Facts Not Fear: The Truth About Digital Media and Young People
Parents who are scared, who set too many limits and are always negative can create issues for their children. Some studies indicate that these parents end up having the children with the most risky online behavior.” – Yalda Uhls
In a world in which the media is quick to stoke the fires of parental fears about technology and its potentially corrosive impact on their children, Yalda Uhls offers a refreshing – and reassuring – perspective. Her book, Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, is notable in that it tackles the topics that are of concern to many parents and educators with research findings. The author brings an interesting perspective to her work: she is a mother, an educator, a media specialist, and a research scientist at UCLA.
Uhls’ work offers worthwhile insights that can help us all to navigate the sometimes challenging, digital landscape. As a school principal, I periodically hear about very genuine “tech fears” that are broadly expressed as follows: the internet is a dangerous place for young people that is damaging concentration, literacy, the quality of reading and note-taking, our memories and our relationships.
Those who express such concerns do so from a place of sincere care. Such questions need to be asked openly and addressed thoughtfully. Unfortunately, many of these fears are compounded by alarmist media reports. Quite often, this is why parents are scared. A typical example is a report by Sreedhar Potarazu published by CNN. Under the title, “Is Social Media Ruining Our Kids?”, the author cites a disturbing set of statistics in complete isolation from any related research on digital media, framing the disturbing title to establish an unfounded connection between cause and effect:
“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.”
There is no evident correlation between the selective, worrying findings of this survey as reported and the use of technology. This kind of reckless reporting and data manipulation contributes little of value to the necessary discourse around the use of technology among young people. The report also provides some very welcome findings that – if we are to follow the logic of the CNN report – we should also ascribe to the use of social media. These include:
Of course, data can be manipulated to tell any story we want it to tell. Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask is, why does the narrative about digital media and young people tend to focus so much on panic and fear? When I started teaching in the early 90’s I occasionally encountered the passing of notes between students. On more than one occasion, the content of the note included something typically adolescent and potentially hurtful about another member of the class. At no point did I blame the existence of paper for this phenomenon and I didn’t frown on the presence of pencils and pens in the school. The reality is that what happens online is what is happening offline and we need to focus on the behaviours, not the medium. Our concerns should be all about people, not the digital device. Writer, Danah Boyd is clear about why social media use is highlighted as the culprit and how this leads to an obfuscation of core realities:
“It’s made more visible. There is some awful stuff out there, but it frustrates me when a panic distracts us from the reality of what’s going on. One of my frustrations is that there are some massive mental health issues, and we want to blame the technology [that brings them to light] instead of actually dealing with mental health issues.”
Uhls bases her perspectives on actual research and real findings. She notes that there are some young people who can become absolutely addicted to digital devices, but this is a tiny minority. While she advocates for device-free time, she also assures us that we should not be alarmed about teen tech habits. Uhls is pragmatic and honest about the realities of the digital landscape, too. Multi-tasking is not something humans are naturally good at, the research has shown. It is the processing that occurs when people physically write things down that accounts for any difference in retention, not the device itself, studies reveal. While parents, she contends, still need to act like parents – setting clear guidelines, expectations, and parameters – the available research informs us of a view that is strikingly at odds with the bleak portrait that is worrying parents.
So, what does the research actually say?
This good news needs to be tempered, of course, with common sense. Young people need to maintain a healthy balance between online interaction and face-to-face activities (even here the research shows that the former is driven by the healthy need for the latter). Parents are obligated to develop and maintain open dialogue with their child around trust and transparency. Fear should not govern our instincts or hinder the need to empower our young people with the appropriate uses of digital media.
The true power of digital media lies in its potential to connect, communicate, and, therefore, to amplify or extend the reach or impact of a given experience. There are, sadly, documented instances where technology is clearly exacerbating certain societal issues. Increasing childhood obesity is among these concerns. There are tales of toddlers being given iPads as child-minding devices. Literacy is on the decline among the socially disadvantaged. Issues that are sometimes blamed on technology are often deeply-rooted in poor parenting, issues of self-esteem, and educational institutions with narrow conceptions of learning caused by a lack of funding or inflexible, external constraints. In the right context and culture, however, the research makes clear that digital media can positively impact and profoundly transform learning.
There is no need to be scared. We must empower, not control. Young people are adapting positively to the digital age and we need to trust in their ability to do so.
Blog Post: https://crowleym.com/2017/03/02/facts-not-fear-the-truth-about-digital-media-and-young-people/
Zuckerberg, Randi. “Yalda T. Uhls Wants You to Approach the Digital Age with Facts, Not Fear.” Professional Women, April 28, 2016.
Potarazu, Sreedhar. “Is Social Media Ruining Our Kids?”. CNN, October 22, 2015.
Bergstein, Brian. “Parents: Don’t Panic About Your Kids Social Media Habits.” MIT Technology Review, December 12, 2013.
Uhls, Yalda. Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age. 2015.
Image credit @bryanMMathers via Visual Thinkery.
Toys to Help with Getting Dressed Independence
Teaching children to get dressed on their own can be a tricky subject. Kids do many milestones at different ages and teaching independence skills can be frustrating. Teaching kids to get dressed depends on many small splinter skills that make up the end result of clothing on, fasteners done, and child ready to go for the day. Learning to get dressed takes time and it depends on the development of fine and gross motor skills, visual-motor skills, and even self-confidence. Children may reach some milestones ahead of "schedule" and require more time or practice to reach others. It is important to remember that every child is different.
We are sharing some approximate self-care milestones in dressing for kids and toys that can help with this skill.
Childhood Milestones for Getting DressedOne year old:
Two years old:
Four years old:
Toys for helping kids learn to get dressed:
When a child needs to work on some skills for their independence, toys can be the way to go! These toys are great for developing independence in dressing skills. This post contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure here.
Small World Toys Learning - Before and After is great for kids who need to gain insight into concepts of before and after. You can not put your shoes on before you put your socks on. Cognitive concepts can be tricky for children to understand if auditory processing of these ideas are difficult.
Books about learning to get dressed:
Let's Get Dressed Learning Book is a fun book for the smallest children. This book will introduce terms and language needed for independence in getting dresses.
"Ella Sarah Gets Dressed" is a fun book to read for getting dressed ideas.
Toys to work on clothing fasteners:
Working on buttons, snaps, and other fasteners is great for practicing on boards, books, and dolls. However, it is often difficult for children to relate the skills they learn on these tools to real clothing that is ON their bodies. Manipulating clothing and fasteners is actually OPPOSITE movement patterns when fastening these same fasteners on the body verses on a board or doll that the child is looking at. This Special Needs Sensory Activity Apron (Children & Adult Sizes) solves that issue as the child can manage the clothing fasteners right on their lap. This is so great for children with motor planning difficulties. You cold also use a Montessori Buttoning Frame with Large Buttons Dressing Frame and lay it right on the child's lap.
Childrens Factory Manual Dexterity Vests - Button-Zipper Combo Vest is a good way to practice buttons and zippers right on the child.
Sometimes managing a zipper can be difficult because grasping the zipper is ineffective or clumsy. A large zipper pull can make managing the zipper on clothing or a backpack much easier.
These 4 pcs Large Flowers Zipper Pull / Zip pull Charms for Jacket Backpack Bag Pendant are great for flower lovers, or maybe your child would rather have cool toy story zipper pulls.
More fine motor practice can be done with the Buckle Toy "Bentley" Caterpillar. I actually love this for the Toddler age set who LOVE to buckle car seats, high chairs, and all things buckles. This cute little caterpillar also works on numbers for pre-math learning, too.
Practice basic clothing fastener skills like buttons, zippers, snaps, and ties with the Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board. The bright colors are fun and will get little fingers moving on clothing fasteners. Learning to Get Dressed Monkey is a fun toy for clothing fasteners.
Responsibility Chart for Getting Dressed:
I Can Do It! Reward and Responsibility Chart is a great idea for kids that need a little motivation to be independent. Making the morning routine smoother can make a big difference in independence. Older kids may benefit from this chart for self-confidence or working on responsibilities.
Shoe Tying Gifts:
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wood Lacing Sneaker is a fun toy for shoe tying practice. The big, chunky shoe makes it fun. Sometimes different colored shoe laces help when a child is learning to tie shoes. I love these Easy Tie Shoelaces that come in two different colors.
How Parents Can Cultivate Empathy in Children
Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones
Making Caring Common Project,
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s a foundation for acting ethically, for good relationships of many kinds, for loving well, and for professional success. And it’s key to preventing bullying and many other forms of cruelty.
Empathy begins with the capacity to take another perspective, to walk in another’s shoes. But it is not just that capacity. Salespeople, politicians, actors and marketers are often very skilled at taking other perspectives but they may not care about others. Con men and torturers take other perspectives so they can exploit people’s weaknesses. Empathy includes valuing other perspectives and people. It’s about perspective-taking and compassion.
How can parents’ cultivate empathy? The following are guideposts based on research and the wisdom of practitioners.
1. Empathize with your child and model empathy for others
Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathize with our children they develop trusting, secure attachments with us. Those attachments are key to their wanting to adopt our values and to model our behavior, and therefore to building their empathy for others.
Empathizing with our children takes many forms, including tuning in to their physical and emotional needs, understanding and respecting their individual personalities, taking a genuine interest in their lives, and guiding them toward activities that create an understanding of the kind of people they are and the things they enjoy.
Children also learn empathy by watching those we notice and appreciate. They’ll notice if we treat a server in a restaurant or a mail carrier as if they’re invisible. On the positive side, they’ll notice if we welcome a new family in our child’s school or express concern about another child in our child’s class who is experiencing one challenge or another.
Finally, it’s important for us to recognize what might be getting in the way of our empathizing. Are we, for example, exhausted or stressed? Does our child push our buttons in a speci c way that makes caring for her or him hard at times?
1. Knowing your child. Ask your child questions. For example, what did you learn today that was interesting? What was the hardest part of your day? How would you most like to spend a day if you could do anything? Do you have a friend that you especially respect? Why do your respect that person?
2. Demonstrating empathy for others, including those different from you. Consider regularly engaging in community service or model other ways of contributing to a community. Even better, consider doing this with your child. Express interest in those from various backgrounds facing many different types of challenges.
3. Engaging in self-care and self-re ection. Try to nd time to regularly engage in an activity — whether it’s going for a walk, reading a book, meditating or praying — that can help you avoid being overwhelmed by stress. Re ect and consult with people you trust when you’re having a hard time empathizing with your child.
4. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations
If children are to value others’ perspectives and show compassion for them, it’s very important that they hear from their parents that caring about others is a top priority, and that it is just as important as their own happiness. Even though most parents say that raising caring children is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message.
Children are born with the capacity for empathy, but it needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. Learning empathy is in certain respects like learning a language or a sport. It requires practice and guidance. Regularly considering other people’s perspectives and circumstances helps make empathy a natural re ex and, through trial and error, helps children get better at tuning into others’ feelings and perspectives.
We often talk about empathy as a quantity. For example, we speak of children as having a lot of or a little empathy or as lacking empathy entirely. Yet the issue often isn’t whether children can empathize or how much empathy they have. It is who they have empathy for. For most of us, it’s not hard to have empathy for our family members and close friends. It’s also human nature to have empathy for people who are like us in some way. But the real issue is whether children (and adults) have empathy outside that circle. As parents and caretakers, it’s not only important that we model appreciation for many types of people. It’s important that we guide children in understanding and caring for many kinds of people who are different from them and who may be facing challenges very different from their own challenges.
Often when children don’t express empathy it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
Helping children manage these negative feelings as well as stereotypes and prejudices about others is often what “releases” their empathy.
1. Identifying feelings. Name for children their dif cult feelings such as frustration, sadness and anger and encourage them to talk to you about why they’re feeling that way.
2. 3 steps to self-control. A simple way to help children to manage their feelings is to practice three easy steps together: stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to ve. Try it when your children are calm. Then, when you see them getting upset, remind them about the steps and do them together.
3. Resolving con icts. Practice with your child how to resolve con icts. Consider a con ict you or your child witnessed or experienced that turned out badly, and role play different ways of responding. Try to achieve mutual understanding—listening to and paraphrasing each other’s feelings until both persons feel understood. If your child observes you experiencing a dif cult feeling and is concerned, talk to your child about how you are handling it.
Support from and input from Ashoka: Innovators for the Public was helpful in producing this work. Special thanks to SUNY Cortland’s Tom Lickona for his contributions to this document.
For more information about strategies for promoting empathy and for research indicating that empathy is important for school, professional and life success, please visit the Making Caring Common website at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
For more information, please visit makingcaringcommon.org
Making Caring Common
Harvard Graduate School of Education 14 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138
Should Emotions Be Taught in Schools?
By Grace Rubenstein on February 24, 2017 in Interviews
Who taught you how to identify and manage your emotions, how to recognize them when they arose, and how to navigate your way through them? For many adults, the answer is: No one. You hacked your way through those confusing thickets on your own. Although navigating our inner landscape was not something that was taught to us in school, it should be, contend a number of researchers. They believe emotional skills should rank as high in importance in children’s educations as math, reading, history and science.
Why do emotions matter? Research has found that people who are emotionally skilled perform better in school, have better relationships, and engage less frequently in unhealthy behaviors. Plus, as more and more jobs are becoming mechanized, so-called soft skills — which include persistence, stress management and communication — are seen as a way to make humans irreplaceable by machine. There has been a growing effort in American schools to teach social and emotional learning (SEL), but these tend to emphasize interpersonal skills like cooperation and communication.
Kids are often taught to ignore or cover over their emotions. Many Western societies view emotions as an indulgence or distraction, says University of California-Santa Barbara sociologist Thomas Scheff, a proponent of emotional education. Our emotions can give us valuable information about the world, but we’re often taught or socialized not to listen to them. Just as dangerous, Scheff says, is the practice of hiding one emotion behind another. He has found that men, in particular, tend to hide feelings of shame under anger, aggression and, far too often, violence.
How does one go about teaching emotions? One of the most prominent school programs for teaching about emotions is RULER, developed in 2005 by Marc Brackett, David Caruso and Robin Stern of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The multiyear program is used in more than 1,000 schools, in the US and abroad, across grades K-8. The name, RULER, is an acronym for its five goals: recognizing emotions in oneself and others; understanding the causes and consequences of emotions; labeling emotional experiences with an accurate and diverse vocabulary; and expressing and regulating emotions in ways that promote growth.
As a strategy, children are taught to focus on the underlying theme of an emotion rather than getting lost in trying to define it. When an emotion grips you, explains Stern, understanding its thematic contours can help “name it to tame it.” Even though anger is experienced differently by different people, she explains, “the theme underlying anger is the same. It’s injustice or unfairness. The theme that underlies disappointment is an unmet expectation. The theme that underlies frustration is feeling blocked on your way to a goal. Pinning down the theme can “help a person be seen and understood and met where she is,” says Stern.
RULER’s lessons are woven into all classes and subjects. So, for example, if “elated’ is the emotional vocabulary word under discussion, a teacher would ask students in an American history class to link “elated” to the voyage of Lewis and Clark. Instruction reaches beyond the classroom, too; kids are prompted to talk with their parents or caregivers about when they last felt elated. Researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has found RULER schools tend to see less-frequent bullying, lower anxiety and depression, more student leadership and higher grades. So why isn’t emotional education the norm rather than the exception?
Surprising fact: While scientists and educators agree on the need to teach emotions, they don’t agree on how many there are and what they are. RULER’s curriculum consists of hundreds of “feeling words,” including curious, ecstatic, hopeless, frustrated, jealous, relieved and embarrassed. Other scholars’ lists of emotions have ranged in number from two to eleven. Scheff suggests starting students out with six: grief, fear, anger, pride, shame and excessive fatigue.
While psychology began to be studied as a science more than a century ago, up to now it has focused more on identifying and treating disorders. Scheff, who has spent years studying one taboo emotion — shame — and its destructive impact on human actions, admits, “We don’t know much about emotions, even though we think we do, and that goes for the public and for researchers.” Or, as Virginia Woolf so beautifully put it, “The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted.”
Parents can start to encourage their kids’ emotional awareness with a simple prompt “Tell me about some of your best moments,” a phrase Scheff has used to initiate discussions with his university students. But he and Stern agree that schools can’t wait until academics have sorted out the name and number of emotions before they act. “We know we have emotions all day long, whether we’re aware of them or not,” Stern points out. Let’s teach kids how to ride those moment-by-moment waves, instead of getting tossed around.
Art credit: TED-Ed. Author bio: Grace Rubenstein is a journalist, editor and multimedia producer in California. Note: The article above has been adapted for TED-Ed from this Ideas.ted.com article.