Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Service of The Perfect Balance of Digital Technology for Kids in Schools & At Home

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Photo: mytechdecisions.com

What amount of screen time is best for children in school and at home? Some feel that being comfortable using internet-connected devices is the best way to stay current and be job-ready when the time comes. Others fear that too much screen time is a damaging distraction.

Photo: france24.com

As of this September, French children from three through 15 must turn off or leave at home their smartphones, tablets and other devices when in school. CNN’s Rory Smith reported that it’s up to each school whether older school children have the same restrictions. The French education minister said that the law, which passed by 62 votes to one, is to keep kids from the “phenomenon of screen addiction…. to protect children and adolescents.”

Lucille Grippo, who lives an hour and a half north of NYC, has three school aged children. She wrote me: “Our school district had a viewing of the movie ‘Screenagers.’ As a parent of teens it was eye-opening. I am one of the few that wish there was less tech in schools. It’s a double edged sword. It certainly makes life easier for teachers and students alike but I wonder about the affect on the brain of so much screen time.”

Photo: drbeurkens.com

Lucille has learned how fragile brains can be from firsthand experience. If her name is familiar it’s because in January I re-posted a blog she’d written, “Why a Calendar is so Important to Me” in my post, “Service of Calendars and Miracles.” This young mother had suffered cardiac arrest out of the blue. At first, due to cortical blindness, she couldn’t see numbers and days on a calendar. Aphasia blocked connections that deciphered what appeared to be strange symbols. She also couldn’t read emails and posts on a computer screen..

After fierce physical, occupational and speech therapies and ferocious determination, her eyesight returned and today she even drives. When circumstances beyond her control forced her away from the “screen” and “offline” she realized how easy it was to step away. Reluctantly returning to her iPhone, tablet and laptop she recognized how the world around her operates on a paperless, electronic, and digital way. Sometimes her brain still has screen time overload.

Back to the documentary. Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD’s “Screenagers” synopsis begins: “Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?” She wonders about the impact and friction at home and in school over the some 6.5 hours/day children spend looking at screens. The film explores “struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.” It includes “insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists and reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance.”

Photo: independent.co.uk

Dr. Ruston writes the blog Tech Talk Tuesday. In a recent issue she reported: “Fact: Schools experience pressure to have tech on their campuses from tech companies, administration, and others. Schools want to do well by their students and tech has been sold as a quick fix. For example, schools keep hearing from tech and curriculum companies that ways to ‘personalize and customize learning’ is right around the corner.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very long corner with no impressive results yet,” she added referring to a New York Times article, “The Digital Gap Between the Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected.” The Times reported that Utah, with no funding for a traditional program, has 10 thousand children enrolled in an online preschool. “…one can see how the screen has stepped in,” she wrote.

Her research showed that grades and emotional well being were improved when schools had stringent policies restricting cell phones. The devices were permitted by 66 percent of public middle schools vs. 34 percent of private schools in her study.

Do you think a child restricted from free access to online devices will fall behind his/her peers? Will eliminating the distraction help children focus on school? Might there be less online bullying? Are you distracted by your phone and the siren call of checking what’s up on social media and your email box?

Photo: neonnettle.com

Service of Family: No Marriage, No Children=No Family & Unfit to Serve?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Photo: motivationpt.com

I was at an auto dealership in upstate New York last weekend speaking with an insurance company customer service rep. Our salesman was arranging for the transfer of our insurance to a new car and when done, he passed me the phone.

After “Hello”—I’d expected a quick “confirming that you’re Jeanne Byington leasing a car,”–but instead the rep bombarded me with questions starting with “What’s your PIN number?” I panicked, looked at my husband and we spat out a few options. The rep interrupted me and then asked, “What is the name of your child?” I answered: “I don’t have one.” He said, “You have to call back. I’ve been logged out.” Click.

Photo: datagenetics.com

So we called back, this time logging in with a PIN number, which worked thank goodness, and we reached a pleasant woman who took the information she needed from the salesman and she then asked me: “What’s your child’s birthday and year of birth?” I told her I don’t have children, but decided to share the birth info of my stepdaughter to move things along. That was the right answer. The company, its staff or computer had assumed that everyone has a kid and that my husband’s daughter–he uses the same company for a range of services—was also mine.

I immediately thought of a comment I read on Twitter by author Father James Martin, @JamesMartinSJ,  regarding the replacement of the fired House of Representatives Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy: “The idea that a priest can’t be House chaplain because he’s not a ‘family man’ is absurd and borderline anti-Catholic. Priests have families: mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. Also, by that yardstick, Jesus Christ wouldn’t qualify.”

Father James Martin. Photo: ncregister.com

He was responding to a remark by Mark Walker, a Republican representative from North Carolina who is on a committee to find a new chaplain. According to The Hill, Walker said: “I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family—that has some counseling experience…”

I take Walker’s comment a step beyond religion: Is Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor unable to do her job appropriately because she never married nor had children yet her judgments impact citizens?

Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Nobody knows for sure why the Chaplain was fired. According to America Magazine’s Michael J. O’Loughlin who wrote “House Republicans rebuff investigation into firing of Jesuit chaplain,” New York Representative Joe Crowley noted that “Mr. Ryan and other Republican members of Congress were unhappy with the chaplain for delivering a prayer in November they viewed as partisan.” Father Conroy reported to The New York Times that after he offered the prayer on taxes, Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”  While the Republican tax bill was on the table Father Conroy had urged the planners not to create “winners and losers.”

O’Loughlin wrote that “Mr. Ryan told Republican colleagues on Friday that some lawmakers felt Father Conroy was not providing appropriate pastoral care to House members.” I heard Representative Peter King from Long Island, NY disagree on TV news with this allegation.

So why did it take the House seven years to react if this was so? In his work as pastor at numerous churches as well as chaplain at Georgetown and Seattle Universities, for how many people had he provided pastoral care without complaint?

In a subsequent interview with Walker, Scott Wong reported in The Hill in “Conservative leader: Next House chaplain should have a family” that the congressman said “When you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately related a little bit more than others.”

To be effective, must a grade school teacher have children; a female psychiatrist counsel women exclusively, or an obstetrician be female? Is an unmarried man or woman or a couple with no children, regardless of religion, without family? Is a doctor who doesn’t suffer from his/her specialty unqualified to treat that disease? Are there certain jobs unmarried or childless people are ill-equipped to have?

Father Patrick Conroy. Photo: youtube.com

 

Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

 

Photo: atlantaparent.com

Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”

Photo: poki.com

Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?

Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Goofy Things Kids Do: Overnight Challenges in Stores & Restaurants

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Photo: guff.com

We made silly phone calls and tossed paper bags filled with water out the window into a courtyard to make a crashing sound to scare the neighbors. One Christmas Eve, kids–I assume it was kids–broke windows on the sidewalk side of every car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Ours was one. Kids who have no financial constraints steal candy and small items from stores for sport.

Photo: flickr.com

Jennifer Levitz, in “Where’s Your Teen Sleeping?” wrote about what some kids are up to these days. According to the sub-head of her Wall Street Journal story, they are “Adventure seekers hiding overnight in stores for ‘24-hour challenge’—and are really, really bored.” They hide in fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that close at night or hang out for 24 hours or more in those that stay open.

She wrote about the adventures of a few teens at a McDonald’s: “After the initial thrill of escaping detection, they passed the time by going down the small slide, flipping water bottles and filming themselves whispering in the dark.” Sleeping was hard. One tried to do so in a toy car.

“Young people boast of holding the overnight challenges in trampoline parks, bowling alleys, home improvement stores and supermarkets, too. Companies mostly seem perplexed,” Levitz reported.

What nutty things did you do when you were a kid and what wacky things do your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren do today?

Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Backwards

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

 

Backwards is nothing new to me. I passed economics in college by figuring out the answer and writing the opposite in exams. Long before that, at camp Frog Hollow Farm, we celebrated backwards day.

Hit On for Off

My husband’s printer—an oldie but sturdy–has been acting up. To get it to work I disconnected it from electricity. I was reprimanded by instructions on the little screen when I turned it back on [and it worked again]. The printer told me that I’d turned it off incorrectly and warned me not to unplug the printer from electricity again before first turning it off by hitting ON.

Don’t Walk the Dog

New York is a walker’s city. It’s the best way to get many places quickly as traffic on sidewalks is usually easily negotiated unless you’re passing a Broadway theater when audiences convene or exit or around famous museums on Sunday afternoon. Tourists walk at a slower pace than most New Yorkers while rush hour foot traffic generally moves swiftly.

That said, I can’t get over the number of dogs that are carried in arms and in conveyances when out for “walks.” There are suddenly too many of them to explain it as the graying of the dog population in need of assistance. Exercise is as essential for dogs as it is for people.

“Wrong Way” Signs Ignored by Bicycles

Bicycles are invading the city—racing by on sidewalks now. And bikers pay zero attention to signs on one way avenues informing them that they are going the wrong way [photo top, center taken this week]. To think tax dollars paid for the printing and installation of signs that exclaim the obvious and are ignored! At least one friend was knocked down by a bike that was bucking the tide on a major avenue.

Growing Taste Sensations

A conversation with a 5 year old took a surprising turn. She told me that when she was young, she liked to eat everything but not anymore. There’s a lot she doesn’t care for now, she said. And here I thought people’s tastes expand as they “age.”

Can you share any examples of backwards or counterintuitive behavior that you’ve seen or heard?

Photo: ecigadvanced.com

Service of When the Tail Wags the Dog: Over-Empowered Kids

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Photo: tcw.com

Picture this: It’s 2030 and an intern where you work slams her phone on a table, demands that the company summer outing be at an amusement park, not at the venue described in the text she just received, and flounces out of the boss’ office. Or maybe a nubie objects to the upcoming move and complains loudly to management that the new location is inconvenient for her.

“Fat chance,” you predict.

If some of the scenarios Jennifer Breheny Wallace described in her Wall Street Journal article are accurate, these instances could happen when the children she wrote about are let loose on the world as young adults. The days of “the tail doesn’t wag the dog,” no longer apply in some families whose kids rule every aspect of the roost.

Photo: educateempowerkids.com

Wallace warns that a democratic approach—where every member of the family, regardless of age or experience, has an equal vote in major decisions–isn’t such a good idea. [You think?]

In “Children Should Be Heard, but Only So Much–Children now have much more influence over family decisions, but parents need to be wary of giving them too much sway,” Wallace writes about one set of parents who put the purchase of an apartment on hold until they could get the approval of their six year old. Kids in other families determine where the family goes on vacation.

“‘Modern parents want their kids to feel included and empowered, so nearly every purchase is now a family decision,’ says branding strategist Bill Goodwin. In a recent National Retail Federation survey of more than 1,000 parents of Gen Zers (the generation born after 1995), 67% said that they solicit their child’s opinion before making family purchases, and 59% said that they won’t buy something if their child doesn’t approve of it,” wrote Wallace.

Photo: 510families.com

Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education told Wallace that there are benefits to letting kids know parents value their opinions such as in picking a restaurant. “But when it comes to making major purchases (such as a house) or determining family priorities (such as deciding whether to travel to see extended family or go to Disneyland), he says that a parent’s wisdom should prevail.”

Weissbourd observed: “Unfortunately, some parents now rely on their kids to fill the void of where a friend should be.”

Photo: modernmom.com

Wallace continued: “Children need to be taught to make sacrifices and not to assume that others will organize their lives around them, which can lead to entitlement, says Dr. Weissbourd. For example, if Saturdays are spent engaging in a child’s activity, then on Sundays, bring your child on family errands,” she wrote.

“Empowering children to make decisions about their own lives teaches them valuable life skills, such as how to take responsibility for themselves,” psychologist Laura Markham told Wallace. She referred to picking a sport or clothes. “However, when it comes to decisions that affect the overall family, “Parents should have the last word.”

Parents who hand over the reins to young children mean well but can it end well? Do you know families that operate in this way? Has the age of reason moved to six from 13—recognized by major religions–and isn’t 13 on the young side to know the best place to live or vacation?

Photo: ca.news.yahoo.com

Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

The headline alone of Bettina Elias Siegel’s article in The New York Times, “Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill,” is enough to sink hearts and for readers to scream: “What are they thinking?” To embarrass a child in front of others for something they have done is horror enough but to do this over something over which the young one has no control is unthinkable. Adding injury to insult is that it involves an essential life-sustaining activity, eating, and it is fomented by school administrators who, of all people, should know better. Further, there’s a huge element of waste involved.

I wrote about school lunches four years ago in a different context: Service of Equality: Free School Breakfast, Lunch and iPads.” In that post I wanted NYC to pay for breakfast and lunch for the children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them but thought that giving free iPads was a bit much when there are viable, far less expensive tablet options.

Recently Siegel wrote: “On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.”

What’s the strategy here: It’s better to toss good food than give it to a hungry child? That’ll teach a parent who isn’t there who may not have the money to pay in the first place.

Photo: thebalance.com

Photo: thebalance.com

News in the rest of the article doesn’t get much better. Siegel further described “lunch shaming,” as the nasty approach is called. “The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)” Instead of a real lunch some are given two pieces of bread with a thin slice of cheese.

Photo: money.usnews.com

Photo: money.usnews.com

Siegel described a cafeteria worker in Pa. who quit when forced to take away a child’s lunch. A child in Alabama went home with a stamp on her arm: “I need lunch money.”

There’s no free lunch and there’s the lunch bill to pay. What to do? Some qualify for a federal free meal program though others are afraid to apply because of their immigration status. Communities ask for “random acts of kindness” and organize fundraisers and GoFundMe pages. A Texas-based 4th grade mentor, Kenny Thompson, paid the bill when he saw the lunch lady refuse food to a child whose mother, he knew, was in the hospital. Next he founded “Feed the Future Forward,” and through fundraising events and donations hopes to wipe out over $50,000 in debt. To qualify for the refund money, however, Thompson makes schools sign a pledge that they won’t give children with unpaid bills a meal different from the other kids.

Lunch shaming is nothing new. Siegel quoted a mother whose son won’t eat peanut butter as the result of an incident two decades ago. How did it catch on and why do communities permit it? What gets into the minds of administrators who lose sight of their clients—children—when addressing a problem? How can parents permit such cruelty in a place they entrust their children?

Feed the Future Forward

Service of Time and Place: Is Something Still Funny with Kids in the Picture?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Kids in a frame

Todd Schnitt, co-host with Len Berman of the morning drive show on WOR 710 radio in NYC, deplored the slogan on a tee shirt that a young woman wore on the plane he, his wife and two kids were boarding recently. It promoted the F-word within a snarky comment. He was irritated that his kids had to see it.

He’d wished the crew had asked the woman to either wear her shirt inside out or buy another one at an airport shop as he’d read that other flight attendants had done the same. He also mentioned women boarding commercial flights in ridiculous décolleté who have been told either to cover up or leave.

boarding a planeSchnitt is no prude: He isn’t afraid of the racy story. He seems obsessed with Anthony Weiner and others caught in twisted situations of a perverted sexual nature. He reminds those who object—usually women–that his audience is young to middling-aged men.

chocolate cupcakesA day later an out of town friend told me that he was choosing some chocolate cupcakes for a five year old from a bakery often filled with kids buying treats. [He’d forgotten to recognize the child’s birthday and was seeing his dad and wanted a surprise at the ready.] “We call those Prozac cupcakes,” said the counterman. 

This friend doesn’t shock easily either, and even though he knew the baker picked what she thought was a clever name in an attempt at humor—as in desserts named “death by chocolate”–he wondered whether his choice was right for a chocolate-loving child and about the appropriateness of the name in the first place.

Do you think Todd and my friend are being prissy? Have we lost our compasses as to what’s funny–when–and in what context?

Compass

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