Archive for the ‘ Trends ’ Category

‘Slenderman’ Stabbing a Worrying Tale for Parents

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Parents who are following the story of two 12-year-old girls who allegedly stabbed a friend multiple times in an attempt to please a fictitious  character named Slenderman are wrestling with questions about when kids learn to separate fantasy from reality, and how parents can keep track of their children’s online activities.  More from CNN.com:

Police said the girls told them they attacked their friend on Saturday to win favor with Slenderman, a make-believe online character the girls said they learned about on a site called Creepypasta Wiki, which is filled with horror stories.

Children of all ages are consumed with fantasy in books and movies such as “Harry Potter, “Twilight” and “The Vampire Diaries,” and don’t seem to have a problem making the distinction between what’s real and what’s not. But a story like this makes any parent wonder: Whoa, maybe my kid doesn’t get it?

Mary Ellen Cavanagh of Ahwatukee, Arizona, mom to an almost 14-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son, said she sees the line between fantasy and reality “thinning drastically among our youth.”

“I worry about it with my own daughter and her friends,” Cavanagh said on Facebook, adding that her daughter and her friends enjoy relatively innocent fantasy shows on television and online. Still, she worries that their “obsession” could shift to a “more violent genre at any moment.”

“I think today’s generation has been desensitized by the various forms of media, and we as parents (myself included) have done a piss-poor job giving them proper guidance,” Cavanagh said.

Professor Jacqueline Woolley of the University of Texas at Austin’s department of psychology studies children’s thinking and their ability to make distinctions between fantasy and reality.

She has found that by the age of 2½, children understand the categories of what’s real and what’s not, and over time, they use cues to fit things like unicorns, ghosts and Santa Claus into the real and not real boxes.

By age 12, the age of the girls in question in this case, Woolley said, she believes children should have as good an ability to differentiate fantasy from reality as adults.

“I don’t think that a 12-year-old is deficient or is qualitatively different from an adult in their ability to differentiate fantasy from reality, so I don’t think they’re lacking any basic ability to make that distinction at age 12,” she said.

Woolley did suggest, adding that she was purely speculating, that the fact that the frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed until age 25 could be relevant in this case. The frontal lobe controls what’s called executive functions, which include impulse control and planning in the sense of anticipating all the different aspects of an outcome.

“It may be kind of an inability to hold the potential consequences and reality in mind at the same time as you’re holding potential consequences within your fantasy world in mind, whereas possibly an adult could sort of manage thinking about the consequences of both of those worlds at the same time,” she said.

Image: Girl looking at tablet screen, via Shutterstock

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Do Mobile Phones Affect Teens’ Brains? Study Will Find Out

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

A new study by British researchers will be the largest-ever to examine whether chronic use of mobile phones and other wireless devices affects kids’ and teenagers’ brain development.  Reuters has more:

The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones, or SCAMP, project will focus on cognitive functions such as memory and attention, which continue to develop into adolescence – just the age when teenagers start to own and use personal phones.

While there is no convincing evidence that radio waves from mobile phones affect health, to date most scientific research has focused on adults and the potential risk of brain cancers.

Because of that, scientists are uncertain as to whether children’s developing brains may be more vulnerable than adults’ brains – partly because their nervous systems are still developing, and partly because they are likely to have a higher cumulative exposure over their lifetimes.

“Scientific evidence available to date is reassuring and shows no association between exposure to radiofrequency waves from mobile phone use and brain cancer in adults in the short term – i.e. less than 10 years of use,” said Paul Elliott, director of the Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, who will co-lead the research.

“But the evidence available regarding long term heavy use and children’s use is limited and less clear.”

Mobile phone use is ubiquitous, with the World Health Organisation estimating 4.6 billion subscriptions globally. In Britain, some 70 percent of 11 to 12 year-olds now own a mobile phone, and that figure rises to 90 percent by age 14.

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Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Image: Teen on cell phones, via Shutterstock

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Parents Get Failing Grade for Low Level of U.S. Kids’ Fitness

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Frequent Internet use, stressed-out parents who don’t have time to play outside, and too much time spent riding in cars are all cited by a non-profit organization’s Physical Activity for Children and Youth report card as contributing factors to poor physical activity and fitness levels among American kids.  Reuters has more:

Only one quarter of children aged 6 to 15 meet the current guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, said Dr. Russell R. Pate, chairman of the non-profit National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Alliance, which issued the first U.S. report card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.

“Fifty percent of waking hours are spent in sedentary activity,” said Pate, professor in the Department of Exercise Science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Fitness experts say it is up to parents and policy makers to get their children to be more active.

“It’s not about grading the kids,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and chairman of the research committee that issued the report card.

“Kids want to be active, if they’re given the opportunity.” he said. “This is for us to change.”

Image: Kids playing outside, via Shutterstock

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Babysitting in New York City Most Expensive in U.S.

Monday, May 19th, 2014

New York City has been named in a national survey as the most expensive city in the nation in terms of the cost of hiring a babysitter.  More from Time.com:

The average hourly babysitting rate for one child in New York is $15.34, based on a survey by UrbanSitter, which compiled data from nearly 7,500 families. That’s about $4.50 per hour more expensive than the cheapest big American city, Denver, whose babysitters charge parents an average of $10.84 per hour.

San Francisco parents pay $14.99 for one kid, Los Angeles parents pay $13.53, Washington, DC parents pay $13.83, and on the lower end, Chicago parents bay $11.91 and San Diego parents pay $11.11.

UrbanSitter also found that parents go through babysitters pretty quickly, with only 6 percent saying they’ve had the same one for over 5 years. Parents also like to go out a lot: more than a fourth of parents say they hire a babysitter once a week or more. And 30 percent of parents say they would not hire a “manny”—a male babysitter.

Image: Babysitter, via Shutterstock

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Connecticut Considers School Chocolate Milk Ban

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Connecticut legislators have sent to the governor a measure that would prohibit public schools from offering chocolate milk and some juices to children, citing the beverages’ links to imbalanced nutrition when it comes to fat, salt, and sugar.  More from CBS News:

If he signs it, Connecticut would be the first state in the country — not just a single school district –to ban chocolate milk in school cafeterias. The law would go into effect next September.

Politicians in the state faced pressure to pass school nutrition rules or risk forfeiting funds from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a federal policy that sets requirements for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition Programs, which includes its school lunch program. However, the USDA points out that the Act does not ban individual food items. A USDA spokesperson told CBS News that it does require flavored milks to be non-fat.

Under the state proposal, schools in Connecticut would only be allowed to serve low-fat, unflavored milk and beverages without artificial sweeteners, added sodium or more than four grams of sugar per ounce.

Chocolate milk contains high fructose corn syrup and up to 200 milligrams of sodium, which means it won’t make the cut.

Some child nutritionists think the proposed law will backfire and jeopardize the health of children in the state. Jill Castle, a registered dietician and nutritionist from New Canaan, Conn., told CBS affiliate WFSB that when chocolate milk is removed from the cafeteria the overall consumption of milk goes down.

“From a nutrient profile, you’re getting calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorous, protein, and other nutrients,” said Castle.

But some food experts disagree. Marlene Schwartz, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, says the ban means that the food industry will simply need to adjust.

“This isn’t going to keep out flavored milk,” Schwartz told the Hartford Courant. “All it’s going to do it make sure the flavored milk that’s in there is not going to have added salt.”

Make mornings easier with our Healthy Breakfast On-The-Go guide.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Chocolate milk, via Shutterstock

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