Sunday, November 17th, 2013
I had a sitter the other night who the kids love. But this time they were antsy. Bored. They wouldn’t let me get ready. Emmett wailed when I tried to leave the room.
“Fine, you guys can watch a Super Why,” I said.
Yes, it was the path of least resistance. Yes, it was easier. But according to some new studies, there is a real danger in what I did.
Research is showing that kids who watch a lot of television and play on the iPad, iPhone, etc., are growing up to have “sustained attention” problems. Now before you stop reading and think, “Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this before,” hear me out. There’s some really new–and interesting– information surfacing. You have to remember that middle and high school kids who are growing up with this modern technology are giving us more and more insight into what it all means and the impact it is having. This is important stuff. Here’s the scoop:
When you walk in the door with your phone or text in front of your kid, you are sending a message to them that they aren’t as important (yes, we’ve heard that before). But you’re also sending a message that this device keeps your attention a lot of the time. When’s the last time you sat in the doctor’s office doing nothing while waiting for your name to be called? Or just sat quietly, not on your phone, waiting for your take-out meal to be ready? How many times have you given the phone to your kid at a restaurant because you want to enjoy your meal? I’m guilty on all counts.
All of the above is teaching them that technology soothes. What’s happening is kids are losing the ability to “self-soothe.” They aren’t just sitting still, using their imagination. Kids need to be bored in order to figure out how to become “un”-bored. They need to misbehave to learn how to behave. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that giving them your phone is the wrong thing to do. Have them color or play some sort of game. Or leave and give them a time-out. Yes, your meal gets cut short. It sucks. But giving them a phone when they whine is not in their best interest. Especially as they grow.
The brains of infants through preschoolers begin making deep connections that teach them to use their imaginations and creativity to “soothe” for lack of a better word, when they’re bored. Researchers are now finding that kids who grow up watching television when they’re bored and playing on the computer/iPad, are getting to middle and high school and not being able to complete “boring” assignments. For example, if you have to read a boring book and write a term paper about it, which when I was in school, was a reality, you had to just push on through. Nowadays they are finding kids don’t have that deep connection to even get through the work. So academically many kids are hitting a wall. It’s a wall that apparently could have been prevented if parents hadn’t been so quick to let them watch a lot of television or play on the computer.
It then trickles into the work world. They get a job. They are bored. They quit. The consequences are dire.
My pediatrician gave me some tips.
- Don’t even let your kids see the phone. Put it in your purse or your pocket when you walk in the door.
- If you have to go send some emails, leave the room to do it. Tell them you have some work to do for a few minutes and to entertain themselves.
- When you are with your kids, focus on them during the crucial times. She gave an example: 30 minutes of play, then dinner, bath, book, bed=NO PHONE.
- No more than an hour of television a day.
(I’d say we usually let them watch 1 1/2 hours a day. On weekends more. Yikes).
- No TV for kids under 2 (which I know we’ve heard and has been hotly debated by the American Academy of Pediatricians).
I’ve failed on that and now Em gets excited when Fia gets to watch a show, so I’m not backtracking. What I will do is cut down on the TV she is allowed to watch, so he naturally will, too. And honestly, he watches for about 10 minutes then leaves the room and plays with his cars or something.
The thought of my kids growing up not knowing how to use their imaginations to their full ability because their brains weren’t trained properly is really scary to me. I am not one to sit still and I’m not promising when I’m at the doctor by myself, that I won’t pull out my phone while waiting. But I don’t have to write term papers in 8th grade. My brain development is done. Actually I’d say it’s on the decline judging by my meat fiasco last week. So I take that back: Maybe I should work on sitting still and doing nothing. That’s what my meditation app is having me do. Okay, I’m going to make a commitment to do this.
My guest blogger Joe Deprospero decided to stop playing Words With Friends on this phone because he could feel the distraction it was causing at home. If we each decide to change one part of our technology lifestyle, think of the ripple effect that could have. Especially on our families. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Just tweak.
I did cut down a lot on technology after I wrote about it last year. But this is a good reminder. Anyone else want to join?
What do your everyday decisions say about your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.
Pic of girl on iPad via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Thursday, December 20th, 2012
I was going to write again this morning about my anger at the gun lobby.
I was going to write about my anger at largely the GOP and how they are in bed with the NRA (though certainly the Democratic party needs a backbone as well to stand up to the gun lobby).
I was going to write about the mental health debate that is now at the forefront. I wanted to talk about the contradiction that the very same people who support the NRA agenda also don’t want their taxes raised. And guess what proper mental health facilities require? Money. From taxes. So we’re in a bit of a quandary aren’t we people?
I was going to ask you all to enlighten me. Democrats, republicans, survivalists (your end of the world comes tomorrow, right? I hope you’re snug in your bunker. Some of them now have televisions in them. Funny thinking about what television you’ll watch when the world ends, huh?), I’m all ears. I want to understand what you suggest we do about incidents like the Newtown massacre. If you say mental health, are you willing to have your tax dollars support it? I am. Not sure what we need, exactly…institutions? I am not sure some of these mass murderers would have been placed in one anyway. But I’m willing to try anything–and help pay for it. After all, we can’t expect someone else like Warren Buffett or Donald Trump to foot the bill (though Donald would certainly benefit from some mental health himself…)
But I digress. I was also going to write about video games. What is the correlation between these awful, violent games where kids learn to kill and become desensitized…and the violence in our society?
These are the things that have been running through my mind in the moments where I’m not grieving for the people of Newtown. I want to understand how this could have happened. And how to prevent another one.
But then I came across something that ignited even more rage. Oklahoma! Yes, the state made famous by Rodgers and Hammerstein has added more fame to its arsenal. You ready for this? Back in October a law was passed allowing you to take your gun to yoga class! Or anywhere you want! Loaded and unconcealed! Yes, this requires many exclamation points of excitement!!!! Want to walk into a bank with a loaded weapon? No problem! The only place you can’t carry is a government building, a school or a bar. Whew. But if you want to do downward dog with your gun next to you, you can. Breathe an extra Namaste while you’re at it. It may be your last.
This may be the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. Well, almost.
You see, when the law went into effect, Oklahoma became the 15th state to allow people to openly carry firearms with a license. Huh? Fifteen states allow this?? Quoting from the New York Times article, here’s the skinny: “Those 15 states include Utah, Iowa, New Jersey and Connecticut. Several other states, including Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, have even more permissive laws that allow the carrying of unconcealed firearms without a license. All but six states and the District of Columbia allow some form of open carry, said John Pierce, founder of OpenCarry.org.”
But here is where Oklahoma is different than the East Coast states, including Connecticut. Again, quoting from the article:
“On the East Coast, open-carry laws generate little controversy because several states make it hard for average citizens to acquire the permits necessary to display unconcealed firearms.
Oklahoma is considered a “shall-issue” state, meaning that once a resident meets the legal requirements, officials must issue a license. Others states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, are known as “may-issue” states, meaning that even if a resident satisfies the requirements, officials may or may not issue the license because they have the discretion to consider other factors.”
I mean, are you kidding me? WTF?? The thing is, Oklahoma isn’t the only lenient state either. That’s why we need federal reform. From the top. Speaking of… I love how no pro-gun rights senators (31 of them were asked) would appear on Meet the Press this weekend. Cowards I call them.
I applaud President Obama for saying he’ll propose something. Because something is better than nothing. But if he doesn’t, he loses my support (though I suspect the real problem will come from the members of Congress who bend over to the NRA). I applaud Senator Dianne Feinstein for saying she’ll push for an assault weapons ban. And I vow to never contribute to another politician unless he or she has actively pushed for gun reform. It trumps everything else I believe in. Because none of it matters if you or your children are going to be gunned down.
To those of you who say there’s a .000001% chance that it will ever happen to you or your kid, I use the old adage, yeah, until it does. Then it’s a 100% chance.
Once again I reiterate what I said in my Newtown piece: no one is saying to make guns illegal. No one is saying to get rid of the Second Amendment. But what does need to be amended is the right to carry assault style weapons. That should no more be a part of the Second Amendment than the right to carry around a nuclear bomb.
I know people who hunt. People in my own family. Whom I love. But if you’re a hunter who requires an assault weapon to kill your prey then a) you’re not a real hunter and b) find another hobby. Like knitting.
Lastly, I will say, it’s a helluva lot easier to write from a place of anger than sadness. And right now I don’t feel like being sad. I don’t want to look at the pictures of those murdered children. I don’t want to imagine how those parents feel.
I’m now going to sign off and play with Emmett. I’m going to pick Fia up from school. I’ll probably hit Target, maybe even the grocery store. A typical day for me. Any one of those Newtown parents would kill for a day like mine. Sadly, for them, someone killed that typical day. Forever.
By the way, before you comment on my blog, consider the following from Nicholas Kristof’s latest column. He is responding to comments (in italics) made after his incredibly, fact-driven piece that was published last weekend. (read that one here).
What happened in Newtown, Conn., was heartbreaking, but gun laws are feel-good measures that don’t make a difference. Norway has very restrictive gun laws, but it had its own massacre of 77 people.
It’s true that the 1994 assault weapons ban was not very effective, even before it expired (partly because it had trouble defining assault weapons, and partly because handguns kill more people than assault rifles). But if that law’s ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines had still been in effect, Adam Lanza, the gunman in Newtown, might have had to reload three times as often.
As for Norway, its laws did not prevent the massacre therelast year. But, in a typical year, Norway has 10 or fewer gun murders. The United States has more than that in eight hours.
If people want to kill, you can’t stop them. Even a fork can be deadly. On the same day as the Connecticut tragedy, a man attacked 23 schoolchildren in China with a knife.
But, in the attack in China, not one of those children died. What makes guns different is their lethality. That’s why the military doesn’t arm our troops with forks.
Gun suicides (nearly 19,000 a year in the U.S.) outnumber gun murders (more than 11,000), and a gun in the home increases the risk that someone in the home will commit suicide. The reason is that suicide attempts with pills or razors often fail; with guns, they succeed. When Israel moved to have many soldiers store guns on base rather than at home, its military suicide rates plunged.
We have the Second Amendment, which protects our right to bear arms. So don’t talk about gun control!
There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it’s more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns. The question isn’t whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.
I’d like to see us take a public health approach that reduces the harm that guns cause. We could limit gun purchases to one a month to impede traffickers, make serial numbers harder to file off, ban high-capacity magazines, finance gun buybacks, require solid background checks even for private gun sales, require microstamping so that bullet casings can be traced back to a particular gun and mandate that guns be stored in gun safes or with trigger locks.
And if you need to enter a code to operate your cellphone, why not to fire your gun?
If you were at home at night and heard creaking downstairs, wouldn’t you want a Glock in your night stand?
Frankly, at that moment, I might. And then I might creep downstairs and fire at a furtive figure in the darkened kitchen — perhaps my son returning from college to surprise the family. Or, God forbid, somebody who lives in the house might use the Glock to commit suicide.
The gun lobby often cites the work of John Lott, who argued that more guns mean less crime, but scholars have since thoroughly debunked Lott’s arguments. Published research makes it clear that having a gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot — by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun.
Nancy Lanza is a case in point. She perhaps thought that her guns would keep her safe. But they were used to kill her and then schoolchildren.
As children were being rushed out of Sandy Hook Elementary School, they were told to cover their eyes. I hope we don’t do the same and blind ourselves to the lessons of this tragedy.
Picture of Oklahoma courtesy of Shutterstock
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