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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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children and technology, digital media, media, media exposure, new study, screen time, social media, tech, technology | Categories:
New Research, Parenting News, Parents News Now
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Young children–just 4 or 5 years old–may be better at college students at catching on when it comes to operating mobile apps, remote controls, and other tech gadgets that often leave adults scratching their heads and fumbling through manuals. According to new research from the University of California at Berkeley, it’s the tots’ openness to thinking about new challenges in multiple ways that enables them to problem-solve their way to success with gadgets and games.
In the study, more than 100 preschoolers and more than 170 college students were given a music box game and shown how the placement of differently-shaped clay pieces on top of the box might make it turn on. The subjects were then asked to turn the box on. NPR reports on the findings:
“What we discovered, to our surprise, was not only were 4-year-olds amazingly good at doing this, but they were actually better at it than grown-ups were,” [psychologist Alison] Gopnik says.
So why are little kids who can’t even tie their shoes better at figuring out the gadget than adults? After all, conventional wisdom contends that young children really don’t understand abstract things like cause and effect until pretty late in their development.
Gopnik thinks it’s because children approach solving the problem differently than adults.
Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go. For example, Gopnik says, “If the child sees that a square block and a round block independently turn the music on, then they’ll take a square and take a circle and put them both on the machine together to make it go, even though they never actually saw the experimenters do that.”
This is flexible, fluid thinking — children exploring an unlikely hypothesis. Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children, says Gopnik. Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working. That’s inflexible, narrow thinking. “We think the moral of the study is that maybe children are better at solving problems when the solution is an unexpected one,” says Gopnik.
Gopnik went on to say that this openness may disappear early in childhood–even by kindergarten, it may be diminishing.
Image: Confused college student, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Some birth defects, including spina bifida, may soon become correctable conditions, if a new robotic technology that can perform surgery on a growing fetus comes to fruition. The technology, which is a tiny robotic arm, is currently under development by British researchers, as CNN reports:
Spina bifida is one such disease, affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 newborns worldwide, where a lesion on the back leaves the spinal cord exposed in the womb, leading to severe disabilities, learning difficulties, and sometimes death.
The best option is to perform surgery to correct the problem before the baby is born but the complexities of such a procedure mean this currently only takes place in five countries worldwide. Most countries instead perform surgery after a child is born, but when the majority of damage has been done.
To reduce the risk involved in fetal surgery, scientists at University College London (UCL), and KU Leuven in Belgium are developing a miniscule robotic arm to enter the womb with minimum disruption to mother and baby. The robotics are targeting spina bifida but also lesser known conditions such as twin-twin transfusion syndrome, where blood passes unequally between twins who share a placenta, and fetal lower urinary tract obstruction, where babies are unable to urinate in the womb and their bladders become large and distended.
Surgery on fetuses has been effective in treating some conditions to date, but for spina bifida, the risks to mother and baby mean surgery is currently only performed in a handful of countries, where specialist teams exist.
“Most birth defects can be prevented if we can intervene earlier,” says Professor Sebastien Ourselin, from the UCL Center for Medical Image Computing, who is leading the new research project. “But currently, surgical delivery systems are not available and operating on babies in the womb is reserved for just a handful of the most severe defects as risks are too high.”
Image: Fetus, via Shutterstock
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Monday, March 24th, 2014
Expectant moms can now listen to their baby’s heartbeat through an iPhone, thanks to an app called Bellabeat. With the device, moms can record and track the baby’s heartbeat per minute as well as the baby’s weight changes and number of kicks over time. In addition to keeping the baby’s stats, the app lets moms keep track on of their moods throughout the pregnancy in hopes that moms and doctors can catch early signs of depression. More from Mashable.com:
Bellabeat, the company behind the iPhone-enabled fetal heart-rate monitor, updated its iOS app on Thursday.
The latest version includes a new feature to help expectant mothers track changes in their mental health, in addition to the tools for keeping tabs on their own physical health and their baby’s development.
Bellabeat’s Connected System allows pregnant women to listen to their children’s heartbeats through a device that connects to a smartphone with an audio cable. It uses sound waves to find the baby’s heartbeat while the accompanying Bellabeat app records the audio.
The app tracks heartbeats per minute and gives users tools to track other important stats, like the number of times a baby kicks or how its weight changes over time.
The new mood-tracking feature is meant to help pregnant women recognize early symptoms of depression, said Bellabeat cofounder Urška Sršen.
“Depression disorders during pregnancy, which are very common, can lead to other health complications for the mother and the baby,” Sršen said in an interview with Mashable. “We decided to add this mood tracker to encourage women to keep notes on their mood day by day so they can recognize these symptoms quite early on.”
Users will be able to track changes in their moods and feelings throughout pregnancy by recording notes within the app. Additionally, once a month, users will be asked to answer two questions about their feelings and moods overall. If a pattern suggesting early signs of depression emerges, the app encourages users to seek help from their healthcare providers. The app also provides listings of nearby clinics to make it easier for women to find treatment.
Bellabeat, a Y Combinator-backed startup, first launched its $129 heart rate monitor in the United States in February after launching in Europe last fall.
Sršen said the company is in the process of developing more features and the app will eventually include blood pressure, nutrition and activity trackers.
The latest update is only available to the app’s iOS users. Sršen said a similar update would roll out to the Android version of the app, which is still in beta version, this summer.
Want to keep track of your baby’s progress the old-fashion way? Download our cheat sheet to keep track of all your pregnancy “firsts”.
Image: Young pregnant black woman showing an ultrasound picture of her belly via ShutterStock
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app, app store, bellabeat, expecting moms, in the womb, iPhone, Pregnancy, prenatal heartbeat, technology | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, Pregnancy
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Parents who use smartphones and other devices while also trying to interact with their children report more cranky and frustrated moods than parents who avoid texting and other technology-driven activities in front of their kids, according to a new study by researchers at Boston Medical Center. More from Time.com:
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a fellow in developmental-and-behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, specializes in counseling parents about developmental and behavioral issues with their children. So she was naturally curious about how the ubiquity of smartphones, and their distracting allure, might affect the quality of time that parents and their children spent together. Previous studies showed that TVs, even if they are only on in the background, can inhibit children’s creativity and siphon their concentrating and focusing powers.
To study the effect of smartphones, Radesky and her colleagues sent in undercover investigators to surreptitiously observe any adult-child grouping with more than one youngster as they ate at a fast-food restaurant. The observers recorded the behavior of both the adults and the children in 55 such groupings, as well as how frequently the adults used their smartphones.
The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.
“What stood out was that in a subset of caregivers using the device almost through the entire meal, how negative their interactions could become with the kids,” she says. While the study did not code or quantify the reactions, Radesky says that there were “a lot of instances where there was very little interaction, harsh interaction or negative interaction” between the adults and the children. “That’s simply unfair to the children,” says Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Children’s Hospital and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog.
In light of the data, Radesky is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop some guidelines for the smart smartphone use in front of the kids — just as the academy has advice for parents on TV viewing (none for toddlers younger than 2).
Image: Mom on smartphone, via Shutterstock
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