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



Pest controllers hop into action over Wellington wallaby mystery

Pest control rangers raced through Wellington's town belt last night hunting wallabies after one ended up dead on a city street yesterday.

None of those rangers think the marsupials live in the native bush that surrounds the city, but the tiny kangaroos eat pasture, seedlings and native bush so they have to take the threat seriously.

Cyclists and runners spotted the dead wallaby in the gutter on Sunday morning.

"Fingers crossed it's somebody taking a dead animal to the tip," said Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

But when the Department of Conservation and Greater Wellington Regional Council rangers arrived to take the body away, it was gone.

"As they are pest animals we needed to recover the carcass to ID the species and figure out where it has come from," said a DOC spokesperson asking anyone with information to call its Kāpiti office.

Was the wallaby a hunter's spoils that fell off a ute, a clandestine pet, or did it hop out of the bush to meet an untimely demise on the road?

Also looking for answers is Carl Gifford who runs nearby Carlucciland. He said he and his partner had both spotted something odd in the bush recently.

"I couldn't work out what it was," he said.

"It was so quick it was like a giant rat, but it could've been a cat, but it could've been a wallaby too."

When Mr Gifford found out about the dead wallaby down the road, he was on his way again.

"As soon as I heard I thought, 'gosh, I must go up the hill and have a look.'"

"I've been scouting the hill all day and there's been nothing. But you never know there have been a lot of animals released out the back over the years (by hunters mostly): pigs and even deer."

Last night he and his son searched the surrounding hills for those mini-roos, spotting several rabbits but no wallabies.

Equipped with thermal imaging cameras, Regional Council rangers searched for the dead wallaby and any others that are alive. They'll go out again the next two nights to make sure the wallaby wasn't part of a colony.

"They're an absolute disaster in native forests, they go through everything. If you go into native forests you have a situation where you can bend down and it’'ll be [picked] clean at the height of a wallaby's head. All the way through it'll just be eaten out," Mr Hackwell said.

Could there be more Australian marsupials hiding in the capital? Source: 1 NEWS

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'Not inconceivable' NZ petrol prices could reach $3 per litre within six to 12 months, says transport expert

The escalating price of petrol in New Zealand could reach $3 per litre within the next six months, warns a transport expert.

Road Transport Forum NZ chief executive Ken Shirley says the depreciating New Zealand dollar and the natural volatility of international oil prices could see the cost of petrol get far worse than the current $2 per litre plus levels.

"I hate to be a merchant of doom but it's not inconceivable it could go to sort of $3 a litre," Mr Shirley said on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today.

"The other side of that is it could drive more people into public transport and give a boost to electric cars."

And how soon in a worst case scenario could Kiwi fuel prices break the $3 per litre mark?

"Look I'm very loath to speculate on global fuel prices but given the instability we've got globally, we could expect that within six months, within 12 months. But it is highly unpredictable," Mr Shirley said.

If the fuel price were to reach these heights, those most affected will be rural Kiwis devoid of subsidised public transport, and low-income families working in the outer suburbs of cities, Mr Shirley said.

The depreciating Kiwi dollar is one of the main factors which have risen the price of petrol to it's current level above $2.10 per litre, Mr Shirley said.

Geo-political trends, and the instability of the Iran nuclear deal with US sanctions on the middle eastern country, are also influences.

"Absolutely, that kind of instability, or global outlook could create quite a shock in the global price," Mr Shirley said.

But despite all this, Mr Shirley believes the New Zealand fuel market is competitive considering our isolation. 

"I think we have a very competitive market in New Zealand, we have one of the dearest landed prices in the world because of our remote place on the planet," he said.

"Most of the big oil companies don't actually find the New Zealand market particularly attractive but it is a competitive market, and that's the reality that we can expect increasing prices."

Ken Shirely says the depreciating NZ dollar is responsible for the high price of petrol at the moment. Source: Breakfast