Damage Done By Emotionally Immature Parents Can Have a Long Term Impact on Children

Mandy* says her mother has always had a controlling streak. In something of a nightmare scenario for most kids, when Mandy was 10, her mum got a job at her school. “My mother was telling me who I was and I wasn’t allowed to be friends with. She was prohibiting most people I made friends with,” Mandy says.

“She would actually leave her post during my lunchtime to see who I was hanging out with and if I was following her orders.” Mandy is now in her late 20s. Until a few years ago, she says her mother was still trying to control what she wore — going as far as to pre-approve what she could buy.

“There was one day where I was wearing an outfit that she didn’t like the combination and she started freaking out to the point where she went up to the door and blocked my exit. She would not allow me to leave the house,” Mandy says.

Mandy says the control extended to what she ate, and she developed an eating disorder between the ages of 11 and 15. “She was always incredibly controlling of what I was eating, always watching every move.”

Mandy says as a child, she would make decisions to please her mother and prevent fights in the house, which left her stressed and insecure.  “Part of that insecurity led me to a period in my teens where I was suicidal for quite a long time, and I had a suicide attempt when I was 15,” she says.

She argues that her mother’s immature behaviours — controlling various aspects of her life and reacting angrily when Mandy didn’t follow the rules — has caused her significant problems as an adult.

Who are these emotionally immature parents?

Mandy’s experience isn’t uncommon. In her practice as a clinical psychologist, Lindsay Gibson has come across many people with similar stories. Ms Gibson was “astounded” at the emotional immaturity of parental behaviours reported by clients.

“As I’m listening to them I’m thinking, ‘oh my gosh, her father is acting like a four-year-old, or her mother sounds like a 14-year-old’.” Ms Gibson has seen a range of emotional immaturity – from parents who can be volatile and hysterical, through to those who are cold and rejecting. Many also exhibit controlling behaviours.

She’s encountered this problem so often, she wrote a book about it. These troubled relationships can have significant long-term impacts on children when they become adults themselves, she says. One of these impacts can be a disregard for their own feelings and instincts.

“They [the parent] teach you to doubt yourself and mistrust your emotional needs, and you can imagine how that plays out later when that person has to figure out what they want to do for a living or decide who to marry,” Ms Gibson says.

“All these things that have to come from an internal sense of guidance.” Mandy isn’t a client of Ms Gibson’s, but says what Ms Gibson describes is similar to the impacts her mother had on her. She finally moved out of her parents’ home last year and has since started seeing a therapist.

“Sometimes a trauma response isn’t just like having panic attacks, sometimes it’s also being a people pleaser because I just want to lessen the conflict.” Ms Gibson argues that emotionally immature parents grew up at a time when there was little emphasis on the emotional needs of children.

Instead, the focus was on the physical needs of children — things like reducing levels of child labour and malnutrition. That changed around the middle of the century. “Around about the 1950s, there was a paediatrician, Benjamin Spock, who began to push this idea that children had emotional needs and that meeting the child’s emotional needs had tremendous importance in their adult life. And so there was an awakening,” Ms Gibson says.

Going no contact

The main strategy advised by psychologists when it comes to parents who may be overbearing or manipulative is to set firm boundaries or guidelines around how other people can behave towards you. Examples of behaviours people might push back on include unwanted visits, or unwelcome advice about how a child is being raised, Ms Gibson says.

“And if you learn how to say no in whatever awkward, frightened, shy way that you want to say no, but you just continue to say what your limits are, that really works pretty well, because emotionally immature people are not prepared for repetition,” she says.

“That’s a very hard thing for an adult child to do, but it can be done and that’s the way to do it.” Boundaries are something Mandy says she tried to establish with her parents many times over, but for her it never quite worked. “And of course it all got worse when they realised that I was queer. I kept establishing boundaries around it where I was like, ‘look, my identity is not up for debate’. That was completely dismissed,” she says.

By 2020 she had finally saved enough money to move out of her parents’ home for good. She’s had no contact with them for the past six months. Mandy now helps run an online forum where adult children who have difficult relationships with their parents can swap survival stories, share encouragement and try to heal.

As for how to be a good parent? Ms Gibson says at its core, it’s simple.

“All you have to do is to not only love your child, but be able to see your child as a unique individual who has a real internal world of their own, where everything is just as important as it is to the adult, and there have always been parents who had that sensitivity, thank goodness,” she says.

By: Sana Qadar and James Bullen for All in the Mind

Source: Damage done by emotionally immature parents can have a long-term impact on children – ABC News

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Critics:

Melitta Schmideberg noted in 1948 how emotional deprivation could lead parents to treat their children (unconsciously) as substitute parent figures.”Spousification” and “parental child” (Minuchin) offered alternative concepts exploring the same phenomenon; while the theme of intergenerational continuity in such violations of personal boundaries was further examined.

Eric Berne touched on the dangers of parents and children having a symmetrical, rather than asymmetrical relationship, as when an absent spouse is replaced by the eldest child; and Virginia Satir wrote of “the role-function discrepancy…where the son gets into a head-of-the-family role, commonly that of the father”.

Object relations theory highlighted how the child’s false self is called into being when it is forced prematurely to take excessive care of the parental object; and John Bowlby looked at what he called “compulsive caregiving” among the anxiously attached, as a result of a parent inverting the normal relationship and pressuring the child to be an attachment figure for them.

All such aspects of disturbed and inverted parenting patterns have been drawn under the umbrella of the wider phenomenon of parentification – with the result (critics suggest) that on occasion “ironically the concept of parentification has…been as over-burdened as the child it often describes

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References:

  • R. A. Gardner et al., The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome (2006) p. 200
  • Gregory J. Jurkovic, ‘Destructive Parentification in Families’ in Luciano L’Abate ed., Family Psychopathology (New York 1998) pp. 237–255
  • Jurkovic, p. 240
  • Jurkovic, in L’Abate ed., p. 240
  • Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (Penguin 1970) p. 249–53
  • Virginia Satir, Peoplemaking (1983) p. 167
  • Adam Phillips, On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored (1994) p. 31
  • John Bowlby, The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds (London 1979) p. 137–38
  • Karpel, quoted by Jurkovic, in L’Abate ed., p. 238
  • Satir, p. 167
  • Bryna Siegal, What about Me (2002) p. 131
  • Harold Bloom, Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (2007) p. 142
  • Diana Brandt, Wild Mother Dancing (1993) p. 54
  • Jurkovic, in L’Abate, ed., p. 246-7
  • Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of the Neuroses (London 1946) p. 510-11
  • R. K. Holway, Becoming Achilles (2011) Chapter Five ‘Fathers and Sons’; and notes p. 218–19
  • Siegal, p. 114
  • Jurkovic, p. 237
  • Paula M. Reeves, in Nancy D. Chase, Burdened Children (1999) p. 171
  • Katz, Petracca; J., Rabinowitz (2009). “A retrospective study of daughters’ emotional role reversal with parents, attachment anxiety, excessive reassurance seeking, and depressive symptoms”. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 37 (3): 185–195. doi:10.1080/01926180802405596. S2CID 145504807.
  • C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London 1983) p. 69
  • Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Times (Penguin 1978) p. 77
  • Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1990) p. 174
  • Murasaki Shikiki, The Tale of Genji (London 1992) p. 790
  • Nina S. “Unwilling Angels: Charles Dickens, Agnes Wickfield, and the Effects of Parentification”. Dickens Blog.
  • E. D. Klonsky/A. Blas, The Psychology of Twilight (2011) Nancy R. Reagin ed., Twilight and History (2010) p. 184–85 and p. 258-9

Empathy Helps Explain How Parental Support Can Prevent Teen Delinquency

A new study of nearly 4,000 school children has found that youngsters who feel they have empathic support from their parents and caregivers are verging away from a wide range of delinquent behavior, such as committing crimes.

Published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Moral Education, the research, which drew on data surveying children over a four year period from when they were aged 12 to 17, also shows that those who received empathy were less likely to execute acts of serious delinquent behavior, compared to those who simply felt they had supportive parents.

In addition, the new findings — out today — demonstrate that parents/caregivers who display greater empathy enhance their teenagers’ own development of empathy, or the ability to acknowledge and understand the feelings of others.

The results follow an investigation of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children data source, which features a series of interviews with 3,865 boys and girls across Australia over the period when delinquent behavior first tends to appear.

Author of the paper, Professor Glenn Walters from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, USA, states his findings demonstrate that parental support, as perceived by the child, plays a “small but significant role” in the development of empathy in early adolescent youth.

The Associate Professor of Criminal Justice adds: “Empathy in youth also appears to have the power to mediate the negative association between perceived parental support and future juvenile delinquency.”

The study was launched to expand on results of several previous articles which investigated the relationship between parental support and delinquent behavior in teenagers. The proposition is that strong parental support reduces the propensity for such behavior. However, the results have been mixed.

Forensic psychologist Professor Walters wanted further clarification. Could parental support and delinquent behavior include an indirect relationship, rather than direct, and be mediated by another factor: high levels of empathy?

To find out, he first scrutinized two interview sessions where the children were asked about their level of parental support as they perceived it, and their development of empathy. To determine parental support, they were asked to rate statements such as “I trust my parents” and “I talk to my parents.” To assess empathy, they were asked to rate statements such as “I try to empathize with friends,” and “I try to make others feel better.”

In the final session, when they were 16 or 17, they were asked how often they had engaged in 17 delinquent acts in the past year. These acts varied in their seriousness, from drawing graffiti in a public place to purposely damaging or destroying property to using force or the threat of force to get money or things from someone.

Using a variety of statistical techniques, Professor Walters found that empathy did indeed appear to mediate the relationship between parental support and delinquent behavior. Children who reported more parental support tended to have higher levels of empathy, and these children were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.

“What the current study adds to the literature on the parental support-delinquency relationship is a mechanism capable of further clarifying this relationship,” Walters says. “The mechanism, according to the results of the present study, is empathy.”

He does concede, however, that other factors such as social interest and self-esteem may also play a role in mediating the relationship between parental support and teenage delinquency, and says these factors should be explored in future research.

Walters also suggests, in future research, empathy should be measured from a younger age and that new criminalities such as cybercrime — not included in this data set — should be assessed.

By Taylor & Francis Group

Source: Empathy helps explain how parental support can prevent teen delinquency: Study on 4,000 children monitored over four years, finds children who felt their parents were empathic were less likely to commit serious crime — ScienceDaily

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Journal Reference:

  1. Glenn D. Walters. In search of a mechanism: mediating the perceived parental support–delinquency relationship with child empathy. Journal of Moral Education, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2021.1872511
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4 Things Employers Can Do to Support Parents Working Remotely

Life is different now, particularly for working parents who were suddenly given a second full-time job when daycare and schools shut down and are still faced with uncertainty as summer comes to an end.

I won’t pretend to have any idea what the parents of school-aged kids I work with are dealing with right now. They are doing amazing work in a situation that’s far from ideal. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure parents feel supported right now. Here are a few ways we’re doing that at Zapier. 

Be flexible about meetings.

Sometimes parents will be late to Zoom meetings. Kids are home instead of attending school or daycare. They’re bored, they’re frustrated, and they miss their friends. Parents are trying to keep their kids on track at school, making sure they eat their lunch, and hoping against hope that no one pours an entire gallon of milk on the carpet. Leaders need to be patient and understanding. 

Kids will barge into video calls too — a lot. Remember: Not everyone has a home office with a door that closes. Even if they do, kids are going to barge into rooms they’re not supposed to be in. Give parents a minute to see if they can get their kids back on track; if not, offer to postpone the meeting.

Avoid frustration. Instead say hi to the kid. It’s an opportunity for them to learn a bit about their parents’ work. Doing this helps put everyone at ease. 

You don’t always need a meeting.

Time is an increasingly scarce resource, particularly for parents. Not every decision needs a meeting. Many decisions can happen over email, chat, or in the comment section of a shared document. This is called working asynchronously, and it’s a huge part of what allows remote workplaces to function efficiently. It’s especially important now. 

Just keep in mind that sometimes decisions can get stuck while working asynchronously and when that happens you’ll likely need to escalate to a live meeting.

People’s working hours won’t be normal–and that’s okay.

One of the best things about remote work is flexibility. This is essential to working parents right now, who are juggling way more responsibilities than usual. It’s important that leaders don’t just tolerate the unpredictable schedules but actively embrace it.

Parents at Zapier take advantage of this flexibility even under normal circumstances–it’s even more important now. Some wake up early, work for a couple of hours, then use the rest of the morning to focus on their kids before getting back to work in the afternoon. This allows them to trade off parenting duties to their significant others, many of whom are also working full-time jobs while parenting. It doesn’t matter when work gets done, only that it gets done. 

Create a sense of community.

Every situation is different, but all parents are up against a massive challenge right now.

At Zapier, we have a channel on Slack specifically for parents, where folks share pictures, advice, and stories about lockdown parenting life. A bunch of grassroots activities started there. For example, there’s a virtual “take your kid to work day,” where kids of employees host a Zoom presentation for other Zapier kids. Highlights so far include “My Favorite Toys” and “Lego Show and Tell.” It’s one way parents can build community (and also keep the kids busy for a while). 

And it’s not just parents who can support each other. If you’re not a parent, ask the parents you work with what they need, and what their schedules are currently like. If they’re working on a high-priority project, offer to help. 

Don’t overlook the importance of community–it’s vital, now more than ever. 

By Wade Foster, CEO and co-founder, Zapier

Six Things to Do When Your Aging Parents Have No Retirement Savings

It sounds like the makings of a sitcom, but your parents may end up rooming with you if they haven’t started saving for retirement.An analysis for the Harvard Health Letter using U.S. Census Bureau data concluded that some 3.4 million people aged 65 or older were living in a grown child’s home in 2016.

Before you start counting the ways your life will change once your parents move in, prepare to do some information gathering. Your parents may not have much in savings, but the faster you can get their finances in order, the better off you’ll all be.

1. Get your siblings on board 

Start by having an informal chat with your siblings to share perspectives. Has anyone already had this conversation with mom and dad? If so, how’d it go? Also find out who’s willing to join forces with you to ensure your folks have a good plan for the future.

2. Invite your folks to an open conversation about finances 

Your parents may be defensive about their financial situation, so it’s important to set the tone carefully. Do your best to treat this as a shared circumstance. You’re not fixing or blaming. You’re simply looking out for them by planning for their future.

By starting the conversation with an offer to help, you can keep from playing the blame game. You might say, “Mom and Dad, I’d like to help you guys plan for your later years. Can we set aside some time to talk about financial stuff?”

3. Ask for the numbers 

It may feel better to talk about finances in generalities, but to be successful, you need to resist that urge. You can be most helpful when you know how much your parents spend, their income, what they own, and what they owe. It’s also useful to chat openly about how stable they think their income is. For instance, Mom may plan on working another 20 years, but things are more complicated if she’s worried about getting pushed out next year.

When you understand their income outlook, you can broach the topic of Social Security benefits, and help them strategize on when to take those benefits. If they aren’t sure where they stand with Social Security, help them set up an online account withmy Social Security. And while you’re at it, see if they’ll share passwords to their other financial accounts in case you need to check in on those.

If your folks have a ton of debt or are borrowing to cover their expenses, help them find ways to spend less. Review their credit card statements and checking accounts for subscription services they don’t use, encourage them to shop around for cheaper rates on home or auto insurance, and introduce them to streaming TV so they can cancel cable.

A consistently high grocery bill is a harder challenge to tackle. You might introduce them to a grocery delivery service to minimize impulse purchases. A produce delivery service can also eke out some savings, as these focus on less expensive, seasonal produce that’s locally sourced.

Once your parents’ spending is in line with their income, every bit of savings should go towards paying down the debt.

5. Consider downsizing on homes and cars 

If your parents are open to it, downsizing now may result in more freedom later. Selling an extra car raises some quick cash to pay down debt, and also reduces insurance and maintenance expenses. Downsizing the home may be a tougher conversation to have, but it’s worth exploration. A smaller place that’s fully paid off provides a lot more security for your parents than a bigger place with a mortgage. Ongoing maintenance and expenses will be less, too.

6. Brainstorm new streams of income 

Even after you help your parents streamline their debt and expenses, they probably won’t have access to the traditional, work-free retirement lifestyle if they haven’t been saving diligently for years. That’s not to say they’ll be fully dependent on Social Security either. They could start up aside hustle to generate income and protect their lifestyle.

Veterans Day free food: 100-plus restaurants have deals for vets, active military Monday Here are 3 great reasons to take Social Security benefits at 62 Engage, ask questions and observe when investing in stock market ‘Ford v Ferrari:’ Cars from the upcoming movie take center stage Medicare Part B premium 2020: Rates and deductibles rising 7% for outpatient care

The joint effort pays off 

A little teamwork between you and your folks could have them on sustainable financial ground in just a few years. In other words, the best way to head off the parent-roommate situation is to start those tough conversations now.

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Source: Six things to do when your aging parents have no retirement savings

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More Canadians are living well into their eighties. Chances are that many of us will be involved in caring for at least one aging parent and will be concerned if their retirement savings will be enough. Planning ahead will help ensure your parents’ financial independence and for you – piece of mind. BlueShore Financial advisor David Lee explains the nuances of financial planning for aging parents, including RRSPs, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Long Term Care Insurance and more. Learn more about helping your parents with their financial plan: https://www.blueshorefinancial.com/We…

13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

Raising mentally strong kids who are equipped to take on real-world challenges requires parents to give up the unhealthy — yet popular — parenting practices that are robbing kids of mental strength.

Of course, helping kids build mental muscle isn’t easy — it requires parents to be mentally strong as well. Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.

Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, avoid these 13 things:

1. They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality

Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances.

2. They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt

Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.

3. They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe

It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.

4. They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices

Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.

5. They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them

Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power.  Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.

6. They Don’t Expect Perfection

High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.

7. They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility

You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.

8. They Don’t Shield Their Child From Pain

It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.

9. They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions

It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.

10. They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes

Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.

11. They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment

Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.

12. They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort

Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.

13. They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values

In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the international bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do and 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do. …

Source: 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do

30+ Fun Photos Of My Family That I Took To Fight Boredom – ​Kate Weiland

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My name is Kate Weiland. I’m a happy mother of three kids and the creator behind the delicious (and totally ridiculous) photography food series Our family bites (#ourfamilybites). I’ve always been a massive supporter of the fine arts and having taught Drama and Dance for many years, I was eager to get into the photography side of things. The forced perspective photography technique has been especially interesting to me – I knew it would be fun to start a series where our family could look back and just have a good laugh. The outfit ideas are endless and I’m eager to create and present new designs…..

Read more: https://www.boredpanda.com/creative-mom-family-photography-kate-weiland-kweilz/?utm_source=mix&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic

 

 

 

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How to Support a Partner Struggling with Depression – Eric Ravenscraft

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Being in a romantic relationship when one (or both) of you suffer from depression is a massive challenge. Depression can make your partner seem distant. They may feel like they’re a burden or close themselves off. None of that means your relationship is the problem. You two can tackle this together. Here’s how…..

Read more: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-support-a-partner-struggling-with-depression-1717700336

 

 

 

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Why I can’t stop posting my kid’s photos and sharing him with the world – Philip Bump

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Obsessive photo-sharing isn’t new to the social media world. The instinct has long been there; it’s just that it used to require a lot more overhead. In the 1970s, for example, there was the post-vacation slide show, in which relatives and friends of the lucky travelers had the bad luck to be buttonholed into two hours of photos with lengthy you-had-to-be-there anecdotes.Then there was the business-guy-with-pictures-of-his-kids-in-his-wallet, something that ingrained itself in my mind so robustly that to this day I think I should be carrying around physical pictures of my son Thomas (as though I don’t have a small metal-and-glass rectangle that contains more photos of Thomas than existed in the universe before 1900)……

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/why-im-posting-my-kids-photos-and-sharing-him-with-the-world/2018/08/30/f0cd085a-9cda-11e8-8d5e-c6c594024954_story.html?utm_term=.cdbeb354f68b

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Parental Debate: Should Your Kid Have a Cellphone in School – Edward C. Baig

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Lawmakers in France recently passed a ban on the use of smartphones in schools, impacting students in their early to midteens. In U.S. school districts where digital device policies are all over the map, parents and teachers are divided on how to curb or permit phone use in the classroom.

Some schools have students stash their phones in their lockers – as they do for middle schoolers in my Northern New Jersey town. Others have kids place them in a canvas “pocket chart” – essentially a hanging shoe organizer – in the classroom.

What most everyone agrees on is that screen-time addiction is a problem for young and old, an issue that companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are finally tackling with recently announced software updates. You hear all too often how kids who are fixated on smartphone screens are only modeling the behavior of their parents. (It’s also not unheard of that a teacher also may use a phone in the classroom, to check on his or her own family at home.)

According to nonprofit family media watchdog Common Sense Media, 24 percent of kids from 8 to 12 years old have their own smartphone and 67 percent of their teenage counterparts do, with tweens using an average of about six hours’ worth of entertainment media daily.

Compounding the confusion is the age at which families give their kids a phone – often, but not always, when the youngster is about to enter middle school. But what  effect does a kid who has a phone that’s visible at school have on a classmate who doesn’t have his or her own handset?

Some schools implement “one-to-one” programs to provide computers, tablets or other mobile devices to each student. Other cash-strapped districts may have to share tech gear in the classroom. And some educators may even encourage students to bring their own devices for class use.

It’s safe to assume that most schools aren’t about to dictate to a parent that a kid can or cannot use a device on the way to or from school, though some do actually ask families to sign commitments to temper tech use.

Keeping all this in mind, here are some of the arguments made for and against a stricter cellphone-use policy in schools.

Why cellphones should be permitted in schools

“Have a plan, not a ban,” says Liz Kline, vice president for education at Common Sense Education in the San Francisco Bay Area, a group whose  mission is to help kids thrive in a world of media and technology. “There are legitimate learning contexts for using devices in the classroom,” Kline says, whether students are making movies or studying photography.

Kline acknowledges that digital distraction is “totally real,” and she recognizes that setting up the classroom norms for when it’s appropriate to use a phone – and when it is not – is not a simple matter.

Lisa Highfill, an instructional technology coach at the Pleasanton Unified public and secondary school district in Pleasanton, California, believes letting students have phones helps them prepare for higher education and eventually the workplace. “How many people go to work each day and turn their phone in?” she asks. “To me, getting ready for career and college is learning how to avoid the distraction of your phone.”

Educators should have dialogs with students about when and why kids feel compelled to pick up their devices, she says. “Teach students how to refocus, how to take care of something that is really nagging at them and then move on and put it away … Self-monitoring is a lifelong skill that we have an opportunity to integrate into our lessons.”

Of course, there ought to be times when phones are put away or even collected by teachers, no questions asked, namely during test time. Indeed, some students use the devices to cheat.

Safety concerns are also often given as a reason to let kids have devices at school. When there’s an accident or tragic incident, the presence of phones lets parents get in touch with the kids, and the kids can get in touch with a parent.

“Phones are as much for peace of mind of parents as they are for kids,“ says New York City-based social media coach Sree Sreenivasan, a parent and co-founder of the Digimentors consulting firm.

But parents may also try to reach the youngsters under more routine circumstances.

“I ask kids all the time, who do you normally get texts from during school? Their friends, of course,” Highfill says. “But their mothers are texting them, and it’s actually very practical. ‘Don’t forget to talk to your math teacher’ or ‘don’t forget you have this appointment at the end of the day.’ ”

Kline adds another dimension to the let-kids-have-phones-in-school argument. In some lower-income areas where there’s concern surrounding the digital divide, the school might offer the kind of speedy internet access that is not available at home. “I think there is some nuance around this,” she says.

And then there’s this argument: Restrictions just might not work.

“I really believe that the more rules and restrictions you put on top down, the more kids will just work to try to work around those rules. And they’re good at it, the best hackers,” Highfill says.

When her IT department blocked Snapchat access at school, kids built their own server as a workaround. Highfill also knows of students who put their cellphone cases – but not the phones themselves – inside pocket charts to fool teachers.

In a scene from the "Screenagers" documentary, students

The case against phones in class

“When we’re asking these 12  to 13 year olds to carry the phone and not be on them, we 100 percent know that’s not happening,” says Delaney Ruston, a physician and director of the documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age.” “You can go into any classroom or ask any middle schooler, and they will tell you consistently how they and/or their friends are sneaking being on the phones during class times.”

The consequences? According to the “Away For The Day” initiative Ruston developed with the team behind “Screenagers” to try to institute policies requiring phones to be put away, 56 percent of middle schools allow students to carry phones on them all day, yet 82 percent of parents don’t want their kids using phones there.

The Away For The Day website cites various academic studies that point to potential negative outcomes of classroom phone use. In one such study, 75 percent of teachers reported that the attention spans of students have decreased. In another study, students regularly interrupted by text messages had test scores that were 10.6 percent lower.

Ruston believes that putting the phones away can improve a child’s emotional well-being in school and help with their focus in and out of the classroom.

And while she recognizes that a teacher might ask a kid to pull out a phone during a given lesson, “to do X, Y, Z … the reality is that many of these kids now on their personal device have gotten so many notifications that they’re actually not going to whatever the teacher is saying they should be doing, but instead sending and receiving messages or going onto their video games.”

“You’re already going to have those struggles with (school supplied) educational devices,” Ruston adds, “but it gets exponentially more challenging when it’s a personal device.”

Even if a device on a student’s desk is turned off, the worry is that it still becomes a distraction.

Ruston also dismisses the safety argument. She pointed to an NPR report in which security experts have said that letting a kid have a phone in the classroom during a lockdown makes them less safe, not more. When students should be quiet, for example, a ringing or vibrating phone might alert an assailant where kids are hiding. Parents trying to reach youngsters in an emergency might jam communications and interfere with first responders. And the kids might miss instructions from the authorities.

But Ruston concedes that “that’s not to say there’s not an emotional upside for a parent.”

 

 

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