TikTok makes moves into education market
BBC News
Reasons to read: With a new CEO coming from Disney and the success of #LearnOnTikTok, TikTok is looking to bring micro-learning to its platform by providing professionally-produced educational content to users.

Higher parental stress linked to low screen-time enforcement, research finds
Reasons to read: In a small study of parents of young children, researchers found that parenting stress may be linked to more relaxed screen time rules, for parents and their children.

All eyes on the screen
Mumbai Daily
Reasons to read: Children in India engaged in online learning share their frustrations with the experience, including eye and back strain, poor connection, and sibling conflict over devices.

Advertising Watchdog Received Over 4,000 Influencer Ad Complaints Last Year, Report Reveals
Reasons to read: In 2019, an advertising watchdog in the UK found that advertisements for food and beverages with high fat, salt, or sugar, while not specifically designed for children, were aired on media platforms used by them, including YouTube videos aimed at kids.

A note from Jean

This week I was privileged to participate in the opening panel of HUMANITECH, a conference organized and moderated by our own Parent Professionals Work Group Co-Chair, Teodora Pavkovic, Anya Pechko, and assisted by David Klein of America Offline and tech philosopher Patrick McAndrew.

The undertaking was enormous – gather thought leaders, medical professionals, scientists, and digital wellness experts to present the most current data, the most salient solutions, and the most hopeful paths for human interaction with technology. The global panelists varied from Silicon Valley expats to scientists, journalists, tech creators, actors, and artists.

Some takeaways were so simple and yet concepts not typically discussed in the daily screen time battle of most families:

Think about it. You’re a kid and you’re given a smartphone. It’s likely no one told you what it’s for and what it’s not for; this is what we should be using it for, this is what we shouldn’t use it for. You have to work hard to get a driver’s license, but you’re given a powerful device that enables you to be tracked and influenced with no learner’s permit or instruction.

Do you know you probably have email apnea? Wellness consultant Barbara Biziou, referencing the work of researcher Linda Stone, explained that when we get a text or email and are answering it, we unconsciously hold our breath, which increases stress and hinders our ability to work effectively. Barbara also provided physical antidotes to how our bodies react with technology. Some simple, soothing habits can counteract the stress, she explained. One suggestion was “Have a Not-to-do list.” Ask my boss: I would hate that idea!

During the panel Solutions to Technoference there was discussion about how devices enable helicopter parenting and snowplow parenting (the tendency to remove all obstacles from our children’s paths). Our Advisory Board member, Tiffany Shlain, admitted to getting her daughter a flip phone. Her daughter quickly realized that the sole purpose was so that her mom could get ahold of her at any time – well, it didn’t do anything else! She asked the audience to take our spiritual pulse, deciding just which parts of technology are life-giving and which parts can be taken offline. Could we meet by a phone call, rather than a Zoom?

Jess Davis, creative writer and founder of the band Folk Rebellion, said, “Everything creative was cannibalized by the digital world.” I couldn’t agree more. I used to scrapbook, now I only want to do digital albums. It seems easier, cheaper, slicker. But, it’s not life-giving.

Many of the experts who spoke were also parents and from that vantage point screen time risks and benefits are multidimensional. Jess mentioned that her fourth grade son is doing online learning. “He’s checking the boxes and getting it submitted,” she said, “but he isn’t learning.”

On the plus side, video conferencing is bringing mental healthcare to people in rural communities who would not have access, connecting deployed military parents with their children, and connecting families and friends separated due to coronavirus.

And what of the Children’s Screen Time Action Network’s contribution to the discussion at HUMANITECH? I brought voice to the offline time children need to thrive. We know that children need tactile, sensory experiences to make meaning of their worlds, to learn and grow. They need eye contact with their parents, and time to be bored. We know definitively that devices are not designed for children’s wellbeing, but for profit. We observe that no other activity has no end. Children won’t throw a fit if you ask them to get off their bike or put away the basketball. The grip that technology has on childhood is not something to be compromised or minimized. We are here to work together and take action toward solutions.

On day two, Teodora, host extraordinaire, asked the final panel, The Future of Families, “Has screen time made parenting harder or easier?” Consensus was that the answer is not black or white. But, internet-induced parenting stress was mentioned more than once. So much of what happens at home with tech creates conflict. Michaeleen Doucleff, a reporter for NPR’s Science Desk, mentioned that in other cultures, objects that create conflict are removed from the home. Parents change the environment instead of blaming the behavior of the child. Mark Burrell, CEO of parent education community Weldon, mentioned that parents are just one click away from advice that is antithetical to something else they just read. Sigh.

Conferences are places for learning, idea exchange, and networking. Teodora and Anya brought extraordinary humanness to each conversation, acknowledging that we would rather be presenting and attending in person. As Veronica Schreibeis Smith, architect and wellness space designer, reminded attendees, “At the end of the day, we are all physical beings.”

We can hope that one day soon we’ll meet these extraordinary individuals IRL.

In the meantime, be well and carry on,

The Children's Screen Time Action Network is a project of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
CCFC educates the public about commercialism's impact on kids' well-being and advocates for the end of child-targeted marketing. 
89 South St., Suite 403
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Get in touch! info@screentimenetwork.org

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