How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers

Child Mind Institute

Experts say kids are growing up with more anxiety and less self-esteem

Rachel Ehmke

Many parents worry about how exposure to technology might affect toddlers developmentally. We know our preschoolers are picking up new social and cognitive skills at a stunning pace, and we don’t want hours spent glued to an iPad to impede that. But adolescence is an equally important period of rapid development, and too few of us are paying attention to how our teenagers’ use of technology—much more intense and intimate than a 3-year-old playing with dad’s iPhone—is affecting them. In fact, experts worry that the social media and text messages that have become so integral to teenage life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem.

Indirect communication

Teens are masters at keeping themselves occupied in the hours after school until way past bedtime. When they’re not doing their homework (and when they are) they’re online and on their phones, texting, sharing, trolling, scrolling, you name it. Of course before everyone had an Instagram account teens kept themselves busy, too, but they were more likely to do their chatting on the phone, or in person when hanging out at the mall. It may have looked like a lot of aimless hanging around, but what they were doing was experimenting, trying out skills, and succeeding and failing in tons of tiny real-time interactions that kids today are missing out on. For one thing, modern teens are learning to do most of their communication while looking at a screen, not another person.

“As a species we are very highly attuned to reading social cues,” says Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect. “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating—it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”

Lowering the risks

Certainly speaking indirectly creates a barrier to clear communication, but that’s not all. Learning how to make friends is a major part of growing up, and friendship requires a certain amount of risk-taking. This is true for making a new friend, but it’s also true for maintaining friendships. When there are problems that need to be faced—big ones or small ones—it takes courage to be honest about your feelings and then hear what the other person has to say. Learning to effectively cross these bridges is part of what makes friendship fun and exciting, and also scary. “Part of healthy self-esteem is knowing how to say what you think and feel even when you’re in disagreement with other people or it feels emotionally risky,” notes Dr. Steiner-Adair.

But when friendship is conducted online and through texts, kids are doing this in a context stripped of many of the most personal—and sometimes intimidating—aspects of communication. It’s easier to keep your guard up when you’re texting, so less is at stake. You aren’t hearing or seeing the effect that your words are having on the other person. Because the conversation isn’t happening in real time, each party can take more time to consider a response. No wonder kids say calling someone on the phone is “too intense”—it requires more direct communication, and if you aren’t used to that it may well feel scary.

If kids aren’t getting enough practice relating to people and getting their needs met in person and in real time, many of them will grow up to be adults who are anxious about our species’ primary means of communication—talking. And of course social negotiations only get riskier as people get older and begin navigating romantic relationships and employment.

Cyberbullying and the imposter syndrome

The other big danger that comes from kids communicating more indirectly is that it has gotten easier to be cruel. “Kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face,” says Dr. Donna Wick, a clinical and developmental psychologist who runs Mind to Mind Parent. She notes that this seems to be especially true of girls, who typically don’t like to disagree with each other in “real life.”

“You hope to teach them that they can disagree without jeopardizing the relationship, but what social media is teaching them to do is disagree in ways that are more extreme and do jeopardize the relationship. It’s exactly what you don’t want to have happen,” she says.

Dr. Steiner-Adair agrees that girls are particularly at risk. “Girls are socialized more to compare themselves to other people, girls in particular, to develop their identities, so it makes them more vulnerable to the downside of all this.” She warns that a lack of solid self-esteem is often to blame. “We forget that relational aggression comes from insecurity and feeling awful about yourself, and wanting to put other people down so you feel better.”

Peer acceptance is a big thing for adolescents, and many of them care about their image as much as a politician running for office, and to them it can feel as serious. Add to that the fact that kids today are getting actual polling data on how much people like them or their appearance via things like “likes.” It’s enough to turn anyone’s head. Who wouldn’t want to make herself look cooler if she can? So kids can spend hours pruning their online identities, trying to project an idealized image. Teenage girls sort through hundreds of photos, agonizing over which ones to post online. Boys compete for attention by trying to out-gross one other, pushing the envelope as much as they can in the already disinhibited atmosphere online. Kids gang up on each other.

Adolescents have always been doing this, but with the advent of social media they are faced with more opportunities—and more traps—than ever before. When kids scroll through their feeds and see how great everyone seems, it only adds to the pressure. We’re used to worrying about the impractical ideals that photoshopped magazine models give to our kids, but what happens with the kid next door is photoshopped, too? Even more confusing, what about when your own profile doesn’t really represent the person that you feel like you are on the inside?

“Adolescence and the early twenties in particular are the years in which you are acutely aware of the contrasts between who you appear to be and who you think you are,” says Dr. Wick. “It’s similar to the ‘imposter syndrome’ in psychology. As you get older and acquire more mastery, you begin to realize that you actually are good at some things, and then you feel that gap hopefully narrow. But imagine having your deepest darkest fear be that you aren’t as good as you look, and then imagine needing to look that good all the time! It’s exhausting.”

As Dr. Steiner-Adair explains, “Self-esteem comes from consolidating who you are.” The more identities you have, and the more time you spend pretending to be someone you aren’t, the harder it’s going to be to feel good about yourself.

Another big change that has come with new technology and especially smart phones is that we are never really alone. Kids update their status, share what they’re watching, listening to, and reading, and have apps that let their friends know their specific location on a map at all times. Even if a person isn’t trying to keep his friends updated, he’s still never out of reach of a text message. The result is that kids feel hyperconnected with each other. The conversation never needs to stop, and it feels like there’s always something new happening.

“Whatever we think of the ‘relationships’ maintained and in some cases initiated on social media, kids never get a break from them,” notes Dr. Wick. “And that, in and of itself, can produce anxiety. Everyone needs a respite from the demands of intimacy and connection; time alone to regroup, replenish and just chill out. When you don’t have that, it’s easy to become emotionally depleted, fertile ground for anxiety to breed.”

It’s also surprisingly easy to feel lonely in the middle of all that hyperconnection. For one thing, kids now know with depressing certainty when they’re being ignored. We all have phones and we all respond to things pretty quickly, so when you’re waiting for a response that doesn’t come, the silence can be deafening. The silent treatment might be a strategic insult or just the unfortunate side effect of an online adolescent relationship that starts out intensely but then fades away.

“In the old days when a boy was going to break up with you, he had to have a conversation with you. Or at least he had to call,” says Dr. Wick. “These days he might just disappear from your screen, and you never get to have the ‘What did I do?’ conversation.” Kids are often left imagining the worst about themselves.

But even when the conversation doesn’t end, being in a constant state of waiting can still provoke anxiety. We can feel ourselves being put on the back burner, we put others back there, and our very human need to communicate is effectively delegated there, too.

What should parents do?

Both experts interviewed for this article agreed that the best thing parents can do to minimize the risks associated with technology is to curtail their own consumption first. It’s up to parents to set a good example of what healthy computer usage looks like. Most of us check our phones or our email too much, out of either real interest or nervous habit. Kids should be used to seeing our faces, not our heads bent over a screen. Establish technology-free zones in the house and technology-free hours when no one uses the phone, including mom and dad. “Don’t walk in the door after work in the middle of a conversation,” Dr. Steiner-Adair advises. “Don’t walk in the door after work, say ‘hi’ quickly, and then ‘just check your email.’ In the morning, get up a half hour earlier than your kids and check your email then. Give them your full attention until they’re out the door. And neither of you should be using phones in the car to or from school because that’s an important time to talk.”

Not only does limiting the amount of time you spend plugged in to computers provide a healthy counterpoint to the tech-obsessed world, it also strengthens the parent-child bond and makes kids feel more secure. Kids need to know that you are available to help them with their problems, talk about their day, or give them a reality check.

“It is the mini-moments of disconnection, when parents are too focused on their own devices and screens, that dilute the parent-child relationship,” Dr. Steiner-Adair warns. And when kids start turning to the Internet for help or to process whatever happened during the day, you might not like what happens. “Tech can give your children more information that you can, and it doesn’t have your values,” notes Dr. Steiner-Adair. “It won’t be sensitive to your child’s personality, and it won’t answer his question in a developmentally appropriate way.”

In addition Dr. Wick advises delaying the age of first use as much as possible. “I use the same advice here that I use when talking about kids and alcohol—try to get as far as you can without anything at all.” If your child is on Facebook, Dr. Wick says that you should be your child’s friend and monitor her page. But she advises against going through text messages unless there is cause for concern. “If you have a reason to be worried then okay, but it better be a good reason. I see parents who are just plain old spying on their kids. Parents should begin by trusting their children. To not even give your kid the benefit of the doubt is incredibly damaging to the relationship. You have to feel like your parents think you’re a good kid.”

Offline, the gold standard advice for helping kids build healthy self-esteem is to get them involved in something that they’re interested in. It could be sports or music or taking apart computers or volunteering—anything that sparks an interest and gives them confidence. When kids learn to feel good about what they can do instead of how they look and what they own, they’re happier and better prepared for success in real life. That most of these activities also involve spending time interacting with peers face-to-face is just the icing on the cake.

An App to Prevent Cyberbullying

Download ReThink at iTunes

ReThink – A 15 year old girl’s journey to stop cyberbullying before It starts:
ReThink is a innovative, non-intrusive and award-winning solution to stop cyberbullying before it happens, especially in young adolescents and teenagers. Use ReThink Keyboard to give your child a second chance to pause, review and ReThink their messages on text messages, emails, social media and any apps that use a keyboard..

My name is Trisha Prabhu, I am 15 years old and I am the creator of ReThink. Spurred into action by the anger, sadness and frustration of the death of an 11-year old girl that committed suicide because she was repeatedly cyberbullied, I took on the cause to find a solution to stop cyberbullying. The result was my product – ReThink. I have had the honor of presenting ReThink at various national and international events, seminars, forums, schools and universities. Together, we can stop this silent pandemic and promote internet positivity and responsible digital citizenship in young kids. Please visit http://rethinkwords.com/ to learn more.

ReThink’s Game-Changing Solution:
• Choose ReThink Keyboard from device settings to give your child a second chance to pause, review and ReThink their message before sending it.
• ReThink Keyboard works with all apps (text messages, social media, email etc.).
• ReThink is a proactive solution that counters conventional solutions today, such as “block the bully” mechanism OR “report to an adult” mechanism, by taking the burden off of the victim to report harassment and instead tackle the issue at the source, by modifying bully’s behavior.
• ReThink fosters important decision making skills in kids, pre-teens and teens, on and off of social media
• ReThink helps kids, pre-teens and teens to become responsible digital citizens.
• ReThink stops online negativity and hate by reinforcing positive behavior in adolescents
• Parents have the peace of mind as they can empower their kids to make better decisions.

Why ReThink?
The adolescent brain is likened to a car with no brakes. It is well known that adolescents can be impulsive and make rash decisions. The part of the brain that controls decision making (pre-fontal cortex) does not fully develop until age 25. Offensive and hurtful language sent in impulse, are found in everyday online interactions causing immense mental and potentially physical harm to the recipients. Kids and teens do not realize that once an offensive message is sent out, the damage is done – and the Internet is forever – they really can’t ever “delete” it.

My rigorous scientific research study has shown that when given a chance to pause and reconsider before posting a hurtful message, adolescents such as myself change their minds 93% of the time and do the right thing. The overall willingness to post an offensive message drops from about 71% to about 4%..

How can I help this cause?
• Please raise awareness about this issue so children across the nation and around the globe can take advantage of this effective tool.
• If you ever experience a crash or any bugs associated with the ReThink app, please send an email to support@rethinkwords.com instead of posting a negative review – we can help fix the issue much more quickly if you contact ReThink Support.
• Please request your child’s teacher or principal to adopt and support ReThink at www.rethinkwords.com. This will help spread ReThink message to children at their school.

TEDxTeen video on ReThink

The Teenage Brain: Stress, Coping, and Natural Highs

Edutopia

Matt Bellace

During a workshop that I was facilitating on marijuana and the teen brain, a high school sophomore said to me, “I take Ritalin on weekdays for attention, but go off it on the weekends because that’s when I smoke weed.” I asked him, “Are you saying that you’ve got a mind-altering substance in your brain every day?” He answered with a concerned look, “Do you think I should get off the Ritalin?”

It’s no surprise that young people are taking more psychoactive chemicals for psychological problems, such as poor attention, anxiety, and depression. In many cases, like the student above, they choose to self-medicate in addition to using a prescription drug. In some schools, I’ve been told that as many as 25-40% of their students are on medication for psychological and behavioral problems, and that does not include recreational use. In addition, when I meet with teens as part of my work speaking at schools across the country, the vast majority of them report that they have stress, anxiety, and trouble paying attention in class. Medication can save lives for those with severe and debilitating conditions, but for everyone else, I believe we can do better.

In order to foster a sense of resilience and encourage healthier ways to cope with life, we need to educate young people about natural highs. Over the past decade, neuroscience research has shown that exercise, meditation, positive social support, laughing, and many other factors can elevate mood and improve brain functioning. These activities don’t require putting a chemical into your body, but they do take time and effort to have an impact.

The Teen Brain vs. the Adult Brain

Teenagers have lots of reasons for being more anxious, stressed, and distracted than adults. They deal with high expectations from parents, social pressure from friends, and the constant fear that their smartphone will go dead and totally ruin their life. To make things worse, the teenage brain is generally more anxious than the adult brain. This may be due to the rapid development of the amygdala, a brain structure involved in emotional expression, compared to the slower development of brain areas involved in decision making and reasoning. Also, the teen brain has a larger pleasure center than adults, which means that rewards feel — well, more rewarding. This is particularly true of risks taken in unsupervised settings with their peers. As a result, the teenage brain is a contradiction of epically exhausting proportions, both more anxious and more thrill seeking than its adult counterpart.

Teenage angst is nothing new, but using natural highs to alleviate it might be novel. One of the best-studied natural highs is running or any form of cardio exercise. My wife loves running. She even runs when it snows. I always tell her, “If you get lost, I’m not coming to get you.” When I ask her why she runs, she says, “It makes me feel better, even when I’m tired. It also helps me focus at work.” It turns out that there’s a lot of research backing her up. Thirty minutes of any physical activity that elevates the heart rate helps to release endorphins and improve mood and cognitive functioning. Regular running has also been shown to increase the volume of the hippocampus, the most important brain structure for memory. It doesn’t have to be intense physical activity, either. Taking a walk in the woods has shown benefits for memory, mood, and attention.

In my case, I love meditation, despite having been a skeptic for many years. Meditation has proven to be a powerful stress reliever for me, particularly at night. Students report some of the highest levels of stress during the evening hours when they’re tired but expected to finish homework and fight off distractions. Meditation is like a cell phone charger for the brain. I encourage students to start out with 5-10 minutes in the late afternoon, before dinner, to test it out. The goal is to practice calming the mind. Nodding off is fine, even welcomed. I’ve presented this to students and staff for over a year, and the response has been tremendous. They are in a better mood after the meditation and report experiencing greater productivity that doesn’t interfere with their sleep.

Exploring Your Own Natural High

Whether you love surfing, biking, cooking, or gardening, consider your favorite pursuits as means to your own natural high. Invite young people to experiment with perceiving the activities that make them happy through the lens of a natural high, and then report back to you about how it made them feel. This can be a great bonding experience for the classroom and teach skills for dealing with stress for years to come. Check out yoga and meditation classes in your community — some might even be free. Visit websites such as Inward Bound or Guided Mindfulness Meditation, along with meditation apps that you can download. For the classroom, check outNatural High, an online source of free videos and curriculum for teachers to help youth identify and cultivate their passions.

Does your school have a dialogue with students about recognizing stress and exploring the best means of coping with it? What does that look like? Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Raising My Daughter to be a Warrior of Love & Justice

The Huffington Post

In my family, we ain’t raising no princess.

09/16/2016 

EVAN ZISLIS
JunoWarriorChild

My daughter started taking martial arts when she was five years old. I think it’s helped teach her confidence, self-discipline, and self-reliance. Life isn’t always cream puffs and unicorns. When dire circumstances warrant acute awareness, hyper-focus, and rapid response — kids trained in resilience are far more likely to endure hardship and advocate for peace with poise.

In my family, we ain’t raising no princess. We’re revolutionaries and unyielding warriors of justice. We do our research. We know where our food comes from. We’re intentional and informed with every purchase. We talk about environmental preservation, human rights and civil liberties. We look at labels and shop almost exclusively second-hand. We vehemently reject playground and corporate bullies seeking to profit on the backs of the little guy. In our house, we relentlessly root for the underdog and those doing the right thing. In our community, we show up with blood, sweat, tears, gluten-free chocolate chip banana bread, and baskets of homegrown organic veggies for those struggling to survive the day.

At our dinner table, no topic is taboo. We name the elephant in the room and promote discourse on all things controversial. We respectfully provide opportunity for everyone to express opinions, vet ideas, and workshop viable resolutions. When something makes the hair on the back of our necks stand up, we talk about it. We understand that safety is an illusion and control is a fairy tale; that on any given day, precious life is precarious, hanging in the balance like a feather on the wind. We reject hate-talk and dismiss fear-mongering. We embrace the practicality of living every moment — because life’s too short to pretend it’s not.

“Everybody dies” is a common mantra in our home. Not for fear of death, but as a compassionate reminder that in life there is no permanence. Our soulful six year old has given elaborate burials to expired honey bees found in our garden, respectfully thanking them for their invaluable contributions and wishing them safe passage to future endeavors. Living an active outdoor lifestyle in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, she’s become an avid student of wildlife biology, horticulture, and ethnobotany. True to her namesake, our astute Juniper is diligently learning the nuances of the food chain, life cycles, and the interconnectedness of all things.

We don’t have television. Juno’s exposure to cliché Disney princesses has largely been limited to the fiery, redheaded archer Merida from the movie “Brave.” Our favorite bedtime stories are about hardship, adversity and redemption, where the heroine needs no rescuing. Books like “The Paperbag Princess,” by Robert Munsch reveal protagonists’ inner strength and self-determination we want to nurture in our own daughter. Parents looking for inspiration can check this greatbook list (for older readers) with female characters who promote the kind of bravery and perseverance we should all seek to cultivate from an early age.

As a professional organizer and author, it’s my job to help people simplify, discover clarity, and become inspired by a rewarding life of purpose. You bet your ass my wife and I will be raising our daughter to be an independent thinker, a compassionate warrior, and a paragon of stewardship and integrity. Simon Sinek brilliantly reminds us, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” In my home, we’re far from perfect and that means approaching every heart-felt effort with humility and a commitment to personal growth. Will Durant’s famous interpretation of Aristotle states, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

At six years old, Juno’s well on her way to understanding that intentional habits grounded in compassion, generosity, and getting after it like a warrior — will reliably deliver hard-won results now and for the rest of her life.

Report Finds U.S. Catholics Have Much to Learn About Islam

America
Michael O’Loughlin | Sep 12 2016
Well, at least there’s room for improvement.

That could be the takeaway from a new Georgetown University report released on Monday that found fewer than two in 10 U.S. Catholics hold a favorable view of Muslims, with many possessing little understanding when it comes to the beliefs of the world’s second largest religion.

When asked, “What is your overall impression of Muslims?” 30 percent of those Catholics polled said they held unfavorable views, 14 percent said favorable and 45 percent said they held neither favorable nor unfavorable views.

The report was released by Georgetown’s The Bridge Initiative, a program at the Washington, D.C., Jesuit university aimed at improving public understanding of Islam while tracking the public discourse on Islam and Muslim life.
“We hope Catholic educators, catechists and clergy can use this report as a starting point to ask, ‘What do Catholics know; what do Catholics not know; and what do we need to be communicating?’” Jordan Denari Duffner, the author of the report, told America.

The survey also asked about religion and violence. Forty-five percent of Catholics said that Islam encourages violence more than other religions while 24 percent said it encourages violence as much as other religions.

Catholics are about split when it comes to the response by Muslims to violence committed in the name of Islam. About four in 10 U.S. Catholics agree that “Muslims have sufficiently condemned acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam” while another four in 10 disagree.

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Catholics in the United States aren’t sure about what they share in terms of religious belief with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. About a third of all U.S. Catholics (32 percent) believe that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God, while 42 percent say they do not. About a quarter of Catholics are unsure.

The Catholic Church has taught since at least the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate” that the three Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—all worship the same God. But as the report shows, this teaching is still not fully understood, or accepted, by all believers.

Last month, for example, a controversial American prelate made headlines when he said, “I don’t believe it’s true that we’re all worshiping the same God.” Cardinal Raymond Burke shared that assessment at a press conference promoting his new book. He added that he believed Muslims seek domination while Christians promote love.

“While our experience with individual Muslims may be one of people who are gentle and kind and so forth, we have to understand that in the end what they believe most deeply, that to which they ascribe in their hearts, demands that they govern the world,” Cardinal Burke said.

The report notes that Pope St. John Paul II reiterated Catholic teaching about the three monotheistic faiths worshiping the same God in a 1985 speech to Muslim youth in Morocco. He said then, “We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world.”

Denari Duffy noted that Pope Francis often portrays Islam in a positive light, which has affected how the Catholic press in the United States represents Islam.

“The way our religious leaders talk about Islam is often the way people learn about Islam,” she said.

The report is being released, coincidentally, on the 10th anniversary of a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI in which he quoted a 14th-century emperor criticizing Islam, setting off a maelstrom of protest across the Islamic world. The retired pope has said he did not intend to insult Islam, but in a recent interview conceded that he did not “evaluate correctly” the political implications of the speech.

On the question of salvation for Muslims, which the church teaches is possible, more than half of all U.S. Catholics (55 percent) agree that Muslims can go to heaven, while 11 percent disagree. A third said they don’t know. Again, Vatican II, which theologians say is part of the church’s magisterial teaching, says that non-Christians can indeed go to heaven.

The report took a look at how the perceptions about Islam by American Catholics are influenced by Catholic publications. It found that publications that talk about Islam in the context of what Pope Francis said about the faith give a more positive explanation of Islam, while articles in Catholic publications that don’t mention the pope as often portray Islam negatively.

“Pope Francis’ words, gestures, and activities are often the frame through which Catholics consume information about Islam,” the report found.

However, the report suggests that many Catholic publications still tend to present Islam through references to terrorism, lately because of the Islamic State.

“The headlines of Catholic online articles dealing with Islam have a slightly negative overall sentiment, and the primary emotion conveyed is anger,” the report says.

And those headlines influence how frequent consumers of Catholic media view Islam. Readers of America have the most favorable view of Muslims (50 percent) among consumers of Catholic print media, while readers of Our Sunday Visitor have the lowest share (4.7 percent) describing Muslims as favorable. (Though the report notes that the vast majority of U.S. Catholics don’t consume much Catholic media at all.)

U.S. Catholics do appear to have at least some basic understanding of Islamic theology.

Most Catholics understood that key components of Islam include daily prayer (93 percent) and fasting (77 percent) and knew that Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. But 86 percent of Catholics thought incorrectly that Muslims worship Mohammed, a revered prophet.

When it comes to Jesus, 74 percent of Catholics said Muslims do not hold Jesus in high regard and 88 percent said they do not honor Mary. In fact, Muslims believe Jesus is a revered prophet (but not Son of the Father, as Catholics believe) and that Mary is his virgin mother.

Nearly half of U.S. Catholics, 44 percent, say that they either didn’t know of any similarities between the two faiths or that they believed there were none at all.

Some Catholics could note similarities, such as the two in 10 Catholics who said a belief in God was the most common facet of the two faiths, and the one in 10 who cited monotheism, or the belief in one God.

When it comes to cultural issues, most American Catholics think Muslims are victims of religious discrimination. Half (52 percent) say they agree that Muslims in the United States face similar discrimination that Catholics once faced.

But on the issue of religious liberty, just 26 percent of Catholics say American Muslims face threats. (Meanwhile, 34 percent of Catholics say their faith faces similar threats.)

American bishops have made religious liberty a key issue in recent years, usually around issues related to contraception and same-sex marriage. Critics contend that the bishops’ efforts have not taken into account threats facing non-Christians.

The report found that Catholics who know Muslims personally report having the highest views of Islam generally.

“From our survey, we found that knowing a Muslim personally — or participating in dialogue, social activism, or community service with Muslims—can often impact Catholics’ views in major ways,” the report said.

Reaping the benefits of personal relationships between U.S. Catholics and Muslims may be easier said than done. After all, Muslims comprise just one percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center, and the report found that just three in 10 U.S. Catholics say they know a Muslim personally.

The report is based on a survey of 1,027 people polled between April 9 and April 15, 2015.

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Why Multilingual People Have Healthier, More Engaged Brains

Prior to the 1960s, scientists thought children who spoke more than one language had a handicap for learning because they had to spend too much time distinguishing between languages. With more modern brain imaging technology, researchers can now see how multilingualism actually strengthens the brain. People who speak more than one language have a higher density of gray matter that contains most of the brains neurons and synapses.

Scientists are also beginning to distinguish between young children who grow up learning and speaking two languages as compared to those who learn a second language in adulthood. Children use both hemispheres of the brain to acquire language, which means they often grasp the emotional implications of language more deeply. In contrast, adults who learned a second language tend to approach problems presented to them in that language in a more rational, detached way. Scientists hypothesize that it’s because adults often acquire language through the left hemisphere of the brain.

Learn more about the fascinating brain research around multilingualism from this TED-Ed video and the accompanying lesson plans. Many classrooms are filled with students who speak more than one language and they should know that ability is a great strength.

Device Free Dinner!

DeviceFreeDinner
Here’s a sure-fire recipe for making family dinners great.
When devices are at the dinner table, it’s so easy for a “quick text” or “just one video” to turn a meal into a digital free-for-all, even if you have screen-time rules. In fact, 76 percent of parents are concerned that using mobile devices during family dinner takes away from quality conversations.
So what can your family do to keep dinner full of fun, memorable moments instead of texts and tweets? Take the #DeviceFreeDinner Challenge and make a shared commitment to keeping devices away from the dinner table. It’s a small step that makes a big difference. After all, research shows that dinner-table conversations lead to healthier, happier kids.
Sign up and you’ll get the #DeviceFreeDinner Family Starter Kit, full of age-appropriate tips, tools, and advice to get your family started with fun device-free dinners. Try it tonight.
Take the challenge

Relaxation Apps for Kids with ADHD

If your kid has ADHD or sensory processing issues, transitions, frustration, and situations with too much sensory input can be extra challenging. While doing things like practicing meditation can be really helpful, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to finding relaxation: Little kids may need to build some skills to manage feelings, and older kids may need a more subtle path to serenity. Try some of these teaching tools, skill builders, movement apps, and tranquil games to ease anxieties and find stillness.

Browse Relaxation Apps for Kids with ADHD

Adorable monster de-stresses kids with Sesame Street style.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2013)
Simple yet beautiful emotional-regulation tool for kids.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2015)
Get kids moving and relaxing with warm video intro to yoga.
Devices: iPad
(2014)
Create and interact with mesmerizing natural landscape.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook HD
(2014)
Release worries and embrace joys with anxiety-fighting tool.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2015)
Ingenious tool helps kids calm themselves down quickly.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2012)
Fantastic app teaches emotions, coping strategies for kids.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2012)
Sim turns devices into potter’s wheel to teach craft.
Devices: iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
(2010)
Solid exercise guide with video, voice; adult must monitor.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2016)
Stop, breathe, reflect with easy intro to guided meditation.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
(2016)
A meditative musical journey through a lush neon wonderland.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Fire phone, Kindle Fire
(2016)
Appealing tool guides meditation and promotes compassion.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
(2014)
Great tool for managing varied daily sensory activities.

How to Raise a Good Human in a Digital World

Sierra Filucci Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two 

How to Raise a Good Human in a Digital World

As parents, we have many hopes for our kids. We want them to grow up to live happy, successful lives. We hope they’ll find love, maybe have kids of their own, and pursue their dreams. But at the bottom of all these wishes is the hope that our kid turns into a decent human being — someone who is kind, respectful, and honest.

How do you bolster these strengths as well as teach key skills such as teamwork, communication, and perseverance? For the most part, kids will learn these things by following your example and through experience gained at school and in their communities. But media is another entry point. Since movies, TV shows, books, video games, and social media are such a huge part of kids’ lives, it makes sense that kids can learn important lessons about character through media.

Here are some specific things you can do or say to reinforce character:

Watch sports.
Not only can watching sports with kids be a really fun way to bond over a favorite team or player, it can be a perfect opportunity to point out character strengths from teamwork to perseverance. After cheering over a big touchdown or basket, point out how important the linebackers or passers were to the score: Even though they don’t get all the attention, the team wouldn’t be successful without the admirable work of supporting players.

Share social media.
From Facebook and Instagram to YouTube, social media is ripe with character lessons. If you notice a post, photo, or video of something especially touching or beautiful, share it with your kid and comment on how much courage it took for the poster to share their story or creative expression. Discuss the risks involved with putting yourself out there and how important it is to take (reasonable) risks to be true to yourself, even though you might face criticism.

Expand your horizons.
Watching documentaries or movies about people who live very different lives can trigger empathy,compassion, and humility. During a family movie night, choose something out of the ordinary — a story about someone of a different race or religion, or about a community that’s less fortunate than yours, or a subculture with different values or beliefs than yours — and encourage discussion afterward.

Play video games together.
Gaming as a family offers the chance to practice teamwork, problem-solving, communication, and perseverance, while also having fun. Choose multiplayer games where gamers are required to work together to win. Model positive, respectful communication during the game (try “I need help over here” instead of “you idiot!”). If kids are trying over and over again to achieve a game goal, you can recognize their effort as well as their success.

Take a time-out.
Most households are abuzz as various mobile devices alert us to text messages or Instagram posts. But we can help teach our kids self-control by resisting the urge to respond immediately. Next time you hear a text message alert (and you know it’s nothing urgent), say out loud, “I don’t need to check that right now.” This lesson can work on social media, too. If you’re a Twitter or Facebook user and you see something that makes you mad, talk through with your kid why you don’t want to respond right away (“I might say something I regret because I’m upset” or “I’d rather tell my friend that this bothers me privately instead of publicly on Twitter”).

My Family Swore Off Screen Time For 48 Hours, And I’m Fascinated By What Happened

My Family Swore Off Screen Time For 48 Hours, And I’m Fascinated By What Happened

08/31/2016

This summer, I often found myself parked on the couch with the kiddos watching television or movies in the comfort of our air-conditioned home. Until the moment it hit me: Was I truly connecting with my daughters while we were plopped on the couch staring at screens? Not so much. There wasn’t a lot of talking going on, and we often just sat around, slumped over, with minimal interaction.

With that in mind, I decided to embark on an experiment a couple of weekends ago. There would be no televisions and no screens allowed for 48 hours. My daughters are 5 and 3 years old, and they love watching shows and playing games on their devices — but I wanted to try something completely new.

My promise to my girls was that we would have way more fun doing things together than we would if we just engaged in screen time. They were skeptical at first — meaning, they threw some pretty big tantrums — but once we got in the car and headed to our first destination, things started to turn around quickly.

Feeling Like A Kid Again At The Water Park

screen senseThe two girls pose with their father during their water park adventure.

What we did:
Our first screen-free excursion was to our local water park. I sprayed them with water guns, splashed around and chased them all over the place for hours. After, there was no need to beg them to take naps, because they were completely exhausted (and so was I).

What we got out of it:
The kids had a blast, but the best part for me was that I felt like a child again. I know this will make me sound like an old guy, but when I was a kid, I played outside all of the time. And you know what? I had a lot of fun. In my mind, that’s way more fun than being hunched over a device, indoors. I’m going to do my part to ensure we spend more time feeling the wind blow through our hair ( … well, maybe not my hair, but you catch my drift).

Real Life Is Deliciously Messy

screen sense
Doyin’s youngest daughter hard at work making cookies.

What we did:
I put my daughters to work by helping me bake a batch of cookies. They put on their chef hats, cracked eggs, measured the ingredients and used the mixer. Sure, they ended up making an epic mess, but the most epic messes end up leading to the most epic memories.

What we got out of it:
As parents, we know that our kids want to be around us all of the time. That’s not always a good thing, especially if you want to use the bathroom in peace — but there are times when it can work to our benefit. Not only was I able to teach my daughters some essential cooking skills, but I was able to show them that it’s normal and expected to see dads preparing meals in the kitchen, too.

A Window On The World Beats The Best Screen

screen sense
Doyin’s two daughters people-watch together.

What we did:
This candid photo was taken at our local mall. The girls sat in chairs, looked out of the window and made observations about what they saw in the neighborhood. All of this went on for about 30 minutes while I relaxed and ate a snack in the background.

What we got out of it:
So often we end up spending big money on fancy birthday parties and other material items for our kids. But then we ask ourselves — will they remember any of that stuff? I don’t remember one birthday party I had as a kid, but I remember the fun moments that I spent with my brothers that were similar to the time my daughters spent together at the mall. The best part is, these moments don’t cost a dime — and the payoff is priceless.

What Two Days Without Screens Taught Us

The thing I enjoyed the most from this experiment was watching how my girls interacted with each other. Instead of fighting over which show to watch or which app to use, they talked, laughed and enjoyed a sense of togetherness.

The reality is our kids grow up so fast. Before we know it, they’ll be adults, and we’ll regret the missed opportunities to bond with them as little ones. Eliminating TV time for a couple of days showed me how easy, cost-effective and wonderful the simple things in life can be.

Is it realistic for me as a parent to permanently ban all television and devices from my household? Absolutely not. But it’s certainly realistic for me to limit them more than I currently do. Fortunately, since our no-screen vacation, my girls are now onboard with spending less time in front of their screens, and our whole household benefits from that. Because at the end of the day, there isn’t an app that can replace good old-fashioned family bonding.

This material is for general informational purposes only. Aetna is not the author of this content.

Aetna believes that mindfulness – the act of being present — starts with simply experiencing what is here and now. So step back, #takeamoment, and appreciate the little things. You’ll be surprised at what you notice. Share your experience using the hashtag #takeamoment on social media.