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On Cyber Bullying as a Social Phenomenon

by Dr. Tali Shenfield, Clinical Psychologist

Our society has changed a great deal over the last fifty years. Technology has increased our ability to communicate with each other. The world has gone wireless and the average human being today carries in his or her pocket more communication potential than that possessed by any mid-Twentieth Century government office.

It is not surprising that this vast network of communication has a great deal of influence on our children. The continuous adoption of new technologies has become a social game-changer. Lifestyles, and modes of social interaction are in a constant state of flux. These new developments also cause a number of new problems, not the least of which is a loss of social skills. Social skills are an art form. An analogy can be made to the art of painting. At one time, it was quite beneficial to be able to paint a recognizable reproduction of a real-life scene. Then along comes the camera, making it possible to reproduce an image without having to pick up a brush. The camera reduced the necessity of realistic painting, and also had a great deal of influence on the kind of image which is created.

While we have, in our present society, a greater ability to communicate than at any time in the past, the quality of that communication has dropped drastically. The ability to engage in coherent and intelligent debate has almost completely vanished. Political candidates now debate in sound bites because that’s what the technology facilitates. Disagreements are now often reduced to shouting matches, both on and off the Internet.

Technology has also given rise to a new form of harassment called cyber bullying. For young people, online social networks have become an important part of gaining social acceptance. Children are considered outcasts if they don’t have a Facebook page. In fact, the need for communication over the Internet is so great that children often use it as an argument against their parents attempts to restrict Internet access.

When a universal increase in the ability to communicate is coupled with a lowering of the quality of communication, it results in an inevitable increase in rudeness and cruelty. Bullying is often the result.

Because of this, parents should be informed of the dangers as well as the advantages of the Internet.

One of the big problems with cyber bullying is that it is not direct and face to face. Anyone with a computer can make rude, viscous or denigrating remarks against another person without fear of physical reprisal. While the anonymity of the Internet may give power to the powerless, it also gives power to the crude and the ruthless.

Cyber bullying has become a very serious problem that has already resulted in more than one death by suicide. Cyber bullying is most severe among teenage girls, although boys are sometimes victims or the bullies.

The lack of face-to-face contact gives courage to bullies and makes them feel invincible. Because of this, they may make a far more serious assault than they would if they had to physically confront their victim.

One of the dangers of cyber bullying is that children rarely report it to their parents when it happens. This is primarily due to fears that parents will restrict internet access, overreact, under-react, or simply not understand.

Since your child may not reveal when he or she is being bullied, it is very important to understand and look for the signs of cyber bullying. Here is what you should look for:

  • Sudden withdrawal from online communication
  • Your child blocks or clears the screen or closes the browser when you enter the room. The same applies if your child closes or quickly puts away his phone.
  • Withdrawal from friends or an unwillingness to participate in social activities with his or her peers.
  • A rapid change in mood after being online or using a cell phone.
  • Your child suddenly changes his circle of friends.
  • Your child is withdrawn, sad or agitated for no apparent reason.

Here’s what you can do about cyber bullying.

  • Maintain communication with your children. Don’t lecture or fuss, just let them know that you are willing to listen and that they can come to you if they have a problem. They are not alone.
  • If they have done something over which they are embarrassed, such as sending an inappropriate picture of themselves to someone else, or they are embarrassed by the bullying itself, let them know that you won’t punish them, you are simply concerned for their safety.
  • Take action. Let the school or the authorities know what is happening. Many law enforcement agencies now have special task groups who investigate incidents of cyber bullying.
  • Be particularly vigilant if your child has a developmental disorder. Children with disorders such as ADHD, ODD, and Autism are more likely to be bullied and to be bullies. They tend to act impulsively and don’t always understand the subtleties of social interaction.

And finally, stay computer literate. Learn the language of social media. You can find out a lot at netlingo.com. By learning about social media, you open up the communication lines between yourself and your child, because you have knowledge of social media in common. A parent who knows social media is one of the best defenses against cyber bullying.

Child Psychologist- Dr. Tali Shenfield, C.Psychotherapy.Author Bio: Dr. Tali Shenfield is a Child Psychologist and a Clinical Director of Richmond Hill Psychology Center. She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto and is a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario, Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, and Canadian Psychological Association. If you’d like more information about Dr. Shenfield, you can find it on her website: www.psy-ed.com

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Head Start for Back to School

class-roll-ups

Simple changes that will make life easier for everyone

Going back to school is tough for most kids—it’s a sudden blast of social anxiety, new responsibilities, and unfamiliar territory that hit all at once, and can leave both parents and kids feeling a little shell-shocked. Here are some ways you can make the transition more pleasant, and help your kids do better in school.

1. Identify your child’s learning style

Not all kids speak the same learning language—and that creates a monumental challenge for teachers, who have to learn how to reach dozens of kids with unique and sometimes incompatible learning styles. Parents can make this task much simpler by working to identify how their children learn best, and shoring up the teacher’s efforts at home. Parents armed with that understanding can change the way they handle homework, help kids study more effectively, and identify when it’s time to schedule a parent-teacher conference.

2. Maintain consistency and responsibility

The kids who struggle the most with returning to school are the ones who have the fewest responsibilities and rules at home. The timetables and assignments that school brings can be overwhelming to a child who hasn’t had opportunities to practice accountability, or whose home environment isn’t consistent. Kids who have chores, schedules, and responsibilities at home will adapt to the rigors of school much more readily.

3. Create social opportunities now

Especially for teens and pre-teens, the social pressure of school overwhelms almost every other consideration. Kids who have difficulty making friends can find the first week of school almost paralyzing—where will I sit at lunch? How will I deal with a classroom full of unfamiliar faces?

Parents can help by getting to know neighbors whose children will be in the same classes, and creating opportunities for kids to get to know each other too. This type of arrangement can be a little awkward, but you can make it easier by being aware of your child’s personality and learning type, and creating situations where they’ll be more comfortable.

4. Talk about back-to-school fears

Without grown-up tools to handle and express emotion, kids who face the stress and anxiety of going back to school will often become withdrawn or act out. Parents can help guide kids through this process by encouraging kids to talk through their fears. Depending on how your kid best expresses themselves, you might want to provide paints or music to help them get in touch with their feelings—asking them to paint a picture of the first day of school, inviting them to pick a song that they want to hear, or asking them to tell the story of their first day.

In most cases, they’ll express healthy, normal fears about school, but just having a safe place to let them out will make them feel (and behave) much better. And if there are other problems like fear of a particular subject or even bullying, you’ll have more tools to take the necessary action.

5. Keep sleep schedules consistent

Sleep is probably the most underrated element in school success, and the first couple weeks of school are a challenge for millions of kids who don’t have a good sleep schedule during the summer. The first month of school is critical for building healthy relationships with schoolmates and teachers, as well as retaining essential information—but kids who are still experiencing a summer “hangover” won’t be able to do their best. By starting the adjustment to school-year sleep schedules now, parents can give kids a huge leg-up as they start classes.

 

Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.

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Are your kids under 12? Do they watch TV regularly?

Are your kids couch potatoes? There are more reasons than just childhood obesity why this can be dangerous.

Are your kids couch potatoes? There are more reasons than just childhood obesity why this can be dangerous.

If so, this piece is a must-read. My sister, Escondido, CA’s 2013 Teacher of the Year who also serves as the Director of Rock Rose School for Creative Learning in her “spare time”, turned me on to this research. It’s a long, but important read for anyone with kids under 12. In our house, we typically have a “no TV for kids during the week” policy. And while I do think that some screen-based learning can be effective for kids, this stat from the Kaiser Family Foundation is pretty jaw-dropping:

2/3 of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of two hours a day; kids and teens eight to 18 years old spend four hours a day in front of a TV screen and two more hours on a computer or on video games.

This paper was presented at the Waldorf School of San Francisco on 5/1/99 as part of a senior project. Per the original source, it may be freely xeroxed and distributed. A million thanks to the original author for these critical insights.

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Strangers in Our Homes:
TV and Our Children’s Minds

by Susan R. Johnson, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, UCSF /Stanford Health Care and Graduate of San Francisco Waldorf Teacher Training Program of Rudolf Steiner College.

As a mother and a pediatrician who completed both a three-year residency in Pediatrics and a three-year subspecialty fellowship in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, I started to wonder: “What are we doing to our children’s growth and learning potential by allowing them to watch television and videos as well as spend endless hours playing computer games?”

I practiced seven years as the Physician Consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco, performing comprehensive assessments on children, ages 4-12, who were having learning and behavioral difficulties in school. I saw hundreds of children who were having difficulties paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing fine and gross motor tasks. Many of these children had a poor self-image and problems relating to adults and peers. As a pediatrician, I had always discouraged television viewing, because of the often violent nature of its content (especially cartoons) and because of all the commercials aimed at children. However, it wasn’t until the birth of my own child, 6 years ago, that I came face to face with the real impact of television. It wasn’t just the content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It was the change in my child’s behavior (his mood, his motor movements, his play) before, during and after watching TV that truly frightened me.

A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping, and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.

Before watching TV, he would be outside in nature, content to look at bugs, make things with sticks and rocks, and play in the water and sand. He seemed at peace with himself, his body, and his environment. When watching TV, he was so unresponsive to me and to what was happening around him, that he seemed glued to the television set. When I turned off the TV he became anxious, nervous, and irritable and usually cried (or screamed) for the TV to be turned back on. His play was erratic, his movements impulsive and uncoordinated. His play lacked his own imaginative input. Instead of creating his own play themes, he was simply re-enacting what he had just seen on TV in a very repetitive, uncreative and stilted way.

At age 3 1/2 years, our son went on a plane trip to visit his cousins near Boston, and on the plane, was shown the movie “Mission Impossible.” The movie was right above our son’s head making it difficult to block out. Earphones had not been purchased, so the impact was only visual, but what an impact it had on our son. He had nightmares and fears about fires, explosions, and bloody hands for the next 6 months, and his play was profoundly changed. One of my colleagues told me I just had an overly sensitive child, and because I had not taken him to see a movie or let him watch much TV, he was not “used to it” and that was why he was so disturbed by the pictures he saw. All I could think was thank heaven he was not “used to it”.

Later that year, I assessed six different children from ages 8 – 11 years at the School Health Center who all had similar difficulties with reading. They couldn’t make a mental picture of letters or words. If I showed them a series of letters and asked them to identify one particular letter, they could do it. If I gave them no visual input and just asked them to write a particular letter by memory, they couldn’t do it. All of these children watched a lot of television and videos and played computer games. I wondered what happens to a developing child placed in front of a TV set if they are presented with visual and auditory stimuli at the same time. What is left for the brain to do? At least with reading a story or having a story read to them, the mind can create its own imaginative pictures.

A question arose and I immediately called up my colleague and asked: “Could television itself be causing attention problems and learning difficulties in children?” My colleague laughed and said just about everyone watches TV – even my child does – and she doesn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder or a learning disability. I thought to myself: “Are we spending enough time with our children and looking deeply enough into their development and soul to notice the often subtle changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set”? Maybe some children are more vulnerable to the effects of television because of a genetic predisposition or poor nutrition or a more chaotic home environment. I wondered about the loss of potential in all our children, because they are exposed to so much television and so many videos and computers games. What are the capacities we are losing or not even developing because of this TV habit? I then started to read, attend lectures, and ask a lot more questions.

I thought to myself: “Are we spending enough time with our children and looking deeply enough into their development and soul to notice the often subtle changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set”?

Television has been in existence for the past 80 years, though the broadcasting of entertainment shows didn’t begin until the 1940′s. In 1950, 10% of American households owned a TV set. By 1954, this percentage had increased to 50%, and by 1960, 80% of American households owned a television. Since 1970, more than 98% of American households own a TV and currently 66% of households own three or more TVs. Television is on almost 7 hours per day in an average American home. Children of all ages, from preschool through adolescence, watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day (excluding time spent watching videos or playing computer games). A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping, and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.

There have been numerous articles looking at the content of television and how commercials influence children’s (and adults’) desires for certain foods or material goods (e.g., toys), and how violence seen on television (even in cartoons) leads to more aggressive behavior in children (Fischer et. al. 1991, Singer 1989, Zuckerman 1985). Concerns have been raised about who is teaching our children and the developmental appropriateness of what is presented on TV to toddlers, children, and even adolescents. Miles Everett, Ph.D., in his book, How Television Poisons Children’s Minds, points out that we don’t allow our child to talk to strangers, yet through television we allow strangers into the minds and souls of our children everyday. These “strangers” (advertising agencies), whose motivations are often monetary, are creating the standards for what is “good” or developmentally appropriate for the developing brains of our children.

More importantly, several investigators (Healy 1990, Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998, Winn 1985) have drawn attention to the actual act of viewing television as even more insidious and potentially damaging to the brain of the developing child than the actual content of what’s on TV. So what are we doing to our children’s potential by allowing them to watch television?

Question: How does a child’s brain develop and how does a child learn?

Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, Evolution’s End, sees a child’s potential as a seed that needs to be nurtured and nourished in order to grow properly. If the environment doesn’t provide the necessary nurturing (and protections from over-stimulation), then certain potentials and abilities cannot be realized. The infant is born with 10 billion nerve cells or neurons and spends the first three years of life adding billions of glial cells to support and nourish these neurons (Everett 1992). These neurons are then capable of forming thousands of interconnections with each other via spider-like projections called dendrites and longer projections called axons that extend to other regions of the brain.

It is important to realize that a six-year-old’s brain is 2/3 the size of an adult’s though it has 5 – 7 times more connections between neurons than does the brain of an 18-month-old or an adult (Pearce 1992). The brain of a 6 – 7 year old child appears to have a tremendous capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among neurons. This potential for development ends around age 10 – 11 when the child loses 80% of these neural connections (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). It appears that what we don’t develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly myelinated pathways (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998).

In the developing child, there is a progression of brain development from the most primitive core (action) brain, to the limbic (feeling) brain, and finally to the most advanced neocortex, or thought brain. There are critical periods for brain development when the stimulus must be present for the capacity to evolve (for example, language). There is also plasticity in brain development so that even adults can make new dendritic connections, but they have to work harder to establish pathways which were more easily made in childhood.

The brain of a 6 – 7 year old child appears to have a tremendous capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among neurons. This potential for development ends around age 10 – 11 when the child loses 80% of these neural connections. It appears that what we don’t develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly myelinated pathways. (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998)

The core (action) brain is dedicated to our physical survival and manages reflexes, controls our motor movements, monitors body functions, and processes information from our senses. Along with the limbic (feeling) brain, it is involved in the “flight or fight” response that our body has to a dangerous or threatening situation. Humans react physically and emotionally before the thought brain has had time to process the information (Buzzell 1998).

Our limbic (feeling) brain wraps around our core (action) brain and processes emotional information (e.g., our likes – dislikes, love – hate polarities). Our feeling brain gives meaning and value to our memories and what we learn. It influences behavior based on emotional feelings and has an intimate relationship to our immune system and capacity to heal. It is involved in the forming of our intimate relationships and emotional bonds (e.g., between mother and child) and is connected with our dreaming, subtle intuitive experiences and the daydreams and fantasies that originate from the thought brain (Healy 1990). This feeling brain connects the more highly evolved thought brain to the more primitive action brain. Our lower action brain can be made to follow the will of our thought brain or our higher thought brain can be “locked into” the service of the lower action-feeling brain during an emergency that is real or imagined (Pearce 1992). The action and feeling brains can’t distinguish real from imaginary sensory input. It is a survival advantage to react first and think later.

Finally our thought brain, the neocortex, represents our highest and newest form of intellect. It receives extensive input from the core (action) brain and limbic (feeling) brain and has the potential of separating itself and being the most objective part of the brain. It connects us to our higher self. However, the neocortex needs more time to process the images from the action and feeling brains. It is also the part of the brain that has the most potential for the future, and it is the place where our perceptions (experiences), recollections, feelings, and thinking skills all combine to shape our ideas and actions (Everett 1997). The thinking brain is “5 times larger than the other brains combined and provides intellect, creative thinking, computing and, if developed, sympathy, empathy, compassion and love” (Pearce 1992).

There is a sequential development (a progressive myelination of nerve pathways) of the child’s brain from the most primitive (action) brain to the limbic (feeling) brain and finally to the most highly evolved thought brain, or neocortex. Myelination involves covering the nerve axons and dendrites with a protective fatty-protein sheath. The more a pathway is used, the more myelin is added. The thicker the myelin sheath, the faster the nerve impulse or signal travels along the pathway. For these reasons, it is imperative that the growing child receives developmentally appropriate input from their environment in order to nourish each part of the brain’s development and promote the myelination of new nerve pathways. For example, young children who are in the process of forming their motor-sensory pathways and sense organs (the action brain) need repetitive and rhythmical experiences in movement.

Children also need experiences that stimulate and integrate their senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Their senses need to be protected from over-stimulation, since young children are literally sponges. Children absorb all they see, hear, smell, taste and touch from their environment since they haven’t developed the brain capacity to discriminate or filter out unpleasant or noxious sense experiences. The sense of touch is especially crucial since our culture and its hospital birth practices (including the high rate of C-sections) and, until recently, its discouragement of breast-feeding, deprive infants of critical multi-sensory experiences.

The stimulation and development of our sense organs is the precursor to the development of part of our lower brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the gateway through which our sense impressions coordinate with each other and then travel to the higher thought brain. The RAS is the area of the brain that allows us to attend and focus our attention. Impairments in motor-sensory pathways lead to impairments in children’s attention span and ability to concentrate (Buzzell 1998). Over-stimulation and under-stimulation of our senses and poorly developed fine and gross motor movements may lead to impairments in attention.

By age 4, both the core (action) and limbic (feeling) brains are 80% myelinated. After age 6-7, the brain’s attention is shifted to the neocortex (thought brain) with myelination beginning first on the right side or hemisphere and later joined by the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is the more intuitive side of the brain, and it particularly responds to visual images. It grasps wholes, shapes and patterns and focuses on the big picture rather than the details. It directs drawing and painting and monitors melodies and harmonies of music. It is especially responsive to novelty and color and is the dominant hemisphere when watching TV (Healy, 1990, Everett 1997).

The left hemisphere dominates when a child reads, writes and speaks. It specializes in analytical and sequential thinking and step-by-step logical reasoning. It analyzes the sound and meaning of language (e.g., phonic skills of matching sound to letters of the alphabet). It manages fine muscle skills and is concerned with order, routine and details. The ability to comprehend science, religion, math (especially geometry) and philosophy relies on abstract thinking characteristic of the left hemisphere.

Even though we emphasize which functions of learning are performed by which hemisphere, there is a crucial connection between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. It consists of a large bundle of nerve pathways that form a bridge between the left and right hemispheres. It is one of the brain’s latest-maturing parts. The left and right sides of the body learn to coordinate with each other by this pathway. Gross motor activities like jumping rope, climbing, running, and circle games and fine motor activities like form drawing, knitting, pottery, origami, woodworking, embroidery, and bread-making are crucial to myelinating this pathway and lead to more flexible manipulation of ideas and a creative imagination. This pathway provides the interplay between analytic and intuitive thinking, and several neuropsychologists believe that poor development of this pathway affects the right and left hemispheres’ effective communication with each other and may be a cause of attention and learning difficulties (Healy 1990).

We myelinate our pathways by using them. Movements of our bodies combine with experiences of our senses to build strong neural pathways and connections. For example, when a toddler listens to the sound of a ball bouncing on the floor, tastes and smells the ball or pushes, rolls and throws the ball, neurons are making dendritic connections with each other. When a toddler examines balls of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures, a field of thousands (and possibly millions) of interconnecting neurons can be created around the “word” ball (Pearce 1992). Repetition, movement, and multisensory stimulation are the foundations of the language development and higher level thinking. The toddler’s repetitive experiences, with an object like a ball, create images or pictures in his/her brain. “The images of the core limbic brain form much of the elemental “food” for the remarkable and progressive abstracting abilities of the associative high cortex [neocortex]” (Buzzell 1998).

Question: What is so harmful to the mind about watching television?

Watching television has been characterized as multi-leveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of our children’s brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20-30% if a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing, colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense organs (Poplawski 1998).

To begin with, a child’s visual acuity and full binocular (three-dimensional) vision are not fully developed until 4 years of age, and the picture produced on the television screen is an unfocused (made up of dots of light), two-dimensional image that restricts our field of vision to the TV screen itself. Images on TV are produced by a cathode ray gun that shoots electrons at phosphors (fluorescent substances) on the TV screen. The phosphors glow and this artificially produced pulsed light projects directly into our eyes and beyond affecting the secretions of our neuro-endocrine system (Mander 1978). The actual image produced by dots of light is fuzzy and unfocused so that our eyes, and the eyes of our children, have to strain to make the image clear. Television, like any electrical appliance and like power lines, produces invisible waves of electromagnetism. Last June, a panel convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences decided there was enough evidence to consider these invisible waves (called electromagnetic fields or EMFs) as possible human carcinogens. In the article it was recommended that children sit at least 4 feet from TV and 18 inches from the computer screen (Gross 1999).

Our visual system, “the ability to search out, scan, focus, and identify whatever comes in the visual field” (Buzzell 1998), is impaired by watching TV. These visual skills are also the ones that need to be developed for effective reading. Children watching TV do not dilate their pupils, show little to no movement of their eyes (i.e., stare at the screen), and lack the normal saccadic movements of the eyes (a jumping from one point to the next) that is critical for reading. The lack of eye movement when watching television is a problem because reading requires the eyes to continually move from left to right across the page. The weakening of eye muscles from lack of use can’t help but negatively impact the ability and effort required to read. In addition, our ability to focus and pay attention relies on this visual system. Pupil dilation, tracking and following are all part of the reticular activating system. The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines what we pay attention to and is related to the child’s ability to concentrate and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television. A poorly integrated lower brain can’t properly access the higher brain.

The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines what we pay attention to and is related to the child’s ability to concentrate and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television. A poorly integrated lower brain can’t properly access the higher brain.

In addition, the rapid-fire change of television images, which occurs every 5 to 6 seconds in many programs and 2 to 3 seconds in commercials (even less on MTV), does not give the higher thought brain a chance to even process the image. It reportedly takes the neocortex anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to engage after a stimulus (Scheidler 1994). The neocortex is our higher brain, but also needs a greater processing time to become involved.

All the color combinations produced on the television screen result from the activation of only three types of phosphors: red, blue and green. The wavelengths of visible light produced by the activation of these phosphors represents an extremely limited spectrum compared to the wavelengths of light we receive when viewing objects outdoors in the full spectrum of reflected rays from the sun. Another problem with color television is that the color from it is almost exclusively processed by the right hemisphere so that left hemisphere functioning is diminished and the corpus callosum (the pathway of communication between the brain’s hemispheres) is poorly utilized (i.e., poorly myelinated).

Reading a book, walking in nature, or having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television—and computer games—are replacing these invaluable experiences of human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing “pretend” (using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).

Question: Well, what about watching Sesame Street, isn’t it educational for our children? Doesn’t it teach them how to read?

Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It
, wrote an entire chapter entitled “Sesame Street and the Death of Reading”. In addition to the concerns already mentioned about watching television, Sesame Street and the majority of children’s programming seems to put the left hemisphere and parts of the right hemisphere into slow waves of inactivity (alpha waves). Television anesthetizes our higher brain functions and disrupts the balance and interaction between the left and right hemispheres.

Brain waves can be measured by an EEG, and variations in recorded brain waves correspond to different states of activity in the brain. In general, reading produces active, fast beta waves while television watching leads to an increase in slow alpha waves in the left hemisphere and at times even in the right hemisphere (Buzzell 1998). Once again, the left hemisphere is the critical center for reading, writing and speaking. It is the place where abstract symbols (e.g., the letters of the alphabet) are connected to sounds (phonic skills). The pulsating fluorescent light source of television may have something to do with promoting slow wave activity. Our brain “wakes up” to novelty and falls asleep or habituates to repetitive, “boring” stimuli. Advertising agencies and many children’s shows (including Sesame Street) have had to counter children’s tendency to habituate to television by increasing the frequency of new images, using flashing colors, close-ups, and startling, often loud, sounds. These distracters get our attention momentarily but keep us operating in our lower core and limbic brains.

The lower brain can’t discern between images that are real or created on TV, because discernment is the function of the neocortex. Therefore, when the TV presents sudden close-ups, flashing lights, etc. as stimuli, the core-limbic brain immediately goes into a “fight or flight” response with the release of hormones and chemicals throughout the body. Heart rate and blood pressure are increased and blood flow to limb muscles is increased to prepare for this apparent emergency. Because this all happens in our body without the corresponding movement of our limbs, certain TV programs actually put us in a state of chronic stress or anxiety. Studies have shown atrophy of the left hemisphere in adults who are chronically stressed and only functioning from their core-limbic brain. Even as adults, what we don’t use, we lose.

Finally, when our brain is simultaneously presented with visual (images on the screen) and auditory (sound) stimuli, we preferentially attend to the visual. A dramatic example of this phenomenon was illustrated when a group of young children (6-7 years old) were shown a video show where the sound track did not match the visual action and the children, when questioned, did not appear to notice the discrepancy. Therefore, even in Sesame Street, studies have shown that children are not absorbing the content of the show (Healy 1990).

Maybe the most critical argument against watching television is that it affects the three characteristics that distinguish us as human beings. In the first 3 years of life, a child learns to walk, to talk and to think. Television keeps us sitting, leaves little room for meaningful conversations and seriously impairs our ability to think.

Question: What’s wrong with using television as just entertainment? I enjoyed watching Disney films like Snow White.

Television seems to have a profound effect on our feeling life and therefore, one could argue, on our soul. As human beings, we become detached from the real world by watching television. We sit in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, with plenty to eat and watch a show about people who are homeless, cold and hungry. Our hearts go out to them, but we do nothing. One could argue that reading a book could promote the same sense of unreality without action. The phrases “turn off the TV” or “get your nose out of your book” and “go do something” have meaning. Nevertheless, while reading a book (that doesn’t have a lot of pictures) the child’s mind creates its own pictures and has time to think about them. These thoughts could actually lead to ideas that inspire a child or adult to action. TV does not give time for this higher level of thinking that inspires deeds.

Often one is disappointed when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much richer than what can be shown on a screen.

Television projects images that go directly into our emotional brain. It is said that the words we hear go into knowledge while the images we see go into our soul. Pictures that elicit emotion are processed by the limbic system and the right hemisphere of the neocortex. If no time is given to think about these emotional pictures, then the left hemisphere is not involved. Once again, watching television often eliminates the part of our brain that can make sense of, analyze and rationalize what we are seeing.

We don’t forget what we see. The limbic brain is connected to our memory, and the pictures we see on TV are remembered — either consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously. For example, it is almost impossible to create your own pictures of Snow White from reading a story if you have seen the movie. It is also true that often one is disappointed when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much richer than what can be shown on a screen.

The problem with television is that children get used to not using their imaginative thinking at all, and they don’t exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex) that creates the pictures. Children are not reading enough, and we aren’t reading or telling them enough stories to help their minds create pictures. Creating pictures is not just entertaining, but the foundation of our dreams and higher thoughts (intuitions, inspirations and imaginations). We dream, think and imagine possibilities of the future in pictures.

Finally, the heart is now seen as an organ of perception that can respond to a stimulus and release a hormone-like substance that influences brain activity. This phenomenon is referred to as our heart intelligence (Pearce 1992). Interacting with human beings is essential for the development of this intelligence. When we stand face to face and look into another person’s eyes, we meet soul to soul and we get a sense of who they really are (Soesman). We get a sense of whether they mean what they say – in other words, whether they are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject. We experience their non-verbal language such as how they move, the tone of their voice, and whether their gaze shifts around when they talk. This is how we learn to discern consistency between verbal and non-verbal cues and, therefore, truth.

Television can’t give us this intelligence of the heart. It can shock our emotions and we can cry, laugh or get angry, but these emotions are just reactions. When human beings speak on TV, children are often doing homework, playing games, and talking to friends while watching TV. These activities help save their visual system from the effects of TV, but the underlying message is that you don’t need to listen when another person speaks or comfort anyone if you hear crying. If the heart, like the brain and probably the rest of our body, gives off electromagnetic waves (Pearce 1992, Tiller 1999), then there is a form of subtle energy that only can be experienced between human beings by relating to each other in the same physical space. This subtle energy can’t be experienced by watching human beings on television. Just as we must use all our senses to construct higher level thoughts or pictures of an object, empathy and love for others does not develop from seeing human beings as objects on TV, but by actively relating, face to face, with each other.

Question: What can we do to help our children’s brain develop?

1. — Keep the television turned off as much as possible.

One author recommended avoiding television as much as possible for the first 12 years of your child’s life and then encourage your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie. It helps to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet. Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind (Large 1997). Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can’t really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it – that will eventually lead to power struggles.

When the television is on, then try to neutralize its damage. Select the programs carefully and watch TV with your child so you can talk about what you see. Keep a light on when the TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at least 4 feet from the television and 18 inches from the computer screen. Plan to go outside (to the park, woods, or beach) after viewing television.

2. — Read a lot of books to your children (especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots of stories.

Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to stimulate their internal picture making capabilities.

3. — Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation.

The colors are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV (Poplawski 1998). We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.

4. — Pay close attention to your senses and those of your child.

Our environment is noisy and over-stimulating to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is extremely important to his or her development. We need to surround our children with what is beautiful, what is good and what is true. How a child experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives the world as a teenager and adult.

5. — Have children use their hands, feet and whole body performing purposeful activities.

All the outdoor activities of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump-rope help develop our children’s gross motor skills and myelinate pathways in the higher brain. Performing household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, origami, string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and coloring help develop fine motor skills and also myelinate pathways in the higher brain.

Finally, the future of our children and our society is in the protection and development of our children’s minds, hearts and limbs. What we are aiming for in the thoughts of our children is best summarized in this fine verse from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.

Bibliography

Buzzell, Keith. The Children of Cyclops: The Influence of Television Viewing on the Developing Human Brain. 1998 California: AWSNA.

Everett, Miles. How Television Poisons Children’s Minds. 1997 California: Miles Publishing.

Fischer, Paul. “Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years: Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel”. JAMA Vol. 266, No. 22, December 11, 1991.

Gross, Liza. “Current Risks: Experts finally link Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer,” SIERRA, May/June 1999, p.30.

Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It. 1990 New York: Simon and Schuster.

Large, Martin. Who’s Bringing Them Up? How to Break the TV Habit. 1997, 3rd ed. England: Hawthorn Press.

Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. 1978 New York: William Morrow and Co.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence. 1992 California: Harper San Francisco.

Poplawski, Thomas. “Losing Our Senses”. Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall 1998.

Scheidler, Thomas. “Television, Video Games and the LD Child”. 1995 Pamphlet: Greenwood Institute.

Singer, Dorothy. “Caution: Television May Be Hazardous to a Child’s Mental Health”. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 10, No. 5, October 1989.

Soesman, Albert. The Twelve Senses: Wellsprings of the Soul. 1998 England: Hawthorn Press.

Tiller, William. “Robust Manifestations of Subtle Energies in Physical Reality and Its Implications for Future Medicine”. Lecture, Stanford University, April 28th, 1999.

Winn, Marie. The Plug-in Drug. 1985 New York: Penguin Books.

Zuckerman, Diana M. and Barry S. Zuckerman. “Television’s Impact on Children”. Pediatrics, Vol. 75, No. 2, February 1985.

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“LikeMinded” Kids Forum

As everyone who has connected with Kidzmet understands, personality type impacts the way in which our kids naturally learn. But tips, techniques and strategies found in books—including our own Playbook for Learning—can only take you so far. The insights that will help you most in challenging moments are the ones that have worked for parents, teachers and tutors who have experience with your type of learner in the real world.

We’ve launched this forum with the intent of creating a supportive place to share learning related struggles, strengths, and strategies that work with other parents, teachers and tutors of kids with similar temperaments. Because not all kids learn in the same ways! Just think back to when you were sleep training your child. In the same way that some parents breathed a sigh of relief when their kids “learned” to sleep through the night through cry-it-out methods, other kids finally “got it” with a bedtime routine and still other families swore by using scheduled wake-up times or putting their kids to bed sleepy. It’s not that one is right and the others are wrong. All of these techniques have been found to be effective. It’s about identifying the best techniques for your child’s temperament.

If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to take Kidzmet’s FREE personality profile to pinpoint the forum(s) in which you will find tips and techniques most relevant to your child(ren). If you like what you see or the direction we’re headed, the best way to show your support is to subscribe, post and let other parents, teachers and tutors you know about these new forums. Here are some ideas with respect to how you can get started in our new Kidzmet “LikeMinded” Community. And, as always, if you’ve got ANY suggestions about how we can improve, please don’t hesitate to let us know by contacting customer service [at] kidzmet [dot] com.


GOT AN APP, BOOK, WEBSITE, OR TECHNIQUE THAT’S WORKED WELL FOR YOUR CHILD? PLEASE SHARE IT IN THE APPROPRIATE FORUM!

Taking two minutes to recommend a product that worked for YOUR child will help other kids with similar temperaments be more inspired, enriched and engaged in their learning experiences. (Not to mention help other parents, tutors and teachers create stronger bonds with the kids in their lives!)

 

IS YOUR CHILD HAVING STRUGGLES IN SCHOOL?

After you know what personality type your child has, pose your question to the Kidzmet Community and get suggestions of techniques that have worked in practice from parents and teachers of kids just like yours. (As we get started, we’ll also post these questions out to our social networks to get the ball rolling and make sure your questions are answered as quickly as possible.)

 

TEMPERAMENT-BASED STRENGTHS

Sometimes, it’s just good to read about what gets other kids with similar temperaments “in the zone” and brings them joy, strength and confidence. If you have a story that you’d like to share about your child’s accomplishments, this is the place to do it. Your story may give other parents, teachers and tutors ideas of how to bring more joy into their kids’ lives!

 

THE FORUMS

  EFJ Kids (Extraverted Feelers)
  ENP Kids (Extraverted iNtuitives)
  ESP Kids (Extraverted Sensors)
  ETJ Kids (Extraverted Thinkers)
  IFP Kids (Introverted Feelers)
  INJ Kids (Introverted iNtuitives)
  ISJ Kids (Introverted Sensors)
  ITP Kids (Introverted Thinkers)

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10 Tips When Helping Your Children to Choose Their Science Fair Projects

Science fair season has become increasingly more competitive. This is because the stakes at these events are no longer limited to ribbons and plaques. There are big money rewards to be won and chances to impress college entrance boards as well. All of these factors make it necessary for students to gain every advantage that they can. One way to gain an advantage is to utilize a science fair kit as the raw materials for a project.

Find A Science Kit with Parts and Tools

The first tip to use when choosing kids science fair kits is to select a kit that comes with parts and tools, as opposed to a completely assembled project. This option will give students the chance to both complete the experiments that are outlined in the kit and to create their own projects and experiments using the parts. These are the only kits that will be acceptable at science fairs.

Select Age Appropriate Kits

It is important to select a kid’s science fair kit that is age appropriate for your young scientist. Young kids will need project kits that do not have small parts that could pose a choking hazard, and older students will need kits that will challenge their minds. Also age appropriateness is important for providing students with the raw materials needed to complete a project that will do well at a science fair.

One That Follows the Scientific Method

If your student will be using the kids’ science fair kits in their science fair project then you will need to select one that follows the scientific method. This will help your child to learn how to complete the scientific method as well as ensure that their final project will be appropriate for a science fair.

Multiple Projects Possible

To give your student the most options for their own science fair projects you will want to select a science fair kit that is designed for the completion of several different experiments. This will ensure that there are enough raw materials left over after the student completes the sample project to complete their own experiments.

Safety Issues

Safety is an issue that you need to think about when purchasing a science fair kit. This is why it is important to look at who manufactured the kit and where it was manufactured.

Safety Supplies

One sign that a science kit is a quality product is that it comes with safety equipment. Safety equipment like goggles, gloves and face masks are common safety equipment.

Topics Impact Science Fair Score

If your student wants to win a science fair, then they will need to create a project that is interesting and that is focused on a topic that is important to today’s scientists. This means that you will need to select a science kit that has a topic that fits these criteria.

Shelf Life

When shopping for a science fair kit you will want to look at when the kit was packaged. Some ingredients will have a shelf life. If a package looks faded or tampered with select another box or kit.

Ordering Extra Supplies

Selecting a science kit that has been manufactured by a reputable company is a good idea. Usually these companies will allow parents to place order for refill kits or to purchase extra tools and supplies directly from the company.

Fun Project Kits

The final tip is to select a science kit that looks like it is going to be fun. If the kit looks dull then your scientist is not going to want to play with the kit and if they do use the kit to develop a science fair project then their project will most likely also be boring.

Featured images:
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=experiment&ex=1#ai:MP900399789|mt:2|

When helping your child to choose a science fair kit what is most important is that the child chooses what is of interest to him/her.

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