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One District Declares No Tech Days

One New Jersey school district is mandating that teachers and students abstain from using any technology, including school-issued Chromebooks, for four days during the school year. Teachers say on tech-free days they'll use card and board games as well as outdoor activities to keep students engaged. Is this an idea for your district? What about a home version of a “No Tech” day?

Violent Video Games May Boost Physical Aggression

Researchers found that children and teens who played violent video games had increased odds of having self-, parent-, or teacher-reported aggressive behaviors over time, compared with those who didn't play such video games. The findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and were based on a review of 24 studies from the US, Canada, Germany and Japan involving more than 17,000 young people. The controversial findings are the latest entry into a long-standing debate over the real-world impact of video game violence. Over the years, some studies have found a connection between the games and kids' aggression, while others have not.

Get to Know Apple’s New Parental Controls

If you have been looking for ways to manage the time your kids spend on their phone, Apple’s recent operating system update, iOS 12, has a feature called Screen Time that might have just what you're looking for. As with any parental controls, they're best used along with guidance and ongoing conversations to help your kids learn to manage their own media use, but Screen Time lets you see exactly how much time your kids spend on their phones and tablets, the times of day they're most active, and which apps they use the most. You can also set app time limits, filter inappropriate content, and schedule "downtime" -- basically, shut down the device -- whenever you want. It’s a great way to stay in check with how much time you spend connected to your device.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Nearly three-quarters of teens say they know social media companies are manipulating them into spending more time online—but they’re using apps like Snapchat and Instagram more than ever. According to a new survey, 70 percent of survey respondents say they check those apps multiple times a day, compared with just 34 percent six years ago. Despite their awareness, they don’t find it particularly harmful to their wellbeing. Check out what else the teens divulged about their digital lives.

Digital “Time Well Spent” Movement Spawns New App Features

YouTube is the latest of many digital platforms giving momentum to the industry-wide time well-spent movement, an initiative that aims to help people reduce the amount of time they spend looking at their phones and scrolling through their social media feeds. YouTube is rolling out more features designed to help users “take charge” of their digital well-being. The ‘Watch History’ screen within a YouTube profile’s account will show how much time the user has spent on the app that day, the previous day and over the past seven days. This latest feature comes after YouTube released the option for users to set a timer that would remind them to take a break from the app, a feature that was first introduced in the YouTube Kids app.

Similarly, Apple and Google both recently announced a range of functions designed to help users monitor the amount of time they spend on their iOS and Android devices, and Instagram just released a “You’re all caught up” message to notify users when they have seen every post in their feed from the last 48 hours. In August, Facebook announced it would be rolling out activity dashboards for both Facebook and Instagram where users could track the amount of time they spend on the apps.

The Myth of Multitasking

Ask any kid while they are using their cell phone if they are listening to you, chances are they will reply in the affirmative even though they will have trouble recounting what has been said. That’s what Arnold Glass, a psychology professor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick thought, but his students told him that using various digital devices in his class had no negative effect on their performance, so he decided to test it out. His study shows that digital multitasking can adversely affect students' long-term retention of material, a study you might want to tell your kids about.

A Parents Guide to Fortnite

With school out for most, digital gaming often becomes the first way kids seek to stay entertained. If you are finding that your children, like so many others, are spending inordinate amounts of time playing a game called Fortnite, you might want to look at A Non-Gamer’s Guide to Fortnite, the Game That Conquered All the Screens, from The New York Times Personal Tech page. The article does a great job of explaining the game and letting parents foresee issues that they might want to discuss with their children.

Looking for a Guide to Parental Controls?

Screen time is becoming more and more of a family issue and many tech companies are attempting to help parents by providing tools such as Apple’s Screen Time, Disney’s Circle and Amazon’s Freetime. How do you make sense of all the different options out there and figure out which one will fit your needs? National Public Radio recently released a great starting point called A Guide To Parental Controls For Kids' Tech Use that asks you questions that help you zero in on the help you may be needing.

New Apps Help Kids Unplug From Phones

New mobile applications from Apple and Google allow consumers and parents to limit how long their children use apps, including Netflix and social media. The Apple’s Screen Time app, for example, can restrict access to some apps and websites. From Google, an app called Family Link allows parents to see how often kids use certain apps, approve or block app downloads, set screen time limits, and even lock devices remotely.

Dumb Phone Versus Smart Phone

There is a resurgence of interest in "dumb" phones as many are believing that smartphones are causing both kids and adults to miss out on aspects of family life. From pared-down flip phones that offer a limited array of apps and services to truly basic (but stylish) new devices that allow only calling, texting and a few other basic functions, consumers have options if they want to take a break from smartphones. One such phone is the Light Phone, a stripped down cell phone that offers calling, texting, an alarm clock and driving directions. Look for other phones on the horizon. Also asking your kids what they think about a pared down phone can start a conversation about phubbing and being addicted to a smartphone.