Giving Up Social Media

How do you feel about social media?

I’m hearing a lot of people talk about it these days.

I hate Facebook!

Instagram is making me crazy!

I wish I could get off social media!

I totally get it. Social media affects almost all of us -even if we don’t have accounts of our own! The constant connection, comparing and sharing – while maybe not all bad – certainly has an impact on our mental health.

  • How we see ourselves and others
  • How we feel about our kids, our parents, and our friends
  • How we make decisions in our lives, both big and small

So what can you do if you want to make a change? Try life without social media?

Start small, but do something. Take the social media apps off your phone. Delete just one social media account. Don’t post a comment/status/photo for just one day. Pick one small thing and do it. Once you get the hang of that, try adding on another goal.

Put it in its place. Do we really need to check our social media accounts every time we have a free moment? Do we really need to take our phones into the bathroom? Probably not. Again start small, but try banning the phone from just one place: Dinner table, bathroom, kids soccer practice, doctor’s waiting room – somewhere that you usually pick up your phone and browse. Try doing something else: Read a book, bring a Sudoku puzzle – or, you could go crazy and DO NOTHING! Just sit and be. I assure you, it is possible.

Notice the changes. While ceasing to bring the phone into the toilet stall won’t radically change your life, decreasing the amount of time (or eliminating it altogether!) you spend on social media will likely make a difference in your mental health.  Try keeping a journal about how your behavior change affects you, both psychologically and physically. If you make note of the good things happening, it will help you stay motivated!

Good luck!

Summer Vacation: Plugged or Un-plugged?

Disclaimer: This article was originally posted in June 2013. When I re-read it recently, I thought it was worth re-posting.  I was also struck but just how much MORE we are all plugged in these days – just four short years later.  Who knows where we will be four years from now – but my hope is that we all retain the ability to unplug and connect with the the people and things around us. At least once in a while.

Have you taken your summer vacation yet? If not, you may find yourself pondering this very question: Should I stay plugged in, or go all-in and un-plug the world? I was having this debate conversation just last night.  Are vacations better if they are completely un-plugged? Is it even possible?  Will my vacation be more beneficial if I don’t check my email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond?

What about when I return: Will the re-entry to my “real” life be more difficult if I have a week or two worth of messages waiting for me?

Here’s my take:

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes.  There’s the quick weekend getaway, the family reunion trip, the sightseeing/cultural trip, the boy scout camping trip, the Disney World trip and the long, lazy summer trip.  It might be no big deal to stay plugged in (meaning checking voicemail, email, etc) on short trips like weekend getaways.  In fact, staying plugged in to the “real world” might be the only thing that gets you through kid-focused trips (like to Disney) and can provide excellent excuses for escape on family reunion trips.

Camping trips and long, lazy summer trips are different in my book.  These vacations should most certainly be experienced un-plugged.  These types of trips are meant to be savored and should be a complete change of pace from your normal life. We can’t be expected to truly un-wind, re-group, and relax if we are constantly updating Facebook or responding to customer inquiries.  Sand castles and s’mores are meant to be relished – and who can do that while responding to email?

Ipads in the Classroom: Good for Mental Health?

I was recently interviewed for a story about using ipads in the classroom.  It’s a hot topic around these parts (Northern Colorado) as the school districts are – for the first time ever! – distributing ipads to all students.  I think most people agree that this is pretty cool, and a sign that our schools are keeping up with the time.  Sure, there will some glitches to work out and some naughtiness that will most definitely occur, but most folks agree that schools need to embrace technology.

But, here’s the angle I didn’t think about until the reporter asked me: “Does ipad use in the classroom count toward a child’s daily allotment of screen time?”

Hmmm…excellent question.

My first thought was “no” because kids are using ipads, presumably, as a learning tool when they are in school.  But the more I thought about it I wondered if a screen-heavy classroom necessitates a screen-lite home life?  After all, it’s more physical activity and in person interaction that we are aiming for when we set screen limits, right?  It’s a tough question, and one that will likely answer itself as the school year wears on.

Here are some of my thoughts that appeared in the article in the Johnstown Breeze:

But is using an iPad all day healthy for children?

“It can definitely be part of a psychologically healthy classroom,” said Smith, who has more than 10 years of experience in the field. “… It can be a wonderful complement.”

Smith said moderation is the key. She said parents should work closely with teachers to be sure about how the iPads are to be used at home. She also said that parents should put strict limits on entertainment screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of entertainment screen time a day for children and teens.

“We need to be careful of not having kids on screen, TV, iPad too much,” she said. “Technology in the classroom can be useful when it’s part of the instruction, not a babysitter.”

Social Media 101: Parent Edition

I think parenting has always been a tough job, but these days the blistering-fast changes in technology have made it more (at least intellectually) challenging than ever before.

I often talk about the dilemma like this: When I was growing up there was no such thing as cell phones, the internet or Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat so I can’t call my mom and ask her questions like…

At what age did you let me get a Twitter account?

Did you “friend” my boyfriends on Facebook?

How much time is too much time on YouTube for a 10 year old?

…to help me make good parenting decisions for my own family.

And it’s a huge bummer that I can’t ask her because that’s how so much of parenting is done: remembering how we were parented and/or asking our own parents for advice.  But that doesn’t work anymore because technology changes so rapidly that the parenting rules of just a few years ago now seem antiquated.  Remember when we used to say…

Keep the family computer in a public place like the kitchen so you can monitor your kids’ usage.

…Ugh. That’s so 2004. And totally irrelevant.

It can be hard to keep up with the changes and the apps/sites/outlets that kids are frequenting.  I just saw this sort of funny, sort of serious description of the tops sites and how kids use them.  Take a look:

Technology and Mental Health

I am excited to share the footage of the television program I was a part of earlier this week: Studio 12 What’s New in High Tech.  I had a great time hearing from Denver Post writer Andy Vuong and Google Glass expert Rob Rusher about all the cool new gadgets available.  (Who knew you you could program your sprinkler from your phone?)  I provided some insights into how technology affects our mental health, including our social and emotional well-being.

Host Tamara Banks was smart, warm and delightful – I felt right at home in the studio!

Click on the photo below to watch the segment (caution: it’s a hour long)!

Thanks for having me Colorado Public Television – I hope I get to come back soon!