Agile Learning Centers Network Spring 2020 Webinar Series
“Let’s Talk About Screens”
with Crystal Byrd Farmer of Gastonia Freedom School
[00:00:07.970] – Crystal
Hi again, everybody. I’m Crystal. We’re going to talk about screen time and I want it to be a discussion, a conversation. I have my opinions about screen time, which we’ll definitely get to, but this is to help you all think through the issues and concerns that you may have, so that you can maybe talk about some agreements that you’re going to have with your children, or with the children that you facilitate in your spaces.
[00:00:45.530] – Crystal
I’m at Gastonia Freedom School and we have a lot of kids with disabilities, usually autism, also ADHD. And, you know, we make it work. Kids seem to have fun with us. We are definitely pro-screen. We make it a practice to make screens available to all the kids, knowing that they may not have access to them at home. We have some light restrictions on the content that kids are able to access. But in general, they are able to use the screens when they want to.
[00:01:23.610] – Crystal
We have a couple of agreements around the screen time that I’ll share in a little bit, but I am very pro-screen. I have one daughter and she has her own phone. She has a YouTube account that doesn’t have a lot of restrictions on it. We have a lot of conversations about what she watches on Youtube, or does with her phone. But in general, I’m very pro-screen, she has unlimited screen time, and sometimes she stays up at night, watching videos or making videos.
[00:01:58.700] – Crystal
We’re going to talk about some of those factors that came into play when I made that decision for her. So, I want you all to introduce yourself, tell me your pronouns, where you are. And tell me what your biggest concern around screen time is.
[00:02:19.750] – Antonio
I’ll jump in. My name is Antonio Buehler. I am with Abrome, an ALC in Austin, Texas. I use he/him pronouns and I am very pro-screen as well. We don’t have any limitations whatsoever. We have a general practice of being mindful of who’s around you. And so if you’re watching stuff that may be inappropriate for others, turn it off or, you know, exit the room or ask the other person to exit the room. That’s about the extent of it.
[00:02:52.420] – Antonio
The only problem that I have with screens is my own insecurities over what other people are going to think when they come visit and they see a kid who might just be sitting and watching YouTube or, you know, insecurity about a kid who is playing a video game when I feel like they could be interacting with other people. So, my problems with screens are all internal – letting myself trust kids, basically.
[00:03:30.910] – Abby
I can go. I’m Abby. I use she/her pronouns. I’m based in New York. I run an ALC where we’re very pro-screens. We have a lot of families where the parents are interested in tech. The kids are interested in coding. If you don’t live in New York City with small children, you may not have thought about it, but we don’t have yards. And so for a lot of kids, having all of Minecraft to have space and resources is the closest they’re going to get to fort building in the woods with friends. So, I’m super pro-screens. My concerns as someone who listens and has been studying a lot of tech surveillance kind of stuff for the past few years, is that I hear a lot of adults more concerned with their kid’s hours on Roblox than with the designs of these games, the like lack of regulation around this tech, the way Wi-Fi kiosks were set up in the city without our consent, explicitly to track us. It just feels really wrong and dangerous to me – where these adults are putting their controlling energy, instead of looking to educate themselves and push for better tech for all of us. And I’m trying to figure out how to get us all re-educated. But the kids are great.
[00:05:22.800] – Tony
Hey, I’m Tony. I’m at Heartwood Agile Learning Center, in Atlanta. We are pro-screen for the most part. I don’t think anybody’s anti-screen, actually, but even still. What we do, however, is limit certain kinds of activities on screens. Just anything that lends itself to losing track of time or anything that lends itself to the young people not being able to actually make decisions, or being intentional about their screen time. There are limitations on that, which they all actually agreed to and enjoy. And we’ve gone through a lot of processes with that. So, that’s how we operate.
[00:06:18.270] – Crystal
All right. Thank you. My first introduction to ALCs was through Hany and Kelly, who run Zig-Zag up in Asheville, and Nancy and Tomis, who run Mosaic in Charlotte. And, well, maybe not Nancy and Tomis, but Hany and Kelly definitely fall into like what you call crunchy parenting. They are very interested in agency for their kids, they’re very nature based. They want their kids to be able to talk to them as individuals, but they also want to help them understand how the world affects them. I came into it through that, where the idea of unlimited technology and screens was a little bit like buying into the consumerist capitalist type world.
[00:07:21.770] – Crystal
So when I first got into ALCs, screens were discouraged at Mosaic. There was a lot of conversation going on. There weren’t rules, but there were agreements, you know. For Roots, which was Lacy’s domain, the kids under five, they didn’t have any screens. My daughter didn’t have any technology to take with her to school, to Mosaic. And it was a lot different from the way that I parented her. So it was good to get that kind of introduction to be in that world and understand that people have different values when it comes to screen time and what screens offer. And that’s where I’m coming from with this presentation, is that I want to talk about why kids might want to interact with screens, why we interact with them, and how we can help kids make good choices about them.
[00:08:25.290] – Crystal
Because the reality is that screens are here to stay. People are going to need them for everyday tasks. So we have to figure out, what are our values and how do we communicate that to the children that we’re with? I have a slide presentation. I’ll go ahead and start that.
[00:08:47.510] – Crystal
The first thing is the definition of screens. I guess it’s important to be in agreement about what we’re talking about. What we call “screens” is:
[00:09:09.590] – Crystal
Social media: things that we use to access our social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Discord, all these other things that I may not know of as far as social media apps.
[00:09:24.980] – Crystal
Videos that we can watch on our screens. There’s news websites that have videos as well.
[00:09:32.190] – Crystal
Apps or games: any type of electronic game – video game, one of those casual gaming things like Candy Crush.
[00:09:43.270] – Crystal
Screens also include Netflix and Hulu and other streaming video sources.
[00:09:51.080] – Crystal
We have regular old television, which our kids may not be exposed to as much, but that counts as screens.
[00:09:58.950] – Crystal
Podcast, weirdly, count as screens, because they’re on our phones or on our computer when we’re listening to them.
[00:10:05.940] – Crystal
And then audiobooks and e-books. So a lot of kids now don’t really use physical textbooks in schools, in traditional schools. They’re using these e-books, these – what do they call them – expanded resources – these textbooks that are very interactive.
[00:10:35.830] – Crystal
And here are some things that I could think of that screens have. And some of these things are good things, some of these things are bad things, but for better or for worse, this is what screens have.
[00:10:47.440] – Crystal
Screens have algorithms. Screens are programmed by people. And these people have an interest in changing our behavior, modifying our behavior. So those algorithms are going to be directed toward that. Games are going to want you to play more games, to spend money in those games. Television wants you to keep watching. To subscribe, to follow people who you’re watching.
[00:11:21.050] – Crystal
Screens do have a monetary cost, and that’s an access issue when you think about who has access to screens and who can use the information that comes from them.
[00:11:30.960] – Crystal
Information is something that screens have. And a lot of that information is much broader than what we have been exposed to. You know, as me, someone in a small city, in Gastonia, North Carolina, there are just some resources that I couldn’t find at my library, that my school didn’t have. And those are things that I can access on the Internet.
[00:11:55.640] – Crystal
Productivity tools is another thing screens have. A lot of us use screens to keep track of our budget, our schedule.
[00:12:04.180] – Crystal
We’re using Zoom right now to meet with each other. So that’s another thing that screens have.
[00:12:10.310] – Crystal
Abby mentioned the surveillance piece of it. You know, screens are monitored. Our use goes into databases and it’s not clear who owns that information and what they’re doing with that information. Google used to have their motto be “Don’t be evil”, but that’s not their motto anymore. You think about how much information Google has about you as a person individually and then about us as a society. We don’t have a lot of visibility to what they’re doing with that information.
[00:12:46.430] – Crystal
Viewpoints, tools, terms and conditions, explicit images. We’re gonna talk about some of this stuff that screens do have.
[00:12:55.880] – Crystal
Here are some things that screens don’t have. They don’t have that human element, the non-verbal communication, texture and smells.
[00:13:06.050] – Crystal
They don’t have the same values that you as a person has, because, like I said, screens are created by people to change your behavior. So those values may not always be the same values that you have. Screens don’t have personalization – the way that you can change your behavior and your tone of voice, your reactions, you know, when you’re in a person to person conversation, some of that is taken away when using screens.
[00:13:38.370] – Crystal
Like we said, some of your use is monitored. So when you’re in a person to person conversation, you have a little bit more freedom about knowing who’s watching, who’s participating and all of that.
[00:13:51.930] – Crystal
And then accidental discoveries was another thing that I thought about. In that, when you are in your library and you’re just roaming around and you find a book and you’re like, “Oh, I think that’s a really cool thing. I’ll just pick it up”, you know? Google doesn’t really have that.
[00:14:09.780] – Crystal
You have to type in a search to find something. There used to be a app or website — Stumble On or Stumble Upon, does anybody remember that? — where it would take you to a random website. But, you know, there’s still algorithms and things guiding you. So that’s one thing that screens don’t have for me.
[00:14:29.000] – Crystal
What are some things that y’all know or think that screens have versus don’t have?
[00:14:39.320] – Antonio
One thing that I think that screens have that is pretty powerful is just the ability to access platforms to share our thoughts and our creations with the world. I think that’s something that’s very unique and in this time, relative to just even 20 years ago.
[00:15:09.380] – Crystal
Yeah, my sister and I used to make all kinds of videos when we were younger and they’re on VHS tapes and at some point my sister converted them to CDs. But now, if you’re a kid, you can make a video and it’ll be worldwide within a matter of minutes. I see that as a positive because it is a way for people to share, to find people that are like them and to feel like they can express themselves.
[00:15:43.820] – Crystal
All right, so I’m going to introduce this term digital natives. This is what they call the kids who have grown up with technology. My daughter is nine and she would be considered a digital native because she’s never been in a world that didn’t have screens. You know, she’s never seen an encyclopedia set that was a physical copy. She knows what Google is from a very young age. She is used to taking pictures on her phone.
[00:16:11.000] – Crystal
So Generation Z and a little bit of the millennials, like younger millennials, have used technology from the day that they were born. And they use it, not just for frivolous or entertainment things, they use it for important things, like communicating with their family, looking up people and places, doing their homework. And then they use it for entertainment. So the way that, I’ll say, me and people older than me may have grown up wasn’t as exposed to screens.
I had a desktop computer all the way up through college, you know. And so there wasn’t always technology with me. So the way that we look at screens and how we use technology is going to be a lot different than the way our kids look at technology, because for them it’s something that’s always been there. And it’s not necessarily something they just go to for entertainment. Whereas for us, it’s like, “OOh, OK, that box that I use sometimes”. Or before my phone, I used to look in a phone book, you know, and maybe some of us appreciate that. Maybe some of us value the idea of looking through Yellow Pages to find something more than picking up the phone and just typing in a search. There’s going to be different values around technology, just because of the way we grew up with technology.
[00:17:41.400] – Crystal
All right. So now this question is, what was your first exposure to media away from your parents?
[00:17:58.180] – Crystal
I’ll say for me, it was AOL chat rooms. This is like early teen years and you were able to go into these chat rooms and talk to people. And I don’t remember if they shared articles or we were just talking about things. And that was my first exposure to this world away from my parents. You know, my parents watched movies and they watched TV shows. But these were things that I was seeing that were not part of my parent’s world. And that was kind of my first exposure.
[00:18:40.490] – Abby
I mean, media generally away from my parents, I went to a sleepover when I was very small and was in a house where people were allowed to watch Power Rangers and we were not allowed to watch Power Rangers in my house because it was too much fighting. But that wasn’t a world my parents weren’t familiar with, right. They sort of were familiar and had set boundaries. My first, you know, going into a world that was strange to them was Neopets. Which, partly I’m, like, watching all the kids play their take-care-of-little-animals, build-worlds games now and I’m like, “Ooh”. But I was like, maybe 8. I forget. Neopets was like you had virtual pets and you built a world and you can paint them and if you learned some basic HTML, you could change the colors on your webpage for them.
[00:19:33.520] – Abby
And there was a chat feature so you could trade points with strangers, which I remember my mom being really freaked out by. We had a whole conversation about like, do you know who this person actually is? Because maybe they’re misrepresenting themself, but also in the grand scheme of things, what all could be harmed if this person gives you five hundred “Neo points” dollars, what actually moves? My mom was freaked out, though, which is really funny.
[00:20:07.800] – Antonio
I was just going to say when I was in elementary school, or maybe in middle school, I was in a class that had a computer and they had the Oregon Trail game on it. And so that was the first time I ever interacted with technology, I think.
[00:20:31.900] – Crystal
Yes. I want you to think about the way that you…what you saw as screens and what you first interacted with and maybe the concern and the fear that your parents had and kind of connect that to the concern and fear that you have as an adult, you know, and thinking about your kids or your students using screens. For them it’s like, super exciting and cool. For you it’s a little scary. In Abby’s example her parents really did a good job by initiating a discussion about it and saying, “OK, what’s going on here? Can you help me understand?” And I think that’s kind of what we have to do as facilitators.
[00:21:28.210] – Crystal
My next point is talking about, when we’re doing self directed learning, what we’re really interested in is kids agency. We can’t have different rules for screens than what we have for the rest of their self directed learning. Self directed learning is about choice. It’s about their agency. And I think I think most people agree that in the real world, we only restrict their agency when we think there’s a danger or there’s something that could harm them.
[00:22:03.880] – Crystal
So I think that should apply to screens as well. If we think it’s going to be harmful, then we should feel okay setting some limits. But what you think is harmful may not be what another facilitator thinks is harmful, and it certainly won’t be what the kid thinks is harmful. So that’s why this next section, we’re gonna talk a little bit about what harm looks like, or what negative content looks like, and how we can assess that. Maybe not objectively, but at least assess it in a way that makes us feel comfortable having a discussion with our kids about screens.
[00:22:44.170] – Crystal
My theory about kids and screen time is that they will binge when they know that it’s a limited resource. A lot of families say, “OK, you’re only going to get an hour of screen time” or “you have to turn off your phone” and “I’m going to put it in my bedroom at night” or “you can’t go on these certain websites”. And I think all of us have felt the attraction to forbidden things. And that’s the same thing with screen time, is that a lot of kids are going to see, “My parents are really upset about this. They’re really restrictive. So I really want to know what’s going on. And I want to find out what I [? should?] them, how I can get around them to access these screens.”
[00:23:39.250] – Crystal
And when your kid is trying to get around you, that means that your kid doesn’t trust you to have a conversation and to be responsible about what you’re doing. So I think it’s important to maintain that relationship with your kids and not to come down with strict rules and strict limits about their screen time. I think it has to be an ongoing conversation.
[00:24:04.780] – Crystal
There are kids with disabilities and there are younger people who, you know, don’t have the same skills cognitively to be aware of how they’re using screens. And I think when we’re thinking about younger kids, yeah, it’s reasonable to say, “OK, maybe he shouldn’t stay up all night watching videos. Maybe I should talk to him. Maybe I should decide on something to do to help limit that”.
[00:24:33.070] – Crystal
But as kids get older, the more limits you place, the more you’re taking away their agency in that choice to use screens. And then, of course, the biggest thing about making agreements is sometimes they’re going to say, “I don’t agree to that”. They’re going to say, “I understand your concern, but I’m going to do it this way.” And, you know, that’s just something we have to deal with as facilitators and as parents.
[00:24:58.720] – Crystal
All right. So whoever can identify all of the pictures in this slide can get some kind of imaginary award. So what I tried to do is create the scale of the way that we evaluate content. On the top left is an ISIS video, which I think a lot of us, I think all of us, would say is something negative and something bad that we don’t want our kids to watch. But below that is Grand Theft Auto, you know, and Grand Theft Auto has killing and running over people and some sexual content, you know. How bad is that compared to ISIS?
[00:25:39.180] – Crystal
And then on the right hand side you have like movies that are really cute. You have YouTube videos that are family friendly. You have these casual games that we play. All of these things are things that we would interact with or watch on our screens. And there’s very little guidance from the American Academy of Pediatricians or websites about what is good for our kids.
[00:26:10.030] – Crystal
There’s a website, if you haven’t heard of it, called Common Sense Media. And what they do is they review games and movies and they give an idea of what’s in it. You know, does it have violence, does it have sexual content, does it have smoking and stuff like that. So that’s a good way to know what’s in something. But it’s all on you and on your kid to decide, well, what’s acceptable, what can I watch, what do I feel comfortable watching? What do I feel comfortable with my kid watching? So the idea of good versus bad is completely in your head. And it may not be shared. It probably won’t be shared by your child.
[00:26:55.110] – Crystal
One of the fears that comes when watching content like this, or content that is on the negative side, is that they will be harmed. There is research, and I have a little slide later, saying that kids who have experienced trauma can be retraumatized by a video that has violence and other kind of content like that.
[00:27:19.110] – Crystal
So there is evidence that some of this can be harmful to kids. Some of the balancing or compensating factors for harmful images are the environment in which a child has grown up. If they’ve had a supportive environment, if they don’t, if they haven’t had any trauma. If they recognize the content as something that’s fantasy, that is made up, that’s not actual real life, you know. So if they know that this is like a game versus, you know, something you’re seeing on the news. If they have like a strong support system so that even when they do experience trauma, they can be resilient and bounce back from it.
[00:28:00.780] – Crystal
And then adverse childhood experiences. So kids who have experienced more traumatic events are going to be more sensitive to traumatic events in their exposure to it.
[00:28:19.150] – Crystal
All right. So these are some of the things that I think are what we talk about when we have concerns about what kids are going to interact when it comes to screens. And the questions that I kind of want to have us think about is: When we were kids and first interacting with the real world, did we always know what was good and what was bad? Did we have somebody who could help us say, OK, maybe this isn’t something you should be watching?” or “I have concerns about what you’re watching?” Or did we have parents and family members who said, “just don’t watch it. Just because I said so, don’t watch it.”
[00:29:02.430] – Crystal
You know, can we can we have– can our kids have people that they can go to and have these conversations about content with? Because as parents, certainly, and as facilitators, definitely, there’s no way we’re going to be able to have visibility or control over everything that our kids are consuming.
[00:29:24.510] – Crystal
And then my last point is that, you know, you can put all the parental controls on anything that you want, but 14 year olds know all the tricks. Think about yourself. Maybe if you’re not a techie person, but if you were in college or in high school and your parents had something on your phone or computer, just imagine, you know, kids nowadays being able to access those tools and being able to get around whatever controls we have, that’s just going to get more and more true. So that’s my argument that you don’t want to try and limit it with these artificial controls. You want to encourage conversation about it.
[00:30:07.070] – Crystal
One more. Dangerous people. The other concern about screens is that your children will interact with people who are a bad influence or who are actively trying to harm them. And this goes all the way from the school bully to child molesters to people who are trying to scam you, people who might want to hurt you. So there is definitely– that danger exists and it’s out there. But think about the ways that you protect your child in the real world.
[00:30:43.920] – Crystal
You ask them to wear seat belts. You ask them to talk to you before they go get in a van with a stranger. You know, you’ve built these relationships where your child can come to you if something is bothering them or if they’re interacting with something or somebody that doesn’t feel right. The same thing can be true online. You can create this sense of trust so that if they have a question, they come to you or they come to a trusted person about some other person on the Internet. And that’s that’s that’s really the only way that you can help people be safe in the real world and when it comes to screens.
[00:31:27.050] – Crystal
All right, so the next discussion question: What are your values and how does that inform your choices around limiting screens?
[00:31:58.700] – Abby
I value people being safe and respected and treated with dignity and I don’t trust a lot of the world to do that. I work with a lot of young women and people of color and young black girls, a lot of whom are also queer. And it’s like the Internet at large culturally is not a safe, appreciative place, like– is not going to treat them the way they deserve.
[00:32:35.840] – Abby
And/but neither is a lot of the off Internet world. And so for me, it’s, my relationship to their use of their screens is to try to, like, empower them. When I’m interacting with them and fight for better things for them, when I’m engaging with the wider world. So that’s talking to them about what Pokemon Go is trying to do with their data and support them and talking through like, you know, racist jerks they’re encountering in Roblox and all that stuff.
[00:33:26.070] – Crystal
Have there been things that you’ve come across with your kids or the kids that you facilitate, that have concerned you and that you’ve wondered, you’ve had to go look up, where you tried to talk to them about? One thing that my daughter is, I don’t know, into, or she watches, are inflation videos. This is where, it’s either animation or something where the person is like blowing up like a balloon, or sometimes animals are blowing up like a balloon, which for me is like tied to fetishes and it probably has a sexual connotation.
[00:34:02.980] – Crystal
But for her, it’s just like a funny, interesting thing. And so I, I am– you know, I’m coming at it from a different perspective where I’m like, OK, I don’t want you to accidentally come into some sexual content or, to you know, go start start into that world without knowing how to navigate it. But for her it’s just like, oh, it’s just a video that I like watching and get off my back. So that’s kind of that’s one of the things that is a concern that I’ve had when it comes to content.
[00:34:37.140] – Abby
Yeah, I mean, I found the kids are already great hackers, they’re really good on their own self organizing and dealing with bullies and chats and all that kind of stuff. The concern is definitely more when they’re– the furries thing, the furries fad is really interesting, and I’ve had to check myself a lot and be like, “I know this is a fetish thing. Do you know this is a fetish thing?” How much does it matter if you are, you know, if they are graffiting saying, like, “I’m a furry” on the wall at school in the context of like a social group where that means they like dressing up as fuzzy animals, versus if they’re posting that out on the Internet.
[00:35:30.410] – Abby
And, I’m trying to think if there’s other, you know, in those kind of examples, though, I’ve always found that as soon as I engage the kids and I’m like, oh, do you know that this also means this thing in some circles? And they’ll give me like, “oh, my gosh, adults are so weird.” And then I’m like, “just– I just want you to be safe. Just be mindful.” And they’re like, “Yeah. Like, go away. Weird, weird grownups.”
[00:35:57.530] – Abby
So that’s usually pretty, pretty easy. It just takes like bringing the thing to their awareness. The stuff I struggle – struggled – with more, it’s less of a thing right now, because of like Avatar and Steven Universe. But for a while a group of them were really into, certain anime. So there’s like some anime that is really great, and there’s some that, like, my young women were watching that had really problematic representations of romantic relationships.
[00:36:29.660] – Abby
And mostly that. Other stuff that I was really worried about impacting their their self-image. And when their parents and I could be in dialogue about it and be making sure that they were getting counter narratives and counterexamples also, it was fine. But it was really a struggle in a few cases where the parents either weren’t engaging at all. Or were also in that world in their own ways. So, yeah, I mean, the environment and relationships are huge protective factors. And so really the only place I’ve had trouble is when the relationships and environment have, you know, not been helpful.
[00:37:37.070] – Crystal
Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it, is that parents don’t know everything that’s out there, you know, even me as an adult. There’s things that, you know, I have no idea about, that [a friend showed me]. And I think that’s why it’s important to equip children with the ability to talk to a trusted person about what they’re looking at, what’s going on.
[00:38:08.750] – Crystal
Because I mean, they’re not always going to come to you as a parent or you as a facilitator, especially if you have this power. You know, if you can say you can’t come to the ALC anymore, you know, then they’re going to be very conscious about what they share with you. But there still needs to be a way for them to say, “OK, I’m watching this and maybe I feel a little weird about it. Maybe I should ask someone.”
[00:38:36.660] – Crystal
And you want that someone to be someone that you trust, or someone that you think has good decision making skills so that they can kind of, you know, kind of check their own intuition. Or if they don’t have any intuition at all that somebody can tell them, hey, this might have a harmful impact on you later.
[00:39:01.370] – Antonio
Yeah, I know, I know for a fact that kids like to challenge themselves and put themselves in scary situations, and that’s so critical to growing. Right. Have you put yourself in uncomfortable situations? And that’s why young kids are so often drawn to scary stuff, right. They’re stretching themselves. And I know that as adults, we want to have conversations about what’s appropriate. But most adults, always – most adults, most often will shy away from talking about the most sensitive stuff.
[00:39:41.930] – Antonio
It’s just like, well, I don’t think that this 10-year-old is ready to talk about sex. So I’m not going to talk to a 10-year-old about sex. And so, gee, what does a 10-year-old do? The 10-year-old goes out of their way to learn about sex, but they can’t have that conversation with the adult.
[00:39:59.270] – Antonio
And so, you know, I raise that point about the time that we had that situation with the kids, with the very violent video. You know, one thing that we did not do in response to that was say that videos are off limits and we didn’t put a, you know, any sort of blocker on YouTube, and we didn’t say certain types of videos were even off limits. You know, we talked about how do we take care of each other? You know, not knowing what all the possibilities are.
[00:40:39.620] – Antonio
Because otherwise, we’re just always going to be trying to play catch up. It’s like, “oh, you did this. Well, guess what? That was bad. And now we have to tell you why you’re bad for doing that.”
[00:40:53.720] – Abby
I mean, I guess. We’ve also in seven years of having a SDE space with lots of computers, like we have had kids who… There is one kid who was very clearly hiding in his – you know, and I played a lot of first person shooter games as a kid. I don’t actually have an issue with them. But it’s about mindful engagement, right. And the graphics on the rest of the story and all that kind of stuff.
[00:41:28.460] – Abby
And we– you know, I’ve had conversations in the community where people are like only in this room, only with the door closed, not with these other people around and can negotiate it. But there have been, there’s been one instance where there was a kid who was clearly, hiding in his game to, like, numb out and escape from family stuff.
[00:41:54.020] – Abby
But it’s like, in knowing him and caring about him, we could see that. And one of the nice things about an SDE space is I can be like, “oh, this person I care about is clearly hurting. There is clearly a problem here.” And then we ran an intervention and like, got therapy, saw doctors. It was it was better. That’s definitely happened. And we, with some of our younger kids with the scary stuff, have had, you know – they know that consent is important. And that information about what somebody is consenting to is part of that. So, you know, it’s not perfect. It takes practice. But they practice being like, “oh, do you want to watch this, you know, ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ scary video with me?”
[00:42:47.950] – Abby
And they need reminders sometimes that just because something doesn’t give them nightmares, it may give their friend nightmares. And we need to take care of each other. But they regularly practice that, and we help them regularly practice that with the rest of their social skills, as an ongoing thing.
[00:43:19.680] – Crystal
Yeah, I think those are both good ways to approach it in that, you know, the kids, you know individually what they might have going on. And you know that you can’t fix it with technology or with some rule that covers everything the same.
[00:43:39.150] – Crystal
Yeah. For some reason, young kids are good at technology. OK. I asked my sister, who is a PhD psychologist what the consensus was on screens. And apparently there is no consensus because there isn’t a lot of up to date research and eventually, well, the American Association of Pediatricians has decided, well, we can’t really give you guidelines on screen time because we don’t know how screens affect kids. So you see evidence that video games do not cause violent behaviors, you know, in a normal typical population. Seeing images of violence will increase PTSD symptoms in younger children. So that goes back to trauma and that if they’ve seen trauma, they can definitely reexperience that trauma if they’re watching screens.
[00:44:37.740] – Crystal
Children who use screens will– are more are likely to have symptoms associated with ADHD. So that means either they are going to end up with the diagnosis of ADHD or that those screens are somehow causing those symptoms or ADHD.
[00:44:52.850] – Crystal
So they’re not sure if it’s a relationship, a causal relationship, but there is a relationship between those hyperactivity and attention symptoms and children who use screens. And then use of screens associated with poor eyesight and physical problems, like carpal tunnel or poor posture and things like that. So that’s what the research says. This is not a whole lot to go on. Based on my knowledge of working with kids with disabilities, I’ve started to understand that children who use screens to an excessive amount may have other things going on.
[00:45:31.950] – Crystal
So they may have the ADHD symptom where they don’t know how much time is passing. You don’t have an internal clock that they can track how much time they spend on this screen. They may not be able to plan ahead and say, OK, I need to stop watching at 3:30 so I can get my homework done by 4:00. They may not have that skill. They may not have good executive functions where they know that, OK, this video is getting you really hyped up, so maybe I need to take a break and calm down. They may not have that skill.
[00:46:07.320] – Crystal
They may have– what is it called? There is this symptom that some kids with autism have where they can’t recognize their emotions. So they may be feeling upset, but they may not realize, oh, I’m feeling upset because I’m watching something that is upsetting on my screen. So there are kids with disabilities who may be engaging with screens and have an unhealthy relationship with it.
[00:46:30.390] – Crystal
But that’s not related to the screen itself. It’s related to their cognitive abilities and their neuro… It’s relate to their behavior and the way that their brains are made, that they can’t compensate for some of those skills that they’re lacking. So like Abby was saying, you know, she has one kid who was using his screen to get through a very difficult time. And I think that when we think about kids who are using screens, what we consider too much or in a bad way, we can think about, hey, what are some other things that are going on in their brains and in their lives that is leading to this type of screen use?
All right. And so this is what my thoughts about screens for age limits. So infants, you know, they don’t really need screens. They get a lot of interaction just from people and the toys around them. My daughter is autistic. So as an infant, you know, she was definitely more interested in things than people. And that’s really typical of a lot of autistic kids. So screens was something that she gravitated toward because screens are predictable. She loved pressing the keyboard and seeing the letters come up.
[00:47:49.770] – Crystal
You know, that was something that felt safe to her. Neurotypical kids may interact with screens differently. So I was saying that there are lots of toddler apps that are all over the place and you can buy as many as you want, but they may not help your kid be smarter or whatever, teach your baby to read. So that’s a decision that you have to make when you have small children. You know, it’s very hard to parent a toddler. It takes a lot of energy and sometimes giving them a video to watch or some silly game to play, it’s just gonna give you a few minutes of freedom. And I think that’s OK.
[00:48:34.890] – Crystal
You know, there are hundreds to thousands of apps that have them playing, interacting with screens in a playful way that also encourages them learning. And can I also preserve my sanity because the toddlers screaming and running around all day and sometimes I need a break? That’s what you’re balancing when you have a toddler.
[00:48:57.300] – Crystal
With youth and with tweens, you want to help them understand the whole possibilities that are there, and you want to develop that relationship with them to help them understand what they might get into, and how they should respond to certain types of things. When it comes to shared spaces, you definitely want to have conversations around who’s in this space, what their values are. How easy is it to wear headphones or watch something else when you’re in a space? I think those are important conversations to have.
[00:49:30.370] – Crystal
And then with teens, just like I was saying before, I don’t think you’re gonna be able to reasonably limit teens without them finding a way around it. So you might as well treat them like a growing adult and have some conversations with them. They’re still going to make bad choices because they are teenagers. But the whole relationship part is really important when it comes to screen use and teens.
[00:50:14.570] – Crystal
All right, so my last bit of conversation is how to talk about these things with your kids. This is what I used as a facilitator and as a parent. I have what– I would call them some scripts for what I say when I talk to kids and I’ll give some examples of those.
[00:50:42.880] – Crystal
So you say, “I feel uncomfortable when you watch videos with blank”. So when it came to inflation videos, I said to my daughter: “I feel uncomfortable when you watch these videos, because I have experience with fetishes and I think that this might be something sexual.” And you know, when you say that you feel uncomfortable – this is part of social emotional skills – you feeling uncomfortable, does it mean that they have to act about it? They don’t have to do anything to fix that discomfort.
[00:51:13.650] – Crystal
You are just acknowledging your feelings and that you have this discomfort. You’re just saying it to them, telling them. But you’re not putting the expectation on them, that they fix that discomfort for you. You can say “I worry that watching videos will lead to blank”, so it could be “I worry that if you’re watching videos all night, you won’t get enough sleep and you won’t be awake to engage with the world during debate time.” And those are things that you can easily say to your kids to make the connection between the screens and what they’re doing with the rest of their lives.
[00:51:48.080] – Crystal
And I think kids are really open to hearing about how they can be happy and do things in their life without it you making a rule and saying, “I want you to turn off the phone so that you can go to sleep”. You know, when you’re connecting to care and concern and their well-being then they are more amenable to it. “I trust you to take care of yourself when you need to.” That trust, I think, is the biggest part of our relationship as facilitators, as parents.We want to maintain that trust because that’s the only thing that’s keeping them from harming themselves, I guess.
[00:52:32.140] – Crystal
Another script is: “Can you change this behavior when I’m around?”. So when we’re at the school, I ask Courtney to not watch videos that have cussing in it, or to put on headphones. And she’s perfectly fine to run [kitty?] children and watch whatever video that she wants to watch. She’s fine putting on headphones. And that is a really simple request.
[00:52:55.090] – Crystal
And of course, she can say no to it. The kids can say no to it. But as long as they know that we’re making this request in good faith because we’re concerned about the space, we’re concerned about the other kids who may be listening or watching, I think they’re usually going to say OK to that request. As long as you’re not saying every single day “do this, do this, do this” in a way that restricts their agency more and more every time you make a request.
[00:53:21.580] – Crystal
Another one is, “I will remind you of this agreement.” We have kids with disabilities and sometimes they forget that they’ve agreed to doing something and it’s OK to remind them. Try to say it in the calm voice. And then saying “I care about you,” helping them understand that we’re not making these rules just because, but that we’re trying to protect them and help them be healthy individuals. So those are my suggestions. Do you have any other suggestions about talking about limits or how to have conversations about screen time?
[00:54:11.430] – Abby
Because I admin I spend a lot of time sitting with my laptop in one hand and my phone in the other. And when I used to teach pre-school, I picked up narrating my choices. I find that that’s super helpful around screens is to be like “Wow, I’ve been sitting at my laptop for three hours, I’m going to move my body now”. Or, “Wow, I got really into writing this email and didn’t notice it’s so late. I need to go make lunch.”
[00:54:46.290] – Abby
To just be honest about the fact that the kids are seeing what I’m modeling and what I’m modeling, you know, out of necessity a lot of the time. I would much rather be with them at the park. But what I’m modeling isn’t necessarily the kind of healthy screen use that I want them replicating, and so just to try to practice managing as much as possible myself, and being being transparent with them, being like, “Oh, I do want to watch that movie with you. Saturday is my offscreen day. Can we do it Sunday or Friday?”. That kind of stuff.
[00:55:32.860] – Crystal
Last weekend, I was watching two documentaries about the L.A. riots. And, you know, it’s really, really interesting to me. It was really helpful. But for my daughter is very upsetting. She is not interested in knowing about police shootings. She doesn’t want to protest any of that. And for her to say to me, “I really don’t like like you’re watching, it’s really scary, can you not watch it?” that broke my heart. Because sometimes I’m not aware of how what I’m watching impacts her. She felt like she could trust me and tell me what she needed. So I think that was a really good thing, even though I felt really sad because I thought “Oh my goodness, what else have I watched that she’s been like “Oh my God, I hate that”, you know.
[00:56:27.820] – Abby
I mean, you put up the data about increased PTSD symptoms, and that was one of the big things when the pandemic started here in this city. I was less worried about kids getting online and bingeing that kind of traumatic content and much more worried about parents reflexively, constantly broadcasting that news in their houses and their kids getting it secondhand. Most of our parent education and communications, the first few weeks were like “please, please, please be careful what you’re putting in your kid’s spheres”. But of course, Courtney is awesome and can be like “Ma, I need a break from that content. Put your headphones on”.
[00:57:13.900] – Crystal
I think it’s important to model those conversations, you know, in everything, not just when it comes to screens, but also talking about food, talking about rest, talking about whatever is going on in the space, verbalizing out loud and helping kids take care of themselves during the day is important.
[00:57:40.850] – Abby
I had a controversial one this spring when I was reading about Pokemon go and some of my younger humans were super into it and inspired by it to talk to kids they wouldn’t usually have talked to and to go explore parts of the city they wouldn’t usually have. And I had to sit with my knowledge that this app is like a behavioral manipulation experiment an decide how much of that information they needed to be safe and, like, do they need to know all the details?
[00:58:27.590] – Abby
Or is there a way that I can support them in continuing to have the fun that they’re having? You know, without giving up their agency, without letting themselves be manipulated. And it was some some 8-to-10-year-olds. And I chose not to give them all of the information, which I feel pretty good about, but it’s definitely a “we’ll see how that goes.” Don’t know. It’s tricky sometimes.
[00:59:11.340] – Crystal
And sometimes you take your best guess and try something.
[00:59:18.990] – Crystal
- That’s all I have. I really appreciate you all coming. It’s been great hanging out with everybody these past several weeks. So I guess we’ll see whatever what form this takes in the future. It’s been great. And thank you.