Back To Basics: Raising Children In The Digital Age, by Richard Freed

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“This is impossible,” Emily, the mother of three boys, exclaimed. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to give my kids more technology or less.” Emily felt paralyzed because she was caught between digital-age parenting advice and what her heart told her was right.

Online articles claimed that children need freedom with gadgets, but she knew a number of teens who spent their lives on their phones, spurned their families, and suffered from emotional problems. Emily was also dubious of promises that devices are the key to kids’ success, as she knew more than a few game-obsessed 20-somethings who still lived with their parents and showed no signs of being productive.

The Surprising Science of Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

In meeting with parents like Emily, I acknowledge the confusion about what is good parenting in the digital age. For guidance, I suggest looking to the science of raising healthy children. What it’s revealing is extraordinary: that even amid the trappings of our tech-obsessed culture, children’sconnections to family and school are still the most important factors in their lives. In other words, it’s time we get back to the basics.

There are other elements of raising healthy children, including engaging kids in creative and outdoor play, and showing them what it means to be a good friend. We also need to teach kids self-control and how to use technology productively. Yet, children are better able to acquire these abilities if they have strong connections with family and school. Children learn the value of nature when parents expose them to the outdoors. And kids acquire self-control, or grit, by persevering through challenging school assignments.

The Two Pillars of Childhood

Family is the most important element of children’s lives — even in this world of bits and bytes — because we are human first. We can’t ignore the science of attachment that shows our kids need lots of quality time with us. Such experiences shape children’s brains, and they foster our kids’ happiness and self-esteem, while diminishing the chances that they will develop behavior or drug problems.

Second in importance only to family is children’s involvement with school. Nevertheless, some question the value of traditional schooling, claiming that in the digital age kids learn best through exposure to the latest gadgets. But, according to the Pew Research Center, the value of a college education is actually increasing in recent decades, providing youth higher earning potential and significantly lowering their risks of unemployment or poverty. And how do colleges gauge admission? Not through high scores on video games or the number of social media friends, but instead by measuring kids’ understanding of the learning fundamentals taught in school, including the ability to read, write, and do math well.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

Back To Basics: Raising Children In The Digital Age, by Richard Freed

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The Dunedin Study: TV Use/ Screen time and other “habits”: Effects on Kids in later years, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”

Every generation identifies “bad habits” in their children which they believe should be “discouraged” because of the negative effects they may cause later in life.  The Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which closely follows 1000 or so participants born in 1972-1973 in Dunedin New Zealand, has identified a number of these “habits” and then gone on to observe how far these do in fact effect people’s lives once they are adults.  The following is a summary of some of the study’s findings.

Cesarian Birth     No lasting effects.     Zero psychological significance.

article-2418967-1BC82B46000005DC-621_634x401Being left handed     No lasting effects… unless forced to write with right hand, which can cause frustration and therefore delay learning.

Bed wetting  No lasting effects.  Zero psychological significance, although other issues may be linked to this if it continues much after age 8 years.  Otherwise is a passing phase.

Age of Toilet Training   Not relevant to future psychological well-being, although other issues may be linked if toilet training has not occured by 5-6 years.

downloadThumb Sucking     A security/ self-nurturing response.  No other particular reason identified.  Usually a passing phase, few “thumb suckers” continue to do this into adulthood.  Has debatable impact on teeth… “if you don’t stop sucking your thumb, we’ll have to get braces on your teeth.”  Orthadontal need tends to be based on genetic predisposition to a particular jaw shape or “bucked teeth” going into adolescence, rather than being related to “thumb sucking”.

download (1)Amount of Sleep during Childhood     The Dunedin Study measured the amount of sleep per night  in participants when they were aged between 5 and 11 years old.  It was discovered that there was a direct correlation between the hours of sleep a child had at these ages and their body weight as an adult.  Those who had the least sleep as children tended to become the most over weight adults.  The reason for this is that sleep influences hormones which effect how hungry you become and when you feel full.  Toddlers who slept less also tended to have problems with cognitive functioning during adolescence and anxiety issues during their 20s.

13TV Watching/ Screen Time    The Dunedin Study also measured how many hours of TV children watched.  This also translates into general “screen time”.   This was the generation who began having personal computers and computer games in their home during the 1980s, when such brands as ZX81 and Commodore 64 became available and games such as “Pac Man” and “Space Invaders” were the rage.  Even those who did not have computers at home frequently had access to them via schools or to games in the “Video Arcades” which were popular in the 80s.  As well as this, the invention of VHS meant that hours spent JS44834649watching television increased dramatically… programmes could be taped and re-watched and the age of video rental shops had begun.  The results are dramatic.  The study showed that those who had more screen time were three times more likely to leave school early, regardless of their IQ or their family’s income.  This may also be because excessive screen time has been linked to self control, a majorly important component in predicting future life trajectory, (which we will examine in greater detail in a later article) and which is the case regardless of intelligence.c89c6ce15b18ce07443424fd290cb8f5

Conclusions drawn from this for those of us wishing to guide our children towards a more positive life trajectory?  1) Don’t be pushy about toilet training, most kids are toilet trained before they start school (boys tend to take a little longer than girls).  2)  Don’t make a big deal of bed wetting or thumb sucking.  3) Don’t force a child who is left handed to use their right hand.  4) Ensure your child has adequate sleep and investigate any obvious sleep issues early 5) Limit screen time… discussing and creating a “contract” with your child about this can be good and also encourages a degree of self-regulation.

“…the thing which is special about The Dunedin Study is that we have measured multiple aspects of human health and development, so we get a complete picture of people’s lives.” —-Professor Richie Poulton, study director.

The comprehensive nature of The Dunedin Longitudinal Study as well as the high rate of retention of participants (only 35% of participants still live in Dunedin, but 95% remain in the study and return regularly to participate), gives weight to the findings listed above, as well as strategies for reducing negative outcomes and increasing the chances of a positive life trajectory, through early intervention, for the children of today.

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Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village, by Isa Down

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Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’spersonal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

parent.co/wireless-motherhood-when-social-media-is-the-new-village/

Why and how to talk to children about pornography, by Anne McCormack

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The internet and social media are now a normal part of established culture for young people growing up. For parents, this can bring a whole new level of concern as even with safety filters on devices, having access to the internet and the social media world makes it more likely that young people may come across and gain access to content that is sexually explicit.

Internet access and social media has changed the landscape for parents in many ways. When it comes to teaching young people about what is healthy and safe in relationships, as well as the issue of supporting young people’s individual sexual development, these aspects of parenting now point to the need for discussion around the issue of pornography.

Young people can accidently encounter sexually explicit material online or they can actively seek it out. And while secondary schools have an obligation to teach on the topic of relationships and sexuality, according to Mairead McNally of Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan, there is no part of the curriculum that addresses pornography. It is useful for parents to think ahead about how to talk with young people about pornography.

Here are some reasons why young people could benefit from such talk:

 1. Social media as a sexualised environment

The social media world and the internet in general can become a sexualised environment quite quickly for some young people. For example, the young person may follow a celebrity online who posts sexually explicit selfies or content of themselves. This selfie culture can contribute to normalising the uploading of material that is sexually provocative or explicit, and it can inadvertently give young people the message that they must present themselves in a certain “sexual” way in order to be deemed of worth. The trend towards the sexualisation of the self can tend to glamorise the area of pornography.

2. Interest in sex

Wanting information about sex is normal and if young people are not getting the message at home that they can ask questions and talk openly about sex, they may feel more inclined to access such information and pornography in order to find out for themselves what sex is about. Pornography is not real and yet young people viewing it can often think it is.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/why-and-how-to-talk-to-children-about-pornography-1.2692131

A Minecraft Birthday, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Minecraft FYAnother post with birthday party ideas… I know some people aren’t big on birthday parties for kids.  I think it’s “each to their own” in this area, although I do believe every child’s birthday should be acknowledged somehow, as each one is special.  We haven’t had any posts on boys’ birthdays here on “The Forever Years” yet either, so I thought it good to do one!

Anyway, our eldest son turned 10 recently.  We do “themed” parties and he said he wanted a “Minecraft Party”.  At first I thought, “Uh-oh, he just wants to game for the whole time his mates are here.”  I wasn’t super keen, because there wouldn’t be enough tablets or computers for 6 boys and also, we often have “Minecraft arguments” at home among our own children (like when someone goes into someone else’s world and kills them or builds stuff without their permission or pulls down or blows up stuff without their permission… it gets complicated).

My son got a Minecraft Magazine from his school library, which had some ideas in it and we also got onto Google and made up some ideas of our own.  I found it a not too expensive and, in the end, quite fun party, so will share some of what we did here, for anyone else whose kid likes Minecraft and wants this kind of birthday party.

1.Creeper… theme  (black and green)

I always find it helpful to have a colour theme for kids’ parties, it gives them a kind of uniformity and cohesiveness.  Minecraft’s Creeper’s green colour, plus black (which is in Creeper’s face and on most of the other Minecraft characters) became our theme: green drink, green and black balloons and green and black streamers.  For the drinks, my son and I drew “creeper faces” on green cups and had lime fizz in bottles with creeper faces too, which we re-named “Creeper Juice”.  We also drew creeper faces on the green balloons.  The good thing about Minecraft is that everything is in squares, so I found it fairly easy to copy characters and faces, block by block.

Creeper Collage FY

2.  A Creeper Pinata

Creeper FYWe created a “creeper pinata” out of old boxes from the supermarket.  It was VERY easy.  The main challenge, I found, was putting paper over holes in the box so that there were enough “weak spots” that the pinata could actually be broken.  Rather than put loads of lollies inside, I put bags with each child’s name on them, so that there were no fights, and in the bag, as well as a couple of lollies, there were notebooks and Minecraft stickers… I didn’t want to send those kids back to their Mums and Dads buzzed up on sugar.  (In this photo we were still in the process of painting Creeper: we put light green small squares on his body like the Minecraft one).

3. TNT

We made “party poppers” and red jelly into “TNT”, to further fit in with the minecraft theme.  I used stickers over the poppers and on the cups for the jelly.

TNT Collage

4. Wall decorations: Minecraft Characters

My son loves drawing Minecraft characters, so we let him go for it.  I find decorating the walls for a birthday is great, because it really helps set the scene/ theme and it’s an activity for the kids to do… I think it’s great to get them to help wherever possible, it’s their birthday, after all.  My other children also enjoyed doing this and it became a family activity.

Drawing Collage

5. The Cake

Fortunately for our family, my husband has a natural flair for decorating kids’ cakes.  For this party, he created a very cool Creeper.  He said that this was one of the easier cakes he’d decorated, however, again because of the “square” factor that comes when doing anything with a Minecraft theme.  (Doing “natural” looking curves on cakes to make them look like animals or other “real” things can be tricky).  The thing which took the longest, in decorating the Creeper cake, was attaching the hundreds of tiny square icing “tiles” in different shades of green.  For those who don’t feel up to doing that, giving Creeper a pale green body, then painting it with food colouring in different shades of green would also look effective.

Cake FY

Overall, this party went well.  I was a little nervous about the pinata, as we’d never done on before.  The prizes were in the Creeper’s body, not in the head, so I had to tell the kids to wack the body.  I think the reason I haven’t done a pinata before is that belting them until they split open always seemed quite aggressive and violent to me.  But kids love them and we tried to keep it orderly so everyone got a turn.

The party was for two hours, 2pm-4pm on a Saturday afternoon.  I think one reason things went smoothly was that the kids were older (I’ve had some parties for younger kids where their over enthusiasm has caused chaos… including one party at which a wee girl projectile vomited, as she was so excited when she saw our daughter’s 3rd birthday “pony cake”…).  After doing parties for four children for a decade, I’ve also discovered that having a list helps.  For this party, my list was:  guests arrive, Joe opens presents and thanks guests, eating, birthday cake, pinata, watch some Minecraft on Youtube if time at the end, guests parents collect them.  Very simple, but something to go back to when noise levels were high and my brain was addled and also plenty of things to chug through in two hours.

I hope this article and the pictures of what we did will inspire and help those of you who want to do parties for kids who love Minecraft.  We held this party at home and the most expensive thing was probably the cake.  The overall party was fairly cheaply done.  Please comment if you have any other great ideas for parties with this theme and I’ll put some links below that I found helpful when organising our son’s one.

http://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/how-to-throw-a-simple-minecraft-birthday-party/

http://minemum.com/party-ideas

http://coolmompicks.com/blog/2014/03/25/minecraft-birthday-party-ideas/

Facebook, Twitter and Google unite to Stop Spread of Child Abuse Images, By Jeff Parsons

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Three of technology’s biggest names have joined forces with a UK charity to try and block paedophiles spreading images online.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have united alongside a UK charity, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to try and stop the spread of child abuse images online.

The IWF is responsible for tracking indecent images of children online and allocating each one with a specific (“Hash”) code – allowing them to identify it.

It then compiles the codes into a so-called “Hash List” that keeps tabs on the horrific images.

Now the organisation has shared its Hash list with the biggest technology companies on the web.

It means that Facebook, Twitter and Google will be able to recognise these pictures and block them from being uploaded onto their services.

“Our Hash List could be a game-changer and really steps up the fight against child sexual abuse images online,” said Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF.

While explicit images can still be shared on the so-called “darknet”, preventing them from appearing on the likes of Google and Facebook is a step in the right direction.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/facebook-twitter-google-unite-against-6226332?ICID=FB_mirror_main

Child Safety: Stop Posting Naked Photos of Your Kid, by Jarrett Arthur

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A follow up to our previous post… the article Jarrett originally posted.

Child Safety: Stop Posting Naked Photos of Your Kid.

 

Editor’s Note, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

After reading the article at the link above, I decided to do some online searching of my own.  After typing “naked kids’ photos” into Google and clicking on “images”, hundreds of pictures of naked children immediately appeared.  Most were having fun and doing normal activities like taking baths but, as Jarrett rightly points out in her article, did their Mums and Dads really intend that ANYONE searching online like I did could view them?  How often have such photos been shared in less than savory circles?

Children in swim wear featured highly too, as did scantly-clad children.  I’ve never posted pictures of our kids in their togs (swimming gear) on Facebook or anywhere else, I never quite felt right about doing that… I guess I thought that was “family stuff” you might show the grandparents or someone.  Some of the pictures I saw posted were VERY innocent, but it certainly makes you wonder why they come up under the search title “naked kids”… do some people out there get off on seeing scantily clad kids or kids in swimming gear?

I was also concerned to see that there were a number of nude photographs of children in developing countries.  While I have no problem with their nudity in the context of their respective cultures (and don’t believe that children should be taught to be ashamed of their bodies) I did have to wonder who took these photos and why, as well as why there are so many of them on the internet… as well as, of course, who continues to search them.  Considering that many children are sexually exploited in our world’s poorest areas, this is a concern too.