Screen time hurts our kids—but it’s our screen time, not theirs!

threeParents need to be in the moment with their kids—not on their phones. I read a story in the Atlantic by Erika Christakis with lots of studies about how kids learn by hearing our voices, tones and through interaction. When we detach with our phones or are continually interrupting interaction, it affects our children’s healthy development.

My own daughter yells at me whenever I was with her but busy texting someone else—usually my son. She’d say “Mom, I’m here with you now!” Of course, she also is on her phone a lot and does snap chats while she’s with me. I don’t snap chat and really I don’t get it. Texting is enough for me. When my husband and I were first married, we’d go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for Huevos Ranchero on Saturday morning. We’d take different sections of the LA Times and read, rather than talk with each other. One week we saw a friend and he said, “Is this what married life is like? You stop talking?” We laughed at the time, but how many times do you see couples or families out together and everyone is busy on their screens?

The article cites several studies and it really emphasizes how damaging it is for us to be on our phones. It’s more damaging than our kids having way too much screen time themselves. Here are several excerpts from her article:

When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own.

Smartphones have by now been implicated in so many crummy outcomes—car fatalities, sleep disturbances, empathy loss, relationship problems, failure to notice a clown on a unicycle—that it almost seems easier to list the things they don’t mess up than the things they do. Our society may be reaching peak criticism of digital devices.

Even so, emerging research suggests that a key problem remains underappreciated. It involves kids’ development, but it’s probably not what you think. More than screen-obsessed young children, we should be concerned about tuned-out parents.

Yes, parents now have more face time with their children than did almost any parents in history. Despite a dramatic increase in the percentage of women in the workforce, mothers today astoundingly spend more time caring for their children than mothers did in the 1960s. But the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality, even ersatz. Parents are constantly present in their children’s lives physically, but they are less emotionally attuned. To be clear, I’m not unsympathetic to parents in this predicament. My own adult children like to joke that they wouldn’t have survived infancy if I’d had a smartphone in my clutches 25 years ago.

Yet for all the talk about children’s screen time, surprisingly little attention is paid to screen use by parents themselves, who now suffer from what the technology expert Linda Stone more than 20 years ago called “continuous partial attention.” This condition is harming not just us, as Stone has argued; it is harming our children. The new parental-interaction style can interrupt an ancient emotional cueing system, whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. We’re in uncharted territory.

In the early 2010s, researchers in Boston surreptitiously observed 55 caregivers eating with one or more children in fast-food restaurants. Forty of the adults were absorbed with their phones to varying degrees, some almost entirely ignoring the children (the researchers found that typing and swiping were bigger culprits in this regard than taking a call). Unsurprisingly, many of the children began to make bids for attention, which were frequently ignored. A follow-up study brought 225 mothers and their approximately 6-year-old children into a familiar setting and videotaped their interactions as each parent and child were given foods to try. During the observation period, a quarter of the mothers spontaneously used their phone, and those who did initiated substantially fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions with their child.

Occasional parental inattention is not catastrophic (and may even build resilience), but chronic distraction is another story. Smartphone use has been associated with a familiar sign of addiction: Distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted; they not only miss emotional cues but actually misread them. A tuned-out parent may be quicker to anger than an engaged one, assuming that a child is trying to be manipulative when, in reality, she just wants attention. Short, deliberate separations can of course be harmless, even healthy, for parent and child alike (especially as children get older and require more independence). But that sort of separation is different from the inattention that occurs when a parent is with a child but communicating through his or her nonengagement that the child is less valuable than an email. A mother telling kids to go out and play, a father saying he needs to concentrate on a chore for the next half hour—these are entirely reasonable responses to the competing demands of adult life. What’s going on today, however, is the rise of unpredictable care, governed by the beeps and enticements of smartphones. We seem to have stumbled into the worst model of parenting imaginable—always present physically, thereby blocking children’s autonomy, yet only fitfully present emotionally.

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When you’re with your kids, be with in the moment.

When you’re with your children or spouse, how do you handle it when your kids are on their phones? Do you put your phone down or have a rule?

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It’s Long Course Season Once Again

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Long Course at our pool.

I returned to swimming Masters and although I’m amazingly weak and slow, I’m thrilled to be back. I like the summer schedule and the fact that it’s Long Course. For non-swimmers that means the pool lanes run the length of the 50-meter pool, as opposed to across the pool, which is 25 yards for Short Course. I remember a few years ago when I began swimming Masters, I’d never go on Saturdays because it’s Long Course. Now there’s Long Course throughout the week–and I’m there.

I actually prefer it. Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery and I can barely swim 30 minutes without getting exhausted, there’s something about how good it feels. I find a nice rhythm and my mind has more time to think and wander before I hit the wall. I feel like I’m swimming more as opposed to pushing and bouncing off the walls back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

Last week was my first day back to the US Masters Swimming program with Piranha Swim Team since December. Of course, that’s because of the great ski vacation I had early January that ended with a toboggan ride escorted by the Ski Patrol at Alta, Utah. Anyway, last week I could only swim 500 meters without feeling winded, exhausted and my knee hurt. Today is Monday of week two, and I felt stronger and made it 900 meters.

It’s great to be back, and our coach was right. Returning to Masters and being with my swim buddies is motivating and will help me recover faster, as opposed to going on my own. I strongly recommend joining a Masters team to anyone, regardless of their swimming ability.

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Sunset at our pool during a meet.

How a college kid made a career out of tweeting

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Our very own Waffles!

I’m a big “WeRateDogs” fan. Whenever I check out the Instagram or Twitter account, I always laugh. It’s a great break from 24/7 news and politics. It gives me a chance to relax and smile–and it’s an easy way to be entertained.

I read an article today on COISKI, which I’m figuring out is short for “Content Is King” about Matt Nelson, who was a college kid when he created the “WeRateDogs” brand. Not only does he have more than 6 million followers, he has published a book and other merchandise like mugs and caps. He’s releasing a calendar for 2019 and a 2020 one will be published, too. His merchandise can be found on his website or Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by John Zmikly:

How the Creator of “WeRateDogs” Built a 6+ Million Twitter Following

Matt Nelson’s love for comedy – not just doggos and puppers – motivated him to create the account and company

Three years ago in a North Carolina Applebee’s, former Campbell University student, Matt Nelson, tweeted about the “petability” of a Japanese Irish Setter who supposedly lost an eye in Vietnam.

Literally overnight – and several hilarious tweets later – Nelson’s @dog_rates Twitter account garnered about 500 followers. By the end of the month, that number grew to over 100,000. Little did Nelson know, his “WeRateDogs” Twitter account would change the direction of his life – and digital doggo culture – forever.

With over 6.9 million followers on Twitter today, @dog_rates has become one of the most successful pet-rating accounts on social media. But the brand reaches far beyond Twitter. Since his fateful Applebee’s tweet in 2015, We Rate Dogs has become a full-on brand, adding a merch line, publishing a recent Amazon best-selling calendar, and Nelson leverages speaking engagements and has even partnered with established brands, like Disney, to continue growing the brand’s powerfully loyal following.

I have sent in several pictures of my daughter’s pug Waffles and our RIP lab Angus. WeRateDogs posted the picture of Waffles above. I’d never seen so much action on my social media. Ever. When he liked my Angus pics on a Saturday when he features senior doggos, I received so many comments about our beloved Angus.

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This is a post from today.

I found it interesting that Nelson dropped out of school to pursue a career based on tweeting. I wonder what I would have said if my son or daughter did that? It has worked out well for him:

From Part-Time Hobby to Full-Time Career

A freshman at Campbell University at the time, Nelson had been going to school for professional golf management. But school soon took a back seat to his greater passion – digital media.

“I soon became obsessed with social and digital media and the creative outlet they offered,” said Nelson.

Not wanting to be “that guy” who created multiple parody accounts and stole other peoples’ content, Nelson said he truly became invested in the writing and humor aspects of content development.

“There are plenty of cute animal accounts out there, but from the beginning, I went out of my way to make my posts humorous, and to try to give the account a real personality. I think that’s what made We Rate Dogs so refreshing. I can’t argue that the pictures don’t drive the audience — they do. But I have developed a style that allows the image and the caption to lean on each other in a creative way,” he said.

Nelson has now made a career out of digital content creation, sometimes spending hours writing and reading tweets before they’re posted.

“I often laugh that I’m basically telling the same joke over and over again because every post has a caption, rating, and a comment. That’s it. But every word has intent behind it, and the picture and caption have to go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Community, humor and original content are just a few reasons the @dog_rates earns roughly 8,000-12,000 new followers each day. And they’re also why Nelson’s other endeavors, like his recent Amazon Best-Selling calendar – have been so successful.

But along with hard work, Nelson attributes much of his puppo prosperity to good fortune.

“My initial success has been just pure luck. The biggest thing for me lately has been the commitment to drop out of school and make the side hustle, the real hustle. It’s definitely new territory, but going “all in” has given me the chance to chase my passion. It was the right call for me.”

Nelson highlighted the importance of following a dream, though sometimes working a regular job or going to school may be required to see it through.

“The traditional path is not the only path. College isn’t always the next stop, and it’s definitely not the only path to success anymore. There are so many different roads. The field is truly even if everyone has internet access, and a little bit of creativity goes a long way as long as you don’t ignore that passion.”

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This is one of my favorite ones–and obviously other people liked it too.

Nelson has created his own vocabulary for dogs such as “puppers” and “doggos,” and his curse word “h*ck.” After I read WeRateDogs religiously, the doggo slang slipped into my vocabulary, too.

Another amazing thing about WeRateDogs is the sense of community. When someone’s pupper is sick or needs surgery, Nelson tweets and money and love pour in.

Does WeRateDogs brighten your day, too? Are there any Twitter or Instagram accounts that you love?

 

Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

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My son wearing his Latin laurel wreath on graduation night.

The reason I’m reminiscing about how much my kids loved Latin and Mrs. Lazarova is that the administrators are threatening to shut down the Latin program. There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12) at the Palm Springs Unified School District meeting at 6 p.m. with many people attending in support of the PSHS Latin program. I’ve heard that Mrs. Lazarova was not given a single Latin class to teach next school year. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page that was started by former students of Mrs. Lazarova (Save Latin at Palm Springs Highschool). 

One of the best things about Palm Springs High School, if not the best thing, is the Latin program. Both of my children took four years of Latin from Svetlana Lazarova, who is an outstanding teacher because of her passion. She cares about each student and teaches them not only Latin, but history, grammar, Western Civilization and the importance of being good people throughout their lives.

I was amazed when my son asked us to attend Latin Night at the end of his freshman year. I had no idea what to expect, but after the first year, I looked forward to the evening as a highlight and culmination of all their hard work. Not only were the National Latin Exam awards handed out, but each class made presentations from short plays to reciting Cicero. The senior class always put together a tribute to Mrs. Lazarova and it would be side-splitting funny or so emotional I would wipe tears from my eyes. At the end, before cake, Mrs. Lazarova gave each senior a laurel wreath and a hug. The Latin seniors would proudly wear their laurel wreaths at graduation night.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut such a valuable program. Latin is sometimes called a dead language, but the study of Latin offers so much more than language. Latin is critical to the root words of our English. If your kids want to be doctors, attorneys or earn a degree in any science, they’ll need Latin.  If you Google “why should my child take Latin” you’ll find countless articles like this one posted by Thought Co:

The Benefits of Learning Latin

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.
— From the National Review.

Latin Helps With English Grammar
While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do. For instance, since you CAN’T have a dangling preposition in Latin, certain purists consider it bad form in English (see Latin Grammar: Comparisons Between English and Latin).

Latin Makes You More Careful in English
In Latin, you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct – grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin, there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns but adjectives — not to mention verbs — must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework… As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the “Latin grammar” system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relations to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good.
–William Harris

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores
This sells Latin programs. Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it’s not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

Latin Increases Accuracy
This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:​

“From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student’s mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy.”

I asked my children what they learned while taking Latin and they both said it helped them with their SATs, vocabulary, understanding literature, grammar, mythology and learning about the beginning of Western Civilization. Mrs. Lazarova taught them about the culture and included art and food in her program. My kids are smarter and more intelligent because of their years with Mrs. Lazarova. They are also better people, because of Mrs. Lazarova’s emphasis on character and being a caring member of society. It’s so competitive to get into colleges these days, why wouldn’t you want your kids to study Latin, increase their SAT scores and show on their transcripts that they studied Latin for four years?

One study I read states that only 18 percent of public schools offer Latin while more than 80 percent of private schools do. So, is it the point of our Palm Springs school district to restrict the ability of our public school children to compete with those in private schools? What is the purpose of canceling the Latin program? If our children continue with Latin, why wouldn’t want the best teacher there?

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My son and friend at high school graduation.

What do you see as the major benefit of studying Latin?

How to live longer by walking faster

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Our Palm Springs city pool.

I read some good news today in “Scientists from five universities say walking faster could add years to your life” by Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor of Market Watch. He said if you want to “prolong your life, put some pep in your step.”

 “Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. A similar result was found for risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

“It’s not too late to start. In fact, the benefits were far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found.”

Now that I’m back to walking every single morning, still sporting my DonJoy FourcePoint knee brace, I found this motivating. I’m walking faster than when I began walking a few weeks ago. Now, with this information, I will pick up the pace.

In the article, Fottrell cites another study, this one from Harvard:

A recent Harvard University study concluded that you could add 10 years to your life by following five habits: eating a healthy diet, exercising 30 minutes or more a day, maintaining a healthy weight — a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 — never smoking and drinking only a moderate amount of alcohol.

In that study, the researchers analyzed 34 years of data from approximately 78,000 women and 27 years of data from more than 44,000 men. The authors predicted that women who adopted these five habits would see 14 more years of life, and men would add 12 years.

This sounds like good advice for all of us. Amazing how we literally can add a decade or more to our lives by walking and keeping a healthy lifestyle. As far as walking, I’ve found that since I’ve returned to walking around the park, I wasn’t motivated to continue my pool walking. It’s been so hot, I haven’t felt like being out in the pool in the bright sun. But, yesterday I forced myself to go to the pool in the evening while my daughter was coaching. I used the pool ladder to get in and out rather than the handicapped steps. Yes, it hurt, but what a major accomplishment for me.

I told our coach that I’d like to come back to Masters but I needed to be able to swim more yards first. He told me to come back now and not wait. He’s right. I will do what I can do. It’s so much easier to be motivated to swim if you have people to swim with. I’m looking forward to seeing my swim friends after five months.

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto from my daily walk around the park.

What do you think about daily walking and the impact on our health? Does it work for you?

For healthier children, spend more time outdoors!

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Creative free play time at the beach, outside.

My best childhood memories all took place outdoors. Whether it was rowing around Squirrel Cove in Desolation Sound in our dingy, or riding bikes around Lord’s Hill, most of my childhood was spent outside. We wielded machetes and hacked a trail down our hill to a beautiful forested valley where we made forts with logs, sticks and ferns. We fished at the Stillaguamish River and rode our air mattresses down the rapids. Everything we did was outdoors. One of the main reasons for this was my strict mom. She allowed us one hour of TV per day, and she circled two 30-minute shows for us to watch in the TV Guide. They were always on PBS.

In an article in the Washington Post called, “Kids do not spend nearly enough time outside. Here’s how (and why) to change that” by Collin O’Mara he lists a number of benefits your children–and yourself can enjoy–by spending more hours outdoors. Collin O’Mara is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation and a father of two.

Here is a sobering statistic: The average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen, often at the expense of unstructured play in nature. The good news is departing from this trend is easier than you think, and quality outside time can fit into even the busiest of schedules. It is worth the effort; the benefits go beyond a little time spent in the fresh air.

Over the past few decades, children’s relationship with the great outdoors and nature has changed dramatically. Since the 1990s researchers have noticed a shift in how children spend their free time. The days of the free-range childhood, where kids spend hours outside playing in local parks, building forts, fording streams and climbing trees, have been mostly replaced by video games, television watching and organized activities such as sports and clubs.

Here are a few of the benefits:

Better school performance. Time spent in nature and increased fitness improve cognitive function.

More creativity. Outdoor play uses and nurtures the imagination.

Much higher levels of fitness. Kids are more active when they are outdoors.

More friends. Children who organize their own games and participate in unstructured group activities are less solitary and learn to interact with their peers.

Less depression and hyperactivity. Time in nature is soothing, improves mood and reduces stress. It can also increase kids’ attention span, because things move at a slower pace than they do on the screen.

Stronger bones. Exposure to natural light helps prevent vitamin D deficiency, making outdoorsy children less vulnerable to bone problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health issues.

Improved eyesight. Time spent outdoors can help combat increasing diagnoses of nearsightedness.

Better sleep. Exposure to natural light, and lots of physical activity, help reset a child’s natural sleep rhythms.

A longer life span and healthier adult life. Active kids are more likely to grow into active adults.

And the best part, all of these benefits — especially those related to health and well-being — also apply to the adults spending more time with their children outdoors.

I believe my kids love being outdoors. From the time my son was two years old until the kids went off to college, we rented a house in Laguna Beach. This was because close friends took on a three-month rental and asked us to take half of the summer. Because we live where most summer days are over 110 degrees and as hot as 126, we jumped at the chance. I took the kids to the beach every day, and while I sat reading, they played in the sand and waves. They had to use their imaginations and I loved watching their elaborate playtime. The rest of the year, when we were home, we spent long hours in the park where they played with friends. We moms would set out blankets and sit and chat while our kids climbed on a stagecoach or the turtle-shaped fountains.

As the kids got older, we literally moved our lives on deck and spent hours with the swim team. But, although that time was structured, it was still outside.

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What are your favorite childhood memories? Are they mostly outside, too?

A weekend to lift my spirits

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Big Bear Lake

I’ve been feeling down for a few days, missing my friend who recently and unexpectantly passed away. Fortunately, we had a few fun things planned this past weekend that helped me feel a little bit better.

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The flower arrangement I made at Seasons by My Little Flower Shop in Palm Springs.

First, my daughter and I went to a flower-arranging class at Seasons by My Little Flower Shop in downtown Palm Springs. We were invited by close friends from the Piranha Swim Team. My friend’s two daughters bought her a flower-arranging class for Mother’s Day. I was so tickled that they asked me to join them. I asked to include my daughter, who is home for one more week. My friend’s daughters are both older than my daughter by four and five years, but that swim team connection is a bond that never lets go. They both swam for USC, and even though my daughter was a Ute, they have the shared experience of being PAC 12 student-athletes.IMG_0923-2

We learned some basics about flower arranging, which I never knew. First, never let any of the greens touch the water. The greens decompose and create bacteria which kills flowers in a few days. When you buy a bunch of flowers from the grocery store, always strip the greens down where the water will be and your arrangement should last up to ten days.

The other thing I learned was to buy some clear florist tape at Joanne’s or Michael’s. On the top of the vase, put a strip of tape across the center, then two more strips evenly on each side. Then do the same perpendicularly. You’ll end with a grid that will support your flowers and keep them standing up.IMG_0920-2

The next thing we did to raise my spirits was escaping the desert and driving to the mountains. It’s starting to get hot and being stuck inside isn’t a joy. Up in the mountains at Big Bear Lake, it’s not only gorgeous but the high was 77 degrees as opposed to 111 at home. We went for a walk, set up our motorhome for the summer, went out to lunch at our favorite restaurant the North Shore Cafe and relaxed in the cool mountain air. We had Waffles as our buddy and he loved it since he hates the heat.

Here are pictures from our day in Big Bear:

 

Third, one of my friends in Seattle took my mom to Bingo on Sunday. I’ve written about my Bingo days with mom and how much she’s loved it. I’ve been looking for someone to take her because she refuses to go on her own–even though it’s down the hall from her room. I was reminiscing about Rebecca with the childhood friend who was married to her years ago. I mentioned my mom to him. (Our parents have been friends for decades and we used to go on camping trips together as families). He immediately volunteered and said that he thought going to Bingo with Mom would be “a hoot.” I called her afterward and she sounded so happy. Which made me happy, too.

One thing that losing a good friend has taught me is to not take anyone for granted and to reach out to friends and family.

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Waffles