Kids who play outdoors are more spiritual and creative: study


Turn off the TV, hide the game consoles and send your kids to play in the great outdoors if you want to raise more thoughtful, fulfilled and spiritual children, suggest the findings of a small study.
Children who spend significant amounts of time playing outside were found to have a stronger sense of purpose, peacefulness and spiritual connection to the earth.

For their study, published in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, researchers from Michigan State University conducted in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries, observation and conversation with parents to measure the children’s esthetic values and sensibilities.

Children who spent five to 10 hours a week playing outside were found to demonstrate strong imaginations, creativity, and curiosity, as well as a deep appreciation for nature’s beauty, whether it be lush green bushes, water patterns or a fascination with bees’ nests, researchers noted.

The 10 children, ages seven and eight, reported feelings of peacefulness and wonderment at natural phenomena like storms, and said they felt happy.
They also expressed a sense of belonging in the world and an acute need to protect the earth.

Though small in scale, the findings underscore the importance of free play for children and its lasting impact: the parents of children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature likewise reported spending significant amounts of time playing outdoors in their childhood.

More than video game graphics and cartoons, researchers theorize that nature’s multisensory diversity — sights, sounds and colors — can help children feel more alive and build self-confidence.

Another study published out of Finland, meanwhile, found gender differences in the way school-aged boys and girls viewed nature: While girls said they appreciated the beauty of flowers and plants, more than 30 percent of boys in the study said they could live without vegetation.

Source: ctv news

TV again tied to poor sleep among kids

In another blow to kids’ pleas to watch more television before bed, a new study suggests increased TV time is linked to less sleep. What’s more, black, Latino and other minority children slept less when they had TV sets in their bedrooms.

“Inadequate sleep in childhood is associated with health outcomes, including attention problems, school performance and an increased risk of obesity,” Elizabeth Cespedes told Reuters Health. Cespedes is the study’s lead author from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“We wanted to know if television viewing may be associated with shorter sleep duration in children,” she said. For the new report, she and her colleagues used data from an existing study of mothers and children who lived in the Boston area. The study included 1,864 children who were born between 1999 and 2003. Mothers reported how much television their child watched at six months old and then every year until age seven.

Mothers also reported whether children slept with a television in their bedroom every year starting midway through the study.

The average time children slept each day decreased from about 12 hours at six months to about 10 hours at seven years, and total TV viewing increased from about one hour per day to 1.6 hours.

The proportion of children who slept with a TV in their bedroom increased from 17 percent to 23 percent between ages four and seven years, too. Children typically sleep less as they get older, the researchers noted. Still, each extra hour of TV watching added to their lifetime average was tied to a seven-minute decrease in daily sleep.

That association was stronger for boys than girls, according to findings published in Pediatrics. “I think in our case it’s possible that the content of the television watched may be different for boys than girls,” Cespedes said. “The content may be especially disruptive.”

She and her colleagues also found that sleeping with a TV in the bedroom was tied to 31 fewer minutes of sleep per day among racial and ethnic minority children. The effect of a TV in the bedroom was not as strong among white, non-Hispanic children.

Cespedes said it’s hard to know why minority children would be more affected by having a TV in the bedroom. “At all time points, racial and ethnic minority children in our study were sleeping a bit less and watching more television,” she said.

Dr. Heidi Connolly, a sleep specialist who was not involved with the new study, said the research is one of several recent papers that point toward a negative effect of TV on sleep.

“This doesn’t seem like very much, but if you think about it, seven minutes every night by the time you get to the end of the week you’re already a half hour short on sleep,” Connolly, from the University of Rochester Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital in New York, said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against children younger than two years old watching any television. It also recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours per day.

“I think it’s unreasonable to expect that kids aren’t going to watch TV,” Connolly told Reuters Health. “It’s pervasive in our culture. But you do want to limit screen time to less than two hours per day.” Connolly also said people sometimes say their children need the TV on to sleep, but that’s not the case.

She said consistent bedtimes, regular bedtime routines and a TV-free comfortable sleeping environment are good sleep behaviors.

Source: orlando sentinel

Violent video games may be tied to aggressive thoughts

Playing violent video games may be linked to violent thoughts and behavior among kids, according to a new study.

The report, based on data from Singapore, found that kids who often play violent video games end up showing more aggression later on, and more often believe hitting is acceptable, than kids who don’t play them.

Parental monitoring of gaming didn’t seem to lessen the association.

“Just like children’s bodies can be affected by what they eat, their brains can be affected by what they repeatedly do,” Douglas A. Gentile told Reuters Health in an email. He worked on the study at Iowa State University in Ames.

Experts still debate whether there is a connection between violent video games and later aggressive behavior, and if so, how the connection works.

The three-year study included about 3,000 kids ages eight to 17. Each year, researchers asked the kids how often they played video games on weekdays and weekends, what three games were their favorites and how much violence was in those games.

They also asked the kids if they would hit someone else when provoked.

Another set of questions addressed the kids’ feelings about violence in general, whether they thought hitting was okay in some situations or if they ever daydreamed about hurting people.

Kids also reported how much their parents were involved in controlling video game time.

Children who played more violent video games tended to have more fantasies about violence and to think violence in real life was more acceptable, according to results published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The effect was statistically small, but might be a serious issue for individual parents worried about their kids, Gentile said.

The relationship seemed to be the same for boys and girls, for kids with and without a history of aggression and for kids with involved and uninvolved parents.

In studies conducted in the U.S., parental involvement has made a difference, so the culture of Singapore may have something to do with these results, Michele Ybarra, of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California, told Reuters Health.

“One reason may be that Singaporean parents don’t vary as much as Americans – they all tend to be involved, so it’s harder for our statistical processes to see what effect it has,” Gentile said.

Younger children seemed to have a larger increase in aggressive thoughts linked to video game play than older kids.

It’s tough for parents to know what to do based on this report, according to Christopher Ferguson, who researches the effects of media on behavior at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

“This is not a very good study,” Ferguson told Reuters Health. “This data set has been criticized before.”

The study design, which followed kids over time and relied on their own reports, is similar to a study that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected in 2011 as part of its ruling against banning the sale of violent games to minors, he said.

When researchers ask kids to report their own feelings and actions over time, certain kids may be more likely to admit to thoughts or actions, and that can skew the data, he said. He was surprised that for kids of such a young age, their parents weren’t factored into the study.

“The research we have now has been very inconsistent,” in terms of video games and aggression, Ferguson said. “There may be a connection to relatively minor acts of aggression, the equivalent of kids sticking their tongues out at each other.”

There is no evidence of a connection to bullying, fighting or school shootings, he said.

But violent video games are a divisive area of research, said Ybarra. She thinks the new study does accurately characterize the relationship between video games, thoughts and actions, even though it relies on kids’ self-reports.

“It depends on who you talk to,” Ybarra said. “Some people think that there’s a growing consensus (on video game-related violence), others think there’s growing debate.”

She believes there is a growing consensus that violent games may be tied to aggression, and that violent thoughts might be the intermediate step in the relationship.

“It seems odd to me that you would say there’s no problem with showing kids violent media,” she said.

Ybarra agreed that it’s hard to draw any real recommendations from this particular study. But, “it’s probably a good idea to do what you can to limit your kids’ exposure to violent video games,” she said.

Source: Reuters

Surprise: Doc says iPads may be OK for babies

A doctor who helped write guidelines discouraging media use by babies and toddlers says he’s had second thoughts about the iPad and other devices.

Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, a Seattle pediatrician who studies the effect of media on children, now says that kids younger than 2 may actually benefit from 30 minutes to 60 minutes a day of screen time — as long as it’s interactive, not passive.

“I believe that the judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of 2 years,” he wrote in an opinion piece this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

It’s a somewhat surprising position for the researcher who admits he’s developed a reputation as the “anti-TV guy,” especially when it comes to the youngest viewers. He co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 guidelines that frown on media use by kids younger than 2.

In the new piece, however, Christakis notes that the guidelines, updates of 1999 recommendations, were written before the 2010 debut of Apple’s iPad and the slew of tablets and devices that followed.

“The statement was drafted with no knowledge that such a device would ever exist,” wrote Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“Now, 3 years later, we still know surprisingly little about how iPads and other interactive media technologies affect children’s cognition — research is simply unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances —and these devices are increasingly popular.”

Even without hard data, however, Christakis said he has concluded that interactive iPad and device apps that engage a baby may be as mentally stimulating as old-fashioned toys such as blocks or even a See ‘N’ Say, which allows kids to develop a sense of accomplishment by matching animal images and sounds.

They’re all very different than passive television viewing, which is known to have detrimental effects on cognition, or videos or DVDs aimed at babies, which can be overstimulating and potentially harmful, Christakis said.

That’s a view echoed by Elizabeth R. Sowell, a neuropsychologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She told TODAY that guidelines based on TV viewing aren’t comparable to those for interactive screen time on devices used by babies and toddlers.

“The brain is developing so rapidly during that period of time and interactive challenges, whether it’s blocks or playing games on the iPad, that’s really going to wire the brain differently than passive viewing,” said Sowell, who is also principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Both Christakis and Sowell cautioned that parents need to closely monitor their babies’ screen time. Just as there have been problems with too much internet use in older kids and teens, there’s the danger of “compulsive use of iPads” among the youngest users.

And, iPad or other device use should never interfere with the full range of social, physical and other activities that babies need to develop, Christakis added.

“I do hope parents will take to heart that they should put some limits on it,” he said. “This is not just to allow their child to play willy-nilly for hours and hours.”

Source: Today

Metallic toys may harm your kid’s health

Dazzling metallic toys attract your kids in no time but they may end up harming their health and have irreversible effects on their intellectual development, a new study has found.

This is because metallic toys and low-cost jewellery often contain toxic substances such as lead and cadmium.

As babies and young children often put the things they play with in their mouth, they may inadvertently swallow some of these toxic substances too.

The study shows that these metals can be mobilised into digestive fluids once contaminated items are swallowed.

“We observed that cadmium and lead contamination, both very toxic metals, are a major problem, especially when it comes to metallic jewellery and toys. Copper, nickel, arsenic and antimony were also present in some samples,” said Gerald J. Zagury, a professor at the Polytechnique Montreal in Canada.

The researchers examined metal contamination in a selection of 72 toys and jewellery items purchased in the North American market.

They then conducted tests on 24 samples by recreating the biochemical conditions of the gastrointestinal system in the lab in order to get an accurate answer.

The researchers also observed that cadmium, lead and nickel in some samples exceeded the safety threshold levels that a child can be exposed to without suffering acute harmful effects like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The study appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: Business standard

Switching Schools May Give Your Kids Psychotic Symptoms

Changing schools can be a wrenching social and emotional experience for students, say researchers from Warwick Medical School in the U.K. And the legacy of that struggle may be psychosis-like symptoms of hallucinations and delusions.

Dr. Swaran Singh, a psychiatrist and head of the mental health division at Warwick, became curious about the connection between school moves and mental health issues after a study from Denmark found that children moving from rural to urban settings showed increased signs of psychoses. The authors also noted that the students had to deal with not just a change in their home environment, but in their social network of friends at school as well.

Singh was intrigued by whether school changes, and the social isolation that comes with it, might be an independent factor in contributing to the psychosis-like symptoms.

Working with a database of nearly 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992 and followed until they were 13 years old, Singh and his colleagues investigated which factors seemed to have the strongest effect on mental health. The children’s mothers answered questions about how many times the students had moved schools by age nine, and the children responded to queries about their experiences either bullying others or being victims of bullying. The survey even included a look at the children’s in utero environments, and their circumstances from birth to age 2, by asking the mothers about where they lived (in urban or village areas, for example), and about financial difficulties or other family social issues.

Based on their analysis, says Singh, switching schools three or more times in early childhood seemed to be linked to an up to two-fold greater risk of developing psychosis-like symptoms such as hallucinations and interrupting thoughts. “Even when we controlled for all things that school moves lead to, there was something left behind that that was independently affecting children’s mental health,” he says.

Factors such as a difficult home environment – whether caused by financial or social tension, or both – living in an urban environment, and bullying contributed to the mental health issues, but switching schools contributed independently to the psychosis-like symptoms.

Singh suspects that repeatedly being an outsider by having to re-integrate into new schools may lead to feelings of exclusion and low self-esteem. That may change a developing child’s sense of self and prime him to always feel like an outlier and never an integrated part of a social network; such repeated experiences of exclusion are known to contribute to paranoia and psychotic symptoms.

Bullying created a secondary way in which repeated school moves could lead to mental health issues — bullying is known to be associated with psychotic symptoms, and mobile students are more vulnerable to bullying,

The negative emotional experiences students go through in trying to adjust to new schools can have physiological consequences as well. “Repeated experiences of being defeated in social situations leads to changes in the brain and in the dopaminergic system,” says Singh. That makes the brain more sensitive to stress, and stress, with its surges of cortisol, can lead to unhealthy neural responses that can contribute to mental health problems. “Something about chronic marginalization, and chronic exclusion, is neurophysiologically damaging,” he says.

Source: health and time

New Child Car Seats May Protect Kids In Side Collisions

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first time ever, has announced its proposal on upgrading children’s car seats to survive a side collision, or “T-bone” crash. Under the new rules, child car seats sold in the United States, designed for kids weighing up to 40 lbs., would have to go through a rigorous side-impact test before they are authorized for vehicle use.

“Car seats are an essential tool for keeping young children safe in vehicles and have a proven track record of saving lives,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman in the press release. “Today we continue to build on our extensive child seat safety program by adding side-impact crash protection for the first time.”

An NHTSA study has shown that many child death and injuries commonly occur in side-impact crashes. Typically, in these crashes, the car carrying children is stopped at an intersection — usually at a light or stop sign — and when the car begins to go through the intersection, it is struck in the side by a vehicle traveling at a greater speed on the cross street. Unrestrained children are found to be eight times more likely to sustain incapacitating injuries than children restrained in child safety seats. However, the agency believes designing child car seats to withstand side collisions will greatly reduce the number of deaths and injuries per year.

The feds’ proposed test will aim to simulate a T-bone crash where the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph will strike the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph. The NHTSA chose these speeds because they are known to cover over 90 percent of side collisions seen not only in the U.S., but around the world.

Rather than using actual vehicles, the tests will include sleds because “the aim isn’t to test the crash worthiness of specific vehicles,” NHTSA officials said. The car seat will be positioned on the sled, with another sled ramming the side of the sled with the seat. The tests will use a to-be-developed side-impact 3-year-old child dummy, along with the NHTSA-approved 12-month-old dummy to accurately reflect the age groups of child car seat users.

“As a father of two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, NBC News reported. “We all want to make sure our children’s car seats are as safe as possible, and today’s proposal will give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes.”

Installation and proper use of safety seats are vital in protecting children in motor vehicles. The NHTSA fact sheet says they can reduce up to 71 percent of fatalities for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Acknowledging the importance of child vehicle safety, manufacturers like the Dorel Juvenile Group — the world’s largest car-seat maker — has begun to incorporate small, already-inflated air bags.

Some manufacturers are already taking steps to improve the protection afforded by their car seats in side-impact crashes. The Dorel Juvenile Group, the world’s largest car-seat maker, has been incorporating small, already-inflated air bags into some of their models to protect children’s heads from injury in side-impact crashes since 2009, Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the Columbus, Ind., company told The Associated Press. “Dorel is committed to side-impact protection,” she said.

The NHTSA proposed regulations will be open for the public to comment on for 90 days after they are published this week. These regulations will not be final until the agency reviews comments and answers any important issues that may arise upon discussions. The agency acknowledges this can take months and sometimes years, but they are hopeful the process will move quickly.

Car-seat makers would be given a three-year time frame to make any design changes necessary to pass the side-crash tests and abide to regulations if and when they are passed. The new child car seats could save five lives and prevent 64 injuries each year, the NHTSA estimates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 and then moved to a front-facing seat with a harness until at least age 4. They will then have to be placed into a “seatbelt-positioning booster seat until they’ve reached 4 feet, 9 inches tall and are at least 8 years old.” Children who outgrow their booster seats are recommended to continue to ride the back seat until they’re at least 13 years old.

Source: Medical daily

Kids get uneven tonsil care, study finds

Getting your tonsils out: It’s a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of U.S. kids every year.

Yet a study released Monday shows hospitals vary greatly in just how they handle this common procedure. And kids fare differently depending on which hospital they go to. At the best hospitals, just three percent of kids came back for complications like bleeding. But at others, close to 13 percent did.

It is the latest in a series of studies showing that Americans get vastly different care depending on where they live.

It’s not clear why, but the researchers who did the study say it will be worth looking into so that all hospitals can make sure children recover well from the operations. New guidelines issued in 2011 may help get all hospitals and pediatric surgeons on the same page, other experts said.

It’s something in the public eye with the case of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who died after complications from a complex tonsil operation in December at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif. McMath had her tonsils out, along with her adenoids and parts of her upper throat to try and improve serious sleep apnea.

She started bleeding profusely and went into cardiac arrest shortly after. Doctors said Jahi was brain dead, but the family sued first to keep their daughter on life support, then to remove the body to a facility where her body will be kept on life support.

McMath’s operation was a complicated one. Researchers who did the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics looked at simpler cases.

Dr. Sanjay Mahant of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and colleagues across the United States, looked at the records of nearly 140,000 children who got simple, uncomplicated tonsillectomies at 36 children’s hospitals between 2004 and 2010. All got same-day operations and were sent home on the day of their procedure.

Over that time, about 8 percent had to go back to the hospital within a month, usually for bleeding.

The researchers also looked at the use of two common drug types — dexamethasone, which can reduce complications such as nausea, and antibiotics.

New guidelines issued in 2011 advise giving dexamethasone to children before the operation, and they recommend against giving any antibiotics.

In the study before the guidelines came out, 76 percent of the children got dexamethasone, and at some hospitals almost none did. And 16 percent of children got antibiotics, although at some hospitals 90 percent of patients did.

“More than 500,000 tonsillectomies are performed each year in children in the United States, most commonly for sleep-disordered breathing and recurrent throat infections,” the researchers wrote. There shouldn’t be such variation from one hospital to another, they said.

It’s one of the reasons the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) issued practice guidelines based on what the studies show – that giving kids dexamethasone before the operation helps, and that giving them antibiotics doesn’t.

“These recommendations are based on evidence gathered from trials over the past two decades, which showed that dexamethasone, administered on the day of surgery, reduces postoperative nausea, vomiting, and pain, whereas perioperative antibiotics do not reduce postoperative bleeding,” Mahant’s team wrote.

Tonsillectomies are mostly done now to help sleep disorders. “There is an increased focus on sleep health in children,” said said Dr. Emily Boss, an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins University Department of Otolaryngology and a member of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

Children can start bleeding as the scab formed after the operation naturally sloughs off, Boss added. “It’s one of the well-known complications,” she said. “It’s hard to predict who will have bleeding and who will not.”

It’s almost certainly nothing the child or parents are doing, Boss added. She said there’s no evidence to support common beliefs about what causes it, such as that eating scratchy food breaks off the clot.

Children do prefer soft, cool foods because their throats are sore, she added. And yes, popsicles or ice cream are not just allowed, but recommended.

“I think this study will force the issue of practicing according to evidence-based guidelines,” Boss said.

There were not any established guidelines before, Boss told NBC News. “People practiced based on their own experiences for a long period of time,” she said.

Other medical organizations are also starting to stress clear practice guidelines. And the Obama administration is also encouraging them, to help make care more consistent and to help lower costs.

A study published by the Dartmouth Atlas project last October found variation in all sorts of treatments. For example, in San Angelo, Texas, 91 percent of heart attack patients filled a prescription for a beta-blocker drug to lower blood pressure in 2008 or 2009, the study found. But in Salem, Ore., just 62.5 percent did. For a statin drug to lower cholesterol, the rates ranged from 91 percent of patients in Ogden, Utah to 44 percent in Abilene, Tex.

Prices vary, also, often with little apparent rhyme or reason. Last week another study found that the hospital charges in California for giving birth can vary from $3,000 to $37,000 – and that’s for a simple, uncomplicated delivery.

In May, the federal government said it would start publishing data on hospital charges. Their first numbers confirmed what health reform advocates complained about for years: The charges vary enormously, and for seemingly unclear reasons.

Source: nbc news

Parents’ attitude linked to kids’ chronic pain

Adolescents whose parents suffer from chronic pain may be more likely to develop ongoing pain too – especially if the parent tends to ‘catastrophize’ pain, according to new research.

“Children are careful observers of everything that we do as parents, and how we respond to our pain and to their pain is no different,” said Anna Wilson, a psychologist at Oregon Health & Science University who led the study.

Sometimes acting worried or repeatedly asking how a child is feeling can lead them to worry that the problem they are having is serious, even if it isn’t, Wilson said.

“Unfortunately, we know from many research studies that this (misplaced) worry tends to make pain worse,” she told Reuters Health.

In the study, 178 kids between the ages of 11 and 14 were recruited through their schools. They filled out questionnaires asking about ongoing physical issues such as backaches, stomach pain and headaches, as well as how much the pain interfered with their everyday lives. The adolescents’ parents answered similar questions about their own pain.

Both kids and parents also filled out surveys focused on how they coped with the child’s pain, such as whether parent or child felt helpless about the condition or blew the pain out of proportion.

About one-fourth of adolescents and two-thirds of parents in the study reported having chronic pain, and parental pain was significantly linked to the likelihood of that parent’s child having pain.

Having a parent with pain and having a parent who magnified the significance of pain boosted the risk that a child would also put more emphasis on the pain’s importance, the team reports in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

The take-home point, according to Wilson, is that the most helpful way to approach ongoing pain in a child – such as repeated headaches or muscle aches – probably differs from the way a parent might act when the child has a short-term illness like stomach flu or a sprained ankle.

For that reason, it can be helpful for parents with chronic pain to seek outside help to pinpoint their own strengths, and to assist their kids in developing healthy ways to cope with pain and discomfort.

“Being a parent is hard; pain just makes it harder,” Wilson said.

“If you are a parent who has chronic pain and you are worried about how it might be impacting your child, talk with your own doctor, a pain psychologist or your child’s doctor,” she said.

Source: Reuters