Reading for pleasure at 15 is a top predictor for academic & life success. (Renaissance)
Patricia Greenfield, distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA, analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and points out that reading for pleasure among young people has decreased in recent decades, which is problematic because “studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary…in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not.” (TIME)
Between kindergarten and twelfth grade students with an average daily reading time of 30+ minutes are projected to encounter 13.7 million words. At graduation, their peers who averaged less than 15 minutes of reading per day are likely to be exposed to only 1.5 million words. The difference is more than 12 million words. (Renaissance)
See also: Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.” (NY Times)
According to a study conducted by the University of Washington, learning to print, write in cursive, and type on a keyboard all contribute to brain development in students. But instruction in cursive writing in particular seems to produce the greatest neurological effects.
The key difference is that cursive writing stimulates brain synapses and the synchronicity between both sides of the brain, unlike printing or typing. William Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University, states, “Handwriting (cursive writing) dynamically engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres.” He references brain scans taken during handwriting that show activation of extensive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.
Handwriting expert Jeanette Farmer provides a strong argument for setting aside time for cursive instruction. “Handwriting has a physiological/psychological link in the brain,” she states. “This link is so strong that nothing else done in the classroom can begin to compare with the powerful impact that repetitively manipulating the thumb and fingers over time has on the young brain.” (We Are Teachers)
On cognitive testing, adult musicians and musically trained children showed enhanced performance on several aspects of executive functioning. On fMRI, the children with musical training showed enhanced activation of specific areas of the prefrontal cortex during a test that made them switch between mental tasks. These areas, the supplementary motor area, the pre-supplementary area and the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, are known to be linked to executive function. Source.
Imagination and Daydreaming
The Psychology of How Mind-Wandering and “Positive Constructive Daydreaming” Boost Our Creativity and Social Skills (Brain Pickings).
Scott Barry Kaufman, NYU psychology professor and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined wrote that mind-wandering can offer significant personal rewards: “These rewards include self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion… From this personal perspective, it is much easier to understand why people are drawn to mind wandering and willing to invest nearly 50 percent of their waking hours engaged in it.” (HuffPost)
“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.” —Neil Gaiman, author. (The Guardian)
- Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
- Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
- Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends,which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
For teens, not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can:
- Limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life
- Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or being impatient with your teachers or family members
- Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain
- Contribute to illness, not using equipment safely or driving drowsy
Despite concerns about screen media potentially disrupting sleep, many children watch TV or videos, play games, or use screen media for other purposes in the hour before bedtime. (Source)
“The evening when children should be finishing homework or reading a book or cuddling with their parents is now used for screen time or gaming. They are given a reward for finishing the day. It takes away from ideal sleep.” —Dr. Kenneth Weeks
Lack of Non-Screen Extracurricular Activities
“There are countless research studies showing that kids who are more involved in extracurriculars fair better on just about every conceivable metric— they earn better grades, have higher self-esteem, are less likely to get in trouble and so forth…[t]hese longer-term studies come to the same conclusion: more participation in activities predicts better outcomes.” Angela A. Duckworth, PhD, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. (New York, NY, US: Scribner/Simon & Schuster, 2016), 225.
One study found that: youths who participated in organized activities for 2 years demonstrated more favorable educational and civic outcomes in young adulthood than those who participated for 1 year. More intensive participation was also associated with greater educational, civic, and occupational success in young adulthood particularly among youths who participated in activities for 2 years…[o]f note, analyses revealed that both temporal measures of participation were positively associated with young adult outcomes as many as 8 years after high school.
30% of children first play with mobile devices when in diapers (AAP)
75% of 5 year olds can use an iPad but only 10% can tie their shoes. (Daily Mail)
There’s a 49% increase risk of expressive speech delay for every 30 min of screen time. (Science Daily)
71% of children under the age of two have watched television. (Common Sense Media)
60% of teens ages 13 to 17 say that spending too much time online is a “major” problem. (PEW)
After just 9 min. of viewing fast-paced TV cartoons, studies showed an immediate decrease in cognitive function. (AAP)
Countries such as China and South Korea are seeing such an increase in technology dependence in young people that public health officials are sounding the alarm. According to Greenfield, 20% of South Korean youth are addicted to technology, making for one of the highest rates in the world. (Social Work Today)
“The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2004 indicating that children 0 to 2 years of age should not be exposed to any form of technology, and elementary-aged children, should be limited to 1 to 2 hours technology per day. Today’s ‘Virtual Child’ is using on average four times the recommended amount of technologies, with grave and long reaching results.”
(Virtual Child: the Terrifying Truth about What Technology Is Doing to Children, by Cris Rowan, Sunshine Coast Occupational Therapy Inc., 2010, p. 35.)
Early childhood screen overuse can cause irreversible lifelong problems including obesity due to the sedentary nature of screen activities. New research found that obese children had a thinner pre-frontal cortex than normal weight children. The thinner cortex could be a factor in the decreased executive function earlier studies observed among children with higher BMI. The new study confirmed that the obese subjects in the study had poorer working memory compared with normal weight children. (NCBI)
Video Game Stats
In 2018, the World Health Organization listed Internet Gaming Disorder as an official diagnosis.
8.5% of gamers (ages 8 to 18) are clinically addicted to playing video games. (Washington Post)
Gamers can be risky, unsafe drivers. (NHPR)
Forty-one percent of people who play online video games admitted that they played computer games as an escape from the real world. (Hussain)
People who have higher levels of trait anxiety, aggressive behavior, and neuroticism are at a higher risk for video game addiction. (Mehroof)
The same regions of the brain that are activated when craving occur in alcohol and drug addicts are also activated in video game addicts when they see images of computer games. (Ko)
Persuasive design of technology includes built-in elements to keep students hooked on certain entertainment technologies which become hard to resist during class time. One of these elements is the lack of stoppage cues, the natural stopping point for non-addictive screens. (Medium)
Media Violence and Its Effect on Children
Today’s children experience screen violence on many different platforms, including computers, video games, and touch-screen devices, in addition to longstanding platforms, such as televisions. Increasingly, media researchers and pediatricians refer to children’s “media diets” as a way of conveying the amount and type of media that is consumed. Like food diets, media diets can be healthy or unhealthy, balanced or imbalanced, or healthy in quality but unhealthy in quantity.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman is the nation’s kill specialist, a retired West Point psychology professor and author of many books including: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence, The Assassination Generation, and more. He explains why we are drawn to watch violence. “Survival in nature has always depended on the human brain adapting quickly to changes in the environment, and violence is the ultimate survival data… If there is violence in their environment [like a schoolyard fight or media violence], children are driven to witness it so they can adapt to it as quickly as possible.”
“There is a biological impact of violent video games on developing human brains,” Grossman says. “Social learning, role models, and our powerful innate need to search for survival data all combine to make violent video games attractive, addictive, and extraordinarily powerful tools to train our children to become violent human beings.”
Source: Are Video Games Making Our Kids More Violent? and Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing, pg. 60
Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)
IAD is “accompanied by changes in mood, preoccupation with the Internet and digital media, the inability to control the amount of time spent interfacing with digital technology, the need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood, withdrawal symptoms when not engaged, and a continuation of the behavior despite family conflict, a diminishing social life and adverse work or academic consequences.” (NCBI)
Though not yet a confirmed diagnosable disorder, IAD can be assessed based on a set of diagnostic criteria established by psychologist K. Young. Young proposed the first set of diagnostic criteria for what she termed “Internet addiction”. She modeled them on the DSM-IV definition for substance dependence because of similarities she observed with the states of tolerance (needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and withdrawal (psychological and physical discomfort upon reducing or stopping the substance). (NCBI)
Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)
The DSM-5 suggests that IGD may be identified by five or more of the following criteria within a 12-month period. These criteria include:
- Preoccupation with games: The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
- Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away: These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, or sadness.
- Tolerance: The need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in games.
- Unsuccessful attempts to control or reduce participation in games.
- Loss of interest in real-life relationships, previous hobbies, and other entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, games.
- Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems.
- Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of gaming.
- Use of games to escape or relieve a negative mood (eg, feelings of helplessness, guilt, or anxiety).
- Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
- The average time spent using the mobile internet for American adults in 2019 was around 3 hours and 30 minutes per day, up 20 minutes per day as compared to 2018. (Vox)
- Mobile traffic accounted for 53.3 percent of all internet traffic in 2019, a 222 percent increase compared to 2013. (Broadband Search)
- 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone. (Pew Research Center)
- The risk of smartphone addiction is highest in young people, especially females. (NCBI)
- One in four youth is dealing with problematic smartphone usage. (BMC Psychiatry)
- Smartphone addiction is more common in users who are less emotionally stable. (University of Derby)
- Problematic smartphone use is linked to lower self-esteem. (NCBI)
- Amercians check their smartphones 96 times per day. (Asurion)
- More than one in five teen drivers involved in a car accident were distracted due to smartphone use. (Carsurance)
- One in four adults wake up at least once during the night to check their smartphones. One in three teens do the same. (Common Sense Media)
“…from a behavioral standpoint, children who use smartphones today are more isolated, less likely to play outside, more prone to anxiety, and less happy than their cohorts of even a decade ago.” (Social Work Today)
What Do Teens Think?
There is slightly less consensus among teens who say social media has had a mostly negative effect on people their age.
The top response (mentioned by 27% of these teens) is that social media has led to more bullying and the overall spread of rumors.
17% of these respondents feel [social media] platforms harm relationships and result in less meaningful human interactions.
Similar shares think social media distorts reality and gives teens an unrealistic view of other people’s lives (15%), or that teens spend too much time on social media (14%).
Source: The Pew Research Center
Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements “A lot of times I feel lonely,” “I often feel left out of things,” and “I often wish I had more good friends.” Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.
Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys. Girls use social media more often, giving them additional opportunities to feel excluded and lonely when they see their friends or classmates getting together without them.
The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent.
Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.
Since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased. As teens have started spending less time together, they have become less likely to kill one another, and more likely to kill themselves. In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.
Source: The Atlantic. Condensed from Dr. Jean Twenge’s research.
Teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are considered heavy users. These heavy users are 71% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. (NPR)
Heavy screen users are 48% to 171% more likely to be unhappy, to be in low in well-being, or to have suicide risk factors such as depression, suicidal ideation, or past suicide attempts. Heavy users were twice as likely to report having attempted suicide. (NCBI)
- In 2006, 42.7% of Internet users viewed porn. (Family Safe)
- Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being produced in the United States. (Deseret News)
- First time porn viewing is now as early as 3 years old. (FND)
- 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. (FND)
- Porn could have a bigger economic influence on the US than Netflix. (Quartz)
- Porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. (Huffpost)
- PornHub, the largest porn website on the internet, had 42 billion visits in 2019, which breaks down to 115 million views a day. (Forbes)
The Brain Seeks Novelty
—Continue with “How Porn Changes The Brain” by FightTheNewDrug
Porn consumption follows a very predictable pattern that’s eerily similar to drug use. Over time, excessive levels of “pleasure” chemicals cause the porn consumer’s brain to develop tolerance, just like the brain of a drug user. In the same way that a junkie eventually requires more and more of a drug to get a buzz or even feel normal, regular porn consumers will end up turning to porn more often or seeking out more extreme versions—or both—to feel excited again. And once the porn habit is established, quitting can even lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to drugs.
—Continue with “How Porn Affects The Brain Like A Drug” by FightTheNewDrug
Sextortion and Online Predators
82% of online sex crimes against minors started when the perpetrator used the victim’s social networking site to gain information and introduction. (Prescott)
Children can be groomed online in under 45 minutes (Telegraph)
Tech has normalized communication with strangers. (NY Times)
Damaging effects from sextortion crimes including depression, anxiety, hopelessness, fear, and suicidal thoughts. “The trauma level we see with these kids is significant,” says Catherine Connell, licensed social worker and child/adolescent forensic interviewer and program manager with the FBI. (FBI)
Games and social media platforms connected to predator arrests: Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, Instagram, Xbox Live, LiveMe, Omegle, Musical.ly, TikTok, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter’s Periscope, Discord, Kik Messenger, Yubo, PlayStation, Clash of Clans, League of Legends, and more. (NY Times)
The number of internet child pornography images has increased 1500% since 1988. (Clancy)
624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S. (FND)
In 2019, Cybertipline reports included 69.1 million images, videos and other files related to child sexual exploitation. (NCMEC)
Screens and Learning
Schools that ban screens during school show a 6.4% increase in overall test scores (The Guardian)
While almost three quarters of pupils in the countries surveyed used computers at schools, the report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found technology had caused no noticeable improvement in results. (Health24)
Education psychologist and author of Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds Jane Healy spent years doing research into computer use in schools and, while she expected to find that computers in the classroom would be beneficial, now feels that “time on the computer might interfere with development of everything from the young child’s motor skills to his or her ability to think logically and distinguish between reality and fantasy.” (TIME)
John Vallance, a Cambridge scholar and headmaster of Australia’s top K-through-12 school, Sydney Grammer, has said: “I think when people come to write the history of this period in education…this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.” (TIME)
“Where computers are used in the classroom, their impact on student performance is mixed at best…Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.” —OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher. (Health24)
Your kids aren’t learning technology on Instagram, Snapchat, or even video games. At best they are playing around and at worse they are getting in trouble. Be honest with yourself—they are not learning code.
Cheating in School
Teens with cell phones send 440 text messages a week and 110 a week while in the classroom. (USA Today)
76% of parents say that cell phone cheating happens at their teens’ schools, but only 3% believe their own teen has ever used a cell phone to cheat. (LA Times)
In a poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group on “Hi-Tech Cheating” the following statistics were discovered:
- Nearly two-thirds of students with cell phones use them during school, regardless of school policies against it.
- 79% of parents say teens at their child’s school download papers from the Internet to turn in as their own work, but only 7% say their child has done this.
- 45% of teens say that texting friends about answers during tests is a serious cheating offense, while 20% say it’s not cheating at all.
- 41% of teens say that storing notes on a cell phone to access during a test is a serious cheating offense, while 23% don’t think it’s cheating at all.
Screen Addiction in the Classroom
Screen addiction is defined as a general inability to limit time spent on entertainment screens (gaming, social media) and continue to play despite negative consequences. Warning signs include attention problems in the classroom, anxiety, falling asleep in class and inability to control impulses.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for educators:
✔ Schools at all levels should routinely include education about IGD (Internet Gaming Disorder) and expand the infrastructure they have in place for other potentially problematic behaviors (drugs, alcohol, risky sex, gambling, etc.) to include problems with electronic media.
✔ Because of the consistent link between IGD and poor school performance, schools may be an excellent place for screening for IGD and for providing referrals for services when problems with IGD or related issues are uncovered.
✔ Many schools provide computers and/or encourage computer use in and out of classes, as this can have tremendous educational and practical benefit. Many schools consider “gamifying” their educational processes. What message does it send if a school supports gaming as education, in light of the real potential for the development of IGD? Schools should provide training to parents and educators to recognize potential problems.
✔ Schools and community centers can be of particular value in helping parents to identify non-gaming creative opportunities.
Screen overuse weakens a student’s connection with teachers, family, and community. School connectedness is the belief by students that adults and peers in their school environment care about their learning as well as about them as individuals.
Individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviors that reduce the effects of stressful life events. These factors also increase an individual’s ability to avoid risks or hazards, and promote social and emotional competence to thrive in all aspects of life, now and in the future. (CDC)
Key protective factors to combat screen overuse:
- Provide students with the academic, emotional, and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school.
- Use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment.
- Provide professional development and support for teachers and other school staff to enable them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children and adolescents.
These protective factors all lead to positive health and educational outcomes, according to the Center for Disease Control.