Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Whose Responsibility Avoidable Tragedies?

"Sheppard observed the defendant Saad yelling and screaming and attempting to resuscitate Mac Saini in a perfunctory way."
"Her experience in ... being present and witnessing the death of Mac Saini and seeing his lifeless body was shocking and horrifying to the plaintiff."
B.C.Lawsuit, B.C.Supreme Court, statement of claim

"The death of a child is a tragedy no parent should ever face, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the parents."
British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development

"Without commenting on this partiular case, the vast majority of daycares are meeting their regulatory requirements for providing appropriate and safe care to children."
"This is a tragic incident and our heartfelt condolences go out to the parents."
Vancouver Coastal Health
Sixteen-month-old Macallan Wayne Saini, seen here with his family, died on Jan. 18, 2017 at a daycare in East Vancouver. (John Sheppard)

The Sheppard family of Vancouver has filed a lawsuit alleging that their baby, Macallan "Mac" Saini died while in the care of a daycare operated by Yasmine Saad, because he was left alone and the misadventure that took his life was caused by his having choked on an electrical cord. The lawsuit names the operator, Yasmine Saad, the landlords of the building where the daycare is located for failing to supervise daycare operations, and failing to ensure safe and infant-suitable premises prevailed for the daycare.

Vancouver Coastal Health and the Ministry of Children and Family Development also stand accused in the lawsuit of not warning parents, or taking steps to close the daycare in the wake of "multiple complaints" that it was operating without a licence and was an overcrowded facility. The operator, despite being investigated in multiple years after complaints, was never fined, and nor were steps taken to prevent it from continuing its daycare function in the community.

The property owners in their own defence stated they were unaware that their premises hosted a daycare. Shelley Sheppard, mother of 16-month-old Macallan Saini had arrived to pick up her child from the Olive Branch Daycare on the eighth day that he attended and was in the care of Yasmine Saad. On arrival a fire truck was parked in front of the daycare; when she entered the premises she witnessed the operator attempting to resuscitate the child, and realized her son was lifeless.

The suit she and her husband filed states the daycare was "overcrowded" with children, one of whom was seen behind a couch, while other children were seen to be strapped to chairs. Child care providers are permitted up to two children or a sibling group who are not related to them, to be cared for without a licence. Over 1,100 daycare facilities are routinely inspected by Vancouver Coastal Health annually, posting inspection reports on its website.

The statement of claim emphasizes that the child's mother suffers from trauma and health problems linked to permanent disability leading to loss of earnings and is absent life's enjoyment, as a result of the death of her infant. Leaving the impression that the parents did all they possibly could to ensure that their child was in a safe and reliable environment but that through no fault of their own, their child is now lost to them.

Due diligence would have mandated that the reputation of the daycare be the first order of business to ascertain, and a quick look at the website of Vancouver Coastal Health should have raised flags. Since the parents were cognizant of the fact that too many children were being cared for and dubious practices were used in restraining the children to ensure their safety, the question arises, why did they opt to place their child in that situation?

Yet another circumstantial situation arose in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, when a mother left her six-year-old autistic, epileptic, non-verbal daughter seated in the family SUV which the mother left running while she tended to shopping at a strip mall. Someone got into the vehicle and drove off with it, with the child still seated in the back. This took place on Sunday night; it was dark out and there was snow falling, with temperatures at the freezing mark.
RCMP in Saskatchewan have issued an Amber Alert for a six-year-old girl who they say was abducted outside a strip mall in North Battleford. Police say Emma O'Keeffe, shown in an RCMP handout photo, is Caucasian, three-feet-six-inches tall, and weighs 44 pounds. RCMP / THE CANADIAN PRESS

"Words cannot express our emotions right now."
"Emma is safe at home sleeping soundly, peacefully, surrounded by all the love in the world."
Emma O'Keefe's mother

"This was obviously a horrific circumstance, but it was beautiful to see so many people just leave their homes, grab a flashlight and go out and help look [for the missing child]."
Ryan Bater, mayor, North Battleford

"We don't know what happened from when the car was taken until when the car was found."
"Someone took a vehicle that was not theirs with the child in the back seat and then was responsible for the child being left overnight [in the SUV on her own]."
RCMP Cpl. Rob King
It took 14 hours, but eventually the vehicle with the little girl still in the back seat was found, tucked away in bushes. Though the weather was bad, and the city of Battleford lost power after midnight for a period of time, the Amber Alert that was called brought people out in substantial numbers, even from surrounding municipalities, to search for the child.

No one seems to be questioning the intelligent sense of responsibility on the part of the mother, leaving a defenceless child in such a vulnerable situation.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Perfect Female Body Image

"We are reporting an analysis of the largest prospective study to date on silicone breast implant safety. We are sharing critical information on complication rates and rare associations with systemic harms. This data gives women important safety information about silicone breast implants to have real expectations and to help them choose what is right for them."
"Despite abundant data collection, and open public access, the LPAS [large postapproval studies] database had not yet been analyzed and reported."
"These findings are associations compared to the general population and determining why these associations are observed or any causation requires further study."
"To resolve the remaining uncertainty in the evidence base, it is important that this data be analyzed in an unbiased manner. It remains the plastic surgery community's duty to provide definitive evidence for the risks associated with breast implants."
“This study did not report a direct link or causative effect between implants and these diseases. It is important to understand a limitation of the study was that some diseases were reported by patients and not necessarily diagnosed by a physician. This is important safety information for women to consider when thinking about cosmetic or reconstructive surgery with breast implants. It also underscores the need for more research in this area."
"It’s vital that women with implants be aware of the potential risks, so they can identify symptoms early and consult with their doctors. Fortunately, many of the diseases and conditions that have an association with implants are quite rare, so awareness is that much more important."
"Patients are seeking an assurance of safety. The FDA has deemed breast implants reasonably safe and effective, and being educated about potential complications is an important part of good health. All surgical procedures and implantable devices have potential complications and side effects. As plastic surgeons, it’s our responsibility to continually monitor the long-term safety of breast implants and make sure that all patients and physicians are aware of any possible adverse outcomes. This ensures that patients and their healthcare providers can weigh the potential risks and benefits together to make the best possible decisions on augmentation and reconstruction."
Mark W. Clemens, MD, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

What price beauty? For some there is no cost too dear. Women in Latin America in particular accept plastic surgery as a rite of passage as a woman, a desirable woman, a woman whose bodily features are to be admired, to gain attention, to be proud of herself. To these women their natural endowments need not necessarily represent the end result of what they can aspire to physically. It has become in many quarters, a classic formula when a teen enters her pre-adult years, to plan for breast augmentation surgery and for some, why stop there?

Still, it is in the United States that a greater percentage of women choose to undergo plastic surgery to amend errors that nature endowed them with. Simply put, the gold standard of plastic surgery is what takes place in the United States, followed by Brazil, and other countries where women see themselves not quite finished unless and until they have taken the necessary steps to pad their natural endowments so that their figures more closely resemble the ultimate ideal in female pulchritude.
Nearly all the cases of breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma have been linked to textured implants like this one.    CreditSouthern Illinois University, via Science Source
Silicone gel implants were associated with some horror stories in years past, from slippage to leaking, to infections and worse. A newly published independent analysis concluded with the suggestion that there are health problems associated more commonly with silicone gel implants; problems rare, it would seem, but troubling to no end for those unfortunate enough to be one of those whose breast implants are the cause of a medical condition.

Close to 100,000 women were included in the study published in the journal Annals of Surgery, representing the largest long-term safety analysis of silicone implants since 2006, the year the Food and Drug Administration permitted their re-entry on the American market following safety concerns leading to a 14-year gap. "We completely stand behind this study and we do feel it's our best data to date", assured Dr. Clemens, plastic surgeon, at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Women who have undergone breast cancer surgery with the removal of a breast understandably often choose to undergo reconstruction in an effort to resume a normal life and view of themselves as resembling how they had presented prior to surgery. Roughly 400,000 women in the United States choose to undergo surgical implant, mostly with silicone rather than saline. Of that number, three-quarters represent women who aspire to have larger breasts.

The website of the Food and Drug Administration warns women that "Breast implants are not lifetime devices", pointing out that up to 20 percent of women who have chosen to enlarge their breasts with silicone implants face removal within eight to ten years resulting from complications that include infections, wrinkling, scarring, pain, swelling and rupture of the implant. According to the FDA there is as well a small but increased rare lymphoma risk [type of cancer].
After learning she had breast cancer, Raylene Hollrah of Hermann, Mo., had a double mastectomy. But then cancer struck again — caused by the implants used to rebuild her chest.  Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times

When the FDA approved implant devices from two manufacturers in 2006 it was with the proviso that the manufacturers conduct studies on how use of the implants affected women's lives. These reports contained in an FDA database were used by the researchers for their analysis. Women with silicone implants appeared to suffer greater rates of Sjogren syndrome, an immune system disorder, as well as a connective tissue disorder called scleroderma, and melanoma; skin cancer; albeit rarely.

Problems such as fibromyalgia appeared lower among women wearing implants, and birth defects and stillbirths were inconsistent and inconclusive. To add to the confusion a  higher rate of rheumatoid arthritis linked to one of the silicone brands, but with another a lower rate was seen. Dr. Andrea Pusic, plastic surgery chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, president-elect of the Plastic Surgery Foundation was unimpressed with the report, considering its potential to create greater anxiety than insight.

That problems associated with silicone implants are real is beyond doubt, however. And that women are risking real inconvenience in their lives should they need to have serial implants over the course of their lives if they remain committed to breast augmentation, let alone facing the onset of some quite life-disruptive diseases, seems to make the choice for implants an irrational, rather than a considered condition of vanity.

Some of the complications and adverse outcomes of a boob job include:

  • Additional surgeries, with or without removal of the device
  • Capsular contracture– scar tissue that forms around the implant and squeezes the implant
  • Breast pain
  • Changes in nipple and breast sensation
  • Rupture with deflation of saline-filled implants
  • Rupture with or without symptoms (silent rupture) of silicone gel-filled implants
According to the FDA, as many as 20 percent of women who have a boob job need their implants removed within 8 to 10 years.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Eye Tic Syndrome (Computer Vision Syndrome)

"It's kind of like all the things your mom lectured you about growing up: lack of sleep, staring at screens, dry eyes, caffeine, dehydration, stress."
"[If a twitch happens], something has misfired, involuntarily."
Shameema Sikder, ophthalmologist, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

"[Eye twitches, or chronic myokymia, represents] fine, continuous, undulating contractions [across the orbicularis oculi muscle]."
"It's annoying [but], if patients can tolerate it, it's best that they just wait it out, and it will go away."
Rudrani Banik, ophthalmologist, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Eyelid Twitch 2

Got a twitching eye? It's annoying. It's one of those things you wonder about; you feel it you know it's there but does anyone looking at you see it? Should you mention it? Are they too polite to remark on it? Evidently doctors assure their patients that though they are themselves acutely aware that their eye is continually, delicately but definitely twitching, no one else would be aware of it, even if they happen to be looking directly at you. Perhaps it would take sustained, close observation and people don't usually engage in that kind of intrusive viewing of other peoples' faces.

For relief from that twitchy eye that keeps spasming and annoying you, take a break from that computer screen after 20 minutes have elapsed, and do it regularly. Close your eyes and relax before resuming that stare at the glare. Closing your eyes can help to hydrate your eyes. Dr. Sikder mentions that Botox which disrupts communication between nerves and muscles has a high success rate in stopping a really persistent twitch. So if matters become really, really serious with that disruptive twitch, opt for a Botox injection.

Or not. If the frequency, duration and pattern of the twitch changes notably for the worse, it's time to consult your doctor. Should other facial muscles also begin twitching, or pain result in association with the twitch, it should be medically monitored; that combination of associated symptoms could conceivably be signals of damaged nerve fibres -- or, worse-case scenario, a brain-stem disease. Heaven forfend, tuck that away somewhere deep and out of sight.

As we spend more time continually viewing screens, we have a tendency to forget our health goals in prevention of complications due to excessive lifestyle habits. Our eye muscles become fatigued when we favour remaining fixated on that screen rather than tucking ourselves into bed at a decent  hour. Although why the biological reaction to close and continuous screen bonding causing that benign eye twitch is unknown, the process is understood, that the delicate muscle fibres which open and close the eyelid are impacted.

Dr. Banik with Mount Sinai School of Medicine studied the incidence of benign eyelid twitch, following patients over a multiple-year period. It might surprise, but seven years is evidently the average length of time reported with an eye twitch; that's pretty chronic and would certainly tend to wear people down, much less impact on their screen-viewing habits, whether an iPhone or a computer screen.

None of the patients that Dr. Banik studied progressed to a neurological condition throughout the period of the study but it is known that in rare cases an eye twitch can act as a symptom of a larger issue. Remedy? Relax an eye twitch by ensuring you have enough sleep hours, take in less caffeine, don't overindulge in alcohol, and of optimum importance, take those screen breaks.

Stress 2

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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Ocean Cleanup, System 001

"The plastic is really persistent, and it doesn't go away by itself and the time to act is now."
"We still have to prove the technology -- which will then allow us to scale up a fleet of systems."
"One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years."
"I'm the first to acknowledge this has never been done before and that it is important to collect plastic on land and close the taps on plastic entering into the ocean, but I also think humanity can do more than one thing at a time to tackle this problem."
Boyan Slat, 24, Netherlands innovator, founder, The Ocean Cleanup

"We at the Ocean Conservancy are highly skeptical but we hope it works. The ocean needs all the help it can get."
"If you don't stop plastics from flowing into the ocean, it will be a Sisyphean task [to rescue oceans from the unstoppable flood of waste plastics]."
"He [Boyan Slat and Ocean Cleanup] has set a very large and lofty goal, and we certainly hope it works, but we really are not going to know until it is deployed."
"We have to wait and see."
George Leonard, chief scientist, Ocean Conservancy
The Ocean Cleanup System

According to George Leonard, eight tonnes of plastic waste annually enters the ocean, crying out for a purposeful approach to solve the issue, beginning with the obvious; to shield the ocean from plastic entering it to begin with. He is convinced that educating the public to the critical element of recognizing the need to use less plastic, recycle and reuse plastic in favour of simply discarding it in vulnerable environments is to convince that it is everyone's responsibility. Single-use plastic containers and bottles are a scourge.

The annual International Coastal Cleanup scheduled for September 15 sponsored by Ocean Conservancy alerts people to the issue and succeeds in mustering sufficient interest in evoking a personal sense of mission that an anticipated million volunteers worldwide plan to gather trash from beaches and waterways in a group effort mounted by the non-profit environmental advocacy group.  Last year's Coastal Cleanup saw roughly 10,000 tonnes of plastics collected globally over a two-hour period of intensive activity.

The Ocean Cleanup has even greater, more ambitious aspirations for cleaning up the ocean, beginning with a plan to deploy a long floating boom to net plastic litter in the ocean between California and Hawaii, in a trial run to clean up the largest garbage patch in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. A floating boom 600-metres in length is being towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch from San Franscisco. This system was created by The Ocean Cleanup.
Ocean Cleanup Project
If the pilot project is a success, Slat plans to launch a bigger system to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)
The barrier itself, buoyant and shaped like a giant U with a tapered three-metre-deep screen is intended to emulate a coastline to trap as much of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic as possible that science estimates whirls about in  giant gyre. The design is meant to ensure that ocean animals won't be caught within the net, but can escape it by swimming beneath the screen. The giant device is fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennae.

The system is programmed to communicate its position at all times so support vessels are able to cull out collected plastic every few months to transport their 'catch' to dry land where it will undergo recycling. All the plastic refuse scooped out by the system will be dumped into shipping containers for collection and when full, returned to land. Whether the system will prove to be as efficient as hoped, and is able to withstand harsh conditions will be determined over time.

Donations to fund the project came from a multitude of sources, the most notable perhaps and substantial from the founder of PayPal and from Success of this pilot project will determine whether an additional dozens of free-floating barriers can proceed to cleanse the Pacific Ocean substantially by 2020. Designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and continual wear and tear, the barriers will remain in the water for several decades, expected during that period to collect 90 percent of the patch's trash.

Of primary concern is that marine animals and other wildlife not be trapped by entanglement in the net that hangs below the ocean's surface. Mr. Slat points out that the system employs a screen instead of a net to ensure that animals will not become entangled in a net-like device. And that a boat with experienced marine biologists will venture out for regular forays to inspect the device, ensuring that no animals do come to harm.

The Ocean Cleanup

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Friday, September 07, 2018

Preparing for the Consumer Pot-Acquisition Onslaught

"[The study's purpose is to provide a] comprehensive outline of the scope and scale of cannabis consumption in Canada."
"Actual demand remains unknown and there is no statistically proven method to know demand with statistical certainty."
Health Canada-commissioned report on cannabis consumption in Canada 

"[There will be a] huge curiosity spoke [of those waiting to buy legal cannabis in the early days of legalization across Canada]."
"I don't think there will be empty shelves, but there might be shortages of some strains."
Brad Rogers, president Canntrust cannabis growers
Concerns are being raised over the ability of Canada's licensed medical marijuana producers to supply enough cannabis for a legal recreational market. (Julie Gordon/Reuters)

An air of expectancy is palpable among recreational drug users in Canada. The country is set to become the first to legalize recreational marijuana right across the country, by an act of Parliament. Cannabis growers have been revving up activities with frenzied determination. Investment in infrastructure for marijuana production has been driven on overtime. Advertising and public relations campaigns have been very visible over the past year. Suddenly, cannabis, a herb whose growth, production, sale, acquisition has been illegal save for prescribed medical services, is set to become readily available to consumers.

Cannabis-growth operators are confident they are able to spin the demand into amply-provided products to satisfy the drive by consumers to have their fix and smoke it too. And then, the stunning
news out of a report commissioned by Health Canada predicting that demand will outstrip supply in the first year of legalization. This, at a time when producers have been slavering to get their product to market, ramping up production with the happy visions of dollar signs twinkling in their bedazzled eyes.

With the use of a 2017 federal survey on cannabis use to enable the study's estimation of the numbers of Canadians and their appetite for readily-acquired, legal weed will be in the initial year of legalization, the calculation of 926,000 kilograms was arrived at inclusive of recreational and medical cannabis use; 41 percent higher than the Parliamentary Budget Officer's estimate in 2016 of 655,000 kilograms. The outlook, should the new number accurately reflect demand, augurs shortages from October 17 forward.

To industry experts this will not come as shocking new news, since they have predicted Canadian cannabis growers would be unable to produce sufficient product from the outcome, until the situation stabilizes and producers prove themselves equal to the difficult task of putting their production skills to the test, enabling them to satisfy demand and in the process build their singularly successful pot-production empires.

"We all know there is not going to be enough product on Day One, not nearly enough", pronounced Greg McLeish, a financial analyst who specializes in cannabis, with Mackie Research Capital Corp. His prediction is that it won't be until 2020 that supply will finally match demand. Even now, provinces preparing for an unprecedented demand in reflection of a product that was illegal until October 17, have updated their orders from 10,000 kilograms to 17,000 kilograms.

The issue, of course, is to be able to adequately stock legal stores and at the same time determine anticipated tax revenue collected from cannabis sales. Spinoffs such as job creation, and regulatory services to come out of the entire experience all require attention, from licensing to public education and policing related to matters such as driving infractions. If it all seems somewhat 'on the fly', that's because it is, despite the long window of preparation, given the many ponderables involved.

The study, commissioned by Health Canada had a price tag of $90,000 reflecting the combined research of Marijuana Policy Group located in Denver, and BOTEC Analysis research firm also in the U.S.There is uncertainty over how many pot users will simply continue supplying themselves from familiar illicit sources, from known dealers, dispensaries and friends. The anticipated shift to the legal market will rely upon competitive pricing and convenience, the variety of products and whether illegal dispensaries will successfully be shuttered by the law.

According to an estimate from a CIBC World Markets report, cannabis growers currently produce roughly 350,000 kilograms annually even while the large grow operations are expanding at a frantic pace and new companies vie for licences. Billions in investments are announced along with plans by ambitious companies to become leaders in the field. "Construction and production promises in this industry are a dime a dozen", the report by CIBC published in May, noted.

B.C. unveils legal marijuana rules

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Seeing Stars

"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet."
"Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist."
"Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at."
"It matters that you don't just give up."
Dr. Stephen Hawking, Cambridge University, 2012

Sagely poignant advice from someone whose life was challenged in such an extreme manner that anyone else might simply surrender to the reality of a mind struggling to express itself in a body that nature had abandoned to a long, agonizing downward spiral of failure. A man who overcame obstacles that would have truncated anyone else's expectations for the future. A man determined to use whatever resources he had to the fullest, despite the wholesale disadvantage of a disintegrating body. And who succeeded beyond the wildest imagination of doctors. In the process creating a different type of celebrity awe in the public awareness of the possible transcending the impossible.

At George Mason University in Virginia, 97 students were asked to complete a series of personality questionnaires by researchers Todd Kashdan and Michael Steger. A diary was to be kept and updated for a three-week period. The researchers, analyzing the results, found that respondents scoring high on curiosity found more enjoyment in life and had the impression that their existence was suffused with more meaning than those in comparison who tended to be inward-looking.

A survey of over 1,200 Swiss and American adults found that the qualities linked to high levels of satisfaction in life were love, gratitude, curiosity and perseverance. A finding that Christopher Peterson at University of Michigan along with Dr. Willibald Ruch who led the survey, was found to validate Professor Hawking's advice that determination and a sense of purpose leads to personal well-being. Linked to our personal views on life's values is the way we physically carry ourselves.

According to a study by John Riskind at Texas A&M and Carolyn Gotay at the University of Calgary, people who slump rather than stand upright surrender more readily when faced with difficult tasks. Slumpers appear to report greater stress than their counterparts in the study whose posture was upright. Volunteers were asked to generate positive or negative thoughts while either slumped or in an upright position by Vietta Wilson at York University in Toronto and Erik Peper at San Francisco State University. Those participating in that study reported finding it to be significantly easier when upright to produce positive thoughts.

At the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Carissa Wilkes and her colleagues recruited 74 individuals suffering from mild-to-moderate depression in a test to determine whether upright posture might alleviate low moods. Asked to either assume their usual position (slumped) or instructed to sit upright, mood and fatigue levels of participants were then assessed, everyone assigned two stress tests; to prepare and deliver a speech.

While delivering their speech, those who stood upright delivered a more relaxed, fulsome speech, and distinguished themselves by scoring higher for positive mood and self-esteem, while reporting feeling less fatigue than their slumped counterparts. Focusing outward rather than inward, considering our environment, working to solve problems as they are presented throughout life, assures that people feel more fulfilled, content with life and purposeful.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Social Media Bondage

"This decline in reading print media -- particularly the decline in reading books -- it's concerning."
"Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills. It's also excellent practice for students who are going on to college."
"Does digital media displace the leisure time people once spent on legacy media? We find that the answer is yes."
Jean Twenge, professor of psychology, San Diego State University

"This is not the way we treat things that we want to teach children are pleasurable. [by coercing children to read, by temporarily restricting their Internet time until a time-frame dedicated to reading has passed] I mean, think about it. You would never think of coercing your child into having a piece of cake."
"[Modelling good reading through example is fundamental]. That almost goes without saying. If you're nagging your child to read and you're just sort of on Instagram [yourself] all the time, why in the world would they take that seriously?"
Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology, University of Virginia
Image – iStockphoto: Disobey Art

Dr. Willingham wrote Raising Kids Who Read, and Dr. Twenge is the author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -- and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood -- and What That Means for the Rest of Us, one title snappy and to the point, the other groaningly verbose for a title, but both indicating the concern that these two academics feel for the generations for whom reading is no longer a valued skill nor a source of limitless pleasure and entertainment.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, adolescents in North America are twinned to their electronic devices; texting, scrolling and engaging in social media for hours on end daily, vastly preferring that medium to reading books and magazines, in print or long-form media. In 2016, one in three American high school seniors chose not to read a book at all for pleasure, while 82 percent of those in 12th grade daily succumbed to the social imperative of visiting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In contrast, back in the 1970s, about 60 percent of high school seniors read a book, magazine or newspaper each and every day; now, only 16 percent of high school seniors reported having done so. Early in the 1980s the slide in rates of reading legacy media began and steadily increased in the next several decades. And then along came smart-phones and high-speed Internet with widely available access, sweeping everyone along in the frenzy of being cool and connected.

Image – iStockphoto: Disobey Art

Screen time for high-schoolers -- including television -- rose steadily, tripling from the late 1970s to the mid-2010s, the study points out. And while 12th-grade students reported about six hours devoted every day to digital media, tenth-graders devoted five hours and eighth-graders four hours, amply demonstrating that given the choice, teens prefer to pick up their devices in favour of a book any day of the week, any hour, any time.

As in most things, a gender differential was noted, with girls visiting social media sites more frequently than boys, who preferred to spend more of their leisure time on video games, in a predictable twist. Dr. Willingham recommends parents focus on the need to separate their children from their screens, but without resorting to enforced reading; not to deprive the teen of his/her phone assuring a return in 30 minutes once that time has been gainfully spent reading.

To begin with, the environment in which children live should be one where books are a casual yet important part of what is on offer as an option, rather than banning devices. A good way to impress the importance of reading on teens is to ensure that they are familiar with books being the first choice of leisure-time reading for their parents; setting that vital example as a subconscious clue to values and choices.

"Litter your house with eye-catching titles", is the advice of Dean-Michael Crosby, teacher at a school in England, whose advice to parents is that leaving books in the living room, the kitchen, even bathrooms has the potential to provoke interest in young people, curious about their contents.


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