The Reading Room | How to Identify Safe & Age Approriate Apps & Games for Kids 
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The Surprising Truth

Are Internet Games for Kids safe? Does media make children more violent? Less sensitive? Dumber?
Yes. And no. It depends on which “expert” you talk to.

Most of the psychological research over the last decade has attempted to provide parents with solid data on which to base their media decisions. Yet, findings are varied. And difficult to decipher. Most parents are left to “wing” it.

“Age appropriate apps are not always appropriate”

Parents and children’s app producers disagree over age appropriate standards.
Average gap is about 8 years of age. Body image and sexuality are the leading factors of disagreements followed by anti social behavior, scariness and violence messages.

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In their excellent compilation, Harvard psychologists Dr. Nadja Reilly and Dr. Gerald Koocher present parents with a down-to-earth summary of the latest findings on the effects of media on children. What they discovered will surprise you. And encourage you to have access to the means to safety for kids and make more informed decisions about what is best for your children. Which is why the Valuelizer was created.

“From Angry Birds to Grand Theft Auto”

Psychological Principles Underlying Video Gaming Use by Children and Adolescents By Dr. Nadja N. Reilly and Dr. Gerald Koocher

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Gone are the simple days of Pacman and Pong, Pinochio and Peter Pan. We’re living in a whole new digital era. Media affects our kids nowadays in ways we’ve never even considered.

It’s essential that parents have access to the means to make informed decisions about what is best for their children with regard to the media they’re interacting with on a daily basis.

That’s why we created the Valuelizer™.

Here we offer some of the latest scholarly research on the essential psychological principles used in our Valuelizerapp. Learn more about the underpinnings of children’s media today. Forewarned is forearmed.


Fostering Collaboration Cooperation and Independent Reading and Writing through Sports Videogame

By Hannah Gerber

The educational reformer John Dewey told us 100 years ago that if you want to motivate kids to read and write, then give them a real life task they care about. Nowadays it’s video games.
Hannah Gerber, assistant professor of literacy at Sam Houston State University, is proving that sports video games can positively influence education, literacy and modes of communication.
The secret is not only inside the game, but in the players’ behavior around it. Sports video games are surrounded by a sea of tutorials, YouTube videos, and blogs, so players often have unlimited opportunities to go hunting for info and engage with other players.
All this to say that although there are many video games on the market that are dangerous for kids’ minds, there are also many video games that stimulate children on numerous levels. We hope this article helps you figure out how to strike a healthier balance in your home

Children Experience Wrist and Finger Pain When Using Gaming Devices and Mobile Phones Over Time

By Yusuf Yazi

Children who spend a lot of time texting on smartphones or playing video games can wind up with serious wrist and finger pain. The findings in this study
found that the amount of pain kids reported experiencing doubled for every hour of game play.
As for texting on smartphones, researchers said pain was associated with the amount of texts sent, usage of text abbreviations, and the kind of keyboard being used. Among smartphone users, girls reported twice as much pain as boys.
Professor Yusuf Yazici said, “Our study has shown the negative impact that playing computer games and using mobile phones can have on the joints of young children, raising concerns about the health impact of modern technology later in life.”

This is alarming news, and one more reason why parents need to be on top of how much time our kids spend using devices, as well as knowing when is the appropriate age to allow them to start.

Read more about our Valuelizer™ dimensions

Preschoolers Outsmart College Students In Figuring Out Gadgets
By Michelle Trudeau, NPR

Ever wonder why children can so easily figure out how to work the TV remote? Or why they “totally get” apps on your smartphone faster than you? It turns out that young children may be more open-minded than adults when it comes to solving problems.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found that 4- and 5-year-olds are smarter than college students when it comes to figuring out how toys and gadgets work.

Positive Technological Development for Young Children in the Context of Children’s Mobile Apps
By Clement L.Chau, TUFTS University

This dissertation examines the extent to which children’s apps are designed appropriately to promote the optimal development of preschool children aged three to five. They found that only 58% of apps were meaningfully designed for preschool children in terms of user interface, audio and visual design, and instructional support. Their studies also revealed that the content of apps tend to cluster around school skills, and they rarely engaged children in activities beyond academic drill-and-practice. These apps largely ignored the social, emotional, and physical aspects of children’s development.

This study underscores the need for developmentally meaningful children’s mobile apps for preschool children.

The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement
By Eric A. HanushekLudgerWoessmann

Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, and LudgarWoessman from University of Munich conducted a study where they found an ordinary piece of furniture in certain family’s homes that served as a consistent indicator that a child from that family would do well in school.
That piece of furniture was a bookcase. Two to be exact. Read more to find out why.

The Linguistic Genius of Babies
By Patricia Kuhl

Julie Aigner-Clark, creator of Baby Einstein, cited the work of Dr. Patricia Kuhl as the inspiration of most of the video’s content. Yet, Professor Kuhl has publicly claimed that her findings show these videos do not work. Her research shows that babies learn best from a live, human teacher because seeing a person’s face makes all the difference.

Why Is Infant Language Learning Facilitated by Parental Responsiveness?
By Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Yana Kuchirko, and Lulu Song

What predicts how well a child will learn language skills? In this study, the researches found that the answer lies in how responsive a parent is to their child’s earliest attempts to communicate. This study is a fascinating look into the psychological processes that explain why this is the case, and how parents can get a jump start on increasing their children’s vocabulary and language skills.

Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years
By Frederick Zimmerman, PhD, Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, and Andrew N. Meltzoff, PhD

Despite marketing claims, parents who want to give their infants a boost in learning language probably should limit the amount of time they expose their children to DVDs and videos such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby.” Or at least that is the advice given by the authors of this study.

Media and Young Children’s Learning
By Heather L. Kirkorian, et. al

Electronic media, particularly television, have long been criticized for their potential impact on children. One area for concern is how early media exposure influences cognitive development and academic achievement. Heather Kirkorian, Ellen Wartella, and Daniel Anderson summa¬rize the relevant research and provide suggestions for maximizing the positive effects of media and minimizing the negative effects.

Psychiatrists Say Video Games Are Good for Your Kids
By Dr. Matthew Chow

Dr. Matthew Chow, a psychiatrist who studies gaming and behavior, posits that gaming can also promote pro-social behavior. When people join online virtual worlds and communities, they participate in “in pro-social behaviors such as cooperative play, trading, negotiating, forming alliances, and creating rules of conduct.

You need to be able to get along with a diverse community in order to succeed in online play. Antisocial people are often marginalized and even banned from popular communities.

Television and Kids
By Marcy Axness, PhD

A long time ago, producers realized that to corral a child’s attention, they had to include many more novelty incidents, than for adult programs. There are many more violent incidents in children’s programming, because that’s the best kind of thing to snap your attention back. Saturday morning cartoons are the worst. There is up to 25 violent incidents an hour. What happens is, these novelty incidents — and even the cuts, the pans, the zooms; the things that make children continue watching — it engages the brain’s fight or flight process. It actually is constantly triggering their fight or flight and their adrenaline. This is not an unintended consequence…

Is It Okay to Let Your Toddler Play the iPad?
By Psychology Today

This blog offers a great overview from a developmental perspective of the potential hazards of allowing young children to use iPads. It explains what young kids really need to stimulate their mental and emotional development. And it provides a useful insight into how the technology of ipads can interfere with a child’s sleep patterns.

Let Your Children Play With Robots
By Time Carmody

According to Javier Movellan, robots can help children become smarter. And happier. Movellan, associate professor from UC San Diego’s Machine Perception Laboratory, is a psychologist and robotics researcher. He studies kids’ interactions with robots for 2 reasons: to better understand childhood development and to build better robots. He found that emotion and interaction are more important to kids than human appearance or abstract intelligence. This links takes you to a fascinating video, followed by useful commentary from Professor Movellan.

The Benefits of Playing Video Games
By IsabelaGranic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels

It’s estimated that in the United States alone 99% of boys and 94% of girls play video games. 97% play at least one hour a day. The earnings from the video game industry exceeded $25 Billion (Hollywood made only $10.8 billion.) All this to say that video games are here to stay.
Despite all the warnings and studies telling us that video games can induce bad behavior, there are some scientists saying they’re not necessarily harmful.

According to IsabelaGranic and fellow researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, video games can actually help children and teens develop their brain power, motivation, increase positive emotions, and even improve social skills.

The Influence of a Digital Math Game on Student Number
By Holly Sense, et al.

Digital math games can improve children’s number sense. So say researchers out of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. They studied a group of 3rd grade students to see how they performed after some of them played a math game called “Wuzzit Trouble.” Their findings indicated that playing the digital math game for just 10 minutes a day caused improvement in number senseChildren who played the math games showed a 20.5% increase from their pre- to post-test in number sense, algorithmic thinking, and problem solving skills.


You can find math apps for all ages by choosing Learning Opportunities in the Valuelizer.

Creative Possibilities of Video Games
By Dr. Pamela Rutledge

Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, indicates that the experience of playing video games offers cognitive benefits, but it can also positively impact emotional well-being and self-efficacy in a number of ways.

Video Game Playing Tied to Creativity
By Linda Jackson, Professor of Psychology

Both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative, regardless of whether the games are violent or nonviolent, according to new research by Michigan State University scholars. A study of nearly 500 12-year-olds found that the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories. In contrast, use of cell phones, the Internet and computers (other than for video games) was unrelated to creativity, the study found.

Both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative, regardless of whether the games are violent or nonviolent, according to new research by Michigan State University scholars. A study of nearly 500 12-year-olds found that the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories. In contrast, use of cell phones, the Internet and computers (other than for video games) was unrelated to creativity, the study found.

The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development
By Scott Barry Kaufman

Pediatric research findings are increasingly demonstrating the many benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.

Actual studies have demonstrated psychological benefits, such as increase in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives. The important concept of “theory of mind,” an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons’, and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to imaginative play

This article discusses many of these findings and reminds parents how important old fashioned pretend play is to a developing child. It’s a good reminder for the digital age, when kids are spending more and more time playing digital games claiming to be good for their brains. Sometimes you just have to shut off the games and let the kids innovate!

Behavior in Real World Affected by Video Games
By Gunwoo Yoon

For years the debate has raged on whether or not video games influence real-life behavior. This study provides evidence that it does. It involves college students playing a villain in a virtual environment, and it shows that it leads to punishing anonymous strangers in real life.

The study’s results were published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Gunwoo Yoon, lead author from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says:

“Our results indicate that just 5 minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers.”

Yoon and co-author Patrick Vargas suggest virtual environments, like those in video games, give individuals the chance to assume identities and encounter situations they would not be able to in the real world. They say it provides “a vehicle for observation, imitation and modeling.”


Violent Video Games Reduce Teens’ Self-Control
By AlessandroGabbiadini et. al.

Gone are the days of teens being happy playing ball with friends or hanging out in the schoolyard in their free time. Today’s teen is more likely to be found indoors playing video games. New research suggests teens who play violent video games are 8x more likely to cheat, experience increased aggression and have reduced self-control.

Where is this world headed…

Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude:
By Diana Kapp

Research Finds Real Benefits for Kids Who Say ‘Thank You’

How do you teach your kid to be grateful? According to recent research, you model it. Little by little. Children learn more from watching the moments of interaction between parents, and how parents relate to their children. It’s a great article reminding parents about the benefits of raising a child with the virtue of appreciation. And it’s an important reminder of how much influence role models have on how a child turns out. With increasing amounts of time being spent in front of digital media, kids will be learning (or not learning) from the characters their connecting to.

Stereotypes in Video Games and How They Perpetuate Prejudice
By Troy G. Deskins

Research has recently begun to examine the psychological effects of video games on children. This study examines how the exaggerated stereotypes of minorities in games can affect the attitudes of the kids that play them. The researchers found that it lead to an increase in prejudice, even in players who started off with a low measurement in prejudicial thinking. It’s an important study because it brings about more awareness of the effect of racist images of minorities in the video game industry.

Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky
By Alice Park, TIME

A new study from Boston Medical Center reveals that parents who get absorbed by email, games or other apps have more negative interactions with their children, making them feel like they’re competing for attention with their parents’ gadgets.

Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals in Fast Food Restaurants
By Jenny S. Radesky and colleagues, PEDIATRICS

It’s not just kids who are overdoing screen time. Parents are equally guilty. Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician specializing in child development, conducted a study aimed to find out how adults with kids are using this technology on a daily basis.
She observed 55 caregivers eating with 1 or more young children in fast food restaurants in a single metropolitan area. Observers wrote detailed field notes, continuously describing all aspects of mobile device use and the child/caregiver interactions during the meal.
The discoveries were shocking. They found that 40 caregivers used devices during their meal, and we more or less absorbed by it. This study sheds a light on the affect mobile devices are having on modern parent-child relationships, and it’s a great wake up call.

Materialistic Values and Susceptibility to Influence in Children
By Gwen Bachmann Achenreiner, St. John's University

How influential and dangerous are the materialistic values that children are receiving from popular media content? According to a significant body of research, the answer is VERY. This particular study demonstrates that the materialistic attitudes of children are made worse by values that are modeled and transmitted in today’s media.

Children and Media: Stereotypes
By PBS Parents

TV, movies, videogames and the Internet often show people in an overly simple way, giving an inaccurate idea of what they are allowed to say and do and how important or unimportant they are. This often takes the form of stereotypes — recognizable but inaccurate views of one group of people by another. Some common stereotypes show women as weak and certain ethnic groups as lazy or scheming.

This is a great resource for challenging your children to question what they see and hear, so that they develop a discerning eye for sexism, racism and other prejudices in mainstream media.

Parental Rules and Monitoring of Children’s Movie Viewing Associated With Children’s Risk for Smoking and Drinking
By Madeline A. Dalton, PhD

There have been hundreds of studies showing that media content matters. Educational apps & games teach, but so do shows, movies and games not intended to teach. Children are sponges. They can learn just by seeing something demonstrated once. When they are repeatedly shown something, it becomes automatic for them.

This study focuses on particularly troubling issue: why older children and teens start smoking and drinking. While there are many contributing factors, this studies findings lend credibility to the argument that children are heavily influence on what they see in TV and movies. But the good news is that parental limits on R-rated movies lowered the risk of children drinking and smoking. It is further proof that setting limits on media exposure has a long-lasting effect, greater than many parents may perceive in the moment.

‘Sesame Street’ shows kids, families healthy eating as easy as 1-2-3

There are many articles, studies and reports about the negative effects children’s media content has on our kids. This makes some parents feel like all media is bad. This article demonstrates that, on the contrary, there are positive-minded producers out there, and children’s programming can have a healthy affect on children’s behaviors and their bodies.

For the last six years, Dr. ValentinFuster, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, has been working with Sesame Workshop, producers of television’s “Sesame Street,” on a project aimed at teaching children ages 3 to 5 healthy eating habits.

He has guided the show in giving the characters “mini-make-overs” so that they now make smarter food choices. For exmpale, Cookie Monster has cut his cookie habit down to only once a week. Researchers who have been studying the new show’s affect on young children are finding that it has lead to improved health & habits of children and their families.

Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood
By Jamie M. Ostrov, Douglas A. Gentile, & Nicki R. Crick

A couple years ago, an expert on preschool children’s aggression, Dr. Jamie Ostrov, teamed up with Dr. Douglas Gentile, a leading expert on the effect of media exposure. The two men spent two years monitoring the kids at two Minnesota preschools, cross referencing the childrens’ behavior against parent reports of what television shows and DVDs the kids watched. Ranging from 2.5 to 5 years old, these were well-off children, from well-of families.

Ostrov and Gentile expected the kids who watched violent shows like Power Rangers would be more physically aggressive during playtime at school. They also expected kids who watched educational television, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, would be not just less aggressive, but the kid would be more prosocial– sharing, helpful, inclusive, etc.

Something unexpected was revealed in the data. The more educational media the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were. They were increasingly bossy, controlling, and manipulative. This wasn’t a small effect. It was stronger than the connection between violent media and physical aggression.

Media and Children’s Aggression, Fear, and Altruism
By Barbara Wilson

Social and emotional experiences of kids today often involve electronic media. Barbara Wilson takes a close look at how exposure to screen media affects children’s well-being and development. Her conclusion is that media influence on children depends more on the type of content that children find attractive than on the sheer amount of time they spend in front of the screen.

This offers more reason why our Valuelizer app is so crucial to combating the negative impressions being left by media on our kids today.

The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence?
By Paul Adachi

Many experts agree that there is a causal link between violent video games and aggressive behavior. But Paul Adachi, a PhD student at Brock University is asking another question: is violence the problem, or is there another factor at play?

In this long-term study (done over 4 years) he monitored kids’ video game habits and measured how much time they spent playing other types of games: sports, racing, shooters. The kids would then fill out confidential reports about their behavior, answering questions like “How frequently in the past six months have you kicked or hit someone?”

His theory is that it may not be the violence, it may be the competition in games that is responsible for the link between video games and aggression.

Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood:
By Jamie M. Ostrov, Douglas A. Gentile, & Nicki R. Crick

This study shows that both violent and educational media may have important affects on young children. These effects appear to be significant (i.e., increased aggressive behavior problems) and to have future consequences.

Young children are most vulnerable to media violence as they are more impressionable, can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, cannot discern motives for violence, and learn by observing and imitating.

Although the findings are unique for girls and boys, in general they suggest that parents should be highly attentive to the amount, type and appropriateness of media to which young children are exposed.

By Craig Anderson

This study shows the mechanisms at play when it comes to media violence and the children. In the short term, media violence can increase aggression by eliciting aggressive thoughts, increasing the body’s fight or flight response, and triggering a tendency to imitate behaviors scene on the screen.

In the long-term, repeated exposure can produce lasting increases in “aggressive thought patterns and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behaviors, and can reduce a person’s normal negative emotional responses to violence.”

The prognosis doesn’t look good for the short or the long term. For parents who think video games are an innocent way to blow off steam, this kind of blows the lid off of that line of thinking.

The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research
By L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D.

Ultra-violent media is a public health threat. Research focusing violent media’s impact over the last 40+ plus shows increases in the likelihood viewers or players will behave aggressively. Finding show that 60% of TV programs contain violence, and 40% contain heavy violence. Most videogames contain violence. Authors of these studies say that the impact of violent electronic media on public health is second only to the impact of cigarette smoking on lung cancer.

So much for there being “no connection between media violence and real-life violence.”

Human-like Opponents Lead to More Aggression in Video Game Players
By University of Connecticut et. al.

According to a new study from researchers at University of Connecticut and Wake Forest University, video games with human-looking characters may be more likely to evoke violent thoughts and language than games with monster-like enemies.

“It’s important to think in terms of risk factors,” says Kirstie Farrar, associate professor of communication at UConn and the lead researcher on the study. “The research clearly suggests that, among other risk factors, exposure to violent video games can lead to aggression and other potentially harmful effects.”

Life Lessons: Children Learn Aggressive Ways of Thinking and Behaving from Violent Video Games
By Iowa State University

According to a study from Iowa State University researchers, kids who repeatedly play violent video games learn thought patterns that stick with them – and influence their behavior – as they grow older. The effect is the same regardless of age.

So basically it’s no different than learning algebra or how to play the piano.

Brief Report: Does Exposure to Violent Video Games Increase moral Disengagement Among Adolescents?
By Gabbiadini A, Andrighetto L, Volpato C

This year a landmark study came out of UCLA showing that kids who are overexposed to media have a difficult time reading other people’s emotions. The next logical question is, how does all this media affect their moral compass?

This study provides evidence that exposure to these games does promote moral disengagement in children. The findings are important because most of the research out there is looking at the link to real-life aggression. Hopefully this study will pave the way for more studies so that a causal link can be proved. And then we can proof of what we already know to be true in our gut.

‘Broad Consensus’ that Violent Media Increase Child Aggression
By Jeff Grabmeier

Agreement found among researchers, pediatricians and parents

For years there’s been the perception that parents and experts are divided when it comes to whether or not violent media increases aggression in kids. This study makes the situation clear: the majority of parents, pediatricians, and researchers believe violent content can lead to increased aggression in children.

According to this study, 66 percent of researchers, 67 percent of parents and 90 percent of pediatricians agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Brad Bushman, the lead researcher, theorizes that the mainstream news media is partly to blame for the view that there is a lack of consensus.
“I think there’s a perception partly driven by the mass media that the field is divided. When they report on a finding that violent media produces aggression in children, to find a balance, they find someone else who disagrees with it. It leads to the conclusion that scientists don’t know about this topic and that the field is divided. But the field is not divided. There is broad consensus that violent media leads to increased aggression in children.”

Children Who Watch ‘Excessive’ Amounts of TV are More Likely to Have Criminal Convictions, Exhibit Aggression and Experience Negative Emotions
By Lindsay A. Robertson, Helena M. McAnally and Robert J. Hancox

There have been many studies identifying the correlation between watching television and antisocial behavior. However, very few have demonstrated a causal relationship. Therefore, the issue of whether or not consuming too much TV contributes to antisocial behavior remains controversial.

What this study adds to the debate is cause-and-effect evidence that excessive television viewing during childhood and adolescence is associated with antisocial behavior in adulthood. The researchers found that the results were not explained by “preexisting antisocial tendencies” or other potential influences.

The conclusion is clear: too much television appears to have long-term psychosocial consequences.

Violent Video Games, Catharsis Seeking, Bullying and Delinquency
By Christopher J. Ferguson, Lawrence A. Kutner, Dorothy E. Warner, and Dr. Cheryl Olson

The effects of violent video game exposure on youth aggression remain an issue of significant controversy and debate. It is not yet clear whether violent video games uniquely contribute to long-term youth aggression or whether any relationship is better explained through third variables such as aggressive personality or family environment.

The current study examines the influence of violent video game exposure on delinquency and bullying behavior in 1,254 seventh and eighth-grade students.

Video Game Violence Influences on Dating & Aggression
By Christopher J. Ferguson et al

Do violent video games cause children to act violently? Conventional wisdom says yes. This study says conventional wisdom has it all wrong.Since their inception, video games, particularly those with violent content, have been an issue of considerable controversy. Various advocates and politicians have used rather strong language in referring to violent video games, such as “murder simulators” or “digital poison”.

8-year-old shoots, kills elderly caregiver after playing video game

Investigators learned that an 8 year old boy who shot and killed his grandmother was playing a video game on the Play Station III, “Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV.” GTA a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people. The boy was playing the game just minutes before the homicide occurred.

Video Games Do Affect Social Outcomes: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Effects of Violent and Prosocial Video Game Play
By Tobias Greitemeyer, Dirk O. Mügge

As the video game debate continues, this study sheds some light on the issue. It is a “meta” study, meaning, it studies multiple studies on the topic, and analyzes the collective findings. The researchers looked at whether video game play affects social behavior. Does it lead to aggression? Can it inspire helping and sharing attitudes?

After sifting through data from 98 independent studies, with 36,965 participants, that concluded that YES, video games do affect social outcomes, and that there are both short- and long-term effects.

Violent video games delay development of moral judgment in teens
By Mirjana Bajovic, et. al.

Mirjana Bajovic of Brock University conducted a study that proves there is a link between the types of video games teens play and their level of moral reasoning. The clinical term used is socio maturity: the ability to take the perspective of others into account.

Researchers found that there was a big difference in socio maturity levels between teens who play violent video games for 1 hour a day and those who play for 3 or more.

Bajovic suggests that both the content of the games and the time spent playing contribute to the lack of moral reasoning.

Are Young People Losing the Ability to Read Emotions?
By Stuart Wolpert, UCLA Newsroom

Parents are worried that the use of media has negative side-effects on a child’s interpersonal skills. Now there’s a study out of UCLA that seems to be confirming many parents’ intuitions.

This new study suggests that screen time is making it harder for kids to read people’s emotions. The data shows that as kids increase their digital media dosage, they decrease their ability to pick up on emotional cues, the linchpin to emotional intelligence.

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

Improving Academic Performance with Physical Fitness

Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence is beneficial for both physical and mental health throughout life. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that it may also play a key role in brain health and academic performance. In this study from The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied physical fitness’ influence on academic performance.

What did they find? Going outside to play increases academic performance.

Active Video Games Act As Exercise For Children
By Dr. Louise Naylor

As parents are catching onto the hazards of digital media, they’re trying to restrict their kids from playing video games, and get them outside for some fresh air instead.

But maybe the solution is simpler than that. Exergaming (active video game play) may provide an alternative type of exercise to prevent stationary behavior (ie. sitting on their behind.)

Exergaming involves using active console video games that track player movement to play the game, for example Xbox-Kinect, and Wii. A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics claims thatexergaming has positive effects on children’s health.

High intensity exergaming increases heart rate and allows children to sweat and burn energy. While it’s not the same as playing outside in the fresh air, it certainly beats sedentary games that involve no physical exertion whatsoever.

Outdoor Time Is Associated with Physical Activity, Sedentary Time, and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Youth
By Journal of Pediatrics

The World Health Organization recommends that youth participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day. Studies have shown that youth experience most of their MVPA during school hours. Therefore, it makes sense that increasing outdoor time after school hours would increase MVPA. In this study in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers confirmed that time spent outdoors after school was positively associated with MVPA.

The results showed that children who reported that they did not spend time outdoors after school (17%) achieved 21 fewer minutes of MVPA daily, with an additional 70 minutes per day of sedentary behavior (ie. sitting or lying down) compared with those who reported spending most of their time outdoors after school (39%). In general, kids who spent most of their time outdoors after school were three times more likely to meet guidelines for daily physical activity and had significantly higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels than their peers who did not spend time outdoors.

Message? Turn the screen off and go play outside..

Using SportsVideoGames to Promote Real Physical Activity
By Dr. Cheryl Olson

Many researchers are looking for ways to understand and prevent the decline in youth physical activity that typically starts in early adolescence. Given that the prevalence of obesity among school-age children and teens has tripled since 1980, and Type 2 diabetes is no longer a childhood rarity, we urgently need to reverse this trend. Moreover, participation in sports and recreation is linked to less involvement in health risking behaviors, and to benefits such as higher self-esteem and school performance.

Do you use your iPhone to entertain your kids when they’re bored?

When Julie Sidder’s daughters were younger, her diaper bag was filled with coloring books, crayons, storybooks and little games in case one of them became restless.

Now that Sidder’s kids are 4 and 7, the diaper bag is gone, but the need for entertainment — especially in restaurants — is not, which is why two-thirds of the apps on Sidder’s iPhone are for her children.

“People have always brought toys, or something to entertain their child, into restaurants and stores,” says the mom, who lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “Now we just have better technology.”

Stressed parents for years have relied on glowing electronic screens — TVs, video games, computers — to entertain children in the home. Now more and more parents are discovering smartphones’ similar ability to engage complaining kids at restaurants, in the car, and anywhere else kids get bored.

The Play Deficit
By Peter Gray, Developmental Psychologist

Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up, says psychologist Peter Gray.

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time.

But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework.

Active vs. Passive Screen Time for Young Children
By Penelope Sweetser, Daniel Johnson, Anne Ozdowska, Peta Wyeth

If you’re feeling guilty of letting your kids play video games, there may be some evidence that can help. Queensland University of Technology scientists from the Games Research and Interaction Design lab released a study looking at active versus passive screen time for young children, predominantly two to five-year-olds.

What they found was that not all screen time is created equal. Read more about the differences between active vs. passive screen time.

How Healthy Behavior Supports Children’s Well-Being
By Public Health England

Another report, this time out of England, that too much time in front of a screen is causing increasing psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, in kids. The report suggests that the amount of time spent playing computer games was negatively associated with well being in children. In other words, their general mental and physical health, resilience and the extent to which they are happy or worry about different aspects of their lives.

The effects, particularly on mental health, were most pronounced for those children who spent more than four hours a day using some sort of screen-based technology.

Parental Recommendations on Media Usage for Toddlers & Infants
By The American Academy of Pediatrics

The sheer amount of time spent in front of a screen does not engage active thinking or playing, creative pursuits, or talking in-depth with family and friends.

Media exposure at a young age (birth through age 2) often substitutes for important parent/caregiver/child activitiesthat encourage early brain development, such as playing, singing, and reading.

This report by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends actively engaging your children by reading to them every day, starting after they are first born. Reading stimulates the development of the brain, language and a closer emotional relationship with a child.

Children’s TV viewing habits linked to “junk food” consumption
By Nicola Cottam

Are we really in control of what our kids are eating? According to recent Swedish studies, our children’s decisions about food are actually controlled by subtle cues found in the TV content they consume.

These cues have the ability to trick them into eating more than they normally would, and food that is far from healthy. There is a correlation between kid’s TV screen time and increased consumption of sweetened drinks and junk food.

Video Games Promote Social Connections Through Collaboration
By Dr. Pamela Rutledge

Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, indicates that the experience of playing video games offers cognitive benefits, but it can also positively impact emotional well-being and self-efficacy in a number of ways.

Experimental Study of the Differential Effects of Playing Versus Watching Violent Video Games on Children’s Aggressive Behavior
By HannekePolman

Which is worse, playing a violent video game or watching a violent movie?

Ask the average parent what they think, and common sense will tell you, playing. While there are still not many studies out there that are studying whether this common sense is scientifically valid, this important study done in 2008 does have proof.

The scientist HannekePolman brought 56 kids (28 boys, 28 girsl) into a room and divided them into groups of 3 each. One child played a non-violent video game, one child played a violent video game, and one child watched the other child play the violent video game.

When the players were tested afterwards, Polman discovered that the player of the violent game were significantly more agreessive than the kids who just watched.

Critics of violent video games say we need more studies like this. But parents – the real experts – already know the truth.

Fostering Collaboration Cooperation and Independent Reading and Writing through Sports Video games
By Hannah Gerber

The educational reformer John Dewey told us 100 years ago that if you want to motivate kids to read and write, then give them a real life task they care about. Nowadays it’s video games.

Hannah Gerber, assistant professor of literacy at Sam Houston State University, is proving that sports video games can positively influence education, literacy and modes of communication.

The secret is not only inside the game, but in the players’ behavior around it. Sports video games are surrounded by a sea of tutorials, YouTube videos, and blogs, so players often have unlimited opportunities to go hunting for info and engage with other players.

All this to say that although there are many video games on the market that are dangerous for kids’ minds, there are also many video games that stimulate children on numerous levels. We hope this article helps you figure out how to strike a healthier balance in your home.

Fantasy-Reality Confusion Fuels Kids’ Nighttime Fears
By Dr. AviSadeh

From monsters under the bed to bogeymen in the closet, most children experience nighttime fears.While most grow out of them on their own, for some children, there’s a risk of developing anxiety problems later in life, according to new research.

In the new study, researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that preschoolers with persistent nighttime fears were far less able to distinguish reality from fantasy compared to their peers.

Effects of Realism on Extended Violent and Nonviolent Video Game Play on Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Physiological Arousal
By Barlett CP, Rodeheffer C.

Research shows that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, feelings, and physiological arousal. But is the aggression dependent on whether or not the video game content was realistic or not?

This study looked at the effect playing a realistic violent, unrealistic violent, or nonviolent video game had on aggressive behavior and thought. (For the purpose of this study, realism was defined as the probability of seeing an event in real life.)

The results showed that although playing any violent game stimulated aggressive thoughts, playing a more realistic violent game stimulated significantly more aggressive feelings and arousal over the course of play.

Yet another reason to keep your kids away from games like GTA.

Gender and Racial Stereotypes in Popular Video Games
By Yi Mou& Wei Peng

While the violent content of video games has caused wide concern among scholars, gender and racial stereotypes in video games are still an understudied area. The study presented in this scholarly book provides a better understanding of the stereotypical phenomenon in video games.

The Learning Habit Study
By American Journal of Family Therapy

How do you know if you’re preparing your child for academic success? The Learning Habit study is the largest study of family routines that identifies parenting style as a predictor of academic success.

As it relates to technology, this study found that after 45 minutes of media, children’s grades, sleep, social skills, and emotional balance start to decline. After four hours, only 1% of children in middle school receive A’s in mathematics and English Language Arts.

After four hours of screen time, children take 20 times longer to fall asleep than children with limited media use. Dr. Robert Pressman, Research Director of New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and lead researcher of the study said, “Recently, there have been strong suggestions about the need to limit children’s screen time. This is the first time we can make recommendations based on specific learning outcomes, such as a grade point average.”

Occupational Aspirations: What are G-Rated Films Teaching Children about the World of Work?
By Stacy L. Smith, PhD, et. al., USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

This study is a fascinating insight into the facts about social and gender stereotypes that are propagated by children’s movies.

Barbie strikes ‘unapologetic’ pose in Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition
By EmanuellaGrinberg, CNN

When Barbie burst onto scene in a black and white swimsuit in 1959, she was considered a rebel who embodied both “the sensuality of Marilyn Monroe and the innocence of Debbie Reynolds.”

Now, she’s returning to her “fashion model” roots in an updated version of her iconic zebra swimsuit, and not all parents are pleased. Barbie caused a stir when Mattel and Sports Illustrated revealed this year that she would appear on the cover of the 50th anniversary edition of its annual swimsuit edition.

The Effects of Profanity in Violent Video Game Content on Players’ Hostile Expectations, Expectations, Accessibility of Aggressive Thoughts, Aggressive Feelings, and Other Responses
By A.H. Ivory, C.E. Kaestle

The goal of this study was to discover the impact of the use of profanity in video games on players and aggression. The researchers point out that since the effects of violence in video games has already been researched multiple times, the effects of profanity in video games needs to be researched as well. One of the main results was that if the antagonist and protagonist in the video game used profanity, it increased the player’s hostile expectations.

However, it was found that profanity did not lead to aggressive feelings in players, or arousal. Basically the study findings say that profanity in video games is not directly linked with the aggressiveness of the players but there should be further research to find out more.

Good Clean Fun? A Content Analysis of Profanity in Video Games and Its Prevalence across Game Systems and Ratings
By Dmitri Williams

Although violent video game content and its effects have been examined by empirical research, verbal aggression in the form of profanity has received less attention. Building on earlier findings from previous studies, these researchers did an extensive content analysis of profanity in video games using a sample of the 150 top-selling video games across all popular game platforms.

The frequency of profanity, both in general and across three profanity categories, was measured and compared to games’ ratings, sales, and platforms. Generally, profanity was found in about one in five games and appeared primarily in games rated for teenagers or above. Games containing profanity, however, tended to contain it frequently. Profanity was not found to be related to games’ sales or platforms.

Swearing Characters More Popular, Attractive in Young Adult Novels
By Sarah Coyne

Profanity in teen novels varies greatly from book to book, but characters that use foul language tend to also be the most popular, attractive and rich. Sarah Coyne, professor in the department of family life at Brigham Young University, analyzed the use of profanity in 40 young adult books on the adolescent bestsellers list.

“The funny thing about books is that you really don’t know what you’re getting into when you pick one up,” said Coyne. “I was genuinely surprised by how much profanity some of these books had.” The increase in swearing in young adult books is in keeping with the larger trend of the increased acceptance of obscenities in general.

Profanity in Media Associated With Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Profanity Use and Aggression
By Sarah M. Coyne, PhD, Laura A. Stockdale, MSc, David A. Nelson, PhD, Ashley Fraser, BSc

Teens exposed to profanity in television and video games are more likely to use profanity and also to exhibit physically aggressive behavior, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.

The study of 223 middle school students found that exposure to profanity in the media was “significantly related to beliefs about profanity.” In turn, teens who cursed more tended to be more aggressive.

The authors called it the first study of its kind, and they said the results underscore the need for better ratings and content warnings on television and video games.

Page is being updated soon.

Geotagging Dangers
By NBC News

If your children are using apps on your smartphone you might be surprised how it could be used to harm your children (in extreme cases.) Many apps are geotagged, allowing people to track you down and find out where you live. Geotagging is used by predators to stalk children.

So many parents are unaware that those seemingly apps are giving out so much information. This is why our Valuelizer app has a Geo tagging setting. In addition to using it, watch this news report if you’re not familiar with the issue. It shows you how to keep your kids safe.

Page is being updated soon.

What Texting Does to the Spine

A new study suggests that looking down at a cell phone is the equivalent of placing a 60-pound weight on one’s neck. According to a new calculation published in the journal Surgical Technology International, this is the amount of force exerted on the head of an adult human who is looking down at her phone.

Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon, calculated this figure using a computer model of a human spine. An average human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, and tilting it down to check Facebook, send a text, or to Google the weight of an a human head increases the gravitational pull on the head.
Given the fact that the weight of a child’s head relative to their body mass is larger than that of an adult – the impact might be even greater.

Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 YearsTime to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guideline?
By Dr. Dimitri Christakis

One of the most vocal critics against screen time for kids under 2, and author of the AAP’s policy statement on toddlers and media, has reversed his course. Dr. DimitriChirstakis of U. of Washington said this year, “while many of you wait for us to build an evidence base before this technology too is supplanted by some new one, I believe that judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of 2 years.”

Direct Pathway and Indirect Pathway. Dr. Christakis refers to the two ways media can influence your child’s development. The direct path a result of the content she consumes; the indirect path when media prevents other important tasks of early development form occurring. Like play and exercise.

It seems to be yet another expert telling us what we already know – we’ve got to be more involved in our kids lives, from the get go.

Are wireless phones linked with brain cancer risk?
By Reuters

Is there a link between brain tumors and cell phones? In a recent study of brain cancer victims, Swedish researchers found that the more hours spent with a cell phone pressed to their ear, and the more years they’d spent using a mobile phone, the higher the person’s odds were for developing a malignant and highly lethal brain cancer.

Despite the evidence, and millions spent on research in the last decade alone, scientists still say the health implications of prolonged use seems unclear. They say we really won’t know the impact for 10, maybe 20 years.

This places our kids at greatest risk. Are we willing to play Russian Roulette with their lives?

Lloyd’s report explores links between electro-magnetic field (EMF) exposure and asbestos exposure
By Lloyd’s of London

As the discussion about whether cell phones causes cancer remains uncertain, the insurance industry seems certain. In 2010 Lloyds of London produced a paper, Electro-magnetic fields from mobile phones: recent developments, which discussed the potential for litigation. Lloyds wrote:

“If EMF is proved to cause an increased risk of brain cancer it is likely the insurance industry will see claims under product liability policies for bodily injury….The issue of asbestos and its implications is widely known throughout the insurance industry, and many comparisons can be drawn with EMF – the initial impression that it was a ‘wonder product’ coupled with potential very long-term serious health issues not understood at the start of its use. Like asbestos any EMF litigation will probably be long and complex – similar issues could occur such as the definition of an actionable injury, policy triggers and apportioning liability….Should EMF prove to cause brain cancer, or any other adverse health effects, it is likely the main effect on the insurance industry will concern product liability claims for bodily injury.”

Lloyds finished the report with:

“With regards to the implication to insurance, as the current scientific evidence stands, it is unlikely that insurers will be liable for compensation for bodily injury on product liability policies. However, as asbestos has shown, new scientific developments coupled with a small number of key legal cases can change the situation very rapidly.”

This is why your cellphone contract doesn’t cover you for radiation risks. And it’s yet another reason to keep the phones away from the kids.

Video Game Playing Found Beneficial for the Brain
By S Kühn, T Gleich, R C Lorenz, U Lindenberger and J Gallinat

Super Mario is super-sizing kids’ brains? German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found positive effects of video gaming, and suggested possible therapeutic uses for targeting psychiatric disorders.

Researchers proved that playing Super Mario 64 video games causes increased size in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning, as well as fine motor skills.

“This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games”, says study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Perhaps your mother was wrong after all. Maybe video games can be good for your brain.

Real-Time Strategy Game Training: Emergence of a Cognitive Flexibility Trait
By Brian D. Glass, W.Todd Maddox, Bradley C. Love mail

‘Starcraft’ might make your kids smarter. British researchers found that video games, especially games involving strategy, such as “Starcraft,” can increase a player’s brain flexibility. Scientists describe this flexibility as being the “cornerstone of human intelligence.”

The study was conducted at Queen Mary University of London and University College London. It was based on psychological tests that were conducted before and after 72 volunteers played “Starcraft” or the life-simulation game “The Sims” for 40 hours over six to eight weeks. Study participants who played “Starcraft” experienced gains in their performance on psychological tests, and were able to complete cognitive flexibility tasks with more speed and accuracy.

The lead study researcher said, “We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes…once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries.”

Video games curing, not causing, ADHD? That’s a new one.

Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better
By SandroFranceschini, et. al.

Here’s some more cold water to throw on the idea that video games are all bad for young children’s brains. A study from the University of Padua presented evidence that playing fast paced video games can improve reading skills of kids with dyslexia.

The research team divided kids age 7 to 13 into two groups. One group played an action game called “Rayman Raving Rabids” and the other played a slower paced game. Afterwards, the reading skills of the children were tested, and those who played the action game read faster and with more accuracy. The creators of the study hypothesize that action games help kids increase their attention span, which is a skill considered essential to reading.

This is potentially great news considering that about 1 in 10 children suffer from this neuro development disorder.

Why Children Absorb More Microwave Radiation than Adults
By L. Lloyd Morgan

The trending topics now revolving around children’s media usage is focused on brain and behavioral effects. One topic that has conveniently fallen off the radar is radiation. The potential harm from microwave radiation (MWR) emitted by digital devices is not being talked about enough in the mainstream media.

Although the research findings are conflicting, associations between MWR and cancer have been observed. This review looks at a wide cross section of current literature clearly showing evidence that children and unborn babies face a higher health risk than adults.

Researchers believe the rate of absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller.

These findings raise appropriate concerns that parents in the digital era need to become aware of.

TV, Computer, Video Game Use ‘Linked to Poorer Child Well-Being’
By Trina Hinkley

For most kids, watching TV, using computers and playing video games is part of normal daily life. Unfortunately, new research suggests that these activities are linked to poorer well-being.

According to a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the use of electronic media is often a sedentary behavior that leads to adverse health outcomes, poorer family functioning and emotional problems. Especially if adopted at a young age.

The results of the study revealed that children who used electronic media – particularly televisions, computers and video games – in early childhood had an increased risk of poorer well-beingjust 2 years later.

Every parent of a newborn and toddler needs to read this article.

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent
By Nick Bilton, NYTimes

Several years ago a parent was asked about his children’s experience with the new iPad. “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Who was this parent? Steve Jobs.This is a great article because it just goes to show you what’s popular is not always what’s best for your kids.

GRADING THE DIGITAL SCHOOL: In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores
By Matt Richtel, NYTimes

To many education experts, something is not adding up. Schools are spending billions on outfitting classrooms with smartboards and computers, even as they slash budgets and fire teachers. Yet, there is little proof this approach is improving basic learning.
The Kyrene School District in Arizona, featured in this article, has earned widespread praise for its use of technology in the classroom. Hope is soaring at this school. But not test scores.

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stayed the same, even as statewide scores have risen.

Are schools motivated by a blind faith in technology, and an overemphasis on digital skills, at the expense of math, reading and writing fundamentals? Do the tech advocates have it backwards? It’s worth considering the question.

Serious Reading Takes a Hit from Online Scanning and Skimming
By Michael S. Rosenwald, The Washington Post

To cognitive neuroscientists, the popular mode of scanning and skimming text online is the subject of great fascination and growing alarm. Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the flood of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.

Researchers are worried that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing. Read more about what they’re calling “eye byte culture.”

The Impact of Early Parenting Bonding on Young Adults’ Internet Addiction, Through the Mediation Effects of Negative Relating to Others and Sadness
By Argyroula E. Kalaitzaki, John Birtchnell

Will breast feeding your child prevent them from getting addicted to the Internet?

Few studies have investigated the role parenting style plays with IA (Internet Addiction.) Although official diagnostic criteria doesn’t exists yet, researchers are defining it as “excessive, obsessive–compulsive, uncontrollable, tolerance-causing use of the Internet, which also causes significant distress and impairments in daily functioning.”

This study shows that “parental bonding variables” (ie. your parenting style from the very beginning) are the best predictors for Internet Addiction. The authors write, “a widely-held assumption is that the early attachment patterns tend to be stable over time and predictive of an adults interpersonal relationship with others.” In other words, everything counts.

Tech Addiction Symptoms Seen Among Students
By "The World Unplugged" Project, International Center for Media, University of Maryland.

When was the last time you went a day without media? The kids? What if you had to give up your smartphone, tablet, tv, and laptop for a day? No texting, no FB, no nothing. Could you do it? Is it possible?

Apparently not for college students. According to the World Unplugged Project, most college students aren’t just unwilling, but functionally unable to go without their media for a day. This research project found that. young adults around the world experienced “deep distress” when they had to unplug for one day. One day Countries involved in the study included China, Chile, U.K. and Uganda. Students reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression,” when reporting their experiences of trying to go unplugged for a full day.

Makes you think. And hopefully re-consider the media guidelines in your home, especially if you have young ones. It’s best to start weaning off the tech at an early age.

Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Children and Youth in the Digital Age
By Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy & Kathryn Montgomery, American University

Never before in history have marketers had such access to our children. The ability of digital technologies to profile children “across the digital landscape” is unprecedented. Companies use neuropsychological research to design ways to make our children make emotional and unconscious choices, instead of thoughtful, logical ones.

Child advocate groups believe marketing to young children can negatively affect their well-being. One area that has a tangible effect on our children’s health is food marketing. Most products marketed to kids are “high calorie, low nutrition.” No wonder obesity, diabetes, and depression is on the rise.

Jeff Chester, founder and executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy and his wife, Kathryn Montgomery, a professor in the School of Communication at American University, wrote this report, “Interactive Food and Beverage Marketing: Targeting Children and Youth in the Digital Age.” It is an eye-opening expose of the tricks marketers use, and how negatively these tricks affect your children. Please read.

Tech Addiction Symptoms Rife Among Students
By International Center for Media at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., creators of "The World Unplugged" project.

What’s it like to go without your smartphone? What if you had to give it up – all of it. How would that work out? Is it even possible?
If you’re an American college student today, then the answer is no.

According to a ICMPA study, most college students are not only unwilling, but literally incapable of being without their media links to the world. A majority of almost 1,000 college students in 10 countries were unable to voluntarily stay away from their technology for 24 hours.

Many students also reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and anxiety. Some literally had heart palpitations! We’re not making this stuff up. If you’re reading this and you have young kids at home, hopefully you’ll think twice next time before handing them the smartphone. Like all addictions, childhood experience and behavior patterns play a crucial role.

Children Experience Wrist and Finger Pain When Using Gaming Devices and Mobile Phones Over Time
By Yusuf Yazici

Children who spend a lot of time texting on smartphones or playing video games can wind up with serious wrist and finger pain. The findings in this study found that the amount of pain kids reported experiencing doubled for every hour of game play.

As for texting on smartphones, researchers said pain was associated with the amount of texts sent, usage of text abbreviations, and the kind of keyboard being used. Among smartphone users, girls reported twice as much pain as boys.

Professor Yusuf Yazici said, “Our study has shown the negative impact that playing computer games and using mobile phones can have on the joints of young children, raising concerns about the health impact of modern technology later in life.”

This is alarming news, and one more reason why parents need to be on top of how much time our kids spend using devices, as well as knowing when is the appropriate age to allow them to start.

Selling Out America’s Children: How America Puts Profits Before Values & What Parents Can Do
By David Walsh, Ph.D.

A great excerpt from an important book that every parent ought to read. From Chapter 4, The Power of Advertising, pp. 42-43:

The Bottom Line

The important thing to remember in this discussion is not any specific fact or figure. It is the realization that all of this effort and expense is aimed at children as consumers, not learners. In the world of marketing and advertising, children are targeted for profit, not education.

As we’ve see, advertising is in the business of influencing behavior. It has developed sophisticated and powerful technologies, and is capable of shaping values and changing how we view things. In our anonymous society, however, the cutting edge of that technology is usually not employed to teach right from wrong, to increase children’s self-esteem, or to strengthen values of cooperation, respect, responsibility, and hard work. It is used to maximize profit.

If positive values are reinforced in the process, fine. If they are undermined in the process, however, then that’s just too bad. As the character Gordon Gekko says in the movie Wall Street:

“It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.”

A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.
By Richard A. Friedman

A.D.H.D. is the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people, affecting 11 percent of American children at some point between the ages of 4 and 17. The author of this article, a practicing psychiatrist, proposes the theory that one of the contributing factors may be the rise in digital media.

“I think another social factor that, in part, may be driving the “epidemic” of A.D.H.D. has gone unnoticed: the increasingly stark contrast between the regimented and demanding school environment and the highly stimulating digital world, where young people spend their time outside school.

Digital life, with its vivid gaming and exciting social media, is a world of immediate gratification where practically any desire or fantasy can be realized in the blink of an eye. By comparison, school would seem even duller to a novelty-seeking kid living in the early 21st century than in previous decades, and the comparatively boring school environment might accentuate students’ inattentive behavior, making their teachers more likely to see it and driving up the number of diagnoses…”

Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial
By Dimitri Christakis,

It’s not necessarily the overall amount of time kids spend watching media that can troublesome to kids, it’s what they are watching that matters. Researchers from the University of Washington found that when parents swapped out aggressive content for programs that had positive and pro-social messages, their children exhibited less aggression and more positive behaviors.

The studies authors recommended “an intervention to reduce exposure to screen violence and increase exposure to pro-social programming can positively impact child behavior.”

May we suggest using the Valuelizer?

The Formation of New Media Preferences Among Pre-school Children in the Context of Peer Culture and Home Interaction: A Pedagogical Perspective
By Kristi Vinter

The basis of this article is the ecological systems theory of UrieBronfenbrenner (1979), which states that the surrounding environment influences a child’s growth and development by placing the child within a system of relationships. According to Bronfenbrenner (1979; 1986), the processes in the mesosystem, i.e. different settings around the child, are not independent of one another and operate in both directions (from home to pre-school and vice versa); therefore, they affect children’s lives. In today’s society, this also means new media-related environments and connections between people.

The main goal of this article was to investigate possible influences of the home and pre-school on childrens consumption and formation of new media preferences.

How Young Is Too Young for a Digital Presence?
By By Molly Wood

Some new parents are registering their babies for things like web URLs, pages, Instagram feeds, Twitter handles, Tumblr accounts and email accounts on Yahoo and Gmail, all within hours of their birth.

It might be too early to call these behaviors a growing trend, but they’re fueling a debate about how to handle children and their online lives.

Should you post photos of your children on sites that can be seen by anyone, or even on private profiles? If you give them Facebook accounts or email addresses, are you starting a data record for them before they’re old enough to know any better?

Are you signing your child up for targeted advertising at age zero?

This is a great article for young parents who are already grappling with the issue of planning their child’s online presence.

This article doesn’t provide advice for parents. Rather, it provides a solid overview of the many facets that are involved in this issue.

The Electronic Friend? Video Games and Children’s Friendships
By Dr. Cheryl Olson

A 2007 survey of teachers by the British charity Save the Children, widely reported by newspapers, concluded that children were spending more time on solitary pursuits such as computer games to the detriment of their social skills (Clark, 2007). This assumption that video games undermine friendships is widespread.

Evidence-based Guidelines for the Informal Use of Computers by Children to Promote the Development of Academic, Cognitive and Social Skills.
By Phuoc Tran and KaveriSubrahmanyam

The use of computers in the home has become very common among young children. Children spend a great deal of time with media of all kinds; for example, US children (8–18 year olds) report spending almost 8 hours per day with media; because they use multiple media at the same time, they consume closer to 10 hr 45min of media content each day.

Although children continue to spend the greatest amount of time consuming TV and music/audio content, time with computers and video games is increasing. 8–18 year olds use the computer for approximately 1.5 hrs per day to go online and use apps, games and social media for non-school-related purposes. They also spend an average of 1h 15min per day playing games on consoles, hand-held systems, etc.

This paper reviews research on the effects of informal computer use and identifies potential pathways through which computers may impact children’s development. Based on the evidence reviewed, the researchers present guidelines to arrange informal computer experiences that will promote the development of children’s academic, cognitive and social skills.

Parents Can’t Rely Solely on a Game’s Rating
By Douglas Gentile Ph.D. & Craig Anderson Ph.D., Iowa State University

A study out of Iowa State University has found that children who play prosocial games are more inclined to be helpful while those who play violent games demonstrate more hurtful behaviors.

191 youngsters (ages 9-14) were assigned to play certain scenes from a randomly assigned children’s game with eitherprosocial, non-violent content (ChibiRobo, Super Mario Sunshine), violent content (Ty2, Crash Twinsanity), or non-violent, nonsocial content (Pure Pinball, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe).

Later, the children were given the opportunity to either “help or hurt another child’s chances of winning a gift certificate.” Those who played scenes from the prosocial games were “significantly more helpful” than the other two groups.

According to one of the researchers, Craig Anderson, Ph.D., “in the children’s study these were are all very cartoonish games—they were all rated appropriate for everyone—and yet we still show the violent harm aspect, as well as the prosocial, good aspect of some E-rated games. That just goes to show you that you can’t, as a parent, just rely on the rating because the rating system doesn’t really capture the potential harmfulness or helpfulness of a game.”

Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 Years: Time to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guideline?
By Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, JAMA Pediatrics

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirmed its original statement on infants and media, leaving the 1999 recommendation essentially unchanged stating, “we discourage the use of media by children under the age of two.” Although published in October 2011, the policy statement had been completed much earlier owing to the lengthy internal review process of the AAP.

The timing is notable because the iPad debuted in April 2010, meaning that the statement was drafted with no knowledge that such a device would ever exist. Now, 3 years later, we still know surprisingly little about how iPads and other interactive media technologies affect children’s cognition—research is simply unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances—and these devices are increasingly popular. The salient question then is whether the discourage media verbiage of the 2011 statement should be applied to them.

This is especially fascinating because Dr. Christakis is a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Communications and Media and a co-author of the 2011 statement.

Media overload? Parents limit screen time for young kids
By University of Michigan

Too much exposure to screens has been linked to difficulty sleeping, obesity, and behavioral problems, so the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age two shouldn’t have any screen time and kids over age two should have no more than two hours per day. All of these efforts are aimed at limiting kids’ exposure to entertainment screen time.

But what are parents actually doing? The U of M asked.
About one-quarter of parents said their children age 2-5 have three or more hours of entertainment screen time each day. But about half of parents do limit the locations where their children can use media devices and 28% of parents limit both the location and the amount of time their kids can spend on devices.

Is ‘Secondhand’ TV Taking a Toll on Kids?
By Amanda Gardner

Matthew Lapierre, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, has co-authored a study published by the journal Pediatrics that indicates U.S. children between the ages 8 months to 8 years are exposed to nearly four hours of background television each day.

This indirect exposure, by detracting from play, homework, and family time, may have possible consequences for kids’ well-being.

‘KGOY’: Kids Getting Older Younger
By ABC News

Kids have always pretended to be older, and what young child hasn’t dressed up pretending to be a grown up. But there is a serious trend happening nowadays that finds children kids getting older younger. This eye-opening news story provides proof that kids are indeed growing up way too fast these days.

The Effects of Fast-Paced Cartoons
By Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH

The “overstimulation hypothesis” is based on the theory that the fast pacing of some cartoons might tax the brain or parts of it, leading to short-term (or long-term) deficits. Although this effect has been shown in observational studies of both infants and older children, it remains controversial.

This article features the results of a small experimental study that found that children who watched 9 minutes of a fast-paced cartoon had impairment in their “executive function” compared with children who were assigned a drawing task and those who watched educational television.

Executive function is specific sets of thinking skills coordinated with the way the brain works. They involve things like organizing and planning, shifting attention, regulating emotions, self-monitoring and holding information in mind for easy recall. Executive functions are essential in virtually every aspect of our lives.

Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function, has profound implications for children’s cognitive and social development that parents need to be aware of.

Are Touchscreens Melting Your Kid’s Brain?
By Mat Honan

Children today are surrounded by screen upon screen upon screen: second screens, third screens, screens on our wrists and even our faces. It’s not uncommon to have one in every room. Screen time—especially if you’re talking about touchscreens—is a perplexing issue all modern parents have to confront.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is unequivocal: If your kid is under 2, no screens. For older kids, two hours a day, max. But the AAP doesn’t differentiate between activities; education apps, base-jumping videos, first-person shooters, ebooks, Sesame Street, and The Shining are all thrown into the same bucket. It’s all just screen time.

Trouble is, they’re not all the same. Read more to find out why.

Media Use and ADHD-Related Behaviors in Children and Adolescents
By Nikkelen, Valkenburg, et. al.

Is there a connection between rising rates of ADHD in kids and the popularity of fast-paced media targeted towards children?

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and Ohio State University think there may be. They were able to show that a positive relationship between overall media exposure and ADHD-related symptoms and behaviors. Of course, as with many studies coming out lately, researchers caution that there is not enough information to say whether there is a clear causal relationship at work (ie. does media exposure cause ADHD or not?) So while we wait for that study to come out, the question is, are we putting our kids at risk by allowing them to continue to consume a lot of modern media?

Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study
By GaelleCoureau

New evidence is coming out on a regular basis demonstrating the links between cell phone use and increased risk of cancer. A recent French study found a positive association that showed an especially strong connection between heavy users of cell phones and brain tumors.

While the telecom industry may continue to lobby against regulation on radiation rates, unfortunately it is parents who will bear the brunt of the blame down the line. An important question for parents is, how we minimize this risk?

Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use
By Douglas A. Gentile, PhD

This is a great article for parents who feel they’ve lost control of their kids in the digital world. It proves parents have more impact than they may realize. A recent study of 3rd to 5th graders proves that parental monitoring of kids’ media usage has a ripple effect that positively impacts several areas of children’s lives.

Douglas Gentile, a well-known researcher in this field, along with his colleagues, studied parents who set limits on the amount of screen time their children were allowed to have each day, and also on the content their children were allowed to watch. Their results surprised them.

Kids whose folks set more limits on time and content reported getting more sleep, gaining less weight, earning higher grades in school, displaying more helpful and cooperative social behaviors in school, and exhibiting less aggression with their peers.

Don’t give up the fight, folks.

A New Literacy?
By Thessaly La Force

Recent findings from a study out of Stanford University is challenging the notion that students’ writing ability is declining in the digital age. Just the opposite. Researchers found that young people today are writing far more than any generation before them. Shocking, right? It makes sense when you think about it. So much socializing takes place through email, text. There is an “explosion of prose” and this is turning out to make students better writers in the classroom.

Desensitizing Effects of Violent Media on Helping Others
By Brad Bushman and Craig Anderson

“How can I help?” is a timeless question of the heart. It makes us sensitive to human suffering, and drives us to be in relationship with one another. It creates a functioning civilization. One could argue that the absence of this question would lead to the unraveling of the fabric of our society.

This research report clearly demonstrates that exposure to media violence can reduce helping behavior. Children (and adults) exposed to media violence in a controlled study became “comfortably numb” to the pain of others, and were therefore less helpful.

This is important evidence for parents to consider because it’s further proof that the media our kids consume today affects not only them, but what our society will turn into tomorrow. And tomorrow may already be here.

Why Online Games Make Players Act Like Psychopaths
By Wired Magazine

In layman’s terms, a psychopath is someone without a conscience, says Dr. Adam Perkins, an expert in personality disorders who lectures at King’s College London. Such people have little to no capacity for empathy and can do “the kinds of things you could do, but you’d be bothered by guilt if you did so.”

Most psychopaths are logical people, he says, and understand that actions bring consequences. The threat of repercussions—say, for example, prison—might keep them from acting out.

Such disincentives do not exist in virtual worlds. Absent a sense of empathy, you’re free to rob and kill at will. What we do with this reveals something about us. Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, says imagining ourselves doing something horrible is a way to see ourselves in a new light.

Can a Video Game Teach Empathy? The guy behind Madden NFL thinks so
By Emily Bazelon

There’s a new trend in children’s programming that’s about emotional development—what’s increasingly called social and emotional learning, or SEL. Video game creators are beginning to see that the only way to fix things in the future is to raise children with different values.

Raising a Moral Child
By Adam Grant, New York Times

What does it take to be a good parent? We know some of the tricks for teaching kids to become high achievers. For example, research suggests that when parents praise effort rather than ability, children develop a stronger work ethic and become more motivated.

Yet although some parents live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments, success is not the No. 1 priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful.

Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring.


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