Parents against smartphones

boogie boarding in Laguna
My daughter and friends boogie boarding before any had smart phones.

Fifty-three percent of American children have a smartphone of their own by age 11, according to a 2019 report by Common Sense Media. By the time they’re 16, 89 percent of kids have one. An earlier report by Common Sense Media found that 50 percent of teenagers felt addicted to their smartphones and that 59 percent of their parents thought that was the case. All of this has coincided with a startling increase in mental health challenges among adolescents, which some psychologists believe might be tied to the adverse effects of social media use.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/05/09/parents-kids-smartphones/

That quote came from an article in the Washington Post called “Meet the parents who refuse to give their kids smartphones” by Ellen McCarthy.

It was an interesting read to see how the children felt about not being allowed to have a smartphone. In some instances they were the only person in their school without one. The parents gave them a phone that didn’t have internet access but they could use to text and call. One child was so embarrassed with that type of phone, they never got it out at school.

One mother who refused to let her children have smartphones was a psychiatrist who treats high school and college students. She said her patients were on their smartphones nine hours a day or more — more than they sleep.

I agree with WHY the parents didn’t want their kids to have smartphones, but I’m not sure in today’s world if I could do it. My kids had childhoods without cell phones. My son didn’t get his iphone until high school graduation. My daughter got hers earlier and there was a lot of bullying going on. Also, I remember this thing on Instagram my daughter showed me where young girls were posting pictures of their thigh “gaps.” It was a body image competition that probably boosted anorexia.

By the end of eighth grade, Annalise Stacey was the only one in her class without a smartphone. And her mom’s spiels about how bad the devices are for kids’ brains didn’t make that much easier.

If her friends decided to hang out after school or on a weekend, they would make plans via group text. When she went to sleepovers, she often ended up watching other girls scroll on their phones. Annalise, who is now 15, sometimes didn’t know what her classmates were talking about because gossip had been exchanged over text or social media.

“I was frustrated just because I’m more of a shy person, so I felt like I was definitely getting left out of things and I didn’t really know how to get included.”

What are your thoughts? Would you be a parent against smartphones, even if your child felt left out? At what age did your kids get smartphones?

What’s in a Wordle?

Wordle solved puzzle Jan. 19.
Yesterday’s Wordle. Not my best attempt, but I got it done.

Have you been caught up in the latest viral craze? My son introduced me to Wordle last week. I struggled to solve the puzzle. You get six guesses to solve the five-letter word of the day. Then I noticed Wordle was trending on Twitter. Then one friend and fellow blogger sent me a link to play. Everywhere I looked there was Wordle.

The topper was a blogger I follow, “Tater,” who was interviewed by the Washington Post in an article about Wordle. You can read the story called “Wordle is our New Drug” HERE and visit his blog “The World’s Common Tater” HERE.

What makes the puzzle so much fun? I think it’s the simplicity and that it’s only one word per day. It’s much easier than a crossword. And it only takes a few minutes.

My son came up with a surefire winning strategy. He looked up the most common letters used in the English language. It was a list of 15 letters and he came up with three words: earnt (which is a word in the UK), coils and dumpy. You type those words in and presto! You get four out of five of the letters — or at least enough to solve the Wordle.

I found that to be almost like cheating, so I came up with two words that cover all five vowels and the letter Y. Yearn and moist. I still solve the Wordle, but it’s a little harder.

Here’s an excerpt from from a Wall Street Journal article by Joseph Pisani called “What Is Wordle? How to Play the Viral Word Game and Tricks to Impress Your Friends: Everything you need to know about the online game that has taken the internet by storm.”

Wordle, an online word game, seems like it is everywhere these days. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Wordle? It is a once-a-day word game that has gone viral in recent weeks. It only can be played on a website.

Who brought this on us? Wordle was created by Josh Wardle, a software engineer from New York. He created a prototype in 2013 and dusted it off during the pandemic for his partner, who likes playing word games.

How do I play? Go to the game’s website on your desktop or mobile browser. The URL is: https://www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/

Wordle is simple: You have six chances to guess the day’s secret five-letter word. Type in a word as a guess, and the game tells you which letters are or aren’t in the word. The game is free and has no ads. The aim is to figure out the secret word with the fewest guesses.

What do the green and yellow squares mean? When you make a guess in the game, the letter tiles change colors to show how close you are to the secret word. If you guess “weary,” and the “W” turns green, that means the secret word starts with a “W.” If the “E” turns yellow, the letter is in the word but not in that spot. Any letters that aren’t in the secret word turn gray.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/wordle-what-is-word-game-11642016202?mod=life_work_lead_pos1

Are you playing Wordle? Do you have a strategy or do you wing it with guesses?

Parenting tip: When to keep your mouth shut

freestyle stroke in pool
My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead.” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that by trying to protect them from their upset feelings, I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

PAC 12 swimmers cheering on teammates
My daughter on the blocks cheering with teammates.

Are you a cat or dog person?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner now. For most of my life, I was cat and dog owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on nine years. We got her when my son left for college. He’s allergic to cats so we waited until he was out of the house. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though Olive would have done well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. Then my daughter got her pug Waffles and the two creatures don’t mix. Olive remains my only pet now. I worried about moving her from the only house and yard she knew in Palm Springs to our new home in Arizona. 

She used to go outside for about 10 to 12 hours each day. Now she’s strictly an indoor cat due to the wildlife around our house. So far we’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, javelina, hawks and owls. People warned me that cats wouldn’t last an hour outside. I was afraid she’d go nuts. I thought she’d sneak through my legs whenever I opened the door. But the opposite is true. Olive runs and hides under the bed if a door is cracked open. I think she must smell the danger outside.

Olive jumps in my lap for attention and she follows me around the house. She plays with her toys in the early mornings. Then she stoically stares out the sliding glass door at sunrise. Watching. Waiting. For what? I think she was cut out for the indoor cat life. 

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 study linked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs. But after Angus, our big yellow lab, who died at age 15, I just don’t want to go through the heartache again. Right now. In the future we’ll see.

 

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie, and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

Image-1

Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

At what age should kids start school?

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The big kids with their little sisters.

One of my school mom friends Jean and I would chat for a few minutes after dropping the big kids off (big as in Kindergartner.) We both had daughters who weren’t old enough for school and they loved to play together on the playground while we waited for morning assembly in the amphitheatre.

The school, St. Theresa’s, had a lovely tradition of welcoming parents to morning assembly, where each week a class was assigned the duty of reading Bible versus and announcements.

One day, while the youngers were on the swing sets, the kindergarten teacher asked us if we wanted our young girls to start school the next year.

“No!” I exclaimed. “She’s three!” My friend Jean concurred.

“I know they’re young,” the teacher said. “But I think they’re ready.”

Apparently our overly bright first-borns were making quite the convincing argument to start our second children early. But no. I wasn’t for that. It was around that time that another teacher cornered us on the playground because our darling little girls were heard using foul language! That’s a story for another day.

I read an interesting article today in the Washington Post about ‘Redshirting’ your kindergartner: Is it the right choice in the long run? This article by Lisa L. Lewis discuss the opposite approach. She talks about her own son, who she held back a year because he barely made the cut age wise and she didn’t think he was ready.

If all had gone according to plan, my son would have been one of the older kids in his grade throughout his school years. Even though he turned 5 by our state’s kindergarten cutoff date, we agreed with his preschool teachers’ assessment that he didn’t seem emotionally ready and “redshirted” him by delaying kindergarten for a year.

It worked well for a time, but by second grade, his teacher was regularly sending him next door to a third-grade classroom for math and reading. Just a few weeks into the school year, she told us he really should be in third grade.

I resisted. While the second-grade boys still had small traces of softness, the third-graders had none. Some were a head taller than my son. They wore Nikes, and he still wore Stride Rites. With his emotional immaturity and small-kid vulnerability, masked by a tart-tongued bravado, I worried he’d flounder socially with the older kids.

But he was already struggling, I had to admit, as I consoled him one afternoon during a fit of frustration. I asked if it was hard going to third grade. He said he wasn’t in third grade, or second grade, really, and he felt like he didn’t fit anywhere. He was crying, and it pained me that I’d inadvertently created a separate, lonely category for him, making him feel like an outsider in both classrooms.

As we learned, redshirting — even when done with the best of intentions and with input from educational professionals — may need to be reconsidered as your child develops.

The term “redshirting” originally referred to college athletes who sat out their first year to work on their skills without affecting their eligibility. The intent is similar for would-be kindergartners: By providing younger kids an extra year to develop physically, socially and emotionally, the expectation is that they’ll be better equipped to succeed.

Perhaps the most well-known arguments that support this come from Malcolm Gladwell, who devoted the entire first chapter of his 2008 book “Outliers” to the premise that being one of the oldest provides long-term advantages in school and beyond. In sports, just barely missing the cutoff date means you’re up to a year older than your teammates and likely more physically mature and coordinated. That increases the odds you’ll be a better athlete and thus given more opportunities, he argues, leading to what’s known as “accumulative advantage.” The same dynamic occurs in the classroom, he says.

More recently, a survey of data collected by Truven Health MarketScan Research Database between 2007 and 2015, which was published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that older kids are less likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder than their youngest kindergarten classmates.

That’s in keeping with the results of a 2018 report in Health Economics that Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, co-authored, based on children in Denmark. He found that older kids were better at self-regulation than their youngest peers, who tended to be less attentive and had higher levels of hyperactivity. As Dee explained to me, the extra year “often gives children more extended exposure to play-based environments, [which are] really critical for children’s capacity to develop self-regulation.”

My daughter had several friends who were born the fall. Yes, they were young for their grade. The difference in their maturity was noticeable up until second grade. They didn’t seem to have impulse control or be able to sit still for long times. By third and fourth grade it all leveled out and I forgot they were younger. I think they would have been bored to tears if they had been in the grade behind.

As far as sports, I’ve heard of families holding their kids back to get an advantage. Fortunately in swimming that doesn’t work. You’re put in age groups according to your birthday, not your grade level. That’s one more thing why I like swimming. The age is the age and the time is the time. There’s nothing subjective about it.

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Swim team friends at the beach.

At what age do you think kids should start kindergarten? 

 

When should parents not say a word?

 

IMG_8584

My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead,” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that by trying to protect them from their upset feelings, I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

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Cheering on a teammate at the PAC 12 Champs.

 

 

What makes people happier? Dogs or cats?

IMG_3419

Olive

I’m a cat owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on eight years. We got her when my son left for college, because he’s allergic to cats. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though she’d do well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. We figured Olive likes her life here and I don’t think she’d do well to move to a new house. So, Olive remains my only pet now. I like it that way.

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 studylinked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs, too, but currently are empty-nesters as far as the pups go. My daughter has Waffles the pug, who I get to babysit occasionally. I raised him from puppyhood for several months until she was able to come home and take him.  It’s kind of what I think grand-parenting will be like. I love having Waffles around and then I miss him when he’s gone. But, I don’t miss the daily responsibility.

Growing up we had big dogs. Golden retrievers, a doberman, German shorthair pointers and a yellow lab. As an adult, my husband and I got Natasha as a gift from good friends. She was a rottie and a housewarming gift for our first home. That was before kids and she did make us happy. She was our baby.

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Natasha and my kids

Next pet was when someone found a kitten in their car engine on their way to work, and I ended up taking the poor sweet kitty home. That was Peabody, our second pet named for the cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle. Next came Sherman, who was a black cat that lived with us from kitten-hood to 17 years old when she wandered out of our yard and got attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Ugh. After we said good-bye to Natasha, we got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert. (I wrote about Angus here.) Angus lived until the ripe old age of 15.

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

Image-1

Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?