A small miracle of the App Age: I entrusted my children to a stranger – and they loved it

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In the grand context of human history, what we were doing was outrageous. Nearly everyone who has ever lived would only trust someone they knew to look after their children. But today it does not seem so unusual. People seem to have steeply increased their propensity to trust strangers. We rent out our homes to them, we get into their cars, we meet them for a drink on the understanding that we may be having sex later on (so I hear).

In theory at least, this is a good thing. Social scientists have compiled a mountain of evidence that what they call “social trust” – trust in fellow citizens you haven’t yet met – is the secret to a successful society. Countries with higher trust in strangers have higher economic growth, less corruption, and happier citizens. They have lower suicide rates, less chronic illness and fewer fatal accidents (the economist John Helliwell suggested that if France was as trusting as Norway, its traffic fatalities would be halved). Politicians often debate the best way to increase productivity or improve education. Few propose policies to raise trust. But maybe our smartphones are already providing the answers.

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Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police for Kids

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Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” said Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Ms. Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

Revealed: the more time that children chat on social media, the less happy they feel

Researchers have found that the more time children spend chatting online, the less happy they feel about their life overall.

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Perhaps Facebook should carry a health warning. A study has revealed that the children who spend more time on online social networks feel less happy in almost all aspects of their lives.

The research by a team of economists at the University of Sheffield, to be presented at this week’s Royal Economic Society annual conference in Bristol, shows that the more time children spend chatting on Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, the less happy they feel about their school work, the school they attend, their appearance, their family and their life overall. However, they do feel happier about their friendships.

Economists found that spending just one hour a day on social networks reduces the probability of a child being completely happy with his or her life overall by around 14%. They found that this was three times as high as the estimated adverse effect on wellbeing of being in a single-parent household – and larger than the effect of playing truant.

How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants

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Children certainly enjoy their company, referring to Alexa like just another family member.

“We like to ask her a lot of really random things,” said Emerson Labovich, a fifth-grader in Bethesda, Md., who pesters Alexa with her older brother Asher.

This winter, Emerson asked her almost every day help counting down the days until a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.

…Yarmosh’s 2-year-old son has been so enthralled by Alexa that he tries to speak with coasters and other cylindrical objects that look like Amazon’s device. Meanwhile, Yarmosh’s now 5-year-old son, in comparing his two assistants, came to believe Google knew him better.

“Alexa isn’t smart enough for me,” he’d say, asking random questions that his parents couldn’t answer, like how many miles it is to China. (“China is 7,248 miles away, ” Google Home says, “as the crow flies.”)

In talking that way about a device plugged into a wall, Yarmosh’s son was anthropomorphizing it — which means to “ascribe human features to something,” Alexa happily explains. Humans do this a lot, Calvert said. We do it with dogs, dressing them in costumes on Halloween. We name boats. And when we encounter robots, we — especially children — treat them as near equals.

Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype

Context and content may be more important factors than time alone when it comes to technology use during childhood

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As a group of scientists from different countries and academic fields with research expertise and experience in screen time, child development and evidence-based policy, we are deeply concerned by the underlying message of this letter. In our opinion, we need quality research and evidence to support these claims and inform any policy discussion. While we agree that the wellbeing of children is a crucial issue and that the impact of screen-based lifestyles demands serious investigation, the message that many parents will hear is that screens are inherently harmful. This is simply not supported by solid research and evidence.