Too much information?

poster listing sex acts isn’t appropriate for 13-year-olds, says a Missouri father. The school says it’s part of the sex education curriculum.

’16 and Pregnant’ informs — or not

The reality show 16 and Pregnant  encourages teen viewers to work harder to avoid pregnancy, according to a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

. . . teenage viewers tended to look up information about sex in order to better prepare for it. The paper estimates that the shows have helped to reduce overall teenage pregnancy by 5.7 percent since soon after they began running.

Well, maybe not, reports Ed Week.

And yet less than a week before NBER released its study, researchers at Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Utah released a different study of the same shows and found that they actually lead to greater numbers of misinformed teens, who watch “Teen Mom” and think that teenage motherhood is like like living on Easy Street.

“Heavy viewing of teen mom reality programming positively predicted unrealistic perceptions of what it is like to be a teen mother,” they wrote. The study based its conclusions off of interviews with 185 high school students about perceptions of reality TV and teen pregnancy.

Teen Mom made Farrah Abraham a celebrity, the second study complains. Now 22, Abraham is earning a living through a sex tape with a porn star, a line of sex toys, etc. You might say she’s a professional slut. Will that look like an attractive lifestyle to teen girls? I certainly hope not.

Should public schools teach 13-year-olds about grinding?

Give your brain a break

Give your brain a break and achieve inner peace with Matthew Johnstone’s illustrated guide to meditation. I love the opening graphic.

Over a 24-hour period we can process up to 70,000 thoughts, even as we sleep. Each day contains 86,400 seconds, so that equates to a different thought every 1.2 seconds, or two thoughts for every heartbeat. Basically, your brain never shuts up!

School lunch ‘hour’ is more like 15 minutes

There is no lunch hour in public schools any more, reports NPR. By the time they actually get their food, “kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat” and some get less.
Ground beef sandwhich  from CT

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 20 minutes for lunch. That’s time to eat, not time standing in line.

At Oakland High School in California, more than 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The lunch break is 40 minutes — but some kids get only 10 minutes of table time, says Jennifer LeBarre, the district’s nutrition services director.

In a new poll, 20 percent of parents said their elementary school child gets 15 minutes or less to eat.

Fed Up displays school lunch photos submitted by students across the country. The “ground beef sandwhich” in the photo comes from Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Connecticut.

ADHD diagnoses surge overseas

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses are surging overseas, as well as in the U.S. Children may be taking powerful drugs needlessly, warn researchers in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In Australia, prescriptions for the stimulant Ritalin and other ADHD drugs rose by 72 percent between 2000 and 2011, while in Britain and the Netherlands prescriptions roughly doubled between 2003 and 2008, said the paper.

According to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in 11 American children aged 13-18 and one in 25 adults are affected by ADHD.

Ritalin and other drugs are appropriate only for “severe” ADHD symptoms, which occur among about 14 percent of children with the condition, the study noted. Yet 87 percent of U.S. children diagnosed with ADHD in 2010 received medications.

CCs cancel cheap health insurance

“Community colleges in New Jersey used to offer cheap health insurance for hundreds of dollars a year” but cancelled coverage because the new federal health care law bans barebones policies, reports CBS New York. Students are struggling to navigate the Obamacare web site in hopes of qualifying for subsidized coverage.

Halloween horror: Healthy treats

Nothing is more horrifying than Halloween without candy proclaims an ad featuring a focus group of children fed healthy treats such as veggie fruit chews and “tofu ghost mellows.” The message from Crest and Oral-B: Let kids eat candy and then brush their teeth.

Beware!

Instead of giving candy to “moderately obese” children, a Fargo, North Dakota woman will hand out a letter to parents, she told  Y94.

The letter states: “You child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.”

It continues: “My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

The quality of “tricks” must not be very high in Fargo.

ADHD or narcissism?

Many children diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may simply be slow to grow out of “normal childhood narcissism, writes psychologist Enrico Gnaulati in The Atlantic.

In the 1970s, a mere one percent of kids were considered ADHD. By the 1980s, three to five percent was the presumed rate, with steady increases into the 1990s. One eye-opening study showed that ADHD medications were being administered to as many as 17 percent of males in two school districts in southeastern Virginia in 1995.

ADHD symptoms — “problems listening, forgetfulness, distractibility, prematurely ending effortful tasks, excessive talking, fidgetiness, difficulties waiting one’s turn, and being action-oriented” — aren’t all that different from normal childhood challenges, he writes. In the past, a distractible, fidgety child would have been considered slower to mature and learn social skills. Now that child is quickly diagnosed with ADHD.

The core symptoms of ADHD resemble childhood narcissism, which is characterized by “overconfident self-appraisals, attention-craving, a sense of personal entitlement” and weak empathy for others, writes Gnaulati.

“Jonah” falls apart when he can’t master a task immediately. It could be a symptom of ADHD, writes Gnaulati. Perhaps he can’t retain the information needed. But it could be the “magical thinking” common for young children.

He believes mastering tasks should somehow be automatic—not the outcome of commitment, perseverance, and effort. Jonah’s self-esteem may also be so tenuous that it fluctuates greatly. For instance, when Jonah anticipates success, he productively cruises through work, eager to receive the recognition that he expects from parents and teachers. He is on a high. He definitely feels good about himself. But in the face of challenging work, he completely shuts down, expects failure, outside criticism, and wants to just give up.

“Parents who think their kid has ADHD often describe scenarios at home where the kid reacts to minor setbacks with bloodcurdling screams or to modest successes with over-the-top exuberance,” writes Gnaulati. For kids who really have ADHD, completing homework can be torture. But, for others, “dramatic displays of emotion are attempts to get out of tasks that warrant commitment, application, and effort.”

If parents give in, “these kids often do not acquire the emotional self-control necessary to buckle down and do academic work independently.”

I think the technical term is “spoiled brat.”

Gnaulati is the author of  Back to Normal, which is subtitled “why ordinary childhood behavior is mistaken for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.”

Brainy, introverted boys are over-diagnosed with autism, he writes in Salon. “If we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.”

No time to play

Today’s children don’t have time to play independently – and to develop social skills — writes psychologist Peter Gray on Aeon. The adults are always in charge.

Growing up in the 1950s, Gray had a “hunter-gatherer education” in addition to formal schooling. The neighborhood kids played after school, often till dark, in mixed-age groups. They played on the weekends and in the summer.

We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us.

Since then, adult-directed sports for children have replaced “pickup” games, Gray writes. free-to-learn Adult-directed extracurriculars have replaced hobbies. Parents are afraid to let kids play without supervision.

As children’s free play has declined, children have shown more signs of anxiety and depression, he writes on psychological surveys. Since the ’50s, “the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.”

In addition, surveys show “a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism.”

Children aren’t learning social skills through play, writes Gray. At school, an authoritarian setting, they learn to compete rather than cooperate. Extending the school day will widen the “play deficit” even more, argues Gray.

A Boston College professor, Gray writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of a new book, Free to Learn.

Kids who want to work — mowing lawns — face “safety” barriers, writes Mollie Hemingway. On the neighborhood listserv, someone asked for feedback on “a group of adorable and entrepreneurial kids (young, maybe 9-11 years old)” looking for mowing jobs. “We didn’t see a parent with them supervising.”

A link was provided to Mowing the Lawn Can Be a Dangerous Chore, which recommended “polycarbonate protective eyewear” for anyone mowing — or in the vicinity.