The week's best parenting advice: July 28, 2020
The case for outdoor classrooms, America's teen-stalking problem, and more
The case for moving school outdoors
What are we going to do about school? That's the question looming over parents as the academic year approaches and the coronavirus pandemic continues. Elementary school occupational therapist Lisa Raymond-Tolan has a suggestion: Move classrooms outside. The virus seems to spread less outside, but learning outdoors has other benefits: It could encourage children to be more physically active, and foster learning through play. "I've seen how much more grounded, focused, and ready to learn children can be after intensive movement-based play," Raymond-Tolan writes at Chalkbeat. She adds: "The very act of taking school outside removes restrictions on what we imagine learning to be." Raymond-Tolan imagines story time under shady trees, math lessons using tools of nature like rocks and sticks, and writing lessons with "good old fashioned chalk on asphalt." Of course, there are logistical hurdles, she concedes, including getting kids outfitted for inclement weather. "But the least restrictive learning environment this fall? That would be outdoors."
File under 'statistics that keep parents up at night'
A troubling study suggests that nearly half of all teenagers in America have been the victim or perpetrator of stalking. Specifically, 320 kids between the ages of 12 and 18 were asked "whether a dating partner had ever spied on or followed them, damaged something that belonged to them, or gone through their online accounts," according to the study published in Youth & Society. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they'd been stalked, and 42 percent admitted to doing the harassing themselves. "These victimization and perpetration numbers are unacceptably high," says Dr. Emily Rothman, professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health and the study's lead author. Risk factors varied slightly between girls and boys. For girls, being in a relationship at a younger age was among the factors associated with a higher risk of stalking or being stalked; for boys, having a bad relationship with parents was associated with a higher risk of stalking.
Can newborns catch COVID from mom?
New research suggests mothers who contract COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the illness along to their newborn babies. The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, looked at 116 mothers who tested positive for the disease and found zero cases of viral transmission to their infants. But it's worth noting the precautions put in place: Mothers wore masks, and babies remained mostly in enclosed cribs six feet away except while breastfeeding. Still, this research is encouraging. "What we now know is the risk of the newborn becoming infected around the time of birth is low when safety precautions are taken to protect the baby," the study's lead author Dr. Karen Puopolo tells CNN. The researchers conclude that newborns do not need to be separated from their COVID-positive mothers immediately after delivery, and "the well known benefits of early mother–neonate bonding and breastfeeding should be prioritized."
A screen time slowdown
"I have never, ever, spent this much time with my children, or anyone's children, as I have over the past four months during shelter-in-place orders," writes self-defined "screen time expert" Anya Kamenetz for NYT Parenting. Like many parents, she's come to think slightly differently about what constitutes a "healthy balance" of screen time for kids during a global pandemic. As TVs, phones, and tablets continue to provide a lifeline for working parents and home-bound children, Kamenetz recommends parents "look for media that are slower." For younger kids, consider skipping the cartoons and opting instead for read-aloud video stories with pictures, which "are harder to consume compulsively and make the brain do a little more work," she writes. For older kids, audiobooks and podcasts are good options. "Not all content is created equal," Kamenetz says. "Extremely fast-paced media are suspected to challenge attention spans."
Turn that racket down
Speaking of kids and gadgets, now is a good time to remind you that ears are sensitive, and headphones can cause permanent hearing loss. "In general, 85 decibels is considered about the loudest volume that is safe to hear for a limited amount of time," writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. But most devices can hit up to 110 decibels, which, according to the CDC, can damage hearing in mere minutes. How can you make sure your kids' headphones aren't doing any harm? First, consider getting children's headphones, which tend to be more quiet. As a general rule, if your kid can hear you speak when you're two or three feet away while they're wearing headphones, they're safe. If not, they're in the danger zone. "And if you can hear sound coming from their headphones at that distance, it's definitely too loud," Moravcik Walbert says.