The American Psychological Association has released a health advisory regarding social media use in adolescence. You can read it online or download the PDF. It is full of good advice, warnings, and things to watch for in this realm. Every parent should read it… preferably with their teenagers. It leads to good conversation and learning
Also, adults should take a lot of this advice into their own lives. There are way too many adults that are absolutely locked into their own social media feeds.
I agree with much of what was written in the document. If I were to give three pieces of actionable advice for parents, it would be these three things:
There is no reason that phones should be in bedrooms over night. Buy an alarm clock for waking up. Buy a HomePod for listening to music before bed. Designate a time and a place outside of the bedroom where phones need to be plugged in to charge over night. The sleep is way too important and the escape from social media and notifications is just as necessary. (See #7 on the list.)
Do all you can to understand the monitoring options available to you. This could mean you need to setup a parent account on the social media app so your child can be connected with you. This makes it possible for limitations to be set and also it can help you review where you child has spent their time. It’s best to review it with them. I find that most kids like help and prefer to be on the same team. If you have iPhones, setup Screen Time. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely better than nothing. At a minimum it will let everyone know where their time is spent on the phone. (See my post “Technology and Families“)
All social media is not created equal. Some use brings opportunity where friendships are built, accomplishments are encouraged, and connections are made. With this understanding, I would say that right now TikTok is absolutely the one to avoid. Do not allow it on the phone of your teenager. This has nothing to do with the political ban aspect. I also understand why the app is very entertaining. The issue is that the app is simply too effective in all the wrong ways. Young brains don’t have the ability to use technology with intent. It captures even great kids. Make a deal with your kids to keep it off their phones, even if it means a little more time in other social media apps.
Overall, I’m glad that good organizations are doing the research into these important matters. I’m grateful our society provides experts in areas where we all need some help.
The wonderful thing about journals is that you can go back to a certain time and remember exactly where you were and exactly how you felt.
The heavy thing about journals is that same time travel.
It was twenty years ago today that my nephew Evan passed away from SMA. It is a muscle weakening disease. The most severe (and rare) type affects babies right after birth. At the time of Evan’s death it was a total surprise to our family but we are all very aware of it now.
This night remains one of the most influential experiences of my life.
Since that time, our family has added many more grandkids. I’m convinced that the close relationship between them and the unconditional love they receive from aunts, uncles, and grandparents, can be traced back in many ways to what we all felt that night.
Ninety minutes North of Anchorage is a place called Happy Trails Kennel. It is the home of Martin Buser, a four-time Iditarod champion. They have dozens of strong dogs, lots of warm clothes, and this week they welcomed the Stucki family for some mushing.
We had an exciting ride through the white fields and over the frozen lakes. The dogs were so impressive to watch. They’d respond so quickly to commands. They never slowed down. As we raced along the tracks, you’d see them swipe a bit of snow from the side so they could hydrate and keep running.
This trip was to complete my goal to visit all fifty states in the USA. Alaska was the last state to see and everyone came along to mark the occasion. It took 42 years (and only really matters to me) but I did it.
What are the rules?
When it comes to visiting a state, I had a couple guidelines.
First, there has to be an act of commerce or community. You can have a meal, visit a location, or make a new friend. In other words, there needs to be an experience of some sort.
And the second rule: airport layovers don’t count.
A few memories
In June 1991, I took my first flight in an airplane and visited Texas. The occasion was a wedding reception for my uncle and new aunt. I got to travel because at the last minute, a family member couldn’t make it. At that time, you could just swap out the ticket for someone else with no issue. Simpler times.
In Houston I learned what humidity was and that it was not for me. I also tried Gumbo for the first time and realized it was for me. Ironically, both of them made me sweat.
Candace and I recently went to Arkansas. We used a Dwight Yoakum concert as the reason to visit. We were definitely the least “country” in the audience. I was surprised how little I know about that state. It was totally new to me.
What did I learn?
As I look back through my journal entries about state visits, I’m encouraged that there is so much good throughout this country. Every town has a history and every community has a different feel. Sometimes it’s dramatically different just across the state line.
The problem is that Screen Time has been so unreliable for 5 years and counting. And even worse, it’s only unreliable some of the time and there appears no way to fix it.
How is it broken?
Let me count the ways. No seriously, the list is long.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time just to put it all out there but it just seemed overwhelming to put it all down. The post just lived in my drafts.
A few months ago I asked on Twitter to see if I was the only one:
I tweeted about it because iOS was released and brought with it only one new Screen Time feature and even that seemed not to work. At least I wasn’t seeing it.
I ended up reaching out to a friend at Apple and they told me that it did indeed ship with iOS 16. I was surprised. It turns out that every single device with every single member of the Family Sharing group has to be updated to the latest operating system. For a family of 6, that’s a lot of devices. We were mostly there, but I had an old Mac mini that was logged into my iCloud account but couldn’t be updated to the latest macOS. With that weakest link in the chain removed, the new feature started working. That was good to see.
But there is still plenty broken. Now that I know I’m not alone, I figured it was time to get the list out there. (I hope to do this in a way that doesn’t put a spotlight on my awesome kids. I’ll clean up where I can, but please ignore where I miss.)
Screen Time usage data takes forever to update. Seriously, it feels like it uses the old MobileMe infrastructure somewhere. As best I can tell, this data isn’t uploaded regularly or synced automatically. The only chance of it working is both the parent and the child having a phone with good data coverage. When I open the app, it tries to get the data from the child phone. If they’re at school behind all the block walls and metal roofs, there’s no chance it’s working.
When the data does sync, the UI doesn’t show it well anyway. I can tap on multiple days, but it jumps back to a random day. When I try to swipe to a past week, it jumps right back to the current week. And even more fun, this happens with two of my kids but not the other two. See this gif example:
When stats do show they are often not accurate. If a Finder window is left open on a Mac, you’ll see constant usage reported. You can get around this by just looking at one device at a time. Phones are what I care about the most. On that note…
“Share Across Devices” does not turn off/on reliably. If it was up to me, I’d have no screen time on child macOS accounts on the Mac. When I try to disable it on Mac, it just turns back on.
There is no way to remove old devices from the Screen Time account. (I tweeted about this three years ago.) You can remove it from iCloud, erase the device, drop it off a cliff, but it still shows up in Screen Time.
When an app goes to downtime, via a schedule or usage limit, the “one more minute” works infinitely. Kids can either use it over and over, or sometimes they use it once and it just never ends.
My kids use GamePigeon to play little games with grandparents through iMessage. In screen time, you can’t allow iMessage only apps for play anytime.
You can list some apps to be “Always Allowed.” It will ignore all limitations from downtime or usage. I think this is key for helping kids use phones as proper tools. We’ll make the effort to go through all apps and see which ones should always be there. However, the list constantly resets leaving only the three default ones. (Phone, Messages, and I can’t remember the last one.) We have to go through the full list again.
Speaking of scheduled downtimes, they constantly reset. You can choose to follow the same schedule everyday or change it depending on the day of the week. For our family, we allow for more game time on Friday and Saturday, and more focused usage on Sundays. To do this, we manually set the schedule for each day. The schedule is constantly lost and we have to redo it.
Sometimes Screen Time will turn off completely for everyone as if it’s not setup. I’ll go to my parent account and it will invite me to setup screen time like it’s the first time. I try, and then I’m told that it’s already full with six members.
Kids have the ability to request more time for an app. We receive the request and okay it. It works about 75% of the time.
iOS/macOS upgrades usually reset everything, starting from scratch but not in a clean way. We turn something on and all the broken parts come back again.
Speaking of setting up from scratch, there appears no way to do that. Sometimes I wonder how many of these things are broken because of upgrades and I’d love a fresh start at screen time without making it be a fresh start of iOS for everyone.
You can set app limits for specific apps. For instance, you can say no more than 30 minutes on Instagram. Sometimes this works. Sometimes the setting disappears. I add it back and then there are two of them. Most of the time though, they stay there but are totally ineffective. I’ll have a limit for thirty minutes but it actually does nothing.
That’s a basic list that I’ve gathered. I’m sure you have others. And if your experience is like mine, you probably have different child accounts that behave in different ways. (ie, it’s broken on some but not others.)
Why write this now?
I have a hard time writing an article where I don’t give a fix at the end. That’s one reason I’ve waited so long to write this post. This article feels incomplete.
I just don’t know how to fix this and I could use some help. It feels like I’m in a malfunctioning airplane with my family and I have a parachute that is guaranteed to work 90% of the time. I suppose it’s better than nothing.
Perhaps putting this out there will bring up a good solution on how to get things working. Or maybe I just want to hear that others are seeing this as well so I know I’m not alone.
I may get to a point where I take the nuclear option and just have everyone reset their phones and build from scratch. It’s a lot of work, but protecting kids is worth it.
As I mentioned before, in our house we all try to keep our Kindles loaded and available throughout the year. (I am a heavy user of iPad, but for reading, it’s all about the Kindle Paperwhite.)
Here are a few of the books I read in 2022 that you might enjoy:
Okay for Now: A book about a young boy who moves to a new town and tries to find his place. It’s amazing the way that your emotions change for him as you read the story. I love how the author kept writing “Do you know how that feels?” More than once, I felt that question.
If you have upgraded your iPhone or Apple Watch over the years, you’ve probably just removed the new device, put away the box, and used all of your existing cables and chargers. If you have done that, you may be missing out on fast charging.
What’s so good about fast charging?
If you have the right chargers and cables, you can charge your iPhone “up to 50 percent battery in around 30 minutes.”
For an Apple Watch, it’s even better. It “can go from 0 percent to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.” This is especially helpful if you wear your Apple Watch to track your sleep patterns. After a long day, a quick charge before bed while you shower can give you enough power to last the night.
What does fast charging require?
iPhone 8 or later. This is any phone purchased after 2017. You can identify your iPhone model here.
Apple USB-C to Lightning cable. This probably came with your phone, or you can buy one here.
An Apple power adapter with >18W or a third party charger that supports fast charging. You can check your current charger right on the charger itself. (See the example above. The white on grey text can be hard to read so get a good light or a good child to help you out.) If you need a fast charger, I like this one. It’s the same one that I recommend for the travel charger packs.
Series 7, 8 or Ultra can handle fast charging
Fast Charger to USB-C Cable. One of these probably came with your new Watch so be sure to replace the old cable in whatever stand you’ve been using. You can tell it’s the new one because it has USB-C connection and aluminum (instead of white plastic) on the circle charger end of the cable. (see above for example) If you need one, buy it here.
An Apple power adapter with >18W or a third party charger that supports fast charging. You can purchase the one above. If you charge both of your devices on your night stand, you can also buy just one charger that can fast charge both devices at the same time. I like this one.
If you take the time to check these things, you’ll appreciate the fast charging when needed. The good news is that you probably have some of these things already but just never swapped out the setup that you’ve been using. These also make for great Christmas gifts to help someone else enjoy fast charging.
I receive a number of emails asking about photography and camera gear. I’m happy to help, but the responses can be a bit repetitive. I decided to make a new page solely for recent photos and the camera gear that I am currently using. You can find the Photos page here.
It’s true that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” However, I also support having a dedicated camera because the photos are so great. The iPhone has made a lot of progress, but it’s not there yet.
A few more simple thoughts on photos:
Take more photos that include the faces of people you love.
At least twice a year, take a panoramic photo of your kid’s room. Perhaps it can be one of your journal entries with a view. It will bring back so many memories.
One good photo will turn an activity into a memory that lasts.
I’ve formed a theory over the last eight years as I’ve seen struggle in the world, in families, and in personal lives. I call it the “Superior Theory.”
I know that’s a pretentious name. How can I come up with a superior theory when the best Einstein did was a theory of relativity?
To not see me as a self serving theorist, you should know that “Superior” is a pronoun in this case, not an adjective.
My theory is this:
“To avoid poor decisions that lead to difficult circumstances, a person needs a superior they trust enough to correct them.”
We live in a world where the idea of a “superior” has such a negative connotation. It should be noted that a “superior” can be that way in any sense and doesn’t need to be negative only. It could be a boss or a commanding officer. It could be a family member, your mother, or a church leader.
I’ve seen that many poor decisions are made when we no longer answer to anyone.
A person may be in one of the following circumstances:
Candace and I feel mostly capable as parents. We’ve always tried to be there for our kids and I’m confident they know that. But as our kids get older and more capable, we are always encouraging them to do and learn for themselves. Not only is it a good habit to form, but I love watching their creativity come alive. They consider things that I have never anticipated.
So now, when a question is asked, we encourage them to “take time” and figure it out on their own.
It is helpful for little things like, “When does the party start this afternoon?” (After being reminded, they “take time” to look it up on the family calendar themselves.)
Or they might wonder about how to rearrange their room, or what a scripture means, or how to respond to an adult question, or which writing angle to take on a research paper.
I found that when I answer any of these questions, even if I’m encouraging them to learn for themselves, I end up adding opinion or direction. It sort of defeats the purpose.
So we just go with “take time.”
We’ve reached the point that they will ask a question and then, before I can respond, they’ll say “I should take time.”
This reminds me of a quote from Bruce R McConkie, a religious leader, and an accomplished thinker and writer.
“People eternally ask me questions, and they ought to figure them out themselves. I mean, I don’t have any more obligation than they do to know what the answers to these things are and they have the same sources to look to that I do.”
Bruce R McConkie
This is helpful as a leader in church, a boss at work, or as a coach in a sport. Encourage those you lead to “take time” so they improve for the future.
Learning to learn is a very useful skill. We should encourage our kids to grow early and often so they have strong habits for the real world.
Most people would look at the photo above and think it’s beautiful. I agree, but mostly I just think about the watery eyes and the sneezing I would do if I was in that field. I’ve struggled with allergies and hay fever my whole life. My son has the same allergies.
Allergy medicine works for me for a little while, but after some use, it no longer decreases symptoms so I have to find something new. I decided it was time to do something a little more long term: Allergy Shots, also known as immunotherapy.
The idea behind allergy shots is that after a series of increasingly potent injections, your immune system can be desensitized from triggers that cause allergic reactions. It takes many months, and even years, but it can offer some real, long-term relief from Allergies.
Recently, my son and I began the process. As usual, I’ve taken detailed notes so I can refer back to them and remember how the process happened.
When I had my PRK Surgery and Recovery fifteen years ago, I wrote a post about the process. There have been over one million views of that post. It turns out, people like to see real hand experience of medical procedures so they know what to expect and plan for in their own process.
In that light, I thought I’d share some allergy shot highlights here for those considering such a thing. Since this is a long process, I’ll update this post over the next few years so share the long term results. Be sure to subscribe to email updates if you’d like to see additions to the post.
Keep in mind: I am not a medical professional. These are simply my observations: