Let's Meet the SWITCH Team

January 29, 2018
Ann Torbert

Throughout our blog we will share information about people that make the SWITCH program happen.  First up... is Ann Torbert. Ann is a Youth Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development. She helps coordinate the partnership between SWITCH and Iowa 4-H.

Ann Torbert, SWITCH

What is your role with SWITCH?

My role with SWITCH is social media – I’m the person behind the blog posts, Twitter and Facebook.  I help recruit schools to participate in SWITCH.   I also serve as a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.

How did you get interested in the area of health/school wellness?

A few years ago I was diagnosed and treated for cancer.  It was quite an experience.  I knew I had to take better care of myself.  I eat better and am far more active.  I made my health a priority.

What tip would you give to parents to help integrate SWITCH practices at home?

For many kids, trying new foods is a struggle.  Consider the idea of a “Try it Tuesday” – where a new vegetable or fruit is part of a meal.  Serve the food in a “special” dish. Remember when trying new fruits or vegetables, a bite is all that is needed.  The entire family needs to try – even the adults. Vote as a family – “Tried it, not my favorite”, “Liked it” or “Loved it.”  It is also important to remember that sometimes kids prefer produce soft (cooked) versus crunchy. 

How do you integrate SWITCH practices in your personal life?

I rely on my Health app on my phone – to count my daily steps. 

Favorite website/publication to share with families?

Garden Gastronomy – 27 recipes tried and tested by City Blossoms’ youth gardeners


Next up… Dr. Doug Gentile. Doug is a Psychology Professor at Iowa State University with a research interest in screen time.

Doug Gentile, SWITCH

What is your role with SWITCH?

Switch originally started in about 2005 in Minnesota and Iowa as a project of the National Institute on Media and the Family.  At that time, I was the Director of Research for the Institute, and was involved in the original development and testing.  After the Institute closed in 2009, Switch seemed doomed even though schools continued to be enthusiastic about it.   A couple of years later, we were able to get Switch transferred to be a program of Iowa State University, and it took off again.

How did you get interested in the area of health/school wellness?

My focus has been examining both the positive and negative effects of mass media on children and adolescents.  A great deal of research shows that both children’s total screen time and the content of the shows/games they consume matter, but they matter for different reasons.  Total screen time seems to have the greatest effects on physical health and school performance; that is, greater screen time predicts poorer health and grades.  Content seems to have the greatest effects on social behavior; that is, violent content predicts increased aggressive thoughts and feelings whereas prosocial content predicts increased empathy and helpful behaviors.

What tip would you give to parents to help integrate SWITCH practices at home?

Start out just by tracking total screen time for a couple of days, both for yourself and your children.  This means keeping track of time on TV, Netflix, DVDs, video games, handheld video games, online time, cell phone time, etc.  This does not include time on devices that is required for school – just count up all the time for entertainment purposes.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 hour of total screen time for elementary school children and no more than 2 hours of total screen time for secondary school children.  Most parents vastly underestimate how much time their children spend in front of screens, so it is important just to begin to know how much time they are actually spending.

 How do you integrate SWITCH practices in your personal life?

I have a teenager at home, and it gets much harder to manage and direct their physical activity, eating, and screen time as kids age.  This is why it is so important to begin setting the healthy habits at younger ages.

Favorite website/publication to share with families?

Perhaps the best single place to see the science-based information on media and children is the Harvard-based Center on Media and Child Health at www.cmch.tv

SWITCH logo

In future posts, we will meet more of the SWITCH team.

Category: 
Tags: