Does the term ‘research-based’ keep parents in the dark?

Does applying the term ‘research-based’ to parental advice automatically provide a stamp of authority? A commentary paper published in the Journal of Children and Media suggests that parents and caregivers are frequently misled into an ‘ignorance trap’ by recommendations which are based on ill-informed research.The risk of ambiguous parental advice is a hazard across health and education journalism, but seems to particularly affect the reporting on media and children. Parents are faced with making sense of increasingly intricate research findings and so are becoming ever-more reliant on advice provided by bloggers and reporters. Meanwhile, new ways for children to use digital media arrive every year, and so clear guidance and advice is imperative to support parents in their choices.The commentary names one particular example of a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which contained advice relating to children’s use of social networking sites. The report contained reference to the phrase ‘Facebook depression’, an expression which was quickly picked up by the press and used with the cachet of a real medical term. Stories on this phenomenon appeared across newspapers and television channels worldwide, despite not being based on any real evidence. The commentary finds that the citations actually originated from a first person account in a school newspaper, and from two websites names Trend Hunter and Science a Go Go. None of the citations referred to any research showing that social media use causes depression. Yet, because of the reputation and authority of the AAP, the one small mention of ‘Facebook depression’ has had a large impact.Guernsey suggests that both reporters and professional organizations have a responsibility to communicate clear and transparent advice to parents. Reporters need to gain an understanding of how research works and professional organisations need to be able to back up their statements with carefully reviewed research. …

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Over the past few years I’ve seen a number of people drastically change their bodies with a number of different strategies.Some ate Paleo, others slow-carb, and still others ate whatever they felt like; they just simply counted calories. The strategies aren’t usually too important.Sure, Some are better than others. But there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. (not literally…)While they varied on many things there was one consistent trait I saw in people who changed their bodies:Belief.Now before you write me off as some new age wooshu guy, let me explain.What I saw in those that transformed their bodies was a strong belief that it was possible for them to change. They knew what they wanted, they knew …

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Growing up I was not much of a sporty kid.Sure, I’d tried the buffet strategy, “I’ll try a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”, But I never quite settled on something I enjoyed.After getting concussed during Rugby, I decided that was too rough. I tried playing cricket, but then I realized I didn’t enjoy standing in the sun mostly doing nothing all day. I looked into underwater hockey, but then I realized the boys had to wear speedos and so I vetoed that too. While all my “jock” buddies were out getting abs, tans, and ladies I was in the music room playing punk music. Despite my fingers getting a workout on the guitar fret board, the only physical change …

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Living fossils? Actually, sturgeon fish are evolutionary speedsters

June 6, 2013 — Efforts to restore sturgeon in the Great Lakes region have received a lot of attention in recent years, and many of the news stories note that the prehistoric-looking fish are “living fossils” virtually unchanged for millions of years.But a new study by University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues reveals that in at least one measure of evolutionary change — changes in body size over time — sturgeon have been one of the fastest-evolving fish on the planet.”Sturgeon are thought of as a living fossil group that has undergone relatively slow rates of anatomical change over time. But that’s simply not true,” said Daniel Rabosky, assistant professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a curator of herpetology at the Museum of Zoology.”Our study shows that sturgeon are evolving very quickly in some ways. They have evolved a huge range of body sizes. There are dwarf sturgeon the size of a bass and several other species that are nearly as big as a Volkswagen.”The sturgeon finding is just one result in a wide-ranging study of the rates of species formation and anatomical change in fish. The work involved assembling one of the largest evolutionary trees ever created for any group of animals. The evolutionary relationships between nearly 8,000 species of fish are delineated in the branches of the tree, allowing the researchers to make inferences about all 30,000 or so species of ray-finned fish.The study’s findings are scheduled for online publication in Nature Communications on June 6. Rabosky and Michael Alfaro of the University of California, Los Angeles, are the lead authors. U-M computational evolutionary biologist Stephen Smith is a co-author.The main goal of the project was to test a longstanding idea in evolutionary biology that has anecdotal support but which had never been rigorously evaluated, Rabosky said. It was Charles Darwin who coined the term “living fossil” to describe extant creatures, such as the gar (another Great Lakes resident) and the lungfish, which have been present for many millions of years in the fossil record yet appear to have undergone very little anatomical change.Paleontologists have long suspected that these observations reflect a fundamental coupling between the rates of species formation and anatomical change: groups of organisms that contain lots of species also seem to have greater amounts of anatomical variation, while groups with only a few species, such as the gar, lack much morphological variety.Rabosky and his colleagues assembled a time-calibrated evolutionary tree for 7,864 living fish species using DNA sequence data and body-size information from publicly available databases. Their data set was so large that they had to develop new computer programs from scratch to analyze it.The new computer models and the vast amount of data enabled the team to study the correlation between how quickly new species form and how rapidly they evolve new body sizes on a scale that had not previously been possible.They found a strong correlation between the rates of species diversification and body size evolution across the more than 30,000 living species of ray-finned fish, which comprise the majority of vertebrate biological diversity.”We’re basically validating a lot of ideas that have been out there since Darwin, but which had never been tested at this scale due to lack of data and the limits of existing technologies,” Rabosky said.Most of the fish groups fall into one of two categories. …

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