too little too late (too busy!!)

Kia ora friends,

The busy is a bit much at the moment. In my life, the hurtling will be somewhat inevitable till we put the thesis to bed, in about 7-8 months. Hurtling. Data collection is complete, analyses mostly done and the descriptive chapter will burst into life in forthcoming weeks.

It’s a weird wee patch, where I’m having to pause and see it through, even as I can see what needs to happen next.

As ever, it’s hard to put my attention too squarely on the ol’ work during school holidays. The (not so) small person is now eleven, and I gotta keep finding ways to focus on her and be super productive in the moments that surround intentional interactions. That link is a funny gag, btw. I will be working my bum off at every available moment! It’s the only way!

Time is precious, we know that.

Time is the thing we can’t make more of. We can’t forget that.

And our kids are kids just the once! My firstborn will soon be twenty! When’s the last time i pushed her on a swing? But many of us are still on the phones more than we are with our children.While we’re thinking ’bout it, we could do a bit better at keeping phones away from children (babies!) too.

Can we agree that’s heartbreaking?

And sheesh, may I hold my hand to my heart and whisper sadly about the passing of a beautiful and beloved early childhood kaumatua, who I have acknowledged here in the old bloggity many times, and I’ve quoted her liberally in work for OHbaby! and others. Darlings, Pennie Brownlee has died. My go-to book for gifting to new parents has always been “Dance with me in the Heart” and many of you will also know “Magic spaces“, both of which were written by Pennie.

Yeah.

Exhale.

Life is short and precious and there is heaps to do.

The things which Pennie wrote so well about were the truly important bits that make child development magical and wonderful and make the most of the exuberant synaptogenesis of brain growth that rockets along in those early years.

Relationships. Play.

That’s it, y’all. that’s what makes children thrive.
and both those things are disrupted by by-God tech!

Anyway.

Walking in the woods is good for us, says Harvard, and this is the website of Diana Suskind, whose work I was reminded of by a lovely colleague last week. Cool rock play. Love. Here is a fab new post from our friends @ Sensible Screen Use, about the need to think more critically about our tech use in classrooms. OH! And ECE centres, brothers and sisters. It is most unsatisfactory what seems to be going on all over the show. May I remind us all that what’s ‘normal’ and what’s ‘healthy’ are not always the same thing!!

I’m doing that broken record thing again, so I’ll send so much love and go put a load of washing on. x x x

June gloom, multiple rooms, and exciting zooms

What a privilege to share a play with Otis and pals 🙂

Kia ora friends

When I lived in the USA, they used to talk about the weather in terms of June gloom, and I thought “not in North Canterbury, where the winter nights are frosty and the winter days are shiny”. But this last wee patch has been rather gloomy, so much so that I heard a gentleman say, at the recycling centre over the weekend: “this is like England in November!”.

The other reason for the gloom in my heart is a rough 1-2 combo of death-a-versary and new loss. Processing sadness even as trying to support others … not easy. But important stuff often isn’t.

Anyway, I need to do the important work of sharing links on this blog … I will start with a shout out to Canterbury Playcentre and their fine “Babies Can Play” project, which I was lucky enough to gatecrash a couple of weeks back, with my li’l buddy Otis (and thanks to his fam for allowing me to share the above pic).

That thought may segue nicely into sharing this paper, which was thrust into my hands by one of my mentors, and deals with infant voice and subjective experience. YES! Preach. Vital, and all too often absent from the research realm.

Some terrifying links, now – this is from the Guardian, it’s about the role of Instagram and Facebook in child trafficking. Gross. But don’t look away. Stare it down. Likewise, this from the New York Times about how chat rooms within gaming communities are breeding extremist (violent, racist, misogynist) thinkers, and over here is a piece about how You Tube algorithms are tilting gamers toward actual videos of real life shootings. Unacceptable.

Some good news – this from the Washington Post about banning use of phones in schools, this is a topic which has had a bit of attention here, lately, thanks to the work of Paddy Gower, and lest we forget we’ve known about the benefits of removing phones from school for ages – this write up from the Guardian is in response to a report from the London School of Economics from 2015, for flip’s sake. How many distracted children in those intervening years … hmmm?

Here is an English translation of a position paper written by the German Association for Infant Mental Health, it’s about things digital in the lives of babies & families, and this is a press release from Canterbury Uni (whoop, whoop!) about screen use in early childhood. Guess what? Limits are a good idea.

This is from Teen Vogue about the aftershocks for children who have grown up in the public eye in ‘influencer’ families (ew) and this is about legislation in France, designed to curb such weirdness.

Finally, a chuckle for the pottymouthed …thanks, McSweeneys x x

How can this possibly be my first link share of 2023?

Well, crikey. Blame the workload (helloooooo data collection!), blame the family, heck – blame me if you like. It’s been a long-ass time since I posted, but the good news that accompanies this is that I have a backlog of fascination for you to peruse.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin!

First, may I share this super practical piece from Oregon Public Broadcasting about supporting young people’s positive body image through purposeful use of … you got it … smartphones/screens. Because let’s face it – as those behind this lawsuit understand, social media messes with people’s minds, and especially the young fellas. In breaking and yet unsurprising news from Bloomberg, Zuckerberg had been warned about this very thing.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I volunteer to give that young man a crisp and hearty slap.

Here’s a smart essay about the creepiness of AI, and this is another smart essay, about attention.

I highly recommend this article from the Cut, about the trap that is inherent in giving a child their first phone, and LISTEN! How have we not been following the work of the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development? (Thanks to my colleague at Auckland Uni for the detective work).

Speaking of child development, here’s a wee piece I wrote for OHbaby! a while back, it’s about play and toys and it’s tech free (no surprises there). And here’s what Scientific American assert is the best way to soothe an infant. Hot tip: It has absolutely nothing to do with birthing in a full face of makeup. Ew.

This is an alarming description of the ways that TikTok tracks you across the web, and this is about an increasing number of schools and universities who are banning the platform from their campuses.

I love this, from the Washington Post, about making children peer reviewers for science writing, to ensure its digestibility, and this is pretty interesting … from Stuff, about the rise of for-profit childcare in NZ. Also ew.

Three quick links to end this … all more personal than I usually post here! This is a review to an amazing concert I was lucky enough to attend, here is a piece about George Michael and the injustices of “that” scandal (because I have loved him since I was a literal child) AND I’m super proud of my friends who hosted this gig. For flip’s sake, Tennessee. Stop reinforcing the stereotypes of small mindedness and redneckery, would ya please?

a blessed bee sting

kia ora e te whānau

the other day I set off across the paddock in an open toed shoe – RECKLESS. I barely made it through the gate when OUCH I was stung. When sharing this story (my version was about pain, discomfort, self pity) one of the gorgeous women in my dance class saw this as a wonderful thing – the health of our bees is so important, and she hadn’t heard of anyone getting stung for ages. For her, this was evidence of bee-flourishing!

Speaking of flourishing – hurry, lovelies, and you can join this international online conference about human flourishing. YES, please.

Here is a timely reminder to all parents about letting children decide who to kiss & cuddle at holiday shindigs (thanks Mighty Girl!) and this is a resource to local families in the Chch NZ area… nature play, darlings!

A couple more links, then I might oughta get back to work. I’m organising my surveys so I can start recruitment as soon as my Chrissy hols are over!

Here’s a lil something from the New Yorker about algorithmic anxiety, and while we are at it … this piece asks why American teens are so sad and anxious. No prizes for guessing. This is the Guardian talking about the overexposure of kids to tech, and this article gives reason to pause when it comes to ‘sharenting‘.

Take care out there … life is busy and beautiful. xx

and the year goes March-ing on

Hello darlings,

Crikey dick. March already. Makes me a bit clammy on the palms, as I have SO MUCH WORK to do, and a finite amount of daily brain power.

In the meantime, I would like to share a slew of links with you.

First, a couple that specifically deal with TikTok (ugh). This is from Wired, and it’s about the company’s desire to host/post longer videos (even though longer videos stress users out). Why would they do that, you ask? To sell more advertising, of course!! Speaking of advertising on TikTok, check out this craziness, about ADHD medication being pitched to youngsters. Again: ugh.

Here is a link to some work from George Washington University, about the peddling of COVID-19 misinformation to parent groups, which reminded me of this from NZ’s Stuff about ‘mumfluencers’ (that word deserves another one: ugh!). ALSO: same but different, this is from Wired about the ways that the internet is failing mums-to-be.

What depressing news can I share with you, next? How about this, from the BBC, about how popular children’s game Roblox has been invaded by pervs (are we surprised?) but LEST WE FORGET, before we go blaming children for being enticed by the online world … kids’ screen habits are very much a reflection of their parents’ habits, and as this piece from the Atlantic reminds us, those parental habits MATTER.

Speaking of kids’ habits … this is a piece from the Newsroom in NZ about screen time, and I’ll invite you to compare and contrast that with an opinion piece from the Washington Post about how social media use is a much more useful yardstick than just ‘screen time’.

I’ll end with three hopeful-ish links … first, from the Guardian, about the value of prioritising in-person intimacy over our smartphones, and THIS from the BBC … it’s about ditching the smartphone and howzabout this from the Atlantic, encouraging connection to nature.

I mean … we are human mammals. We are part of nature. Jeez. With that in mind, I might rug up against the early-autumn chill and eat lunch outside. Arohanui! x x xx

Zoom – it’s not just for weeping

kia ora my friends

Yeah, so … about 10 days ago I wept via zoom.

I’d been at an event the previous day, a public talk where I believed the content (which I saw as downplaying the risks accompanying our technological lives) had the potential to do harm to children. I see things as the 5 Rights Foundation see them: Tech’s exploitative relationship with children is a public health issue. Instead of acknowledging this, I heard false reassurances (“sure, play violent video games for hours at a time!), some in opposition to the recommendations of the likes of the World Health Organisation.

The hierarchical nature of pecking orders means that it wasn’t appropriate for me to stand up and yell “BS!”, although that’s what every cell of my body longed to do. For the love of everything that’s holy- ACKNOWLEDGE THE HARMS.

The act of suppressing that desire took a toll on my central nervous system – I was cringing so hard I did myself personal injury. For an hour and a half, I had to do slow, controlled abdominal breaths, the likes of which I would usually do during dental work for mere minutes at a time.

This combination of misinformation and physical suffering (not to mention the stiff whiskey I downed when I got home) left me out of sorts the next day. Not the best space for a productive work day … or, it turns out, a competent showing on zoom.

I wish I knew more about zoom etiquette – clearly I should have bowed out of that meeting. Is it rude if I’m the only one whose camera is turned off? I mean, I know Brené Brown is all the rage, but is the world ready for the “I weep on Zoom” level of vulnerability? Giddy up, y’all. Here I am.

In part, the weeping was because I got lost in comparison, perceiving myself as falling behind the other researchers. But in hindsight, I mostly wept because I longed for these other child-minded people to join me in feeling wounds that accompany the public misrepresentation of children’s needs. Unfortunately, it was hard to communicate any of that while my head was in my hands.

Forgiveness: after at least two good sleeps (my dad’s excellent rule) I was able to forgive myself for the weeping, I could contextualise my reaction and even stand in the power of “I wept because I care so bloody much about children!” – which is not entirely a bad thing, eh?

Anyway, if we can still be friends, I’ll share a few links and move on with my day.

Let’s start with a few Bruce Perry/NMT related links, shall we? First, here is a website called Be Rhythmic, which is a cornucopia of regulation-enhancing delights. THIS is a pdf about the amazing human brain, and check out these exceptional visual synopsis (synopses?) of Dr. Perry’s books.

A few techy links now, cos … y’know. First: check out this work from the University of Auckland, making a link between audible smartphone notifications, parenting style, and kids’ language development. This is an argument against instagram for kids (because … of course). And this is a link to a blog about Britain’s code of conduct for online design as it relates to children. Lo and behold, they call on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to inform their work: Children have the right to be safe from commercial exploitation (UNCRC Article 32).
Oh, if everyone were to honour that … there sure as heck wouldn’t be talk of Kiddy Insta!!

Here is a bit of info about the 5Rights “twisted playthings’ campaign, which seek to highlight the weirdness of toys that gather data and promote unhelpful ideals … One write up from the Washington Post, one from a site called Shots.net. Commercial exploitation of children? Yup.

I’d also like to draw your attention to the work of Thorn.org, who work to protect children from online sexual exploitation.

What else? This is a good article from Dame about living in an age of too much information (information is not the same thing as knowledge, and knowledge alone ain’t wisdom!!) and I’ll round this post out with some beautiful, playful bead art. ENJOY x x x

Screen Free Week, and other delights

About flippin’ time I posted to my dear ol’ blog, and showed off this most recent issue of OHbaby!, in which I have an article called “Use it Wisely”. It’s about … yup … devices & tech use.

Heaps has been happening since last we geeked out together – I’ve been a tad bedridden and coughy for a bit, we’ve had 2 weeks of school hols, and prior to that I had a poster presentation of my research at the Child Wellbeing Research Institute Symposium at UC the other week – shout out to all the dedicated supporters of whānau who attended! I also managed a phone call with a reporter at Stuff, thankfully before I lost my voice and things got all Stevie Nicks husky over here … anyway, I’ll letcha know what comes of that interview.

SO I figure that I’d better make this snappy, because if I start enjoying myself too much here on my computer I’ll be violating my terms of SFW2021, which we started this morning! For our family, using devices for work and essential communication is OK, but entertainment media and idle chatter are not. We can use the actual telephone for random chat, and avail ourselves of the wonderful array of screen free entertainment that is always available to us but is sometimes overlooked in our enthusiasm to watch The Crown. Instead, this week we will be listening to records, reading books, playing games, making music, drawing, cooking, building with Lego, on & on! Need more ideas? Here are 111 of them.

Alright – for something rich, deep & inspiring, look no further than this deliciousness in report form from Omidyar.com, whose work is thoroughly deluxe. Reimagining tech, capitalism, all of it. (because Lord knows capitalism has a lot to answer for …) Omidyar recognise the need to honour the work of caregivers … which this caregiver both digs and appreciates!

For a couple of different but important angles on tech stuff, here is the website of Reset Australia – Reset are all about addressing the threats posed to democracy by rampant online nonsense, and I’d also like to share this fantastic website from a fellow NZer … the Light Project , which is all about having sane and healthy conversations about pornography. Jeepers, we could use some sanity around this issue, eh.

What else? You may have heard that the sickos at Instagram are trying to launch a platform for children … RESIST. There is empirically gathered evidence pointing to the negative wellbeing effects associated with that platform in particular, and there are QUITE enough issues for our young people without pushing that baldedash on ever younger citizens. Harvesting of data and promotion of body image issues? NO THANKS, ZUCKERBERG.

A cool article here, about empowering infants & toddlers in group care, written by Dr. Katherine Bussey (holla!) and I always appreciate the excellent research reviews published by my pals at the Brainwave Trust … Kia Ora Keryn!!

Here is a beautiful performance about appreciating people’s faces – a bit harder when we are masked up, perhaps? Speaking of which, talk about unintended consequences … here is an important discussion paper about infants’ experiences of a masked world, and here is a write up about an app for mothers which looks helpful, I just HOPE it comes with a caveat about choosing when to use it in a way that is biologically respectful of babies’ needs …?

Oh, and I’ve got book club tonight.

Take care, friends. x x x

productive procrastination

Kia Ora lovelies,

I think the key to productivity is to ensure that you have something useful to be cracking on with while you are procrastinating from another thing. Not in the mood to exercise? Work on your conference presentation. Don’t feel like working on that? Do some reading and note taking. Can’t face that job? Go for a brisk walk. OH LOOK … now you’re doing the exercise you didn’t want to do in the first place! Ta-dah!

A few links to share today, then I’ve gotta get back to work. Submitted an article this morn, plenty more missions awaiting my attention!

First up: Tomorrow is Phone Free Day, a surefire way to lessen procrastination! Shout out to my pals at the UCDeFLab for rallying the troops. You could think of this as a lovely warm up for Screen Free Week!!

Good timing for many: check out this article from the Washington Post about the side effects of a year lived onscreen for kids in the US, and here is a write up about research highlighting the need to resist the behavioural crutch of giving screens to tiny children. They might seem to settle now, but really they’re just delaying their ability to develop self-settling skills. Meanwhile, work from researchers in South Australia concludes that excessive screen time is delaying school readiness.

Let ’em play! Unplug the devices and PLAY!

I’m hoping you saw this piece from Stuff, about awesome Māori dads. For more about the biologically respectful practices of traditional parenting by tangata whenua, check this out.

Some random bits and pieces, now: an excellent essay about understanding TikTok by Kyle Chayka (I understand this: it’s another mechanism for harvesting data!), a new post by the folk at Sensible Screen Use about privacy in schools (and I understand this: Google classroom = more harvesting of data!) and a kinda cool bit about libraries extending their services outdoors during the pandemic.

Here is a cool site I’ve just discovered which shares tech stories from around the world (it’s called “rest of world” which tells you quite a lot, really!) AND because it’s cooling down in New Zealand we are all about firewood around here – so I’m sharing these beautiful images of covetous living rooms with lovely fireplaces x xx ENJOY x x x x

a quick party, then back to work

Ladies and Gentlegeeks,

Just like President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, I am celebrating a milestone. Theirs is the upending of Team Orange, mine is much less earth-shattering but nonetheless important. It’s been ten days since I submitted my Master’s thesis for marking (whoop, whoop!).

Some key findings … may I?

  • Today’s adults are likely to use smartphones, which are pervasive in their abundance and persuasive in their design. Using a smartphone while caring for infants is associated with suboptimal outcomes for the parent/child relationship, and therefore child development.
  • There has been an absence of empirical information about the extent to which mothers’ smartphone use reflects an understanding of potential harm, and whether their smartphone perceptions, intentions and behaviours change at the transition to parenthood. So … we ran a study …
  • Pre- and post-partum, matched-controlled observational design, in which first time mothers (n=65) and their nominated (childless) “research buddies (RB)” (n=29) were surveyed and used a screen-time tracking app (Moment) for seven days
  • Data were gathered during the final trimester of pregnancy, and again at 6-8 weeks postpartum
  • Pregnant women and RB had mean phone use of 205 and 198 minutes/day (range: 37-562 mins/day, 61-660 minutes/day), respectively.
  • Pregnant women and RB had mean daily phone pickups of 53 and 54 (range: 2-223 pickups/day, 5-142 pickups/day) respectively
  • After child birth, both groups saw increases in both measures, the new mothers’ time on device increase was statistically significant (p<0.001), as was the RB pickup increase (p=0.04).
  • These measured increases are in contrast to a reduction in both groups’ scores on the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale, 10 question version (MPPUS-10), a self-report scale designed to assess problematic use or overuse of the smartphone.
  • This suggests that women’s perceptions of their smartphone differed from their objectively measured use.
  • These findings, along with other results from the survey, reinforce calls by other researchers regarding the need for guidelines for new parents about limiting smartphone use in the presence of infants.
  • This thesis includes this call for guidelines as part of a suite of recommendations to support new mothers in enjoying the benefits of smartphone use while minimising the potential for harm to the parent/infant relationship, and therefore to child development.

It was early last Friday morning that I clicked “SEND” on the project I’ve been working so hard on for years, and I felt a luscious sense of relief … for all of 15 minutes. Then the 7am news bulletin reminded me that I gotta get back to work, ASAP. Y’see, last Friday morn saw the release of some results of a study being run between UC and Auckland uni, examining the school readiness of NZ’s five year olds. Spoiler alert: things are not fab for our littles, especially with regard to their language abilities.

I’ve been interested in transition to school since way back (HERE is a link to an article I wrote for OHbaby! mag about “rethinking school readiness, years ago!) and so I was most interested in the extended interview with one of the lead researchers and a school principal who had supported the study. (OH and how gratifying to hear the principal namechecking our man Bruce Perry and the relevance of teachers becoming trauma-informed. Especially in Christchurch, eh friends?).

SO: yes, children are the canaries in our societal coalmine. The school readiness standards of the past are showing wobbly chinks. So … do we change expectations in classrooms? This would mean that we all accept that relationships and play may need to BE the curriculum, that we might need the back up of evidence based classroom based supports like Nurture Groups and Roots of Empathy.

AND/OR this might emphasise the need for support for families – let us never forget Bronfenbrenner and his reminder that we ought consider children as members of the nest of their whānau/family, who are themselves members of a community, a society, a species. What’s more, that research reminds us of the need for children to have rich conversations. Kids have gotta be sung to enthusiastically, and bathed in language daily (some might say: Talking Matters!). Of course.

May I suggest … we do both? Can we keep a watchful eye on children’s needs and their achievements even as we keep a gentle grasp on those education standards? Can we wrap around individual children & families as we advocate for broader change? With excessive screen time being implicated for distracting parents and children, we could insist that Big Tech be broken up … or at least better regulated. We could demand design solutions that avoid Human Downgrading and support real-life connection: ESPECIALLY when children are in the room.

Much work to be done, my lovelies. So make your celebrations heartfelt and swift, then get yourselves back to work. In my case, that means prepping for a presentation on Thursday, creating a research summary for the mamas who helped me out (and other interested parties!) and writing a wee 1700 word article. I’d feel sorry for myself, but these are easy goals compared to what Biden & Harris gotta do – defeat a pandemic, reunify a nation, weed out systemic racism etc! My to-do list is a comparative piece of cake! Go well, work hard, be kind x x x

we can do hard things

Kia Ora ladies and gentlegeeks,

August already. The almond tree outside my office is in bloom already, and I relish standing underneath and basking in the buzzing. I reckon that I have buzzed out about that very phenomenon on this very blog, on previous years. Consistent, or boring?

It’s nice to count the good bits, eh. The bad bits clamour for attention and our poor little prehistoric brains can struggle to deal with the slow burning dread of our multiple crises: global pandemic, voracious inequalities, heating planet – our stress response systems weren’t made for this shizz.

The hard things I’m referring to do include living in the shadows of those aforementioned disasters, but hard things extend even beyond those. My li’l girl is away on her first school camp – we talked about how ‘excited’ and ‘nervous’ can feel like they sit side by side in our bodies. We are both excited by the temporary respite from some of our routines, and we have both been nervous about being separated.

Did you hear about the downturn in premature births during the pandemic? Pretty wild! And it shouldn’t surprise us that children are making sense of the COVID via play – cos that’s how kids make sense of the world.

Multitudes of tech related links … cos … y’know. This one is about the way kids’ tech habits mimic their parents’ (see … they get it “protect developing brains”. YES. (I do love the Hechinger report… check it out, it’s all about reducing inequalities in education) and if you don’t protect those li’l brains, they’ll fail to direct small bodies to adequately move. I’m talking about inactive toddlers. C’mon! Toddlers are designed to be active. It’s right there in their name! They toddle!

now check out this news item from India, sharing their struggles with excessive screen time at the moment.This is a piece from The Conversation in Australia about similar concerns.Jeez, whaddya do? Go to school too soon and risk COVID or succumb to online school and wind up depressed and cross eyed? Oh, for real, I offer my thoughts and angst to all the teachers in the USA … here is a tragically sad piece written by a teacher and published by McSweeneys. Speaking of school – in unrelated news, here is a piece how about how boys bear the brunt of school discipline.

Let’s be as informed as we can manage, lovelies. Try this piece from Common Sense Media about Tweens, Teens, Tech and Mental Health … worth a look … and HOLY DING DONG listen to this episode of the Being Well podcast: an interview with Stephen Porges.

Look for the Helpers – here is a strong piece of work by ARACY – the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth – it’s about Building Children’s Potential. Here’s a bit by our man Rick Hanson about looking after mothers (or, as I like to yell at my family, periodically: “MUMS RULE!”) THIS is a funny bit of satire from McSweeneys, here is a link to some kiwi made masks, and here is a collection of lessons from the great Brain Pickings. ENJOY x x x

PS: shout out to Glennon Doyle, whose book Untamed brought “you can do hard things” into lovely, crispy focus x x x