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'Unplug your kids,' psychologist advises

Original post made on Nov 12, 2012

"Unplug your kids." That was the message Friday, Nov. 9, of psychologist Robert Russell, who spoke in the fourth "Town & Gown" presentation by Palo Alto University.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 12, 2012, 9:41 AM

Comments (15)

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Posted by danielle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

totally true, go take a hike or go to the park!

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Posted by parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

I agree. Go outside and play. Sitting at your computer all day is bad for your mental health and bad for your physical health.

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Posted by Yes, Good Advice!
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

I have often worried about where we are going with technology. Yes, we need to heed this advice and "unplug". I am wondering if student stress could be reduced and the number of hours kids spend doing homework could be reduced significantly if kids would single task at times which requires unplugging from all devices. Sometimes I wonder if humans were meant to have a growth at the end of their hand in the form of a digital device. We are headed in the wrong direction by having to be plugged in all the time. I just hope that kids will be able to hold a conversation with eye contact in the future. I have noticed that social skills have been declining since the advent of so many digital devices. Yes, get out in nature and take a hike and for God's sake, don't sleep with your cell phone kids!

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Posted by Felicity
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

Unfortunately, the parents are going to have to lead. They will have to put down their cell phones and go out with their kids, not look up from the computer and tell their kids to go outside. "Don't worry that your kids won't do as you say, worry that they will do as you do".

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Posted by parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Yes, parents do have to lead. Go for a walk or bike ride or play ball with your kids on weekends or after work. Organize neighborhood groups so kids can play together locally without having to be driven somewhere. Teach your kids about street manners and about which streets in your neighborhood are safe. I don't let my kids use Middlefield or Embarcadero, even walking on the sidewalks, because of all the reckless drivers on those streets.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

School has responsibility too. Nowadays, many homework, like English essay are submitted by a printed form,instead of handwriting form. Many teachers insist if a student submit an essay in handwriting, he/she will not accept it at all, no grade will be given. I think this is a mistake. Handwriting is important and a piece of art, yet we are losing it by computer world. Personally, I don't like school to use too much computer in classroom when kid are still young, forget about iPad and Laptop in classroom, Those should be used when kids grow up.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for the relevant and thoughtful topic and advice. I do think that consumer tech companies have big dollar signs in their eyes and they are targeting the Education market, assuring administrators, educators, and parents that all students "must" have access to current iPADs and etc. at the expense of the taxpayers. I think a balanced approach of high-quality teachers in the classroom, individual and group learning, field trips, access to the outdoors and nature are huge contributors to the physical and mental health of our youth AND help them to learn while in the classroom. I oppose the strongarm sales tactics to constantly upgrade and use technology in the classroom.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

Screen addiction is a real problem. A person who has it often unaware of how much time passes while they are in front of a screen, be it a computer or a television. Before they know it, they have wasted hours better spent elsewhere.

We go to the gym daily, bikeride daily, walk dogs daily. Kida and grandkids come with us. No taking cell phone calls at dinner or during DVD time. I take my toddler granddaughter to the park daily, MyGym twice weekly, Jr. Museum and Zoo weekly, and Kids Club exercise at 24 Hr Fitness daily. All of us read extensively, and all of us read to the baby. She is allowed to play with the cildren's apps on the iPad only twice weekly, no more.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Getting kids off technology for homework is not going to happen, kids have to use for homework assignments to prevent plagiarism, but there is no reason why we have to think of unplugged as being solely for outdoors.

Ban technology for everyone at the dinner table, eat meals together around the table not the tv most days. Even if you eat fast food, sit together at the table and talk. Take it in turns for someone to choose a topic for conversation, or make plans for the holidays or summer around the dinner table. Make dinner time fun, or at least interesting, to encourage family members to be there. If you eat out as a family, the same rules apply - no technology.

Discourage kids from eating in their rooms or in front of a computer - even after school snacks, and sit with them and chat while they are eating even if you are only drinking bottled water.

Food is something we all have to do and it should be a social event. Let's work on bringing back dinner time.

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Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Agree with "Parent". Students in elementary school can be banned from technology but middle and high school students need computers for academics.

But frankly, my elementary student, being a third child, has his share of gaming and is no worse for it. He has learned to be independent and solve problems on his own. He still has normal socialization skills and creativity.

Technology is not the problem. Evolved parenting is the issue. Too many parents who wish their children would grow up and move out of the house, as they have no interest in their children anymore now that they are "independent" and can wipe their own butts. Too many parents who don't spend time talking with their children. High school and middle school children still need the stability of parents who respect and care about them.

As a SAHM, I wish I could rid myself of touching the computer. However, it's not possible. Planning and communication are all dependent upon the computer, otherwise, I won't have all the information for informed decisions. Computers are in our current world and luddites who choose to ignore them are missing out.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

Great point. We need the technology to a point, it is an adjunct . But it should not be the main attraction all the time. Family dinners are the best time to discuss whatever needs discussing as a family: who is doing what over the weekend; what projects at home or school need to be completed; making holiday or vacation plans; what books to read, skills to learn, sports to try, etc, etc, etc. And yes, ban technology during family time.

So many people these days have never learned any manners or other important social skills; many cannot even make eye contact during conversations. A few cannot even talk to anyone face to face, but need a cell phone or email to communicate. That can't be healthy or sound of mind.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I agree with many of the professor's points -- he makes many valid and important points -- and I am especially concerned about the consumerist culture messages associated with most screen time today.

I'm not going to wax poetic about the good old days because there were plenty of GI Joe action figure and Lucky Charms commercials, but at least for a time, the Saturday morning commercials were replaced with School House Rock shorts, from which I learned my multiplication tables and how to recite the preamble to the Constitution. My parents let me have our old television in my room, and it had the intended effect: I realized I didn't much like watching TV sequestered in my room, it quickly became a dusty relic, and to this day, I don't believe in having media in bedrooms which are supposed to be calming and for sleep.

I will take issue with his characterization of parents today being the problem, especially in this community. In 1900, most children were expected to die before their 5th birthday. Life was hard, and those who could, protected their children. How far does the professor want to take this? My husband had access to knives and guns as an elementary student (though of course not automatic weapons like today). My husband's father had to hunt for food when he was that age, and had to shoot the family dog when it killed the chickens (Depression -- starvation was a real issue, and yes, this was real life, not some movie). Several of even my father's siblings died in childhood -- but then, there were a lot of them in order to ensure some survived. The kind of independence my father had was forced on him because of upheavals in the world, he saw his share of death as a child, and he's lucky to have survived himself. He still suffers emotionally because of it. Let's not gloss over the ills of the past.

People have far fewer children now, and We have the standard today that every child should survive into adulthood and thrive. This is despite how complex the world has become. A car seat is an essential safety device, so effective, it is the law, yet for how many people is this obvious? There were no car seats when I was a child. And who would think they risk their child's death by putting the child in that safety device in the front seat of the car? By facing it forward in back rather than backward when the child is an infant?, or backward in the front? Confused yet? What about the side airbags, do you know whether they are a safety risk for children or not? Studies show that a fair percentage of people don't even strap their kids in to their seats properly, risking injury or death in an accident. Clearly they buy the seats, earnestly try to use them -- but it's a complicated world, with a lot more to remember. When I was a kid, we played happily in the car for hours, pretending we were driving, in a fort, and so forth. Now, kids can't roll down the windows themselves, the electric windows cause a few dozen deaths every year because of the design of the mechanisms not mixing well with kids climbing around the car, and the airbags can be deadly if they misfire. That's not the doing of overbearing parents, and it's not for viewing their kids as "sickly" that they don't let them climb around the cars like they used to.

Kids are safer, and yet there are so many more nonintuitive rules necessary to ensure that safety. Where the professor sees helicopter parents, I see families trying to do the best they can to ensure that every child survives and thrives. Yes, he has good points about some parents needing to take charge, and even about the SMALL minority that seem to want to live their children's lives for them. And I do think the way people dealt with this brave new world initially, to avoid ever criticizing to raise children's "self-esteem" did a whole generation of kids a terrible disservice and our society is the worse for it (but that's another subject). However, as a parent in this community, I see mostly hard-working, caring, intelligent people trying to raise healthy, happy, kids in a complicated world. That includes helping them learn to be independent, and ensuring ALL of them survive and thrive.

Too often the charge of "helicopter parent" is made against any parent who is engaged and involved, often as a way to diminish or challenge parental authority in a situation where "winning" that power balance is to the challenger's benefit, not to help the children. Too often the charge is just a mirror of the old tendency to blame everything we don't understand on parents: autism was blamed on the equivalent of "helicopter" mothers in the day (or conversely, on distant, cold mothers), asthma and allergies were blamed on overbearing mothers, TB on a weak, overly romantic personality, and so on.

Having grown up way to fast in other parts of the country, where technology was not the issue, I think kids in this area get the benefit of a longer childhood (a good thing) because of how involved and caring parents are, and most are concerned about their kids getting outdoors, getting activity, not spending too much time on devices, etc. I think the charge of "helicopter parenting" is a too often, easily used charge leveled against all involved parents (warmed over and rehashed from charges from the last century like overbearing, cold, hysteric, whatever). The obesity and diabetes epidemics are complicated and I think it's harmful and premature to blame all parents trying to navigate an ever more complex world for it.

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I gave numerous graduation gifts this year, and only one recipient sent the thank you in 'cursive writing'. Why? Didn't know how. Met a young well trained RN at Stanford Hospital who could not 'write' her name. How do people give a legal signature? But there is a way to teach cursive, and it is easy. It's called the old fashioned "Palmer Method", (Google it), and you can buy the material on-line. I learned it in grades 1,2, and 3, and it only took about 20-30 minutes a day. It's like learning basic piano. Once learned, it's forever grooved in the brain. It's actually fun.

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Posted by TK
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I agree with the parents calling for more handwriting in essays. Computers are great tools for education but they are being used too much and in areas where their contribution is minimal or even detrimental. For instance, the SAT requires a handwritten essay. Students who are not comfortable with expressing their opinions in handwriting will probably have to spend time practicing that skill before they take the test. They have enough on their plate during those years. There are plenty of other reasons they will need handwriting beyond the SAT - especially in personal correspondance. I suspect that the corporate world is pushing technology in education too much. They have everything to gain - get kids hooked on their products in school and voila, they've earned customers for life.

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Posted by kids&CarSeats
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Check Out programs at-- Stanford & LPCH Hospitals, and Santa Clara County Hospital about car seats etc.! It is very important.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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