DEAR ALI: What iPhone apps should we be concerned about?

Updated: Nov 10

I reached out to a dear friend and expert in this field to answer this question so I'd like to volley this one to Jessica Wong, a well-known local and national speaker on the topic of teens and technology use!


ASK ALI - iPhone apps


Thank you for this important question. The world of digital technology can be both exciting and terrifying, especially when our kiddos are involved. And the truth of the matter is, it would be next to impossible to create a complete list of apps that could potentially be concerning for either Android or IOS users. Instead I’d like to focus on when does use of technology – be it mobile games, social media, video games, etc. – become problematic. And the answer to this boils down to two simple questions:


1. To what extent are we immersed in digital technologies and why?

2. Is our usage integrated into our daily lives and activities, or interfering?


Problems with technology use stem from why and how we are using technology, not whether we do or don’t use it. If technology use is integrated into our daily lives as a supplemental tool and resource, and our use of devices is balanced, we are less likely to experience problematic side-effects of technology use.


A few examples:


1. Are we using technology to replace in person communication with family and friends? Or does it enhance our communication and keep us more connected during times when we aren’t together?


2. Are we allowing kids to play video games after other responsibilities are handled? Has homework been completed? Are responsibilities around the house complete? Are we playing for a reasonable amount of time that is not interfering with sleep or other social activities?


The reality is, kids spend an average of 7.5 hours per day on entertainment technology which includes social media and video gaming, but does NOT include computers or devices used for school or work purposes. And what this startling statistic shows us is that technology use is being prioritized over other activities important to healthy development such as extracurricular activities, organized sports, outdoor activities, and time with family and friends.


One resource I have found that does a great job of discussing apps that are available and the potential dangers can be found here: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/16-apps-and-websites-kids-are-heading-to-after-facebook


Unfortunately, mobile technology isn’t going anywhere. So I encourage you to build in activities at home that help achieve balance around technology use for families. A few examples are below:


1. Participate in Tech-Talk Tuesdays: Each Tuesday at the dinner table, choose a different topic related to technology to discuss and process as a family. Ideas can be found here: https://www.screenagersmovie.com/tech-talk-tuesdays/


2. Declare one area of your home that is used often as a tech-free zone. That means that no one in the family can use or have devices when in that space. A kitchen is a good idea, as this is where dinners are held, and it is a highly used space.


3. Build a family technology contract that all family members agree on and sign. The contract should include house guidelines around technology use - such as no phones in the bedrooms – and should outline consequences if the contract is violated. Examples of family media contracts can be found here:https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/technology-addiction-concern-controversy-and-finding-balance/resources




Biography:

Jessica Wong, CPP –Director of Business Development and Patient Care Network at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation


Jessica Wong is currently a Director, overseeing Business Development and the Patient Care Network at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation’s largest non-profit addiction treatment provider. For almost 15 years, Jessica has officed out of the Hazelden Plymouth location, which serves adolescents, young adults and families struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues from across the country. In her role, Jessica oversees a team of individuals whose primary function is to provide resources and education to professionals and families around the topics of addiction, recovery, and mental health.


Jessica is former Co-Chair of the Partners in Prevention coalition in the west metro community, and is a Certified Prevention Professional by the State of Minnesota.


In addition to her work with addiction, Jessica is a well-known local and national speaker on the topic of teens and technology to parent and professional audiences alike. Jessica is a volunteer crisis intervention counselor, and holds her bachelor’s degree in Professional Journalism and Mass Communication, with a Minor in Sociology of Law, Crime and Deviance from the University of Minnesota.

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