mfioretti: children*

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  1. By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to "normalize" them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It's time we recognize this as a crisis.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-10)
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  2. Facebook’s goal is to “push down the age” of when it’s acceptable for kids to be on social media, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Golin says 11-to-12-year-olds who already have a Facebook account, probably because they lied about their age, might find the animated emojis and GIFs of Messenger Kids “too babyish,” and are unlikely to convert to the new app.

    Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.

    Facebook says Messenger Kids will not display ads, nor collect data on kids for advertising purposes. Kids’ accounts will not automatically be rolled into Facebook accounts once they turn 13.

    Nonetheless, advocates focused on marketing to children expressed concerns. The company will collect the content of children’s messages, photos they send, what features they use on the app, and information about the device they use. Facebook says it will use this information to improve the app and will share the information “within the family of companies that are part of Facebook,” and outside companies that provide customer support, analysis, and technical infrastructure.
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  3. We measured the physical activity and sitting time of 845 teenagers at 14.5 years old, using a sensor that measures movement and heart rate. We asked how much time they spent watching TV, playing computer games, going online, doing homework and reading. And at the end of year 11, when these students were 16-years-old, we collected their GCSE results.

    We found that teenagers with higher screen time had lower GCSE grades, even when we took account of differences in homework and reading. Television, computer games and internet use were all associated with poorer academic performance, but TV viewing was the most detrimental. For every hour that someone watched per day, they showed a drop of nine GCSE points in total – the equivalent of two whole grades in one subject (or for example, one grade in each of two subjects). Two extra hours was associated with 18 fewer points.

    Although we did not find that more physical activity was associated with higher grades, as some other studies have suggested, it was not detrimental to academic performance either. It’s important that this message isn’t lost among the findings about screen time: schools are under so much pressure to improve exam results that many don’t prioritise PE and other opportunities for physical activity for fear that they interfere with academic achievement.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-09-04)
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  4. The data crisis is a real problem. If we don’t have information that explains the problems we are trying to solve, governments won’t know who to tax, and how to spend that money. Businesses won’t know where to invest and citizens won’t know if governments are doing their job effectively.

    We live in a world where one in three children aged five years or younger have not had their births registered. They matter so little that they are uncounted. Because they don’t exist officially, they often cannot access basic healthcare, sufficient food, lifesaving antiretroviral medicines, or an education. Some scholars even suggest that possession of a birth certificate is a determining factor in breaking the cycle of poverty.

    This makes sense. Children registered at birth are more likely to be immunized. Proof of age enables prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against children, such as child trafficking, sexual offences, and early recruitment into the armed forces, child marriage, and child labor. And for women, proof of marriage enables access to widows’ pensions or broader public services, such as education and health.

    These data gaps are shocking. But the tide is turning. In Nigeria, through its Millennium Development Goals Information System project, a few hundred young people equipped with smart phones are rapidly surveying every school, water-point and clinic in the country, no matter how remote the area.
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  5. In the work I have done I would say that the most influential group of people of all are 12-year-old girls; they have their fathers wrapped around their little fingers.”

    “Schools can do more to educate children, who can then go on and pester their parents,” added Andy Deacon, managing partner of the environmental charity Global Action Plan.

    If the environmental movement wants to get the child naggery right, the great grandaddy of this sort of thing are the crew of Freud-influenced social scientists, like Edward Bernays. Bernays was Freud’s actual nephew, and the creator of modern public relations (a term that he promoted the use of because he thought it sounded nicer than its predecessor, “propaganda”). Bernays, and like-minded Freudians like Ernest Dichter, studied the way that people persuaded each other, and the way that children persuaded their parents. They found that reasoned arguments — like, say, Dichter’s realization that the key to little girls pitching Barbie to their parents was for them to position her as a device for learning the importance of good grooming — are the gold standard for child nags. Other marketers have provided even more finely tuned categories.

    I’m totally at sea, though, when I try to think of what a children’s crusade of climate-change-related nagging would look like. An army of preschoolers, piling on sweaters, sipping out of thermoses, and telling adults to turn down the thermostat? Surly teenagers rolling their eyes at the idea of driving the car instead of taking the bus?

    Children of the world, Baron Stern has told you to put your best efforts into nagging on behalf of the planet. Is this fair? No. But, as I am sure your parents have told you many times before, life isn’t fair. I, for one, as someone who completely failed in my environmental nagging duties, am very interested to see how far you get.
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  6. I think there’s something even more compelling at play here: most of us learn about Pluto as children, and as a child, Pluto reminded me of myself. It’s smaller than all the other planets, and it was the newest one to come along. To me, it represented all the undiscovered mysteries, all that was still unknown, and the hope that someday, it might matter more. I was actually rooting, as a kid, for Pluto to be bigger than Mercury, simply because I wanted it to be more important in some measurable way. And because it took longer to orbit the Sun than everything else, because it was different from all the other planets in practically every way, I truly believed it was special.
    Image Credit: Oort Cloud image by Calvin J. Hamilton, inset image by NASA, modifications/stitching by me.

    It’s been some thirty-odd years since I was that child, learning about Pluto for the first time, and in those same thirty-odd years, our estimation of the Solar System has grown to make it a larger, more well-known place. But in that same time, I’ve grown, too, and the most important lesson I’ve learned about Pluto — that I would have told my young self if I could — is this:

    The fact that there are other things out there that are bigger, smarter, faster, stronger, or better than you, in any regard, in absolutely no way diminishes how special you are.
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  7. Everyone knows that Americans don’t eat very well, but it’s still kinda staggering to see just HOW bad things have gotten. To wit: The recommended maximum dosage of sugar in the average diet is under four tablespoons for every 1,000 calories, whereas we consume a whopping 9.5. Since Americans are also bad at math, I’ll restate: That’s MORE THAN TWICE AS MUCH!!!
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  8. many parents find that tutoring is not the magic bullet. Put an under-confident child in one-to-one tutoring with a tutor who does not know how to handle problems such as low academic self-esteem and that child will often end up feeling even worse about themselves and more resistant to learning.

    Far from producing a brave new world of accomplished wunderkind, we are churning out anxious and depressed children. Instead of helping children do well at school, hothousing and tiger parenting risk instilling homework resistance, maths anxiety, a lack of enthusiasm for reading, low confidence, sleep problems and disconnection from parents.

    Many parents have not yet realised that some of the behavioural issues they are struggling with are a result of the pressure that many children now feel.

    Many children either feel loved conditionally on their successes – or they detach to avoid feeling that they are disappointing parents.

    It is not just the fault of parents. They are bringing up children in a competitive culture, encouraged by governments and status-obsessed schools. Parents are made to constantly fear that they are never doing enough to help their children succeed in a cut-throat world of work and higher education.
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  9. Researchers working on parenting culture are exploring the causes of this shift, turning sociological, historical and anthropological lenses on contemporary parenting. A central theme in much of this research is redressing the concept of “parental determinism” – the idea that parents and their parenting are the main (or only) determinants of how children develop.

    This fits into a wider conversation about risk consciousness and the demise of confidence about how to approach the future. Put simply, our paranoia about parenting is a symptom of a society that feels less and less certain about what matters in life, and why.

    The “intensification” of parenting has had a massive impact on men and women’s identities as mothers and fathers, as well as on the relationships between parents themselves. As the “work” of parenting (emotional and physical) expands to engulf more and more of parents' lives, clearly the time and energy available for everything else will be drained.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2014-07-22)
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  10. This is the second step in the systematic dismantling of Australia’s child-centred adoption system in favour of a more unregulated, consumer-led model. Countries not party to the convention aren’t legally bound by mechanisms to protect children from being adopted through fraud, trafficking, duress or profit. Because of this, countries like Australia have greater responsibilities to make sure practices are above board.

    Abbott claims the seven countries with which the government is pursuing agreements will meet the safeguards of the convention. The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent investigation into Ethiopia in 2009 reminds us why Australia should never be complacent when it comes to intercountry adoption and why we should resist consumer-led models at both ends of the adoption process.

    Australia is abdicating its international responsibilities by simply trusting processes in sending countries. The way children are made available overseas is not the same as in Australia.
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