Archives for October 2013

Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time

Andrea Petersen at The Wall Street Journal reports that The American Academy of Pediatrics’ New Guidelines on Children’s Use of Internet, TV, Cellphones, Videogames.

 

“Excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep,” said Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the new policy and a pediatrician.

Families should have a no-device rule during meals and after bedtime, the guidelines say. Parents should also set family rules covering the use of the Internet and social media and cellphones and texting, including, perhaps, which sites can be visited, who can be called and giving parental access to Facebook accounts. The policy also reiterated the AAP’s existing recommendations: Kids should limit the amount of screen time for entertainment to less than two hours per day; children younger than 2 shouldn’t have any TV or Internet exposure. Also, televisions and Internet-accessible devices should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.

Doctors say parents need to abide by the family rules, too, to model healthy behavior. That, some say, may be the toughest part.

Perhaps the more important point is that it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware that for children under three need interaction with familiar adults more than they need instruction. In the first three years, children need adults to help develop their communication skills: listen to speech patterns, hear words and pauses, take turns making sounds or speaking. These are the things that prepare their brains to learn and share effectively when they embark on early childhood education.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K

Motoko Rich at The New Times writes of yet another study supporting how important early communication is to school readiness and achievement:

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart & Risley’s Early Catastrophe, a key research guide in the development of Bright Beginnings programs] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs. [This is known in Early Childhood Development circles as the “30-Million Word Gap”.]

The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.

The research keeps piling on the concept that early learning, school readiness and lifetime achievement often hinges on the interactive communication between adults and children in the first years of life. Bright Beginnings has been spreading this message for over 20 years to the parents and caregivers in Colorado. Contrary to the article’s conclusions, however, we believe the implications are most profound to the parents of children aged 0-3 — before they get to prekindergarten programs.

The key to smarter kids: talking to them the right way

After a piece that explores debate on child academic performance, Annie Murphy Paul concludes in the Sept 30 issue of The Brilliant Report:

“What [parents] need to do with their children is much simpler: talk.”

But not just any talk. Although well-known research by psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley has shown that professional parents talk more to their children than less-affluent parents—a lot more, resulting in a 30 million “word gap” by the time children reach age three—more recent research is refining our sense of exactly what kinds of talk at home foster children’s success at school. For example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health and published in the journalPediatrics found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did all the talking.

Engaging in this reciprocal back-and-forth gives children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter.

This reciprocal back-and-forth, or “dialogic communication”, is at the core of the Bright Beginnings programs.