Stories about: Michael Rich

Ask the Mediatrician: My 11-year-old is addicted to Minecraft, what should I do?

MinecraftQ: 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

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How are your children reacting to news of Batman movie shooting and Penn State?

Image: Denver Post

As details of tragic events in Aurora, Colorado become more public, news coverage of the shooting is likely to intensify this week. And with today’s announcements on the sanctions to be placed on Penn State’s embattled football program, we can expect a resurgence of news coverage surrounding the school’s child sexual abuse scandal.

Both are terribly disturbing stories, that will be almost impossible to ignore so there’s a chance your children will be drawn to the media blitz surrounding these events. As a parent, how will you talk to your children about these stories? There is no universal way to broach these difficult subjects with kids— what’s appropriate will vary from family-to-family and child-to-child—but here are a few general suggestions from Claire McCarthy, MD, on how to help kids feel safe after they’re exposed to violent or disturbing news stories.

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How can I stop my teen from texting while driving?

Last week, Aaron Deveau, 18, was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide by texting and became the first in the state to be sent to prison for driving while texting.

According to reports, after being distracted by his phone, Deveau swerved his car into oncoming traffic. The resulting accident killed a 55-year-old father of three.

In a single moment, many lives were destroyed. But what makes this story even more tragic is that it was so easily avoidable. In the following blog, Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert, Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, shares practical tips for parents on how to keep their teens from texting while behind the wheel.

Q: I’ve been begging my teen son not to text while driving, but I know he does it anyway. What can I do to get him to stop?

–Texting and Driving in Beverly, MA

A: Dear Texting and Driving,

You’re right to be concerned–according to a new study from the CDC, one third of U.S. teens report texting while driving. The issue has come front and center this past week, when an 18 year old became the first person in Massachusetts to be convicted of causing a fatal car crash while texting.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

But stories like this and state prohibitions on texting and driving may not get the reaction you’re looking for from your son. Research shows that knowing it’s dangerous doesn’t necessarily deter some young adults from texting while driving. And because his brain won’t be able to fully process long-term consequences until he’s in his 20s, the idea that an accident like this could happen to him may just not feel real.

To get the message across, try approaching the issue in a way:

  1. Make sure to touch on consequences that he can grasp. Although it’s important to talk about the very real dangers of texting while driving, it might help to also discuss those that are closer to what he has experienced–like not being allowed to drive. The young man who was convicted this week had his license revoked by a judge for 15 years.
  2. Work with him to establish clear rules for cell phone use. He’ll want to have his cell phone with him when he’s in the car, but it doesn’t have to be a distraction. Ask him what would help him keep his eyes on the road–turning the phone off completely? Leaving it in the glove compartment or the trunk? If he owns the solution, he is more likely to feel ownership of it and to abide by it.
  3. Together, create real consequences for not abiding by the rules. Agree ahead of time on what happens if he does text while driving. Maybe for a period of time he loses the privilege of driving the car–or of having a phone.
  4. Praise what he does well, and follow through on the consequences when he slips up. Both will reinforce how important this issue is.
  5. Model the behavior you’d like to see–and put your phone away while you’re driving, too. He will listen far more closely to what you do than to what you say.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,

The Mediatrician®

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Do toddlers and iPads mix?

Children are using iPads earlier and earlier. Is it affecting development? flickr/remcovandermeer

Apple’s iPhone and iPad technology has revolutionized communication. The way millions of Americans interact with media, personal contacts and the Internet is now largely funneled through an Apple shaped logo. But are these machines so influential they could shape the mental and emotional development of young users?

Because these devices are so new, there’s not enough hard scientific data to know for sure. But the fact that more than half of the young children in the United States now have access to an iPad, iPhone or similar touch-screen device means the time to ask these questions is now.

So that’s exactly what Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Worthen did. Worthen spoke with many childhood development experts, including Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, to find out how touch-screen technology is affecting the development of millions of young users. Here’s a brief video describing what he learned.

Until more data is collected, the scientific community remains split on how touch-screen technology affects kids. But there is one thing that they all agree on: parents know their children best and should be the final decision-maker on if and when this type of technology is appropriate in their house.

Does your child use an iPad, iPhone or tablet? If so, are you pleased or worried about her reaction to its interactive nature? Let us know in the comment section or our Facebook wall.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal on toddlers and iPads. Dr. Rich participated a live chat on the topic with parents on The Wall Street Journal’s website. Follow the conversation here: Should Your Toddler Use a Tablet?

You may also enjoy these stories on how touch-screen technology has shaped the lives of some of our patients and their families:

Are kids benefiting from all these electronics?

The new digital reality: why parents and pediatricians may need to rethink their messaging

Can the new iPad take therapy apps to the next level?

Mobile Mamas: Parenting in the smartphone age

Touchscreen technology helps kids with cerebral palsy

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