Parents who express negative emotions toward their infants, or handle them roughly, may be inadvertently harming their babies’ psyches, new research suggests. This type of “negative ” results in aggressive, defiant kindergarteners and even affects adult behavior, the researchers said.
“Before the study, we thought it was likely the combination of difficult infant temperament and negative parenting that put parent-child pairs most at risk for conflict in the toddler period,” study researcher Michael Lorber, of New York University, said in a statement. “However, our findings suggest that it was negative parenting in early infancy that mattered most.”
Tag Archives: Children
Smart kids crave breaking news.
They are a natural audience — intelligent, curious, fascinated by the story, able to assimilate facts and associate ideas at cyberspeed. And they live with one foot in the online world.
But some parents worry that the news is too often presented in a violent, graphic or hypersexualized way. Or that it’s just not age-appropriate.
“Once I started distilling news for my 7-year old,” says Claudia Heitler, a former producer for NBC’s Today Show, “I found it was a lot more work than I thought it would be. It sometimes took me hours between finding an appropriate story and finding the right way to tell it.”
For example, she says, “could I say that North Korea was in ‘time-out’?”
Heitler figured that other families might be in the same boat. So she launched Here There Everywhere – News for Kids.
Increasingly, Heitler says, there are more outside influences on young people as they grow older — video games and television and various marketing campaigns. “This seems to be the savviest generation of kids ever” she says. “All fine, but let’s also take some time to tell them about what’s going on in the world and make that accessible to them, let’s make them savvy about that, too.”
Recent HTE stories include: “Should Dogs Wear Seat Belts?” and “There’s a New Country” about the Republic of South Sudan.
Here There Everywhere is not the only news-for-kids site. There are others, including DOGO News and Youngzine. Another site, GoGoNews, is designed to be read by people who are at least 7 years old, says founder Golnar Khosrowshahi. “Given the variance in literacy levels for the under 7 set, while the content is suitable, the most satisfaction would probably be gained when viewing it with the help of an adult.” For the under-7 set, the site provides a way for kids to listen to the articles.
All of this attention to newspups brings back memories of last century, when newspapers and magazines – battling against declining circulation — created kid-oriented sections, hoping to “young up” their audiences. Time magazine even launched a Time for Kids edition.
Now in the digital age, that quest for youth continues. There is a Time for Kids website. The New York Times also has a student-oriented blog called the Learning Network. The BBC created the Children’s BBC for pre-teens. The Washington Post publishes a web version of its KidsPost section. And there are many others.
There are obstacles. All the sites must reckon with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which makes it illegal for a website to collect personal information or track the online activities of anyone younger than 13, without parental consent.
And what about bad news? The recent attacks in Norway, for instance. How do these news-for-newbies sites handle adult stories?
Here is the lede of the GoGo News story: “After a bomb was detonated in the Norwegian capital city of Oslo, further reports came in of a man in a police uniform killing more people at a summer camp on Utoya Island outside of the city.”
Golnar Khosrowshahi explains that her site covered the Norway tragedies for several reasons. “The second attack occurred at a youth camp and there would be a greater likelihood that children would hear about it and have questions,” she says. And “the unexpected nature of the event — given that it occurred in a normally peaceful northern European country — has made it front page news and topical discussion, more so than a roadside bomb in Iraq or a suicide bomb in India.”
She adds: “There is no intent to undermine those incidents or assign a lesser value on lives lost — just an editorial decision of if and when it is appropriate to publish news that is appropriate for children to consume.”
Here There Everywhere dealt with the situation differently: “This is the slippery slope where I agonize,” Claudia Heitler says. “For all my advocacy for news and awareness, including some of the weightier topics, I am not writing about the Oslo attacks. I mourn for those people with all my heart, but I also believe in filtering and omitting for the sake of children.”
She uses her son as the litmus test. “I have not brought it up with him,” Heitler says. “Rightly or wrongly, I do not want to potentially instill fear in a young child that they could be the victim of calculated, horrific violence anywhere at anytime — especially if the children I am telling are not my own.”
At this stage, she says, the site “is not meant to be comprehensive. It is meant to start conversations.”
Tracy Grant, editor of KidsPost, agrees about the mission of kids-news sites. “Big news-bad news stories have to have either a connection to kids’ worlds or historic significance,” Grant says. “Part of this is the notion that we have an unwritten pact with parents. We don’t want to needlessly put something on the breakfast table on a Tuesday morning that is going to engender an uncomfortable conversation. But we do want to help them have interesting conversations about the news.”
Our story begins with coloring pages. My sons, who wake with the dawn, were gathered around the computer one morning when I had the bright idea to Google “Star Wars printouts.” The first two results were borderline spam, with lots of pop-up windows and distracting ads. It took plenty of digging around to find a decent image of Yoda. The ninth result was especially odd: “Color lego star wars printouts. Do cinemax actors really have sex.” Luckily, the boys didn’t catch on, but I could see that being awkward one day.
My older son, who is 6, also likes to watch amateur Star Wars Lego movies, such as the minor comic masterpiece “An Average Death Star Day.” But I don’t leave him alone on YouTube, because I never know if some strange-ass video will appear in the “Related Videos” section. You would not believe some of the things people do with Legos. And, yes, I know that a 6-year-old should not be left unattended with a computer, but it would be nice, on occasion, to just let him roam around on YouTube and watch stuff that he’s curious about while I “do the dishes” by having a beer in the kitchen.
I really liked the now defunct site, TotLol, which handpicked videos on YouTube that were appropriate for children and also categorized them by genre—you could get your fill of Schoolhouse Rock, Thomas the Tank Engine, and non-gory animal videos. The site’s developer started to sell subscriptions but he ran afoul of YouTube’s new Terms of Service and shut the whole thing down. Apparently, you are not allowed to make money off a site that only embeds videos and doesn’t offer other content.
These two examples lead to my modest proposal: Google should create Google Kids, a search engine that filters the Web for children. Think back to when you were a kid and your parents dropped you off at the library. In the children’s section, the only “inappropriate” stuff to be found was Judy Blume’s Forever, which someone’s older sister had usually already checked out anyway. Similarly, Google Kids would be a sort of children’s section of the Web, focused on providing high-quality results based on age.Advertisement
I am not the first person to think of this, of course. Clicking around, I found that the search engine Ask.com has a site called Ask Kids, but the results are well, from Ask.com, meaning not that helpful and very commercial. Mostly what I stumbled across were sites like GoogleForKid.com that are spammy window dressings around Google’s own SafeSearch filter and custom search engine. Their shortcomings are easy to spot. The site GoGooligans.com bills itself as an “education/academic” search engine for teens, but just try finding anything on “asexual reproduction” for that science report due tomorrow.
Google itself has thought a lot about this problem, and they’ve set up a Family Safety Center. I’m sure there’s lots of helpful information there but I’m lazy and often inattentive. I don’t want to turn on SafeSearch for when my kids are using the computer and turn it off for me. Same with YouTube’s Safety Mode, even though that one is admittedly pretty easy to use. (The switch is located in small type at the bottom of every video page.) No, my suggestion involves a lot more work for Google and some pitching in from parents.
For starters, Google needs to establish GoogleKids.com. That URL lets our sleep-deprived brains know that we’re in the right place, and, more importantly, it provides a playground, a gated-off space that parents can help Google watch over. In return, we agree to tell Google our age, such as “I’m 6” or “I’m a 37-year-old parent searching with a 4-year-old.” (Not unlike buying an airline ticket.) By inputting our age, we are giving Google another “signal” with which they can personalize search results. The system wouldn’t be perfect at first, but as Google watched the search behavior of kids or parents-with-kids it could see what we click on and what we don’t. The results would become better through all of the myriad and proprietary ways Google uses to judge a result’s usefulness. Naturally, Google would also show us more precise ads, the “price” that we pay for free search.
But we can’t expect Google’s algorithm to do all the heavy lifting. My search for Star Wars printouts showed that sometimes the best results, from a parent’s perspective, don’t appear in the top Google results. As it happens, Google already has a tool to help with this problem: the 1 button that essentially lets you “Like” a search result. (The two are not really the same but explaining why is tedious.) In my Google Kids search engine, I would easily be able to put a stamp of approval on the best result for Star Wars printouts. Same with YouTube or other sites on the Web. It would be like leaving a trail marking for my fellow parents that says, “I’ve watched this video and it was harmless,” or, “My son and I checked out this page about Mars, and it did not have any scary autopsy photos of aliens,” or, “This princess site was way too slow and annoying.”
Sure, there will be parents who mess up the system, like the ones who let their kids run naked through the sprinklers, which is fine, but then your kid wants to run naked through the sprinklers. We all have different values about what is “appropriate.” But it would be wonderful to see if, in the aggregate, we could carve out a children’s section of the Web. One that represents what we’ve found helpful, fun, and intellectually rewarding—an attitude that differs from the defensive crouch of so many “safe” search filters. Don’t let my kid see anything bad ever! Rather, we could start by identifying the cool stuff and build outward from there. Like Starfall, or this game, or this video. And please don’t tell me you have yet to introduce a toddler to the wonder of the Nyan cat.
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Michael Agger is a Slate senior editor. Follow him on Twitter. E-mail him at “)Michaelagger1@gmail.com‘);
By Kate Fincke
Over the years I have asked many children how they get to sleep at night. I collect these stories. More often than not, when the children find out about my collection, they ask me to tell them all the stories I know. Secreted in the telling is a point: all children must find a way to put themselves to sleep. While parents may put them to bed, the children alone must drift off. As adults we know that insomnia is commonplace, and we do what we can to fend it off. Children, however, often rail at the realization that despite bedtime stories, snacks, lullabies or back rubs, they are, in the end, on their own. They are frequently bewildered that we cannot make them sleep. Even if adults offer suggestions (the famous sheep counting, or prayers or reading), children must actively choose to invest themselves in the strategy. Often they rebel, refusing all suggestions, insisting they have tried them all, and they just don’t work.
Their recalcitrance lies in the alone-ness of sleep, the isolation, and the self-reliance. The solution lies in turning away from whomever is tucking them in — away from the hope that they can be accompanied across the threshold of sleep—and turning toward their own creativity. I believe, in the end, that drifting off is a solitary creative act.
Toddlers, we know, cannot be given their security blankets; they create them. And for a time, the security blanket soothes and will ferry the child from sleepiness to sleep. As children mature, however, the blanket no longer suffices, and the life of the mind takes over, opening the door to both imagined fears and imagined remedies. At night children commit themselves to the power of imagination. Eight-year-olds find themselves believing in monsters that during daylight hours are ridiculed. In my profession, help often comes in the form of stories —sometimes stories that are made up on the spot by child and therapist together. So when the kids ask to hear my collection of sleep stories, it often goes something like this:
I knew a boy once who was afraid of burglars at night. He was particularly worried about his window — a natural entry point for bad guys. So when he went to bed, he had his mother tuck him in extra tight so no one could get at him. Then he had her line up his twelve polar bears all around him with the biggest one at his feet and all the rest facing in, watching over him.