Month: June 2013

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

Kids on screens

This article illustrates a major problem in today’s society of child-rearing: Parents don’t see screen time as an issue with their children. According to this research article, content is a concern to parents, but QUANTITY? Not so much.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-study-parents-use-20130604,0,7254966.story

Are kids getting too much screen time? Parents aren’t sweating it

By Deborah NetburnJune 4, 2013, 6:35 p.m.

Among the zillions of decisions that moms and dads make about how to parent,  it might seem that determining the appropriate amount of time young children can spend watching TV and playing on tablets and smart phones might be big one.

But it turns out that’s not the case. Most parents of children younger than 8 don’t give the matter much thought, researchers from Northwestern University found in a recent study.

Just 31% of the 2,300 parents surveyed expressed concern about their children’s media and technology use, while more than 55% of parents said they are not worrying about the amount of time their children spend staring at screens much at all.

And while 38% of parents said they were fearful their children could get addicted to hand held devices like tablets and smart phones, 55% said they aren’t sweating it.

(If you are anything like me, and have had the experience of trying to pry an iPhone out of the clutches of a screaming 2-year-old, you are now feeling very out of sync with your fellow American parents).

“It was completely surprising to me,” said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development and the lead researcher on the study in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a generational shift. What we are seeing is a generation of parents who recognize that what kind of content you are exposing your kids to matters more than how much.”

The study, titled Parenting in the Age of Digital Media, held other surprises as well. For example, although 71% of parents had a smartphone in the home, nearly the same percentage said they did not think that having a smartphone or tablet device made parenting easier.

The study also revealed that most parents do not rely heavily on digital devices to distract their children. When Mom or Dad needs a moment to cook dinner or clean up the house, parents said, they are more likely to set their kid up with a toy or an activity (88%), a book (79%) or TV (78%) rather than handing over a smartphone or tablet (37%).

“Parents have a lot of tools they can use and media and technology are just one of those tools,” said Wartella.

Finally, the researchers found children’s media use is largely determined by the media environment that the parents have established in the home, rather than the result of a media obsessed kid clamoring for just one more show, or just one more app.

Of the families interviewed for the study, 38% fell into a category the researchers dubbed  “media-centric.” These are families where the parents enjoy watching TV and using the computer and smartphone at home, spending an average of 11 hours a day looking at various screens. The children of these parents, on average, spend four hours and 40 minutes a day looking at screens, the researchers found.

Some 45% of families fell into a “media-moderate” category where the parents spend a little less than 5 hours a day looking at screens. Their children, in turn, look at screens just under three hours a day.

And children in “media-light” families, where parents spend less than 2 hours a day looking at screen media, look at screen media themselves for an hour and 35 minutes on average.

“Instead of a battle with children on one side and parents on the other, media and technology has become a family affair,” the researchers conclude.

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Meditation goes mainstream

Meditation goes mainstream

http://m.startribune.com/?id=209378341

With doctors prescribing it and scientists swearing by it, you clearly don’t need to be a monk to meditate. Enthusiasts have even given it a new name:”mindfulness.”

Article by: Jeff Strickler , Star Tribune

Updated: May 29, 2013 – 6:08 PM

When the Rev. Ron Moor began meditating 30 years ago, he did so in secret.

“When I started, meditation was a dirty word,” said Moor, pastor of Spirit United Church in Minneapolis. “[Evangelist] Jimmy Swaggart called it ‘the work of the devil.’ Because of its basis in Eastern religions, fundamentalists considered it satanic. Now those same fundamentalists are embracing it. And every class I teach includes at least a brief meditation.”

The faith community isn’t alone in changing its attitude. Businesses, schools and hospitals not only have become more accepting of meditation, but many offer classes on it. Meditating has gone mainstream.

Why? “Because it works,” Moor said.

Adherents have been saying that for centuries, of course, but now there’s a difference: Scientists can prove it.

Propelled by technological breakthroughs in neuroscience enabling researchers to monitor brain activity, the medical community is awash in studies showing that meditating has beneficial physical effects on the brain. Those studies are being joined by others demonstrating that advantages include everything from raising the effectiveness of flu vaccines to lowering rejection rates for organ transplants.

“Meditation has become a huge topic” in medical circles, said Dr. Selma Sroka, medical director of the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Alternative Medicine Clinic. “The health benefits are so strong that if nothing else, people should learn the relaxation techniques.”

The practice is being embraced by an audience that isn’t interested in its religious contexts, typically Buddhist or Hindu, but is fascinated by its mechanics and techniques. Sroka compared the West’s co-opting of meditation to what happened to yoga, which came to this country as a spiritual discipline and has morphed into a form of physical fitness.

Some would-be meditators opt simply to ignore the religious element, said Mark Nunberg, co-founder of Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis. Although his center is a Buddhist organization, at least half the people who enroll in classes are there just for instruction in meditation, he said.

“It’s the same practice” whether it involves religion or not, he said. “It’s training the mind to be in the present moment in a relaxed way. It’s the most practical thing in the world; some might even say it’s just common sense.”

What’s in a name?

You don’t have to call it meditation. In fact, Sroka said, a lot of people would prefer that you don’t.

Terms such as “mindfulness stress reduction” and “relaxation response” are less threatening to some folks. They also make it easier to introduce the practice in offices and schools, where even a tangential reference to religion can raise red flags.

Since 2001, doctors doing their residencies in HCMC’s family medicine program have been required to take a class in meditation, not necessarily to pass on the information to their patients — although they are encouraged to do so, Sroka said — so much as to help them deal with the stress of their jobs. At first, the program ran into resistance. Then the hospital quit calling it meditation.

“I think a lot of it is in the language,” she said. Because of meditation’s association with Eastern religions, “members of other religions often are uncomfortable with the term. People want to know that I’m not selling them a religion.”

The scientific community’s interest in meditation springs from tests in which electrodes attached to subjects’ heads show their brains calming down during meditation, lowering stress levels and increasing the ability to focus.

The tests are generating so much interest that leading experts have almost become rock stars. In October, 1,200 people turned out for a lecture by Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. Davidson is a professor at the University of Wisconsin who has been on the cutting edge of using neuroscience to monitor meditation-induced changes in the brain.

He is convinced that the brain can be trained to deal with stress the same way a muscle can be conditioned to lift a heavy weight.

“Training the mind can lead to changes in the brain,” he said.

Flexing your mind muscle

On the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, the Mindfulness for Students club meets every Friday for a 90-minute meditation. Attendance tends to surge right before finals.

“It’s a great way to deal with stress,” said Stefan Brancel, a junior who is president of the club. Meditation “makes you capable of stepping back and taking a bigger perspective instead of getting lost in the stress. Once you step back and see the situation for what it is, you can react to it.”

The surge in scientific research focuses on brain imaging. The best known device is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which produces color-coded cross-section diagrams showing how the neurons in the brain are firing.

Davidson has used this imaging with Tibetan monks. While his findings have been stunning, questions arise over their applicability to the general public. Studying the brain waves of people who meditate for several hours a day is comparable to measuring physical fitness in Olympic athletes, critics say. The results might be impressive, but what do they mean for the average person?

That’s why Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing, is excited about studies of meditation newcomers. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have documented changes in the brains of novice practitioners who took an introductory eight-week class and meditated as little as 15 minutes a day.

Sroka said that the techniques can become second nature. In times of stress, “you slow down and breathe slowly,” she said. “You get to the point where you do it routinely without even being aware of it.”

Kreitzer agrees. “Mindfulness is an attitude that you carry with you,” she said. “I think mindfulness really helps us move through life with ease.”

She also challenges the notion that meditating requires a special room filled with incense, soothing music and floor mats on which practitioners twist themselves into the lotus position.

“You can sit, you can stand, you can walk,” Kreitzer said. “I wouldn’t advise doing it while you’re driving, but other than that, meditation can be done anywhere.”

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

Heartfelt Crafts: Fabric Flower Prints

pansy  IMAG1976

There was an open house at a “natural” craft store for kids this week and it was GREAT!  http://www.heartfeltonline.com/

The first project we did was to create flower prints on muslin (available at any fabric store).

Here are the instructions to make your flower/fabric print.

1. Place a piece of scrap paper on a piece of wood.

2. Put the flower on top of the paper.

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3. Cover the flower with a piece of muslin and start hammering gently.

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As you hammer, the color from the flower bleeds through.

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To set the color in the fabric, iron it between two pieces of fabric.

Get creative and use different sizes of fabrics and different color flowers. The sky is the limit.

Frame and hang. It’s as simple as that and is really beautiful!

Skills: Appreciation of nature, manual dexterity, fine and gross motor coordination, recognition of colors, physical properties of flowers, art.

Children Can Meditate Too

ImageI LOVE this concept. Children meditating. Children engaging in stress-reducing activities at a young age. My daughter has learned “The Volcano Breath” at school.

They rub their hands together while calming and then blast them into the air with a big out breath! I use it when things are getting riled up in the household and the energy level is about to blow off the roof.

“Volcano breath, Honey! Quick, Volcano Breath!”

She stops whatever whirlwind she’s in the middle of and runs to me all smiles. She quick starts rubbing her hands together and then blast-off! 

She’s calm, if only for a minute.

This is from an article I cut out on the topic of health and mindfulness meditation:

http://ecologyhealthcenter.net/node/1064

“A few minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can help take attention away from tummy troubles of all kinds for school-age kids, too.

Here’s one way to get started:

Have your child hold a flower (or another small, pretty object) in her hands. Encourage her to pretend she’s never seen a flower before, and have her describe what it looks like, what it smells like, how the petals feel—even what it sounds like. Gaylord says that focusing on something other than symptoms brings a person’s attention into the present moment—helping her think less about stomach pain or anxiety.”

Let’s try it! Find ways to integrate “living in the moment” into our children’s live. Let’s work on those self-calming strategies if only for a few moments or perhaps before going to bed.

There’s more to explore on this topic and I’m looking forward to it. I’m guessing that nature has its own natural sedative properties…how can they be put to use in this process?!