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18
Apr

Remote Sleep

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How many times have you turned on a movie or show for the kids to help them unwind after dinner only to find them bouncing off the walls at bedtime?

It seems natural to relax in front of the TV at the end of the day. Adults have been doing it for years—although that isn’t necessarily an endorsement in good behavior. A new study has come out in the Journal of Pediatrics that draws a connection between the times kids spend watching compared to the amount of sleep they get. Turns out, the more they watch, the less they sleep. For every hour extra of television watched, kids slept an average of seven minutes less.

While that may not seem like a big deal, many other studies are very conclusive in pointing out the benefits of a good night’s sleep—not to mention the detrimental effects of when we don’t get enough of it. Kids with televisions in their bedrooms were inclined to lose even more sleep, according to the study. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time for young kids should be limited to one to two hours per day. Judging from this study, TV time should be well before bedtime.

 

17
Apr

Time Shift Your TV – Burka Avenger

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Just a few weeks ago, the 73rd annual Peabody Awards winners were announced. The awards are given annually for excellence in storytelling in electronic media.

Popular TV shows including House of Cards, Scandal, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black and Broadchurch were among those recognized this year as being among the best. Documentaries on topics including schools, poverty, war, Bangladesh and the Boston Marathon bombings were also given awards.

One show is worth noting to parents. It’s Burka Avenger.

Lately, thanks to Hunger Games and other popular movies, there’s been a lot of discussion about female role models in the media and what they represent and teach young girls.

The Peabodys describe Burka Avenger, a Pakistani-produced television program, as “smart, colorful and provocative,” one that “sends a clear message about female empowerment” to a new generation.

The storyline is that by day, Jiya is a mild-mannered teacher and by night she takes on bad guys. Her weapons? Pens and books.

The Urdu-language series stirred up controversy when it first aired last year. Created by Pakistani pop singer Aaron Haroon Rashid, the animated series was meant to send a strong social messages to kids, but also offer laughter, action and adventure, as Rashid explained to AP at the time.

But there were some who didn’t like the fact that the heroine wore a burka, an outfit viewed as a sign of oppression by the Taliban, who forced women to wear burkas when they took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s. Rashid argued that the burka served as a mask, much like Spider-Man and instead fought oppression.

Time Magazine named the heroine of the show one of the 11 Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013. And The Washington Post said she made Disney princesses look “downright antiquated.”

The show is well-worth checking out. You can watch Episode 1 on the Peabody website (with English subtitles) or at BurkaAvenger.com. She literally throws a book at two men who steal a goat. And she must stop other evildoers who want to shut down a girls’ school because they think, after all, girls should be at home doing the wash and cooking.

“Don’t let anyone stop you from gaining knowledge,” Burka Avenger urges boys and girls. “Make books and pens your best friends.”

The animation, music and storylines are intriguing and infectious. The message, obviously, is excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

10
Apr

SMS: A Primer for Parents in Social Media Speak

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Your intrepid author on the left for Throwback Thursday.

For those of us who can remember a time when there was (gasp) no Internet, it’s hard enough to navigate the technical issues of social media, let alone the lingo and trends. Do you know your Social Media Speak? By now, even novices know that LOL stands for Laugh Out Loud. How about TBT? What about MCM? Turns out, in the world of social media, there are themes for what to post on the days of the week.

Ever wonder why your social media week begins with an inordinate amount of Channing Tatum or Ian Somerhalder photos? MCM stands for Man Crush Monday. (Personally, if I were to participate, I would post a classic photo of a young Paul Newman.)

Transformation Tuesday is for any kind of before or after display, be it a great home project or a successful stint at the gym. Hump day is also known as Woman Crush Wednesday. Often times you’ll find more posts about admired women then simply those found attractive. That brings us to TBT, or Throwback Thursday. That’s the day you’ll see lots of big 80s hair, mullets and acid washed jeans—that is, if you are brave enough to share pictures from your past. Friday is a free form day while Saturday has been transformed to Caturday. Granted, it seems like every day is devoted to cat videos and pictures on social media, but if you want to be in the grove, post pictures of your furry tabby on Caturday. Sunday is for selfies—those candid one-armed quick pic snaps made famous recently by Ellen at the Oscars and President Obama at the White House. Keep in mind, these trends are more like guidelines than any sort of rule. No one is policing the posts and no one is keeping score. If this all seems absurd, it’s because it is.

 

And certainly feel free to crown Sunday as SDSM or Shut Down Social Media day.

07
Apr

Time Shift Your TV – Eco-friendly fare

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Spring is here – finally!

Along with the April flowers comes a host of eco-spotlighting TV shows and specials targeted at all age ranges. They make for entertaining, and sometimes very serious, viewing designed to bring awareness about our surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PBS kids offers up special outdoor-themed episodes in Wild Kratts and Arthur. On Monday, April 7, Season 3 of Wild Kratts kicks off with the brothers discovering hermit crabs and shells on the beach. And during the week of April 21, Arthur episodes will all be centered around outdoor  themes. (Check local listings for times.)

Fans of Cyberchase (and we, at Parents’ Choice, have lauded the show many times throughout the years for its math-based storylines), will want to catch the premiere of The Cyberchase Movie, a one-hour special airing in mid-April (Check local listings). The tale involves a slime geyser, some upset monkeys and more. Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez lends his voice as a junior ranger named Ollie. Environmental and math topics are explored in the adventure.

PBS is also launching a new WGBH Web series called Plum Landing, featuring outdoor themed episodes on Earth Day, April 22. The series centers around a video game designer/alien named Plum from Planet Blorb and her five Earthling friends, who embark on an epic exploration of Earth. The website will feature animated stories, games, live-action videos with science activities and more, aimed at six to nine year olds.

For adults and teens viewers, Showtime is kicking off a new nine-episode docu-series, Years of Living Dangerously, on April 13 at 10 p.m. Executive-produced by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the series enlisted a slew of movie stars, including Harrison Ford, Matt Damon and Olivia Munn to explore and interview scientists about climate change. Topic including wildfires, Hurricane Sandy, drought in the Middle East and global warming. Warning: This could be upsetting as the teams report on some heroic and heartbreaking events.

 

And when you’re done setting your DVR for all these shows, go outside and play!

04
Apr

Talk Talk

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Image via babyzone.com

 

The most expensive schools? The smartest phone? The fastest computer? When it comes to giving the best advantage to our children, it seems like a natural conclusion that top-dollar financial investment is a key component. We see this all the time with new and expectant parents who rush out to buy the fanciest gadgets and top of the line products for their little bundle of joy. But what if the single best thing you can do for your child was absolutely free—and something that you do every day? Sound to go to be true?

After decades of research, scientists have concluded that one of the most crucial factors for academic success is how much parents talk to their babies. Children exposed to “child-directed speech” learned more words faster than those who simply overheard conversations. Turns out making eye-contact, engaging and speaking directly to your child helps them develop pathways for learning language. Many hope that by educating parents on the importance of talking to babies and toddlers, we can close some educational gaps for lower income children even before they go to school.  By all means, parents can still play Mozart near the crib, and invest in educational toys, but just keep the conversation going with your child. Introduce new words, point out visual clues and just keep talking. That is, until they are teens. At that point, it might be more effective to just send a text.