Weekly Roundup

Fortnite

The newest video game sensation is Fortnite. It’s appealing to people of all ages, making it the biggest smash outside of the typical gaming world since Minecraft. Even Houston Astros are showing off their Fortnite moves—check it out here. Part of the game’s appeal is that it is free to download and can be played on smart phones. However, this popularity has led to school-age kids playing it on their smartphones while in class. Read here to see how some school districts have even gone out of their way to block access to the game on their Wi-Fi connections, so kids won’t be playing it during class. This article contains some good tips for parents to monitor their children’s playing time, and here is a parent’s guide to Fortnite.

YouTube Privacy Concerns for Kids

It seems like every day brings another news story of a website illegally collecting data. The latest claim is that YouTube is illegally collecting data from kids. Despite needing to be 13 to sign up for a YouTube account, channels that market to kids are a big industry on the site. According to this article, “In a complaint filed Monday, more than 20 advocacy groups asked the FTC to investigate the Google subsidiary for violating the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which limits how a company can collect data about kids under 13. Under the law, companies have to notify parents and get their consent before collecting data on children.”

STAAR Testing in Texas

April and May in Texas bring STAAR tests for school-aged kids. Hate them or tolerate them, these high-stakes tests are part of life for kids in public school in Texas. Here’s the calendar for this year’s tests. The Texas Education Association does not provide a way for parents to opt their children out, as this article points out: “Section 26.010 of the Texas Education Code says, ‘A parent is not entitled to remove the parent’s child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test.’” But, the article also mentions that some school districts, including the Houston Independent School District, have created policies for parents to opt out their children.

Teenagers and Sleep Deprivation: A Solution Schools Aren’t Accepting

What is one public health concern for which experts across the board have determined a reasonable solution? Sleep deprivation in teenagers exacerbated by the early start times of most public high schools. I know this problem firsthand. I have a teenage son who has to catch his bus for high school at 6:30 am. Most school nights he’s up until 11:00 pm doing homework, and then he gets up at 5:30 am so he’s able to get to the bus on time. Six and a half hours of sleep is not enough for a teenager!

Experts from the American Medical Association (“Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation’s adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders.…We believe delaying school start times will help ensure middle and high school students get enough sleep, and that it will improve the overall mental and physical health of our nation’s young people.”) to the CDC (“Starting school later can help adolescents get enough sleep and improve their health, academic performance, and quality of life.”) agree that later start times for schools will have beneficial effects on teenagers. However, even with research showing that later start times will help sleep-deprived teens, school districts have been slow to make changes, citing costs to switch the start times and the timing of after school activities.

Public schools are strapped for funds as it is, so any change that requires a large expenditure may be tough to implement. However, the benefits of improved academic performance and less tardies and absences due to teenagers getting more sleep would seem to outweigh the cost issue. The after-school activity argument is also hard to accept. Many extracurricular activities actually have early morning practices, meaning students have to leave their houses before 5:00 am to make it to practice. Also, some after school practices do not even start right after school. My son’s marching band practices usually start an hour or more after school lets out, meaning he has to come home and get back to school or just wait around the school for a few hours until practice starts.

California tried to pass legislation to require all schools to have start times no earlier than 8:30 am, but the legislation was put aside for the time being because there were not enough votes to pass it. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out over the next few years as the medical evidence continues to show the problems with such early start times of high schools. Will school districts see the value in giving students a chance to be less sleep-deprived? Or will costs and other concerns keep the districts from implementing any changes in this regard? No matter what, if change comes, it will come too late for my teenage son who will be out of school before any change comes to his district.

Sources and for more information:

AMA Supports Delayed School Start Times to Improve Adolescent Wellness

CDC: Schools Start Too Early

If later school start times are better, why aren’t they more popular?

Why Does High School Still Start So Early?

Later school start times for California students laid to rest for the year

 

Weekly Roundup

Minors Charged as Adults Sue County for Placing Them in Solitary Confinement

In King County, Washington, four minors who were charged as adults and were placed in solitary confinement are suing the county. The county has a practice of placing youths in isolation before their trial dates. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges “King County regularly confines children incarcerated at the RJC [Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent] alone in miniscule, barren cells for 23 or 24 hours a day in a unit dedicated to isolating children…[and] King County holds children in these isolation cells for weeks or months on end.” Read more here.

Opioid Orphans

The current opioid crisis is leading to “a generation of children…being neglected, abandoned or orphaned by parents addicted to opioids.” Grandparents, then, are often called on to take the place of the parents. Here is one of their stories.

Schools Start to Reopen in Puerto Rico after Maria, But Many Remain Closed

Some children are able to head back to school in Puerto Rico, but many others may have to wait for months to return to school. Read here for more.