The week's best parenting advice: September 28, 2021
Instagram for kids hits a snag, what the science says about homework, and more
Instagram for kids? Not so fast.
Facebook's plan to develop a version of Instagram specifically for kids has been paused after The Wall Street Journal reported the company's own researchers "found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of" young users, "most notably teenage girls." Reports emerged earlier this year that Instagram was working on a version of its app for users younger than 13, but experts quickly expressed alarm over the idea, arguing Instagram's focus on outward appearance is harmful to kids' wellbeing. "Instagram perpetuates the myth that our happiness and ability to be loved are dependent on external things: For girls, it's appearance, and for boys, it's financial success," body image researcher Lindsay Kite, co-author of More Than A Body, tells The Washington Post. While the plan for the app is on hold, Instagram head Adam Mosseri defended it as a "good idea" worth "developing."
The pros and cons of homework
How important is homework? The answer depends on a kid's age. While more homework is positively associated with achievement for high-schoolers and middle-schoolers, this isn't the case for kids in elementary school, reports Melinda Wenner Moyer at Is My Kid the A**hole? One survey found 4th graders with more than 30 minutes of math homework per night actually had lower math test scores. And yet, even some kindergartners are devoting 25 minutes to schoolwork each night. Academics aside, does homework help build character and facilitate resilience? There's not much research to suggest it does. "Many educators and psychologists therefore argue that elementary school homework is, for most students, more of a burden than a boon," using up time that could be spent doing really important developmental things, like imaginative play, or even resting. "Maybe, after such a trying year, schools will recognize that the emotional health of their students should be priority — and that homework doesn't provide much of a benefit," Wenner Moyer says.
Should pregnant women avoid Tylenol?
A new scientific paper supported by nearly 100 scientists and doctors warns that taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) during pregnancy could be linked to fetal development problems. That's distressing news for pregnant women, whose options for pain-relieving drugs are already very limited. More than half of women use acetaminophen to treat aches, pains, and fevers during their pregnancies — should they be worried? "This new consensus statement calls for caution, but not concern," write Luke Grzeskowiak and Debra Kennedy at The Conversation. Existing studies on acetaminophen and fetal development aren't definitive, but we know for sure that uncontrolled fever, for example, can harm a fetus. So as is the case with taking any drugs, expectant mothers must weigh the benefits of taking acetaminophen against the risks. Its use during pregnancy "should be discussed with a health-care professional and used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration," Grzeskowiak and Kennedy write.
Many a child has turned up her nose at the sight of broccoli on her dinner plate, to the chagrin of health-conscious parents. But it turns out a distaste for this vegetable might come down to more than just stubbornness. A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that enzymes in some kids' saliva make vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage taste repulsive. "In other words, some kids simply can't help hating" some veggies, writes Patrick A. Coleman at Fatherly. Adults with these enzymes in their saliva eventually outgrow their distaste through years of exposure, so parents shouldn't abandon hope. But if you're going to encourage vegetable consumption, follow your kid's taste buds rather than torturing them at mealtimes. Instead of broccoli, maybe offer carrots or peas instead. "Sometimes the best way forward is to offer understanding and alternatives and then try again later," Coleman says.
What 'Ted Lasso' can teach teens
Over the last year or so, Ted Lasso, Apple TV's show about an American football coach hired to boost the prospects of a struggling London soccer team, has won over millions of viewers. And while it is generally a gentle show with incessantly optimistic plot lines, it's also laden with profanities and locker room humor. Is it appropriate for kids? Whit Honea writes at The Washington Post that his teen boys love Ted Lasso, and he is very happy to let them watch it because the show subverts "toxic stereotypes regarding male athletes" and is a "master class in positive relationships, mental health, and modern masculinity." He lauds its themes of forgiveness and how it deals with challenges like grief and anxiety. "The examples of healthy relationships are downright inspiring," Honea says.