Monthly Archives: November 2014

Let children play, and get injured

Many reported the paper on smart phones and child injuries by Craig Palsson the previous days. The finding is that the construction of 3G networks in US cities may have lead to increased use of smartphones, less supervision of children, and more children going to hostpital with injuries. I believe most parents are too restrictive, so I was happy to see the following sentence regarding the welfare effects:

“Even though child injuries should not be taken lightly, some might argue that parents were oversupplying supervision or that injuries help build character, and therefore the smartphone-induced injures are welfare enhancing.”

Though I would rather call it a sign that the children are more physically active, which is good for both body and brain, as shown by a recent RCT. And as I have written about before, children tend to be very active during self-organized play.

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Treat children’s cough with placebo

The Incidental Economist reports a study from JAMA Pediatrics in which 120 small kids with “nonspecific acute cough” were randomized between 1) treatment with agave nectar, 2) placebo and 3) no treament. Parents, who were blind to the difference between agave nectar and placebo, answered surveys about the severity of the children’s cough before and after treatment. On almost all measured outcomes, the researchers found improvements for both the treatment and placebo groups compared to the no treament group, but no difference between them. The powerful tool of the placebo effect should be kept in mind by parents.

Monthly book roundup – 2014 October

Books finished in October:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) (2013) by Ann Leckie. Winner of several of the big science fiction prizes in 2014. The protagonist is an ancillary, a human body inhabited by an AI, named Greq. The AI used to be in control of a full starship including all the ancillaries onboard, but Greq is the only survivor after the starship disappeared for mysterious reasons. We follow Greq on her/his(/its?) quest for revenge. I really liked the idea of an AI in a human body as the main character.

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It (2014) by Ian Leslie. Some good anecdotes and references, like one study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland, in which “[t]he researchers measured the propensity of 374 five-month-old babies to crawl and probe and fiddle, and then tracked their progress over the following fourteen years. They found that the ones doing best at school aged fourteen were the ones who had been the most energetically exploratory babies.” Claiming that curiosity is the key here is of course jumping to conclusions, but I have always found early (baby-level) markers that predict subsequent behavior very interesting. Many places in the book it is annoying how selection issues are often ignored, Leslie writes uncritically about the “effect” of reading to children, watching television, etc., when it is just run-of-the-mill correlations. In chapter 3 too he starts off unthinkingly critical of the internet, although more nuanced as the chapter went on. An ok book.

A busy month again, although at least I managed one up from the previous month.

Ratings and old books are in the library.