Back to AIDS

01.31.13

I just finished reading, no devouring, A Home at the End of the World. It’s a rich novel that explores relationships and the limits of love. It begins in the 60’s and I’m uncomfortable because there’s sex but no talk of condoms and I’m furiously flipping pages because I know what the 80’s will bring.

There was incredible sadness and fear in the 80’s and the 90’s were marked by slower deaths with anger and activism. There’s an article that needs to be written and it needs a more targeted audience than this site can provide but one day I’ll be able to write about what it is to watch someone die. Deliberately. One day I’ll tell you about the day he killed himself and we all watched and chanted and said the prayers he needed. We watched him take his last breath and no one interrupted to try and save him but no one helped either. We knew better than to do that.

In his dying months he regaled me with tales of Die Ins and trips to the desert where he and his friends from ACT UP would stamp their money with pink triangles. Queer bills, he called them. Just a year earlier in Colorado I’d watched in horror as the Christian Coalition rallied the troops and passed laws that were violently anti-gay assuring that the state would never see them as a protected class enabling good people to be fired, evicted and generally abused. I’d never really believed that people hated gays until I left Los Angeles. I should add that I’d never been to Church. My experiences in Colorado showed me that the hatred and fear I’d seen started at a pulpit.

I was checking the Lemmle for movies I might want to see and there were none so I looked at what might be coming soon and saw How to Survive a Plague is coming next week. I assumed it was a tongue in cheek title until I clicked through for the trailer. And then I sat and watched and sobbed.

I cannot tell you how many men died. I think this is a movie I need to watch alone.

Toddlers and Television, the AAP and Sesame Street

10.27.11

Well that went well. Dr. Ari Brown spat out the words Mommy Blogger a few times with a little more disdain that Sister Susan uses for syphilis or satan. James Steyer was magnificent at promoting his website and chastised me more than once for arguing the science.

Because ya know I’m like Michelle Bachman if I argue the quality of the science. Yet I do question the quality of the science.

We talked about how low income kids watch more TV and it might not be children’s programming. Perhaps because it’s less safe to play outside? I’m thinking that’s true in the cities, but not every low income home is urban. I strongly suspect that with NPR talking about less screen time for children (particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area) it’s preaching to the choir.

There was great concern at the top of the hour about apps, smart phones and computers, but that wasn’t discussed. Lesli Rotenberg joined us as a representative of Sesame Street and everyone fell head over heels. She might as well have been Grover. Who doesn’t love Sesame Street?

The discussion on KQED’s own site centered around the fact that these families had screen free homes. Irony anyone?

I’m tired of of women like Dr. Ari Brown who have an agenda that is dismissive of real life. It’s exhausting to me that folks think that because you’re a blogger you’re uneducated. It’s tiring to hear from the “experts”, as new media has evolved I’ve seen the curtain pulled back and much like the Wizard of Oz there are often tiny men with big megaphones.

Your infants and TV? The AAP’s recommendations are sound. Limit media.

Okay, got it? Limit media. Houses with TVs on all day? You suck, the AAP says so and I totally agree with them.

Don’t give your one year old your iPhone… well odds are are 1 in 6 that there’s fecal matter on it already.

The recommendations suggest nesting cups or wooden spoons. You should totally use these toys for your kids while you’re milking the cows and churning your butter.

I understand that people worry about too much media. There was a time that lawmakers were concerned about radios in cars.

I also know that there is a richness in new media. Good content should not be ignored and Bugs Bunny won’t make your child violent, he simply will not. If a Baby Einstein video introduces your infant to Mozart and a Brainy Baby DVD teaches them colors go for it. Also if you think your child doesn’t have to be learning every single second of their day, you might be right too.

 

UPDATE: Here is the podcast.

KQED Forum Tomorrow Morning

10.26.11

I’ll be on The Forum with Michael Krasny at 9 tomorrow morning. We’ll be talking about kids and media. The show is on KQED the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate.

You may or may not be aware that the AAP has recommended zero screen time for children under two. I suppose I’m invited to add a little color as I cannot comprehend why the AAP would think taking such an extreme stance would support new parents. I’m pretty sure this Washington Post article led them to me.

forum with michael krasny kqed npr

If you don’t live in the bay area you can listen online at KQED.org.

Guests:

  • Ari Brown, pediatrician and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on television and kids under two years old
  • James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit which conducted the survey on media habits for kids up to eight years old
  • Jessica Gottlieb, parenting blogger based in Los Angeles
  • Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president of children’s media for PBS

Faux Research Harms Everyone

07.4.11

University of WashingtonLast week I told y’all that The University of Washington had settled part of a lawsuit with the founders of Baby Einstein. In paying $175,000 of legal fees they admit that they violated the public records act. This may seem like a ho hum piece of news, but it’s really important for families to understand how research at places like the University of Washington affects our daily lives.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis has a website (and a lecture business) where he promotes himself as an International Expert on Media and Child Health. Seriously, google the phrase and you’ll see Dr. Christakis lecturing in towns like Bozeman Montana and creating healthy child guidelines with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I know, you’re still wondering why I have such an axe to grind with this particular physician.

Well, Dr. Christakis (MD & MPH not PHD), along with his research partners Frederick J. Zimmerman, PHD and Andrew N. Meltzoff, PHD study the deleterious effects of media on children. Their research as it relates to Baby Einstein’s impact on young children is faulty at best and fraudulent at it’s worst.

Again, why do I care so much about one single study that wasn’t controlled, included self reporting on the telephone from two regions, has two sets of raw data (raw data is NOT interpreted, in a good study it’s just one set of numbers, if there are two sets of numbers there were errors, omissions or lies… none of which belong in a study) and measured babies watching an average of 8 minutes of television a day, but then they just multiplied to figure out what it might look like if that was an hour? Why would I care about a study like that? It’s like caring about the fake Autism study that put babies (and our total population) at risk by scaring parents out of vaccines.

From the study’s abstract:

Results

Among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score in a fully adjusted model (95% confidence interval = −26.20 to −7.77). Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers.

You would think that the babies watched an hour of TV a day, wouldn’t you? They watched LESS THAN NINE MINUTES ON THE AVERAGE. No, I’m not making this up.

Here’s the problem, Dr. Christakis is running around America (and according to his PR machine the world) peddling snake oil wherein you can raise a smarter, more literate child by keeping them screen free. What everyone is ignoring is that Dr. Christakis and his crew are once again attacking  motherhood and while they’re wrapped up in their white coats sitting in a laboratory telephoning parents they’re telling American Mothers that they’re bad at what they do.

More importantly this “research” is accepted by the AAP as truth and parents are told repeatedly that they are harming their children.

But most importantly this study appears to have been at least partially funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). My understanding about research (again like Dr. Christakis I’ve only got a master’s degree not a PhD like Zimmerman and Meltzoff) is that good research meant to answer a question, and not to prove a point.

A few things for smart parents to take into consideration before they make media decisions:

  • Not all media is created equal, sometimes your kids just want to lay back, relax and be entertained. Just like we do. Should this be hours of the day? Of course not, but you already knew that, right?
  • Some media is quite educational, you can participate with the kids and maybe learn some stuff, like letters, numbers, shapes and language. Watch TV or hang out on websites with your kids once in a while.
  • Sometimes your older child will want to watch TV and your younger child will wander into the room. At times the younger one will be interested, other times they won’t be. Isn’t that funny how children self-regulate? Write a paper on that, maybe the University of Washington will publish it and make it the Mommy Law.
  • If you need to get dinner on the table, make the beds or balance your checkbook without pretending you’re a home school mom and you’d like to do this stuff without your kids try and do it in 22 minutes. That’s how long a TV show lasts when you fast forward through the commercials.
  • You also have permission to let the kids watch a show and you can sit and do nothing. Guess what, you’re still a good mom.

Telling parents that they aren’t permitted to allow a child to look at a screen until a certain age is ludicrous, particularly when it’s based on junk science.

Parents know intuitively what’s good for kids. Also, what’s good for the parents is good for kids. The first two years are special, sacred even, but when parents are being screeched at that everything they’re doing is wrong, bad and going to make the kids less intelligent we end up with a crew of frazzled and misinformed families.

Frazzled parents abuse children.

Faux science is robbing children of their health and of calm homes. Faux Science is robbing parents of the ability to trust their pediatrician’s recommendations. I’m urging the AAP to rethink their recommendations until they have something more than a dishonest study to back it up.

I blame these three researchers Christakis, Zimmerman, and Meltzoff for breaching the trust of the parents everywhere. It’s a horrible thing that for some reason (ego maybe?) these three researchers would impose their bias on American households without even having a set of data that the pubic can honestly review. I’ll patiently wait for the University of Washington to apologize for rubber stamping research that is opinion based and clearly meant to further one man’s career as opposed to benefiting the public that it was supposed to serve.

****

For your entertainment I’m exerpting the following from the NIH Guidelines for the Conduct of Research:

  • Financial interests include, but are not limited to,ownership of stock or equity, patents,consulting arrangements, collaboration  agreements, honoraria, service on advisory boards, or management appointments. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest can threaten the integrity of research and undermine the public’s trust in the NIH’s intramural research activities
  • Scientific integrity is inseparable from meticulous attention to the acquisition and maintenance of these research data
  • Research data, including the primary experimental results and computer andstatistical analyses, should be retained fora sufficient period to allow analysis andrepetition by others of published materialresulting from those data. Seven years is specified by the Federal Government (http://www.ori.dhhs.gov/documents/FR_Doc_05-9643.shtml) as the minimum period of retention but this may be longer under some circumstances, such as clinical research

If you’re like me and you love reading academic papers here’s one that is utterly dismissive of a large body of Christakis’ work (which he sells in paperback form) There Is No Meaningful Relationship Between Television Exposure and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
work

A Childhood Worth Protecting

02.15.11

It’s only post-Industrial Revolution that we’ve taken our children out of the workforce. Child labor laws were discussed in the early 1800’s. In 1836 Massachusetts instituted a law wherein child workers under the age of 15 had to attend school at least three months of the year.

It wasn’t until 1904 that the National Child Labor Committee formed and even with that it was 1938 before laws were passed Nationally.

It’s only in the last century that we’ve guarded childhood legislatively. All through the ages it’s been “women and children”, but when push comes to shove we like to shove our children into the workforce. They have small nimble hands that are good with a sewing machine or assembling Apple computers, and legs that don’t tire easily. Children are also beautiful, they have glossy hair, bright eyes, white teeth, narrow hips and flawless skin.

I live in a factory town. Unlike towns in Asia we don’t assemble Apple computers here, nor do we stitch together tee shirts. My town’s factory churns out entertainment. The prettiest girls from all over the country flock to Los Angeles in hopes of being the next big thing. They are all beautiful, some are more talented than others, some are brighter than others, a few are simply savvier and work harder. Some will drop out of entertainment and go into Public Relations. They will spin tales of luck and overnight success, ignoring the lost years, the nepotism, the surgeries and the heartbreaks.

Parents become managers and costars, siblings become part of the entourage.

Billy Ray Cyrus gave a fabulous interview to GQ. He says:

“Every time something happened in Miley’s career, every time the train went off the track, if you will—Vanity Fair, pole-dancing, whatever scandal it was—her people, or as they say in today’s news, her handlers, every time they’d put me… ‘Somebody’s shooting at Miley! Put the old man up there!’ Well, I took it, because I’m her daddy, and that’s what daddies do. ‘Okay, nail me to the cross, I’ll take it….’ ” As soon as he begins to talk about all this, anguish builds in his voice; the anguish, say, that any father might feel when he can no longer clearly see the right way to guide a daughter or keep her safe, but the kind that is compounded by a cauldron of celebrity and public humiliation and ambition and avarice and hysteria, so that it’s hard for anyone, let alone someone at its center, to maintain any perspective, to be able to distinguish between sensible concern and panic-stricken paranoia, which may be somewhere close to how Billy Ray Cyrus feels right now.

How do parents slide out of their roles as guardians and into the role of co-worker? Also from the interview.

Q: Hannah Montana probably has brought a lot of families together—just not one…

BILLY RAY CYRUS: “Yeah. I know. I know. I know.”

Q: And do you see the show as a big part of what has made things not work in your family?

BRC: “Oh, it’s huge—it destroyed my family. I’ll tell you right now—the damn show destroyed my family. And I sit there and go, ‘Yeah, you know what? Some gave all.’ It is my motto, and guess what? I have to eat that one. I some-gave-all’d it all right. I some-gave-all’d it while everybody else was going to the bank. It’s all sad.”

Q: Do you wish Hannah Montana had never happened?

BRC: “I hate to say it, but yes, I do. Yeah. I’d take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I’d erase it all in a second if I could.”

The list of child stars who suffered addictions, mental illness, public humiliations, arrests and death are long: Lindsay Lohan, Brad Renfro, Dana Plato, Todd Bridges, Demi Lovato, Gary Coleman, Judy Garland, Danny Bonaduce, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Scotty Beckett, Robert Blake, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Tatum O’Neal, Leif Garrett…. (this list could go on forever)

Lief Garrett from Teen Idol to junky

Leif Garrett in the 70's and after a herion arrest

I can think of one exceptional child star, Ron Howard. That is all.

There are names you will never hear, there are kids being pulled out of class right now to go on auditions for shows they will never land. There are well meaning parents who swear up and down that they’ll be different, and that as soon as it stops being “fun” the kids won’t be auditioning any longer. Those kids suffer too. There’s a lot of rejection in Hollywood’s Factory.

I don’t know what will become of blogger’s kids, but I assume that they too would prefer to not be working. I understand that asking your child to pose for a picture at home, or participate in a video isn’t the same as tromping them all over town (or all over the country), but it does chip away at their very brief childhoods.

It’s fair for kids to want to be kids.

It’s fair to want to make your mistakes in private, particularly when you’re young.

It’s also fair for kids to help out in a household that needs it. After school jobs are a great thing for teenage kids. After. School.