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Real questions submitted by parents and caretakers who are trying to navigate their children’s education, entertainment, and emotional well-being during COVID-19.

Answers from Jordan Shapiro PhD., author of The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World (Little Brown Spark, 2019).

How much do you tell your kids about what’s happening during the coronavirus crisis?

Unless you’re going to turn off the news and never talk about it on the phone or during a video conference, you can’t hide what’s happening from your children. They overhear everything and they jump to their own conclusions. They’re also experiencing the coronavirus crisis in their own very real way. With school, extracurriculars, and play-dates disrupted, they need help interpreting this weird situation. Therefore, it’s best to be honest and straightforward with your kids. …


Their habits simply mirror ours

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Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Doors slam quickly when I return home after picking up my 11- and 14-year-old sons from school. They’re not angry or depressed, but they seem to crave some time alone on weekday afternoons. I guess they need opportunities to be liberated from the social stress of the everyday school routine. And their preferred way to do that is online. I sympathize, but I also can’t help but be annoyed.

Within minutes, I can hear the muffled sound of YouTube videos blasting from my sons’ smartphones. After a while, they transition out of the spectator role, and I cringe hearing them scream into their headsets as they play multiplayer games with friends from school. Their overly enthusiastic conversation mimics the exclamations, trash-talk, and humor they regularly hear from the web’s most popular video-streaming stars. …


So-called dopamine hacking is more sales pitch than science. What matters isn’t how our attention is captured, but what we pay attention to.

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Illustration: Rebekka Dunlap

Earlier this month, during a visit to a YMCA in London, Prince Harry argued that Fortnite should be banned, complaining that the video game is “created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible.” The prince is just the most recent in a long line of folks who worry about what digital technology is doing to our brains. …


Reasonable Doubt

I don’t believe my son about his Xbox Live suspension. He doesn’t believe me about his early years.

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Credit: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

“Please don’t talk about this in some interview,” my 11-year-old pleaded with me.

We were wrapping up a long text message exchange about his online behavior. And I’d bet, if you asked him, it felt more like a lecture than a discussion.

Earlier in the day, I found a “notice of Xbox Live enforcement action” in my email inbox. My son’s communication privileges had been suspended for 28 hours because another player reported “abusive or offensive language.” The notice provided very few facts for me to consider, so I immediately sent a message to him at his mom’s house (we share custody) asking for his side of the story. …


Love/Hate

Screen time can provide a sense of emotional stability

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Credit: Donald Iain Smith/Getty

When my oldest son was six or seven, I was newly divorced and trying to manage the unfamiliar logistics of joint custody. Family life was chaotic. Our daily routines were in flux. But my son found comfort in his Nintendo DS. Perhaps it’s because video games are predictable and the rules are always consistent. He clung to that device, throwing temper tantrums if we forgot it during the changeover between my house and his mother’s. Even when he wasn’t playing, he insisted that it always be within arm’s reach. It became his “transitional object.”

Pediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the term “transitional objects” in the mid-20th century. He recognized that young children often become attached to a special blanket, a teddy bear, or some other toy. Soon afterward, the term “security blanket” was popularized by the thumb-sucking Peanuts character, Linus van Pelt. A comic strip turned Winnicott’s theory into common knowledge. Parents accepted it; but that does not mean they were prepared for what it would become. …


Power Trip

The case for paying our kids to play video games

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Credit: Hero Images/Getty

I pay my kids to do chores. They vacuum the rug, scrub the toilets, take out the recycling. It’s amazing how quickly they’ll turn away from video games when there’s money involved.

I know plenty of people would object to my method. They’d tell me that it’s not the right way to raise my kids. After all, popular opinion says that extrinsic rewards promote the “bad” kind of motivation. But the truth is, it’s only mainstream pop psychology and revenue-driven human resource departments that still cling to the dichotomy between intrinsic and extrinsic incentives. …


YOUTH NOW

Videogames do not represent our children’s fall from grace. It’s time to get in on the fun.

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Art: Sebaldo

My Bose QuietComfort headphones are great for blocking out the engine hum of a commercial aircraft, but they’re useless when it comes to masking the sounds of two preteen boys at home on summer vacation.

My older son is leading some sort of military campaign through the game world. He yells commands into his headset: “Fall in. Fall in! Now cover me. Go, go, go, go!” I hear the click-clack of the Cherry MX Blue switches on his mechanical keyboard, and I regret how few opportunities he gets to practice his leadership skills when he’s not role-playing at his desk.

Meanwhile, his younger brother has been planted in front of the Xbox since waking up this morning. He’s screaming at the top of his lungs: “Don’t take my loot. I mean it! Why are you doing this? Stop. Stop it!” He seems angry and frustrated. …


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Left: Andreas Schleicher; Right: Jordan Shapiro

We are living in times of connection. And it’s not just about networked information technologies. Today, cross-continental travel is easy. Economic interdependence among nations is a ubiquitous. Migrants and refugees move in greater numbers than ever before. Our lives depend on complex energy grids and sophisticated infrastructure. Around the planet, connections bind us together.

To live a productive and fulfilled life in a connected world, people must be prepared to work collaboratively, to care about collective success, to value teamwork. Yet schooling often focuses on individual achievement. It’s all about MY grades, MY success, MY ability to get ahead in the world (often by leaving others behind). In the long run, this could perspective could be problematic. …


Amanda Steinberg is founder and CEO of a financial media company called DailyWorth, and also a financial management company called WorthFM. Both focus on shifting women’s relationships with money. Her new book, Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms, was just released and it covers many of her most popular ideas in great depth.

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As one of Oprah’s Super Soul 100, Amanda is an inspirational role model to millions of adult women. But I was curious what she had to say about our cultural attitudes around gender. …


In their new book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek ask what it would take “take to help all children be happy, healthy, thinking, caring, and sociable children who enjoy learning and who move toward becoming collaborative, creative, competent, and responsible citizens of tomorrow?” The answer they provide is tailored specifically to a 21st century global economy.

They offer a science-based framework, neatly packaged as “the 6Cs” — collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creativity, and confidence. These are “the key skills that will help all children become the thinkers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” …

About

Jordan Shapiro

Author of The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World (TheNewChildhood.com) Twitter: @jordosh

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