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The Edwardsville Intelligencer featured Dyson Professor Brenna Hassinger-Das piece "Parents, cut yourself some slack on screen time limits while you're stuck at home"

03/20/2020

The Edwardsville Intelligencer featured Dyson Professor Brenna Hassinger-Das piece "Parents, cut yourself some slack on screen time limits while you're stuck at home"

(THE CONVERSATION) As families hunker down during the coronavirus pandemic, many parents may wonder how much screen time they should let their kids have. Brenna Hassinger-Das, a scholar of children and technology, shares one rule it’s OK to break, one rule parents can bend and a best practice worth upholding.

1. Break: Previous daily screen time limits

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that letting children spend too much time watching TV shows or playing video games on any device can make them more anxious, reduce their ability to control impulses and disturb their sleep. How much screen time varies by age. The doctors’ group advises avoiding all screen time, aside from video chats, for babies and toddlers up to 18 months old, and sets gradually increasing limits after that.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, for instance, the academy estimates that kids can safely get up to an hour of daily screen time, as long as their parents or caregivers join in. It advises parents of kids 6 and up to consistently limit time spent using digital media and to make sure that screen time doesn’t displace sleep or physical activity.

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"Parentology" featured Pace University's Assistant Professor of Psychology Brenna Hassinger-Das in "The Smartest Way to Read E-Books to Your Kids"

05/15/2019

"Parentology" featured Pace University's Assistant Professor of Psychology Brenna Hassinger-Das in "The Smartest Way to Read E-Books to Your Kids"

Read That E-book with Your Kid

“We found that children understood the story best when their parent read to them – they were able to recall more details from the story and answer more questions about the plot,” Rebecca Dore, a Senior Research Associate at Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at The Ohio State University, told Parentology. “This suggests that children are going to benefit the most from this type of technology when parents use it with them. However, we also found that children did seem to understand some of the story using the audio narration: children in that group recalled more details than children who just looked at the pictures.“

Other researchers agree. Brenna Hassinger-Das, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Pace University, stated that her findings were similar in trend.

“To some degree, parent speech was influenced by platform; although there was no clear pattern that emerged. Yet, the most interesting finding was that a critical element of book reading might be the type of parent speech used, regardless of platform,” Hassinger-Das wrote in an article for Bold. “There was a (thus far non-significant) trend for children whose parents used the most distancing talk to demonstrate the most story content knowledge, regardless of condition or age. Distancing talk—language that relates the story to children’s own lives—has been shown to help children connect with stories and make inferences.”

In other words, the parent is best equipped to connect the e-book’s words with the context of their child’s life.

Read the full article.

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Assistant Professor Brenna Hassinger-Das, a psychologist at Pace University who leads Urban Thinkscape is featured in "Smithsonian" transforming public spaces into places where kids and their caregivers could engage in “playful learning"

02/16/2018

Assistant Professor Brenna Hassinger-Das, a psychologist at Pace University who leads Urban Thinkscape is featured in "Smithsonian" transforming public spaces into places where kids and their caregivers could engage in “playful learning"

Smithsonian: "Weaving Games and Puzzles Into the Fabric of a City"

By Emily Matchar

From "Smithsonian"

Before, the triangular plot of land in West Philadelphia didn’t have much to interest a child. There was just a bus stop, a strip of sidewalk and an adjacent lot sometimes used as a garden. Today, though, the area is a miniature wonderland, with a puzzle wall, a rubberized hopscotch pad and a whimsical metal sculpture.

But this is not just a playground. Specially designed to stimulate child-caregiver interaction and learning, the play zone is part of a project called “Urban Thinkscape.” Kids move puzzle pieces on the back wall of the bus stop, developing their spatial and math skills as they go. They practice concentration by following the footprints on the hopscotch pads. They build on their literacy skills by naming pictures that decorate a climbing area. 

The creators of Urban Thinkscape—a team of psychologists, educators and architects—hope that planting such learning environments in disadvantaged neighborhoods could help close the achievement gap between local children and their wealthier peers.

“At the beginning of all of this we were really thinking about the idea that even in the preschool years there’s the ‘30 million word gap’ between kids in lower socioeconomic backgrounds versus kids in higher socioeconomic background,” says Brenna Hassinger-Das, a psychologist at Pace University who leads Urban Thinkscape. “There are differences in kids’ skill levels before they even start formal schooling in kindergarten.”

The “30 million word gap” refers to an influential 1995 study that showed children from the lowest socioeconomic classes heard 30 million fewer words by age 3 than children from the highest socioeconomic classes. This is a big deal, as vocabulary skills in toddlerhood relate to later school success.

One proposed solution is universal free preschool. But, as Hassinger-Das points out, kids only spend 20 percent of their waking time in school.

“So if we address the school-based thing, there’s still the other 80 percent that’s spent outside school,” she says. “How can we address the other 80 percent in settings where kids spend a lot of their time?”

So Hassinger-Das and her colleagues came up with the idea of transforming public spaces into places where kids and their caregivers could engage in “playful learning.” The thinking was that art and play installations incorporated into everyday spaces could spark conversations between parents and children, creating opportunities for teaching and learning.

They received funding from the William Penn Foundation and scoured Philly for the right spot for the pilot playspace, settling last year on the street where Martin Luther King Jr. launched a 1965 freedom rally. They met with community members about their needs and wants and contracted Israeli architect Itai Palti, known for incorporating behavioral science into design. Palti designed the installations based on community input and on the latest research about how children develop skills like executive function, spatial reasoning and literacy. 

Read the full article.