Tag Archives: children

The Touch-Screen Generation

Young children—even toddlers—are spending more and more time with digital technology. What will it mean for their development?

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy on very young children and media. In 1999, the group had discouraged television viewing for children younger than 2, citing research on brain development that showed this age group’s critical need for “direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers.” The updated report began by acknowledging that things had changed significantly since then. In 2006, 90 percent of parents said that their children younger than 2 consumed some form of electronic media. Nonetheless, the group took largely the same approach it did in 1999, uniformly discouraging passive media use, on any type of screen, for these kids. (For older children, the academy noted, “high-quality programs” could have “educational benefits.”) The 2011 report mentioned “smart cell phone” and “new screen” technologies, but did not address interactive apps. Nor did it broach the possibility that has likely occurred to those 90 percent of American parents, queasy though they might be: that some good might come from those little swiping fingers.

I had come to the developers’ conference partly because I hoped that this particular set of parents, enthusiastic as they were about interactive media, might help me out of this conundrum, that they might offer some guiding principle for American parents who are clearly never going to meet the academy’s ideals, and at some level do not want to. Perhaps this group would be able to articulate some benefits of the new technology that the more cautious pediatricians weren’t ready to address. I nurtured this hope until about lunchtime, when the developers gathering in the dining hall ceased being visionaries and reverted to being ordinary parents, trying to settle their toddlers in high chairs and get them to eat something besides bread.

I fell into conversation with a woman who had helped develop Montessori Letter Sounds, an app that teaches preschoolers the Montessori methods of spelling.

She was a former Montessori teacher and a mother of four. I myself have three children who are all fans of the touch screen. What games did her kids like to play?, I asked, hoping for suggestions I could take home.

“They don’t play all that much.”

Really? Why not?

“Because I don’t allow it. We have a rule of no screen time during the week,” unless it’s clearly educational.

No screen time? None at all? That seems at the outer edge of restrictive, even by the standards of my overcontrolling parenting set.

“On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”

Night nurseries: Sweden’s round-the-clock childcare

This is an interesting solution to childcare as we move to a 24 hour society

Sweden has long had a glowing reputation for its generous childcare facilities and is regularly ranked as one of the best places to raise a family.

Each child is guaranteed a place at a public preschool and no parent is charged more than three per cent of their salary, with fees capped at SEK 1260 ($197, £132) a month for the country’s highest earners.

All other costs are covered by the state, which spends SEK 56.6bn ($8.9bn, £5.0bn) a year subsidising preschool services, more than its annual defence budget.

Most public nurseries offer care from around 06:00 to 18:00. But with the numbers of parents working flexible or unconventional hours going up, local councils are increasingly providing overnight and weekend services.

In south-east Sweden, the small, former industrial city of Norrkoping is among those already leading the way in out-of-hours care. There are four council-run nurseries open overnight here, the first of which launched 20 years ago.

“At first it was very hard to take my kids to sleep somewhere else and my heart was aching,” says mother Maria Klytseroff, 39, a part-time care assistant for people with learning difficulties.

Her children spend about two or three nights a week at one of the preschools, which is more like a homely apartment than an education centre.

“I am a single mum and I wanted to go back to my job, which is at night,” explains Maria.

“The children soon got used to it, they have friends and they adore the workers who look after them.”

Eighteen children are registered at the nursery.

The toddlers arrive in time to eat dinner, clean their teeth and then enjoy a bedtime story with a member of staff.

Two-year-old Leon is dressed in blue striped pyjamas and cuddles several teddy bears as he curls up beneath a duvet covered in cartoon characters.

You can argue all you want about whether or not this is right but a change in the economy means more of us work different shifts and not everyone has family they can depend on.  It does allow people who would otherwise be out of the workforce be able to participate.  Time will tell what the impact is going to be on the children.

Poverty Is…

  • Not being able to go to McDonald’s
  • Getting a basket from the Santa Fund
  • Feeling ashamed when my dad can’t get a job
  • Not buying books at the book fair
  • Not getting to go to birthday parties
  • Hearing my mom and dad fight over money
  • Not ever getting a pet because it costs too much
  • Wishing you had a nice house
  • Not being able to go camping
  • Not getting a hot dog on hot dog day
  • Not getting pizza on pizza day
  • Not being able to have your friends sleep over
  • Pretending that you forgot your lunch
  • Being afraid to tell your mom that you need gym shoes
  • Not having breakfast sometimes
  • Not being able to play hockey
  • Sometimes really hard because my mom gets scared and she cries
  • Not being able to go to Cubs or play soccer
  • Not being able to take swimming lessons
  • Not being able to afford a holiday
  • Not having pretty barrettes for your hair
  • Not having your own private backyard
  • Being teased for the way you are dressed
  • Not getting to go on school trips.

Responses from Grade 4 & 5 students in North Bay, Ontario, quoted in Our Neighbours’ Voices: Will We Listen?, The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, 1998, James Lorimer & Co. Ltd. Toronto, p. 107.

(Not) taking care of those that can’t take care of themselves

According to the provincial auditor, the Saskatchewan government doesn’t know how many children are in it’s care

But a new report by Brian Atkinson, the acting provincial auditor, released Wednesday said that after two years of urging, the Ministry of Social Services still does not know how many children are under care, who they are and where they live.

The minister said they can tell how many children are in the system, just that it’s convoluted. And the case management system is being replaced, added the minister. But how did it get so bad? A car dealer in such poor shape would be out of business or its manager fired and replaced long before disaster struck.

One estimate puts 4,700 children in the care of Social Services. Even if the ministry is able to track the numbers, it doesn’t appear to be able to manage the number of children. On the same day the report was released, a woman accused in a foster baby death had her court case delayed again.

Surge in Homeless Pupils Strains Schools

From the New York Times

Surge in Homeless Pupils Strains Schools

While current national data are not available, the number of schoolchildren in homeless families appears to have risen by 75 percent to 100 percent in many districts over the last two years, according to Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, an advocacy group.

There were 679,000 homeless students reported in 2006-7, a total that surpassed one million by last spring, Ms. Duffield said.

With schools just returning to session, initial reports point to further rises. In San Antonio, for example, the district has enrolled 1,000 homeless students in the first two weeks of school, twice as many as at the same point last year.

“It’s hard enough going to school and growing up, but these kids also have to worry where they’ll be staying that night and whether they’ll eat,” said Bill Murdock, chief executive of Eblen-Kimmel Charities, a private group in Asheville that helps needy families with anything from food baskets and money for utility bills to toiletries and a prom dress.

“We see 8-year-olds telling Mom not to worry, don’t cry,” Mr. Murdock said.

Since 2001, federal law has required every district to appoint a liaison to the homeless, charged with identifying and aiding families who meet a broad definition of homelessness — doubling up in the homes of relatives or friends or sleeping in motels or RV campgrounds as well as living in cars, shelters or on the streets. A small minority of districts, including Buncombe County, have used federal grants or local money to make the position full time.

The law lays out rights for homeless children, including immediate school placement without proof of residence and a right to stay in the same school as the family is displaced. Providing transportation to the original school is an expensive logistical challenge in a huge district like Buncombe County, covering 700 square miles.

While the law’s goals are widely praised, school superintendents lament that Congress has provided little money, adding to the fiscal woes of districts. “The protections are important, but Congress has passed the cost to state and local taxpayers,” said Bruce Hunter, associate director of the American Association of School Administrators.

This story made me cry.  In Saskatoon the accepted number of kids not in school is 1500.  I have talked to teachers and educators and while they all say it’s probably a bit higher or lower, they never seem to mind when we use it as a starting point for discussions.  While many of those kids are out of school because of parental choices and slipping through the cracks, some of them are out of school because of no permanent address at all.  They move between Saskatoon, Regina, P.A., or for some, the reserve.  They get into school for a bit and then are off to the next destination and as I have educators tell me, this is devastating to the child and makes learning almost impossible.  I have heard a couple of teachers say that they have experienced over 100% turnover during a school year which not only is hard on the kids moving in and out but those who stay.  Who do you chose to be your friends when they may be gone tomorrow.  Without a home, stability, education, and emotional development are all deeply affected.

Mark keeps asking me about the women and family shelter the Centre is opening.  His questions all focus on where are the kids going to go to school.  The shelter is to be a short term emergency shelter for those that are homeless.  Women can spend a couple of weeks there before moving on to the YWCA or other transitional housing.  You can spend a couple of months in those places before you move on to another place or get an apartment.  Let’s review that journey.  Homeless > Salvation Army > YWCA/transitional housing.  A kid could spend a couple of months before getting established again and what’s the impact of that their future.  Childhood homelessness is devastating and takes years to recover from.  If there was a place for a church to invest a significant amount of effort into, this would seem to be it.

As you can see from this video, not all school systems are doing that well in helping out and some are even blocking homeless kids.

This story really depresses me.  Not just because I get frustrated with a system that doesn’t value homeless people but when you read the Report Card on Child Homelessness,  Delaware, Oregon, and Wisconsin report few or no barriers to educating homeless children (kudos to them) but then it gets a lot worse. Nearly 86% of subgrantees in Kentucky report that all seven barriers listed in the report were big barriers to getting an education.  Hawaii, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire also have a high percentage of subgrantees reporting significant barriers.

The federal government provides states $58 million to support the education of children who are homeless. For each state, they convert their portion of this funding into a “per homeless child” figure based on the number of homeless children identified in each state. For example, Louisiana receives $6 per homeless child for education, while Rhode Island receives $304 per homeless child. In California child funding is $16 per child. The national average is $64 per homeless child (although this year that is going down)

By comparison we spend about $65.00 (Canadian) this year on Mark’s school supplies (you can see his school supply list here.  He’s in Grade 4).  With that we got him a couple of things he didn’t need but at the same time he still loved his backpack from 2007-2008 and didn’t want a new one which saved us $20.  Him and I were talking today and he said that there are kids in his class that don’t have stuff for school yet and we are a week into it already.

Of course despite there being a million kids who are homeless, how many are struggling tremendously with heading back to school.  This year in Canada, Sleep Country partnered with the Salvation Army in collecting school supplies to send kids back to school.  Locally our board room was packed to the gills with school supplies.  I was going to take a photo of it for this post but when I got my camera, most of it was gone as we had such a waiting list of families who live at or below the poverty line for these supplies.

This represents a big opportunity for the church to make a difference in a neighborhood.  I know Christmas is a big deal but back to school is a big cost for many low income families and the need is bigger than the Salvation Army, Sleep Country, or any organization can deal with on their own.