Youth Outlook: What Do Kids Say About Their Media Use?

In today’s digital era, screen usage often fuels parent-child conflicts, especially during adolescence. From disputes over owning a smartphone to signing up for social media accounts – these issues around media use can make it challenging to reconcile the tension between parental authority and child autonomy. However, screens are here to stay – making it critical for adults to understand and engage with youth to better support them. Now that we better understand how children interact with screens and media and the impact on their development, it is imperative for parents and caregivers to listen to where children themselves are coming from to help them become responsible digital citizens. Children are active agents who should contribute to and shape decisions made in their everyday lives. By acknowledging children’s views and involving them in conversations about media use habits, adults can strengthen the sense of trust and quality of their relationships with their children while promoting positive health outcomes.

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Extensive vs. Problematic Media Use: What’s the Difference?

“My daughter is always on the phone. If I try to take her phone away from her, she’ll have a meltdown. She’s constantly waiting for her friends to text her.” 

Parent Quote.

“If we don’t physically shut off our son’s computer at night, he’ll never sleep.”

Parent Quote.
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Snapchat to Minecraft: What Content Are Children Consuming Online? 

Screens are everywhere, but not all screens are created equal. Children use screens and media for a variety of purposes; however, the quality of the content matters. There’s a distinction between learning from educational videos online versus mindlessly scrolling through YouTube Shorts for hours on end. Research shows that content heavily influences a child’s thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Thus, it’s important for parents to know how their child is utilizing devices. In this article, we’ll share existing literature that highlights what children are viewing and how they are engaging with the online world so that parents and caregivers can make informed decisions about their children’s screen use. We’ll also share some tips to help parents ensure that the content that children view is both safe and age-appropriate. 

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Screen Time Usage: Pre-Pandemic, Pandemic, & the Present

Even prior to the pandemic, children’s access to and the duration of screen use has been on the rise. From 2015 to 2019, entertainment screen use went up by 3% for tweens and 11% for teens. Children’s engagement with certain types of digital devices varies by age, but television appears highly popular among kids of all ages. Between 1999 and 2009, the prevalence of televisions in children’s bedrooms increased from 65% to 71%. Now, with the use of streaming services, children can more easily access entertainment media content on their own devices, as more than two-thirds of kids own a smartphone by age 12. 

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Parenting in the Age of Screens

“I have noticed both my older children are quicker to anger after screens are taken away. They ask for screen time constantly and are in a terrible mood when I say no.”

– Parent Quote

“I don’t like how my son comes home from school straight to playing video games, but he says that his friends are all playing together. How can I limit screens without isolating him?” 

– Parent Quote

“My daughter says her entire soccer team is on Snapchat, but I worry that if I let her get the app, I’ll have no control over what she’s posting and seeing. I feel really torn.” 

– Parent Quote
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Getting Kids to Move with Alternative Sports

What are alternative sports and how can they benefit teens?

*Note* The five alternative sports highlighted in this brochure are only some of the opportunities that exist. If these are not the best fit for you or your teen, continue to explore and try new things!


This brochure was prepared with the help of Andie Stallman, a graduate student at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development who concentrated on Clinical and Developmental Health and Psychology. A former collegiate athlete on the Tufts University Field Hockey team, Andie is passionate about finding ways to make sports and exercise more accessible, so that everyone can enjoy the numerous benefits of physical activity. Andie is particularly interested in developmental psychopathology, sibling relationships, and experiences of trauma. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to help children and families develop skills that will enable them to confidently navigate life’s hardships and achieve their individual goals.

Getting Kids to Move: How Non-Traditional Sports Can Benefit Children with Social-Emotional and Learning Challenges

“I’ve tried to get my child to play soccer like I did when I was a kid, but she always stands at the end of the bench and doesn’t talk to anyone. Where can I find a sport where she’ll feel comfortable?

“After my kid comes home from school, he is exhausted and drained. All he wants to do is play video games. How can I get him moving?”

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Barriers and Benefits: Helping Teens with Autism increase their Physical Activity

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by difficulty with reciprocal social interactions and by a pattern of restricted or repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities.

While adolescents in general are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles, teens with ASD are at an even greater risk for decreased physical activity and weight gain. In fact, adolescents with ASD were found to be 62% less likely to engage in weekly physical exercise and 81% less likely to have participated in organized sports within the previous year, when compared to their peers without this diagnosis (McCoy & Morgan, 2020). Multiple barriers exist that make participation in sports a daunting task for adolescents with ASD. The social and physical demands of participating in an organized sport can often be intimidating for these youngsters.   Stepping outside of their comfort zone to try a new activity can also be a challenge. With thoughtful accommodations and creative solutions, however, these barriers can be overcome. Participation in sports will not only lead to a healthier lifestyle, but can also help teens with ASD improve their social skills and become more flexible in thinking and behavior.

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Team Spirit: Benefits of Organized Sports in Adolescence

Adolescence is a tumultuous time. Children have to adjust to their changing bodies, develop a unique, individual identity separate from their parents, and learn about the complexities of life and the world around them. Physical activity is proven to have many mental health benefits for teenagers, including a positive impact on well-being, resilience, and emotional functioning (Hale et al., 2021). A major avenue through which adolescents engage in physical activity is organized sports. Besides the obvious positive effects on physical health, organized sports can provide teens with a sense of peer belonging, help them develop a positive self-concept, and teach discipline. Thus, organized sports can help children master developmental tasks of adolescence and put them on a path towards becoming successful adults.

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How to Talk to Kids about War

Many of us have been affected by the current events in Ukraine.  As adults, we not only have to process these events ourselves but simultaneously figure out how to talk about it with the children in our lives.  Children who have been directly affected by war will need psychological support far beyond the scope of this article.  We wanted to focus on how to talk to children who have been exposed to war second-hand, for example via news, social media, family or peer connections. 

In this situation, the first thing to remember is that kids are resilient.  Most children who are exposed to war second-hand will be able to process this information without significant negative emotional impact.  Having said that, when talking to children about a topic as difficult as war, adults should consider the child’s individual characteristics.  In this article, we will examine how children understand the concept of war and discuss what to consider when talking to children about this difficult topic.

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