from the world's big
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.
- Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
- A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
- With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.
Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.
Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.
But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.
A mixed response to technology
Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.
This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!
According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.
To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.
But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).
Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.
Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.
For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."
Screens, parents, and pandemics
Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.
But are these concerns overblown?
As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.
Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.
"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."
This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.
What happens when someone you respect doesn't treat others with dignity?
- Respect and dignity are sometimes conflated, but Cultures of Dignity founder Rosalind Wiseman argues that they are very different.
- Dignity, according to Wiseman, is the essential and inextricable worth of a person. Respect is the admiration for someone's actions, which often involves how they treat others. The rub comes when people in positions of authority and respect (for example, our elders) behave in ways undeserving of that admiration but are seemingly above reprimanding.
- "This is actually one of the biggest problems for young people in education," Wiseman says, adding that when that loss of respect and dignity hits home for students, they tend to disengage from learning. "If I could change something about education, it would be to have dignity be a bedrock of education and that everyone—the teachers, the parents, the students, the staff, everyone, the administrators—has to be treated with dignity."
Teaching your child metacognitive techniques can improve their learning and life skills.
- Metacognition is the idea of "thinking about how we think" - this can give us insight into our feelings, needs and behaviors that allow us to adapt and grow.
- Metacognition can (and should) be taught from an early age to allow for students to do their best in school and in life.
- Simple forms of metacognitive thinking techniques can be taught at home and in the classroom.
Why children should learn metacognition from an early age<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNjM2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzI4MzUwMX0.rUZDnHDz-ATJTVDu4-8U4nv84X5rnGzAWCSN9UlDYh0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C351%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="28119" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4d8ec0d774cb198fcd2ae27aebcdaa6d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="children standing on bright yellow background holding books concept of school learning metacognition" />
Metacognitive thinking in children can allow them to adapt and overcome obstacles at school and in life.
Photo by Rawpixel.com on Shutterstock<p>In simple terms, metacognitive thinking teaches us about ourselves. According to Tamara Rosier, a learning coach who specializes in metacognitive techniques, thinking about our thinking creates a perspective that allows us to adapt and change to what the situation needs.</p><p>A simple example of metacognitive thinking (or reframing) is this: </p><p><em>"Math tests make me anxious."</em> This is a statement, a thought. Turning to metacognition, this train of thought evolves into<em> "What about math tests make me anxious...and what can do I to change that?"</em> </p><p>According to Rosier, children who are taught to think of themselves as being either "good" or "bad" at a particular task can end up with a fixed mindset that makes them passive in approaching a challenge relating to that task. However, teaching kids to become more metacognitive helps them develop a mindset that leaves more room for growth and adaptation, promoting self-awareness and resilience.</p><p>This isn't just a theory, there are many studies that prove the worth of teaching metacognition to children. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810013000068" target="_blank">Research suggests</a> that as students' metacognitive abilities increase, they also achieve at higher levels. </p><p>Even beyond academic learning, metacognition can help young people gain awareness of their own mental states so they can begin to answer important questions like "how do I live a happy life?" and "how do I feel good about myself?"</p>
How can we teach our children metacognitive thinking?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNjM2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjQ0MjMwN30.dZjm64puC1SltpbYsJzQEgYsyJvfBqTK-JV9Xfqy7a8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C87%2C0%2C87&height=700" id="9e72d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80b44c15587c39705ddfc7488eaf365e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" />
Teaching children metacognition can happen at school and at home with just a few simple tricks...
Photo by ImageFlow on Shutterstock<p><strong>Teach children how their brains are wired for growth and productivity.</strong></p><p>How your child thinks about learning will greatly impact their performance while learning. <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ryan_Korstange/publication/330563817_Developing_Growth_Mindset_Through_Reflective_Writing/links/5c4861b8299bf12be3ddba12/Developing-Growth-Mindset-Through-Reflective-Writing.pdf" target="_blank">Research shows</a> that when students are able to develop a growth mindset (compared to a fixed mindset), they are more likely to engage in reflective thinking about how they can learn and grow which serves as motivation to do so. </p><p><strong>Provide opportunities to reflect on what they've learned.</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-metacognition-in-classroom-marilyn-price-mitchell" target="_blank">According to Edutopia</a>, higher-order thinking skills are able to be fostered when students recognize their own cognitive growth. Simple questions like<em> "before this test, I thought earthquakes were caused by _____, but now, I understand them to be caused by ______."</em> </p><p>This kind of thinking promotes the idea that they have learned a new fact or acquired a new skill, which allows them to become more motivated to learn and grow. A very simple way of doing this could be having students keep an education journal where they track things like what tasks they found easy each week at school, what assignments they found most difficult, and what new things they learned as a result of their studies. </p><p><strong>Simple interactions in the classroom can promote metacognition.</strong></p><p>Even the way teachers interact with students can help improve metacognition. Before a class, a teacher could give a few tips on how to actively listen and learn. Following the class, the teacher could ask students to write down three key points from the class. After, the teacher should share what they believe to be three key points from the class and ask students to self-check how closely their answers matched the teacher's answers. </p><p>This activity is able to increase active listening and improve metacognitive monitoring skills at the same time. </p><p><strong>Making the most of "teachable moments" everywhere (at home, in the classroom, etc.) </strong></p><p>You can model metacognition by talking through problems. Children can learn a lot from listening to their parents or teachers use higher-order thinking strategies (or metacognitive thinking) out loud. </p><p>Taking advantage of "teachable moments" like this can allow children to see metacognitive thinking in action and promote the idea that everyone makes mistakes and the best way to correct those mistakes is to work them through and think about it as an opportunity to learn and improve. </p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Seldom are these conversations actually anti-racist.
Though race and racism are at the top of Americans' public discussion, most white parents don't talk about those issues with their kids.