Always Leave Uncomfortable Situations.” Scary Mommy, Scary Mommy, 2 Oct. 2018, www.scarymommy.com/twitter-thread-uncomfortable-leave/

5 Proven Benefits of Play

Summer has come to an end and children are back in school. Back to school means waking up early, attending school, working on homework, doing extracurricular activities, and then off to bed early. This routine is beneficial for a growing child, but who is setting aside time for play? With all of these important obligations, are children getting the time they need to let loose and play? “5 Proven Benefits of Play,” written by Anya Kamenetz, reminds parents, teachers, and pediatricians of the importance of play and how it can help the development of children.  

1.     Play is essential for healthy brain development.

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Just as adults use puzzles and crosswords to exercise our brains, children can use play to help develop their brains. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF, allows the brain to grow and develop healthy connections. Studies have proven that play, such as roughhousing and tussling around, can change the expression of genes to increase the production of BDNF. 30 minutes a day of this kind of play can encourage proper development of the brain.

2.     Play reduces obesity and associated diseases.

Just as adults go to the gym to stay in shape, children need to exercise and play in order to stay in shape. A child who plays a lot at a young age, the more likely they are to be active and healthy adults. At least one hour of play outdoors has proven signification improvement in body mass index. A study showed that “children who actively play outside are 42 percent less likely to be overweight.”

3.     Play helps children manage stress and even recover from trauma.

Most adults are aware of the term “self-care”. Practicing self-care is a way to increase your health and well-being. Similarly, a study showed that children who play regularly, one-on-one with a teacher, taking their own lead, improves behavior and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. The connection built between the child and teacher is known as “banking time,” the building of a warm, relationship.

4.     Play helps families bond.

Just as “banking time” builds relationships with teachers, it also builds relationships with families. “Hirsh-Pasek points out ‘the conversation with kids that come out in play are brain-builders.’” Playing allows children to regulate their emotions by “getting on the same page” as others they are playing with. This connection can help children in their future when they are faced with difficult situations.

5.     Play contributes to academic skills.

When children play using their imagination, they are developing their language development, general knowledge, and intrinsic motivation. This development leads to improved test scores. By connecting objects, words, and feelings, children are building STEM learning skills, which will benefit their education.  

Life can be busy and overwhelming at times. This blog is a reminder to let your child play. Not only does it release energy so bed time is easier, but it has many proven benefits for your child ranging from brain development, social skills, and academic improvement.

If you have questions about children development please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kamenetz, Anya. “5 Proven Benefits Of Play.” NPR, NPR, 31 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/08/31/642567651/5-proven-benefits-of-play.