Archive for the ‘Children’ Category
Free to Learn: Why unleashing the Instinct to Play will make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through. In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.
To foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better—and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling. A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children’s lives and promote their happiness and learning.
A critical step in devising effective responses to child abuse and neglect is reasonable agreement on the definition of the problem and its scope.
At a minimum, any recent act or set of acts or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Publications on child abuse and neglect have increased more than threefold over the past two decades, documenting significant advances in the field. Among these are: (1) research on consequences of child abuse and neglect has demonstrated that they are serious, long-lasting, and cumulative through adulthood; (2) the consequences include effects on the brain and other biological systems, as well as on behavior and psychosocial outcomes; and (3) rigorous research has been conducted on interventions to address the problem. Yet despite these gains in grasping the scope and scale of the problem, as well as identifying some general preventive approaches with proven effectiveness, much of the research evidence also underscores how much remains unknown. The causes of child abuse and neglect need to be understood with greater specificity if the problem is to be prevented and treated more effectively. Also needed is a better understanding of what appear to be significant declines in physical and sexual child abuse but not neglect; why children have differential sensitivity to abuse of similar severity; why some child victims respond to treatment and others do not; how different types of abuse impact a child’s developmental trajectory; and how culture, social stratification, and associated contextual factors affect the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul”, Nelson Mandela says, “than the way in which it treats its children”. Who would disagree? Yet today children may be assaulted, diseased, or killed by pervasive corporate drugs, junk-foods and beverages, perverted by mindless violence in multiple modes, deployed asdead-end labour with no benefits, and then dumped into a corporate future of debt enslavement and meaningless work. How could this increasing systematic abuse be publicly licensed at every level? What kind of society could turn a blind eye to its dominant institutions laying waste the lives of the young and humanity’s future itself?
The abuse is built into the system. All rights of child care-givers themselves – from parent workers to social life support systems – are written out of corporate ‘trade’ treaties which override legislatures to guarantee “investor profits” as their sole ruling goal. Children are at the bottom, and most dispossessed by the life-blind global system. The excuse of “more competitive conditions” means, in fact, a race to the bottom of wages and benefits for families, social security, debt-free higher education, and protections against toxic environments to which the young are most vulnerable. At the same time, escalating sales of junk foods, malnutrition, and cultural debasement propel the sole growth achieved – ever more money demand at the top.
Children from poor families cope by hiding their situation from teachers and peers. The study sheds light on the demanding circumstances under which poor children interact with other children – and adults. At home a poor child will tend to take more responsibility in an attempt to tackle and mitigate the family’s economic situation. They don’t nag their parents for money and they alert them well ahead of time if they will need money for something. Another coping strategy these children use is to be withdrawn in social situations. The children told the researcher that not having money for bus fare or trendy brands of clothes is less of a concern than the impact of their poverty on their relationships with other kids. The problem is not that poor children are bullied, excluded or stigmatized because of their situation – in fact, this does not happen that all that often. But problems arise because poor children often exclude themselves socially to conceal their situation. Their peers might then see them as being boring or weird. The link between humiliation and poverty doesn’t seem to be obvious to anyone except poor children themselves. The invisible child.
The league table opposite presents the latest available overview of child well-being in 29 of the world’s most advanced economies. Five dimensions of children’s lives have been considered: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment. In total, 26 internationally comparable indicators have been included in the overview. The table updates and refines the first UNICEF overview of child wellbeing published in 2007.
The Netherlands retains its position as the clear leader. Four Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – sit just below. Four southern European countries – Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – are placed in the bottom half of the table. The bottom four places in the table are occupied by three of the poorest countries in the survey, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, and by one of the richest, the United States. Overall, there does not appear to be a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being.
The middle years of childhood – from 9 to 14 years of age – are a time when children make some of the most crucial transitions in their lives. Children undergo the physical changes associated with puberty as well as rapid social and intellectual development. It is also the time when children move from primary school to high school and generally become more independent of their families, as friends and others in the community assume greater importance in their lives and begin to take greater risks. The inquiry highlighted the importance of after-school activities, which are thought to be critical to children’s healthy development and engagement. The time spent between school and home is an opportunity for children to participate in activities that build personal competence and confidence, and more generally to explore their broader world. Yet, there is limited research evidence about how children in the middle years spend their time after school, and what they would like to be doing. This exploratory research, conducted during 2012, seeks to add to the evidence base that is informing the development of a middle years agenda.
The latest childhood studies present children’s citizenship as a process of engaging in matters related to children themselves in their everyday lives. However, only a few studies have been conducted on what those issues are and what they actually tell about children’s citizenship. This study explores the nature of children’s participation and citizenship by adopting a life world perspective. The aim is to examine what kind of issues children want to participate in and influence. The data are drawn from an online discussion in the Finnish Children’s Parliament. Altogether 61 children participated in the discussion, with 566 postings. The analysis of the children’s online discussion shows that children comment mainly on issues that directly impact their lives, such as school. However, they also want to engage in issues that are global in nature, such as children’s general well-being.
As a psychologist, Madeline Levine has seen firsthand how children today are unraveling under pressure. In order to “succeed,” children take stimulants to study or cheat regularly to maintain their grades. They also resort to unhealthy ways of coping with anxiety such as substance abuse or self-mutilation. What the heck are we doing to our kids? We are hyper-parenting them. At every level of their educational development we are subjecting them to strict measurements.
L’Académie des sciences vient de publier un rapport sur la relation des enfants aux écrans, un rapport qui tord le cou à nombre d’idées reçues sur le sujet et fait le point sur les connaissances scientifiques, éducatives et neurobiologiques. L’Académie a souhaité éclaircir les bases scientifiques de nos usages excessifs des écrans. Un rapport qui a voulu insister pas seulement sur les effets délétères des écrans – des effets qui existent, qui influent par exemple sur le temps de sommeil, l’attention, mais de manière plus rare qu’on a tendance à le penser – mais surtout sur les effets positifs de notre exposition aux écrans et notamment de l’exposition des plus jeunes aux écrans. Elle souligne notamment, que s’il peut y avoir des effets de dépendance, on ne saurait parler d’addiction aux écrans. L’addiction est réservée aux drogues, au tabac, à l’alcool et aux jeux d’argents. Et les écrans, définitivement, ne relèvent pas du même type d’activité.
Lire aussi: L’enfant et les écrans