Tag Archives: children

Children And Screen Time: 3 Myths Exposed via @PatFurstenberg

What is that one valuable item you never leave home without? The one, if you are anything like me, you carry around with you from one room to the next as you move around through your own home? The one you keep within ear reach, even as you sleep.

Yes, it is the smartphone. If you would have only two minutes to leave your home, what would you take with you? What are your most valuable items, except for your immediate family? Is your phone included on the emergency list? Yes? Why so? Because it is a necessity.

The number of smartphone users in South Africa more than doubled between 2014 and 2018 and it is estimated that it will increase by an extra 5 percent by 2022, statistics show. However, the number of times Americans look at their phones each day remained constant during the past three years: 47 times.

The exception is the 18-24 years age group, that checks their phones 86 times per day. Only 16 percent of Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, a 2017 Deloitte U.S. consumer survey shows. Let’s face it; it is hard to resist a device that adds so much value to our daily lives in a way that no single device ever has been able to. Smartphones allow us, almost anytime and anyplace, to call, text, watch, listen, browse, shop and read!

Now think of your young child handling your smartphone; in a safe place where it can’t be dropped … Is the thought of making you anxious? Why so? Is it because your child can damage your mobile device, or because the smartphone can unsettle your youngster? What if we would turn around the image of a kid holding a smartphone and look at its positive side? Will it excite us to see how quickly our young children learn to use the latest technology? What if we shift our focus and look at digital technology as a tool to promote individual growth?

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to.

Let’s try to understand the three myths concerning children and their screen time exposure.

1. Screens are forcing children to live a passive life

So many TV shows and games to get kids up and moving, especially shows focusing on animals, friends sharing an adventure and providing learning opportunities. Emerging research shows that children enjoy taking part in active video games more than playing traditional games during physical education. Active screen time during preschool years also helps improves children’s cognitive skills and school readiness, increases their vocabulary and promotes social interaction, research shows.

2. Playing games distracts children from their education

A research conducted in 2018 “found changes in brain activity and increased performance on tests of visual selective activity in subjects who had spent one hour playing the League of Legends video game”. The research team assessed the participants’ visual selective attention before and after playing the game. The conclusion was that the expert game players had more brain activity associated with attention than the non-experts. The expert game players also scored better on the initial visual selective attention assessment.

What if we look at video games from an education perspective? What if video games can teach educators and parents more about our children’s cognitive learning? What if video games can be used to reduce exam stress and the time spent doing tests as well as the time used by the school in assessing the children? What if video games can help teachers focus on individualised learning? Can this be a new paradigm for education? Video games are well suited for individual learning, allowing students to learn at their own pace, under parental control. Games bridge the in-school and out-of-school learning and put the fun back in the study.

For example, the Mathematics Fluency Data Collaborative is a project is a G4LI project led by Carnegie Learning and in collaboration with Game2Learn at the University of North Carolina, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and PlayPower. Experts in mathematical education, cognitive skills, game design and data mining have created a platform for high-quality mathematics games to help students acquire the skills to succeed in mathematical problem solving through gaming.

3. Screens form a barrier between parents and their kids

The greatest benefit of screen time comes only when parents talk to their children about what they watch or the games they played. Screen time can be used as a tool to promote meaningful discussions, a springboard for teaching kids empathy. Empathy and compassion are the foundation of a happy, meaningful life, but they cannot be learned from a book; they must come from emotional situations, and this is where supervised screen time can help.

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to. Having a balance is also important, but we must acknowledge that we share the same world with our children, and information technology is a part of our lives.

As parents and teachers, we can raise our expectations about digital media, choose to talk to our children about its content, and show them why it matters and how to use it to their advantage.

First published on Huffington Post SA, 29 June 2018

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How To Raise A Child With A High IQ by @PatFurstenberg

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being.

Parenting is a full-time job on its own, without the added pressure of medical literature, in-law advice or trying to keep up with that perfect family always posting on Facebook.

“Once upon a time I was a perfect parent. Then I had children. The End.”

In his book “Brain Rules For Baby“, developmental molecular biologist and dad Dr John Medina, bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practise.

  1. Baby’s IQ during the 1st trimester of pregnancy

An adult human brain contains about 100-billion neurons formed before we are born. The embryo’s brain produces approximately 250,000 cells per minute, most generated as early as week three and during the first four months of gestation.

Take an BMI Certified IQ test here.

All throughout your pregnancy, stay away from potentially harmful substances like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs – even over-the-counter drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Scientists studying human evolution attest that morning sickness kicked in as an ancestral mechanism forcing the mother to stay away from toxic, potentially spoiled or exotic foods that might harm the embryo. One of the hormones inducing morning sickness is also a stimulant for the development of neurons in the embryo’s brain.

  1. Baby’s IQ throughout the pregnancy

A mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is vital to the well-being of her unborn baby. A study shows that a foetus’ IQ grows in proportion to its weight gain while inside the mother’s womb. A pregnant woman with healthy weight gain, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will influence the weight of her newborn positively.

A pregnancy vitamin supplement rich in folic acid and omega 3 is indicated.

And food cravings?

Studies have proved that food cravings are stress related, not pointing towards a vitamin deficiency. An anxious woman used to giving in to chocolate during stressful times will most probably go on craving chocolate whenever she hits a stressful time during pregnancy.

  1. A stressful pregnancy and baby’s IQ

If a pregnant woman is stressed, anxious or depressed, this can affect how the baby’s brain will develop. Research shows that the child will be at greater risk of slow learning or behavioural problems such as ADHD.

Severe stress suffered by mothers during pregnancy can have the following consequences for the baby:

  • Change the foetus’ body temperature, making the baby more irritable in the womb;
  • Reduce the baby’s IQ (by up to eight points);
  • Affect the baby’s motor skills, attention span and concentration – visible from six years of age;
  • Affect the baby’s own response to stressful situations; and
  • Even reduce the baby’s brain size.

“Researchers at Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University followed more than 150 families after a severe storm, and found specific markers on the DNA of children whose mothers were pregnant or became pregnant soon after the disaster, providing rare evidence of how maternal hardships can have long-term genetic consequences.”

A good solution to reduce stress is being active.

Staying active during pregnancy

Women who have an active lifestyle and engage in regular physical activities during pregnancy have an easier birthing experience – shorter and less painful.

Pregnant women are advised to stay active and do mild exercise, without pushing it too hard.

During the third trimester, the best sport for a pregnant woman is swimming. It is a low-impact sport and keeps the pregnant woman’s body temperature constant, so her uterus does not overheat.

Attention!

  • Intense physical activity will reduce the blood supply to the uterus, which will decrease the oxygen supply to the foetus.
  • If the pregnant woman’s body temperature is raised by more than two degrees Celsius, this can negatively affect the cerebral and visual development of the foetus during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Family relationships during pregnancy

Dr John Medina points out that during the first year of the baby’s life, the number of hostile interactions between the new parents is often on the rise. Specialists believe that this can be harmful to the baby, which is very sensitive to external factors at the beginning of its life.

A prolonged exposure to hostility can have a negative impact on the baby, lowering its IQ and its ability to manage stress later in life.

During the first year of life, a baby’s main cognitive focus is on survival. Once the baby forms an attachment with its main caregiver, its brain can develop normally, resulting in a happy, sociable baby able to manage stressful situations.

If the baby cannot feel this trust and safety, then the genetic code tells its brain to develop in a different way – with a negative impact on its social, emotional and educational prospects.

The ingredients that contribute towards the making of a clever child:

  • Breastfeeding can raise a baby’s IQ by up to eight points;
  • Talking to a baby and a child about various topics will expose the child to a wider vocabulary;
  • Playing games with your child will stimulate the child’s mind;
  • As will engaging your child in music and sports.

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being, the character of the future adult. Yet it is good to acknowledge that these decisions are unique to each family, and each parent can adjust their parenting skills at any time throughout this roller-coaster journey.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was written for Huffington Post SA.

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