Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”.
He argued that the “products of technological progress” are distracting attention away from what is important in life rather than improving us. But even as he made his comments, UK communications regulator Ofcom released its latest figures, giving the opposite message. It celebrated the rise of a “tech-savvy” generation born at the turn of the millennium and now able to navigate the digital world with ease.
So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?
This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema. The media, it has long been said, makes kids stupid, inattentive, violent, passive, disrespectful, grow up too early or stay irresponsible too long. Whatever it is that society worries about in relation to children and young people, it seems that we love to blame it on the latest and most visible technology. Anything rather than looking more closely at the society we have created for them to grow up in.
Fifteen years ago, when children were being criticised for watching too much television (remember those days?), I asked children to describe what happened on a good day when they got home from school and what happened on a boring day. From six year olds to seventeen year olds, the answers were the same: on a good day, they could go out and see their friends; on a boring day they were stuck at home watching television.
And why couldn’t they go out and see their friends every day? Far from reflecting the appeal of television, the answer lies in parental anxieties about children going out. As a 2013 report noted, children are far less able to move around independently than in the past. This is particularly true of primary school children, who are often no longer allowed to walk to school or play unsupervised as they once were. Their developing independence, their time to play, their opportunities to socialise are all vastly curtailed compared with the childhoods of previous generations.
And yet the number of children who have accidents on the road has fallen over the years and there has been little change to the rate of child abductions, which remain very rare.
There is little evidence that children are choosing to stay home with digital technology instead of going out. Indeed, it seems more likely that an increasingly anxious world – fuelled by moral panics about childhood – is making parents keep their kids at home and online. And then, to pile on the irony, the same society that produces, promotes and provides technologies for kids also blames them for spending time with them…
Sonia Livingstone asks useful questions. Questions – in my own experience – not asked often enough. Certainly not asked or answered in conversations with folks in charge of funds for education, funds for recreation, even those in charge of whether or not there will be funds for education or recreation.
Much less what comprises useful education and what roles recreation, sport, fitness and challenge should play in the lives of young people. What to do with communication and a view of the whole world?
In 1982, the late, great NZ reading researcher Marie Clay identified a group of children having difficulty learning to read as “tangled tots (with) reading knots”.
She was referring to children who, despite having no condition that potentially affected their ability to learn, didn’t seem to benefit from reading instruction. She hypothesised that such children “had tangled the teaching in a web of distorted learning which blocked school progress”.
I’ve met many such children (and their teachers) during five decades of anthropological research in hundreds of classrooms. There were also classrooms which either didn’t have “tangled tots” or, if they did, had more success in untangling their “reading knots”.
When I looked more closely at these “non-tangling” classrooms I discovered they had something in common. Their teachers continuously (and subtly) embedded messages about “learning to be an effective reader” in the language they used when teaching reading.
So far I’ve identified the following seven messages.
1. A reader’s major focus should always be meaning
2. Effective readers draw on all sources of information in the text
3. Effective readers are always predicting
4. Effective readers self-correct
5. Effective readers have a range of strategies
6. Effective readers know how they read
7. Effective readers love reading
RTFA. The details are positive – the result of practical work and analysis from successful teachers. A body of knowledge, of course, rarely consulted by the politicians and educators who make a living at not achieving very much useful to the future of humanity.
Yup. Cynical as ever.
The question I face when confronting the collapse of American education starts with reading skills. My father was first in his generation to graduate high school. My mom graduated from what used to be called a commercial high school. A 2-year high school. They taught my sister and me to read before we entered kindergarten in the New England factory town where we grew up.
They didn’t consider that a problem or an insurmountable task. They considered it a responsibility – to aid us in growing a useful lifelong habit, to aid us in learning and making decisions on our own.
Every Saturday, my mom, my sister and I walked the 4-mile round-trip from home to the neighborhood Carnegie library and back to get something to read and enjoy in addition to schoolwork. That was never a task. That was a happy and healthy part of our life.
A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel…The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.
But, like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. They are mixed on factory floors and in the back rooms of shops, and sold legally in stores and online in small bottles that are kept casually around the house for regular refilling of e-cigarettes.
Evidence of the potential dangers is already emerging. Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum.
“It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed,” said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a matter of when.”
Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Data System. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year’s number…
Unlike nicotine gums and patches, e-cigarettes and their ingredients are not regulated. The Food and Drug Administration has said it plans to regulate e-cigarettes but has not disclosed how it will approach the issue. Many e-cigarette companies hope there will be limited regulation.
We’re back to the usual discussion of Americans creating their own Final Solution. Consuming liquid nicotine by the barrel or bottle — stupidity or ignorance?
Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children—such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia—according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.
“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.
The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).
The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:
Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills
Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior
Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays
Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write…
“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development—now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”
The report was published over the weekend. It is available at Lancet Neurology.
Mail me a penny postcard when governments in industrial nations producing, utilizing, distributing, selling these chemicals decide to respond to Philippe Grandjean’s recommendation. When they make testing mandatory. When they put an end to human contact with these chemicals and their residues.
I’m used to waiting. Excuses. Lies.
The Food and Drug Administration and Texas Department of State Health Services have alerted consumers to a recall of Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products distributed in Texas, after children and staff at three schools in Katy became ill on Friday.
About 50 people who ate Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor at lunch on Friday complained of burning, itching, rashes, headaches and nausea, symptoms that subsided after 30 to 90 minutes.
After the incident, Mars Foodservices said that it decided to recall all of the Infused Rice products produced since Jan. 1, 2013…
Mars also said that a small amount of the rice could be purchased online and urged anyone with the product to return it.
The recall includes Infused Rice products that were sold in 5 and 25-pound bags to institutions, like schools, hospitals and prisons.
First reporting after the Katy schools sickness declared that this Uncle Ben’s preparation had already been recalled – and that schools should have known about it. Dunno if that changed, if the reports filtering through our stellar network TV news mavens were incorrect or if the correction and recall happened afterwards.
Regardless, you have to wonder what passes for risk management in large economy-size corporations. Mass poisonings even when not fatal are likely to end up in class action suits requiring a lot more cash being dispensed than in standardized insurance settlements.
Conservative talk radio is criticizing a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad that featured multiple languages, with Rush Limbaugh joking it might be a ploy from Republican leaders on immigration reform.
Radio hosts were reacting Monday to Sunday’s ad from Coke, in which several voices sing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages, as faces of people of different cultures are shown. The ad has been both praised as a display of multiculturalism and slammed as divisive as immigration reform remains a controversial political hot topic.
…popular conservative radio voice, Glenn Beck…criticized the ad, calling it divisive and politicized amid the immigration debate. On his show Monday, Beck said he got a tweet from a viewer asking what he thought of the spot.
“I said, ‘Why? You need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Beck said. “It’s an in your face — and if you don’t like, if you’re offended by it, then you’re a racist. If you do like it, well then you’re for immigration, that’s what it is. You’re for progress…”
Beck got it right – even if by accident, even though he stands against anything that smacks of progress.
Thanks, Coke, for reminding me why I hold what passes for conservatism in America, nowadays – in such contempt. The Republican Party has become the mouthpiece for racism and bigotry that Dixiecrats of old only dreamt of becoming.
They should stuff their ears with whatever fecal matter is handy. Plug them with rubber stoppers carved from the gaskets reserved from Auschwitz. And die of the several plagues resulting from lives lived as obedient fascist clones.
Americans will continue to sing.
Dude looks a natural in orange
A New York state man drank beer while holding his girlfriend and their two children captive in their home for a week…
The woman was finally able to get assistance by convincing the boyfriend, Benito Lopez, she was playing games on the computer…
Lopez…was arrested Monday after probation officers were tipped the girlfriend, their son, 11, and daughter, 12 had been hostage in their home since New Year’s Eve.
Sullivan County deputies said Lopez disconnected the phone and confiscated electronic devices and car keys to prevent anyone calling for help.
The girlfriend eventually got help through Facebook by pretending she was playing computer games, police said.
Police said they found the equivalent of 15 cases of empty beer cans, as well as some liquor bottles.
The dude should be locked up until he dries out. Should only take 10-20 years.
A new study suggests that mothers who eat nuts during pregnancy can eat them without fear of causing nut allergies in their babies.
Researchers used data from a large prospective study of health and lifestyle among female nurses. They studied 8,205 mothers who were not allergic to nuts and their children born from 1990 to 1994, and found 140 cases of peanut or tree nut allergy among the offspring.
After adjusting for age, race, season of birth, smoking, consumption of fruits and vegetables and other factors, they found that mothers who consumed nuts at least five times a month were almost 70 percent less likely to have a baby with a nut allergy than those who ate nuts less than once a month.
“We showed an association between diet and allergy,” said the senior author, Dr. Michael C. Young, an allergist at Boston Children’s Hospital, “but not cause and effect…”
Still, Dr. Young said, “Previously, women were concerned that eating nuts during pregnancy probably would lead to an allergic baby, but our data dispels that. A woman who is pregnant can eat peanuts without fear that she will have a baby allergic to peanuts.”
Plus – as I posted here previously – developing a habit of eating nuts when there is no risk of allergy is beneficial to your health.
Kids today are 15 percent less heart fit than their parents were as youngsters, and this does not bode well for their adult health, Australian researchers say.
Lead author Grant Tomkinson…and colleagues analyzed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids ages 9-17 in 28 countries.
They gauged cardiovascular endurance by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance. Tests typically lasted 5-15 minutes or covered a half-mile to 2 miles.
The meta-analysis found cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years. Average changes were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country, Tomkinson said…
In the United States the study found children’s’ cardiovascular endurance fell an average 6 percent per decade from 1970 to 2000. However, across nations, endurance declined consistently by about 5 percent every decade…
Country-by-country fitness findings are mirrored in measurements of overweight/obesity and body fat, suggesting one factor may cause the other.
“In fact, about 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson said.
In many ways, I feel like this reflects the divergence between educated folks and the larger mass of poorly educated and uneducated. Comparable international studies usually recognize American adults, college-educated, being more fit than their peers abroad. Running, jogging, aerobic recreation, the expansion of sound nutrition are all characteristics of the healthier lifestyle common more often to Americans than their peers on other continents.
Unfortunately, this obviously ain’t enough to swing the habits of the whole nation.
For me, the “whys” always come down to economics. The overwhelming number of Americans has been experiencing a decline in their real income for forty years or so. Whether folks are conscious of this or not they still end up changing their lifestyle to try to keep up with where they think they should be – or better. So, we work longer hours, more family members are committed to employment [whether they find a job or not] and less time is free for organizing and leading family life, guiding your kids towards adult life.