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Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
The amount of screen time you allow your kids can be a point of tension in many households. A new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior shows that increased digital use may actually affect pre-teens’ ability to read and interpret people’s nonverbal emotional and social cues.
According to The Los Angeles Times, two groups of children were given two tests, a pre- and a post-experiment test that asked them to decipher the emotions of people shown in photographs and videos. Afterwards, one group continued with their normal plugged-in lifestyle, while the other group spent five days outdoors with peers at a wilderness camp where all electronics (cellphones, televisions, and computers) were banned.
Researchers found that the kids who spent time away from technology scored better on their post-experience test, while those who didn’t scored about the same. This finding underscores the worry that many parents have about the negative impact of prolonged exposure to digital media. “Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study from UCLA. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”
But the good news is that it only took the kids who attended camp a short amount of time improve their emotional recognition ability. And this new piece of research gives the evidence you need to get kids to turn off technology — at least for a few more hours — and interact with friends and family. “The main thing I hope people take away from this is that it is really important for children to have time for face-to-face socializing,” said Yalda Uhls, another author of the study and a Southern California regional director for Common Sense Media,
Would you ever consider asking your family to give up technology? Our Homeschool Den blogger is doing just that this week!
Plus: If you’re hesitant about how to introduce technology to your little one, we’ll show you how with these media-minding tips.
Photo of children courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
There are fewer people eligible to be on MTV’s Teen Mom, according to the latest stats from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report shows a continued decline in single motherhood, in all groups but the over-35 segment. Now, only 4 out of every 10 births occur out of wedlock—and more than half of those “single mom” births are within cohabiting couples who just haven’t decided to make their union official.
The biggest decline in birth rate occurred in the 15-to-17-year-old age bracket, where the number of births fell by almost a third over the last five years—and the older-teen birth rate also declined by more than 25 percent.
This slightly contradicts some earlier figures in a Johns Hopkins study, which showed that nearly 60 percent of births to the Millennial generation had occurred out of wedlock.
Still, both sets of data show that the wife-then-mom model may not be the scenario for many modern-day moms.
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Mothers who have specific fears and anxieties may inadvertently pass them along to their days-old newborns through an unlikely method–smell. A new study published in the journal Proceedings National Academy of Sciences tested the role of smell in fear transfer by exposing rats to mild shocks while they were in an environment scented with peppermint oil. Later, the same rats gave birth, and the pups’ fear responses were tested, measuring the activity of the part of the brain called the amygdala, when they were exposed to the same scent. The pups, the study found, showed a fear reaction at the mere whiff of peppermint.
Newsweek has more:
“It was really surprising to us that…it could be so early and could be so lasting,” said [psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and lead researcher Jacek] Debiec, pointing out that infants generally do not form lasting memories unless experiences are repeated during the first few days of life, a concept called infantile amnesia. “Here it was a single exposure and it was enough for these newborn pups to create lasting memories,” added Debiec.
When researchers gave pups a substance that blocked activity in the amygdala, according to the study, the baby rats did not learn the fear of peppermint smell from their mothers. This could help mental health experts find ways to prevent children from learning certain fear responses from their mothers.
“Infants can learn from their mothers about potential environmental threats before their sensory and motor development allows them a comprehensive exploration of the surrounding environment,” says the six-page study.
Some mother rats tried to plug the tubing so that the smell wouldn’t come through, a behavior that Debiec found interesting and wants to study further.
Image: Boy smells something bad, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
A new study that followed 670 preschool-aged children in Ohio for a year is urging that integrating children with disabilities, who are enrolled in special education programs in school, into regular-ability classrooms may have a remarkable impact on the special needs’ kids language skills over the course of a school year. Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University, says that the results should encourage schools who are considering inclusion models where children with disabilities are placed in the same classroom as peers who are developing normally. More from Science Daily:
“Students with disabilities are the ones who are affected most by the language skills of the other children in their class,” Justice said.
“We found that children with disabilities get a big boost in their language scores over the course of a year when they can interact with other children who have good language skills.”
In fact, after one year of preschool, children with disabilities had language skills comparable to children without disabilities when surrounded by highly skilled peers in their classroom.
“The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them,” Justice said. “In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”
Justice added that highly-skilled children’s language abilities were not negatively affected by having the special needs children in their classrooms.
Image: Preschool letters and numbers, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 28th, 2014
Infants and children who are at particular risk of contracting the serious infection called meningitis should receive a vaccine at an early age and receive routine vaccinations through their college-aged years, according to an updated recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the largest organization of pediatricians in the United States.
The update is the first time the group has made a statement on “meningococcal” vaccines since 2011, and it notes that since its last update, three such vaccines have been approved for use in infants. Though the guidelines don’t urge the vaccines for every young child (the current standard of care is to begin vaccination at age 11), they do recommend early vaccination for children aged 2 months and older who have immune deficiencies, are missing spleens, or have sickle cell disease or other higher infection risks.
More from HealthDay.com:
“We needed to have new recommendations so that pediatricians would understand how to use these vaccines in young infants and children, since they’re now available,” said guidelines author Dr. Michael Brady, associate medical director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re telling pediatricians that we don’t feel it’s necessary to give this vaccination routinely to young children,” he added, “but for children with select risks, it’s a good vaccine to give.”
The updated meningococcal recommendations are published online July 28 in the journal Pediatrics.
Meningococcal disease is linked to a variety of infections, including meningitis and pneumonia. Meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, strikes between 800 and 1,200 people in the United States each year, according to the National Meningitis Association.
Image: Infant vaccine, via Shutterstock
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