Tag Archives: Children

To the Carpenter

How early is too early to get a cell phone? I have nieces and nephews that get their first phone or Android-based electronic device as young as five and six. Children in high school and even middle or elementary school are becoming emotionally dependent on these seemingly ubiquitous devices. From online lessons and homework to simple entertainment, cell phone use is quickly supplanting face-to-face outdoor activities for indoor sedentary ones. But for every benefit, there appears to be a hidden cost.

For instance, it appears to be linked to an increase in teen depression and suicide rates [1]. Since 2012, there have been several spikes in the rates of suicide and depression, for those who spend three or more hours a day, regardless of what content is being consumed.  The article offers suggestions on how to manage children’s time online and even goes so far as to say 14 is a good time for kids to get a cell phone.

But high school is an especially tumultuous time in the development of a teenager. They are just as likely if not more to withdraw from the world, either through social media, video games, or some other form of escapism. A phone would only exacerbate that. Further, the suggestions only treat the symptoms; the underlying cause remains relatively unknown. Certainly, everyone has their favorite political agenda, and are more than happy to co-opt these mental health issues to lend moral imperatives to their respective crusade.

To the carpenter, the whole world is a nail, and it’s easy to reframe an issue to take advantage of new data, new trends, or new crises. When you’re focused on how society has wronged you, any perceived slight is a good reason to tear it apart. And who feels more wronged than teenagers? Give them a popular cause and they’ll zealously support it just to fit in. They won’t stop until well into their 30’s when they start to question the relative worth of fitting in over finding out who they are and being themselves. If they ever question it. Young activists often find their ideals indistinguishable from their identity within a group and on occasion rarely move past that.

So what cause can we give the youth of today to positively channel their angst? Because rest assured, they will find something to throw their time and energy at. When they do, we have to be prepared to reap the rewards.


[1] https://www.npr.org/2017/12/17/571443683/the-call-in-teens-and-depression

Cover Photo from Pumpic

Magic Touch

The eyes were sunken into the head of the blue-tinted body, which smelled of a familiar decomposition, similar to that dead cat she’d been forced to dissect in science class. Death was a new sensation for Charlotte, her first time experiencing it on this mild spring day. Remembering her parents discussing a missing man from their small town, Charlotte deduced she had found him. What a triumphant victory. Her feet stumbled as she ran away, but not before she had taken special notice of the decaying corpse that lay still. About a mile away – or five in the eyes of a child – was the closest road and she followed it home. Only able to conjure a light sleep, Charlotte dreamed of the deterioration she had left behind.

Creeping carefully down a path laced with hemlock, Charlotte walked along the steps she’d taken during the day. Diverging from the road, she traced an unbeaten deer path to the end of a row of trees. She knew where to go from the circling buzzards. Near a secreted lake where cattails grew like wildflowers, the body lay stagnant. The water revealed the carefully hidden body, partially submerged. Now he was more recognizable than before; he looked almost alive.

“How is this possible?” she whispered to herself in horror.

Remembering what her science teacher had told her about death and the decomposition cycle, how decomposition was a quick and unforgiving process, she began her cycle of curiosity.

She leaned in. Getting a closer look at the corpse beneath her seemed to dull her interest, but it didn’t quite satisfy it. She noted his missing shirt, swollen belly, blue tint that seemed less blue than before. She found a nearby stick. After poking his chest, she was unsure what to do next. He didn’t budge. Charlotte wanted to touch him, to feel how cold he was. She leaned in once more, now with a more devious intent. Curiosity took over her mind and body as she placed her delicate finger on the corpse’s shoulder.

Charlotte’s hand touched the shoulder of the dead man, and she was jolted awake by the shock of his reaction. She jumped out of bed, ran to her window to see what time it was. She noticed it was light outside; her parents must be at work. She grabbed a light jacket and slammed her feet into her lighted sketchers. The door crashed shut.

“Curiosity took over her mind and body as she placed her delicate finger on the corpse’s shoulder.” Photo from: www.planetside.co.uk

Charlotte knew her path. Led only by fear, excitement, curiosity, and hungry birds, she flew down along the hemlock trees and trampled the deer trail. She disturbed the lake with her feet, unable to slow her erratic pace. She looked at the body and was immediately relieved that it was all a dream. The man lay there, as blue as when she’d left him eight house ago, perhaps more.

For good measure, Charlotte had to recreate her nightmare. She leaned in, took a stick and poked his chest. Nothing moved but the water supporting the body. Looking at the unnatural hue of his face, the question crept into her mind. Do all corpses decompose this quickly? A proper girl would have pushed the thought far from her mind, but Charlotte allowed herself to dwell on the idea for several minutes before continuing with her endeavor. She reached her hand towards his shoulder. Noticing every crevice the decomposition had left on the body, she was careful not to deviate from last night’s dream.

She didn’t have time to process what his skin felt like until a blue-black, half decomposed hand appeared, grabbing hers.

Sexual violence alters the female brain

A new study in Scientific Reports found that prepubescent female rodents who mated with sexually experienced male rodents expressed reduced maternal behaviors necessary to care for offspring, could not absorb information as well, and had increased levels of anxiety caused by hormones.

Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz
Sexual violence alters the female brain, increases anxiety and impacts learning capabilities.  Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz

According to lead author Tracey Shors, this study is vital to understanding how sexual violence affects all living organisms, adding that it’s necessary “to know the consequences of this behavior in order for us to determine what we can do to help women learn to recover from sexual aggression and violence.”

Shors works in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences as a professor.

According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of women worldwide experience some kind of physical or sexual assault in their lifetime and young, prepubescent girls are much more likely to be victims of assault, attempted rape, or rape. Recent surveys show that as many as one in five female college students experience sexual violence while on campus.

Females who experience sexual violence are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, PTSD and other mood disorders. In spite of the indisputable relationship between mental health disorders in females and sexual trauma, very little is known about how violence affects the female brain. According to Shors, that’s due to the fact that there has not yet been an established laboratory animal model for researching the affects of sexual violence and behavior on brain function in females.

The Sexual Conspecific Aggressive Response (SCAR) model, developed by Shors and her team, sought to determine how stress associated with sexual violence affected female rodents.

Despite the fact that it’s normal for female rats to care for their offspring the females in this study that interacted with the adult male all through pubescence did not show as much maternal behavior as females that were not exposed to the adult male. Less generated brain cells were present in the females that did not learn to care for their offspring when contrasted with females that exhibited maternal behavior.

Although researchers don’t know if this type of sexual violence would have the same effects in humans, research has shown that sexual violence is one of the most likely causes of PTSD in females, which is linked with diminished brain functions related to learning and memory. The offspring of females who experienced sexual violence are at more serious danger for suffering traumatic experiences themselves as they age.

According to Shors, little is known about the brain mechanisms that affect the increase in depression and mood disorders among women who experience trauma from sexual violence, adding that along with these new methods, “we can find out how the female brain responds to aggression and how to help women learn to recover from sexual violence.”

Free-range parenting is the best kind

Parents come in various packages with different levels of strictness and different ideas about who they want their kids to be. Some parents are more hands-on and work as unofficial assistant coaches at their kids’ games while other parents just let their kids do whatever it is they wish to do. There’s no perfect parent — even great parents have been criticized in some shape or form. There’s no right way to be a parent, although there are many wrong ways. However, I believe that the best kind of parents want their kids to be happy more than anything else.

Some parents imagine their kids being doctors and never let go of that idea. Parents have many different ideas and expectations about who their kids will be. Many parents need to realize that their children are going to be their own people, and will likely have a different view of who they want to be or where they want to go. Growing up and becoming  different from what your parents imagined is absolutely okay.

I recently read a Tumblr post by a grocery store cashier. One day at work, a man and his son came in to buy beer and cigarettes. As the dad loaded his items on the belt to be rang up, the little boy placed a drawing pad on the belt. As the cashier began to pick it up, the dad became angry and accused his son of putting the drawing pad on the belt without asking him. Heartbroken, the little boy pleaded with his father, saying he ran out of drawing paper. The dad called his son “gay” and refused to spend money on the drawing pad. The cashier, sympathizing with the little boy, gave the drawing pad to the boy free of charge. Later that day, however, the cashier went outside and found the drawing pad, torn, laying in the parking lot.

Parents are quick to discourage their kids when they go down paths they deem to be risky. Many parents of artists spend time worrying about how their child will make a living. I’m not a parent, but I think parents need to realize that money doesn’t equal happiness. If a child is passionate about something, let them do it–even if it’s risky. Investing a little extra faith in your child will give them the confidence to be successful and happy.

I feel fortunate that growing up, my parents never expressed their expectations too harshly. My parents never made me feel that I had to choose a specific route, so long as I was happy. My parents have been incredibly encouraging of my siblings and me. Even if what we’re doing isn’t exactly what they want for us, they continuously encourage us in everything we do. Although there’s no perfect way to be a parent, I feel like the luckiest kid on Earth because of the endless support my parents give me.

I don’t believe you have to be a parent to believe that certain practices will work better than others. Even though I have no intention of having children, I think it’s important to recognize things things that will affect how a child grows up.

Being a parent looks so challenging to me. I appreciate parents who work hard for their kids, but I also feel that certain expectations will lead their child to pursue a path that they’re not happy on. Being encouraging and supportive will allow the child to grow into a productive, happy member of society instead of a broken, stressed out adult.

Should non-vaccinated children be barred from pediatricians?

The anti-vaxxer movement has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Many parents think that vaccines are related to autism. This idea may’ve taken root when Jenny McCarthy came forward and announced that she believed her child developed autism because they were vaccinated.

This fear inspired many medical studies. Although no studies show a link, there isn’t absolute proof that autism can’t be caused by vaccinations. However, with the many studies that show no link to vaccines and autism, I think it’s safe to assume that link doesn’t exist.

An infant with measles. Graphic from Janie Maitland
An infant with measles. Graphic from Janie Maitland

Many parents cry that it’s their choice to vaccinate their child or not. Just as many parents don’t like others interfering with the way they raise their child, many parents also aren’t comfortable with someone telling them how to care for their child. Although I’d be annoyed if someone told me how to raise my child, I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree, but I do look at the latest research–which tells me that there are more benefits to vaccines than there are dangers.

Recently, a measles outbreak occurred at DisneyLand in California. The source was a child who hadn’t received the measles vaccine, due to a parent’s concerns that the vaccine would have adverse effects. Because of this outbreak, many parents who had once fought against the standard vaccination schedule changed their mind and rushed to have their children caught up on vaccines.

A recent segment by NPR addressed an idea brought about by concerned, vaccinating parents: pediatricians should bar parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Many may argue that this would keep children from receiving other medical care. However, Dr. Bob Sears’ office had a great idea: give parents who choose not to vaccinate a date to start having their child caught up on vaccines. This would pressure parents to vaccinate their child immediately, or risk losing treatment for other illnesses.

Some argue that this is infringing on parents’ right to choose care for their child. I believe that parents who believe that measles, meningitis or chicken pox are lesser threats than autism, shouldn’t be parents at all. I’m not a parent, but if I ever became a parent, I would be furious if my baby were infected with a deadly disease by a child who could’ve been vaccinated. Just as some parents are charged with child abuse for faith healing,parents who choose not to vaccinate against deadly diseases should be charged with murder if their child happens to die of a disease that could’ve been prevented by vaccination.

Even if there was a link between vaccination and autism, I would much rather care for a child with autism than have to bury my child. I simply can’t imagine being a parent and not doing everything possible to protect my child.

Overall, I think barring parents who choose not to vaccinate is a very smart idea. I think there has to be an extreme level of inanity to choose otherwise. Science has brought us so far and given us the wonderful gift of health against preventable diseases. Who wouldn’t take the risk, especially when the risk is virtually non-existent?

Jimmy Kimmel vs. YouTube

For the third year in a row, Jimmy Kimmel came back into the spotlight with his annual Halloween candy prank. In the prank, parents are asked to film their kids’ reactions when they tell them they ate all of their candy the day after Halloween. Hundreds of parents submitted videos of their heartbroken kids in tears for the chance to make it big on this viral YouTube video with over 21 million views.

While a good majority of people take the joke at face value, there seems to be an overwhelming number of people who can’t understand for the life of them why someone would pull a prank on their child.

My favorite YouTube comment read something like this, “This is NOT funny. I don’t know why anyone would laugh at this. I don’t know what kind of parent would ever dream of causing a moment of distress for their sweet, innocent children!”

Boy, would I have loved to be your child.

Have none of these people ever had siblings? Have these people really never been pranked before? Have we forgotten what a joke is? More importantly, did they miss the part where all of the kids in the video were able to laugh it off as soon as they were told it wasn’t real? Congratulations, angry parents of America — the kids in the videos have thicker skin than you do. In fact, I’m pretty sure even RU res-hall toilet paper is tougher than you, and that’s really saying something.

Another common argument is that these people are bad parents and that their children will be emotionally scarred and have trust issues for the rest of their lives. While I believe every child has a different level of emotional stability, I’d be the first to argue that the only bit of bad parenting in these clips is the fact that these parents raised their children to get violently upset over something like candy. If anything, it speaks well of the kids who were told their candy was all gone and shook it off like champions.

When did it become socially acceptable for a parent to tell another parent that their method is wrong? As long as none of the kids looked like they had been beaten or otherwise mistreated, there should be no reason for a parent to say something like that based on 30 seconds of footage.

In the real world, you’re going to get pranked. You’ll meet mean people and you’re going to have hurt feelings. The only tragedy is that the children of these overprotective parents are going to have little to no experience with dealing with stressful situations or heartbreak. Playing jokes on your kids doesn’t give them lifelong trust issues. It gives them a spine, a sense of humor and it also tells them that you’re not a stick-in-the-mud parent.

We need to bid farewell to the days when people get offended on someone else’s behalf for a pointless cause. We need to stop looking for the damsel in distress in every situation and stop pretending that we can white knight our way through life and come out looking like anything but an arrogant jerk. At the end of the day, a joke will still be a joke, and the only way to truly combat hurt feelings is to make your feelings harder to hurt.

Middle child syndrome: Myth or reality?

We’ve all heard families who joke about the middle child having “middle child syndrome,” a disease that supposedly causes the middle child to struggle to find their place in the family. Middle child syndrome is also rumored to have other consequences, such as depression, low self-esteem, psychotic behavior and more. But how much truth is there to these family rumors? Continue reading Middle child syndrome: Myth or reality?

Moving can negatively impact children

Moving is a rather common event for American families. Chances are, you have moved at least once in your life. In 2002, 13 percent of American families above the poverty line had moved at least once. However, that number rose to 24 percent below the poverty line. Findings reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that moving multiple times can lead to emotional, behavioral, and school problems for children. Continue reading Moving can negatively impact children

Iceland considers banning Internet porn

The government of Iceland recently announced that it’s studying ways to ban Internet pornography in their country. They have set the precedent to be able to do so because printed pornography has been banned there for many years and strip clubs were banned two years ago. The reasoning behind these bans is that these institutions exploit women and threaten the mental health of children.

Having freedom of speech so engraved in my mind because of American culture, it’s difficult for me to fathom that a modern government would have the audacity to try to ban such a form of expression, even if some find it objectionable. I understand there are circumstances where women are taken advantage of or even coerced into participation, and I acknowledge that it’s certainly possible children who are exposed to pornography may develop negative side effects. However, just because bad things could happen ought not to be the litmus test for what is acceptable and what is not. Continue reading Iceland considers banning Internet porn

Yes, Virginia? A question of belief

I’ve been babysitting for almost a decade, and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with exceptionally bright and fascinating children. I was only 11 when I started working — in retrospect, just a kid myself — and have never really gotten past a distinct  feeling of camaraderie with all of my young charges. I don’t pretend to understand every four-year-old’s whims (or the average preteen’s preoccupations), but I do have a certain sympathy with my kids’ complaints and struggles.

Considering, then, that this is the most wonderful time of the year, it only seems fair to address one of the weightiest and most consuming questions facing modern American childhood — one on which I happen to hold a very particular view. I speak, of course, about the belief in Santa Claus. Continue reading Yes, Virginia? A question of belief

Effects of television on children’s development

The effects of television on children is a subject that has been studied many times over. Because of the worry about its link with aggression and obesity in children, many researchers have scrutinized this topic. In this day and age there are more than ten screens in any given household with television sets, computers, and hand held devices. In these fast-paced times it becomes too easy for parents to plop their children in front of the television to keep them occupied while they are busy. Continue reading Effects of television on children’s development

Parental involvement promotes academic success

It seems obvious that children with parents who are involved in their education would have better academic success. They have a good support system, someone to help them with homework and projects (maybe too much) and the motivation to make their parents proud. An interesting question, however, is how does their performance compare to children who go to good quality schools but have little parental involvement? With a good school comes good teachers, a positive learning environment and encouragement to do extracurricular activities, which would certainly help children academically. Continue reading Parental involvement promotes academic success

Turn off the tube

When I was growing up, my family never had cable and didn’t get a DVD player until I was in high school. We rarely watched TV and if we did it was usually the morning and nightly news. To this day, we still don’t have a TV in our living room or in any of our rooms. I thought this was normal until I came to Radford University.

My roommate and I didn’t have a TV in our room our freshman year and everyone in our hall thought we were crazy. When I got my first apartment, I didn’t get a cable subscription and my friends also thought I was crazy. When I said I didn’t particularly want to get cable for our apartment this year, I was quickly overruled. I never realized how obsessed Americans, especially young people, are with TV.

According to the FCC, the average child has spent the equivalent of three school years in front of a TV before they enter first grade. By 18, an average American child will have watched more than 10,000 hours of television—an entire year and 51 days.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons.

Am I the only person who’s disturbed by these statistics?

My friends have always teased me for not seeing as many movies or TV shows as they have. I was always the “lame” one who never saw anything. “Star Wars”? Never seen it. “Casablanca”? Never seen it. “Lord of the Rings”? Not interested. “Jersey Shore”? You couldn’t pay me to see it. I guess this makes me “lame.”

My friends ask me, if I didn’t have cable growing up, what did I do with all of that time? I read books and newspapers. I spent time outside. I did arts and crafts. I carried on conversations with other people. I went out and lived my life instead of watching other people’s lives through their fake storylines. My parents believe that TV dumbs us down and there are much better ways to spend our time, and I’d have to agree. After reading the FCC statistics, I have to wonder how much children miss out on because they are too busy watching TV.

Now that I’m on my own and I get to call the shots, I will admit that I watch more TV than I used to. But that doesn’t mean that I sit around and watch it as much as the average person does. Sometimes when my brain is fried and I’m trying to relax, I’ll turn on the tube for some background noise. I have a Hulu account so that I can track the shows I do watch. But I also make sure that I buy a newspaper at least once a week and follow the news online.

I think it’s more important to follow actual news rather than fictional or “reality” news. I try to carry on conversations with some of my classmates about current events, and I’m sad to say that many of them can’t keep up. I won’t apologize for knowing the names of the Republican presidential candidates instead of the “Jersey Shore” cast.

Who’s the lame one now?

Our shameful generation

Graphic by: Marie Stovall

I’m pretty open about most things. I’m pro-choice, a supporter of gay marriage and all for comprehensive sex education for middle and high school students. But there are some instances where I would have to agree with the staunchest of conservatives on the recent course our society has taken. Our generation is, in my view, worse than ever about being self-centered and disrespectful toward each other. Most seem to only want those instances of self-gratification without being concerned of the consequences it has on the rest of us.

First off is our generation

Pit bulls

Creative Commons

This is going to be kind of a rant, but I feel like someone needs to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Whenever people talk about Michael Vick, there is the undertone of dog fighting. I personally feel like he should rot in jail for the rest of his life and that he should not be able to be in the NFL. For those of you who claim that I am just another girl who loves darling puppies, well you’re absolutely correct. I love animals; I volunteer at an animal shelter, and I have owned animals all my life. So yes, I am biased. To say that what he did wasn’t wrong is absolute bullshit.

I’m not here to talk about Vick, though he dug his own grave and is constantly talking. The pit bulls are the ones who are looked down upon. Whenever you hear a statistic about dog fights or dog attacks, pit bulls seem to always make an appearance. I think most people overlook the fact that they are quite possibly the most abused breed of dog. If someone fed you gun powder, starved you, chained you up for hours and beat you, you wouldn’t be a very happy camper either.

If you want to generalize an entire breed, then that is your issue. But you could do that with anything; you could say that all people from the North are Yankees who are rude and have never worked hard in their entire lives. I am from the North, I’m not even sure what a Yankee is, and I’m not rude (most of the time). And I used to ride my bike 10 miles to work every day and then work on my feet for eight hours.

My aunt has had pit bulls as long for as I can remember. Number of fatalities: ZERO. In fact, they are some of the sweetest dogs I have ever met in my life. They have never attacked anyone. There are about 30 people in my family and most of them are children. Yes, the statistics on them are not good. I will be the first to admit that they are some of the easier taunted dogs, but any animal which is pushed will snap. I have a friend who got attacked by a raccoon, because he tried to pet it.

My dog is a rescue dog from hurricane Katrina; her mother was a Corgi, but she doesn’t look like one. If you went up to her and tried to pet her without her knowing you, she would bark and possibly snap at you. She tolerates my 4-year-old brother climbing on her and tormenting her and doesn’t even growl, but strange people make her nervous. Dogs have the innocence of babies. No, they are not babies, but mentally they are like babies. All their thoughts are innocent and are probably about dog treats, tennis balls and grass.

Pit bulls are given a bad name because they are assumed to be dangerous. If they are raised correctly and with love, then they will be nice. If they are abused and chained up all the time, they will be not so nice. Just don’t base your judgments on nothing more than speculation and non-factual biases based on a type of dog breed. If you have children, maybe pit bulls won’t be your ideal pet. Be smart with your choice in dogs as you are in other things. All I’m saying is don’t judge a dog by its breed; judge it based on its personality.