As children K-12 are in the first month of the 2014-2015 School Year, here are 5 things every parent, teacher, and member of a church staff need to know:
- Throw Out Those #2 Pencils
In 43 states the educational program called Common Core will be in its first year of implementation. Started in 2008, leaders in state governments banded together to generate a new set of standards in reading, writing, math, and logic so students across the United States could be judged on the same material. One the most profound effects on students is how online testing via computers and tablets will become the standard for all students. Instead of bringing #2 pencils, iKids will have to know how to type and click their way through Common Core’s standardized testing. Depending on your state, students will be taking the Smarter Balanced Test or the PARCC Test. The end result is students in public schools will be spending a lot more time in classrooms using tablets and computers so they will be proficient in using these devices when it comes to testing time in the Spring of 2015.
- Excessive Screen Time Impacts Health
Those screens we love to stare at during all times of the day emit blue light, a narrow band in the light spectrum that may have long-term health effects on children and parents. Researchers already had reported that blue light delays the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our body to go to sleep. Now they have discovered other medical issues such as retinal stress, diabetes, lupus, and migraine headaches maybe linked to lower levels of melatonin.Dr. William Harrison, an optometrist in Laguna Beach gives this definitive statement, “Here’s what doesn’t need research: 415 to 445nm is super hot light, and if it’s really focused and brought up close – when you’re talking about a tablet six inches from a kid’s face – it’s got to be significant.”
- Early Start to School Days Nixed by Doctors
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics teenagers are going to school too early. Their recommendation, start middle school and high school at 8:30 am or later. In a strongly worded policy statement they maintain that insufficient sleep for teens is a national health epidemic. Teens need 8 ½ hours or more of sleep to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but early school starts, overwhelming homework, and the use of screens at night severely impacts a teen’s ability to get a good nights sleep and to do well in their studies. Some of the consequences of a lack of sleep for teens include increased risk for medical conditions like diabetes, strokes, and obesity. Anxiety, depression, stress, and increased risk-taking behaviors are also increased by a lack of sleep.
- iKids Need to Disconnect to Learn Social Skills
A recent study by UCLA researchers of 6th Graders found that the use of digital media decreases a child’s ability to read other people’s emotions. A group of 6th Graders were given a test to determine their ability to read emotions. After the test half of them were sent to camp with no media available to them. They hiked, went swimming, and talked to each other. The other half went about their everyday regular routine in which they averaged about 4 ½ hours on digital media in a typical school day. After five days the students were given a test to determine their ability to read emotions. The campers showed a significant improvement in their social skills.The learning from the study is that building social skills is a vital component of a balanced life. The good news was that after five days of being media free, the students showed a marked improvement in social skill development.
- The Family Meal as the Antidote to Bullying
A new report from JAMA Pediatrics on cyberbullying found that teens who took part in a regular family meal were less likely to be negatively impacted from cyberbullying. A one-year study of students aged 12 – 18 in the Midwest found that cyberbullying has a wide range of effects on the teenage life. Of the 834 students in the study, 19% were cyberbullied. Anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, binge drinking, drug misuse, and fighting were common outcomes. One of the most interesting results of the study was that students who had a regular family dinner were less likely to be negatively impacted by the negative behavior of their peers.The study states, “The results suggest that family dinners (ie, family contact and communication) are beneficial to adolescent mental health and may help protect adolescents from the harmful consequences of cyberbullying.”
Here are three takeaways to consider as iKids start the school year:
- As schools increase the amount of time they are asking iKids to spend on screens and techgear at school and for doing homework, parents must monitor the amount of time their children spend during their informal time. If they are on screens two to four hours a day for schoolwork, than its important for them to spend their free time off-screen. Also, shutting down screens well before bedtime helps them get a good nights sleep.
- Face-to-face time is a critical component of learning to become a well-rounded person and is critical for positive mental health.
- Rather than focusing on having the latest technology, churches can have the greatest impact on family life by providing opportunities in worship, Christian education, camping, and youth groups for iKids to develop face-to-face relationships with others and to develop an interior spiritual life free from the screens that seem to dominate so much of our lives.
Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age and Director of Congregational Development at GBOD with the United Methodist Church