Archive for the ‘
Questions ’ Category
Monday, February 18th, 2013
Parents Magazine is hosting a Facebook Town Hall with Vice President Biden on Tuesday, February 19, at 3:30 PM (eastern time). You have an opportunity to post questions that may be asked of the Vice President on Parents’ Facebook page.
Gun violence and safety is a complex topic – certainly one of four public health issues raised by the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy – and this is a unique opportunity to get the Vice President’s thoughts on the matter.
I encourage you to be a part of this.
Town Hall via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories | Tags: Gun Safety, Gun Violence, Health, Joe Biden, Kids Health, Newtown, Sandy Hook Elementary, Town Hall, Vice President Biden
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
An editorial in the New York Times suggests this is so in relation to gun control issues and the devastating losses of young lives that we continue to witness, the most recent being the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. The crux of the argument is that we need to consider the seemingly endless stream of senseless murders (from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Aurora to Newtown) from the perspective of public health – meaning we need to treat this like an epidemic and rectify all the gaps in knowledge that currently exist about guns and violence. I couldn’t agree more.
This month, I used the public health framework to discuss our knowledge base on the four central issues we have all been discussing in relation to Sandy Hook:
Violent Video Games
The conclusion each time was that we really are pretty ignorant about how these factors come together to lead an individual to murder innocent youth. What we need now is to start asking pointed questions in research designed to help us arrive at meaningful next steps that would reduce the likelihood of these heinous acts taking innocent lives – based on reputable data and not just rhetoric or philosophy. That’s what public health research does – plain and simple, it identifies factors that can be modified to prevent the probability of death, and conducts scientific tests to generate an empirical foundation for making decisions that impact the problem. Studies showed that seatbelts save lives – we require use of seatbelts. Studies showed that teens who text when driving are at increased risk for getting killed – we ban texting. We don’t know right now the relative mix of influence posed by mental health issues, access to guns, and exposure to violent video games – and we need the studies to sort that out rather than pitting one factor against the other in a philosophical game of chess that does nothing to improve school safety. Public health is agnostic – just get answers and act on them. If we don’t take that principle seriously, then yes, ignorance is killing our kids.
Epidemiology and Public Health via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories | Tags: Aurora, Columbine, Gun Control, Health, Kids Health, Mental Health, Newtown, public health, Sandy Hook Elementary, School Safety, Violent Video Games, Virginia Tech
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
There have been many suggestions that the parental practice of saying “clean your plate” – something many of us heard as kids – is part of the reason why so many kids develop the eating habits that lead to obesity. The reason? There are actually two – parents may be putting too much of the wrong kind of foods on the plate, and as kids get older they tend to eat what they are given (especially when encouraged to do so). Then throw in the typical promise of dessert if the plate gets cleaned, and you can see why it’s easy for kids to start overeating on a regular basis.
So … how should parents rectify this pattern? I posed the question to registered dietitian Karen Avila – and founder of Healthy Karen - and we came up with these tips:
Help kids learn their own signals of when they are getting full – so don’t try to arbitrarily push kids to clean their plate.
Fill up their plate with the proper balance of food types and do encourage them to eat the balanced selection that is nutrient rich – and make sure they aren’t saving vegetables for last. Check out choosemyplate.gov for lots of good advice and concrete tips on what the plate should look like.
Avoid all those unhealthy snacks before dinner time so that they will have an appropriate appetite that will make it easier for them to eat the composition of foods that should be on their plate.
So the big point really is that kids should be encouraged to eat the proper amounts of the right kinds of food. Working with your child to figure out the exact amounts that satisfy them and their nutritional goals is really the strategy – so instead of cleaning their plate (and being rewarded with more food) you will be teaching them to get in the habit of properly feeding their bodies.
Also check out these 5 healthy eating tips for more detailed information from Karen!
Empty Dish via Shutterstock.com
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
No, it’s not essential … but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good thing for toddlers.
Think about it this way. Here’s a short list of things that should be part of a toddler’s life:
Opportunities to Play: Play is a broad concept. Toddlers need time to play alone, and also play with other kids. They need to manipulate things to develop their fine motor skills. Being very inclusive here, we can extend this perspective to activities like drawing – which is known to support the later development of cognitive skills. They need to run around and be active. Pretend play is often thought to be at the root of creativity, but recent research shows that it has a large social benefit when done with others.
Opportunities to Socialize: Toddlers need to be around other kids. It’s fun for them. It’s a way to start to learn how to be social creatures and function with peers. They also learn a lot when they disagree with each other, when they don’t share, and when they don’t get along (as long as there is proper guidance from adults). They learn that they are not the only person in the world and sometimes need to take turns – which means waiting their turn now and then.
Opportunities to Regulate Their Emotions: Toddlers have to continue learning how to regulate their emotions. Whether it’s a full blown tantrum or just handling being mad or angry or scared, kids have to experience their emotions in multiple social contexts and develop ways of regulating themselves and functioning around others.
Opportunities to Talk: Yes, talk. Kids can develop their language by being around different people – it helps them learn how to use language to communicate socially (which requires integrating behavioral and emotional and cognitive skills). They should also hear a lot of talking.
If you consider this list, you have a sense of the richness that should characterize a toddler’s life. It’s another way of saying that lots of experiences are needed to give a well-rounded platform for social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. Notice I haven’t said anything about getting a leg up academically, or ensuring top grades later in school. I’m talking about fundamental developmental goals. And kids need to have fun. A lot of fun. A lot of the time.
Now, a toddler doesn’t need to go to preschool to achieve all this. If a preschool isn’t focused on the developmental tasks that characterize toddlerhood, then there is not much utility to it. But a great preschool is a great way to give your kid opportunities during the week to be around other adults and other kids. It’s not essential. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good if you choose to go that way and you find the preschool that delivers what you should be looking for.
Preschool Children via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: Emotion Regulation, Health, Kids Health, play, preschool, Talk, toddlers
Friday, January 25th, 2013
This seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer. Here’s why.
There are studies that report links between playing video games with violent content and measures of aggression. Many of these studies show small statistical associations – meaning that it is not highly predictive of aggressive behavior. In addition, many focus on kids’ self-reports of their own aggressive behavior. While this is one valid way of measuring aggression, it is not the only way – which limits the take-home messages from these studies. And we all know that “association” (or correlation) is not the same thing as causation.
Consider a recent well-designed study published in Developmental Psychology. The study authors reported that teen accounts of their frequency of playing violent video games were predictive of increases in their self-reported aggressive behavior over time. There were a number of statistical and measurement controls to ensure that this prediction was not due to “selection effects” – meaning that kids with higher levels of aggression at the start of the study were more drawn to violent video games – or the impact of other factors. But while this study provides evidence of a predictive link between playing violent video games and self-reported aggression, it doesn’t give us the answer to the question many of us are asking now. Why not? Simply put, this study did not focus on violence, especially the type of extreme violence we are witnessing such as school shootings.
Here’s the bigger issue. Many kids play video games. Large percentages, at some point in time, play games with some violent content. Very few kids turn into mass murderers. Simply sorting through large samples of kids and trying to use statistical models to find the linkage between violent video game content to find the type of prediction we are looking for will be a daunting task. Indeed, after decades of research we are just seeing reports – like the one published in Developmental Psychology – that are providing clearer evidence of links between playing violent video games and aggression (which is a much more frequent behavior to study).
So where do we go from here?
Of course more research is necessary. But we have to think hard about the type of research we need – and the question we are asking. If we want to know more about aggression, there is a large platform from prior studies that can be built upon to provide better estimates of the impact of playing violent video games. This is certainly an area worth researching. This approach, however, won’t tell us much about violent behavior such as a mass shooting. We need new paradigms that can lay out other predisposing factors to violence – in terms of personality, social development, mental health – and large enough samples that can begin to explore if kids with these characteristics (many of which still need to be explicated) are more unduly influenced by playing violent video games. We also need to ask if it makes a difference if they have access to guns. We need to be willing to commit to an open-minded public health framework that will take on mental health, access to guns, and violent video game content in a comprehensive way if we are going to make any real headway. And, as always, this will need to be funded. Until all of this happens, we will not have a simple answer to the simple question we are asking.
Gaming Concept via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: Health, Kids Health, Mass Murders, Newtown shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary, School Shootings, Video Games Kids, Violent Video Games