Durable Human (2 book series)

Some babies are speaking less than babies did before COVID. Here’s how to get them talking.

Mom and Baby Point out toward waters of a river in South Carolina, USA

Everybody loves seeing babies wave bye-bye and say their first words. But those skills may be developing more slowly among babies born during the pandemic, according to new research in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Social isolation, parent stress, and over-reliance on screens are some reasons experts believe many babies had fewer face-to-face interactions at the height of COVID. As a result, the babies heard fewer words and are having “significantly less vocalizations,” says Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab.

“I’m seeing children with global delays; with deficits in really early pre-language skills like pointing, giving and reaching,” observes Rhode Island speech-language pathologist Alyssa Loberti.

Top U.K. Schools Inspector Amanda Spielman sees the implications of babies speaking less. “I’m particularly worried about younger children’s development, which, if left unaddressed, could potentially cause problems for primary schools down the line.”

Kids Bounce Back

Luckily, little kids are resilient and thrive with loving attention.

Babies and toddlers can quickly pick up language when they can look at loved ones’ faces, practice “talking”, and hear plenty of spoken words. They also get a boost in brain development, executive functioning, and social-emotional skills.

Proof comes from LENA Grow, a professional development program for early childhood teachers. The program uses “talk pedometer” technology to detect how much preschool teachers converse with their students. Teachers are then made aware of times in the day there is little talking and which students experience less conversation. 

When teachers step up their chatter, the results are impressive.

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My Dad the Jetson: A Durable Human Life Lesson

Durable Human Exemplar in a Durable Human shirt

Especially with the arrival of ChatGPT and other artificially intelligent helpers, if you want to be a durable human, you need to know how you differ from machines.

For starters, you are completely one-of-a-kind, whereas machines can be duplicated endlessly. You’re also a powerhouse of resources, starting with your masterful palette of senses. Sure, that’s the Famous Five, but also intuition, compassion, humor, and muscle memory, to name just a few. Children embody the all-important sense of wonder. (Read more in The Durable Human Manifesto)

Unlike what can be the seesaw of resilient, if you are durable, you are consistently active and effective for as long as possible.

Being a fully expressed “Durable Human” is an ideal. Like playing golf, you never quite reach perfection. But my dad came close. 

A Mind of His Own

Consider how he lived just one day we were together in October 2022. He was 98 ¾ years old. It would have been the 75th anniversary of marrying my mom, who had passed away 10 years before.

As he did first thing each morning, my dad read two newspapers. Later, he’d watch the evening news and often recorded other news, information, or entertainment shows to view at his convenience.

Sometimes he was troubled by what he read or saw, but he had a neat trick for staying on the bright side.

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Household Stress Often Led to Problematic Media Use by Kids in Pandemic

boy stares at screen during screentime in pandemic

Stress in the household was a main reason why many children developed problematic media use during the height of the pandemic. Household screen rules had little effect on media usage, according to new research.  

Emily Kroshus had three children under age 6 at the time of the pandemic lockdowns. She remembers how she coped with online work meetings. “I would turn to screens.” And not to co-view and discuss content with her children. “It’s more like: ‘please, can I hypnotize you for an hour?’” 

“I’m not proud of that,” the child behavioral researcher recalls. “And I don’t think I’m alone.” 

Curiosity prompted Kroshus and her lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute to survey other parents in the fall of 2020. A diverse group of 1,000 American families responded, each with at least one child between the age of 6 and 17.

According to the survey results published in the journal Pediatrics, one in three children displayed “problematic media use,” which Kroshus describes as “the child is unwilling or unable to stop using media.” 

About one in three households had rules around media use, such as keeping devices out of the bedroom at night and not bringing screens to meals. But did those rules prevent problematic use of phones, laptops and computers? Continue reading

A Mother Speaks about Her Toddler, Screentime, and Virtual Autism

Toddler plays alone on tablet

Robin thought she was “being Super Mom” as she made nice dinners and tidied her midwestern U.S. home, with her toddler son quietly sitting nearby watching made-for-babies TV. She didn’t know that by letting him watch so often, he was developing the newly described condition termed “Virtual Autism.”

Took a While to Realize

For weeks, Robin rationalized the changes she saw, but finally had to admit something was wrong. Her formerly happy, lively 14-month-old had stopped having eye contact, no longer said words, and began to display hand-flapping, spinning and other autistic-like symptoms.

“The big one was,” she recalls, “he had stopped answering to his name.” Continue reading

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