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Experts encourage more face-to-face interaction for kids this summer

Doctors say it's important for parents to check in on social media and other technology use, especially during the summer months when it may increase.
Experts encourage more face-to-face interaction for kids this summer
Posted at 10:38 AM, Jun 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-23 12:39:46-04

In one Virginia art studio, little hands are hard at work.

Mom of four Laurasha Lovett says when she exchanged video games for paintbrushes, something happened.

"I didn't have to pull teeth, I seen them opening up more. And then that developed our bond as parent and child because when we started the activities, I got all the information because they were comfortable," Lovett told Scripps News.

The longtime artist used her kids' love of gaming and social media and their creative nature and turned it into daily art projects.

"We would do bath bombs, and then name it or color it some type of skin from like, Roblox or My Little Pony or Spongebob," said Lovett.

Teaming up with fellow artist Dametrii Nelson, that side project blossomed into All Things Arts and Crafts, an art-filled summer camp for area kids.

"It's healing, it's fun. It takes your mind off of things and it's a healthy challenge," said Nelson. "It's always like a very therapeutic experience, whatever art you're doing."

The healing aspect is important. While experts say there are benefits to the online world, especially for kids hoping to find connections with shared identities, a recent advisory from the U.S. surgeon general warns of "ample indicators that social media can be harmful for the mental health of young people."

A study of more than 6,000 youth published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that "adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems."

These are problems like anxiety and depression.

SEE MORE: US Surgeon General warns social media may harm children and teens

"One of the benefits of disconnecting is that it can help your overall well-being and mental health, so being able to remove yourself from these devices allows more time for you to socialize and engage in more human-to-human interaction," said Dr. Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Kids.

Doctors say it's important for parents to check in, especially during the summer months when social media usage may increase.

"The more time a child is in front of a screen, the less time they're interacting with the people around them. So, whether that's family members, parents and siblings, or potentially friends and other children in their neighborhood, that is contributing to social isolation, especially if they're doing more of that kind of passive scrolling," cautioned Dr. Irène Mathieu, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia.

Doctors say checking in means monitoring what kids may be consuming and asking questions.

"'How are you feeling? What's been going on lately? Are there things on social media that stress you out?' Really be direct with them to see if they can give you some information to say, 'You know, what, this sort of popped up on my screen and bothered me a little bit,'" said Turner.

Experts say to really drive home the point, sometimes parents have to lead by example.

SEE MORE: TikTok creator suing Montana says the app is her 'livelihood'

"One guideline I've seen a lot of parents set is to say, at meals, we put away all screens and we actually put our phones physically in another room; or to not have any phones in the bedroom. And this is something that's good for kids' sleep, but also for adults' sleep," said Mathieu.

They also say unplugging from social media might mean finding ways to work the things they already love into the everyday routine.

"Dance, engaging with the art, whatever your family and your teen enjoys. Making time for those things can be another way to create spaces where you're sort of replacing the use of technology with some other type of activity," said Turner.

While not everyone can send their kids to camps or completely rid their homes of technology, the artists/parents here say creative outlets are everywhere.

"You can use buttons, you can use string, you can use pebbles, you could use whatever you have at your disposal to create what your heart and your mind wants to create," said Lovett.

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