The Downside Of Screentime Exposed

I was the mean mom that limited computer time. My kids were allowed to play educational games on the computer for a limited amount of time each day. I did not allow them to have a gaming system until the youngest was 10. Time on it was also limited. I was also the mom that provided my kids with stupid phones, mostly for my convenience in being able to track their whereabouts as a working mom, until they were pretty well grown or could buy their own smart one.

I believed then and still do, that after seven hours a day sitting in the classroom and being tied to an ever-increasing amount of technology in the classroom, my kids needed to be outside, engaged in real time activities with their peers and interacting the rest of the family.

Turns out a few pretty smart guys agreed with my approach. Oddly they are the ones that gave us many of the screens I see toddlers grabbing for and manipulating when I am out and when I spend time with my young nieces and nephews.

According to Business Insider, both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited their children’s use of technology:

In 2007, Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, implemented a cap on screen time when his daughter started developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game. He also didn’t let his kids get cell phones until they turned 14. (Today, the average age for a child getting their first phone is 10.)

 

Jobs, who was the CEO of Apple until his death in 2012, revealed in a 2011 New York Times interview that he prohibited his kids from using the newly-released iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” Jobs told reporter Nick Bilton.

One has to wonder what they knew about the effects of the products they invented. An ever-growing body research shows that for children and teens, screen time has an addictive quality. It is being likened to cocaine and other drugs as far as the effects on young brains and rehabilitation programs have cropped up even though there is no formal diagnosis.

Some of the most startling findings have come from Jean Twenge, Ph.D. Dr. Twenge has been researching generational differences for several decades and has a data set that includes approximately 11 million adolescents across generations. The title of Dr. Twenge’s most recent book alone should parents of adolescents pause and parents of young children a warning:

In an excerpt from The Atlantic:

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

 

To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

 

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Other significant items in Dr. Twenge’s research findings regarding the i-Generation (also called Generation Z):

  • Nearly one in four teens does not have a driver’s license when they graduate from high school
  • The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015
  • 12th graders in 2015 were going out less than 8th graders did as recently as 2009
  • Only about 56% of high school seniors in 2015 went out on dates

One of the conclusions she draws is that childhood is lengthening and today’s 18-year-olds are more equivalent to the previous generation’s 15-year-olds. The other is that despite more time at home, they are no closer to their parents.

Perhaps the most definitive finding she cites is from The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This study has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991.

 The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.

 

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

Hopefully, continued understanding on the effects of screentime will lead to moderated approaches to technology in the classroom as well as a proliferation of “stupid” phones that are used just to make a phone call for pre-teens and adolescents. In either case, the mounting research and the parenting controls of some of tech’s top executives should provide clues to parents with young children that with technology, it is possible less is more. And I am awfully glad I was such a mean mom.

If you want to learn more, Dr. Twenge’s book is available on Amazon.

 

Rubio: Tax Reform Should Help American Families

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), implores his colleagues in the Senate to work harder to ease tax burdens on American middle-class families.

Rubio, who owed more than $100,000 in student loans after graduating law school, says comprehensive tax reform would allow American families to get the most out of their-hard earned money.

“Tax reform is a key part of reinvigorating the American dream so that couples have the flexibility to choose how to best start and raise a family. The status quo means the cost of having children makes those choices for them, resulting in smaller families, riskier pregnancies, longer commutes from more affordable exurbs and more missed recitals.”

“Families are how our values are passed down from generation to generation. We simply cannot have a strong nation without strong families, and working Americans face a challenge in the cost of raising children that threatens the health and vitality of our country.”

The Senator says that a comprehensive tax reform plan like the one he and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) proposed not so long ago would do just that.

The plan would double the per-child tax credit to $2,000, making it refundable against the largest tax paid by families, the payroll tax.

Rubio says the House tax plan introduced last week simply doesn’t provide enough relief American families.

“We can begin the work of reconciling our social contract to the realities working families face by committing the resources of tax reform to a robust expansion of the per-child tax credit. Doing so would ensure that lower-income Americans will not be left out of the biggest legislative undertaking of this Congress.”

“Most important, expanding the child tax credit would align our nation’s tax code with what every parent already knows to be true: Raising children is the most important job we will ever have.”

In Alec Baldwin’s Twitter Meltdown, a Grain of Truth

Yesterday, Alec Baldwin had yet another public meltdown on Twitter and ended up shutting down his account–again. He’ll be back, of course, for another go. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that, in the comments that started it all, he made a valid point.

Let me start by saying that I’m not among the many conservatives and Republicans (those two groups are often different these days) who hate Alec Baldwin. For me, his comedic genius far outweighs his contemptible politics and questionable character. Just try, for example, watching his turn on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” without laughing.

So maybe I’m biased. But I’m also a female, and as such was supposed to be offended by Baldwin’s comments in an interview on PBS Newshour about the (legitimate) furor over Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of women. When asked about the mounting allegations against Weinstein, Baldwin responded, “You heard the rumor that [Weinstein] raped [actress] Rose McGowan. You heard that over and over, and nothing was done. We’ve heard that for decades and nothing was done.” The interviewer replied that “nobody said anything,” to which Baldwin responded, “Well, but what happened was Rose McGowan took a payment of $100,000 and settled her case with him. It was for Rose McGowan to prosecute that case.”

Predictably, McGowan, actress Asia Argento, chef Anthony Bourdain (Argento’s husband), and others responded to Baldwin’s remarks in a series of outraged tweets. Some rightly pointed out Baldwin’s morally objectionable friendship with director/child rapist Roman Polanski. Baldwin at first was defensive, sending out a barrage of insulting (and sometimes funny) retorts, and then ended up–again predictably–apologizing, promising to “do better in all things related to gender equality,” and “suspending” his interaction with Twitter.

Certainly much of this righteous anger at Baldwin was well-placed. But his original point was a compelling one. As he said himself, Baldwin “simply posited that the settlement of such cases certainly delayed justice.” In other words, by taking hush money in exchange for their silence on Weinstein’s crimes, McGowan and others allowed those crimes to go on. If they had made a more selfless, less greedy choice, they might have protected countless other women from Weinstein’s abuse.

I sympathize with these women’s sense of intimidating, their fear of having their reputation and career ruined by the powerful. But even so, those who took settlements cannot deny that they colluded in Hollywood’s conspiracy of silence on Weinstein and others.

We women can do better. We owe it to our fellow females, and to society at large.

The Eagles Offense Was So Good Yesterday, It Caused This Unforeseen Problem

It’s good to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan these days, unless you need the experience of stadium gimmicks to pump you up and have a good time.

Yesterday’s 51-23 crushing of the Denver Broncos led the team to a league-best 8 wins with only 1 loss. The “offensive explosion” meant that so many fireworks were shot off after Eagles scores that the stadium ran out of them, according to Fox 29. Fans were informed by a post from the team’s Twitter account.

It’s a good problem to have.

Having lived abroad for a year starting shortly after the beginning of last football season, I have had difficulty keeping up with the NFL. Carson Wentz, the Eagles quarterback, is a relatively new name to me. He was impressive in the game — cool, in command, and throwing perfect passes, but competitive enough to show frustration when a solid run of his came up a yard short of first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

CBS switched coverage to the Titans-Ravens game in the middle of the third quarter, so I witnessed only two-thirds of the game. I’m not sure if the programming change was because the outcome of the game — by that point a 38-6 non-contest — was inevitable, or because Wentz was given the rest of the night off after his four touchdown passes (he has thrown that many in three of his last five games to lead the league with 23) created that very inevitability.

Though Wentz isn’t having quite the passing season as are Tom Brady and Alex Smith (who finally threw his first interception of the season yesterday), he looks excellent for a second-year quarterback. His stats are especially impressive when consideration is given to the fact that he was a Division I-AA quarterback at North Dakota State. (His draft position, second overall in 2016, is the highest ever for any player from a non-Division I-A school.)

Because Wentz and his teammates look unstoppable, I’m calling the Eagles as the NFC’s representative at Super Bowl LII. In fact, I am predicting that US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will host the first all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, not just because the Pittsburgh Steelers are my favorite team, but because they are looking increasingly strong and resilient in comparison to the waning Chiefs and Patriots.

Regardless of whether my prognostication comes to pass, from the looks of the Eagles’ offense yesterday, the team had better stock a lot more fireworks along the way.

Physicist Sean Carroll claims to know what happens when we die

An online publication called The Express reported that physicist Sean Carroll claims to know what happens when we die as if it was some recent revelation, but it was actually old news. In this particular interview, Dr. Carroll said:

Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die.

But in fact, several years earlier Dr. Carroll had appeared as part of “Atheist Q+A” on a podcast titled The Point With Ana Kasparian, and pretty much said the same thing.

Sean Carroll certainly talks a good game, boasting that reason and scientific evidence support his atheistic worldview. He has also asserted that the laws of physics support his contention that monism is true, which would mean that consciousness and the human brain had been proved to be inseparable. This would also mean that when our physical body dies, our consciousness would immediately cease to exist, as if a light switch had been flipped.

There’s a couple of little problems with his claim. For one thing, Dr. Carroll simply isn’t being honest when he submits a claim that no evidence exists which might contradict his current worldview, and that he would take such evidence seriously if it did.

Furthermore, he couldn’t be more wrong — and physicists should always keep in mind that “wrong” is not an absolute state, but remains subject to gradation.

Dr. Carroll failed to clarify in the Express interview that he wouldn’t actually look at any evidence which might conflict with his current beliefs, especially if said evidence allegedly conflicted with the so-called “laws of physics.”

In case you’re wondering how might I know what Dr. Carroll believes, the answer is pretty simple. Several years ago, I wrote and asked him.

After watching his performance on “Atheist Q+A”, I emailed Dr. Carroll to question his audacious claim that he knew what happens when we die. Specifically I asked Dr. Carroll if he was familiar with any of the more famous examples of corroborated veridical NDE information, such as the rather well-documented case involving Pam Reynolds.

Dr. Carroll’s polite but terse reply was something to the effect that he didn’t bother to investigate any phenomena which might contradict the so-called “known” laws of physics. In other words, Dr. Carroll doesn’t care that hard scientific evidence appears to completely destroy the arguments for monism by preemptively assuming that it isn’t possible for such evidence to exist.

However, Dr. Robert Spetzler, the surgeon who operated on Pam Reynolds, claimed that the unusual preparation of the patient for the standstill operation made it literally impossible for Pam to have overheard and later recall specific details of a conversation between two surgeons on her team by using her normal sense of hearing. Nor should she have been able to describe the equipment used in her surgery with uncanny accuracy, given the fact she was heavily sedated, with her eyes taped shut before the special equipment used for her surgery was ever removed from its packaging.

This seems to leave only two different possibilities as the most likely explanations of Pam’s alleged experience: either she truthfully and very accurately recounted details of an out-of-body experience in which she learned new information that could be easily corroborated using eyewitness testimony and medical records, or with her doctors Pam conspired to produce false evidence of dualism, as part of some bizarre, elaborate fraud.

“Other” explanations simply won’t work in Pam’s case. Hallucinations don’t include specific details that can be verified as true and accurate memories upon investigation. The rare condition known as anesthesia awareness doesn’t explain how Pam could hear in spite of clicking nodules secured in her ears for the purpose of drowning out any ambient noise. The specific details of actual events and descriptions of objects that Pam accurately recalled after her surgery could never be dismissed as lucky guesses.

All Dr. Carroll needs to do to prove his claim that the human mind ceases to exist when the physical brain no longer functions would be to compare the EEG record from Pam’s surgery with the other records from her surgery. If the EEG shows any sort of brain activity at the same time the conversation between the cardio-vascular surgeon and Dr. Spetzler took place, it would be a significant step toward confirming Dr. Carroll’s belief that Pam’s experience literally cannot be possible. Conversely, absence of brain activity at the time of the conversation would confirm that either supernatural phenomena or a very bizarre conspiracy was at work.

In either event, someone with Sean Carroll’s credentials should be able to investigate these claims to the same degree as Dr. Michael Sabom, but apparently Dr. Carroll is more committed to justifying his atheism than to seeking real truth.

 

 

Save the Adoption Tax Credit

Sadly, Republicans in Congress want to kill the adoption tax credit. While its “cost” to the tax plan amounts to only around $1 million of the $1.5 trillion total cost, the adoption tax credit makes it possible for many people to adopt who otherwise would not.

Most children are adopted into lower middle income and middle income families. The cost of an adoption runs upwards of $60,000.00. The tax credit only defrays costs up to $13,490.00, but that really matters to those families.

Children adopted into families also put less strain on state services. The longer a child remains in foster and state orphan care, the more the state’s expense on those children go up. The GOP often talks about dynamic scoring, but they are ignoring this aspect when factoring the cost of the tax credit.

The pro-life, pro-family claims of the GOP must seriously be questioned if they can keep funding Planned Parenthood while killing the adoption tax credit.

Please text the word ADOPT to 52886 and demand the GOP restore the adoption tax credit to their tax reform plan.

Why Churchgoers In Texas Were Unarmed

In the wake of the deadly church shooting in Texas, a common question has been why no one in the congregation was carrying a gun since Texas law allows both open and concealed carry. The shooting was interrupted by a man who lived next to the church rather than an armed member of the congregation.

Texas has long allowed concealed carry and an open carry law went into effect in 2016. Texas law requires a Texas License To Carry a Handgun (LTC) to carry a weapon in public. The LTC requires a background check and firearms training.

Even with an LTC, the right to carry a gun is not unrestricted. The law bars weapons in public buildings such as schools, polling places and correctional facilities. Guns are also banned from bars and sporting events, among other restrictions.

Private property owners are also allowed to decide whether to allow guns on their property. Property owners can post “30.06” and “30.07” signs that reference sections of Texas state law. Section 30.06 prohibits concealed carry and section 30.07 prohibits open carry when the signs are posted. Many churches and businesses post the 30.06 and 30.07 signs.

It is likely, but not certain that Sutherland Springs First Baptist. If the signs were in place, LTC holders would have left their weapons at home or in their cars. In either case, they would have been inaccessible when Devin Kelley cam through the front door.

Sutherland Springs was not the first mass shooting to take place in a church. One of the most infamous such attacks was Dylan Roof’s killing spree at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C in 2015.

In the wake of the Sutherland Springs murders, Texas churches may reconsider the 30.06 and 30.07 postings, but for organizations whose mission is to welcome outsiders there is a delicate balance between protecting congregants and scaring away religious seekers. For many churches, the promise of spiritual protection in verses such as Psalm 44:6  is more comforting than an LTC.