Real Life

From Your Shows to Mine

The past few months have been incredibly taxing when it comes to carving out time to write. I am in the process of obtaining certification in a profession that does not involve writing. At least, it will not in the beginning, but I plan to do a scientific form of writing once I’m further along. The profession will not involve Bravo or reality television…unless the individuals I end up working with choose to randomly discuss shows with me.

The challenge is to keep on writing and stay on top of things. I would still love to write about reality TV, true crime and cults (though the latter has become somewhat of a touchy subject of late).

It’s been a busy few weeks in other ways. Being in our late 30s and early 40s, I and those around me have noticed changes in older relatives. The importance of family usurps mini dramas with our peers. Launching a side venture or regularly providing commentary on Teresa Giuduce’s storyline on Real Housewives of New Jersey, weighing in on A-/B+ list actress Denise Richards joining Real Housewives of Beverly Hills suddenly is on the back burner. For now. There are blogs who once thought I desired to compete with them and that couldn’t be FARTHER from the truth. I write when I enjoy to do so, or when the idea of an incredible scoop comes to me, but I read so many other blogs and cheer them on, often sending ideas their way.

Suddenly I’m starring in my own reality show. It’s not very glamorous. It involves studying, care-taking for the post-Millennial and Baby Boomer generations. After interviewing countless reality tv personalities on a smattering of shows, I find myself talking to the enamored fan and saying “your next door neighbor could be on a show tomorrow. It’s not so special!”

I’m tired of the reality personalities who, I’m often informed, leave their old friends in the dust because they’re suddenly too glamorous to fraternize with commoners. People are just that. People.

You are all 6 degrees from a reality tv personality. It’s like that Kevin Bacon game. So while I will go back and wax philosophical on the vapid, ever changing alliances and frenemy dynamics on Vanderpump Rules, whether the Wild Things movie star is a good addition to a posse once run by Lisa Vanderpump and now (possibly) run amok by Dorit, I just wanted to share how healthy stepping away from the TV can be, and realizing we all have our own interesting IRL reality shows – uncultivated, unproduced, somewhat unknown to the world.

That said, I’d still like to get back to watching, commenting and interviewing when I’m in the right frame of mind. This has been a hiatus that has provided introspection on what I already knew and had to re-examine, particularly when a friend of mine, an exemplary soul, died after battling breast cancer. Television is a great escape, but our friends and family need our attention and sometimes – unless they prefer we curl in bed with them to enjoy RHONJ – a little less of our escapism.

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Parents, Psychology

My Interview with Dr. Phil: #Bullying & Anti-Bullying Awareness

He’s roused millions to “Get Real!” and has tackled the topic on his hit TV talk show — Dr. Phil took time to chat with me about bullying and answer some questions:

Jill Zarin once suggested that parents break into their kids’ Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly to monitor and be on the lookout for signs of bullying. In your expert opinion, how invasive should a parent be and what should they do to keep an eye out for bullying?

There are different ways for a parent to be actively involved. Parents have to educate themselves about the warning signs (check out Dr. Phil’s warning signs of bullying).

They need to know for both sides what the signs are that their child is being bullied or if their child is a bully.

Kids don’t often come home and tell their parents they’re being bullied because they’re ashamed. They may show signs of withdrawal. They may want to avoid going to school beyond the normal “I don’t want to go to school” and exhibit a chronic pattern.

If you see bruises, scratches or that some of their possessions have been damaged or missing, those are all warning signs. They may also start to show signs of depression, crying, aggression, mood changes and lifestyle changes if they’re being bullied.

In terms of whether your child is a bully, watch to see if there’s a really strong clique. Are they gossiping about someone or making fun of them? Are they excluding some child in some way? Telling jokes about or laughing at a particular child? Exploiting some other child in some way?

Before invading their privacy, determine whether or not the warning signs are there. Then you need to follow your instincts

— A child’s trust is earned.

As far as social networking sites (like Twitter and Facebook), those are fertile ground for bullying. Your kid is going to have more knowledge than you do about the Internet, but not the insight on how to deal with it.

When a child/teen first complains of being bullied in school, what are the key first steps a parent/adult should take?

The first thing a parent needs to do is make sure they don’t fall victim to “Hey, kids are kids, let them be kids.” That’s not true.

When a child is bullied it’s one of the loneliest times in his or her life. The most important thing for parent to do is sit with the child and talk with them and find out what’s going on.

If the child says “Oh Mom, don’t say anything. That will just make it worse,” know it’s not true. The child should know that telling is not tattling — Let your child know that telling someone in a position to help the facts that they need to know to help is the right thing to do. In terms of how the child handles bullies on his or her own, it’s a case by case scenario.

The biggest mistake parents make is telling kids “You just need to confront the bully.” Bullies specifically choose kids that can’t do that. You can advise them to stay with a friend, not be alone, to not place themselves in situations where they’re sure to get bullied (like hanging out in a spot where the bully typically hangs out).

The next thing is to get the school involved. Teachers and administrators don’t get into education for the money. They get into it because they care what they’re doing. They don’t want your child to be victimized. They’re on your side. Ask for their help and alert the teachers involved. Ask for the adults in the school to watch and intervene and become your eyes and ears.

What can schools across the country do to prevent and tackle the bullying problem?

I am very passionate about this issue and I need to emphasize this: We need to amend the secondary and elementary education act to include funding and language that specifically refers to bullying and online bullying. Until we put our money where our mouth is, this problem isn’t going to get better. We have to do this across the board and it is absolutely doable. This is something that needs to be funded and we need to make sure all the schools are not only required, but actively engaged in anti-bullying efforts.

Lady Gaga has discussed being bullied as has Anne Hathaway, Eva Mendes, Tim Gunn and other celebrities. How important are famous voices with regard to anti-bullying awareness?

They are necessary but not sufficient. When folks that young people look up to take a strong position that it’s not cool to bully it has a positive affect. I think it’s terrific but it’s got to go further than that and that’s what I mean about having it as part of the curriculum in schools.

This interview of mine with Dr. Phil originally ran a few years ago on Huffington Post. The message, however, is a timeless one.

(Photo source: DrPhil.com)

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Moms, Parents

#Parents: TV Is Not as Bad for Babies as We Once Thought

A study published in Child Development, conducted at Emory University and sponsored by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (a division of the National Institute of Health), revealed that infants under 2 can learn signs from television time.

While the American Pediatric Association (APA) issued earlier statements advising parents against it, putting your baby down for a few minutes’ worth of an educational video is not so bad after all.

During the course of the three-week long investigation which took place through the Video Learning Lab at Emory University, parents introduced their 15-month-olds to ASL signs at home, either through videos or a picture book.

The best piece of information gleaned from this study is that when it came to video viewing, babies who watched with parents for approximately 15 to 20 minutes recalled a significant number of the 18 signs presented.

They performed just as well as those who learned from books. In addition, those that watched videos alone (without a parent next to them), also retained a significant portion of the information.

The findings suggest that television time for tots is not as harmful as we’ve been led to believe for years.

Once a week, the Emory team quantified their subjects’ learning outcomes by having them pair pictures with their matching signs. Parents also reported each week whether they observed their babies using these signs.

When the three-week period ended, researchers retested the children one week later to determine what they were able to remember. Recall was assessed specifically by having the infants produce signs when they saw pictures of the objects, and by asking them to point to the picture that matched the signs.

A leading author of the study, developmental psychologist Shoshana Dayanim, Ph.D., explained that the study was unique for a variety of reasons: It was a controlled one wherein the only way for subjects to learn signs was through this study during its allotted time periods. While previous research has been conducted with infants and language, — a murky area where it is difficult to control what is learned — the Emory exploration consisted of approximately 15- to 20-minute intervals of exposure.

The study uniquely presented the babies with expressions to actually employ and simultaneously understand.

Dayanim further explained that infants use signs interchangeably with verbal words and can sign words earlier than they can vocalize them. This not only helps communication in the present tense, but research supports that signing positively impacts vocabulary in early childhood.

Knowing that the American Pediatric Association once advocated for keeping infants away from television altogether, it is interesting to see there are benefits to TV learning — in a controlled environment.

Dr. Dayanim made it clear that Emory was not declaring“Watch TV!”, but that under the right circumstances, instructional learning can actually take place through instructional videos with children under 2.

The one drawback of the study was that researchers were not able to determine exactly when to draw the line on video watching.

Parents may want to play it safe by keeping educational viewing to a minimum as the researchers did.

If a parent needs 15 to 20 minutes to unwind, explained Dayanim, their baby can actually learn something in the process.

Just don’t bother with sight words at such an early stage. The research only attests to success with signs.

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