New Year, New Tech Habits

New Year, New Tech Habits

Addressing Digital Distractions when Helping with Homework

by Devorah Heitner, PhD, Author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Survive and Thrive in Their Digital World

Parents everywhere describe the scene. “Do you have any homework?” You ask as he grabs a cookie.

Your child’s teacher said to expect 45 minutes to one hour of homework each evening, but your kid has been sitting at her iPad for well over an hour.

Is she actually actually doing homework, or if she is playing games or chatting with friends? Homework that needs to happen on the tablet, chromebook or any digital device seems to talk longer.

Strategies to combat distraction

Here are some strategies to help you figure out what’s happening and to foster your child’s focus:

  • Are they really doing homework? Every time you look over, your child is engrossed in the device and doesn’t seem to be working. Is he obsessively checking fantasy football stats or thinking through a homework assignment? The textbook is open, but her phone is dinging. Another group text? If you think your child might be distracted, brainstorm with him on ways minimize any distractions. If your child has been using his tablet or laptop for some time, check in to see how it’s going.
  • Understand that kids don’t automatically know how to collaborate. Remember the group projects you used get assigned in school? Maybe you resented them; you’d rather just get things done on your own. Or, maybe you loved group dynamics and the fresh ideas that materialized. Digital tools make the logistics of collaborating easier, but they don’t make negotiating ideas and group work any easier. Sometimes teachers assign team projects assuming that kids already have the social skills to develop ideas together. Just like your kid needed to learn how to use the computer effectively, she also needs to learn how to collaborate. Guide your child to help set her up for success in her first team project. It may help to check in with a teacher to find out if there has been some guidance on the roles and expectations for each group member.
  • Set up balanced tech habits. Creating daily habits requires us to do less thinking about what we need to do next. When your kids were young, you set up lots of routines, such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, and getting to bed. Homework time is an excellent opportunity to set up new habits with school-aged children. If your children know that after they grab a snack and play basketball for a half hour or so, it’s homework time. The more a daily homework habit takes hold, the less you’ll fight with your children about homework. A tech habit to help your child get into is using only one screen at a time. If he’s working on a computer, there’s rarely a good reason to be using simultaneously using a smartphone.
  • Set a good example. Your child’s homework time is also a great opportunity to work on your own “homework.” Maybe you have a report to finish for work, some emails to finish replying to, or some bills to pay. Let your child see you focusing on your task at hand without pausing to check your smartphone, multitasking, or double screening.
  • Let them stop. If there’s too much homework, let your children stop before the homework is complete. For younger kids, you can let the teacher know, older kids can let the teacher know on their own that this is what’s possible for your child to do in the time allotted. If teachers don’t get that feedback, they won’t know. Many families struggle with this as kids feel like they need to do everything assigned. Even if your child prefers not to stop, if homework is interfering with sleep or eating or other things your child needs to do (including downtime) then it is up to you to pull the plug.  You can advocate with the school if your child is getting too much homework.
  • Mentoring over monitoring. This is a great opportunity to mentor them instead of merely monitoring them. Make yourself available for questions, but stay out of their homework business. If your child seems frustrated or disengaged, feel free to ask her how it’s going and offer to help, but don’t push. Your kids should be doing their homework mostly independently. So, as much as you can, be available to assist, but encourage them to solve problems on their own. You shouldn’t be crossing their Ts or editing their work in most cases. Brainstorming with them to plan how to achieve the needed focus is more productive than hovering.

Juggling College, Child Care Leaves Millennials Impoverished

Juggling College, Child Care Leaves Millennials Impoverished

by Allie Bidwell, Education reporter for U.S. News & World Report

People say millennials are a lot of things – more educated, more entitled, more likely to have student debt. They’re also more likely to be parents, oftentimes while they’re working toward earning a college degree.

Samantha Maggiani, 25, is completing her master’s degree in social work from Texas State University next month. She’s juggled being a full-time student with also holding a full-time internship and being a full-time mother to her 4-year-old son, Kenneth. Maggiani became pregnant toward the end of her general education coursework at a local community college, and started her work toward a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston–Downtown with a newborn child in January 2012. Although she was able to rely on her boyfriend – her son’s father – to work enough to pay the bills, the three were far from any family who could help babysit, and Maggiani found herself constantly balancing school with her parental duties.

“There were often times I couldn’t go to school because I couldn’t find a babysitter,” she says. “I couldn’t have my boyfriend not work because he was the breadwinner, he was paying the bills. So school kind of took the back burner to living, basically.”

A new report from the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles highlights the obstacles many young parents face, including the startling fact that they’re significantly more likely than past generations to be living in poverty. The report, written by Konrad Mugglestone, found 1 in 5 millennial parents lives in poverty. Among the 4.8 million college students who have children, nearly 43 percent – around 2 million students – lived below the federal poverty line during the 2011-12 school year, according to data from the Department of Education.

That’s because young parents, particularly college students, have several financial responsibilities to balance, and few resources to help.

“When you have a kid, obviously you have a lot less time in your day,” Mugglestone says. “You need to probably be working to support them, and if you’re trying to go to school as well, you’re really not going to have that many hours to devote to your education.”

Added responsibilities and a lack of support is particularly a problem for student parents – research has shown that family responsibilities are among the top reasons students with children drop out of college.

But there are more student parents than ever before. While the proportion of student parents has remained relatively stable, the absolute number has jumped from around 3.2 million in 1995 to 4.8 million in 2011, according to a data analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, federal funding for campus-based child care hasn’t kept pace. Despite the burgeoning number of student parents, the proportion of community colleges with child care on campus has fallen from a high of 53 percent in 2003-04 to 46 percent in 2013; the proportion of public four-year colleges with child care resources decreased from 54 percent to 51 percent in about the same time.

And even when colleges and universities do have child care options on campus, they’re often very pricey and sometimes even more expensive than options outside of the school, says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of the institute.

Colleges and universities “don’t necessarily see the link between investing in campus child care and student success,” she says. “They sometimes see it more as an extra, a perk, something that’s the first thing to cut if they need to trim the budget, or something that somehow should be paying for itself.”

It’s also a problem that many colleges don’t have solid statistics on how many of their students have dependent children, Gault says. What’s more, many college education reforms pushed by large foundations and the Obama administration, Gault says, are more focused on improving curriculum and learning, delivering online education and addressing issues with adult basic education, but less focused on supports for students, such as accessible child care.  READ MORE





By “J”, a Child Care Center Director
For the safety and security of the children and to provide a “real” perspective on child care, “J” has chosen to remain anonymous….for now.

It’s unnatural for adults.

It’s abnormal-if you will.

Thank God for children.

It’s incredible when you put some thought into the fact that children are born unbiased. They come into the world non-corrupt. Unscathed human beings. I find joy in seeing kids doing something that so many years of civilized existence could never produce – unity. Strong word huh? It’s a powerful word and an even stronger act. From toddlers to pre-k children I see children play, work, and most impressively stick together. Never underestimate the power of a connection built on the love of Transformers. I’ve meet many princesses in my early educational day, but to see so many work together is a rarity indeed.

I did a classroom observation last week for one of the preschool classrooms. I say my hellos and hugs as I enter and try to fade into the wall to watch the learning take place. Centers/Areas were set with theme related tasks and the students went to their chosen areas. A decent mix of boys and girls begin to communicate on the task at hand. White, Chinese, African-American, Samoan, they all work together. They laugh, they debate, they ask questions, they unite. After a few minutes the children regroup with new partners and start the dance all over again.

The innocence of not knowing bias is…productive. As someone who has worked in childcare for almost ten years now I don’t take the miracle of being surrounded by colorless love for granted. I taught middle schoolers for 3 years and despite the obvious hormonal issues pre-teens have, they come with a bucket full of preconceived unfounded notions. From age two to five children’s personalities shine like the sun, meaning it’s here and bright, whether you like it or not. The beautiful side to that is seeing the purity of experiencing socialization for the first time. It’s new, it’s raw, it’s the opposite of adulthood.

When I ask the class what they are learning today I get a variety of answers. To the teachers’ credit every answer was in the ballpark of what the lesson called for. I noticed that when I called on some of the quieter students they would shyly and slowly answer. I’d pause and nod waiting for them to finish which was clearly a bit too slow for their classmates who would blurt it out. One young lady got up during my Q&A and sat next to a student who hadn’t shared yet and whispered in his ear. She then raised her hand and let me know that her classmate wanted to share something. He did. Word for word she whispered the answers in his ear and he would repeat them to me. He was proud to share and she was proud to share with him. Small but powerful. Just like the word.