Monday, March 9, 2015

The Digital Dilemma

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge HILLARY HARVEY
  • Hillary Harvey

On Thursday, March 5th, Orange County’s chapter of the Cornell Cooperative Extension hosted its 20th annual Making Healthful Decisions Conference at Mount Saint Mary College in the shadow of the burnt brown Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. It’s a well-run, annual event that brings the most current information in health, nutrition and human development to Hudson Valley Professionals, many of whom work in social services, schools, or simply as parents at home. This time, they were discussing “the digital dilemma” - Balancing Media and Technology in Family Life – over a delicious lunch and trays of treats like pecan pie and carrot cake, catered by the college. With time devoted to practicing what they preach, there was organized stretching, frequent breaks, and a clear mission to keep to the schedule or even end early. And your faithful Kids & Family Editor was on the scene to capture resonating tidbits of the newest information to share with you.

Salient points made by Timothy C. Jahn, M.Ed., Human Ecology Specialist, Family Health and Wellness Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension-Suffolk County

On the Current State of Media Usage
* Many homes have three times the number of screens (TV, computer, personal devices, etc.) as family members.
* Because of violence in the media, people experience the world as a mean place.
* Nominet Trust, a group out of the UK which promotes sustainable use of technology, synopsized a study where, when the criteria for pathological gambling was applied, one in five teenagers were found to meet the conditions for addiction.
* Parents often rely on technology instead of their instincts. Parents are professionals. Be your own expert.

On Cyber-bullying
* “Cyber bullies are akin to terrorists,” Jahn said. Like terrorism, even the appearance of a bully poses such a threat and fearful reaction that the victim can be controlled into submission.
* Kids oftentimes participate in cyber bullying because they think it’s fun. The intent is often not to hurt. But when something is happening online, they can’t see the reaction. If you see someone being teased in person, you can see the affect. That’s an important distinction for adults to point out to kids.
* Victims of face-to-face bullying can have a reprieve from it when they’re at home or in another environment. But for victims of cyber bullying, even the bedroom isn’t safe. Life is miserable wherever there’s technology, and there’s nowhere to flee. That’s why bullycide is a real concern.

Wise Words from Kerri K. Reda, MS, Human Development Specialist, Family Healthy and Wellness Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension-Suffolk County

On the Parent-Child Relationship
* Technology isn’t bad or good, but it can be harmful, if out of balance. “Being out of balance leads to states of unhealth.”
* The brain’s development in the first three years relies upon relationships and human interactions.
* Daycare providers say that oftentimes, parents drop off or pick up their children while simultaneously on the phone, forgetting to say hello or goodbye. That small exchange carries a message and impacts a child’s social development and sense of self-worth
* Parents need to model responsible media usage and set clear boundaries and guidelines for a child’s usage.

On Sleep Deprivation
* Devices suppress melatonin production, a hormone in the body that helps with healthful sleep. The closer the screen to the eye, the more negative the impacts of sleep disruptions. If there are issues with sleep, it’s best to skip the screen before bed.
* You burn more calories while sleeping than by watching TV because the body is doing significant work while sleeping. Sleep is critical to children.
* Hyperactivity is a common form of sleep deprivation.

Interesting morsel from Janis Whitlock, PhD, Research Scientist, Cornell University
* Talking about Technology Mediated Sexuality (or TMS) forces a conversation we haven’t been willing to have.

The big takeaway: Media can clearly enhance life and learning and help us to do what we couldn’t before, but we need to be careful that it doesn’t begin to interfere with our lives and our relationships.

Suddenly more aware of our media use, the next morning I put the TV off and let the iPhone fall asleep on the table. As I watched the kids play with their Duplo and dollhouse, I noticed the way the smoke outside the window from my neighbors’ chimneys stacked itself in the sunlight before drifting off, and how the kids combined their voices into one made-up hum.

Want to know more? Contact the conference’s organizer, Denyse Variano, check out CCE-Suffolk County, or sign up for one of the affordable parenting classes offered by CCE-Orange County this spring.
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