Technology and Health: It’s a balancing act.

This past week our second debate focused on how technology affects our health. Does technology have a negative impact on our health? Are there ways that technology is helping us in our quest to be healthier? How does technology affect our mental and emotional health? There were a lot of questions that were asked and a lot of information that was shared. Both groups did a great job presenting their arguments and I’d like to offer my perspective on the issue. You’ll notice that some of my ideas echo others in our class.

I’ll start with some of the arguments that I believe more strongly about. I completely agree that we all spend too much time behind screens or with a device in our hand. This isn’t a problem that is only affecting our youth. Many adults are now spending more time on their phones/devices than they are sleeping.  If you compare the effects of sleepiness to the effects of a good nights sleep it is easy to see the importance of getting a good night sleep. Youth are also being affected by the lack of sleep caused by using technology, gaming, social media and text messaging.  Sleep deprivation can lead to a significant number of health concerns for children and it can also impact their grades in school. Here is a great video that explains how our screen time impacts the amount of sleep we are getting.

I strongly believe that we should be doing our best to prevent our kids (and ourselves) from using devices or watching tv before bed. I know that it seems way easier said than done especially if you are like me and have excuse after excuse for why you need to have your phone in your room…”What if there’s an emergency and someone needs to get ahold of me??”…probably my silliest excuse because my phone is always on silent in the evening anyways. “How will I know what time it is?” Here’s an idea…buy an alarm clock. “I like to watch Netflix before bed”, I don’t have a solution for this other than to get your Netflix fix at some other point in time. Craig Canapari suggests ways that we can help prevent sleep problems caused by using technology.  There are a lot of great suggestions but I think the important thing is to lead by example and start young. We need to set the expectations when our children are younger so that it creates a foundation for when they are in their teen years. I like to think that I’ll be able to prevent my kids from having their phones in their rooms at night, but I don’t know how that will go over when the time comes. I hope we can have an agreement in place so that they can get a good night sleep.

horizontal-162952_1280Childhood obesity is on the rise and I don’t know if we can blame technology completely, but I do believe that it is definitely contributing to it.  It is pretty obvious to see that sitting in front of a screen requires little physical activity. This limited activity isn’t only contributing to the obesity levels, but a variety of other physical health issues. Sure there are devices, systems, and apps that might encourage users to be physically active but we have to ask if these provide us with the same benefits of not using them? The devices and apps probably do a better job of encouraging us to workout or eat healthier, but the game systems like the Wii Fit don’t do the trick. Come to think of it, I don’t think the Wii is that popular anymore. I think it came in hot and then died out because if someone wants to play a video game, they want to sit smart-watch-889639_1280and play. They don’t want to have to move or work to play the game. I also think that running on the spot or bowling using a remote doesn’t provide you with the same experience. You are missing out on the environment that we experience those activities in. Holding the weight of the ball, or running outside stimulates different muscles and I would argue requires much more work. Apps like Map My Run and My Fitness Pal  are great for monitoring progress, tracking and setting goals as are devices like FitBit or Apple Watch. However we have to wonder if the devices are making us healthier, or is it our choice to use them that is making us healthier? One study found that exercise levels typically increase for the first few months before returning to the former level when the novelty wears off.

medical-781422_1920On the plus side, I do think that technology has definitely helped us when it comes to improving modern medicine. It is incredible to think about the different ways that technology works to help diagnose, monitor and prevent different medical issues. Technology has come a long way and is continuing to make a difference by transforming health care.  Fellow classmate Bob knows first hand how wearable devices can help record and track important information to monitor a health condition. It is important to remember the role that technology has in our health care system and keep that in mind when we question whether or not technology is making us unhealthy or not.

My final thoughts stem from reading Erin’s latest blog. I definitely think that our health is highly dependent on the choices we make. This relates to more than just technology and our health. If we make poor choices when it comes to eating and exercising, chances are we will be unhealthy. When we use fitness devices or apps to track our activity, it’s not the device that is making us healthy, it is our choice to be healthy. The device certainly helps keep us motivated and accountable but we still need to make the choice to get up and go, or eat healthy in order for the device to do it’s work. We cannot simply download an app and expect it to make us healthy. We need to make that choice. We need to help our kids make healthy choices and I think the best way we can do that is to model healthy habits. If our kids see us on our phone or computer all the time, what do you think they will think is healthy? If we put our devices down and encourage our kids to do the same, we are modelling that positive behaviour that should result in healthy habits. Taking our kids to the park and sitting on our phones is not setting a good example. Take a few pictures sure, but we don’t need to constantly be snapping or recording everything that they do. Play with your kids. Eat healthy. Exercise. Limit your own screen time especially in the evening. Set a positive example for your kids and it’s more likely that they will follow in your footsteps. Just like so many other things in life, it’s all about balance and moderation.

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What do you think about technology and our health? How does it help us? Is it making us more healthy or unhealthy? Have you ever used an app or device to help you with your fitness goals? Did it work? I had one, and I was one of those people who didn’t last more than six months with mine 😦 But I realized I didn’t need an expensive device to help me stay active. It was all up to me. I had to make the choice to eat healthier and exercise, the device wasn’t doing it for me.

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Taking a Closer Look at Sexting.

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Photo Credit: sebilden via Compfight cc

I can’t quite describe how I felt after watching the CBC documentary Sext up KIDS. I was a little sad, sympathetic and somewhat worried but I was definitely NOT shocked. It isn’t news to me that kids – especially girls- are growing up way too soon. I have seen many of my little cousins grow up way too soon. Why do little girls want to grow up so quick? I think it is clear that there is a lot of pressure from the media for girls to want to grow up quick. Billboards, music videos, actresses, television ads, clothes, movies and so much more contribute to the pressure girls face to grow up. They are constantly exposed to images of women who are made up to look ‘perfect’. They see ads that sexualize women. They see women in music videos dancing provocatively wearing very little clothing. What is a young girl to think about her image when she grows up being exposed to all of this??

Girls are taught at a very young age that they need to look a certain way. The media pressures them to act and look a certain way to please others. Girls looking for attention from boys may take selfies in which their image is filtered to look its best. Worse than a simple selfie is taking a naked or semi-naked photo to send to a boy, otherwise known as a sexting. Kids (and even adults) often forget that once a picture is sent, it can be shared over and over. Sexting has required law makers to look at what is happening and develop new laws to prevent taking and sharing of sexual pictures.

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Photo Credit: Pro Juventute via Compfight cc

How Teens View Sexting by CBC looks at a variety of issues and findings regarding sexting. There are five sub-heading discussed in the article. Below you will find each sub-heading with a brief overview of the discussion.

  1. Sexting seen as an adult term. In the study titled Young People and Sexting in Australia  students surveyed said that they didn’t consider sexting to be an accurate term. It is a term used only by adults and they consider their images simply pictures
  2. It’s all about consent. Teens don’t have a lot of issues with the images themselves but the issues arise when the images are shared without the consent of the person in the image.
  3. A ‘culture of slut-shaming’. We are still trying to learn the boundaries of technology and deciding what is private and what is not. An image may be sent as self-expression or to show trust but if that trust is violated the girl is usually labelled and blamed.
  4. A gender issue. It is often the girls who are called sluts and labelled when they take a picture of themselves. The girl is usually blamed in a situations involving sexual behaviour. It hasn’t been until recently that we have began to discuss what the expectations are for males in relationships and what their responsibilities are when it comes to sexting. We forget that girls have sexual desires too and feel a need to satisfy them. It isn’t only boys who want to flirt or fulfill their desires.
  5. Change the Law? Two young women, Maryellen Gibson and Alice Gauntley, interviewed for the article want to see laws change around the non-consensual sharing of images. Gibson figures that if the images are shared consensually than there shouldn’t be any concerns. It isn’t until the images are shared non-consensually that laws should be considered.

I agree with a lot of what the girls had to say. I do feel that girls have always been the target of name calling and blaming even before sexting was a thing. It seems that no one remembers the male but will always remember the female from a situation. I don’t recall Bill Clinton receiving as much of the blame or shaming as Monica Lewinsky. Do you happen to know the male who was in Paris Hilton’s sex tape?? I didn’t until I looked it up just now (FYI his name is Rick Salomon). Remember the girl from the Calgary Stampede threesome, Alex Frulling? I bet you don’t remember the guys names…were they even ever mentioned? I don’t recall them ever being mentioned but I remember hearing days after the threesome was recorded that Alex Frulling’s Facebook and Instagram follows sky rocketed. Why does it matter that we don’t know the guys involved? It matters because no one seemed to care that they had no shame in partaking in the threesome in the corner of a parking lot. It matters because no one thought they were awesome for doing it. Nobody started following them on Facebook or Instagram. We are so quick to ridicule the females involved, but we rarely pay any attention to the males involved. That is something I hope changes in the future. We need to teach our children that it is not okay to have double-standards.

In terms of the laws, I don’t necessarily disagree with the comment that images being shared consensually shouldn’t be illegal BUT I do think that it should apply only to people over 18 years of age. At the age of 18 you are considered an adult and should be able to choose if you would like to send an image to another adult. The issue would boil down to the sharing of that image. I don’t want anyone to think that I am pro-sexting or think I’m all for it but to each their own. If that is what two adults decide to share with one another there should be no criminal actions. It is important to remember though that any image that is sent can be saved forever. If images were consensually shared, what happens if you decided that you no longer want the other person to have that image? Break-ups and divorces happen all the time. The saved images can become a problem after a break-up or divorce.

I decided to look into the laws surrounding sexting and I came across a few good finds. The first is this blog: Sexting and the Law in Canada from Kids Help Phone.  I was surprise to read a few things in this blog:

Most sexting images exchanged by teens qualify as child pornography, if there is nudity in the image.However, there is a narrow exception set out in the Supreme Court of Canada case of R. v. Sharpe, that may exclude the exchange of sexual images between intimate partners, provided that the sexual relationship is legal (that is, complies with age of consent restrictions) and the images are kept exclusively by those two people.

AND

Police have not prosecuted teens for consensual sexting in Canada.  However, there have been several reported cases of teens being prosecuted for child pornography offences where the sexual images were distributed more broadly, especially where there is clearly malicious intent.

Both of these quotes gave me a better understanding of some of the laws surrounding sexting. I am happy to hear that if images are being shared with others that you can be charged by the police. Hopefully this helps discourage people from sharing images without consent. In order for it to discourage people they must know about the laws. This is where we can step in and make sure that students are aware of the legal implications of sexting.

Sexting: Considerations for Canadian Youth created by Sexualityandu discusses how common sexting is, why teens sext and legal/privacy issues with sexting. It describes three categories of teen sexting:

  1. Exchange of photos solely between romantic partners in a relationship.
  2. Exchange of photos between two people not in a relationship but where one of the people sends a sext in the hope that it will help to start a romantic relationship between the two.
  3. Exchange of photos between romantic partners or the sending of photos from one person to another with the hope of starting a relationship but the photos are then sent to additional people (Pew Research Centre, 2009).

Category 2 and 3 are the categories that cause a lot of problems with sexting. This is where the legal issues arise for the most part. Category 2 makes me really sad to read. It is sad to think that sexting is used in hopes to start a relationship or to get someones attention. It is also sad that photos are being exchanged within a relationship but they aren’t staying within that relationship. As sad as it is, it comes as no surprise unfortunately.

It is important for us to be addressing these issues at a very young age. As Salem Noon from Sext up KIDS found with her iGirl Workshop for young girls it is often too late to wait until students are teenagers or pre-teens to address this issue. It may seem inappropriate, unnecessary and even feel uncomfortable to talk about at such a young age but the reality is that it needs to be discussed at a young age to prevent issues with sexting before it is too late.

Growing up digitally.

I find that every week I am enjoying the assigned readings more and more. The problem with enjoying them more and more is that I have a lot more to say about all of them but I have a hard time gathering and organizing all my thoughts into a logical post. This week there were a few readings that really grabbed my attention. This post focuses on only one of the readings.

One of the first readings I want to comment on is the survey that was done by Media Smarts. The classroom-based survey was completed in 2013 by 5,436 students in grade 4-11 across Canada. It focuses on the role of networked technology in students lives. After reading through the executive summary there were a few pieces of data that I found to be very interesting.

“First and foremost, these are highly connected children and teens, most of who are accustomed to online access through devices that are portable and personal. This is a big shift from 2005, where the majority of students accessed the Internet through desktop computers at home. Today’s youth have multiple platforms to choose from to go online.”

This is a very important piece of information that we need to keep in mind when we consider digital citizenship and digital literacy. Students are connected now more than ever before. With the majority of students having access to portable devices it makes everything available in an instant. Students are able to share updates, photos, videos at the touch of a button. The ability to do an online search for information is at their finger tips at almost any minute. We need to understand how this changes the use of technology and the impact it has on things (both positively and negatively). Students no longer have to wait until they get home to access the internet to share or find information. I believe this has led to an increase in instant satisfaction/gratification. I have had students ask me if I had updated their marks online and two minutes later they leave the classroom, open their phone and check their mark. I feel like we all struggle to be patient and wait for information. It is hard when we always have access.

There were two stats that I found really interesting regarding the grade 4 students surveyed:

  • 25% of students have a cell phone
  • one-fifth of these students sleep with their cell phone at night

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

I personally think that grade 4 is WAY too young, but that’s just my opinion (I hope I don’t offend anyone who’s grade 4 does have a phone). My husband and I always discuss the age that we think is appropriate for a child to have a cell phone. We bothfeel that they should have one by the time they are in high school. Why do we feel this way? I think we feel that kids become a little more independent when they go off to high school. They usually have a further distance to travel to get to school, they can go out for lunch on their own and they are most likely a little more responsible than a 10-12 year old. That being said, there area lot of other factors to consider. The truth is there is no right or wrong age for your kid to have a phone. The right age is whatever you feel is right for you and your children. Check out these questions to ask before deciding whether your child is ready or not for a phone.

The thing I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls, especially when it came to online safety and parent involvement. I thought that it was really interesting that girls have more rules than boys in place at home when using the internet. My guess is that parents are more worried about who their daughters are meeting online as opposed to what they are doing online. Having both a son and a daughter, I feel like I would be more worried about my son accessing pornography than my daughter being lured by a predator although both are definite concerns of mine. I also found it interesting that a larger percentage of girls than boys feel they can be hurt by online strangers and see the internet as unsafe. Why do girls feel this way? Is it from stories they hear in the media? Are their parents using scare tactics in hopes to prevent them from being caught in a situation they wouldn’t want to be in? Or is it because women, like Monica Lewinsky, for example seem to get the brunt of social shaming in a lot of cases?

After reading the executive summary I looked into some other articles that give advice on how to manage technology use and limits that encourage positive use of technology. We know technology isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to manage it and use it properly. Encouraging our children and students to use technology in positive ways is a great way to try and change the way we see technology. Students need to know how to unplug and what to do when they unplug. It is important that we teach them to know how to function with technology and without it. Among the reasons students use technology, creativity such as making videos and civic uses were among the lowest reasons. We can easily change this stat by encouraging them to use technology to create videos for projects and assignments at school. We can encourage them to stand up and have a voice with a positive message. By encouraging students to go beyond simply connecting with friends we can change the way they look at technology as well.