Raising the First Generation of Internauts!

January 18, 2011

We’re one of those families that doesn’t have a television.  But that doesn’t mean that my kids are free of the habit of sitting in rapt attention in front of a blaring screen with what we do have: DVDs and Internet.  The way I see it, the computer-with-DVD-and-Internet option is better than broadcast television for two big reasons:

1. No junk-fook commercials.  I have enough trouble trying to teach them good eating habits without having Ronald McDonald singing to them daily, and

2. More options and more variety.

Advantage #2, naturally, has a big disadvantage: my kids can accidentally stumble onto stuff that’s not appropriate for kids.  However, I’m happy to report that we really haven’t had a problem with this at all.  We have a small and very centrally-open apartment, and the kids’ room opens directly onto the central living room and my office.  When they’re on the Internet, I’m always at least passively aware of what they’re doing.  And the worst thing they’ve found so far was that conspiracy theory video that I wrote about on Rational Moms way back when.

On the other hand, they’ve continued to find and watch science videos.  If the kids land on the odd creationist video, my guess is that it’s actually good for them to encounter this sort of stuff in the wild and practice their own brains on it.  (They’re curious to learn about religion, as we learned at my parents’ house, and I think it’s good for them to be exposed to it.)  And more often the kids stumble onto other random fun stuff like these Potter Puppet Pals.

Also, advantage #1 (no junk-food commercials) isn’t as straight-forward as it may appear.  Young kids generally can’t tell the difference between the content of a website and the ads around the edges.  The ads are often the flashiest thing on the page.  And they often visit websites where the whole site is, frankly, an advertisement.  Their current favorite website is Lego.com where they’re treated to all sorts of videos and video-games about all of the Lego sets they can buy.  As a result, they’re clamboring for the newest Lego sets even before they’re available in stores!

(7-year-old) Leo’s latest discovery is that practically every product has a website.  He’s proud of this discovery, and every time he identifies something as a web address (on a package, on an advertisement, on the side of a truck…) he points it out.  And if it’s a product he likes, he then wants to type it into the browser to see what comes up.  That includes cookies:

So far, this brave new type of direct-to-kid advertising hasn’t been too much of a problem for me and my little family.  I still think they’re getting more interesting and more educational fare on the Internet than they’d get from broadcast television.  Have you other parents’ had a similar experience?  Any insights to share?

p.s. I’m in the running for some blog awards, and I hope people won’t object if I drop here this link so you can have a look at my entries, and maybe consider voting for me. ;)

Is anti-bullying education possible?

October 10, 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about anti-bullying education in schools. I have to admit that I was surprised when I first heard about it because bullying was always one of those “kids are like that” sort of things that I’d never questioned. But now that I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking that maybe it is possible to change it.

Let’s start with the reasons why I’m a little sceptical of the whole idea: Read the rest of this entry »

Changing diagnoses of kids’ learning disabilities

September 8, 2010

Recently I was talking with a fellow mom, and the subject of vaccines came up.  I explained that the supposed connection between vaccines and autism has no scientific basis, and the other mom asked, “Then how do you account for the increase in cases of autism?”  (Not in a hostile way, just a question.)

Without hesitation, I replied that it’s because of the change in awareness and diagnosis.

I’d kind of like to ask the folks here if you think that’s the right answer, or what you would have responded.  And also I’d like to tell you my (personal, anecdotal) reasons for my own response: Read the rest of this entry »

A Tour of the World’s Science Museums!

August 12, 2010

I’m chanson, I’m an expat (American in Switzerland) mom of two boys (ages 7 & 9), and I’m one of the Rational Moms. This is my first post here at Science-Based Parenting.

It’s funny how much the ending of the Curious George movie really sums up the way that science and technology museums have changed in the past few decades. You parents with young kids have probably seen this film — remember how the happy ending is that the museum trades in all the dusty, dry old exhibits for fun, interactive exhibits, face-painting, etc.?

Science is amazing and can show you things that will thrill you and fill you with awe.  But in our instant-entertainment culture, it’s a challenge for anything (even something as cool as science!) to compete with all the noise. Fortunately, a lot of modern science museums have really stepped up to the plate. At the same time, some of the more old-fashioned science museums can give you a real feel for how these scientific discoveries came about. Scientific knowledge isn’t something that just appeared out of nowhere by magic, and museum artifacts can show you how new discoveries were built through simple steps based on existing knowledge. So rather than suggesting that all museums need to dump their old stuff and get with the times, I’d recommend taking your kids to a variety of science museums and learning a little from each.

On the modern end, there’s the Swiss Science Center near Zürich. This place is amazing. It has several floors of giant, open halls full of little stations of different hands-on activities and experiments illustrating different properties of electricity, magnetism, physics, mechanics, optics, and, well any kind of science you can think of. Read the rest of this entry »