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Although we are currently hearing a great deal about the opioid crisis in America, teen drug use is actually declining overall. A new study called “Monitoring the Future” by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that teens are using fewer illicit drugs (other than marijuana) than they have in the past 40 years.


This annual government ­funded report measures drug use by teenagers in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades. Specifically, the survey found that cigarettes and alcohol continued to show significant declines, reaching their lowest levels in the history of the study. Illicit drug use, such as cocaine, ecstasy, steroids, and amphetamines, are all down. Use of marijuana has declined over the past decade for eighth and tenth graders even though it is more socially accepted. Although heroin use has become an epidemic among adults in some communities, it has fallen among high schoolers over the past decade. These findings are consistent with other studies that show steady declines over the past decade in drug use by teenagers.

This surprising news has some scientists wondering what’s causing this trend. One possible reason is that teens are replacing their need for drugs with technology, specifically their smartphones. A recent article in the New York Times explored the connection between the rise in technology use with the decline in drug use. The pattern is quite clear and it has many experts anxious to explore this hypothesis in more depth.

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How technology is like a drug

Kids today are spending an exorbitant amount of time using electronics. A 2015 survey published by Common Sense Media found that American teenagers ages 13 to 18 averaged six and a half hours of screen time per day on social media and other activities like video games. In addition, a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center found that 24 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 reported being online “almost constantly,” and that 73 percent had a smartphone or access to one.

What keeps them wanting to come back for more? Much of the interaction with technology can provide a dopamine high for our kids. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gets released in our brain when we experience something positive. It essentially serves as a reward system. In the same way that drug users experience a dopamine high, experts are now finding that aspects of technology can also provide that same type of physical and psychological reaction.

David Greenfield, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, explained in the New York Times article that due to the way smartphones stimulate our brains, we’re all “carrying around a portable dopamine pump.” Every time we post, share, like, comment, or send an invitation online, we’re creating an expectation to get a response from others. When someone responds to our emails, texts, posts, comments, or invitations, we feel a sense of belonging and get a rush of happiness and excitement.

Delaney Ruston, a physician who produced the documentary “Screenagers” which explores the relationship between technology and childhood development, points to many studies that review MRI scans of the brains of kids who play 20 hours or more of video games per week. When the scans are compared to people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, their brains look quite similar.

This rush is something that our kids notice and crave. It’s so much easier to get these positive feelings online instead of having to interact in person, such as asking someone out on a date or giving a friend a compliment. That takes courage and work. Technology makes it so easy for our kids to get one dopamine high after another.

Drug addiction versus technology addiction

In the New York Times article, Eric Elliott described his concerns about teens’ increased focus on technology. As a father and school psychologist for almost 20 years, he’s more concerned about technology use than drug use. While his daughter will pass on smoking marijuana, she will take her phone to bed with her. He has seen a decrease in drug and alcohol use among the students he counsels. However, the students are more likely to have an addiction to video games than to drugs, a very different trend from when he began his career.

There is no doubt that technology addiction is a real concern. A 2012 survey of 3,461 North American girls age eight to 12 found that high levels of media use (e.g., talking on the phone, communicating online, watching video, and listening to music) were related to negative social wellbeing, while face-to-face communication was associated with positive social and emotional outcomes. Many researchers have also found that narcissism is on the rise while empathy is on the decline, and they point to social media as a reason for that trend. As with any addiction, experts agree that negative consequences such as depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, and damage to relationships can result.

How common is technology addiction? According to Common Sense Media, it’s actually quite rare. It may seem like your son or daughter is addicted to their phone and other gadgets, but odds are it is simply normal teenager behavior. Teens check their devices often and feel pressure to respond quickly to messages. Plus, friends tend to take priority over everything else going on in their lives – something that has been going on for generations.

On the other hand, drugs kill. Would you rather have your child addicted to their phone or drugs? I would choose the tech addiction any day over the alternative.

What parents can do

Besides cutting back on screen time, we can help shift our children’s attention to more positive ways to get a dopamine boost. All of these activities have been proven to make us happier and stimulate the production of dopamine and other feel-good chemicals in our brain.

  • Sports and exercise: Encourage your child to participate in sports, go on family bike rides or runs, or take them with you to the gym.
  • Volunteer work: Our brain chemistry changes when we do something kind for another person. Get involved in community service projects as a family or simply help a friend or neighbor in need.
  • Affection: Research indicates the many positive effects come from something as simple as a hug. Check out these tips for how to bring more affection into your family’s day.
  • Focus on a passion: Expose your children to inspiring hands-on activities like art, music, dance, writing, science, and nature. When our children discover something incredible that gives them a sense of awe or create something from nothing, they get a happiness boost.
  • Play board games: If your kids are getting a boost of dopamine from their video games, set aside a tech break to play some “old-fashioned” board games.
  • Laughter: One of the best ways to distract your kids from their gadgets is to get them giggling. There are so many creative ways to bring comedy and humor into your home, from joke books to silly games to family contests and talent shows. Have fun with it!
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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Adele's albums have soothed many hearts through hard times, and now she's going through a big relationship transition of her own.

The singer is separating from her husband Simon Konecki, the father of her 6-year-old son, Angelo James.

"Adele and her partner have separated," Adele's people wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. "They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Our hearts go out to Adele. Of course, she doesn't owe anyone any further explanation or discussion of her separation, but by announcing it publicly, she is shining a light on a family dynamic that is so common but not talked about as much as it should be: Co-parenting.

Parenting with an ex is a reality for so many mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, "the likelihood of a child – even one born to two married parents – spending part of their childhood in an unmarried parent household is on the rise."

Angelo James' experience will be similar to many of his peers.

"Increases in divorce mean that more than one-in-five children born within a marriage will experience a parental breakup by age 9, as will more than half of children born within a cohabiting union," Pew notes.

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Adele and Konecki already know a thing or two about how co-parenting works, as Konecki has an older child from a previous relationship.

They can make this work because so many parents are making this work. The reality is, two parents can still be a family, and be a team for their child without being romantic partners.

Decades ago, co-parenting after a divorce wasn't the norm, and a body of research (and the experience of a generation of kids) has changed the way parents do things today. Today, divorce isn't about the end of a family. It's about the evolution of one.

Research suggests joint physical custody is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse"(so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Co-parenting is good for kids, and clearly, Adele and Konecki are committed to being a team for Angelo James.

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If you've had a baby in a hospital you know that those first few nights can be really hard. There are so many benefits for babies sharing rooms with their mamas (as opposed to being shipped off to those old-school, glassed-in nurseries) but tired mamas have a lot of conflicting messages coming at them.

You're told to bond with your baby, but not to fall asleep with them in the bed, and to let them rest in their bassinet. But when you're recovering from something that is (at best) the most physically demanding thing a person can do or (at worst) major surgery, moving your baby back and forth from bed to bassinette all night long sure doesn't sound like fun.

That's why this photo of a co-sleeping hospital bed is going viral again, four years after it was first posted by Australian parenting site Belly Belly. The photo continues to attract attention because the bed design is enviable, but is it real? And if so, why aren't more hospitals using it?

The bed is real, and it's Dutch. The photo originated from Gelderse Vallei hospital. As GoodHouskeeping reported back in 2015, the clip-on co-sleepers were introduced as a way to help mom and baby pairs who needed extended hospital stays—anything beyond one night in the maternity ward.

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Plenty of moms stateside wish we had such beds in our maternity wards, but as but Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN, told Yahoo Parenting in 2015, the concept wouldn't be in line with American hospitals' safe sleeping policies.

"If the mother rolls over from exhaustion, there would be the risk of smothering the baby," she told Yahoo. "The mother's arm could go into that space in her sleep and cover the baby, or she could knock a pillow to the side and it's on the baby."

Hoskins also believes that having to get in and out of bed to get to your baby in the night is good for moms who might be otherwise reluctant to move while recovering from C-sections. If you don't move, the risk of blood clots in the legs increases. "An advantage of being forced to get up for the baby is that it forces the mother to move her legs — it's a big plus. However painful it can be, it's important for new moms to move rather than remaining in their hospital beds."

So there you have it. The viral photo is real, but don't expect those beds to show up in American maternity wards any time soon.

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A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."

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Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is on a mission to level the playing field for young women and provide them with the tools for success. In 2017, he implemented free two- and four-year public colleges for New Yorkers, and now Cuomo is adding a budget proposal that would provide on-site childcare at community colleges.

Under the proposal, single parents participating in the program would also have access to tutoring and help when applying to four-year schools. It's the kind of idea that could be a game changer for parents in New York state.

Currently, childcare centers are subsidized for student-parents but can still cost parents $50-$60 a week; under Cuomo's budget proposal, childcare would be free. Students who are already enrolled in similar programs acknowledge that the benefits are enormous.

"As a single parent of two children going to school full time, I wouldn't be able to come to school and afford for childcare," says Michelle Trinidad, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and parent to a 4 and 5-year-old. "Thank goodness for BMCC Early Childhood Center that is very much affordable. It gives me the opportunity to advance my career and be confident that my son is in good hands. School is hard enough on its own, having reliable child care means a lot to me and my children."

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The plan is a part of Cuomo's 2019 women's justice agenda, legislation that addresses the gender wage gap, as well as economic and social justice for all New York women. According to a 2017 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 11% of undergraduates, or 2.1 million students, were single mothers as of 2012, which has doubled since 2000. Additionally, that same study found that 4 in 10 women at two-year colleges say that they are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their dependent care obligations.

"This is an exciting initiative for New York that addresses a critical need, and if implemented, will have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of society, especially for the next generation," says Ryan Lee-James, PhD an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. "I view this initiative as both a direct and indirect pathway to address the well-documented achievement gap between children reared in poverty and those growing up with higher income families, as it provides moms, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity, to further their education and thus, afford their children more opportunities."

Additionally, many view campus childcare as a safe haven for college students. "During my 18 years working in campus childcare, I have witnessed how the student-parents can complete their courses and stay focused by having childcare on campus," says Sori Palacio, a Head Teacher at BMCC Early Childhood Center. "Parents usually express how thankful they are for having their children traveling with them to school as well as having their children nearby while they complete their degree. They concentrate in academic work without worrying about their child's wellbeing. This service helps the entire public by preparing more people to serve the community."

Parents have so many barriers when it comes to accessing higher education, but free childcare could be a game changer that benefits multiple generations.

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