Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pictures in their brain

Special effects are an interesting aspect of movies so I showed my children videos of special effects, one was a video of a workshop actors attend in order to learn and experiment flying effect fight.. They sure loved them, seeing those adult pretending to fight and having fun.

I also show them two scenes of "Crounching tiger, hidden dragon", fight scenes, one where the father get a weapon in his head and end up dead. Not a good image, too hard. My son was chocked and a little disturbed. I remind them quickly that he was not dead, that it was just an actor and ask them to imagine which special effect have been used in order to give this appearance to the actor.

They just have screen how to make an hand looked bloody with a piece of glass in it, even if they found it disgusting, it gave them a good start to imagine how to make this "weapon looked inside the head" May be a piece of cardboard painted in a metallic silver color and glue on his head? They took the time to brainstorm some solution. The scene was so present in their head that the next day they told it to their friend, and the day after to another one. They had to share, they had to speak it out, they had to digest it, to proceed it.

The whole fight which is violent (it is still a fight) disturbed more my son than my daughter. He does not like movies and particularly those where people are mean and violent, so the fight, even if he found it interesting, made him uncomfortable. So to process it, he mimed it. He pretended to fight like them. But I know my son, I know that those images were not welcome in his head. I thought he was ready to screen how those fight were choreographed and how those special effects where made, which he was really ready for, he liked to see the actors workshop. But he did not appreciated to see the actual scene.

I know it will take some time to "digest" those violent scenes. Watching images is never without consequences. Just remember how well you did sleep after seeing a violent movie or an horror one?

I recognize that I avoid programs like CSI or Criminal Mind for example, Those stories are vicious, deviated, sick and are easily disturbing my sleep. They can even haunted me, particularly if they speak about children.
I believe that my reaction as well as my children reaction, is healthy. It prove that we are still sensitive.
Showing violent images always has consequence on the brain and his functions. I happily continue to closely choose what kind of images my children are exposed to. I am always there, present, available and ready to help them proceed what they saw.
Happily they never saw a violent movie. They did not see Star Wars even if they know the stories pretty well as they read many star wars books. I did show them one or two scenes of some star wars, particularly one with Yoda, so they know what those movies are about. But at 8 years old, they are too young for those images.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Watching TV 'is bad for children'

Children under two should not be allowed to watch any TV, experts say.

Older children should watch no more than two hours a day, the researchers at the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Centre in Seattle said.

Each hour in front of the TV increased a child's chances of attention deficit disorder by 10%, their research in the Pediatrics journal showed.

The study of 1,345 children showed three hours TV a day made children 30% more likely to have the disorder.

Dr Dimitri Christakis at the children's hospital led the study. He said: "The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years of life. It's really being wired."

Children who were exposed to the unrealistic levels of stimulation at a young age continued to expect this in later life, leading to difficulty dealing with the slower pace of school and homework, he said.

"TV can cause the developing mind to experience unnatural levels of stimulation," he said.


This was made worse by the rapid image change that television makers used to keep young children interested, Dr Christakis added.

Parents were questioned about their children's viewing habits and asked to rate their behaviour at age seven on a scale similar to that used to diagnose attention deficit disorders.

The youngsters who watched the most television were more likely to rank within the top 10% for concentration problems, impulsiveness, restlessness and being easily confused.

Frederick Zimmerman of the University of Washington in Seattle, another of the authors, said it was impossible to say what a "safe" level of TV viewing would be for children between the ages of one and three.

"Each hour has an additional risk. You might say there's no safe level since there's a small but increased risk with each hour," he said.

"Things are a trade-off. Some parents might want to take that risk. We didn't find a safe level in that sense."

Between three and five per cent of children in the US are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

The researchers admitted there could be problems in the study as the parents' views may not be totally accurate.

Also it was not possible to know whether the children already had attention problems early on that attracted them to TV viewing.


Too much screen time can psychologically harm kids

Negative effects occurs no matter how active children were during the rest of the day, study finds

NEW YORK — More than two hours a day spent watching television or playing computer games could put a child at greater risk for psychological problems, suggests a new study.

British researchers found the effect held regardless of how active kids were during the rest of the day.

"We know that physical activity is good for both physical and mental health in children and there is some evidence that screen viewing is associated with negative behaviors," lead researcher Dr. Angie Page of the University of Bristol told Reuters Health in an e-mail. "But it wasn't clear whether having high physical activity levels would 'compensate' for high levels of screen viewing in children."

Page and her colleagues studied more than 1,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 11. Over seven days, the children filled out a questionnaire reporting how much time they spent daily in front of a television or computer and answering questions describing their mental state -- including emotional, behavioral, and peer-related problems. Meanwhile, an accelerometer measured their physical activity.

The odds of significant psychological difficulties were about 60 percent higher for children spending longer than two hours a day in front of either screen compared with kids exposed to less screen time, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. For children with more than two hours of both types of screen time during the day, the odds more than doubled.

The effect was seen regardless of sex, age, stage of puberty, or level of educational or economic deprivation.

Psychological problems further increased if kids fell short of an hour of moderate to rigorous daily exercise in addition to the increased screen time. However, physical activity did not appear to compensate for the psychological consequences of screen time.

Give kids screen-time budget
The researchers also found that sedentary time itself was not related to mental wellbeing. "It seems more like what you are doing in that sedentary time that is important," said Page, noting the lack of negative effect found for activities such as reading and doing homework.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Netflix vs TV

The other day one of my friend was telling me that she was thinking about canceling the cable because she cannot control how much TV her son is watching. It is not easy for her to tell her son to turn off the TV, it turns easily to a struggle. Unhappily she was realizing that her son was not moving enough anymore and spending more and more time in front of the TV.
One of my friend had just canceled her cable to keep Netflix instead and was really happy with the result: No more commercial, only programs she approved, children still happy screening better programs.

So this is exactly what I suggested to my friend, Netflix appears to be a good alternative to TV. I am meeting a lot of parents who would like to limit their children screen time but do not know how. Most of them are mothers who also need to convince their husband that TV and video games are not good for the children. Many dads actually spent a lot of time in front of the screen, some for sport, some even for video games. So it makes it even more complicated for mothers to convince their children to reduce their screen time...

Netflix may be their best ally. And I would say that not exposing their children to commercials is already a great step forward.

Monday, October 04, 2010

why children may actually enjoy News?

Let me first remind you that I do not think that children younger than 7 years old should watch news. Why 7 years old?
Well, simply because 7 years old is the age of reason. At 7 "plus or minus one," your child begins to problem-solve in a new way, using reason rather than pure intuition. He can start separating fantasy from reality.

First I should explain what the kind of news I am speaking about is. I am certainly not speaking about local news where you may see police chasing car, or report on all kind of crime happening in your city or what happen to stars...
I am speaking about real news; those which speak about international news, economy, politics, sciences, ecology... news that are not interrupted by commercials.

In fact news via the internet is certainly the best option to select the news your child can actually safely watch and learn from. TV can be windows on the world and not everything in the world is appropriate for his eyes.

So, let say that you do select some news from the internet that you find interesting like the oil spill disaster along the Gulf Coast for example, this disaster was worth showing and discussing about, it is raising your child awareness of ecology. Children are naturally feeling concerned by the well-being of the planet.

Children can also be interested by politics. They are naturally fascinated by their president and want to understand why all adult are looking at him as an important person. Plus they understand he has powers, and powers do fascinate children and not only in cartoon.

Children, who do not watch television programs and not much entertainment, may tend to be more receptive to news and factual programs. However, this is probably more a question of personality. Some children are naturally more attracted to fiction than fact and the other way too. Exactly like when choosing books in a library, some children will look for fact, sciences, geographic etc, and some will be more interested by fiction, novel, fantasy.

I would tend to think that with those who like fantasy better, it is even more important to preserve and encourage their interest for reality and their awareness for the world around them. The real world is also full of stories worth knowing and eventually watching. I am thinking for example of those people devote to a noble cause, like saving animal here or there on a planet. I know that both my children felt very concerned when they learned that some people around the globe where fishing too much, ignoring the future of the ocean, the fact that in 50 years we may not have any more fishes in the ocean if they do not stop to think short term. “So in 50 years, we will not have any more fish to eat…” This was very scary for them, and it is also a good lesson about the consequence of selfishness.

So yes, News can be used as a great tool to discover the world, discuss as a family about interesting subject and increase our children knowledge in a fun way.