Posts

By Jenna Kruse, MSW – July 9, 2019

Technology has become a large part of our society; we depend on it to learn, inform, and connect with others daily. However, it can have negative effects as well.         

Most of us probably know a young child who watches YouTube regularly. How often do we stop to watch and closely monitor what is on the screen?

A growing trend with children on YouTube is the fascination of watching other children play with toys. There is a countless supply of these videos, such as, “Surprise Eggs” and “Finger Family” which each have hundreds of thousands of views.

YouTube also added an auto play feature which allows similar videos to stream one after the other, continuously. Kids are then exposed far beyond their initial search and are soon plagued by this technology.

Parents across the country can attest to the fighting and tantrums thrown when the tablets, phones, or iPads are taken away from the children because they are so entranced by the videos.

Social media is another black hole, typically for older children. Teens can be subjected to cyber bullying, stranger danger, identity theft, phishing, and sexual exploitation.

Apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, Twitter, and YouTube can all be dangerous for teens if used incorrectly. Many teens have several accounts, some of which include “ghost accounts” which are used to hide from their parents.

Children are being sexualized by photos of celebrities and are taught that appearance is what matters most. Pressure is put on both girls and boys to look a certain way and “likes” and “follows” become addictive for young teen brains. Children can feel they need to post sexy photos and say extreme things just for more attention.

Now that we know some of the problems with technology, let’s try to avoid them. We need to help and support our children by closely monitoring what they are doing online.

This can include having clear rules for children regarding social media, checking the web browser regularly, activating privacy settings and parental controls on devices, and installing anti-virus hardware on your computer.

Talking openly to your children is the best way to ensure that they know the harms of the internet and social media. These may be uncomfortable topics, but they are very important for their safety. It is much better to have these conversations before a situation occurs rather than after.

There are many safety apps which help parents monitor and control their children’s online usage. These apps include but are not limited to, Netnanny, Mammabear, SafeKidsPro, Social Shield, WebWatcher, MyMobileWatchDog, Teensafe, and Phonesheriff. Each app is unique in what it helps control, so find the one that will work best for your family.

By Ellen Dippel, MSW, December 3, 2018 –

Technology gives us access to information at the speed of light and communication with others in an instant.  People can order their groceries, do all of their banking, and even take a college-level class – all with just a smart phone.

There is an application for virtually anything and everything on a smart phone.  These applications can help increase productivity and efficiency for both parents and students, give access to games for children, and serve as a tool to share ideas across the world.

Technology has helped the world greatly advance, but are these technological advancements also hindering creativity and imagination?

Technology such as television, tablets, and video games are becoming more and more popular for young children and teens. Screen time includes time spent on phones, televisions, tablets, and other electronic devices.

Children and adults alike can waste hours scrolling through phones and playing games without even realizing it. Unfortunately, spending time in front of a screen is becoming a go-to activity.

It is suggested that children younger than 18 months have no screen time, and no child should have more than two hours of screen time per day.

Screen time is replacing the development of creativity and imagination in children and adolescents.

Much of a child’s imagination and creativity is expressed through play, which develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.  Children are able to come up with alternative ways of doing things when they explore the world through play-time activities.

There are many activities that parents can encourage to help promote creative and imaginative play, including the following:

  1. Spending time outdoors offers children the opportunity to discover and explore the world around them. Nature supplies many natural toys, tools, and canvases such as rocks, sticks, mud, and sand. Children can also participate in sports activities as a healthy alternative to screen time.
  2. Art activities encourage children to express themselves through a variety of media. Clay, paint, and other artistic media require concentration to develop. Creating a work of art gives the child a sense of accomplishment after making a unique creation.
  3. Role play different situations with your child. Encourage your child to play house, teacher, doctor, store, etc. Role play can help your child learn and develop verbal and social skills.
  4. Limit screen time for your child. Screen time does not require any real physical or mental strength. Limiting screen time encourages children to participate in creative or imaginative play activity that stretches their mind and body.

Encourage your child to develop their imagination and creativity through play. Monitor their screen time and set a good example by limiting your own screen time. Play with them and have conversations with them. Children and adults alike can benefit from enjoying other activities that engage the mind and body.

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Sept. 18, 2018 –

I am sure many of you have heard of the video game craze that is disrupting our children’s ability to socialize, spend time with family, complete homework, and focus at school.  I call it the “Fortnite Battle.”

I have a child who spends every available moment playing this video game.  Fortnite: Battle Royale is an online game that many children are currently enthralled with.  At school, all the talk is about the battle someone won last night or the new “skin” or “emote” they bought.

Like me, you may be wondering just what all of that means. I decided it was time to learn more about it and thought it would be helpful to share some information about Fortnite.

First, what is this game?  In Fortnite: Battle Royale, 100 players compete against each other to be the last person standing in player vs. player combat.  Basically, the game starts out with players being dropped on an island.

While exploring, the player is able to arm himself with resources such as traps and weapons.  If the player comes across another player they engage in battle.  A storm approaches, which causes players to move closer together.  In a battle that lasts 20 minutes, the goal is to be the last one standing.

The player is also able to build traps, stairs, and walls to help gather resources or defeat another player.  Another option is to just play with four players.  You can invite people to play with you.  This battle is one hour and you have unlimited lives.

So, why is this game so addictive?  The game definitely has many appealing features.  The graphics are cartoon-like.  It has lots of bright colors and crazy “skins,” outfits the players wear.  Some skins cost money, and of course kids want the coolest and newest skin available.

The game has been described as being a cross between Minecraft and Call of Duty.  It is a multi-person shooting game in an unrealistic setting, but surprisingly there is not a lot of blood and gore.

The game can also be silly at times.  The players know all the latest dance moves, called “emotes.”  Yes, your player can dance “The Floss” while engaging in battle.  In addition to dancing, players can also play basketball or beach volleyball.

Fortnite is rapidly becoming the way in which many teens socialize.  A player can talk with other players throughout the game.  Players are hosting tournaments where they can win prizes.  Also, when friends come over, a favorite activity is often playing Fortnite, watching the other person play, or watching random people play the game on YouTube.

Some students I spoke with shared some wonderful insight into the game.  Fortnite: Battle Royale is free and can be played on many different platforms including, Xbox One, Play Station 4, computers, and tablets.  You don’t have to be skilled to play.  You can basically hide out and gather resources through a major part of the battle.  Also, the creators of the game introduce new aspects of the game all the time.  New skins, new emotes, and new resources are often added.

As a parent, I want to know how my child is spending his time, especially if he is playing with others online.  Sitting with him while he played a Fortnite battle definitely helped me understand the game better and allowed me to make a more informed decision about letting him play.  I hope these points allow you to make more informed decisions about your child’s gaming time.

By Marge Gianopoulos, Sept. 5, 2018 –

According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of teens currently report they have a smartphone or access to one; 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly.”

Since the advent of MySpace (Does anyone even remember that one?) and then Facebook, social media has become the primary way for teens to connect with their peers, friends and family.

In a 2014 Pew survey, 24 percent of teens stated they are online “almost constantly.”  In just four years the percent of teens using social media “constantly” has almost doubled.

Social media has been infused in our teens’ lives and apparently it’s here to stay.  Several years ago the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation started using tablets, and this year Warrick County high school students began using them as well.  Between the use of smartphones, computers, tablets, and gaming systems, how much screen time is considered healthy?

On Monday, September 10th, from 5:30–7:30 pm, Indiana Youth Institute, Youth First, Inc., Warrick County Cares, and Warrick County School Corporation will provide some insight for parents, youth workers and other adults who want to know how social media and screen time are impacting our teens.

Dennis Jon Bailey, WIKY Morning Show DJ, will conduct a panel discussion on the pros, cons and effects of social media and screen time.  The panel is made up of area professionals who have contact with youth and see firsthand how social media is affecting teens’ health (physical and mental) and academics.

The panel includes Warrick County School Administrators Ashlee Bruggenschmidt, Abbie Redman and Josh Susott; Warrick County Sheriff Deputy and School Resource Officer Mike Dietsch; Youth First Director of Social Work Laura Keys; Youth First School Social Worker Terra Clark; Warrick County Deputy Prosecutor Parker Trulock; and Vice President of the Psychology Program at Evansville Easterseals Rehabilitation Center, Dr. James Schroeder.

As a Pediatric Psychologist, Dr. Schroeder has conducted extensive research on screen time and the impact of social media on our youth and often writes for the Evansville Courier.  You can access his articles at http://james-schroeder.com.

In addition to the panel discussion, the real experts, local teens, will be available to show adults how to navigate the most popular social media apps such as SnapChat, Instagram, and Musical.ly.  Each of these apps will have a table where adults can learn from the teens. Teens will share the ins-and-outs of the app, explain privacy settings and demonstrate how adults can keep children and teens safe while online.

Youth in a Digital World: Pros, Cons and Effects of Social Media, will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm on September 10th at the Newburgh Chandler Public Libraries, 4111 Lakeshore Dr., Newburgh, and light snacks will be served.  Registration is required, as space is limited.   Register at https://warrickcoywc091018.eventbrite.com.