Background TV Noise May Harm Toddlers’ Early Language Development

By: NeuroNet

 

We already know that too much television can harm children’s brain structures and development.

Now, a recent study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, suggests even background television can negatively impact the quantity and quality of parents’ spoken language to their children.

Given the pivotal role talking to children in early childhood plays in their language development, reducing this vital input is quite damaging, researchers explain.

Previous research has shown most infants and toddlers pay little active attention to background television because the adult-directed programs are largely incomprehensible; however, very few studies have examined whether these background distractions affect children’s language development.

In the current study, parents of 49 toddlers aged 12, 24, and 36 months played with their children during a 60 minute session, with a television on in the background for half of the time.

 

The researchers observed and recorded the quantity of words and phrases, and the number of new words spoken by parents during the sessions.

The results showed the quantity of words and phrases as well as the number of new words spoken to children was lower with the television on. Background television can compromise parent-child interactions regardless of whether the content is designed for adults or children.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media exposure for children under 2-years-of-age. Previous guidelines have solely focused on foreground media exposure, but recent reports have extended guidelines to include background exposure as well.

 

Parents may not be aware that background television and computer noises can adversely affect children’s language development. Therefore, parent-child interactions, whether it’s playtime or story time, should not be disrupted by the background noise of television.

NeuroNet note: The Classroom Enrichment program helps students learn to use rhythmic speech in movement multi-tasking exercises. This helps them develop fluency in speech and movement. As students engage in the rhythmic movement exercises, they must listen and respond, on-time, to alphabet and number prompts. The use of rhythmic speech in NeuroNet exercises helps students hear the sequences of phonemes in words and requires them to elongate and over-enunciate consonant and vowel sounds.  Request a brochure to learn how NeuroNet’s Classroom Enrichment can help your school!

8 and Up Entrepreneurship Program

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In March of last year, Reuben Steiger had an epiphany. The moment came when his 8 year old son asked whether he could go to Brown University, Steiger’s alma mater.  Steiger said “Yes” but privately, he wondered whether the traditional American educational path would still be relevant.  With this in mind, he began 8andUp, a program that teaches kids to think like entrepreneurs.  In the company’s pilot, 22 kids aged 8 – 10 were given a $50 budget and challenged to “make something people want”.


Their inventions range from cute Etsy-style Sorigami (a scent-filled pack of origami paper) and MoneyBags, a wallet made up of three pouches marked ‘Spending’, ‘Saving’ and ‘Charity’ that helps kids categorize their allowance to the multi-purpose Rock, Paper, Scissors shirt, a game and apparel all-in-one which looks like it’s going to get some serious funding.

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Last September, Steiger expanded from his headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey into the heart of Brooklyn.  Since then, the company has grown rapidly and been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  “I think we’ve hit a real nerve” says Steiger.  ”Kids love cooking up new ideas and their parents enjoy learning new skills, from craft to coding right alongside them”.  Reuben encourages parents to look into the 21st Century Skills movement – a broad set of principles designed to prioritize a different framework of learning and teaching. “The fact that entrepreneurship and the ability to create both novel ideas and opportunities is absent from the curriculum is why 8 and Up exists.  It’s a macro trend and enormous need – and very hard to incorporate into schools already struggling to keep pace with the increasing demands of STEM guidelines and the Common Core.”

Planning to take your young innovators to the next level? “Give us a call” says Steiger. “Sign up and volunteer to help out.  This is turning out to be bigger than we can handle and that’s really the fun – in some ways the parents have as much fun as the kids (or more). It’s one of the nicest things you can share with your kid – the creative process.

8 And Up’s Fall semester begins September 14th and will be offered at multiple locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn: $359/6 weeks. 8andup.com

Reuben Steiger, Founder

8 and Up | www.8andup.com | m. 415 425 2482

Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Melatonin for children or teens is tempting. Don’t do it

By Brent Bauer, M.D.

 

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Is it OK to give my teenage daughter melatonin to help her sleep better? I’ve read that it’s a safe alternative to sleep medicines.

ANSWER: Although melatonin has been shown to be useful for treating sleep problems in adults, it has not been carefully studied in children. Due to the lack of scientific evidence, and because of some potentially harmful side effects, melatonin is not recommended as a sleep aid for children and teens. Making lifestyle changes that can enhance healthy sleep is a better alternative for most people your daughter’s age.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin appears to be linked to the body’s sleep/wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. The release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. The levels of melatonin in your blood are highest just before you go to sleep.

Some research suggests that, in adults, melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. The most common side effects from taking melatonin are daytime sleepiness, dizziness and headaches. Less common side effects can include abdominal pain, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and feelings of depression. It’s not known how common or severe these side effects might be in children.

Another concern about using melatonin for children is that its effects on the body go beyond sleep. It also plays a role in the way a person’s body matures sexually. Melatonin levels have an impact on how the ovaries and testes function. Further study is needed to determine if taking melatonin during childhood or the teen years can have an impact on a person’s sexual development.

  Instead of using melatonin — or trying other sleep medications — I recommend you and your daughter first consider why she’s having trouble sleeping. Getting a good night’s sleep is a challenge for many teenagers, and lifestyle choices can have a dramatic impact on sleep.

One big barrier to good sleep for teens is the frequent wide variation between the times they get up on school days versus weekends. Although sleeping in may seem like a good idea, staying in bed until noon on Saturday throws a teen’s circadian rhythm out of balance. That can make it much tougher to get up early again on Monday morning and can potentially make sleep problems worse.

To help her sleep well consistently, your daughter should set a consistent wake-up time, and build her sleep schedule around it. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same time, but the wake-up time should be within a two-hour window every day. Staying consistent day to day will allow her body to get into a regular wake/sleep rhythm.

Help your daughter set routines that foster healthy sleep, too. For example, daily exercise is important, and it can help a person sleep well. But exercise should be done more than two hours before bedtime. Otherwise, it can make it hard to fall asleep. She also should avoid caffeine, soda, sugar and big meals two to three hours before bed.

After about 9 p.m., encourage your daughter to focus on calming activities. If possible, she should try to finish her homework before that time. About 30 minutes before bed, have her turn off the TV, computer and other screens. Turn off cell phones at night.

If you try these steps, and you daughter still has trouble sleeping, talk to her doctor. Good sleep is vital for overall health. Research shows that, left untreated, sleep problems may lead to behavior problems, and they can contribute to other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Addressing sleep issues now will help your daughter set healthy sleep habits that can have a positive effect on her health for years to come.

Brent Bauer, M.D., is director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.

How early is too early for education?

 

By Lane Anderson Deseret News

Frances Campbell was a station-wagon mom in North Carolina, running her kids around town, when she got a part-time position to help with a scientific study on the benefits of early childhood education for poor children.

The study took about 100 infants — as young as three weeks old and most no more than six months — and randomly assigned them to a control group or treatment group to study their cognitive development. The treatment group received full-time day care for six to eight hours including meals, five days a week, until they were 5 years old. The control group received nutritional supplements and access to health care — and nothing more.

People like Campbell played games, cooed and talked to the babies in the treatment group. Caretakers watched their head control and dangled red toy rings in front of the babies to track their eye movement, watching for cognitive advancement. “You can talk to a baby and say, ‘Hi, Sweetie,’ and his breathing will change,” says Campbell with her slight Carolina drawl. “If you say ‘Hi, Sweetie’ and he just lies there and don’t get a reaction, that can be a sign of delayed development.”

The year Campbell began working on the project was 1972, and 42 years later, Campbell is now a senior scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s 81 years old and still doing research on early childhood education, which has become her life’s work. “It really hooked me,” she says, “I’m still trying to put it down.” She and others have continued to track the lives of those original infant subjects in what has become known as the “Abecedarian Project.”

The findings have been striking to researchers like Campbell: Members of the care group were four times more likely to graduate from college, but perhaps more strikingly, they are healthier. A new study, published in the journal Science, led by James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, reports that the care group has significantly lower rates of high blood pressure and obesity.

The news offers evidence that childhood education — from the earliest age — can have striking improvements on success and lifelong health.

STARTING YOUNG

Many of the children in the Abecedarian treatment group were born to low-income motherswho didn’t have adequate childcare while they were at work, and many American families still struggle to provide early child care and education for their children. Fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“If parents can stay at home, that’s wonderful. The reality is that most parents can’t,” says Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, an early childhood education advocacy group. “There is so little infant and toddler child care, and it’s very expensive — people don’t want to face that,” she says.

The Obama administration has been pushing for government-funded preschool for 4-year-olds to address the lack of affordable early childcare, but studies like the one in Science indicate that a child’s education begins much earlier.

Campbell says that cognitive development, especially for at-risk children, needs to begin as early as possible. “One of my big takeaways is that if you’ve waited until age 5, that’s too late,” she says. The study argues that many of the skills for successful adult life are learned in infancy and the first few years of life. The children showed little difference as babies, says Campbell, but as early as age 3 their cognitive abilities began to diverge.

In a follow-up study at age 30, the care group was 42 percent more likely to have been employed for at least 16 months of the previous two years (75 percent of the Abecedarian group vs. 53 percent of the control group). They were almost four times more likely to have graduated from college. A similar program that provided early education to 3- and 4-year olds in Michigan, known as the Perry Preschool Program, found that as adults the subjects were almost half as likely to have committed a crime and had a 44 percent higher high school graduation rate.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Now that subjects are coming up on middle age, the findings from the 40-year follow up have moved beyond the cognitive to overall health, and Campbell herself has been shocked at the results.

“If we didn’t have the actual evidence in blood serum and blood pressure, I would have fainted with shock,” says Campbell. “These subjects came from the same community, similar gene pool, and it was so long ago that they received care.”

Men in the treatment group, now in their mid-30s or early 40s, had less incidence of hypertension and higher levels of “good” cholesterol. Their risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke were sharply lower.

Women had less risk of hypertension and lower abdominal obesity and had better lifestyle habits — they were more likely to exercise and eat well.

HAPPY OUTCOMES

One of the most important things that parents can do is just talk to their babies —whether they are just cooing or smiling or playing peek-a-boo, they should be “talking a blue streak,” says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

A common analogy that people use is “serve and respond,” he says. If the baby smiles, respond; if the baby burps, respond; if the baby gets a funny look on his face, make a face back. “That responsive parent is golden,” he says. “That’s how baby learns. It’s how they learn that the world is safe, that they have control, can make things happen.”

Campbell agrees: “Talk, talk talk,” she says. “Don’t ignore them.”

“Family always matters,” she says.