Why technologists are limiting their families’ screen time

Fears over the side effects of digital devices and social media are prompting tech experts to limit the time they and their children spend online.

Michelle Simmons is Australia’s most decorated technologist. So it may seem surprising that for her three children, aged 11, 14 and 15, smartphones and social media are off limits.

“I saw how addictive it was if they had phones or iPads with them at Saturday sport,” Simmons, the 2018 Australian of the Year, says.

Like many of us, Simmons has witnessed the unnerving spectacle of a small child utterly transfixed on a phone or tablet. “If you try to take a device from them before the age of five, you normally get a pretty strong reaction because they get addicted to it pretty quickly.”

The Scientia professor in quantum physics at the University of NSW doesn’t use social media herself, and seems to find it disheartening how frequently others do.

“You have got half an hour spare, and you can do something that might be quite productive or engrossing, or you can look at the phone. I often see people choose the latter.”

She’s determined to prevent this behaviour at home. “When children are young, they can get access to things they aren’t mature enough to know how to deal with. Limiting access, from that perspective, is about helping them to appreciate their childhood as much as they can.”

Read the full article from The Age by clicking this link

STEAM not STEM: Why scientists need arts training

In 1959, the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow delivered a famously controversial lecture at Cambridge University. He described a post-war schism between two groups — scientists and the literary world.

Snow identified this as a newly emergent divide, across which each party was more than happy to sneer at the other: Scientists proudly unable to quote a phrase of Shakespeare, and literary types untroubled by the second law of thermodynamics.

Those divisions within the university seem now more deeply entrenched than ever before. And those working within the arts and the sciences face a third antagonist in society: Populism, with its attendant and increasing distrust of intellectuals.

This powder keg occurs in a context of growing economic disparity and, incongruously, the increasing role of technological innovations in our daily life.

I’m a computer scientist who studies digital culture. I try my best to bridge the divides, but constantly ask the question: How can universities train our scientists, technologists and engineers to engage with society, as Snow suggested, rather than perform as cogs in the engine of economic development?

I believe we need our educational system to engage students with issues of ethics and responsibility in science and technology. We should treat required arts and humanities courses not as some vague attempt to “broaden minds” but rather as a necessary discussion of morals, values, ethics and responsibility.

Read the full article from thecoversation.com by clicking this link

“Fortnite” may be a virtual game, but it’s having real-life, dangerous effects

“They are not sleeping. They are not going to school. They are dropping out of social activities. A lot of kids have stopped playing sports so they can do this.”

Michael Rich, a pediatrician and director of the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, was talking about the impact “Fortnite: Battle Royale” — a cartoonish multiplayer shooter game — is having on kids, mainly boys, some still in grade school.

“We have one kid who destroyed the family car because he thought his parents had locked his device inside,” Rich said. “He took a hammer to the windshield.”

A year and a half since the game’s release, Rich’s account is just one of many that describe an obsession so intense that kids are seeing doctors and therapists to break the game’s grip, in some cases losing so much weight — because they refuse to stop playing to eat — that doctors initially think they’re wasting away from a physical disease.

Read the full article from the Boston Globe here

Boredom – The Cauldron of Creativity

Søren Kierkegaard said, “Boredom is the root of all evil.” Indeed, idleness has been looked down upon for centuries. Recent studies on the matter have brought much new information to light, but for many of us, the long-standing notion that a bored person needs an “activity” can lead to a reactionary approach if our child is bored. In a worst case scenario, a bored child places themselves before a screen. In a better scenario, we schedule them in activities to limit boredom or present them with a list of possibilities……..But, psychologists, neurologists and child development experts are now encouraging a third option: just let them be bored. No rescuing, no ideas, no schedule and no screens. Just let our children sit in the stew of inactivity. But why?

Read the full article from the Waldorf School of Philadelphia here

I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom.”

CBRSS congratulates Byron Bay’s Bundjalung people on their land and sea native title determination

Byron Bay’s Bundjalung people celebrate long-awaited land and sea native title determination

A native title claim for areas of land and sea around Byron Bay in northern New South Wales has been approved almost two decades since it was first lodged with the Federal Court.

“There is no fear in native title,” Ms Rotumah said. “Native title is a recognition of people’s rights and interests in lands and waters. It means [the Bundjalung] can continue to be sustained by the ocean, to go out and fish, and beach worm, get pippies — all those things we’ve been able to do, and now we’re having a rubber stamp put on it giving us the thumbs up.”

Read the full article by ABC news here.

How the iPhone rewrote the teenage brain

Lawyer and social researcher David Gillespie has been delving into the complex business of the teenage brain. He says the usual teenage compulsions like smoking, drinking and drug taking are in steep decline, as teenagers are now more likely to seek a pleasure hit from their screens.

But the games and social media apps they use are deliberately engineered to be addictive.

Unlike drugs and cigarettes, their devices are supported by parents, with few restrictions on their use.

Listen to an excellent interview with David Gillespie by Richard Fidler on the ABC’s Conversations here

David’s Book on this subject is called Teen Brain and is published by MacMillan

New Waldorf 100 Movie

“Becoming…” – a new film explores early childhood around the world in the 21st century.

On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Waldorf Education, Waldorf 100 in cooperation with the International Association for Steiner/Waldorf early childhood education (IASWECE) presents a film about early childhood today in the mirror of different cultures worldwide.

No age has a deeper impact on the whole of life than the first years of childhood. “During those first seven years, children develop their bodily foundation for life. They explore and experience the world with their senses and through meeting the other. These early encounters in life have a deep influence and long lasting effect on the making of their own being,” says Clara Aerts, coordinating member of IASWECE and co-producer of the film, which was shot in the USA, Israel, Japan, India, South Africa, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany. “The experiences that we make possible – or withhold – for our children at this age form the most elementary basis for their further lives and thus ultimately for the future of humanity.”

“Becoming…” is the third film in a series of short films produced on the occasion of the centenary of Waldorf Education under the direction of the award-winning Californian documentary filmmaker Paul Zehrer, and which provide an insight into the inclusive diversity of Waldorf Education under the most diverse cultural, social, religious and economic conditions around the globe. “Becoming…” was premiered at the international IASWECE congress “Inner Freedom – Social Responsibility”, which took place in April at the Goetheanum in Switzerland. The film is now available on the websites of Waldorf 100 and IASWECE.

Today there are almost 2,000 early childhood centres and around 1,200 schools worldwide that work on the basis of Steiner/Waldorf education. In 2019, the anniversary year, a large number of events, congresses and activities take place all over the world, dedicated to the challenges of the present and the future and involving pupils, parents and teachers alike.

Waldorf 100 coordinates these activities. On 19 September 2019, the central worldwide celebration will take place in Berlin’s Tempodrom.

For further information please contact Henning Kullak-Ublick, hku@waldorf-100.org.

Watch the video by clicking this link

I Don’t Want Parents to Feel Guilty, I Do Want Them to Trust Their Child More

Limiting screen time or even going full bore screen free has been equated with some kind of super-involved, activity-curating parenting. If you walked into my home, you would know this is quite a myth.

We may have more “messes” and odd “junk” lying around than the average family, but perhaps less parent involvement. I do love to play with my kids and do it quite often. But, my husband and I both work, I run every day, we always cook at home and like to talk to each other once in a while. That means I cannot possibly be playing with my children all the time.

Being Screen Free Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Take Time for Myself

“I need a moment’s peace,” or “I refuse to feel guilty about screen time when it’s the only way to make dinner,” imply that those parents who don’t utilize screens in this way take no time for themselves. I think it’s quite the opposite.

It’s actually rather narcissistic to believe that we are the center of our child’s universe. We are critically important, but make no mistake, your child is the center of their world.

Let me also say that I bear no grudge or judgment against parents who do use screen time in a limited fashion for specific purposes. However, I do disagree with the idea that it is typically necessary.

Being Screen Free Does Mean I Trust my Child

When I go for a run, do yoga, make dinner, read, talk to my husband, filter through permission slips and bills, or any other activity that requires my full attention, I trust my child to find something to do. This is called “self-directed play” and it means that I recognize the need to get out of my child’s way, at times. I think this sends a very different message than handing over a screen when I cannot pay attention. To me, handing over the screen seems kind of apologetic, “I’m so sorry I can’t pay attention to you. Because I feel guilty about that, here’s some curated, highly engaging content so you don’t have to be aware of my lack of attention”

I want my child to know I cannot pay attention to them sometimes. I want them to sometimes struggle with that. I want them to know that I believe they can do it. They can handle the struggle. They can find something interesting and creative to do that is far better than anything I could curate for them. I want them to have continuous small exposures to negative emotions (jealousy, boredom, loneliness), so they do not feel the need to distract themselves from these emotions later in life.

Read the full article at Screen Free Parenting here

Why Kids Need Wilderness And Adventure More Than Ever

Let your kids be wild.

These days, our kids’ lives are overscheduled, filled with pressure, and can be pretty intense. School, homework, sports and/or other extracurricular activities fill the week and often consumes many weekends as well. We all can feel like there is no time left to fit anything else in. There has to be. Our younger kids and teenagers need wilderness and adventure in their lives and who better to model it to them than us, their parents. I would actually argue that it is more important than a lot of the scheduled activities we have them in now. Wilderness and adventure will help develop them into well-rounded young adults.

Read the full article here

Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy:

Six Ways electronic screen time makes kids angry, depressed and unmotivated

By Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D.

Children or teens who are “revved up” and prone to rages or—alternatively—who are depressed and apathetic have become disturbingly commonplace. Chronically irritable children are often in a state of abnormally high arousal, and may seem “wired and tired.” That is, they’re agitated but exhausted. Because chronically high arousal levels impact memory and the ability to relate, these kids are also likely to struggle academically and socially.

At some point, a child with these symptoms may be given a mental-health diagnosis such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD, and offered corresponding treatments, including therapy and medication. But often these treatments don’t work very well, and the downward spiral continues.

What’s happening?

Both parents and clinicians may be “barking up the wrong tree.” That is, they’re trying to treat what looks like a textbook case of mental disorder, but failing to rule out and address the most common environmental cause of such symptoms—everyday use of electronics. Time and again, I’ve realized that regardless of whether there exists any “true” underlying diagnoses, successfully treating a child with mood dysregulation today requires methodically eliminating all electronics use for several weeks—an “electronics fast”—to allow the nervous system to “reset.”

If done correctly, this intervention can produce deeper sleep, a brighter and more even mood, better focus and organization, and an increase in physical activity. The ability to tolerate stress improves, so meltdowns diminish in both frequency and severity. The child begins to enjoy the things they used to, is more drawn to nature, and imaginary or creative play returns. In teens and young adults, an increase in self-directed behavior is observed—the exact opposite of apathy and hopelessness.

It’s a beautiful thing.

At the same time, the electronic fast reduces or eliminates the need for medication while rendering other treatments more effective. Improved sleep, more exercise, and more face-to-face contact with others compound the benefits—an upward spiral! After the fast, once the brain is reset, the parent can carefully determine how much if any electronics use the child can tolerate without symptoms returning.

Read the full article here

The positive benefits that Eurythmy gives to children.

The life force or life energy which makes a plant grow is the medium through which Eurythmy functions. Look at a healthy child – rosy cheeks, radiant energy, clear eyes and good muscle tone. Eurythmy fosters and maintains this healthiness. Specific movement sequences are introduced with imagery, which is in itself life-giving – e.g. Rather than being instructed to move in a straight line and then a curve, the teacher might say “let’s walk across a narrow bridge to a sandy island in the middle of a lily pond and then run around the shore on a white pebble path”. Eurythmy strengthens and renews this life force that is so often depleted through our hectic lifestyle.

We have been created and born with the help of spiritual forces that stand behind what we call the 12 zodiac signs and the 7 planets. The sound of each consonant and each vowel rings from one of these cosmic forces. Each has created a part of our body or maintains the functioning of an organ. The ‘music of the spheres or the LIVING WORD is reflected in the healthy functioning of the child’s body. The spiritual energy, life force, etheric force or chi behind the physical movement of the arms for each consonant and each vowel maintains and strengthens this connection between the macro cosmos and the micro cosmos (the child). A beautifully spoken poem or verse where these consonants and vowels sound together in harmony, moved with the arms or the whole body, alone or in a group with others in the room on different forms, strengthens and balances the whole being of the child – body, soul and spirit.

The spiritual essence that, which the child calls “I”, gives and maintains its uprightness. It takes hold of the baby when it stands upright for the first time.

A strong calling of the name of a child who is dreaming away calls on this “I” or self. You often see it become more upright in its posture when called consciously. Rhythmic activities with copper rods strengthen this uprightness or presence of self and improve the posture. The metal copper has a stimulating effect on the blood circulation, which is the physiological carrier of this I AM, force. Rhythm carries life! The name Eurythmy means beautiful rhythm or pleasant flow.

All movements in Eurythmy are rhythmic or life-filled. This strengthens the life forces that maintain the health of the body and brings harmony into chaotic forces redness and a deepening concentration (finding the centre or SELF). We can all experience how effective it is doing the same thing at the same time each day.

The LIFE BODY, the organism that maintains our physical body, is also the carrier of thought (intelligence). The brain itself is more a reflector than a computer. Through moving in a eurythmic way where every movement is filled with meaning and where the feeling life of the child is also engaged, we foster intelligence through will activity.

Better concentration, co-ordination, better posture, better spatial awareness and social relations are the result. Dyslexia has been successfully treated with special eurythmic movements.

There is a whole field called Curative Eurythmy that works through life movement directly into the physical body. The Anthroposophical doctor who has knowledge of Eurythmy and its effects on the child prescribes the specific exercises.

Listening and speaking: The heard, understood and spoken word is what makes us truly human. In Eurythmy the child’s etheric or life body listens or speaks – makes the word visible. You can sense corresponding movement in and around the larynx when someone speaks beautifully. This region also cringes or contracts when it vibrates to the horrible screaming of a furniture seller on TV. We love to listen to a well-modulated voice and we dislike stridency. The life body of the child engages the physical body to make the corresponding movements to what it “hears”. The child’s arms move and it becomes as it were a gigantic larynx through which the spiritual world “resounds”.

It is important that the content of the poem or the piece of music is beautiful and has a deeper meaning behind it. That engages the child’s feelings as well as its thinking and when children move beautifully – eurythmically – to a well spoken poem they make the flesh become WORD just as so many years ago the WORD became FLESH.

Find out about the benefits of Eurythmy yourself. CBRSS now offers Eurythmy for Adults on Wednesday mornings,  see the post earlier in this Bulletin for details.

How the Tech Industry Uses Psychology to Hook Children

Why do kids struggle to look up from devices? The answer is persuasive design.

“Something’s wrong with my son. He won’t spend time with us, won’t do his homework… all he wants to do is be in his room and play his game.”

Parents, educators, and health professionals around the world are expressing frustration and alarm that children are being lost to video games, social media, and phones. What’s vital to understand is that children’s fixation with gadgets and entertainment applications is by design. Actually, a relatively new concept called persuasive design.

Persuasive design has been in the news a lot recently. Put simply, persuasive design is the practice of combining psychology and technology to change people’s behavior. Gadgets and applications are developed by psychologists and other user experience (UX) researchers who apply behavioral change techniques to manipulate users. The concept can sound scary, however, these techniques can be used to encourage positive behaviors, such as exercise, healthy eating, and smoking cessation.

Nonetheless, persuasive design is increasingly employed by video game and social media companies to pull users onto their sites and keep them there for as long as possible—as this drives revenue. While persuasive design is applied through technology, the power to alter behavior is primarily derived from psychology. Video game developer and psychologist John Hopson describes how Skinner-box principles are used to increase video game use, comparing players to lab animals: “This is not to say that players are the same as rats, but that there are general rules of learning which apply equally to both.” In his paper “Behavioral Game Design,” Hopson explains how psychology is used to keep players staring at screens, answering questions such as: “How do we make players maintain a high, consistent rate of activity?” and “How to make players play forever.”

Persuasive design works by creating digital environments that users believe fulfill their basic human drives — to be social or obtain goals — better than real-world alternatives. Specific techniques used by psychologists and other UX designers to hook users include the use of variable rewards, as video games and social networks are designed to act like slot machines. “Likes,” friend requests, game rewards, and loot boxes are doled out at just the right time to increase what’s referred to in the industry as “time on device.”

Persuasive Design’s Power Over Children and Teens

Many adults, influenced by persuasive design, are challenged to look away from their phones. However, children and teenagers are far more vulnerable, as their brains are still developing and executive functions—including impulse control—are not well developed. As Ramsay Brown, neuroscientist and co-founder of the artificial intelligence/machine learning company Boundless Mind, says in a recent Time article, “Your kid is not weak-willed because he can’t get off his phone… Your kid’s brain is being engineered to get him to stay on his phone.”

Techniques used by video game and social media companies often exploit children’s developmental vulnerabilities. For example, teens’ highly elevated desire for social acceptance and fear of social rejection is a well-known aspect of their psychological development. Rather than handling this limitation with caution, proponents of behavioral design see it as a gold mine. As psychologist B.J. Fogg, the father of persuasive design and creator of the Stanford University Behavioral Design Lab, says, “Today, with social technologies a reality, the methods for motivating people through social acceptance or social rejection have blossomed.”

Revealing another dark side of persuasive design, Bill Fulton, who trained in cognitive and quantitative psychology, says of video game makers, “If game designers are going to pull a person away from every other voluntary social activity or hobby or pastime, they’re going to have to engage that person at a very deep level in every possible way they can.” And that is a key reason why persuasive design is having such a negative impact on childhood, as digital products are built to be so seductive that they replace real-world activities—many of which kids need to grow up to be happy and successful.

Read the Full article from Psychology Today here

A true story about magic

“For those of you who are introverted/shy or have children who are. A delightful story…that might just have a strategy within it…

Oh…and if you love David Bowie make sure you have a read…”

You will find it here

School can be the best days of a parent’s life

Looking back at my children’s time at school, I wish I knew everything would work out all right so I didn’t waste time worrying.

I have three children, all very different academically, but they’ve each found their own path. There is so much opportunity post-school today, there really is a path for everyone.

As a parent, there is always something to worry about; when they don’t do well at school, if they’re not chosen for something, when their peers are unkind to them. The trials of adolescence.

Being a teacher has helped me see everything is a phase, and we will get through it. At the time problems seem enormous, but they pass. Sometimes it is just a case of riding out a difficulty and not catastrophising it. When my children had difficulties I used to tell them to get up, keep going, and one day the sun would shine again. And it always did.

Read the full article in the Sydney Morning Herald here

By Dr Julie Townsend.

‘Our house is on fire’: Greta Thunberg, 16, urges leaders to act on climate

Some of our students recently were involved in a Strike against Climate Change, this Global movement was started by 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. This article is from a speech given by Greta.

Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost.

At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so, and the media has failed to create broad public awareness.

But Homo sapiens have not yet failed.

Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands. But unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.

Read the full article or watch the video at The Guardian here

Greta Thunberg (left) takes part in a ‘school strike for climate’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images