Closing the parenting gap

We’ll never narrow the achievement gap significantly unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” separating affluent and low-income families, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

(I think the gap is about parental education, not income.) But back to Petrilli.

Let’s admit it: The Broader/Bolder types are right when they say that a LOT of what influences student achievement happens outside of schools, and before kids ever set foot in Kindergarten. Where they are wrong, I believe, is in thinking that turbo-charged government programs can compensate for the real challenge: what’s happening (or not) inside the home..

Parents can increase their children’s chances of doing well in school by not having children till the papers have graduated from high school and married. (I once saw a study saying that 90 percent of children born to an unmarried, teen-age high school drop-out live in poverty compared to 9 percent of children born to married, high school graduates who waited till 20 to have their first child.) Petrilli adds: talking and singing to the baby, firm but loving discipline, limits on TV, trips to parks, museums and nature centers and “ready, baby, read.”

. . . out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates and divorce rates have reached catastrophic levels for the poor and the working class–but not for the most affluent and well-educated among us.

. . . You don’t have to be Richy Rich to nurse your baby, or sing to her, or learn how to be loving but firm. Sure, a few of these items are easier with money. (I imagine that low income families use TV as a babysitter more because they can’t afford alternative childcare.) But mostly these take commitment, discipline, and practice.

Petrilli doesn’t know how to promote marriage before babies, but he’d like to try.

Single parenting can be a rational choice in some neighborhoods, responds Dana Goldstein. She lives in New York City, where only one of every four young black men has a job.

. . .  as sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas demonstrate in one of my favorite booksPromises I Can Keep, low-income women often prefer to remain unmarried because the men in their lives–men facing chronic unemployment in the legitimate economy, or who may be addicted or engaged in criminal behaivior–simply do not make stable husbands or fathers.

If I worked for a foundation, I’d hire smart people to design a TV show to model good parenting — and marriage — to viewers who haven’t grown up with that. It would have to be entertaining, so people would watch it voluntarily.

Kids add digital media to TV time

From birth through age eight, children are spending more time with digital media such as computers, video games, cell phones and video iPods, concludes a study by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit. However, most screen time still is devoted to watching TV.

Half of children from babies to 8-year-olds have access to a smart phone, video iPod, iPad or other tablet device. Some 47 percent of higher-income parents have downloaded apps for their children, compared to 14 percent of lower-income children, leading to warnings of an “app gap.”

Half of low-income families with young children have a computer at home compared to 91 percent of higher-income families.

Computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2- to 4-year- olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of ten (90%) 5- to 8-year-olds having done so. . . . Among all children who have used a computer, the average age at first use was just 3 ½ years old.

However, TV is still king of the toddlers’ jungle. In a typical day, nearly half of babies and toddlers watch TV or DVDs for an average of nearly two hours. For all children in their first year, the average is 53 minutes of TV time versus 23 minutes being read to.

Two-thirds (65%) of 0- to 8-year-olds watch TV at least once every day (ranging from 37% of 0-1 year- olds, to 73% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 72% of 5- to 8-year-olds). Forty-two percent have a TV in their bedroom, and 39% live in a home where the TV is left on all (10%) or most (29%) of the time, whether anyone is watching it or not. Children this age spend an average of 1:44 watching TV or videos in a typical day, compared to :29 reading, :29 listening to music, and :25 playing computer or video games.

Black and Hispanic children and lower-income children spend much more time with media than whites and children with educated parents. Sixty-four percent of low-income children have a TV in their bedroom, compared to 20 percent of children in affluent homes.

Smart phones and iPads are becoming baby toys, notes the New York Times.

Jeannie Crowley, who helps faculty members at the Bank Street College of Education integrate technology into teaching, got rid of television at home because of the ads and branding.

But Ms. Crowley hands her iPad over to her 19-month-old daughter, Maggie, to play with the Smule piano app. And at bedtime, the family often watches “30 Rock” on the computer, Maggie dancing to the opening music. The toddler also loves YouTube videos of barking dogs.

And she is also adept with her mother’s smartphone.

“She learned how to unlock it, observationally, about two months ago.” Ms Crowley said. “About two weeks ago, she was on the train with me, and she popped the slide bar.”

. . . Most of all, Maggie likes to watch the cellphone videos her parents take of her stomping on leaves, getting sticky sap on her hands or wearing her new pink polka dot pajamas.

My step-granddaughter, two-year-old Julia learned to access the ring tones on my old cell phone. She presses a button, the tune plays, we dance.

Does SpongeBob make kids stupid?

Watching nine minutes of SpongeBob Squarepants can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds, concludes a new study published in Pediatrics. Children who drew pictures or watched a slower-paced PBS cartoon, Caillou, outperformed SpongeBob watchers on tests of mental functions.

It’s not just SpongeBob. Watching other fast-paced cartoons makes it harder for young children to pay attention or learn immediately afterward, said Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard and lead author of the study.

The anti-Mozart effect?

 

Connected kids

Today’s children are Always Connected, reports Sesame Street Workship and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Nearly one quarter of young children (ages 0 to 5) use the Internet at least once a week and just under half of all 6-year-olds play video games.
Almost nine out of ten children over age 5 watch television, averaging at least three hours of television a day.

Co-viewing — children watching TV with a parent — promotes learning, the report advises. But parents should make sure children don’t spend too much time “connected” to media.

Preschoolers average 4 hours of TV daily

Preschoolers watch TV for four hours a day, on average, reports a new study, “Preschoolers’ Total Daily Screen Time at Home and by Type of Child Care,” published in Pediatrics.

Children in home-based child care average 5.6 hours a day; the average for parent-only care is 4.4 hours.  Children in day-care centers spend less time watching TV.  The study reported a significant decline in TV hours for low-income children in Head Start.

Overall, black children watch considerably more TV; educated parents’ children watch considerably less.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents allow “no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day” for preschoolers.


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.

The media generation

If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online, reports the New York Times, quoting a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with electronic devices — plus another hour and a half texting and a half-hour talking on their cellphones.

The study’s findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further, and confirmed the fears of many parents whose children are constantly tethered to media devices.

. . . Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health, said that with media use so ubiquitous, it was time to stop arguing over whether it was good or bad and accept it as part of children’s environment, “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”

Not surprisingly, the very heavy media users (16+ hours a day), who make up 21 percent of the total, were more likely to earn low grades than the light users (three hours or less), who make up 17 percent.

The heaviest media users were also more likely than the lightest users to report that they were bored or sad, or that they got into trouble, did not get along well with their parents and were not happy at school.

The study could not say whether the media use causes problems, or, rather, whether troubled youths turn to heavy media use.

Over the past five years, ownership of cell phones and iPods has soared among 8- to 18-year-olds, growing from 39% to 66% for cell phones, and from 18% to 76% for iPods and other MP3 players.

. . . young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games, and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of :49 daily) than they spend talking on them (:33).

When parents limit TV watching, video games or computer use, children average three hours less usage per day.  But 70 percent of parents set no rules.

About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals, and just under half (45%) say the TV is left on “most of the time” in their home, even if no one is watching.  Seven in ten (71%) have a TV in their bedroom, and half (50%) have a console video game player in their room.  Again, children in these TV-centric homes spend far more time watching: 1:30 more a day in homes where the TV is left on most of the time, and an hour more among those with a TV in their room.

“Black and Hispanic children consume nearly 4½ hours more media daily than whites,” the study found.

Some of the largest differences are in TV viewing: Black children spend nearly 6 hours and Hispanics just under 5½ hours, compared to roughly 3½ hours a day for White youth.

Time spent reading books held steady at 25 minutes a day, with another nine minutes with magazines and newspapers.

Out of the network

Teaching the transcendentalists and inspired by an essay called “The End of Solitude,” Lightly Seasoned asked AP juniors  to give up social media and TV for one day last weekend.

The journals were fascinating: some kids did it fairly easily and were happily surprised by how productive they were. One kid ended up playing Scrabble with his family instead of going to a concert (because he missed the call): he acted all miffed at me, but he enjoyed the day. Some made no real attempt because they didn’t see any point in defining themselves separately from their social circle … no, they actually said that! This group mostly consisted of the kiddos I know are heavy into the party circuit. I admire how outgoing they are — they’ll know how to network, etc. when they hit the business world, but I wonder how much they know about themselves.

A final group “didn’t want to spend time with their thoughts — they were all about avoiding some painful situations.”

Schooltime TV

Scribbit, a mom-blogger in Alaska, wonders why her high school age daughter watches so much TV at school.  The daughter watched Enchanted in English class and Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Ice Age and Finding Nemo in German class.

“How many movies do you watch a week?”

She thought a bit, counting up on her fingers and trying to remember. “Oh — I don’t know — five or six, maybe more. We watch TV pretty much every day in at least one class and any time we have a sub they put in movies or something. We watch stuff like Mythbusters a lot and call it chemistry.”

In addition to time-wasting substitutes, the daughter also complained of a P.E. teacher who told students to nap in class  and an English teacher who assigned Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, which is about Merlin, in a unit on the Renaissance.

“The projects we did had nothing to do with the Renaissance either — we do a lot of projects, especially group projects. I think it’s because the teacher doesn’t have to do anything to grade it like they would have to do if we actually wrote a paper or took a test. Some kid built a throne out of hockey pucks and hockey sticks and got an A.”

Core Knowledge wonders: Is this credible? Can it really be that bad?

On Kitchen Table Math, Casey T’s son, a freshman in the ultra-academic International Baccalaureate program, watches “3 movies or TV videos a week, max.”

I realize that I come from the filmstrip era, but that seems like an awful lot of screen-watching to me. I can envision watching a movie of Romeo and Juliet while reading the play in English class, but Finding Nemo isn’t a science movie.

Australia: no TV for under-twos

Children under two should watch no TV and be kept away from computers or electronic games, say Australian government guidelines.

The guidelines warn that exposure to television at such an early age can delay language development, affect the ability of a child to concentrate and lead to obesity.

The recommendations also suggest that children aged two to five should watch no more than one hour of television a day.

The advice to parents — and proposed rules for child-care centers — call for no “screen time” for fear it will crowd out active play.