UK claim denying kids screen time is child abuse - a ‘controversial’ conversation starter says Kiwi psychologist

A New Zealand child psychologist has poured cold water on a UK sociologist's claim that banning kids from technology is tantamount to child abuse, but admits it is a "controversial" conversation starter.

Psychologist Dr Emma Woodward said there's no denying the benefits technology can provide for children, but a "well rounded" childhood is the goal, and that includes outdoor frivolities like climbing trees and getting dirty.

There are also known risks with children getting too much screen time, Dr Woodward says.

"We do know there are associated risks with obesity and type-2 diabetes," she said.

"There's also an impact on expressive language, the words that children use to express themselves, and we don't actually know how the neurotransmitter dopamine that's released when we use screens, how that impacts on a developing brain yet - we're not sure about that so the message would be to exercise caution."

Dr Woodward said the human attraction to screens is related to this dopamine release, because screens provide two key psychological rewards.

"We are social animals and we crave connection, so screens potentially, they play to two of our very deep needs, so reward and connection.

When we pick up a screen and go on the internet we are instantly gratified and that's why we like screens so much.

So, yes we do need to make sure our relationship and our interaction with screens are not at the cost of other experiences that we need to develop."

Some of the potential harm from this could be a decreased ability to recognise non-verbal cues during communication with others, and the natural curiosity that grows with outdoor exploration.

Child psychologist Dr Emma Woodward says there are benefits to technology, but a "well rounded" childhood is the priority. Source: Breakfast


Can a baby’s babble indicate they’ll be a good reader?

New research shows a baby’s babble can indicate whether they’ll grow up to be good readers.

Experts say the finding is important for New Zealand given the country’s reading standards have dropped over the last five years.

“Often people think that their babble means nothing but that's not true,” says Emma Quigan from Talking Matters.

“Babies are born ready to communicate.”

A Florida study listened to babies from nine months and measured the complexity of the babble.

“Sounds like 'pah, bur, meh', all the sounds that you make when you're speaking,” said University of Auckland’s Liz Fairgray.

Their reading was tested six year later, and those who performed best were the ones who babbled as babies.

While only nine infants were tracked, the findings are in line with previous research which proved speech and reading are heavily linked.

“We need to be able to hear the ‘ch’ sound, we need to be able to make the ‘ch’ sound and we then go on and we can read that the letter ‘c’ and the letter ‘h’ joined together can make a ‘ch’ sound... and make a word like chair,” says Ms Fairgray.

Parents need to engage more with their children if New Zealand hopes to turn around the reduction in reading standards over the past five years, experts say.

“It's not like we're anti-technology, but we know children learn best from humans,” said Ms Quigan.

Instead of using devices as babysitters, parents should listen and respond.

“When they babble -‘boo gaa gaa gaa gaa’, that kind of thing - treat it like words and respond to them as if they're saying something,” said Ms Quigan

“It's never too early to start talking to your children, to start reading to your children, and to really engage with them with vocal play,” Ms Fairgray said.

New research shows how much a baby babbles could indicate how good a reader they’ll become. Source: 1 NEWS


Thousands enjoy first taste of fishing despite weed invasion in Christchurch ponds

A massive weed invasion wasn't enough to stop the enormously popular take-a-kid-fishing event from going ahead at The Groynes in Christchurch yesterday.

Thanks to a huge effort over the past two months to rid the ponds of the unwanted visitor, thousands were able to enjoy their first taste of fishing.

Christchurch City Council ranger Robbie Hewson said, "So far as we know The Groynes is the only place in Christchurch where this weed has been present".

The authorities, including Fish and Game, are determined to stop the lagrosiphon major in its tracks before it spreads to other bodies of water.

"This weed is so smothering in the water. It's been near-impossible to fish in lakes, one and two which are the prime spots," Mr Hewson said.

The noxious plant has been chemically treated, and 100 cubic metres of it has been torn out of the smallest lake alone, making it fit for the onslaught of kids with lines at the ready.

"If a fish is on the line, it goes num num num num. It might even pull you in if it’s a big fish," one man could be heard saying to a child.

The weed eradication is also proving to be a very popular move with the regulars.

"I've been fishing in here for about 25 years. In fact, I learnt to fish in here. It's a really good spot, so I think cleaning it up is a great idea," one local said.

Around 820 rainbow trout were put into the ponds as part of the event – and big ones, too.

Six-year-old Lucas can certainly vouch for their size.

"I was feeling, like, brave and I wanted, like, to really hold it," he said.

The pile of weed will gradually break down completely, with the project expected to continue another nine months to ensure it won't be coming back.

A massive weed invasion wasn’t enough to stop the enormously popular take-a-kid-fishing event. Source: 1 NEWS


Christchurch estuary receives international recognition for role in life of migrating birds

A Christchurch estuary has received international recognition for its role in the life of migrating birds.

The Avon Heathcote Estuary has joined an exclusive list of wetlands called the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network, which is home to birds such as the bar-tailed godwit.

Migratory waders and shorebirds forage in the estuary during the summer, where they put on weight before flying to Alaska.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says the wetland's new status emphasises the need to protect the habitat.

The Avon Heathcote Estuary has joined an exclusive list of wetlands called the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network, which is home to birds such as the bar-tailed godwit. Source: 1 NEWS

Greens call to legalise safe drug testing before summer festival season begins

The Green Party wants to see safe drug testing legalised before the summer festival season begins.

Testing has already been taking place at some events, but the practice exists in a legal grey area.

"So no one here is saying that drugs are cool or fun, but we're saying that after decades of trying to say, 'Don't use them,' the reality is that they are being used and they do exist," Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick said. 

"Mums and dads, when they're sending their kids off to festivals, obviously, we'd hope that their kids aren't using these substances, but if they are going to use them, surely, you want to ensure that they're doing so in a safe way where harm is minimised."

Ms Swarbrick is confident that law changes can be made in time for summer, as Health Minister David Clark has already requested advice on what legislative change would look like.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick wants to see safe drug testing legalised before the summer festival season begins. Source: 1 NEWS