The Digital Age: Is It Putting Youth’s Mental Health at Risk?

The Digital Age: Is It Putting Youth’s Mental Health at Risk?

By: Courtney Cagle

Some of the most amazing things have happened because of the digital age. Reconnecting with family, making friends from all over the world, not to mention endless information at our fingertips. One result of all these advancements is that kids are spending more and more time online, causing both parents and researchers to ask the question: How are all these hours online affecting the way our teens think and behave? 

Emma is a 14-year-old girl who, like most 14-year-old girls, spends most of her time on social media. She’s a daily poster on Instagram, prides herself on her Twitter following, and has a small following on a YouTube account where she has a vlog (video blog) about her daily life. When she’s not on her phone or computer, she maintains good grades, dances on her school dance team, and spends time with her family.

Emma appears to be a healthy young girl, but she doesn’t feel healthy at all. She spends a lot of her time looking at beauty and exercise vloggers. While Emma thinks she does a lot to keep herself healthy and fit, she finds herself developing an unhealthy body image. Watching these bodybuilders work out every day and enjoy perfect bodies, with what appears to be little effort, makes her question if she’s really doing enough. Eventually, Emma starts skipping family dinners, claiming she had a big lunch. She spends her nights staring at her body in the mirror and pointing out her so-called “flaws” and obsessing about them. 

While this may seem like an unlikely story, a study done by the University of Pittsburgh found that those who spend more time on social media had 2.2 times the risk of developing an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder (Hurley, 2018). Anxiety is also becoming a problem in the wake of social media. A study done by Harvard University showed that 48% of youth that spends 5 hours on social media a day have at least one suicide risk factor, while only 33% of youth have suicide risk at 2 hours per day. There are many factors on social media that induce anxiety, such as kids seeing posts of events they were not invited to, feeling pressured to post things that their peers will like, feeling pressured to get likes and comments, and having their friends post pictures of things that they do not like and cannot control (Hurley, 2018).  

All of this anxiety and worry is causing many of our kids to literally “lose sleep” over what they have seen or posted online. It doesn’t help that most kids that have access to their phone in bed and report staying up at least an hour later than they would without one. A study done by Simple Sleep Services shows that the blue light that is emitted from phones, tablets, and laptops actually disturbs our circadian rhythms. Teens are meant to get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, but since the digital age has provided them with technology, most teens are reporting that they get only 5-7 hours (Hansen, 2018). Although lack of sleep might not seem like a serious problem, sleep can seriously affect a teen’s mental health. Teens who have sleep deprivation are 10 times more likely to have clinical depression and 17 times more likely to have clinical anxiety (The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression, and Anxiety).  

While these studies and statistics may scare parents, there are many ways parents can help empower their tees to combat the negative aspect of living in the digital age. 

Here are 4 ways to help your kids stay mentally healthy in a digitally saturated world:

  1. Set screen-free times WITH your kids. Have a time in the day or at night when everyone is off of their phones. Make it a time when no technology is allowed. This can be in the car, at dinner, at breakfast, etc. This will be a time for kids to get off of electronics and enjoy life without a screen in front of them. It will help them to be less focused on the digital world (Shafer, 2017). 
  2. Set internet and electronic expectations WITH your kids and be firm with these rules! Make specific rules and guidelines about using electronics and the internet. These rules should include time restraints, talking about not posting unkind comments or inappropriate pictures, leaving electronics at home when they are at school or out with family and friends, etc. Work together with your kids to create a media guideline that works for your family.
    • As parents, we need to lead by example and show kids that screen-time should be deliberately done, with limits that will be enforced. Don’t allow them to have free reign and make sure they are making the rules with you. It gives them more say and will help to foster a good relationship that builds trust and communication (Shafer, 2017).  
  3. Check-in with your tweens and teens. Let them know that you care about them and want to know what is going on in their lives. After school, talk with them about their day, ask what they did and how it made them feel. Talk to them about media (how often they are on it and how it makes them feel), online safety, gaming, bullying, the dangers of pornography, and other topics that concern our kids as they grow up in the digital age.
    • Talk to your kids about everything–whether trivial or serious–and make sure they know you are there for them. Often, we think we only need to pay attention to the “important” things our kids say. But to our kids, it is ALL important. So pay attention when your son tells you all about the characters, weapons, and levels of a game he is playing online. Be engaged when your daughter is telling you about her new makeup, fake eyebrows included. If you are able to share open communication with them, they will be more likely to let you in on what’s going on in their lives (Shafer, 2017).
  4. Make your kids a priority–daily. When struggling with anxiety, depression, or body disorders, it’s important to have a support system. They need to feel that someone cares for them and wants to help them in any way that they can. When you talk to your kids, do twice as much listening as you do speaking. Spend time with them, set down your phone or laptop when talking, eat dinner with them, take them out on a date, or be apart of an activity that they love. They need to see the love that you have for them. 

There is so much that you can do as a parent to help your kids navigate their online world. Doing your best to maintain open communication will be a key factor in helping your kids prevent and overcome serious mental health issues they may be struggling with. 

For more information on how to help your children and teens to become stronger emotionally, intellectually, and socially, check out our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child. 

To help your children understand how to use technology for good, check out our book, Noah’s New Phone. 

Check out our books that will help improve your kids’ body image. For girls, we have Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story and for boys, Messages About Me: Wade’s Story. 

If you are worried that your child may have clinical depression, check out our article 13 Reasons Why Not…

Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow. 


Hansen, K. (2018, February 28). Is Social Media Affecting Your Teenagers Sleep? :: Simple Sleep Services  When it comes to getting ample rest, teenagers and young adults arguably struggle the most. With erratic sleep schedules, late night studying or socializing, and schedules full of classes and activity, its understandable that many teens can suffer from a lack of sleep. But do underlying social media habits play a . Retrieved June 16, 2018, from 

Hurley, K. (2018, February 13). Social Media and Teens: How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health? Retrieved June 16, 2018, from 

Shafer, L. (2017, December 15). Social Media and Teen Anxiety. Retrieved June 16, 2018, from

The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression & Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2018, from

Do You Know Where Your Kids Are Online?

Do You Know Where Your Kids Are Online?

By Marina Spears

Let’s take a moment to stop and think about the following questions.

  • Do you know with a high level of certainty with whom your child interacts with online?
  • Would you know if your child was being cyberbullied or if they were the cyberbully?
  • Do you know if your child has viewed online pornography?

All of us want to answer, “Yes, I absolutely know what my kids are doing online!” But the fact is research shows that parents don’t always know what their children are doing online. Consider the following findings from a study conducted by Cornell University (Byrne, Katz, Lee, Lintz & Mc IIarth, 2013):

  • The majority of online interactions kids have with strangers are not shared with parents.
  • Most kids report having seen pornography online, however, most parents believe their children have never been exposed.
  • Many parents do admit to having no idea what their teen/tweens are doing online, and their children KNOW IT.

Why is this the case? Research has discovered three major factors in why parents are not always informed about their children’s internet usage.

  • Accessibility. The internet is everywhere: at home, school, the library, in our pockets and in our kids’ hands. The day of putting the computer in a public space in your home and calling it good is no longer sufficient.  Relying on filters and apps to protect our children can be helpful, but is not the perfect answer. Many kids find ways to get around filters or just go online via other sources, such as a friend’s device. 
  • Inaccurate perceptions. Parents tend to underestimate online dangers and overestimate how their children behave online. They tend to believe dangerous online activity happens to other people’s kids. They erroneously think, “My kids are smarter than that and know how to act.”  Both of these false ideas put children at great risk and keep parents in the dark about what is really going on.
  • Communication. When there is little communication, there is little understanding. When kids feel they can’t be honest with their parents, they don’t communicate, and parents remain clueless. Kids who do not feel they can communicate with their parents are at high risk of being targeted by online predators and using other detrimental online activity. The Cornell University study showed when kids had adverse interactions online, they did not tell parents and tried to handle it themselves (Byrne et al., 2013).

What can we as parents do to help protect our children from online threats? 

  • Be aware of your child’s online activity! The more private online time they have, the more they are at risk. Have family meetings to discuss rules and expectations for online behavior. Use our media guide to assist you.
  • Stop thinking your kids are safe online. There are real dangers out there, and our kids need our protection and guidance. Be well informed and stay up to date on new apps. Today’s kids are experts in this digital world. The digital landscape is home to them and they are often very aware of this fact which thy use it to their advantage. Be diligent and take the time to learn and understand how social media sites, gaming sites, popular apps work. You should also stay up-to-date on what is trending in the digital world. 
  • Talk to your kids, not just once but regularly. Have important conversations about online safety, pornography, and cyberbullying. Make sure to have a conversation and not a one-sided lecture. Allow time for your children to talk and for you to listen. If you really want to know what is going on in their lives off and online, you must listen and not lecture. Let your kids know they can share anything with you without losing your love or support. Tell them that you will always be there to help them if they ever need you. Be the safe and secure place they can depend upon.

The internet is an amazing place.  Similar to a big, metropolitan city, there is so much to explore.  In big cities like Manhattan, there are museums, parks, concerts, Broadway, restaurants, and sites to see, but there are also areas to avoid. Most parents would never say to their 13-year-old, “Here is a MetroCard. Explore the city whenever you want. Go wherever you want, and you don’t even have to tell me anything about your trips there or with whom you met and spoke.” Wouldn’t this be risky and possibly even neglectful? The internet can be seen the same way. It places the world right in your child’s hand; be mindful of their accessibility to it. Keep yourself connected to them and communicate regularly.

Would you like to feel more confident when answering the questions at the beginning of this article? If the answer is yes, then please check out our website and be ready to inspire your kids to better understand the internet and use tech for good. Our children’s books have great examples and interactive questions to help start the conversation:  Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure and Noah’s New Phone: A Story about Using Technology for Good. There are also numerous articles and videos that provide a wide array of information. 

Please share this article with other parents; we are all in this together!

Marina Spears received her Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU Idaho. She runs the student guidance program at the Summit School of the Poconos and facilitates a support group for families of addicts. She is also a contributing writer and editor at Educate and Empower Kids. She is the mother of five children and loves to spend time with her family.


Byrne, S., Katz, S.J., Lee, T., Linz, D. & Mc IIarth, M (2013) Peers, Predators, and Porn:   Predicting Parental Underestimation of Children’s Risky Online Experiences, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

A Child’s Mind on Porn: A Glimpse at the Effects of Porn on the Mind and What You Can Do to Help

A Child’s Mind on Porn: A Glimpse at the Effects of Porn on the Mind and What You Can Do to Help

By Leah Candland

Last week I was driving down the freeway when I noticed a large billboard. It had a woman in an extremely revealing outfit, posing seductively. Sadly, I’ve seen many ads like this and I’m sure you have to. Whether it’s for clothing, perfume, or even food, many marketing strategies are increasingly sexual.

Our children are taking in every advertisement and media message they see–not just on billboards, but in commercials, on the internet, and so on. The porn industry is targeting our kids through various outlets, including through gaming sites, social media, and even innocent Google searches, making it easier than ever for our kids to be exposed to porn (Alexander, et. al 2016) (For more, check out our article Porn Industry Trends for — Where Will They Target Your Children Next? 

The age children are exposed to pornography is dropping lower and lower. Research is finding the average age of exposure is 11 years old, with many consuming porn on a regular basis by the age of 18 (Weiss, 2015).

So, how does pornography affect the mind? 

Research conducted by The American College of Pediatricians (2016) found many negative outcomes. Here are just a few of the many outcomes that may result from pornography exposure:

  • Rape is considered a less serious crime
  • Sexual infidelity in a relationship is considered more acceptable
  • Decreased satisfaction in sexual relationships
  • Greater acceptance of promiscuity
  • Increase in violent and sexually aggressive attitudes

Our children may also experience other negative outcomes such as a decreased sense of self-control, an increase in sexual dysfunction, and depression (Etelson,n.d.). Our children are no exception to the harmful effects of pornography. Porn is getting more violent, aggressive as it portrays unhealthy ideas about sex (Fight the New Drug, 2017). Whether kids seek it out intentionally or unintentionally, exposure is bound to happen.

Pornography use is often treated in a casual manner or as the punchline of a joke, but it shouldn’t be! It’s an epidemic, and no matter how hard we may try to protect our children, it seems inevitable that they will be exposed to porn in some way. So, what can you do?

If your child has been exposed to pornography, there are ways to help you determine whether or not your child has experienced a one-time exposure, or has developed an addiction. The following questions from How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography can be helpful:

  • Where did you first see pornography? Asking where your child first saw porn helps to pinpoint where their exposure or habit first formed.
  • How did it make you feel? Understanding how it made them feel can help you further understand your child’s feelings and needs and help them make sense of their feelings.
  • Have you felt the urge to seek it out again? Knowing whether or not your child has had the urge to seek out porn again can better help you assess whether the experience was a one-time exposure, or if they have developed a habit of viewing porn.
  • What questions do you have about what you saw? Open communication about sex and intimacy is important. Our kids need to feel comfortable asking questions.

 Once you know what their level of exposure has been and how they feel about it, the following can help lead to further discussion:

  • Stay calm. It’s important to keep your cool so that your child feels more comfortable to share things with you and is also more willing to listen. More suggestions on how to talk to your kids and stay calm can be found in this short video What Topics Should You Cover with Preteens?
  • Ask your child what they’ve seen. By knowing what your child has seen, you can help them understand how unrealistic porn really is, and the dangerous influence it can have on concepts of love and intimacy. Being able to ask your child questions is important to creating healthy communication. For more steps to strengthen your communication with your children, check out 4 Easy Steps to Creating Healthy Communication About Sexual Intimacy.
  • Reassure them that curiosity is normal, but porn doesn’t portray sex and love accurately. Although porn involves sex, it’s not what intimacy is really about. True, healthy intimacy should involve qualities of love, healthy relationships, or positive emotions. If you’re unsure of how to talk with your child about sex and intimacy, another great article to check out is 8 Ways to Start Talking to Your Child About Sex.
  • Remember not to use shame. Feelings of guilt and shame may feed the secretive nature of porn. Being harsh and utilizing shame are common mistakes parents can make. For more on common mistakes parents make, read the article Common Mistakes Parents Make When Talking to Kids About Sex.
  • Follow-up frequently. It is important to leave the lines of communication open with your child. As your child gets older, he or she won’t be under your direct supervision quite as much. Remind your child you haven’t forgotten the discussion you’ve had, and that you are there for them to talk or if they have more questions. Don’t have “The Sex Talk” with your Child- Have Many! is a great article filled with suggestions on how to keep the conversation going!

Being a parent isn’t easy, and talking to your child about porn may seem difficult or overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! The suggestions provided above are meant to help you. Remember to stay calm and know that you can do this!

For more great information and helpful conversation starters, check out  How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which can also be purchased on Amazon

Leah Candland is a wife, and a mother to a wonderful daughter. She has a Bachelors of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University – Idaho. She loves spending time with her family, and has a strong desire to help parents in building strong, healthy relationships with one another and their children.


Alexander, D., Mahrdad, J., & Scott, A. (2016). How to talk to your kids about pornography. United states: Educate & Empower Kids.

American College of Pediatricians (2016, June). The Impact of Pornography on Children. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from 

Etelson, E. (n.d.) This Is Your Kid’s Brain on Porn. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from 

Fight the New Drug. (2017, August 23). How Consuming Porn Can Lead To Violence. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from 

Weiss, R. (2015, June 9). The Prevalence of Porn. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from 

Are Your Honest? Teaching Our Families to Have Integrity Online

Are Your Honest? Teaching Our Families to Have Integrity Online

By Katelyn King and Melody Bergman

Lying…We have all done it. If you say you haven’t, well that’s a lie. Just about anyone would say lying is wrong. So why do we do it? We might lie to get what we want, avoid trouble, or create an image. We live in a society that has an “as-long-as-you-don’t-get-caught” attitude. In the news, we read countless stories of executives lying about their company stats, insider trading, hackers stealing information, celebrities cheating on their spouses. On social media, we even alter our photos to present a certain look.

It seems the more we lie the easier it gets and the more of a habit it becomes. One British study on dishonesty and found that “repeated acts of dishonesty reflect a reduced emotional response” in the human brain (AAP, 2016). The study showed actual changes in the brain that occurred from repeated lying. 

So the more we lie, the easier it gets to be dishonest. But telling an obvious lie is not the only way we can be dishonest. Withholding information, leaving out part of the truth, and changing the story just a little bit are all forms of lying–even online!

We easily choose what to share and what not to share on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, or Twitter. A study done by WhoIsHostingThis, shows us just how prevalent dishonesty is becoming in our online communities, especially on social media (Koser, 2013). In the study, 30% of women surveyed admitted to lying about doing something interesting when in reality they were at home alone. They also found that 25% of Facebook users admitted to altering some of their social account data. 

It is ridiculously easy for us and our kids to lose our online integrity. And there are generally few consequences for being dishonest online especially when you don’t have to look someone in the eye when doing it. People often rationalize that no one will know you exaggerated or fibbed a little, that it won’t affect them, or that everyone else is doing it too.

But our actions do affect others! Everything we do online–every text, email, and post we write creates ripples. These ripples may be small, but they are real and they matter.

Although the WhoIsHostingThis study reveals blatant lies, people are even more likely to filter and leave things out to create the desired appearance. For example, you want to take a picture of the flowers your husband gave you. So you clear a spot on your messy table and make sure to not get the mess in the background of the picture. Now your picture and house seem nice and perfect, right?

We need to stop trying to create a false online image! There is power in being honest, real, and authentic. When we show integrity and choose to be authentic, others recognize this authenticity and are drawn to it. It is liberating to be truly honest and authentic to ourselves and others around us. That way we don’t spend time putting up a facade or clearing away our messes. We can just be real.

Sometimes when people are online, they forget they are communicating with another human being, not just a computer screen. We do not need to manipulate, lie, or hurt others. Have you ever noticed that these types of behaviors seem especially amplified when it comes to politics? The name-calling, false information, and guilt-tripping are wrong and dishonest. Should everyone agree? No. But deceiving, talking down to others, and saying anything necessary in order to “win” doesn’t do anything but hurt. We need to lift others up and not be so worried about what others may think.

Here are three 3 tips for online integrity:

  1. Teach your children to have integrity online and offline.
    • When we are honest with ourselves it builds strong emotional health. When we are honest with others it builds lasting relationships. Take time to talk to your kids about what integrity means and why it is important. Praise them when they are honest and correct them when they are not and help them see how their dishonesty was not ok.
    • To learn more about teaching your children to be honest, check out our book, 30 Days To A Stronger Child. It has an amazing lesson and great family activities to do to teach honesty!
  2. Set a positive example.
    • Your children are watching your actions and listening to your words. So put posts and pictures up that are authentic and real. Post an inspiring quote, a sincere thought-provoking question or a picture of your family doing something fun. Respond to posts with kindness and without judgment. Make sure you share positive, inspiring and authentic things. Your children will notice and learn how to act by your example.
  3. Pay attention.
    • If your children have social media accounts, make sure you are involved. Be “friends” with them and follow their posts. Look at the content of what they are posting. We have a great series of articles on filtering and monitoring children. When you see something that is dishonest, say something. Use it as a teaching opportunity. 

We live in a tech-driven, social media-saturated world. Let’s use the tools at our fingertips to teach our kids to be real and authentic in “real life” and online. Take the time to chat with your child and set an example by practicing positive digital citizenship and integrity. 

Ready to teach your children to be honest and have integrity, check out our book, 30 Days To A Stronger Child or Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.  They have amazing lessons and great family activities to do to teach integrity, empathy, gratitude, and more!

Katelyn King is a wife and mother of two children. She is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies and is an advocate for parent-child relationships.

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Mama Crossroads[], and a member of the Prevention Task Force for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families


AAP. (2016, October 25). Brain adapts to dishonesty: study. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from–study.html

Kosur, J. (2013, June 12). Social Media Is Making Us Less Honest, Disconnected, And Poorly Behaved. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from

Text-dominant Relationships: A Social Norm that is Killing Meaningful Teen Relationships

Text-dominant Relationships: A Social Norm that is Killing Meaningful Teen Relationships

By Amanda Kimball

Recently, professor Julie Dobrow, Ph.D., asked her students at Tufts University to take on a fascinating challenge: for one day, instead of texting family, friends, and classmates, they called them on the phone. If the calling recipient picked up his or her phone, students would simply convey in conversation what they would have by text; if the recipient didn’t pick up, students left a voice message (Dobrow, 2016).

Many students “reported that their friends’ responses ranged from, ”Is something wrong?’ to ‘I can’t believe you’re actually calling me to ask if we can meet up later!’ to ‘How quaint — you left me a voicemail!’ The latter, of course, was a texted response” (Dobrow, 2016).

When the students called their parents instead of texting, their parents were happy to be able to talk to their kids. “Though one student said her mother’s first response to a voicemail she’d left just to say hi was, ‘What’s the matter? Why didn’t you text?’” (Dobrow, 2016). It seems that if people call and talk to each other, then there must be something wrong.

This challenge got me thinking… What kind of relationship is being built when it is heavily based on texting? Can we build a loving relationship? Can we build a strong friendship?

Relationships for teenagers, in both friendship and with a love interest, have become heavily text-based. Talking face to face is becoming more uncommon, and because of this, our kids are losing necessary components and triggers for empathy and emotional connection (Colier, 2017).

Relationships based on texting are missing three important elements that are needed to form a relation, “specifically, the sight of someone’s face, the sound of someone’s voice, and the language of someone’s body. Without these three elements, it’s extremely difficult to develop or maintain a sense of empathy for another person. Texting relationships, if they are not supplemented with real-time together, face-to-face, eventually can and do lose a sense of empathy and even reality. The texting teenager shifts from being in a relationship with another person to being in a relationship with just themselves. Without visual, auditory, and sensorial cues, the relationship becomes one with their own words and the screen on which they appear” (Colier, 2017). This is something we want our kids to avoid. We want them to have happy and healthy relationships.

For teenagers, depression and mental health issues are on the rise. “Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60%”, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 survey of 17,000 kids found that about 13% of them had a major depressive episode, compared to 8% of the kids surveyed in 2010” (Heid, 2017).

“Parents, teens, and researchers agree smartphones are having a profound impact on the way adolescents today communicate with one another and spend their free time” (Heid, 2017). 

What Parents Can Do?

Talk to your kids face to face every day

Having open and honest communication with your kids about their texting habits can allow them to open up about their relationships. Let them know it is important to talk face-to-face with the people with whom they are in a relationship. Talking face-to-face creates a deeper sense of connection, and they can learn new things about their friends or partners when they talk instead of text.

Get to know their friends and boyfriend/girlfriend.

Talk face-to-face with their friends and boyfriend/girlfriend. You might embarrass your kids, but knowing who their friends are and who their boyfriend/girlfriend is important. Try to maintain on open, honest, and unjudging relationship with them.

Monitor their usage. “Read texts occasionally for appropriateness. Although teens need a sense of independence and privacy, parents are ultimately responsible for their well-being. Keep a close eye on the usage with your cell phone bill. As with any issue concerning teenagers, it’s important to:”

  • Stay involved in their lives.
  • Let them know you care and have their best interests at heart.
  • Avoiding being a ‘helicopter parent’” (Anderson, n.d.).

If monitoring the phones goes unchecked, it can become easy for kids to be involved with sexting and sending pictures that could be interpreted as child porn. Being in possession of child porn is never a good thing, and minors are not exempt from the law.

Set limits. “Appropriate boundaries need to be set, such as no texting during class hours.  As well, set limits at home. Your family may decide to set rules such as no texting allowed during meal times, family gatherings, religious events, or after certain hours. And, of course, teens should be instructed not to text at all while driving. NOTE:  Many cell phone carriers have the capability to restrict texting during certain hours” (Anderson, n.d.). Set consequences for breaking the rules and make sure they see you following the rules yourself.

Your kids will follow your example far more than any rules you set or words you speak.

As a family, try to follow Dr. Dobrow’s example. Challenge each other to call instead of text. Let your kids see you are willing to take on the challenge with them. Try it for a day or see how long your family can go without texting. After the challenge is complete, don’t forget to talk to each other and find out what they thought about it. A deeper sense of empathy and emotional connection can only be nurtured face to face and are needed to build strong and loving relationships.

For more ideas on how to strengthen our children, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. This book is full of discussions and activities to help your kids become strong and stay strong in the world in which they are growing up. 

For younger kids, check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good. With an engaging story and wonderful discussion questions, it will help prepare your child to have a smartphone.

Amanda will be earning her bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies this winter. She is a mother of three children and is married to a loving and devoted husband of 11 years. She loves taking family trips to the beach in the summer and watching old classic movies during the winter.


Anderson, K., RN, BSN, RNIII. (n.d.). Teens and texting: Setting Boundaries. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Retrieved from

Anderson, K., RN, BSN, RNIII. (n.d.). Teens and texting: What Parents Need to Know. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Retrieved from

Colier, N., LCSW, REV. (2017). Teens and Texting: A Recipe for Disaster.

Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Dobrow, J. (2016). Here’s what happened when I asked my students to call instead of text. Huffpost. Retrieved from (n.d.). Social media and teens: The ultimate guide to keeping kids safe online. Retrieved from 

Heid, M. (2017). We need to talk about kids and smartphones. Time. Retrieved from 

Kids’ Body Image: To Change Theirs, We Need to Change Ours

Kids’ Body Image: To Change Theirs, We Need to Change Ours

By Hannah Walker

From social media comparisons to hurtful names and bullying in schools, body image has become a major concern for children at younger and younger ages. It’s common to hear kids in junior high and even in elementary school talk about their weight, their muscles,  and their height. They compare themselves to friends as well as the men, women, and celebrities around them. A study conducted in 2016 by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University, asked students what the main factors in bullying were. Body image and weight scored high for both boys and girls (Donnelly, 2018).

How do we change this–not only for our girls but also for our boys? 

While we do not typically think of boys when we discuss body image issues, they too are a risk. This comes from the false and negative perceptions they see from the media every day. Instead of feeling the need to be skinny, boys tend to be compelled by the need to be more muscular, lean, “ripped.” Boys tend to go to the gym compulsively and change their diet by binging and purging, in order to become more like the heroes in movies, TV, and books (Greenberg, 2018). While this isn’t healthy, either physically or mentally, boys are bombarded by so many voices saying that this life is only about how they look.

One of the most critical things we can do to help our children is also the most simple! Speak positively about ourselves and about our bodies!

The phrase, “Do what I say, not what I do” is all too apparent in the realm of comparison and social media. Dads, do we tell our children to stop talking about how ‘fat’ they are but then we turn to look in the mirror and mutter, “Wow. I have got to stop eating so much”? Stop. Rethink that statement. What else could we have said? Focusing on the things that we can do and the things our body is capable of is empowering both for fathers and their sons. (Check out 20 Ways to Compliment a Child That Have Nothing to Do With Appearance.)

Instead of negative phrases, like “I wish I could bike farther… If I were in better shape…” or “I wish I looked like that actor. Look at his abs!” we can say things like, “I love being able to bike,” or “Let’s be honest: my body isn’t made to look like that. But that’s ok. I like my body.” These types of statements are simple. They emphasize the great things our bodies can do and they don’t compare us to our neighbor, best friend, or celebrity crush. They allow for growth, change, and progress. Isn’t that exciting! (For further ideas on how to teach children about healthy body image, check out New Year’s & Body Image: 5 Tips for Teaching Kids.)

After years of speaking poorly about ourselves, we might have formed some pretty serious habits. Removing those habits and replacing them with others is going to take time and effort. But it will be worth it, so don’t give up! (Check out this article: Teach Your Child Body Gratitude).

Positive Self-Talk:
Usually, a person’s actions have to start with their personal thoughts and perceptions. Sometimes our thoughts are more habits than truth. When this is the case we need to act before we can actually begin to believe and love ourselves.  The first thing you need to do is speaking positively about yourself. Think of something about you that you love and build from there. Did you catch yourself starting to say something negative? This is normal, brush it off and replace it with something healthy, positive, and uplifting. As we do this, we’ll find that our entire mindset about ourselves is slowly being changed. Soon the truth will be more prevalent rather than the lies we have heard our whole lives. As time moves on we will be able to say, “Kids, follow my example.” Isn’t that what we always wish we could say?

In this world of social media, comparisons, photoshopping, and bullying, we can prepare our children in our homes to stand strong and assured that they are who they need to be. In order to build them up to stand against the negative trends of this world, they need to have healthy attitudes about their bodies and themselves. How do we create and, if need be, change their attitudes?

We change ours. 

Great Discussion Questions to Ask Your Children:

  1. What makes someone beautiful?
  2. What makes you beautiful?
  3. What are some positive things that you can say about yourself when you don’t feel good about yourself?
  4. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. What are some of yours? How can you use those to help other people?

Try this Activity With Your Child:

  1. Find something about your body that you need to work on being more positive about.
  2. Come up with something nice to say about yourself when you start feeling bad about it. 
  3. Ask your child to help you remember the kind statement you have planned to say about yourself.

For more ideas for activities, conversation-starters, and questions to help your kids build healthy body image check out Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story (for girls) and Messages About Me: Wade’s Story (for boys), both available on Amazon.

Hannah is from Utah and is a graduate student at Friends University studying Family Therapy. She plans to go into counseling with an emphasis in addiction recovery and trauma. From a large family, she loves children and their protection and education is top priority.


Collins, L. M. (2018, April 23). Body shaming can create lifelong problems, but who’s   doing it may surprise you. Retrieved May 3, 2018, from /article/900016552/body-shaming-can-create-lifelong-problems-but-whos-doing-it-may-surprise-you.html

Donnelly, K. (2018, April 24). Body image is main source of bullying. Retrieved May 3,      2018, from -of-bullying-36841485.html
Greenberg, B. (2018, May 7). Identifying Eating Disorders and Body Image issues in Boys. Retrieved May 14, 2018, from /articles/2018-05-07/identifying-eating-disorders-and-body-image-issues-in-boys

3 Ways to Help Your Family Balance Technology

3 Ways to Help Your Family Balance Technology

By Kyle Breneman    

I grew up in an average American family, but there was nothing average about the amount of time that I used technology! While growing up I spent hours and hours on computer games. I remember throughout middle school and high school spending most of my evenings on games such as World of Warcraft, and League of Legends; both of which are Massively Multiplayer Online Role (MMOR) playing games. Games like these incorporate a social aspect into the adventuring and quest aspect of play.

I would forgo homework, friends, and sometimes food just to be able to play with people that I didn’t even know. I’m sure the thought never crossed my mind that this technology could potentially be damaging to my development; all I knew is I liked the feeling that I had while playing.

My behavior was considered a bit rare a decade ago, but now it’s becoming all too common in this digital era. Technology has become abundant in every aspect of life, and it almost seems that the excessive use of our devices and media is now the everyday standard.   

Statistics show that youth ages 8-18 now typically use technology for 7.5 per day. That adds up to 52.5 hours in one week (Kaiser Foundation, 2010). Let’s look at this another way. The average 16-year-old is awake for about 14.5 hours a day, which means that half their day is spent on some sort of technology (Statista, 2014). 

We need to help our children understand that too much technology is not only unhealthy but in some cases dangerous for one’s mental health. Indeed, it is best that we all understand that too much time on technology can hamper rather than help brain functioning as well as intellectual and emotional health. We need to move away from the excessive use of our phones, computers, tablets and other devices and move into a future that balances the necessities of family, marriage, and life with technology. 

3 Ways to Help Your Kids do Better:

1. Establish firm boundaries

Evaluate what you believe is right for your family regarding gaming, social media use, apps and websites, and be sure to include them in the conversation. Talking to them will be the surest way to understand their philosophy about tech. Try not to be overbearing. Listen to their views. The idea is to be a mentor rather than a dictator. If we mentor them in their interactions with technology, they will likely think of us as a good source to go to when problems arise and be more open to share about the technology they are using.   

As for restricting usage, there are plenty of devices that have been created to help limit the amount of time that children and adults spend on their devices. For example, Disney produced the Disney Circle that helps aid parents in managing their child’s time on technology. Apps and other features have also been created to perform a similar feature for phones and tablets. Android and Apple have great, short tutorials online for setting restrictions on phones.  

Other ideas might include trying to establish a time in the day in which you and your children go tech-free or it might even be beneficial to try a technology fast for a day. Try to find the best option for you and your family. 

2. Increase face to face interactions 

Media is vastly changing the way that children and teens are communicating with one another. They spend more time on media-based communication and not enough time in face-to-face conversation. Most children and teens lack the necessary skills to be able to hold a conversation in certain situations and usually shy away from such communication.      

Face-to-face conversation is an important aspect of the social development of children and teens. That is why is it important to incorporate communication that is not mediated by texting, phone calls, or various social media platforms. Plan activities for you and your child that do not incorporate the use of technology but do include face to face time with your child. These activities can be as simple as doing chores together, taking a walk, or playing a board game. This valuable time spent together will enhance their ability to communicate and will help them to move away from antisocial tendencies caused by excessive-tech use. 

3. Be a good role model

Take inventory! Examine your own technology use and that of your children.

We need to become more knowledgeable about the technology that we use and understand how to use it properly. Our proper use and knowledge will be transmitted to our children through our example. Inspect how you use technology and compare that to how your children use technology. You might be rubbing off on them, and not in a good way. If that is the case, then it’s time to learn more and adjust your media use. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much time do I spend on social media in a day?
  • Is my phone always with me?
  • When my children are talking to me, do they have my full attention or am I looking at a screen?
  • Would I be uncomfortable if my children viewed my search history?

Be sure your technology use follows the same expectations you set for your children.

Family Media Plan

As technology grows, so too must we grow with it. It is not going away anytime soon, which means that we need to be better prepared to handle the technology of the future. Take time to talk to your family about technology use and implement a plan that practices proper online safety. Our families are important to us so let’s do all we can to keep them safe.

Looking for more ways on how to balance technology in your home? Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child for great lessons on accountability, respect, empathy, and much more!    

Also check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, for ideas on how to teach your children about media literacy, and for enjoyable activities to do.  

Kyle Breneman is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. He hopes to get a Master’s degree in counseling and go onto become a Marriage and Family Therapist.  


Disney. (n.d.). Circle with Disney. Retrieved from

Kaiser Foundation. (2010). Generation M2: media in the lives of 8-to-18-year-olds [PDF File]. Retrieved from

Statista. (2014). Awake time per day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2014, by age and gender (in minutes per day). Retrieved from

Helping Kids Build Mental Strength in the Digital Age

Helping Kids Build Mental Strength in the Digital Age

By Jamie Siggard

Mental strength can be defined as the ability to make proactive choices, which requires the balancing of emotions and rational thought, enabling a person to be “mindful”, to choose rather just react. Mental strength helps to increase resilience, lessen stress and maintain positivity. Building mental strength is similar to building physical strength; it needs to be “exercised” (Jones, Hanton, Connaughton, 2007). This is not always easy, especially when there are so many other things vying for our attention, such as our phones, our computers, our tablets and our next streaming binge on Netflix.

Media can be a great source of entertainment and networking, but we should be wise about the time and attention we give to it. In a recent interview with an elementary school counselor, Annette Houston, MSC, suggested that “the negative effects [of media] are huge”. From her experience working closely with children, she says that “the negative effects of social media cause depression and anxiety-like you’ve not ever seen before.” To combat the negative effects of media, we must be intentional and repetitive about helping kids build mental strength!

Here are 5 Great Ways to Help Kids Build Mental Strength

  1. Give them chores–daily if possible! Give your child consistent household chores. I get it. Often times it’s easier to just load the dishwasher on your own, rather than listen to your child grumble and drag their feet. Look at the big picture though. Houston says, “Kids are being taken care of but they’re not … contributing members of the community (their family). It’s that contributing to the family business or family growth, that [helps foster] self-esteem in kids.” This isn’t about just getting the job done, it’s about helping your child grow in character and strength. It’s giving them the fulfillment that comes from contributing.  
  2. Connect with them every single day. Again, in our digital age, we often spend more time with our phones than we do with those around us. Be intentional about setting aside devices so you can make meaningful connections with your child. Go for a walk around the block together. Build a spaceship with legos. Tell riddles to one another. Make family dinner a priority. It doesn’t have to be a big production, but you must connect with your child, eyes to eyes every day. Your kids need you! 
  3. Let your child make mistakes. Houston suggested that “we’re not teaching our kids young, how to solve their own problems.” Her concern was that “we’re just mowing down the problems in front of them hoping they’ll succeed rather than letting them face their own problems.” She emphasized the importance of “Allowing kids to make mistakes [and] solve problems” which “fosters self-confidence.” It is difficult to see our kids struggle, but allowing them to make mistakes and struggle will help foster self-confidence that will serve them even when they’re grown! Walk with them and love them through their mistakes and struggles, but don’t deprive them of these important opportunities for growth. 
  4. Help your child develop positive self-talk. Houston, figuratively speaking said that “most people these days have a little monster on their shoulder telling them [they’re not good enough].” As a parent, it’s important to help your child develop positive self-talk. When the monster tells your child they’re not good enough because of a mistake they made, have them respond to the monster by saying “I do make mistakes sometimes, but I’m doing my best and learning every day.” When the monster says they’re not pretty enough, smart enough, or capable of succeeding, have them question the monster. With practice, the monster won’t have as much authority over their thoughts and actions. 
  5. Create a Household Media Guideline. As a family, come up with a plan for how and when you’ll use media. Take inventory of your household media usage and move forward with a stronger resolve to use media and technology for good, and within reason. Revisit the plan often to see how the guidelines are working for each member of your family. Be sure to enforce the guidelines as well! 

Parents, be in the game. Be proactive in helping your kids become mentally strong. With the ease of today’s conveniences, you must be intentional about helping your kids build mental strength. Check out the book 30 Days to a Stronger Child, to keep the conversation going and help foster strength in all areas of your child’s life. 

Jamie Siggard recently graduated with her degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She currently lives in the greater Seattle area and works as a nanny. Seeking adventure, truth, and strong relationships are her recipe for happiness, and she hopes to help others find similar joy through her writing.  

Annette Houston, MSC, is an elementary school counselor in Ogden, Utah. She is a mother of 2 and grandmother to 1.  She finds joy in helping students and parents meet their challenges with courage and confidence.


Jones, G.; Hanton, S.; Connaughton, D. (2007). “A framework of mental toughness in the world’s best performers”. Sport Psychologist. 21 (2): 243–264.

7 Ways to Unwind and Connect with Your Kids–Without Screens

7 Ways to Unwind and Connect with Your Kids–Without Screens

By Andrea Marks

Has it been a long day? Have your co-workers been out-of-this-world annoying, your boss completely misunderstanding, and you can’t seem to get one thing to go your way? Perfect! Now it’s time to go home where your kids will need your full attention! 

This scenario doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s important to find a way to destress while also being an involved parent. Your first instinct might be to hand your kids a tablet and go straight to the TV or Facebook. But you know the consequences to this aren’t worth it, and with too much tech, your kids tend to get whiny, uncooperative, or worse. 

While it can be tempting to just let technology entertain your kids, you’re hopefully already trying to get your kids to take a break from too much technology. Let us help with a few useful solutions for this dilemma. 

Here are 7 alternatives to heading straight for screens after a rough day:

  • Have an afternoon (or evening tea)
    • Establish the routine of sitting down to a cup of tea after work with your kids. You could talk about your day, tell them your plans for the next day, or share funny stories. 
  • Go on a walk
    • A walk isn’t going to the gym and doing an entire workout, but it is relaxing and gets you outside. Even if it is just to the end of the street and back, your kids can expend a lot of energy running ahead and running back. Aerobic activities help children focus more and be less impulsive (Dewar, 2016). Just think how tired and ready they’ll be for bedtime!
  • Set a timer for personal time
    • With kids who constantly demand focused attention, you could set a timer. After you get home from work, tell them in 30 minutes you’ll spend time with them. You could use that 30 minutes to decompress in your room, scream into your pillow, or take a quick nap. 
  • Share a hobby
    • This could be putting a puzzle together, fixing up a car, playing a card game, going to the gym, or hiking. Any hobby you enjoy can be shared. It might require more patience on your part, but before long you will have created a special bond with your kids in a way unique to you.
  • Read Together
    • According to the American Time Use Survey of 2017, parents only read to their children for an average of three minutes per day (Average Hours, 2017). We spend longer in the bathroom. One of the greatest memories of my childhood is my father reading to us. He would do funny voices, and we would talk about how the book made us feel. Studies show reading with your kids can actually improve their cognitive, emotional, and social development (Klass, 2018). 
  • Cook or Bake With Your Kids
    • Time spent together cooking can help you bond and accomplish something you already were planning to do anyway. Also, the sooner kids learn to cook, the faster they can have dinner ready for you when you come home!
  • Quiet Time
    • Your kids have probably had a long day too! After school they were rushed straight to soccer practice, barely made it in time for piano lessons, and have been doing their homework for an hour. Kids need to destress just as much as parents do (Hong, 2012). Each kid relaxes in different ways. Find out how your child likes to relax without screens (coloring, reading, playing outside), and help them make time for this.

While it’s tempting to just plop down in front of the TV or get lost in the world on your phone when you’re tired from a long day, your kids need you. Help them avoid distracted living by being an example. Get to know each of your children better and understand their world. 

Need fun, simple ideas to spend meaningful time with your kids? Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. A few minutes each day will change their lives!  Choosing to connect with your children after work can be tough, but they will remember it for years to come.  

Andrea Marks is earning her degree in Family Life Studies. Andrea is an avid reader with a love of the outdoors. She hopes to one day work with children in crisis. She believes the way to change the world is in the home. 


America After 3PM Infographics. (2014). Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

Average hours per day parents spent caring for and helping household children as their main activity. (2017). Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

Dewar, G. (2018). Parenting Science – The science of child-rearing and child development. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

Hong, C. (2012, October 28). Kids need time to relax. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

Klass, P. (2018, April 16). Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

Making Christmas Last All Day Long: Fun and New Traditions for this Holiday Season

Making Christmas Last All Day Long: Fun and New Traditions for this Holiday Season

By: Amanda Kimball

We live in a fast-paced world. Our kids are accustomed to getting everything they want right when they want it. Then they move on to the next activity astonishingly quickly. It seems as if they are incapable of taking a minute to slow down and enjoy the moment. Christmas is a great example of this. How many of us wake up at 6:00 am to start the festivities only to conclude at 6:30 am with a mess of wrapping paper and gifts strewn about the house?

There is always one Christmas that stands out as the brightest and most memorable of all my childhood Christmases. It was the year my mother decided to do something different, very different. We still received plenty of gifts, but she didn’t want our present opening to fly by like it usually did, in a short-lived whirlwind of unwrapping and often with a lack of enjoyment and gratitude. 

Instead, she did this.

Every gift we received was given an exact time we were allowed to open it. Yep, that’s right! There was a time written on each present. Each time was separated by 30 minutes to 1 hour, and we had to wait until the time written on each present to unwrap it. Now, before you think my mother was a Grinch, I should explain that everything in our stockings was fair game. No time limit was placed on them.

At first, my brother and I were horrified by this idea. We had to wait to open our presents!?!? What was Santa thinking? We could not believe we had to wait, and we definitely complained at first. But after opening the first few gifts, we didn’t mind so much. My brother and I got to work digging under the tree to find all the presents so we could line them up in time order. We didn’t want to miss out on any time for our presents. At this point, we realized we had some designated times that were the same and some that were different. There was even a huge space in between the times to allow us to go visit our family on Christmas Day.

Each time we opened a present, the time gap allowed us time to play with it. We were able to admire the gift we were given and not just pass it over to open something else. As the time grew closer to the next gift in line, we were able to try to guess what it could be. The thrill and anticipation of opening the next gift were amazing, and it made the entire day beyond exciting. When the last present was opened just before bedtime, we found Christmas had lasted all day long. Not many other kids could say they were opening presents until it was time to go to bed.

This is one of my favorite family memories. That Christmas reminds me to count my blessings, enjoy the gifts I receive, and be grateful for what I have.

This Christmas I challenge you to take on a new tradition. It does not have to be as dramatic as what my mother did, but it should include the whole family.

Here are 9 more ideas for new traditions you could start.

  1. 25 Days of Books. Create a new way of doing an advent calendar. Instead of a small treat or toy, open up a new book or an old favorite. This creates wonderful bonding time for you and your kids as you can then sit and read the books together.
  2. Family Breakfast Before Presents. This can be a great new tradition to start when your kids get older. Instead of ripping into the presents on Christmas morning, have the whole family join in on making a fun, festive breakfast. Take your time and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.
  3. Only Stockings are From Santa. Santa only fills the stockings and brings one gift that he places next to the stocking. When the kids wake up before the parents, they are allowed to get into their stocking and the present from Santa. No other gifts can be opened because those gifts are from family and friends. Mom and Dad want to be there when those gifts are opened. This gives Mom and Dad some extra time to sleep. This works well when some food like an orange or Pop-Tarts are in the stockings. 
  4. No Names on the Presents. “Each kid gets their own wrapping paper – none of the gifts are marked, and in order to know which gifts are theirs, they have to find the tiny piece of their wrapping paper in the bottom of their stocking. It’s a little last-minute excitement as they see the gifts but don’t know which belongs to who” (Pinterest, n.d.).
  5. No Electronics. The only time electronics can be used is to take a picture or video, or to call/video chat with family and friends. Posting to social media and playing games on the phone or tablet can wait. Spend time together as a family, and don’t let the media get in the way. Other possible exceptions could be a family game on a console or a family movie.
  6. Christmas Movie. After the excitement of opening presents is done and all the phone calls have been made, wind down Christmas with a movie. Pick out a fun movie to watch together, and enjoy each others company. Don’t forget some snacks and popcorn.  
  7. One Present at a Time. Instead of everyone unwrapping all their presents at once and being done quickly, take your time. One person opens a gift, and the others get to watch. Enjoy watching each other open gifts and the excitement they have when they open their presents. Teach your children to recognize the feelings they get when they watch another person opens a gift.
  8. Santa’s Helper. Santa leaves behind his hat along with the name of the person who is chosen to be Santa’s Helper that year. They are given a big job to do. They are in charge of handing out the presents that are under the tree, and they need to make sure everyone gets their gifts.
  9. The Night Before Christmas Box. On Christmas Eve, there is one present the kids get to open. This is a box that may be filled with new pajamas, snacks, and/or a Christmas movie or book (The Whoot, n.d.). Share the story of Christmas and the reason for the season.

Make Christmas last all day long, allow your kids to be grateful for what they are given, and above all make happy memories. When we spend time with our family, we are building lasting connections and creating a strong family bond. 

We have many children’s books that make great Christmas gifts. Our books are entertaining and educational. They provide many opportunities for you as a parent to connect with and teach your children. 

Engaging stories, great discussions!

Amanda has just earned her bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies at Brigham Young University – Idaho. She is a mother to three children and married to a loving husband of 12 years. She loves to take long walks on the beach with her family during the summer and cuddle up for an old classic movie in the winter. 


Pinterest. (n.d.). A fun christmas tradition. Retrieved from 

The Whoot. (n.d.). Night before Christmas box a family tradition. Retrieved from