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In 2002, most of us had not heard of Myspace, YouTube, gmail, Google apps, Twitter, Facebook or Netflix, yet today, students 16 and younger never have lived in a world without them.

Common Sense Media reports 95 percent of children under age 8 in America have access to a mobile device at home. One in three internet users worldwide is a kid or teen. Fifty percent of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices. Seventy-eight percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.

What is a caring adult to do? Fortunately, there are some reliable resources parents, teachers, youth leaders, grandparents and others can turn to for help to keep up in this digital world.

• The Center on Media and Child Health at cmch.tv features “Ask the Mediatrician.” Along with a question-and-answer format on everything from playing Fortnite to R-rated movies to children developing unrealistic body images through social media, the site has podcasts and articles on other important topics centered on screens and social media, including problematic interactive media use.

Many experts advise parents to power down and/or collect devices an hour before bed. We are encouraged to hold device-free dinners and check our children’s media accounts, set parental controls and keep up with the latest technology, which changes seemingly by the hour.

• Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) is a resource that keeps adults up to date on media trends and stories. The site helps adults pick movies by the child’s age and even rates the content on several indicators, including positive messages, language, consumerism, violence and sex. The site also includes articles on video gaming and parental controls, discussions on various social media challenges and a family media agreement.

• The Screen-Free Week website (www.screenfree.org/about) explains that, “In 2010, TV Turnoff Week became Screen-Free Week and it found a new home at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (commercialfreechildhood.org). During Screen-Free Week, kids and families can unplug and reconnect with the world around them. An hour that was once dedicated to TV can become an hour of make-believe, art, reading or enjoying nature.”

Download the Screen-Free Week organizers kit for information and ideas for activities. You will be amazed at the free time you will find if you turn off your screens for a week.

(Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist)

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Liz Larson is the parent educator for the NDSU Extension Parent Resource Center Region VII. Larson has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Luther College in Iowa and started with Extension in 2016.

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