TIME portfolio

Meet America’s Young Fight League Kids

Photographer Miikka Pirinen debunks the commonly held beliefs surrounding these cage-fighting children

Miikka Pirinen’s photographs provoke strong reactions every time they’re seen. “People often think that these kids have been forced to fight,” the Finnish photographer tells TIME. “People think that they get hurt a lot or that their families are after the money.”

Pirinen stumbled upon these “cage-fighting children,” as they are sometimes called, when he chanced upon a video online of six-year-old kids fighting in a competition in California. “I started to follow the topic online through videos posts by these kids’ proud parents and spectators,” he says. And while he read many condemnations of the sport, Pirinen had to see for himself.

“As a journalist I was strict not to form an opinion before seeing it all,” he says. “After spending over a month, day and night, following the kids, the parents and the trainers in gyms around Arizona and California, I started to have a pretty good insight of what the sport really is about for everyone involved: Community.”

Pirinen found a community based on respect toward one another, with kids of all ages helping each other, and parents working closely with trainers to offer a safe environment for their children. “It’s not like we’re hanging out in a bar,” Clay Carpenter, the father of three young fighters from Phoenix, Ariz., told Pirinen. “Instead we come here to support our kids.”

The children pictured in Pirinen’s photographs are not bullies – in fact, most of them are among the most trusted pupils in their respective schools, the photographer says. “They look out for each other and if anyone uses their skills for the wrong reasons, they are quickly set straight.”

For Pirinen, Fight League Kids is just the latest chapter in a two-year photographic project on the issue of identity among children. “I’m interested in the different ways young people are trying to form an identity for themselves,” he says. Next, the photographer, who started his career as a camera assistant in the film industry before moving to photography, plans to continue this project, focusing instead on motor sports and American football.

Miikka Pirinen is a Finnish freelance photographer based in Helsinki. He’s a member of the Helsinki Street photography collective.

Mikko Takkunen is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Research

Being Neglected Harms Brain Development in Kids

82860610
Getty Images

Kids put in institutions have different brain compositions than kids in foster care

Childhood neglect leads to harmful changes in the brain, a new study says.

In new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers looked at brain differences between Romanian children who were either abandoned and institutionalized, sent to institutions and then to foster families, or were raised in biological families.

Kids who were not raised in a family setting had noticeable alterations in the white matter of their brains later on, while the white matter in the brains of the children who were placed with a foster family looked pretty similar to the brains of the children who were raised with their biological families.

Researchers were interested in white matter, which is largely made up of nerves, because it plays an important role in connecting brain regions and maintaining networks critical for cognition. Prior research has shown that children raised in institutional environments have limited access to language and cognitive stimulation, which could hinder development.

These findings suggest that even if a child were at a risk for poor development due to their living circumstances at an early age, placing them in a new caregiving environment with more support could prevent white matter changes or perhaps even heal them.

More studies are needed, but the researchers believe their findings could help public health efforts aimed at children experiencing severe neglect, as well as efforts to build childhood resiliency.

TIME Parenting

This Place Just Made it Illegal to Give Kids Too Much Screen Time

Excess screen time is now considered to be the equivalent of smoking, drinking and using drugs.

Taiwanese parents are now legally obligated to monitor their children’s screen time.

Taiwanese lawmakers approved the “Child and Youth Welfare and Protection Act,” which expanded existing legislation to allow the government to fine parents of children under the age of 18 who are using electronic devices for extended periods of times. The law follows similar measures in China and South Korea that aims to limit screen time to a healthy level.

Citing health concerns, the Taiwanese government can fine parents up to $1595 ($50,000 Taiwanese Dollars) if their child’s use of electronic devices “exceeds a reasonable time,” according to Taiwan’s ETTV (and Google Translate). Under the new law, excess screen time is now considered to be the equivalent of vices like smoking, drinking, using drugs, and chewing betel nuts.

The new amendment doesn’t spell out exactly what time limits should be set on electronic devices (which are called 3C products in Taiwan), but says parents can be held liable if their children stare at screens for so long that its causes them to become ill, either physically or mentally, as Kotaku reports. While that should be O.K. for children angling for 15 more minutes of Minecraft, it’s unclear what is considered “reasonable” under the law— or how the Taiwanese government plans to regulate or monitor screen time.

According to Kotaku, so far the response to the legislation has been negative—which it undoubtedly would be in the U.S. as well—with Taiwanese citizens citing privacy concerns.

There are some parents however, who might welcome a little help prying their children’s eyes off screens. Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention issues, behavioral problems, learning difficulties, sleep disorders, and obesity. Too much time online may even inhibit a child’s ability to recognize emotions, according to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles. Despite these risks, as technology increasingly becomes a part of modern life, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. A recent study found that in the U.S. 8-year-olds spend an average of eight hours a day with some form of media, with teenagers often clocking in at 11 hour a day of media consumption. A 2013 study by Nickelodeon found that kids watch an average of 35 hours a week of television.

So how much is too much screen time? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of two should have no screen time at all. Entertainment screen time should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18, and that should be “high-quality content.” Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit, has suggestions for setting up a “media diet” that works for your family.

TIME family subscribers can read our in-depth report on Raising the Screen Generation here. And don’t forget to sign up for Time’s free parenting newsletter.

TIME Toys

These Are the Toys Kids Will Be Screaming for in 2015

Lego Frozen toy castle

This year's new films will provide most of the fodder for Santa Claus in December

As anyone who has ever handed over a credit card at Hamleys or FAO Schwarz already knows, toys aren’t just fun and games — they’re big business. Which is why the 260 exhibitors at the London Toy Fair, which runs from Jan. 20 to Jan. 22, are keen to promote the Next Big Thing in the toy world. The Toy Fair is now in its 62nd year, and each year it showcases thousands of new toys, which will also be available in the U.S. and around the world, to retailers looking to stock their shelves. And for a hint of what’s to come, take a look at the box office.

Just a few steps into the exhibition, visitors quickly see that the toy industry expects Minions will be everywhere in 2015. Everywhere one turned, Minion-related toys and products appeared. The small, yellow creatures from the Despicable Me franchise are getting their own film this summer and toy companies are clearly banking on the characters being fresh on kids’ minds — and wishlists.

Rory Partis, a senior account manager for NPD Group, which does market analysis for the toy industry, says that “the toy market can be very unpredictable,” and pre-judging which products will be best-sellers can be tricky. Yet looking at past trends can some clue as to what kids are after — and which toys will fall in line with those desires.

MORE The All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys

In 2014, toy sales in the U.K. saw a 4.4 percent increase from the previous year, with around £3 billion ($4.5 billion USD) spent on some 416 million toy products. Based on sales figures from last year, the Minions-push makes sense: according to research from NPD, 28 percent of 2014’s sales were toys that were licensed from a franchise.

And Minions-themed products weren’t the only toys with a film tie-in on show. The fair also displays the winners of the annual Best New Toy Awards, in which a panel of independent toy retailers appraises the crop of new toys, predicting which products are most likely to be best-sellers. The winners, which fair coordinator Majen Immink, describes as the “hot launches” for 2015, included movie-themed toys such as Lego’s Minecraft: The Dungeon set, Hasbro’s Jurassic World Growlers collection and Hornby Hobbies’ Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5 model.

A representative from toy giant Lego also told TIME that the company is also expecting big things from its Ninjago sets, which are tied to the cartoon series Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. The fourth season of the cartoon will launch this year and a film, from the co-writers of The Lego Movie, is in the works for 2016.

HasbroNerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster

Hasbro’s new products for 2015 include licensed toys from the Marvel’s Avengers and the Transformers franchises. The company will be releasing Optimus Prime Mega Step, a toy car that transforms into the beloved character. Then there are the Iron Man Arc FX Gloves, a pair of wearable gloves with motion-activated technology. Non-film related toys that Hasbro thinks will be hits this year include the Nerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster, which kids can customize with additional kits, and the Furreal Friend’s JJ My Jumping Pug, a Big Eyes-esque toy dog that can jump on its hind legs. The latter also bagged a spot on the fair’s Best New Toys list.

HasbroIron Man Arc FX Gloves

Noticeably absent from the fair were toys tied to an upcoming film which targets girls specifically. The big films represented in the displays were, again, Minions, but also Big Hero 6 and Age of Ultron, while representatives were quick to note their upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World-themed products. Of course, girls can and do enjoy action and adventure films — and their affiliated toys — but products tied to franchises with inspiring leading ladies didn’t appear to be plentiful.

So it wasn’t all that surprising to see a smorgasboard of Frozen-themed toys on display at the fair. Everything from Frozen jewelry, hair accessories, hula hoops, backpacks, plush toys, stationary and figurines were showcased, despite the fact that the film was released in 2013. NPD’s Partis tells TIME that “Frozen has slightly bucked the trend of a [traditional] movie license,” which sees strong sales when the movie is released and another bump when the DVD is released. Yet Frozen drove a significant portion of sales last year, as the number one license for 2014. In the U.S. alone, NPD estimates that Frozen led to $531 million in toy sales.

Toy industry insiders are clearly expecting the trend to continue. Lego’s new Disney Princess Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle was chosen as one of the fair’s Best New Toys and Lego spokeswoman Corinna Henson predicts it will be popular “without a shadow of doubt.” Yet even when the Frozen mania does eventually subside, there will be plenty of more kids movies and franchises to license out.

Read next: See How One Artist Dramatically Changes Bratz Dolls to Look Like Real Girls

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Etiquette

Parents Who Take Their Kids on Planes Don’t Owe Anyone an Apology

183210734
Elisabeth Schmitt—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Karol Markowicz is a writer in New York City.

An airplane is not an opera, and there can be no expectation of silence

Recently there was an adorable news story about parents flying with their new baby and giving out a “goodie bag,” including earplugs, to passengers seated nearby in case the baby should make noise. It was not the first story of its kind; several of these well-meaning parents have done this over the years. It is seen as some sort of progress in the relations between those who have children and those who do not: Yes, my children are annoying and you are stuck with them in a small space for x number of hours, but enjoy this chocolate and hope those earplugs block out their noise.

This is the entirely wrong way for the world to proceed.

Children often cannot contain themselves, that’s true. They have problems with volume control. If they can’t say what they want, they cry. Sometimes they cry even when they can say what they want. They’re also entirely unpredictable. Our daughter, who was a very good baby and toddler, screamed her head off on her first international flight, despite having been perfectly well behaved on several domestic flights previously. She settled down after a while and was a model child the rest of our trip, but with kids you just never know. On a recent flight, my son sang the ABCs loudly. Sure, we sshhh’d him a lot, but he’s under 2 years old, so there’s only so much we can do. Duct-taping his mouth shut didn’t seem like an option.

While adult behavior may be more consistent, are we really so much better? I have sat next to smelly people, drunk people, loud people, lecherous men, overperfumed women, close talkers, a teenager crying loudly over her cheating boyfriend and an old lady who showed me no fewer than 78 photographs of her cats. Yet none of these people ever gave me candy or an apology to improve my situation. I admit to being the annoying passenger myself — a particularly hungover flight in my 20s springs to mind. Yet it never occurred to me to try to ease the experience for my fellow passengers. I simply made minimal eye contact and got through it. I also admit that once, on a long flight while I was pregnant with our first child, I snapped at a child behind me for kicking my seat. His mom, busy with three other children, did nothing to try to stop him, and my limited experience with children did not serve me well in dealing with him.

The idea that parents must apologize for any noise their child makes in public has gone too far. An airplane is not an opera, and there can be no expectation of silence. If you can make it through the loud whir of the engine and the constant pilot and stewardess announcements, you can survive a child being noisy.

The real problem in American life today is that we treat children as something we must hide away until adulthood. The airplane battleground extends to other areas as well. If you’re the type of person who takes your kids places, then you are probably used to the questions: Why would you take your children shopping/to brunch/on trips if you didn’t specifically have to? But what kind of adult does a child become who hasn’t had these necessary life experiences? If we never take our children to restaurants or on flights, or expect a bad reaction when we do, how will they grow up to be the kind of fellow diner or flier we all wish to see?

This isn’t to say that children should run rampant, making as much noise as they’d like whenever they’d like. I think back to myself snapping at the kid on a plane and know that if I had seen his mother making an effort to stop him, even unsuccessfully, I would have given her a sympathetic smile and dealt with it. We absolutely should try to discipline our children to minimize the discomfort of those around us, but bracing adults for the very presence of children sends a bad message. Short of very fancy restaurants or ticketed events, children have a right to be among us as much as the most annoying adult. So take your child places, show her the right way to behave through your own words and actions, and don’t give out earplugs. We’re all in this together, even the cat lady and the crying baby.

Karol Markowicz is a writer in New York City.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s How to Get Kids to Eat 54% More Vegetables

TIME.com stock photos Food Healthy Vegetables Chard Carrots
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

A simple schedule change can make produce seem way more appealing

There’s a way to get school kids to eat more vegetables at lunch, and it has nothing to do with what’s on the menu. Just mess with their schedule, finds a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine: Kids who have recess before lunch are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables than those who play after they eat.

The study looked at 2,500 kids in seven Utah elementary schools who participated in the National School Lunch Program, which serves balanced lunches that must include a serving of vegetables with each meal. Three schools switched their schedules to hold recess before lunch, while the other four schools kept recess after lunch. Researchers stood by the garbage cans and measured how many children threw away fruits and vegetables and found that the schedule swap boosted produce consumption by an impressive 54% for elementary school children.

That’s because young students tend to rush through their meals and skip the most nutritious parts when lunch is held before recess, the authors say. “Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids. If you have kids [choose] between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time,” said study author Joe Price, an economics professor at Brigham Young University, in a press release.

The effect may not hold for children who bring their own lunch, since these kids skip waiting in lines and feel less rushed to get to recess, the authors say.

Previous research has shown that children in the United States throw away nearly $4 million in fruits and vegetables every day, so an easy schedule swap may be a cheap way to reduce food waste, increase students’ focus in the classroom and improve the diets of American children.

“It’s a very simple solution, and it doesn’t cost all that much,” said David Just, study author and Cornell University Professor, in a video. “It’s just moving recess before lunch.”

Read next: Let Your Kids Sleep More For Better Grades

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME

Eminem Makes Wish Come True for Terminally-Ill Fan

The day before the teen passed away

Gage Garmo had one wish before he died: Meet Eminem.

The teenager was battling a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer, and his friends wanted to help make his life-long dream come true. They set out on a social media campaign to bring the rapper to the Detroit suburb of Rochester, MI., to meet Garmo. Their efforts got a boost when the Michigan-based charity The Rainbow Connection, which grants wishes to children facing terminal illnesses, head about Garmo’s case, and managed to set up a meeting with the 8 Mile rapper within just 48 hours.

After hearing that Garmo only had a week to live, Eminem flew to Michigan on Sunday to spend time with his young fan. The Detroit Free Press reported that the two talked about hip-hop and football in Garmo’s living room. According to the Free Press, Garmo “sat up with a grin on his face” upon seeing the rapper and a Rainbow Connection staffer noted that Garmo’s “family hadn’t seen their son do that in such a long time.”

Garmo died Monday night. He would have turned 18 on Friday.

MONEY Kids & Money

New Year’s Money Moves for Kids

kid sock coin purses
iStock

These steps will get your child’s finances off to a strong start in 2015.

It’s never too early to start teaching youngsters about personal finance. Here are three tips from financial planners to help your kids become more savvy about spending, saving, and understanding the value of a dollar.

1. Prepare to spend. Is a prom or class trip on the horizon? Have your kid take owner­ship of the budgeting process, says Marguerita Cheng, a financial adviser in Rockville, Md. Regularly depositing babysitting money or other earnings in the bank for a big-ticket purchase will help your child understand how much things cost and what it takes to reach savings targets.

2. Sock money away. Putting money in a Roth IRA lets your child take advantage of both tax-free investing and many years of compound returns. She can contribute some of her earnings (the theoretical limit in 2015 is 100% of earned income up to $5,500); meanwhile, you can encourage her by agreeing to match her contributions, says Cheng.

3. Give a little bit. Plant the seed for charitable giving by showing your kid the positive impact firsthand. “If children are being honest, they don’t want to share,” says Shannon Ryan, who blogs about kids and money at theheavypurse .com. Seeing animals at a humane shelter or volunteering with you at a soup kitchen can help change that mindset.

Related:
How to Avoid Paying for Your Kids…Forever
What Smart Parents Teach Their Kids About Debt
Teach Your Kids Financial Values…Via Cellphone

 

TIME Family

Why You Should Friend Your Child on Facebook

Laptop
Plainview—Getty Images

New research shows that connecting on multiple platforms can lead to a happier parent-child relationship

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Move over, landlines—it’s time to embrace more modern forms of communication. New research published in Emerging Adulthood suggests that reaching out to your children through multiple platforms can ultimately lead to a better relationship.

Jennifer Schon, a doctoral candidate in communication studies at the University of Kansas, had previously studied how communication technologies improved friendships, and took those findings to hypothesize that it might have the same effect on parents and their adult children. She surveyed 367 young adults between 18 and 29 years to find out which platforms they used to connect with their parents, how often their parents used that technology, and how satisfied they were in their relationships with mom or dad. Communication technologies ranged from landlines to emails to social networks like Facebook and Snapchat.

(MORE: Why Do Children Lie, Cheat, and Steal?)

Adding just one additional mode of communication correlated to increased relationship quality and satisfaction, Schon found. Most reported using an average of three channels to communicate with parents—the most common being cell phone, text messaging, and email. Many parents also connected through landlines and social networking sites. For parents who already email, text, and call their children frequently, the occasional Facebook message might only serve to improve communication.

“A lot of parents might resist new technologies. They don’t see the point in them, or they seem like a lot of trouble,” Schon said in a statement. “But this study shows while it might take some work and learning, it would be worth it in the end if you are trying to have a good relationship with your adult child.”

(MORE: Mother-Daughter Relationships)

 

TIME Parenting

For Success at School, Personality May Beat Brains

Schoolkids Raising Hands
Getty Images

Intelligence isn't everything, says new study

When it comes to success in school, being smart isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Personality may have a lot more to do with academic success than just sheer intelligence, according to a new study.

Arthur Poropat, a lecturer in psychology at Australia’s Griffith University conducted the largest ever review of personality and academic performance. Porporat found that an individual’s personality traits are better indicators of academic success than a high score on an intelligence test, for students at both high school and college. Specifically, he suggests, students who are conscientious, open and emotionally stable have the best likelihood of succeeding at their studies.

“Conscientiousness reflects things like making and carrying out plans, striving to achieve, and self-control, and is linked with a factor of childhood temperament called Effort Regulation,” says Porporat. “But I found that two other personality factors were also important: Openness (also called openness to experience and intellect), encompassing being imaginative, curious, and artistic; and Emotional Stability, covering calmness and emotional adjustment (as opposed to being anxious, fearful or unstable).”

Students who had those traits were able to compete more effectively in an academic setting. “A student with the most helpful personality will score a full grade higher than an average student in this regard,” says Porporat, whose results have been published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences. “In practical terms, the amount of effort students are prepared to put in, and where that effort is focused, is at least as important as whether the students are smart.” (Interestingly, Porporat published a separate report on elementary students and found the effects are even stronger, although intelligence has a much bigger impact in primary education.)

How did he arrive at this counterintuitive conclusion? “My research was actually a series of meta-analyses, using similar procedures to those used in medical research,” says Poropat. (Meta analysis is a process of analyzing a wide swath of results of other studies, and correcting for errors).

So far he has completed two analyses: the first included nearly 140 studies and over 70,000 participants, and the most recent, which he spent the last eight years working on, looked at 22 studies with 5,514 participants and focused on links between personality traits and academic performance in secondary education.

Porporat examined five distinct personality traits (conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness, emotional stability and extraversion) and found that conscientiousness and openness have the biggest influence on academic success. His results fall in line with similar work by well-regarded educationalists such as Paul Tough, who regards “grit” as the most important quality in a student.

Could this could mean that intelligence tests are not as useful as they’ve been made out to be? “Intelligence tests have always been closely linked with education and grades and therefore relied upon to predict who would do well,” Porporat says. “The impact of personality on study is genuinely surprising for educational researchers, and for anyone who thinks they did well at school because they are ‘smart.'”

So how do educators measure and cultivate these personality traits? Well, they can’t just ask students if they have them; Porporat found that self-assessment only was only about as useful for predicting university success as intelligence tests. But when he had people who knew the students well assess their personality traits, the results were nearly four times more accurate for predicting grades.

“What I found was that when someone who knows the student well provides the personality rating, the correlation with academic performance is much stronger than if the student rates their own personality,” said Porporat. “In the case of conscientiousness, it is nearly four times as strong, but the effect for emotional stability is comparatively greater. Apparently, students don’t rate their levels of anxiousness at all accurately— not exactly surprising but the consequence is important.”

In the classroom, this could mean that teachers can assess a student’s personality and match educational activities to their dispositions. Porporat believes that understanding how personality affects academic achievement is vital to helping students reach future success.

This is good news for many parents and students. While intelligence can’t be taught, per se, conscientiousness and openness can be learned. “Personality does change, and some educators have trained aspects of students’ conscientiousness and openness, leading to greater learning capacity,” said Porporat. “By contrast, there is little evidence that intelligence can be ‘taught,’ despite the popularity of brain-training apps.”

Don’t rule the intelligence test out completely however; Porporat admits that the best students will be both bright and conscientiousness, open and emotionally stable.

Parents Newsletter Signup Banner
TIME

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com