Monday, November 20, 2017

When Children Go Public

Jason Watson (the dad in this picture link) has done a series of these funny videos on How to DAD. This one is “How to Take Kids to a Restaurant.”  I wish I had these clips when I was a parent of young ones, not because they are helpful, but because they are hilariously true. It is often a relief to see someone else struggle with the same issues. In a funny way – this guy gets it.

It is a challenge to teach good public behavior to our children, but a challenge worth aiming for. When we teach good manners we encourage our children to be conscientious. In order to be conscientious children must think about the feelings of others (other people want to eat their meal without hearing me shout), remember commonly accepted rules of behavior (people take turns), and keep their bodies under control (walking feet and quiet inside voices). These skills match up with abstract thinking, working memory, and regulation which are all essential skills for learning, playing, and getting along with others. Conscientious children do better in school in almost every category.

Good public manners are not about squelching your child’s exuberant spirit. They are about developing a brain capable of using those natural talents successfully.

Here are some things to remember as you work to help your children to be conscientious:

Mean what you say: Don’t make unreasonable threats. Just set expectations and follow through when necessary. Be as consistent as you want your children to be.

Take them out: It is embarrassing to walk through a group of people with a screaming child, but you will likely not have to repeat it too many times. You should know that most of the people you pass on the way out admire you. The only parents to blame for their child's lousy behavior are the ones who do nothing.

Practice at home: In school your children practice fire drills every month. It is not done because the school is likely to have a fire. This practice is so that if a fire happens a safe exit will be almost second nature to a worried group of children. Practicing good manners at home will also help conscientiousness to be second nature. The more practice you have at home, the happier your family will be as good manners promotes empathy and caring.

When you see a restaurant with a polite note about expectations for child behavior, do not assume your children are not welcome. Instead, see this as an opportunity to help your child learn. It is reasonable to expect reasonable behavior from children in a public setting. Not only that, good manners translate into good friends and good learning.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Five Reasons to be Wary of Youtube for Kids

Something is Wrong on the Internet by James Bridle, is possibly the most disturbing article I have read in a while. 

However, if you have children who routinely watch videos on phones or other screens, I strongly urge you to check it out. Bridle explains how an innocent video clip of a children’s song can morph into something rather disturbing. Click here, or on the picture above, to see a rather distressing example.

The process involves key words, algorithms, bots, trolls, and ads to create videos that start with something fairly wholesome like Peppa the Pig and lead a child to rather disturbing video fare. For instance, Peppa's visit to the dentist becomes a story of dental torture and crying children,

To briefly summarize the article here are 5 warnings about kiddie content on the internet (esp. YouTube):

1. Even “good” videos are grouped together to create an hour’s worth of content. This just encourages more screen time.

2. Much of what is out there is not educational and probably not even entertaining. Videos of someone unwrapping surprise eggs may mesmerize children but they are little more than ads or fuel for other ads.

3. Children are exposed to many more ads then they would see on a typical television show and they are especially susceptible to ads. Constant advertising not only creates a fake “need” for an item it can also promote depression when children are left feeling a constant need for that next thing that will make them happy.

4. When algorithms find popular songs and topics they get grouped together in order to create more clicks. These combinations can be used to create parodies, purposely gross, or even obscene material that is not appropriate for the original audience. These videos will come up with the relatively harmless ones and are easy for a child to click.

5. Children should NOT be watching or playing with any screen without parent supervision.

Screen technology is changing our world and doing many wonderful things, but we have so much to learn about what harm it might do to children or to parenting healthy families. Furthermore, producers of this  material do not, in any way, have the best interests of our children at heart. Use screens wisely and don’t let them come between you and a good conversation or activity you could be having with your children.