Parents of middle school age youth were invited to a presentation, Bridging the Gap, hosted by Buffalo County Community Partners Positive Pressure coalition. Michael Mefferd, Buffalo County Attorney’s Office, moderated the event, while Investigator Dan Warrington, Kearney Police Department, was the keynote speaker. Warrington gave parents tips about communicating with youth openly about technology use and safety. He told parents they need to know what their child is doing on their devices.

“When kids are getting ready to drive a car for the first time, we don’t just hand them the keys. They spend hours getting ready with us beside them to prepare them to drive the car on their own. I want you to view technology in that way. We need to know how to use it, so we can be prepared to help them,” said Warrington.

After Warrington spoke, the attendees heard from a panel of parents and youth in the community. The panel consisted of: Jesica Vickers, Live Well Counseling; Jamie Legates – CPSP, Families CARE; Melissa Herrmann and Jason Owens, Kearney Public Schools; Dr. Kratochvil-Stava MD, Children’s Specialty Pediatric Clinic; and youth from the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) Buffalo County Community Partners.

Vickers shared about having “no technology” zones of the house. “It can promote interactions and conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened if both parents and youth had their devices,” said Vickers.

Dr. Strava shared about the physicals effects of screen time on youth. The American Pediatric Society reports that youth with screens in their bedroom are more likely to be obese and more likely to have lower academic performance. “The blue light in screens keep your brain working and thinking. Blue light effects melatonin in the body,” said Dr. Strava.

Carrie Gangwish, YAB member, shared her perspective about wanting parents to open the conversations with their kids. “If they just start having the conversations at a young age the kids will be more open to approaching their parents when they are having problems,” said Gangwish.

Jaylea Pope, YAB member, shared about how using social media helps her stay in touch with her friends. “My parents tried to use “screen locks” for me, but I ended up just procrastinating my homework longer. We decided I didn’t need a screen lock because they talked to me about what was appropriate and not with my screen time and I knew if I did something wrong there would be a consequence,” said Pope.

Estella Thomsen, YAB member, told how she is only allowed to have certain social media accounts. She shared about communicating with her parents more through the years as she has grown up, and learned the good and bad of social media. “I feel like some of the restrictions are a good thing because I am not addicted my social media. But some things I do miss out on like talking to some of my friends,” said Thomsen. “I have learned if people really care and want to be my friend they can get my phone number.”

View a portion of the recorded event>> click here.

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