Q: My 11-year-old daughter is addicted to the game Minecraft. During the week it doesn’t seem to be a problem as she is busy with sports and homework. However, during the weekends she has a lot more free time and tends to spend hours playing Minecraft. What would be the amount of time that you recommend she play Minecraft per day?
~ Mind Crack or Minecraft? Burlingame/Hillsborough area, CA
Q: I recently read the New York Times article discussing young children using high tech devices unsupervised before they turn 4. Admittedly, I give my three-year-old daughter my iPad to play with on long car trips and I’ll occasionally hand her my smartphone while in line at the grocery store (she usually melts down otherwise). I always set up the app or TV show for her before I hand her the device, but I am now wondering if this practice is bad for her. Should I only give her a device when I can sit with her and monitor exactly how she uses it?
~ Device Denial, San Francisco, CA …
Q: Our family moved recently from the U.S. to Mexico for my husband’s job, and while most things have been transitioning smoothly, I am concerned that my 14-year-old son is spending too much time with screens and not enough time making friends. Since moving, he spends a lot of time Skyping or playing video games with his friends back in the United States. Last week, I even found out that he is using YouNow to stay connected with friends all the time…even when he is sleeping! I know this move has been tough, and I want to support his transition, but I’m concerned that if he continues to spend all of his time online with his old friends, his social life here will be non-existent. Any help you can offer me will be appreciated—thanks!
~ Figuring out friends, Mexico
A: Dear Figuring,
It is normal for your son to be struggling with the move and for him to want to stay connected to his friends back in the U.S. Moving to a new community can be an especially difficult transition for teenagers, who are figuring out who they are as individuals (separate from their parents) and rely heavily on peer relationships in that process. Today’s technology can help your son stay connected with those important people who are far away, and used mindfully, it can be helpful in his transition.
That said, if your son actually stays connected nearly 24/7 using YouNow, Skype and video games with his old friends, he may end up spending much of his time trying to copy his former life instead of living his current one. As wonderful as these technologies can be for relaying images and sounds of people and places we love, they are still only images and sounds—they can never be as interesting, engaging, challenging and sustaining as face-to-face interactions. But they do feel safe, and they often require less energy and vulnerability than going out and making new friends.
As a life-long Bostonian I’m having a difficult time processing the range of emotions I’m feeling in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy.
Like most people I’m angry, frightened and saddened, all at once.
But more than anything I’m confused. Why would someone do this?
And if we as adults are having a hard time coming to terms with yesterday’s events, what can we do to comfort our children?
“These bombings will evoke many emotions in all of us, but it might be particularly hard for children to process, so they will look to the adults in their lives for answers,” says Roslyn Murov, MD, Director of Outpatient Psychiatry Services at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Those answers will be different for each child, but the most important thing any parent can do in a time like this is reassure their children that as a mother or father you will do everything in your power to keep them safe.” …