Touch-screen kids

In The Touch-Screen Generation in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin visits a Monterey conference for developers working on phone and tablet apps for children, starting with babies and toddlers. Some brought their own children.

The 30 or so children here were not down at the shore poking their fingers in the sand or running them along mossy stones or digging for hermit crabs. Instead they were all inside, alone or in groups of two or three, their faces a few inches from a screen . . .  A couple of 3-year-old girls were leaning against a pair of French doors, reading an interactive story called Ten Giggly Gorillas and fighting over which ape to tickle next. A boy in a nearby corner had turned his fingertip into a red marker to draw an ugly picture of his older brother. . . . Some of the chairs had pillows strapped to them, since an 18-month-old might not otherwise be able to reach the table, though she’d know how to swipe once she did.

Rosin, the mother of three, worries that digital technology will turn out to be bad for children’s development. The developers worry too, she discovered. A mother of four, who helped develop an app that teaches spelling to preschoolers, said her children don’t play many games.

“We have a rule of no screen time during the week,” unless it’s clearly educational.

. . . “On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”

Other developers who were also parents had similar restrictions. “One said only on airplanes and long car rides. Another said Wednesdays and weekends, for half an hour. The most permissive said half an hour a day, which was about my rule at home.”

Yet interactive games can help children develop skills, writes Rosin. And they can be a lot of fun. She likes a Swedish game called Toca Tea Party, which lets kids throw a party for their dolls and stuffed animals, spill all the tea they want and wash up afterwards.

The game is either very boring or terrifically exciting, depending on what you make of it. . . . Maybe today the stuffed bear will be naughty and do the spilling, while naked Barbie will pile her plate high with sweets. The child can take on the voice of a character or a scolding parent, or both. There’s no winning, and there’s no reward.

When she let her toddler son play with the iPad as much as he liked, he devoted three two-hour sessions a day to it — for 10 days. Then he forgot about it for six weeks. “Now he picks it up every once in a while, but not all that often.”

Start kids at 3 and abolish 12th grade

Children should start school at 3 but skip 12th grade, writes Linus D. Wright, who served as undersecretary of Education in the Reagan administration, in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Center on the Developing Child, at Harvard University, found that in the first few years of life, 700 neuron connections are formed every second. If children do not receive sufficient nurturing, nutrition, interaction, and stimulation during this period of remarkable growth, they may have deficiencies that will affect the rest of their lives.

“A fully financed mandatory early-childhood-education program would do more to change the culture and academic outcomes of students than any other area of reform,” Wright argues.

Step two of the formula for improving education at every level in the United States is to eliminate the 12th grade. It is the least productive and most expensive of all grades, and the money saved by getting rid of it would pay for early-childhood programs, which are the most productive and least expensive.

Most students are taking electives in 12th grade, he writes. They’re focused on their part-time jobs. Move ‘em out and use the savings for the little kids.

Raising the Ritalin generation

We’re way too quick to label active boys as hyperactive, writes Bronwen Hruska in Raising the Ritalin Generation.

Will did not bounce off walls. He wasn’t particularly antsy. He didn’t exhibit any behaviors I’d associated with attention deficit or hyperactivity. He was an 8-year-old boy with normal 8-year-old boy energy — at least that’s what I’d deduced from scrutinizing his friends.

But the third-grade teacher suggested an evaluation.

. . .  once you start looking for a problem, someone’s going to find one, and attention deficit has become the go-to diagnosis, increasing by an average of 5.5 percent a year between 2003 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2010, according to the National Health Interview Survey, 8.4 percent, or 5.2 million children, between the ages of 3 and 17 had been given diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

There’s no test for ADHD, she writes. Teachers’ impressions —  they’re asked to rate “squirminess” on a scale of one to five — make a big difference.

Will was diagnosed as being inattentive in distracting situations, such as school, and prescribed Ritalin. “It was not to be taken at home, or on weekends, or vacations. He didn’t need to be medicated for regular life.”

He took the drug in fourth grade and had a great year, but quit in fifth grade. He’s done fine without it. “For him, it was a matter of growing up, settling down and learning how to get organized,” writes Hruska. “Kids learn to speak, lose baby teeth and hit puberty at a variety of ages. We might remind ourselves that the ability to settle into being a focused student is simply a developmental milestone; there’s no magical age at which this happens.”

 

 

This is your child’s brain on TV

This is Your Child's Brain on Television
Via: Online Courses News

Too much TV hurts toddlers

TV-loving toddlers “are more likely by age 10 to be disengaged at school, get picked on by classmates, be overweight and eat an unhealthy diet,” concludes a study by researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of Michigan. From Time’s Wellness Blog:

. . .  each additional hour of TV that children watched at 29 months corresponded with a 7% decrease in classroom engagement, a 6% drop in math achievement, a 13% decrease in physical activity on weekends, a 10% increase in video-game playing and a 10% greater likelihood of getting teased, assaulted or insulted by classmates.

. . . On average, the study found, children were watching nearly 9 hours of TV per week at 29 months, and nearly 15 hours per week by 53 months. (Children with more educated mothers watched less; those from single-parent homes watched more.) The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 2 watch no TV at all; children older than 2 should get no more than 1 to 2 hours of “quality programming” each day. Although the TV-watching habits of children in the current study were within or close to the limits set by the AAP, the data suggest the children still suffered negative consequences.

Pediatricians tell parents not to put TV sets in their children’s bedrooms and to monitor what they watch.

It ain't necessarily so

Much of what everyone knows about child development isn’t so, write Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children. Child development research develops over time, they write, leaving old ideas behind.

Kay Hymowitz summarizes in a Wall Street Journal book review.

And what do they show? That high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids.  In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive.   Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.

Young children gain nothing from lessons that try to teach tolerance and promote diversity, Bronson and Merryman write.   Older students may respond by becoming overly sensitive.

As for trying to increase emotional intelligence, the education fad of the 1990s, it doesn’t seem to promote “pro-social values” either. It turns out that bullies use their considerable EQ to control their peers.

Programs to prevent students from dropping out or using drugs have no effect, the book concludes.

Tests to determine giftedness in young children are unreliable because children change so much in the early years. Baby Einstein videos? A waste of money.

Not much of a shock, as Hymowitz writes, but good to know.

In Science of Kids, Wray Herbert focuses on Nurture Shock‘s essay on kids and lying.