How does screen time change our kids’ brains?

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Outdoor time seems so much healthier for kids than screen time.

Does screen time affect our kids’ brains? According to an article by Lisa Lee for Bloomberg called “Screen Time Changes Structure of Kids’ Brains, ’60 Minutes’ Says,” there is a decade-long study underway to answer that question. There will be a major release of information from the study in early 2019. Until then, if I had young children, I’d use caution with too much screen time.

(Bloomberg) — Smartphones, tablets and video games are physically changing the brains of adolescents, early results from an ongoing $300 million study funded by the National Institute of Health have shown, according to a report by “60 Minutes.”

Scientists will follow more than 11,000 nine- to 10-year-olds for a decade to see how childhood experiences impact the brain and affect emotional development and mental health. The first bits of data suggest that the onslaught of tech screens has been transformative for young people — and maybe not for the better.

In brain scans of 4,500 children, daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world. Though the difference was significant from participants who spent less screen time, NIH study director Gaya Dowling cautioned against drawing a conclusion.

“We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know if it’s a bad thing,” Dowling said, according to an advance transcript provided by CBS network. “It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot.”

Early results from the study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.

My son used our desktop computer from about age two. At that time, around 1995, we didn’t have much of an internet. I bought educational disks that he’d pop into the computer and he learned by playing games. There was one disk by Fisher Price that taught him the names of all the planets and their moons. I was amazed at how much he was learning by using the early childhood disks that I didn’t see any downside to allowing him screen time.

Fast forward to 2018, and the way kids use screens has changed. They are using them as their major means of communications and instead of sitting at a desktop, kids have iPhones and iPads and take them everywhere they go. They are hardly ever free or away from their screens.

I’m curious to learn the results of this study. It’s pretty scary that the structure of the brain is changed by looking at screens. I wonder if it will change how parents view screen time and if it will affect their parenting? I also think I may put my phone down and not be reading it in bed! I read that parents who work in Silicon Valley for the tech companies don’t allow their own children to use screens, but prefer they play in the park or with board games instead. Do they know something we don’t know?

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About the age my son started on the computer.

How do you set boundaries on how much time your kids spend on their electronics? Do you make them go outside to play?

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Have You Read This “Life-Changing” Book?

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Me and my friend Cindy.

Four years ago my best friend Cindy gave me a present. It was a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It took me a while to open it up and dive in, but Cindy kept pushing and prodding, explaining how this book is magical and life changing.

Doesn’t that sound a little crazy to call a book “life changing?” It did to me. But Cindy told me stories about how the book changed a few of her friends’ lives. It led them on entirely different life and career paths that proved to be more satisfying and creative. At the time, I had quit working with my husband as a financial advisor and was facing my empty nest with both kids away at college. I learned the secrets the book offered—morning pages, prayer or meditation, and daily walks. I incorporated each into my daily life and Voila! I saw changes. I made a routine for myself—and best yet, I stuck with it.

Soon after starting my morning routine, I started this blog, submitted a story to SwimSwam.com, rewrote a mid-grade novel, began a project writing the history of Southern California Swimming with the website socalswimhistory.com. I also dove in and learned to swim myself and joined U.S. Masters Swimming.

Looking back on reading the book The Artist’s Way, it was life-changing for me. My writing projects have multiplied and my biggest problem right now, is not spreading myself too thin. Writing my morning pages, walking and praying keeps me grounded. On the rare occasion I have had to miss my morning routine, I feel at odds with myself — a little off like something isn’t quite right.

It dawned on me to buy another one of Cameron’s books and the title I chose was Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. It’s more of the same, but pushing me further along my path as a writer. Then, I sent The Artist’s Way to both of my kids. I have no idea why it took me four years to share this gem with them. I just spent a week with my daughter, and we took our daly walks together and we sat at her dining room table writing in our journals.

My son called me this morning and said he had begun his morning pages today. The book says to write three pages every morning when you first wake up. It’s a brain dump of getting rid of all the little worries, fears and negativity that you’ve carried over into a new day. By eliminating all this garbage, or writing down what worries you—or even the tasks you need to get done—you become free. You’re free to see the creative forces and beauty around you. My son said although he found the spirituality in the book a little “90s” he thought the book had some really good stuff in it.

I’m sharing this with the hopes that whether you’re an artist or not, read The Artist’s Way. Give it a try and see how it changes your life.

Have you read The Artist’s Way and how did it change your daily life? I’d love to hear your story.

When is enough parenting enough?

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My daughter was going on job interviews and sifting through prospective roommates, when she returned from an appointment to find her home had been ransacked. Frankly, there’s enough change going on in her life these days that she didn’t need her drawers pilfered through and closets emptied onto the floor. She said it was all topsy turvy in each room, including the garage and small storage room.

She found Waffles, her pug, locked in the garage. As the concerned mother I am and wanting to solve all my kids’ problems, I immediately headed to her house — where I still am several days later. By the time I arrived, she had straightened up the house, and together we shopped for a doggie door and security system. A day later, her handyman came and she got dowels in the windows, more security cameras and alarms installed, and she’s no longer leaving the patio door open for Waffles. He has his own door. Now, he just has to learn to use it. (This is proving harder than expected. He scratches at the screens and barks, instead of bolting bravely through.)

I found on this visit to help my daughter out, there wasn’t much for me to do, except to be with her. She needed company and someone in her home so she didn’t feel scared or all alone. She has a dear friend who came over immediately after the burglary and spent the first night until I got here.

Now, my question for myself is — how long do I stay? Do I wait for her to find a new job? A roommate? Feel more settled? Be completely over her fright? Or, is my parenting job over for this moment? I’m planning on heading home soon to pick up the pieces of my life and continue with the work I need to do.

I’m glad to be able to help. But, at some point, Mom can’t be there for them and I need to live my own life. I am kind of torn on this. I enjoy hanging out with both my kids. I worry when things go wrong for them.

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When do you think enough parenting is enough?

Kids say the funniest things

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I wrote about the funny things my kids said as toddlers during Thanksgiving weekend two years ago. Here are a few of the things we remembered:

Do you remember the TV shows, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” or Art Linkletter in “House Party?” I forgot about these shows for decades until I was reminiscing with my kids about the funny things they would say as young kids.

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Spending time together and with the pup two years ago.

A couple years ago, the four of us–me, hubby and two kids–sat together in a booth at a local restaurant and reminisced about the funny things they said as little kids. We laughed so hard we were literally crying and in convulsions.

Here are three funny things my kids said (at least I think they’re funny and hope you do too!)

ONE

When my daughter was born, my son, who was age three talked with Grandpa on the phone. “What do you think of your little sister?” Grandpa asked.

After a few moments, deep in thought, my son answered, “Well she’s got no hair, no teeth and no penis!”

TWO

When my daughter was four or five, she wanted to go over to her best friend’s house to play during the holidays. Her best friend was Orthodox Jewish, so she asked if it was okay to come over or “were they still celebrating the Holocaust?”

Yikes. I think she meant Hanukkah.

THREE

When my daughter was an infant and my son three years old, we had a 16-year-old babysitter join us for a week at the beach. I remember getting the baby out of the car at the park and watching my son with two hands on the babysitter’s bikini-clad boobs. I said something like “What are you doing?” or “That’s not acceptable.” He turned to me and said, “I just want to watch them bounce. Yours don’t do that.”

Out of the mouth of babes. Yes, he was right.…

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At the beach.

Sitting in the restaurant wiping tears from my eyes over the funny things our kids said, my son buried his head in his scarf, unbelievably embarrassed. To me, however, it was a night to remember.

What funny things did your kids say when they were toddlers?

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Wow. I’m missing these guys.

Would you change your parenting if you could travel back in time?

rkstuffedanimalsIn an article called “Parenting with the end result in mind” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, from Pop Parenting printed in the Montgomery Advertiser, they ask the question, “What would change in our parenting if we could see the future adults in these little people we are raising?”

That makes me look at my children today and wonder what would I change if I could? I’d have given them more chores, not picked up after them and let them make more decisions and mistakes. I wouldn’t worry so much about grades, homework, or focus on performance. Would that have changed who they are today? Probably not. My kids are kind people with character. They have compassion and they care for their environment and other people. It would be a little tweak on my part to help them be more self-sufficient and a little steadier on their feet as they explore the years post college graduation.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

How would we talk to them, and what kinds of choices would we make if we were completely aware that we are raising the future parents of our grandkids and someone’s future employee or boss and a future spouse and next door neighbor and someone’s friend — maybe (hopefully) our own future friend and possibly even the person who will one day take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.

It’s a powerful perspective. They say hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t have to wait until the aftermath to reap the benefits of that perspective. Humans have the unique ability to project their imaginations forward and then turn around and examine the present from a potential future. We can think about what we want the end result to look like, and we can make decisions to help us get there.

Case in point, when we are fully aware of the future adult standing before us, we will probably react differently than we would if all we could see is the three-year-old who just smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen while trying to get to the snacks that he’s not supposed to take without permission in the first place.

For one thing, keeping the end result in mind is a great way of remembering that most of the mistakes our kids make are just part of their learning and maturing process. The challenges of the toddler and preschool years are just a season. The emotional battles of the teen years are also just a season.

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Beach walk with my daughter this summer.

What would you do differently if you could look back in time?

Now that they’re gone….

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View on my walk, after they’ve gone.

 

I wrote this three years ago, when both my kids came home for Thanksgiving weekend from college. I look back on this Thanksgiving fondly because it’s rare we got to spend the holiday together. Some years, my son stays up north near his girlfriend’s family. On another, my daughter couldn’t leave due to her college team’s swim practice schedule. This year, she was home but my son wasn’t. It was a great weekend and I’m thankful for every minute of it, but it was nice in 2015 to have them both home together.

 

It’s Sunday after Thanksgiving and I was so thankful to have my family together. My two college kids came home to be with us! I cleaned and shopped all week, preparing for the big event.

Now, they’re gone.

Some of my favorite parts of the weekend:

The four of us walked down Palm Canyon Drive on Thanksgiving afternoon, before we ate my home-cooked meal. I loved that. The kids were happy, we window shopped, laughed and talked. There were the traditional piggy back rides and racing around.

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Piggyback rides downtown.

Then came dinner and my dad joined us. He’s close to 84 and I’m thankful he’s close by and can share time with us.

I was getting tired after being on my feet for the past few days. I couldn’t help but look with jealousy at the weekenders coming in and picking up their mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing off a fully stocked shelf at a local grocery store, Jensen’s. Too easy, but seriously? Would anyone care?

Some good moments we had were swimming at our team’s Friday morning practice–kind of together. Although the masters were separated from the kids, it was a shared experience. I had a first! I managed to push myself out of the pool without swimming to the stairs. Having to swim past my daughter and her friends’ lane, who were also home from college, would have been too embarrassing. So I did it!

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Feeling slightly short with my daughter.

My son and I shared music. He’d play a song and then I’d give him a name of one to play. We went back forth while we drove to Palm Desert and back. He loves folk from the 60s and 70s. He listens to Joni Mitchell and some artists I’ve never heard of, but I enjoyed. I suggested “A Song for Juli,” by Jesse Colin Young and Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love,” plus a few more. We appreciate each other’s taste in music. He also shared a novella by Edan Lupucki that was a gem.

We went healthy food shopping and he taught my husband and I how to make chia pudding. Hmm.

My daughter and I had a delicious breakfast out together followed by a pedicure. Wonderful time together to talk and be mother and daughter like we used to be.

The four of us took the neighbor’s dog to the park and tossed the ball while my son jogged around us. It felt so good to play in the park where we spent so much of their younger days.

But, now they’re gone and here I am once again–alone at my computer. I do enjoy the freedom to write and finish some projects. I love my kids and I’m  blessed that they want to come home and we spend time being together.

I said I wasn’t going to cry this time when they left. In fact, I was surprised at how strong I was. Until the door closed behind them.

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When they were young at the beach.