TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What if a microbe could solve the fracking wastewater problem, all while generating additional clean energy?

By Michael Casey at CBS News

2. Thank your dog: A new paper credits domesticated wolves with giving humans the evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals 40,000 years ago.

By Robin McKie in the Guardian

3. With all their innovation, apps on tablets can’t give kids the experience of building with blocks.

By Eric Westervelt at National Public Radio

4. This device could revolutionize childbirth. It was created by a car mechanic.

By Ed Stocker in GlobalPost

5. The old models for statecraft don’t account for the power of networked communications. Welcome to Netpolitik.

By Charlie Firestone and Leshuo Dong in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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.

MONEY TV

Nickelodeon Thinks You’ll Pay $6 a Month for a Netflix for Preschoolers

Blue's Clues
Nick Jr. Blue's Clues

If you think your toddler needs more screen time—and if you somehow don't already have more than enough child-friendly streaming options—Nickelodeon has the product for you.

This week, Nickelodeon announced that it is launching a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, available at Apple’s App Store starting March 5. The app will be a subscription video service called Noggin—the same name of the cable TV channel that was a predecessor of Nick Jr.—and it will offer as much ad-free viewing of “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bear,” and other preschooler fare as your little one’s eyeballs can handle, at a price of $5.99 per month.

As Variety noted, “Nickelodeon continues to grapple with ratings declines at its traditional TV network, owing to viewers seeking video content on new kinds of screens.” In a recent week, Nickelodeon’s ratings among kids were down 35% compared to the same period a year ago. So you can’t blame the Viacom-owned network for trying to do something to boost its audience and revenues.

But who is going to pay $5.99 a month this service? Starting at just $2 more monthly, you can be a subscriber to Netflix, which has plenty of content for children of all ages—it’s even been adding reboots of kids’ shows like “Care Bears,” “Magic School Bus,” and “Inspector Gadget”—as well as movies and shows for adults. The vast majority of consumers who are intrigued with streaming already subscribe to one or more service, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members), or Hulu Plus, all of which have sections full of kids’ content. There’s also plenty of free kid-friendly streaming video out there (PBS Kids, for example). Finally, if you have a pay TV subscription that includes Nickelodeon, as most packages do, you can download the Nick Jr. app for free and watch unlimited, ad-free full episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” “Bubble Guppies,” and such.

It’s unclear, then, why all that many families would need to pay another $6 a month for yet more preschooler streaming content.

If there’s a parallel in the industry, it’s CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming option that also charges $5.99 per month—and that many observers assume will fail. At least the CBS product is targeting adults, most obviously folks who are big fans of the network’s shows, such as “The Good Wife” and various versions of “CSI” and “NCIS,” as well as older programs like “Brady Bunch” and “Star Trek.”

CBS All-Access has some hope of attracting grownup subscribers who are picky about what they watch and who like CBS’s programming. But how many preschoolers do you know are picky about what they watch? Most of the kids we know are more than happy to be allowed to watch something—anything—on the iPad while their parents enjoy their meal at the restaurant.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like a German

mother rushing son to school
Getty Images

An American mom finds some surprising habits

The first time I went to a playground in Berlin, I freaked. All the German parents were huddled together, drinking coffee, not paying attention to their children who were hanging off a wooden dragon 20 feet above a sand pit. Where were the piles of soft padded foam? The liability notices? The personal injury lawyers?

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents I’ve met are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility. Those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a “free range parenting” movement because free range is the norm.

Here are a few surprising things Berlin parents do:

Don’t push reading. Berlin’s kindergartens or “kitas” don’t emphasize academics. In fact, teachers and other parents discouraged me from teaching my children to read. I was told it was something special the kids learn together when they start grade school. Kindergarten was a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.

Encourage kids to play with fire. A note came home from school along with my excited second grader. They were doing a project on fire. Would I let her light candles and perform experiments with matches? Together we lit candles and burned things, safely. It was brilliant. Still, she was the only kid whose parent didn’t allow her to shoot off heavy duty fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Let children go almost everywhere alone. Most grade school kids walk without their parents to school and around their neighborhoods. Some even take the subway alone. German parents are concerned about safety, of course, but they usually focus on traffic, not abductions.

The facts seem to be on the Germans’ side. Stranger abductions are extremely rare; there were only 115 a year in all of America, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Justice study. And walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” as the researchers call it, is good for kids.

Party when school starts. One of my Berlin friends once told me that the three biggest life events are Einschulung (starting first grade), Jugendweihe (becoming a young adult) and getting married.

In Berlin, Einschulung is a huge celebration at the school—on a Saturday!—that includes getting a Zuckertute—a giant child-sized cone filled with everything from pencils to watches to candy. Then there’s another party afterwards with your family and friends. Einschulung is something children look forward to for years. It signals a major life change, and hopefully, an enthusiasm for learning.

Jugendweihe happens when a child turns 14. It involves a similar ceremony, party, and gifts, marking the next stage of growing up. With all the negativity heaped on adolescents, there’s something to be said for this way of celebrating young adulthood.

Take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious on Berlin’s numerous playgrounds. No matter how cold and grey it gets, and in Berlin it gets pretty cold, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own.

Which brings me back to that dragon—since moving here, I’ve tried to adopt some of the Berlin attitude, and my 8-year-old has climbed all over the dragon. But I still hesitate to let her walk alone in our very urban neighborhood.

I’ve taken one small step. I let her go to the bakery by herself. It’s just down the stairs and one door over. The first time she did this, she came back beaming, proudly handing me the rolls she bought herself.

I figured there was no need to tell her that her American mother was out on the balcony, watching her the whole time.

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MONEY kids

Shocker! Tooth Fairy Surveys Can’t Be Trusted

girl holding up tooth
Getty Images

The big lie about the Tooth Fairy—one of the big lies anyway—is that the reports about how much a child gets under the pillow after losing a tooth are meaningful.

According to the just-released Original Tooth Fairy Poll from Delta Dental, losing baby teeth has gotten significantly more lucrative for American kids. The survey, based on input from more than 1,000 parents around the country, indicates that the average gift left by the Tooth Fairy for a lost tooth was $4.36 in 2014. That’s up from an average of $3.50 in 2013, representing an increase of about 25%.

Based on the data, kids who live in the South have more valuable teeth than their counterparts nationally: They average $5.16 per tooth left under the pillow, compared with $4.16 and $4.68 in the Northeast and West, respectively. Children in the stingy Midwest, on the other hand, receive only $2.83 per tooth on average.

The poll is being presented as a positive economic indicator, with the idea that the Tooth Fairy becomes more generous hand in hand with households getting raises and a surging stock market. “Kids are benefiting from the recovering U.S. economy,” the press release announcing the poll states.

It should be somewhat worrisome, then, that another Tooth Fairy payment study has it that the amount of cash kids get for losing teeth has been on the decline. The Visa Tooth Fairy Survey shows that American children received an average of $3.70 per tooth in 2013—not far off from the Delta Dental estimate of $3.50—but in 2014 that figure dropped 8%, to $3.40. That’s nearly a full $1 off the Delta Dental figure for 2014.

The results of both surveys are in agreement that the Midwest pays the least for lost teeth, but in the Visa poll, it’s the kids who live in the West, not the South, who are most spoiled with premium payments under the pillow. Children in the West average $3.60 per tooth, according to the Visa survey, followed by the South and Northeast (about $3.50), with the Midwest at the cheap end ($3.10).

Why are there such disparities between the two surveys? Among other reasons, outliers, in the form of households that pay big bucks for baby teeth. A few years back, for example, instances of tooth rewards hitting $20 and sometimes even $50 a pop began surfacing. “Only” 3.6% of Visa survey respondents said the Tooth Fairy Left $20 or more in 2014, a fall from 6% the year before. The most common gift, named by one-third of those polled, was just $1. So the outliers sure seem to sharply skew the average upward, far above the median or typical Tooth Fairy payment.

A large portion of respondents in both polls, meanwhile, said that the amount of cash one had on hand had a big influence in how much (or little) was left under the pillow. It also must be mentioned that a decent portion of those polled won’t remember exactly how much was left each time the Tooth Fairy visits, and/or that they’re fairly likely to recall the Tooth Fairy being more generous than she was in real life.

All of which indicates that Tooth Fairy payments—and surveys about Tooth Fairy payments—are pretty darn random. Shocking, we know.

TIME Parenting

A Different Way of Talking to Kids About What They’re Wearing

73979189
MGP—Getty Images

For parents, talking to kids about clothes usually involves questioning the warmth, propriety, cleanliness or sanity of what they’re wearing. But there’s another, less familiar — and possibly more useful — way to discuss an outfit.

Kelsey Timmerman, author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories and People That Make Our Clothes, wanted to see where his clothes came from. Reading the label on his favorite T-shirt took him to Honduras, where he met workers at the factory that made it. Trips to Cambodia, where his favorite jeans were made, and China, the source of most flip-flops, followed. “It doesn’t come from somewhere,” he says. “But from someone.”

Talking to kids about where their clothes came from can make something abstract — life in other countries — more concrete. And it’s a fun way to engage kids of all sorts of ages in a discussion about the world.

Timmerman and his elementary-school daughter have a bedtime tradition of looking at where her clothes are made. “It’s a simple act, just looking at the label, and letting your mind open up to think, these pajamas came from Bangladesh, which is on the other side of the world,” Timmerman says. “You’re never too young to be amazed by that, and explore what it means.”

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Middle-school students “can go a little deeper,” Timmerman says, using the labels on their clothes as an opportunity to learn about the demographics of other countries. Parents can ask questions like “How do you think life is different than it is here?”

High school students, Timmerman finds, are ready for conversations about the deeper implications of global commerce, like child labor, and the big differences in income between different countries. A great conversation-starter there, he says, is photographer Peter Menzel’s Material World, which shows families from different countries photographed with all their possessions.

Students can sometimes feel powerless when they confront these realities, so Timmerman says it’s important to let them know they can make a difference. In the past, schoolkids have helped bring fair-trade practices to athletic gear and school uniforms. “Students,” says Timmerman, “have really led the way on a lot of these issues.”

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TIME Media

3 Ways ‘YouTube Kids’ Will Be Better For Your Children

New app has a streamlined interface and parental controls

If you’ve hung around kids at all in the last few years, you know they love YouTube, even though the video site is only supposed to be for people 13 and up. Now, Google is planning to roll out a YouTube app specifically aimed at kids.

The new app, which launched Monday, is the first in a suite of kid-friendly versions of Google services that the search giant is planning to launch. Here are the child and parent-friendly features of YouTube for Kids that Google has revealed thus far:

A more streamlined interface (and no comments!)

Regular YouTube has at least a dozen different channel categories across a broad variety of topics. YouTube Kids has just four: Television shows, music, educational content and exploring top videos. Comments are also stripped out of the videos, according to USA Today, and images and links are larger than on regular YouTube to make them easier for kids to tap.

Mobile-first design

With more than a third of children under two years old now using smartphones or tablets, it makes sense that Google is building this service for mobile devices instead of desktops. YouTube Kids is available on Android and iOS.

Parental controls

Parents can make sure YouTube doesn’t become a timesink by setting time limits on how long the app can be used. When the limit is reached, the user has to enter a parent-set password to reopen the app. The app will also automatically censor words like “sex,” prompting the child to input a different term.

YouTube Kids will have advertising at launch, but the commercials will be vetted by YouTube’s policy team to ensure they are family-friendly. The app won’t be tied to Google accounts, so kids’ personal information won’t be collected and stored.

MONEY Travel

Millions of Families Will Soon Get Free Admission at National Parks

family sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon
Jens Lucking—Getty Images

A new initiative called Every Kid in a Park will give fourth graders and their families free admission to national parks and recreation areas for a full year.

President Obama will be in Chicago on Thursday to designate the Pullman District as a National Monument. While he’s there, Obama will also introduce a very special program called Every Kid in a Park that will provide free admission to fourth graders and their families at national parks, forests, monuments, and other federal lands for a year.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative will be available to families at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service being celebrated in 2016. How it works is that next fall, all interested families with fourth graders will essentially be provided with a free annual pass (normal cost: $80) granting admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including world-famous national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon—which each normally charges $25 to $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.

The program is “a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors,” a White House press release explains. “Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.”

Why only families with fourth graders? Presumably, it would be too costly—and likely, too crowded at the parks—to give free admission to everyone. What’s more, the thinking is likely that fourth grade is an ideal time to expose children to the wonders of the outdoors, with the hope that doing so promotes a lifelong interest and appreciation of nature.

The initiative actually has a parallel in the ski industry. Around the country, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and several other ski-friendly states offer ski and snowboard passport programs that typically provide a season’s worth of free lift passes for fourth or fifth graders. The concept makes sense because kids don’t go to the mountains alone; their families generally come along, and they spend money at the resorts. The program also obviously helps get kids interested in winter mountain sports, potentially turning them into paying customers for years to come.

Likewise, free admission will nudge families into visiting national parks and recreation areas. And ideally, the kids who go hiking and camping and whatnot will fall in the love with the experience, and become lifelong visitors and supporters of the parks and the great outdoors.

As for those who don’t have a fourth grader in the house, you’re not entirely left out of the freebies. Every year, the National Park Service lists a handful of fee-free days, when admission is free for all visitors. Last weekend, in fact, admission was free in honor of President’s Day. The next freebie event is the weekend of April 18-19, which kicks off National Parks week.

TIME Parenting

How to Talk to Your Kids About Rejection, at Every Age

Phil Boorman—Getty Images/Cultura RF

Hint: don't minimize their pain.

Did your kid have a less-than-stellar Valentine’s Day? The exact phrase “hurt feelings” exists in many languages, according to psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts, because rejection activates the same centers as physical pain in the brain. It actually does hurt.
So what can parents say to kids who are dealing with the sting of rejection, from romantic disappointment, to slights from friends, to a party invitation they never got?

Winch says the crucial thing for parents to let elementary age kids know is that rejection always hurts–and that that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. Parents can also help kids focus on other peers who do love and accept them, asking question like, Who enjoys spending time with you? Who likes to have fun with you? They might also create more opportunities to spend more time with those friends.

Middle school kids, Winch says, are old enough to begin to respond to negative feelings of rejection with positive thoughts about themselves. “If they’ve been rejected socially, they can think about what they bring to the table socially,” Winch says. Parents can help replicate an exercise shown to alleviate the pain of rejection by asking kids, What do you think would make you a good friend? What do you think you have to offer in a friendship?

High school kids are more likely to be dealing with romantic heartache. And it’s important for parents to take that seriously, even when kids are young: Winch says the research shows it’s easy to underestimate how much rejection hurts another person. But parents can help kids recover from romantic rejection by asking questions like, What do you think would make you a good boyfriend or girlfriend? He encourages kids to make a long list, and then focus on one especially important quality, like being a good listener, or having a good sense of humor, and go deeper with questions like, What are some ways a sense of humor is valuable? What are some reasons that someone might love being around a good listener?

All of these are ways, he says, for parents to reinforce two powerful messages: to remind kids how much they bring to the table. And to encourage them that even if someone didn’t see that this time, someday, someone else will.

TIME relationships

Watch First Graders Explain Valentine’s Day

And answer questions like, "Can someone love you too much?"

Is it ever too early to start celebrating Valentine’s Day? These adorable Brooklyn first graders took a quick lesson in composing love letters as they sat down to write valentines to a special someone. Their heartfelt sentiments were addressed to moms, dads—and even Michael Jackson.

But sometimes, love can be tough, even for these kids. One girl solemnly recounts her experience: “When someone kissed you, you don’t like their breath.”

Now if only the holiday was that simple for the rest of us.

TIME Research

Energy Drinks May Drive Kids to Distraction

139838315
Getty Images

A new study finds a link between consumption of energy drinks and hyperactivity and inattention

Middle schoolers who consume sweetened energy drinks are 66% more at risk for hyperactivity than other kids, according to a new study.

To assess the effect of a variety of beverages on middle schoolers, Yale School of Public Health researchers surveyed 1,649 students in 5th, 7th, and 8th grade about their beverage consumption and assessed their levels of hyperactivity and inattention.

“Despite considering numerous types of beverages in our analyses (eg, soda, fruit drinks), only energy drinks were associated with greater risk of hyperactivity/inattention,” the authors write in the study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Unlike soda and juice, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana and taurine. The researchers say it could be the effect of these ingredients mixed with caffeine that causes problems.

“Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar and other ingredients that work synergistically with caffeine. Caffeine may be contributing to this association because the caffeine content of energy drinks is far greater on average than that of soda,” the authors write.

It’s important to note that the researchers could not determine that the energy drinks caused the hyperactivity and inattentiveness in the kids. The American Beverage Association has guidelines for energy drink companies that recommend against marketing their products to children and not selling in K-12 schools.

However, a January report from U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows most energy drink companies will market to young people under age 18, which the senators object to arguing there are safety concerns for teenagers as well.

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks,” study author Jeannette Ickovics, director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health said in a statement.

 

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