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Children and Technologies

Balancing Children and Their Devices

Written by Jitka Fořtíková, Ph.D., Educational Specialist at Lipa

Television was once the newest technology in our homes, and then came videos and computers. Today’s children are growing up in a rapidly changing digital age that is far different from that of their parents and grandparents. When technologies are used wisely, they can support learning and relationships in amazing new ways.

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There has been a lot of concern about young children and their use of technological devices, especially in their early development. Many experts discuss the negative effects of time spent by staring at screens as well as the looming impact of children leading an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Several books appeared discussing the influence of sitting with devices in comparison with an active and sporty lifestyle.

After years of a generally negative mood surrounding this subject, more detailed studies have started to emerge that show the way devices are being used have a bigger impact on children’s development than just screen time exposure.

Life without technology? Unlikely

Technology and interactive media are here to stay. Young children live in a world full of interactive media. They are growing up at ease with digital devices that are rapidly becoming tools for all aspects of life. Technological tools for communication, collaboration, social networking, and user-generated content have transformed our culture. The shift to new media literacies and the need for digital literacy will continue to shape the world in which young children are developing and learning. Young children are excessively exposed to electronic media in their lives; they are spending more and more hours per week in front of and engaged with screens of all kinds, including TVs, smartphones, PCs, tablets, game consoles, and handheld game devices. Multi-touch screens and motion-activated devices have blurred the distinction between the technology, the content, and the user experience.

There are concerns about whether young children should have access to technology and screen media in early childhood programs. Several professional and public health organizations (together with American Academy of Pediatrics – AAP) and child advocacy groups concerned with child development and health issues such as obesity have recommended that passive, non-interactive technology and screen media should not be used in early childhood programs and that there should be absolutely no screen time for infants and toddlers.

 

All screens created equal?

The proliferation of digital devices with screens means that the precise meaning of “screen time” is elusive and no longer just a matter of how long a young child watches TV, videos, or DVDs. Time spent in front of a TV screen is just one aspect of how screen time needs to be understood and measured. Children and adults now have access to an ever-expanding selection of screens on computers, tablets, smartphones, handheld gaming devices, portable video players, digital cameras, video recorders, and more. Screen time is the total amount of time spent in front of any and all of these screens. As digital technology has expanded in scope beyond linear, non-interactive media to include interactive options, it is evident that each unique screen demands its own criteria for the best usage.

What do experts think?

As was mentioned in one interview with Dr. Brown, “There’s consumption, and there’s creation, and there’s communication. So if you’re looking at children under 2, there’s a big difference between endless hours of watching cartoons on YouTube and video chatting with Grandma.” (Brown et al, 2015).

A 2013 survey by Common Sense Media, in San Francisco, found that 38% of children under the age of 2 had used a mobile device. “Some of the traditional recommendations, like discouraging all screen time before age 2, just don’t fit with reality circa 2015-2016,” said James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, which rates all media content for parents.

In May, the AAP convened a symposium with top researchers and experts in the field of media use and children. Among the studies presented was research showing that when English-speaking 9-month-olds watched a Mandarin teacher on a television screen, there was no benefit, as measured by change in brain activity. When the teacher was in the room, there was a lot of change.

Other studies have highlighted the value of back-and-forth communication for children’s learning. Children between the ages of 24 months and 30 months learned as many new words from a teacher via videochat as they did with live presentation. “The more screen media mimics live interactions, the more educationally valuable it may be,” said Dr. Brown (Wall Street Journal, 2015).

 

Screen vs paper

Is reading a book with a child on an iPad any different from reading a physical book? Dr. Christakis asks. “The real value of reading to a child isn’t anything magical about the book… The book is providing a platform for a parent and child to interact. The real question is: Does the device promote that kind of back and forth or not? It certainly could. It’s all about how it’s used and how it’s structured.” And as a child develops and begins to engage in independent play, Dr. Christakis adds, is an iPad worse than other toys? The studies haven’t been done, he said, but he suspects it isn’t any worse (Christakis, 2014).

However, there is an interesting outcome about using TV as a background source. Background TV actually disrupts the children’s activities—their play, the parent-child interactions, and it’s related to poorer executive functioning. When it is on, play is not as complex, and that’s a really important part of how a child develops. Screen time can be enhanced by making it interactive. Talk to your child about what they’re watching; expand on it by putting a physical object that they are viewing into their hands. It is advised parents not use screens as a way to calm a child, which can be seen increasingly in a private practice of clinical social workers and pediatricians.

How we see it at Lipa Learning

Since Lipa is a digital company, this issue of balancing digital activities with real-world activities for children is crucial for us. Knowing that, we are offering high-quality digital learning with apps and interactive books, but also a range of physical activities like live games, crafts, experiments, exercises, puzzles, and more. With all these great choices, kids will be encouraged to explore the real world and have meaningful interactions with friends and family. We’re also always on the lookout – for trends in childhood development, scientific & technological breakthroughs, and global conferences that inspire our ideas and connections.

 

Conclusion

Through recent years there has been an important change in perception of using digital devices with preschool children. With more studies revealing what the benefits of technology could actually be, we know now that it comes down to quality of content and type of usage. To be a responsible parent or teacher, we have to carefully examine which devices fit our children’s early years’ development best, and which real-world activities we should combine with them for maximum overall benefit.

How to use technology appropriately?

1) If you do an activity with a device, combine this time with some physical movement, such as acting out the situations of the digital game.

2) Try to more frequently use the kind of devices that allow better interaction for the child (such as a touch screen over a static television).

3) Pay attention to your child and give them your time when playing together on a device. Ask your child some additional questions, test their comprehension, and train their critical thinking skills.

4) When children are experienced with learning a second language, set the second language on their favorite app and let them play with the additional challenge. Then ask questions for comprehension.

5) Keeping in mind the important process of eye accommodation development in early years, it is recommended to combine screen activity with long distance perceptions. For example, when the children are watching their favorite tale or playing their favorite app, let them observe something that is long distance from them (ideally 10 or more meters away) and encourage them to explain to you the details they see. Eye muscles are in an important stage of development before the age of 6. When it’s trained appropriately, we can help not just to improve children’s vision itself, but prevent further learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

 

Sources:

Dimitri A. Christakis,  JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(5):399-400. Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 Years Time to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guideline?

Ari Brown, Donald L. Shifrin, and David L. Hill, 2015, AAP News: Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use.

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Women in Science

Written by Jitka Fořtíková, Ph.D., Educational Specialist at Lipa

Women have always been a part of the scientific world, but their careers weren’t regarded as positively as the careers of men. Even now, there are many scientific fields where women are underrepresented, even though the number of women and men in the population is balanced. There are multiple reasons for this.

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Women have always been and still are firmly tied to taking care of family and children. When they become mothers, they naturally develop a strong bond with their child so that they will take care of it in the first year of its life. Because of this, women in the past usually didn’t pursue the binding career life; this was expected from the father, whose role was to financially support the family.

The 19th century brought changes in understanding the role of women in society. Women began to appear more in public life, receiving more respect than in the past. The 21st century is even more closely connected to women’s emancipation, not only in science but also in politics, culture, and sports. Career is not a “bad word” anymore in connection with women. New types of family environments have appeared, where the family is being taken care of by the man. There are also families created on the basis of registered partnerships, where the parents are two men or two women. Nowadays, career self-realization is an important part of both men’s and women’s lives.

But there is still a significant gap between the number of men and women in the field of Natural Sciences, and fewer women hold management positions in big corporations. Various studies have shown that women in managerial positions receive lower salaries than men in the same positions. One of the many examples of this is a Harvard University study published in 1993, which states that the salaries of women in science and engineering with a doctoral degree are 20% lower than those of men. And there are many studies with similar statements.  

 

What can we do about it?

A part of the answer lies in social stereotypes. It’s generally presumed that girls are more inclined to study teaching, foreign languages, and social care, and boys are supposed to excel in maths, technical subjects, IT, and craftsmanship. One way to change the current situation would be to not encourage these social stereotypes in our children, but to let them choose their own path independently. We should adopt the same approach when we choose extracurricular activities for our children: for example, if your son likes dance, you shouldn’t steer him towards football instead, but let him learn dance.

Just as men are successful teachers, women are successful in the fields of molecular chemistry or interplanetary research. But they are not given enough attention. When we feel discouraged, we should remember Marie Curie Sklodowska, the first woman to win the Nobel prize for physics and chemistry for her outstanding results in radiation research. It’s these positive examples of successful female scientists that can encourage girls and women to become more interested in male-dominated fields.

At the moment, students’ interest in technical subjects is gradually decreasing, so it’s more important than ever to motivate all young people to pursue science, mathematics, and other careers of the future.

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Divorce: Dos and Don’ts When It Comes to Kids

Written by Jana Klinderová, Educational Specialist at Lipa Learning

Divorce is a very difficult emotional issue and a huge psychological stress—both for parents and for children. Moreover, the child hasn’t developed any defence mechanisms to process emotionally difficult situations or changes yet. Much depends on how the parents themselves behave during and after the divorce. From then on, children have to learn to cope with the situation. Here are some basic tips that we as parents should avoid as well as some other practical advice that should be taken into account to help our children adjust to the new reality.

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What behaviors to avoid:

 

Treating children like therapists

It’s not helpful or healthy to use your children as listening devices for your traumatic experiences concerning the divorce. Complain to your friends or professionals, not to your kids. For them, the divorce is already a traumatic and emotionally stressful experience. Sharing all of the unpleasant details and individual causes of it, which are often supplemented by spicy details that a child’s ear is not ready to hear, is too much for them. Children cannot help us—adults’ problems and our emotional experience are tremendous burdens that a child cannot carry and handle.

Distancing children from divorce

The other extreme is to completely isolate the children from all of the action around a divorce. Children can feel out in the cold or they may feel that their parents make decisions about their lives without them. Often they imagine unrealistic reasons why their parents are getting divorced and may even blame themselves. Even if the cause of the divorce is unpleasant, it’s not worth concealing absolutely everything from the children, but rather keep them informed with brief and honest details.

Denigration of the other parent

Slander and cursing of one parent by the other may have a negative impact on the child’s relationship with both parents, leading to a loss of confidence and having an impact on the child’s self-esteem. No matter how good or bad the other parent is, the child is always half of the one and half of the other. If we speak badly about one of the parents, we aren’t just speaking badly about our partner, but also about part of the child; we reject part of them and as a result reduce their self-esteem, which may be negatively reflected in their development.

Banning children from talking about the other parent

Children need to talk about their lives. Naturally they need to talk about their parents, the one they do not live with, how they are, what’s new, and what they experienced when they met. Do not repel the child from talking; try to avoid sarcastic comments and a devaluation of the other side. Divorce is not the problem of the child, but of the parents. The child has a right to be with both parents; they should thus suffer the least.

Avoiding family events

There are times when even after a divorce parents may meet. It is usually occasions and celebrations where you are invited by friends or later on opportunities that relate directly to your child (graduation, wedding). Try to attend. For a child of any age it is a very rewarding experience when they see their parents communicating with each other decently despite the fact that they have divorced. However, the situation where the child has to choose whether to invite one or the other parent to a birthday party or other celebration is challenging, frustrating, and often associated with feelings of guilt towards one or the other parent.

Preventing or reproaching a meeting with the other parent

Banning contact or reproaching the child for spending more time with the other parent can cause a lot of confusion and guilt in a child. It is completely unacceptable to blame the child or emphasise that one will feel alone when the kid leaves to visit the other parent—it is a kind of emotional abuse. The child should still feel that he or she has both parents. The parents’ problem should not be the child’s problem.

Using the child as a mediator

In situations when parents are no longer able to communicate together properly, the situation can appear that the child is used as an intermediary through which one parent announces various unpleasant things to the other parent. It is always a better option to try to communicate directly, if the situation requires it. In the case that it really does not work, then you need to use a third neutral person such as a lawyer or mediator, but never a child.

 

 

What to do instead:

 

Be honest to the child, do not lie to them about a divorce or its circumstances.

Reassure the child that you still both love them and that you will take care of them together.

Tell the child about the changes that will happen. Tell them what will stay the same as well.

Be available when kids want to talk about their concerns and feelings, but do not force them to confide in you when they don’t feel like it.

Let the child talk about their experiences and feelings which they are having with the other parent, and even though it might not be pleasant for you, keep from saying any negative comments.

Never criticise the other parent in front of the child.

Remember that a child has a right to regular contact and privacy in a relationship with the other parent.

Do not question and do not send messages through the child.

If that is too much for you, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Although the divorce rate is quite high and has become a common phenomenon nowadays, it is still an emotionally painful event and even though you should be careful around your kids, you still deserve to get help for yourself and be heard by a professional.

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How to Raise Confident and Happy Kids

Written by Payal Malhotra, Lipa Consul for India

“With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” – Dalai Lama 

Health, happiness and success are things every parent wants for their kids—the underlying tactic in achieving all this is self-confidence. We’re not born with a certain amount of confidence. Like any other skill, you can improve and develop it over time. Trying new things and challenging yourself helps us achieve great things, which in turn boosts our self-confidence. Check out the following tips for giving your kids confidence they can take on the world with.

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Coach instead of doing

Sometimes it’s difficult to step aside and let our kids complete a task by themselves, especially when it seems to be taking forever. Think of tasks like a game—your child is the player, and you are the coach. Show them how to do something or explain the strategy with words – with this little help, kids have a better chance of succeeding when trying something new. When they succeed (no matter how small their success), their confidence increases and they are motivated to try new things on their own.

 

Be encouraging

A little encouragement can go a long way. Imagine trying to tie your shoes with a adult standing by tapping their toes and looking at their watch in irritation—that wouldn’t make you feel encouraged to continue trying. You’d just ask for your parents to do it for you. In the same way, we should offer hints of encouragement to motivate kids to keep trying. Repeat the adage ‘practise makes perfect’ and ‘if at first you don’t succeed…’. They’ll have a positive effect on your child’s internal motivation so they will continue to build skills.

 

Focus on efforts and not end result

We can get stuck on looking at results rather than the process itself. But with our kids, we should revel in the process of learning and practising—if they don’t accomplish something they went for, talk to them about how they prepared and practised for it, and talk about anything you would do differently. Always end on a positive note, such as ‘That was a good try. It’s okay to fail, but maybe you want to try again.’ Praise their work ethic (as long as they had one) and only criticize their actions, not their character. Say, ‘I think if you want to achieve this, you’ll need to spend more time practising instead of playing video games’ instead of ‘You failed because you were kind of lazy.’

 

Offer unstructured playtime

Not every activity needs to have a purpose. Let your kids to simply play as they want and with what they want, without any interference from your side. This doesn’t mean playing on digital devices—unstructured playtime should allow kids to explore their abilities and try something new. Experts suggest that this type of play is connected to better academic results, because it’s hugely beneficial for creativity and imagination.

 

 

Set some base rules

Finding the right balance between freedom and boundaries can help your kids understand structure and how to set smaller goals to achieve something bigger, such as saving small change to buy that toy they want later. Set some rules that your kids can follow. No matter what they are, explain the logic behind the rules you decide to set. By doing this, you’ll create a closer relationship with your kids based on mutual respect and understanding as you help them develop into more confident kids.

 

Have you heard the old proverb about giving our kids roots and wings? Unconditional love is the roots. Confidence is the wings. Young people who have both live a happier life.

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Christmas around the World

Written by Jana Klinderová, Educational Specialist at Lipa

We all know our own Christmas traditions, but have you ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates? What customs and traditions are they connected with and what are they actually celebrating? Join us on a small excursion around the world to better understand this holiday of peace, family, and love.

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Czech Republic

At Christmas, people in Czechia decorate their homes with mistletoe, various conifers, and an Advent wreath with four candles. On every Advent Sunday, one candle is lit. People bake traditional Christmas sweets full of vanilla and cinnamon, and a day before Christmas Eve they bake a sweet bread with raisins called vánočka (Vánoce means Christmas in Czech). Christmas Day is actually celebrated on the 24th of December, when people usually eat fish soup with vegetables and fried carp with potato salad. After dinner, adults and children unwrap gifts brought by the Baby Jesus (Jezisek). Baby Jesus is often portrayed as a baby or a little boy. Families spend time together, sing Christmas carols and at midnight, many go for a midnight mass to a church.

 

Italy

In Italy, gifts are brought by Babbo Natale (similar to Santa Claus) or Gesú Bambino (Baby Jesus). In some parts of Northern Italy, gifts are brought by Saint Lucy. For dinner, Italians often feast on lamb or turkey, and for dessert, figs and dates with various fillings, and the sweet bread panettone. But there are many regional differences. Christmas celebrations often culminate on the night before the 6th of January, when fires are lit in many town squares across Italy. People walk the streets, children go caroling and receive small gifts and treats from their parents. On the 6th of January, an old but kind witch, Befana, flies from house to house and brings gifts to children through the chimney.

 

Russia

According to the orthodox calendar, Christmas in Russia is celebrated on the 6th and 7th of January. But now they are celebrated hardly anywhere; after the ban on Christmas was imposed in 1918, many traditions and customs were forgotten. Nowadays most Russians celebrate the New Year with yolka (spruce) and gifts from Ded Moroz. The celebrations are often majestic and apart from Ded Moroz, Snegurka (Snow White), children’s favourite fairy-tale princess, can also be seen paying a visit to the Christmas tree. At Christmas Eve dinner, people eat vegetarian dishes and fish. A favourite meal is vareniky, a yeast pastry with various fillings.

 

Mexico

In the Christian world, Mexican Christmas celebrations are among the most boisterous and cheerful. Christmas in Mexico begins between the 16th and the 24th of December. During this time, “posadas” are performed, when people form processions in the streets and perform the scene of how Joseph and a pregnant Mary were looking for a shelter on their way to Bethlehem. The streets are full of colorful stalls with toys and other treats, such as fish and birds made of pumpkins and other characters made of straw or clay, which can be filled with sweets. Christmas trees can also be seen in Mexico, but much more common is a “piñata”, a huge clay jug for water decorated with a paper collar and feathers, and filled with sweets or gifts. On Christmas day, people often go for a midnight mass and the festive dinner takes place late in the evening. All families get together and eat what everyone likes. The aim of the celebrations is to be together, have fun, and visit as many people in the community as possible.

Every region and country has its traditions and customs, without which Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. Although these customs are often very different, the celebrations of the Nativity of Jesus have the same purpose everywhere – to be together with our loved ones, to share a pleasant atmosphere, and to symbolically celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

Recommended articles:

How to Be Kind to Each Other (Not Only) at Christmas

What Do Kids Really Need for Christmas?

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