A New Report On American Families & “Tech Time”

Are American kids spending too much time with tech?  Not if you ask their parents.

The Chicago Tribune reports on research done at Northwestern University that found that parents don’t seem to be concerned about their kids’ use of media.

The study looked at over 2,000 moms and dads of children age 8 and younger.

It found that the majority of parents are largely unconcerned about their children becoming “addicted” to new media.

Nearly 8 in 10 parents reported no conflicts about their kids’ logging too many hours online. They were far more worried about issues like health and safety and nutrition and fitness.

Not surprisingly, the study found that kids’ tech habits mirrored their family’s own media environment.

The researchers identified three different categories of media and tech use: “media-centric,” “moderate,” and “light.”

In the “light” households, the parents and their kids both averaged less than two hours a day of screen time.  In the “moderate” homes, parents were plugged in or logged on about 5 hours per day, with their kids averaging 3 hours.

The “media-centric” families are the ones that scare me.  The parents averaged 11 hours of tech time a day, with their kids logged in about 4-/12 hours.   Eleven hours a day?  When do these people sleep?  Or maybe they don’t.

By the way, the researchers at Northwestern say the mellow attitudes about media and tech use may be due to the fact that That Generation X and millennial parents grew up in the digital age, and have a more “nuanced” view of tech time.  That’s all well and good—but ELEVEN HOURS A DAY???

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Could Prime Time TV Shows Soon Become Nastier?

Could primetime TV be getting “nastier?”  It sure looks that way.

According to Fox News, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing changes to its TV content guidelines.  These changes could end longstanding prohibitions against certain kinds of profanity and nudity on broadcast television.

John Conway, CEO of Astonish Media Group predicts that primetime television will start looking more like cable TV in terms of language and content.  He says “I’m sure networks will test limits for ratings as they do now, but I think the American public will keep the worst outrages in check as they do now.”

Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council says “There is an enormous amount of TV content that parents are going to find problematic, offensive or even harmful to their children.”

In other culture-related news, unplugging in a wireless world seems to be impossible for most of us.

According to a story on Plugged, the average smartphone user checks his or her device approximately 150 times a day, which works out to about once every six waking minutes.

That’s even as more and more experts are suggesting that our tight connection to our mobile devices may ultimately prove counterproductive.

Tanya Schevitz, is with Reboot, an organization focused on helping people unplug more often.  She says “It’s like an arms race … everything is an emergency.”

“We have created an expectation in society that people will respond immediately to everything with no delay. It’s unhealthy, and it’s unproductive, and we can’t keep going on like this.”

Something to think about this weekend, particularly on Sunday.  Jeremiah 17:22 reminds us “Do not do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors.  Oops—guess I better turn off my notifications this Sunday!

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Shine Family Expert

Kid Culture: Disney’s Newest Princess Gets A Makeover—And Fans Aren’t Impressed!

Don’t mess with Merida. That’s the message Disney got loud and clear after announcing that the character from Pixar’s film “Brave” would become the their11th official princess.

According to, the honor came with a makeover which included a smaller waist and a bit more cleavage. Also Merida’s wild, untamed hair got a new do and her bow and arrow disappeared completely.

Within days, over 200,000 protesters had registered their complaints about Merida’s makeover at the website “”

Even the film’s co-writer and co-director was upset.  Brenda Chapman, whose daughter reportedly served as one of the inspirations for Merida, complained “I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida.”

“When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘comehither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible!”

Brenda went on to say “Merida was created to break that mold—to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

So how did Disney respond?  Well, the new images of Merida magically disappeared online almost as quickly as they had arrived. And Disney now says that Merida’s new look was planned as a “temporary one.”

They issues an online statement that said “We routinely use different art styles with our characters, and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation.”  Uh…sure.  I buy that.  ;-]

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

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Help! My 5-Year-Old Wants To Have A ‘Boyfriend’!

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have 5-year-old daughter who talks a lot about having a boyfriend.  Recently, while playing with some neighborhood, she and a boy her age kept going off into a corner of the yard so they could quote, “be alone.”

I calmly told her this behavior was not appropriate and that she’s too young to have a boyfriend.  My daughter also likes to chase and hug boys a lot.  What should we do about this?


Dear Rebecca,

My first piece of advice is TURN OFF THE TV!  My guess is that your daughter has learned about the concept of boyfriends and “being alone together” from what she’s seen on television.

I’d encourage you to think about the type of programs that you’ve allowed her to watch, and then set up some new viewing guidelines in your family.  Another possibility is that she has learned this behavior by observing an older brother or sister or the older sibling of one of her friends.

I wouldn’t be overly concerned about your daughter’s behavior.  Part of what you are witnessing is simply 5-year-old make believe.  However, the fact that is chasing after boys and seems intent on hugging them indicates she is imitating behavior she’s seen elsewhere.

If she engages in this behavior again, I would gently take her aside and ask her where she learned about “boyfriends.”  Lovingly explain to her that you’re glad that she has good friends who are both boys and girls, but that girls don’t have “boyfriends” until they are much older.

In the case of my daughters Anna and Eva, that won’t be until their at least 25 (just kidding!)

Thanks for writing Rebecca.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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Shine Family Expert

Getting Ready For Summer Vacation? A Report On Amusement Park Dangers

Are you planning to take your kids to an amusement park this summer—well listen up.  According to a story in HealthDay News, more than 4,000 American children are injured on amusement rides each year.

In a study that examined records from a 10 year period, nearly 93,000 kids under the age of 18 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for amusement-ride-related injuries.  That’s an average of nearly 4,500 injuries per year.

The head and neck region was the most frequently injured, followed by the arms, face and legs. The most common types of injuries were soft tissue, strains and sprains, cuts and broken bones.

The good news is that the percentage of injuries that required hospitalization or was low, suggesting that serious injuries are rare.

Youngsters were most likely to suffer injuries as a result of a fall or by either hitting a part of their body on a ride or being hit by something while riding. The injuries occurred on amusement park rides, mobile rides at fairs and festivals, and rides at malls, stores, restaurants and arcades.

Here are some safety tips from the experts:

Always follow all posted height, weight, age and health restrictions, as well as all loading or seating-order instructions.

Make sure to use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars, and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.

If you don’t think your child will be able to follow the rules, keep him or her off the ride.

And don’t let your child go on a mall ride if it is over a hard, unpadded surface or if it does not have a child restraint such as a seat belt.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Shine Family Expert

Toys For Little Girls Get A “Slinky” Makeover

The classic board game Candy Land has gotten another makeover, and according to Atlantic Magazine, some people aren’t thrilled with the results this time around.

Why? Because Candy Land characters Queen Frostine and Princess Lolly look distinctly more “slinky” than in previous generations.

Columnist Peggy Orenstein writes “Candy Land isn’t the only classic that has, without our notice, gotten a hot makeover–and I’m not the only one who finds this evolution alarming.”

Orenstein points out that the Disney Princesses have grown gradually more skinny and coy over time.  Even Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Trolls have been put on a diet.

Orenstein says “When our kids play with toys that we played with, we assume that they are the same as they were when we were younger. But they aren’t. Not at all. Our girls (and our boys) are now bombarded from the get-go with images of women whose bodies range from unattainable to implausible.”

In a related story, the website is currently showing its users how impossible it would be to look like a Barbie doll, even if a woman had an eating disorder.

According to the section of its site called “Dying to be Barbie,” Barbie’s measurements are a physiological impossibility.

Her neck’s too thin to hold her head up.  Her feet would force her to walk on all fours.  And her waist is so thin that she’d only have room for half her liver and a “few inches of intestine.”

As the father of two young girls, these reports are another reminder of how vigilant I need to be about the messages and images I allow my daughters to be exposed to.  This and the fact that I need to work doubly hard at reminding them that character is what’s really important—not outward appearance.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Shine Family Expert

The Link Between Social Networking In College And Grade Point Average

There are only 24 hours in a day. So it makes sense that the more time college students engage with social media and entertainment, the lower their GPA will be.

And according to Plugged, that precisely the case.

Researchers at The Miriam Hospital Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine did an interesting study to determine the impact of social media, tech communication, and entertainment.

They surveyed 483 freshmen women at the start of their first semester at an unnamed Northeastern university, then correlated their grades with their use of 11 different forms of media.

Here are the types of media they included:  television, movies, music, Internet, social networking, talking on cell phones, texting, magazines, newspapers, books (unrelated to school) and video games.

The researchers found that the college women engaged with these media an average of 12 hours a day—yikes!

The more time they spent with media, the more media, the lower their grades.

Lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Walsh says this about her team’s findings:

“We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use.”

So if you have a son or daughter heading off to college this fall, encourage them to develop some healthy media habits now, before they the experience the academic pressures and tight schedules of university life.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Shine Family Expert

A Mom Asks Dr. Bill For Advice On Bratz Dolls

Dear Dr. Bill,

My 7-year-old daughter has been nagging me for a Bratz doll.  I don’t feel that the doll provides a good example of how a girl should dress (very short skirts, crop tops, a lot of makeup). I’ve told this to my daughter, as an explanation of why I don’t want to buy the doll. She has persisted, and says said she can put different clothes on her–but that doesn’t fix the makeup problem.  Should I give in or stick to my guns?


Dear Susan,

I would stick to your guns.  One of our most important tasks as parents is to shape our children’s morals and values.  Our culture makes that job a lot more difficult, particularly when much of the media and merchandizing aimed at kids is promoting adult sexuality.

As a result, children are forced to grow up much too fast and deal with issues that they aren’t emotionally or intellectually prepared for.

If you feel “Bratz” dolls are inappropriate for your daughter, it’s your call.  Tell her that your decision is based on the fact that she is precious to you and you want the best for her in life.  Explain to her that sometimes things we think are good for us can actually harm us.

Bratz dolls may seem attractive and desirable, but they send messages that may hurt her in the long run.  Empathize with her disappointment, but explain that there are times in life when we don’t always get what we want.

If she continues to nag, you will need to implement a consequence, such as taking away a privilege.  Today’s kids have become masters at the “nag factor.”  One study found that ten percent of 12-13 year-olds admit to nagging their parents more than fifty times for products they’ve seen advertised!

Nip nagging in the bud, or soon you’ll have a “nag monster” on your hands.

Thanks for writing Susan.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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A Young Wife Writes To Dr. Bill About Her Husband’s Computer Game Addiction

Dear Dr. Bill,


My husband and I have been married for a year and half and we’re expecting our first child in a few months.  I’m concerned about his fascination with computer games — especially the ones that involve a lot of battles and war.  Every night when he comes home from work, he goes straight to the computer and will play these games until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning.


I’ve tried talking to him about the amount of time he spends gaming but he doesn’t seem to care.  I’ll admit that I feel cheated since I don’t get to spend much time with him during the day.  But now that the birth of our baby is approaching, I’m worried that our family will end up being 2nd place to a computer game.  What should I do?

Heather, computer game addiction is becoming a real problem in many families, and obviously it’s impacting yours.

Most people consider addiction to be related to substances like drugs or alcohol. In reality, addiction can consist of anything that becomes such a priority to a person that he or she is willing to neglect friends, family, responsibilities–even their physical health in order to pursue it.

It may sound extreme, but given your description, your husband may require a formal intervention, such as the type used in dealing with an alcoholic. I’d suggest you consult with a licensed Christian counselor in your area, one who has experience in dealing with addictive behavior.

In a best case scenario, your husband will admit he has a problem and be willing to get help for his addiction. But he may also react defensively and deny that there’s anything wrong with his behavior. In that case you’ll need to make some tough choices about what to do next.

Regardless of what course of action you take, you’ll need the support of friends, family, and a caring therapist.

Thanks for writing Heather.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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Can Too Much TV Turn Your Kid Into A Problem Child?

Can too much TV turn your kid into a real problem child?

Another study has come out on kids and TV, and it should provide a wake up call for parents.

Ryan Jaslow at reports that British researchers found that young children who watched television longer than three hours per day were more likely to develop antisocial behaviors such as fighting, stealing or bullying.

Study author Dr. Alison Parkes, points out that the impact found by the researchers wasn’t huge.  But she says “It could be the tip of the iceberg and if we knew what they were watching, we might find more of an effect.”

Here’s how the study was set up.  Mothers were given questionnaires when their kids were 5 and then again at age 7.  They measured conduct problems, emotional symptoms, poor attention span and hyperactivity, difficulties making friends, and the amount of empathy or concern the kids had for others.

They were also asked how often their child watched television or played computer and video games.

The researchers found that almost two-thirds of the children watched TV for one to three hours a day, with 15 percent watching more than three hours a day.

After ruling out other factors like family characteristics, the researchers discovered that watching more than three hours of TV per day was associated with a small but significant increase in risk for antisocial behavior and conduct problems.

They point out that more work is needed to show a direct cause and effect link between TV and behavioral problems.

By the way, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teen spend no more of two hours per day watching television, and the content of those shows should be “high quality.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Click here for the audio version of this article.