by Clara Firpo-Cappiello –
HeadsUp Rivertowns is a committee that aims to inform local parents and kids about safe ways to utilize technology in our ever-changing world. Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, and Hastings-on-Hudson are all members of HeadsUp Rivertowns.
The mission of HeadsUp Rivertowns is to educate parents about the benefits and challenges that newer technologies introduce into children’s and adolescents’ lives, raise awareness through community conversations and activities, support families, and advocate for the best use of technology.
Whether it be gaming, television, tablets, smartphones, or computer use, the group seeks to build a “screen-smart community,” and it shares important facts and advice to help families make choices that are right for them. For instance, according to the Pew Research Center, parents may be surprised to learn that, between classroom technology and home electronics, the average eight-to-10-year-old spends about eight hours per day on screens, and 45% of teenagers report being online “almost constantly.” Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that just the presence of a smartphone on a person’s desk or in their bag may lead to distraction that reduces cognitive abilities. HeadsUp Rivertowns provides suggestions for alternative ways to utilize technology, including initiatives like Screen-Free Sundays, Device-Free Dinners, and more.
Technology is changing and improving faster than ever before. New ways to use the Internet, messaging platforms, and entertainment are being introduced monthly. While these changes aren’t necessarily bad, they do present challenges to kids, including smartphone addiction, lack of in-person contact, and other lifestyle changes. Because of the access some children have to technology, 8.5% are reported to have developed a video game addiction, according to Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., professor of developmental psychology at Iowa State University. It has also been reported, by the London School of Economics, that test scores of 16-year-old students increased by 6.4% after cell phones were banned in schools.
There are many alternatives to smartphone use in a child’s life. In order to give families a taste of the positives of leading a less technology-dependent life, Heads Up Rivertowns proposes the idea of going “Gray for a Day.” On the first Thursday of each month, participants turn their smartphones to grayscale, turning the screen gray, which reportedly helps to make the phone less addictive. HeadsUp Rivertowns recommends that, after children go gray for a day, parents should ask them how this felt. Did they use their phone less? Feel less dependent on their phone? How did it feel to go back to a colorful screen? These questions may enlighten your children, and change the way they think about phone usage.
Other HeadsUp Rivertowns initiatives include STUC (Screen-Time Usage Challenge, which shares tips for becoming more aware of screen usage and smart ways to reduce it), and Wait Till 8th, which encourages parents to hold off on giving their children smartphones until 8th grade. To learn more, visit headsuprivertowns.com for links to news and scientific studies, sign up for an email list, and read helpful blog articles written by rivertowns parents and students.