10 April 2014 by Scott Magoon

Mindful Parenting

Slate's Hannah Rosin observes the "mindful parenting" movement as aligned with the stress of modern parenting, while simultaneously setting parents up to fail.

In its diagnosis of the ills of modern parenting, the mindful parenting movement is spot on. In her new book Mindful Parenting, family psychologist Kristen Race writes in a chapter called “Overscheduled” about Eva, a girl whose mother brings her in for therapy. Eva was a calm kid who in the middle of first grade suddenly turned anxious and defiant, so Race asked her mother to write down her weekly schedule. Every day after school Eva has some planned activity, such as gymnastics or soccer. Then she goes home, watches TV, does her homework, and after dinner practices piano. Eva, Race points out, has almost no unscheduled time in her week and no “calming” activities.

Carla Naumburg at Psych Central pushes back. "Rosin essentially endorses of the concepts of mindful parenting ... while simultaneously dissing the whole idea."

Mindful parenting is fundamentally about how we approach whatever it is we are thinking or doing. Are we distracted, judgmental, angry, anxious, or controlling? Or are we aware, connected, compassionate, and forgiving? (And I’m not just talking about how we treat our children here. I’m talking about how we treat ourselves. The two are inextricably connected.) Are we able to notice the crazy monkey flinging crap all over the inside of our brains and just let it go, perhaps chuckling at bit at ourselves as we mentally walk away? Or do we get so caught up in trying to catch the little jerk and cleaning up the mess that when our child happens to wander into the room, we bite her poor little head off?

In describing essentially "Mindfulness 2.0" David Hochman (NY Times) relishes the Silicon Valley irony fest.

Mr. Gordhamer started Wisdom 2.0 in 2009 to examine how we can live with technology without it swallowing us whole. The wait lists for his panel talks and conferences now run into the hundreds. The “Disconnect to Connect” meet-up was typical. The audience was mostly young, mostly from the Silicon Valley tech scene and entirely fed up with taking orders from Siri. “There was a time when phones didn’t tell you to do everything,” said Mr. Gordhamer, 45, as the conversation got rolling. “What’s work, what’s not work, it’s all become blurred.”
And yet, the problem may offer a solution. Loïc Le Meur, a French blogger and entrepreneur and the evening’s guest speaker, recommended a meditation app called Get Some Headspace. The program bills itself as the world’s first gym membership for the mind. “It’s a way to have a meditation practice without feeling weird about it,” said Mr. Le Meur. He was wearing Google Glass with only a hint of irony. “You don’t have to sit in a lotus position. You just press ‘play’ and chill out.”

Psychology Today's expert clinical psychologist advises us to hit the "pause button" before we deal with children facing "emotional storms".

When we think about it, most adult problems (in relationships, careers, etc.) arise when we are not fully present and are not able to regulate our emotions. Not being able to calm down in the moment and make conscious choices about how we want to behave often results in behavior that we later regret. The tools mindfulness practice provides will make our children more resilient when facing the stresses in their lives, including those involving school, bullying, peers, parents and teachers. Kids can learn from a young age that it's okay to feel whatever they feel, but that they don't have to act from emotion, that they can instead act rationally. They can formulate a sense of safety and security within themselves by developing their ability to tolerate emotions and building the skills to calm themselves down.

09 April 2014 by Scott Magoon

Let kids run wild online

In Time Magazine's Ideas Issue, dana boyd (her capitalization preference) encourages parents to "let kids run wild online".

Locked indoors, unable to get on their bicycles and hang out with their friends, teens have turned to social media and their mobile phones to gossip, flirt and socialize with their peers. What they do online often mirrors what they might otherwise do if their mobility weren’t so heavily constrained in the age of helicopter parenting. Social media and smartphone apps have become so popular in recent years because teens need a place to call their own. They want the freedom to explore their identity and the world around them. Instead of sneaking out (should we discuss the risks of climbing out of windows?), they jump online.

As teens have moved online, parents have projected their fears onto the Internet, imagining all the potential dangers that youth might face–from violent strangers to cruel peers to pictures or words that could haunt them on Google for the rest of their lives.

Although she resorts to that parenting classic of living
childhood without a net.

Admittedly, I was a klutzy kid, but I’m glad I didn’t spend my childhood trapped in a padded room to protect me from every bump and bruise.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I'm with you on the living and learning through bruises, but there's a bit of survivor bias at play here since those that actually did die (perhaps from preventable childhood accidents) are certainly not stronger.

Cory Doctorow, who refers to boyd as "one of the preeminent scholars of the way young people use the Internet", calls her book on the subject a "must, MUST read".

boyd is not a blind optimist. She is alive to the risks and dangers of networks; but she is also cognizant of the new opportunities and the relief from other social problems (such as hysteria over the presence of kids in public places; sexism, racism, homophobia and slut-shaming; the merciless overscheduling and academic pressure on adolescents) and the immense power of networks to enable advocacy, agency and activism.

06 April 2014 by Scott Magoon

Isaac Asimov's future is our present

In 1964, famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov described his vision of the future, both mundane and fanciful, in the New York Times. Now 50 years later we are living in the future envisioned by one of the most accliamed and prolific science fiction authors of all time. How accurate were his predictions?

"In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000." Pretty close there.

Scientific American highlights that Asimov, predictably, got the hard science mostly right, but went off track on the social predictions.

Give the guy credit for anticipating self-driving cars, video calling, the widespread use of nuclear power and single-duty household robots. (He didn't exactly name the Roomba, but he did at least propose “robots for gardening work.”)

And, yes, he also got a lot wrong. He foresaw underground and underwater homes becoming popular, along with “transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface”—cars and boats that levitate on jets of compressed air.

His weirdest prophesies concern our desperate suffering “from the disease of boredom,” once robotics and automation have taken away most of our jobs. “The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.” If technology ever does buy us more leisure time, technology will also expand to fill it. (A streaming Netflix movie, anyone?)

What did Asimov completely miss? The Internet, says Jerry Coyne in The New Republic.

For the world is becoming plugged in in a way Asimov simply couldn’t predict. When you walk down the street in an industrialized country, or ride in a plane or train, notice how many people are using their cellphones, iPads, iPods, or computers. Google Glass, the wearable computer, is next. This is the way the whole world will go. (My theory is that eventually the entire Earth will resemble New York City.) Connectivity has brought tremendous advantages: think of the ability to access information at your desk instead of a making a laborious trip to the library. And electronic journals and instant publication have markedly sped up the progress of science. Well, perhaps we won’t be as bored, but we may lose the skills of interpersonal communication.