Tag: research (page 1 of 6)

Yes, parenting matters

Parenting is the hardest job I have ever had. It never stops, and I seldom think I’m doing a good job at it.

That’s why it can be comforting to see ‘scientific studies’ indicate that it doesn’t really matter how you parent, in the long-run. The trouble is, as this article shows, that’s not actually true.

We can’t experimentally reassign children to different parents — we’re not monsters, and please don’t call to offer us your teenager — but sometimes real life does that anyway. Here’s an example: some Korean adoptees were assigned to American adopters by a queueing system which was essentially random. So there was no correlation between adoptees’ and parents’ genes. Yet, adoptees assigned to better educated families became significantly better educated themselves. Adopters made a difference in other ways too: for instance, mothers who drank were about 20% more likely to have an adoptive child who drank. This can’t be genetics. It must be something about the environment these parents provided. Other adoption studies reach similar conclusions.

More evidence comes from the grim events of death and divorce. If your parent dies while you are very young, you end up less like that parent, in terms of education, than otherwise. Again, that can’t be genetics. And children of parents who divorce become more like the parent they stay with. In other words, when parents spend time with their children, their behaviours and values rub off.

[…]

The bottom line is this: how much and what you say to your child from their first few days literally carves new paths in their brain. We know this from research on speech development. When mothers responded to their babies’ cues with the most basic vocalisations, they accelerated their children’s language development. So go ahead and babble along with your toddler.

Source: No wait stop it matters how you raise your kids | Wyclif’s Dust

The new digital divide  

We’re already at the stage where most people in the developed world have a device that can access the internet in their pocket. Many families have multiple devices in their house that can access the internet. We’re getting to the stage where that’s starting to be the case in developing countries.

So the new digital divide? How we use the internet. I think there’s a lot to unpack here, especially as we live in unequal societies dominated by hyper-capitalism. It would be easy to victim blame, but I know from experience that when I’m burned out, all I want to do is stare and scroll at my phone…

People using devices

In his seminar, Moro referred to the socio-economic divide based on how we use the internet as the second digital divide, in contrast to the original digital divide which was based on access to the internet.

Getting online in the 1990s required a personal computer and an account with a service provider, and e-commerce transactions required a credit card and bank account. As our economy was becoming increasingly digital, major new inequalities were now arising because so many around the world could neither afford a PC or an internet account and had no bank relationship or credit card. The reach and connectivity we were all so excited about in this initial phase of the internet era was in reality not so inclusive. While the internet was truly empowering for those with the means to use it, it led to a growing digital divide both within countries and across the world. The internet was ushering a global digital revolution, but it was disconcerting to have a global digital revolution that left out the majority of the world’s population.

This picture started to change in the 2000s. Continuing technology advances were now bringing the empowerment benefits of the digital revolution to a majority of the planet’s population. Mobile phones and wireless internet access went from a luxury to a necessity that most everyone could now afford, initially in advanced economies, and later in most of the rest of the world. We were transitioning from the connected economy of PCs, browsers and web servers to an increasingly hyperconnected digital economy of ubiquitous, powerful and inexpensive mobile devices, cloud-based apps, and broadband wireless networks.

While the original internet access gap is now minimal in developed economies, Moro and his collaborators found that a digital usage gap has now emerged, representing the distinct uses of the internet by different socio-economic groups based primarily on their income and educational status.

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The study found quantitative evidence of a significant digital divide in internet usage between two socio-economic groups, each with different income and educational attainment. In principle, all individuals had access to the same internet. But, the study found that each group generally accessed its own distinct version of the internet, and their socio-economic behavior was thus influenced by the fairly different services and information that they were exposed to. By analyzing mobile traffic flows, the study identified the key services that each group accessed:

  • Higher income & education demographics – Information-seeking traffic predominates, e.g., news, mail, search; Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter are the dominant social media apps; games like Clash of Clans are the most widely used, …
  • Lower income & education demographics – Entertainment traffic predominates, e.g., video-streaming, gaming, adult services; Facebook and Snapchat are the dominant social media apps; games like Candy Crush are the most widely used, …

“The digital usage gap is so profound between low- and high-income or low- or high-education areas that it can be used to clearly distinguish between them or even identify the relative composition of these groups in a given area,” wrote the authors. “High-income areas or those with higher education attainability show a more pronounced utilization of mobile devices to consume news, exchange e-mails, search for information or listen to music. At the same time, they display a reduced use of some social media platforms or video-streaming services.

Source: The Digital Divide in How We Use the Internet | Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Image source: Robin Worrall

Testing a 4-day work week

I already work what most people would call ‘part-time’, doing no more than 25 paid hours of work per week, on average. I’m glad that employers are experimenting with a shorter workweek (for the same pay) but inevitably one of the metrics will be ‘productivity’ which I think is a ridiculously difficult thing to actually measure…

“After the pandemic, people want a work-life balance,” Joe Ryle, the campaign director for the 4 Day Week Campaign, said in an interview. “They want to be working less.”

More than 3,300 workers in banks, marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other industries in Britain are taking part in the pilot, the organizers said. Mr. Ryle said the data would be collected through interviews and staff surveys, and through the measures each company uses to assess its productivity.

“We’ll be analyzing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and the lead researcher on the project, said.

Source: Britain Tests a 4-Day Workweek | The New York Times