7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school


Veja/Shutterstock

Mandie Shean, Edith Cowan University

As COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted, some children may experience social anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.

People with social anxiety may fear embarrassment or the expectation to perform in social situations, or worry exceedingly about people judging you poorly.

In certain situations, people with anxiety may find their heart beats quicker as adrenalin is released into their blood stream, more oxygen flows to the blood and brain, and even digestion may slow down.




Read more:
Don’t want to send the kids back to school? Why not try unschooling at home?


These are helpful responses if you need to run away or fight danger. But social situations are generally not life threatening, and these physical symptoms can interfere with socialising.

People with social anxiety may fear looking silly, being judged, laughed at or being the focus of attention. For anyone, such experiences might be unwelcome but for those with social anxiety they pose an unacceptable threat.

Social anxiety in Australian children

One Australian report found that about 6.9% of children and adolescents surveyed have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, 4.3% experience separation anxiety and 2.3% a social phobia.

Social phobia (social anxiety) is more common in adolescents, whereas separation anxiety (intense anxiety over leaving caregivers, such as parents) is more prevalent in children.

These figures only account for those who have a diagnosis of anxiety. They do not include undiagnosed young people who experience high stress in social situations.

Not all children will be happy to be back in school.
Tom Wang/Shutterstock

Any recent prolonged absence from school may have increased social anxiety, as avoiding what you fear can make your fear become greater.

This is because you do not get to learn that the thing you fear is actually safe. Your beliefs about the threat go unchallenged.

Anxiety can also increase through what pyschologists call reduced tolerance. The more children withdraw from the situations that cause them fear, the less tolerance they have for those situations.

Anxiety can affect education

The educational cost for students with anxiety is considerable.

The research shows students with poor mental health can be between seven to 11 months behind in Year 3, and 1.5 – 2.8 years behind by Year 9.




Read more:
5 reasons it’s safe for kids to go back to school


That’s because these students experience more absences from school, poorer connection to school, lower levels of belonging and less engagement with schoolwork.

7 strategies to help overcome social anxiety

So what can children do to overcome anxiety as they return to school? Here are some useful tips.

  1. deal with some of the physical symptoms. It is hard to think if your body is stressed. Use calming strategies like mindfulness or breathing exercises. Slowing your breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion. Useful apps to help you control your breathing include Smiling Mind (iOS and Android) or Breathing Bubbles (Android only).

  2. anxiety increases while using avoidance techniques such as avoiding eye contact, not raising your hand to answer a question, or not attending school. So the most effective way to deal with social anxiety might be to face it. Allow your child to have small experiences of social success – give their opinion to one person, start a conversation with someone they know – so they can learn to feel safe in these social situations.

  3. fear and anxiety are normal and benefit us by helping us to respond efficiently to danger. Rather than read your body as under threat, think about the changes as helpful. Your body is preparing you for action.

  4. while avoiding your fears is not the answer, being fully exposed to them is not the answer either. Providing overwhelming social experiences may lead to overwhelming fear and failure, and may make anxiety sufferers less likely to try again – or at all. Start small and build their courage.

  5. supportive listening and counselling are less effective than facing your fears because these approaches can accommodate the fears. While you want to support your child by providing them with comfort and encouragement – ensure you also encourage them to face the fears that cause the anxiety.

  6. you cannot promise negative things won’t happen. It is possible you will be embarrassed or be judged. Rather than try to avoid these events, try reframing them. Remember that that we all experience negative social feedback, and this does not make you silly or of less value. It makes you normal. Or, rather than see it as embarrassing, maybe it can be funny.

  7. remember it is the “perception” that something is a threat – not the reality. Reasoning with your child to help them see your perspective may not change theirs. This reality only changes with positive real experiences.

Breathing Bubbles in action.

What we think is truth is often revealed as untrue when we face our fears. There is joy in social situations. Keep turning up to them.




Read more:
How not to fall for coronavirus BS: avoid the 7 deadly sins of thought


The Conversation


Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trying to homeschool because of coronavirus? Here are 5 tips to help your child learn



Shutterstock

David Roy, University of Newcastle

A number of schools in Australia have shut after students and staff tested positive for COVID-19. And some private schools have moved to online classes pre-emptively.

Many parents are keeping their children home as a precaution for various reasons. Attendance in schools has fallen, by as much as 50% in some.

The current medical advice is for schools to remain open and for children to go to school, unless they are unwell. But if your child is staying home from school, you may be wondering how you can support their learning.

Here are some things you can do to help your child learn from home.

1. Set up a learning space

Create an area in the house for your child to be able to focus on learning. There are no clear guidelines on what a learning area should look like. In fact schools have found creating learning areas or spaces to be a challenge. This is because every child has individual ways of learning, so what works for one may not work for another.

Home learning has an advantage in that it can cater to the individual child. As long as the student can focus and be safe, there are no limits to where the learning can take place. Feel free to allow children different places to learn, whether lying on the ground or sitting at a table – whatever works best for them.

But try to limit distractions. Turning the TV off and switching off app notifications will help.




Read more:
How to avoid distractions while studying, according to science


2. Think about the technology you’ll need

It’s worth checking what programs you will need to access the work the school send. You may need Adobe Acrobat Reader (which is free) or any specific video players such as Abode Flashplayer.

If they are not free, it’s worth checking if the school has a shared license or access package you can use. Companies are offering some online programs and services free during the COVID-19 period. Adobe, for instance, is offering school IT administrators free access to its Creative Cloud facilities until May 2020.

You may also need to download teleconferencing facilities such as Zoom or Skype that teachers may use to deliver lessons. These are free, but make sure you are downloading from the official developers, as some other sites may expose your computer to malware.

3. Create a structure

Make sure your children do not just see this as an extended holiday but as normal school, from home. It’s important to create a structure.

Mainstream schools have a timetabled structure throughout the week, so rather than disrupting your child’s routine, you might wish to follow your child’s school routine.




Read more:
Studying for exams? Here’s how to make your memory work for you


There is no specific time students should spend studying however, given different students of different ages will complete tasks and grasp concepts at different rates.

The advice is to aim for the time frames provided by the schools, and then be flexible depending on how your child is progressing.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how long your child studies for, or where.
Shutterstock

Communication is key. Keep checking in with your children as to how they are progressing, offering help as they feel they need it.

This is how teachers work continually throughout the day with the 20 to 30 children in their classroom.

We all need to process new learning so allow children time to relax between learning periods. But there are no hard and fast rules over how many breaks they should have or how long these should be. Research shows giving children freedom to choose how they learn, and how long for, can increase their motivation.

4. Get to know what your child should know

If your child’s school has moved to online learning, as a supervising adult you will be more a teacher’s aide or facilitator rather than a replacement teacher. It’s likely schools will provide learning materials, although some may not if the school is still open and your child is staying home for other reasons. It’s worth checking with the school, either way.

For each year level schools apply their state mandated curriculum based on the Australian Curriculum to create a year long program of work. Any work sent home by the school will be based on the appropriate age and stage of the curriculum to ensure students maintain their progression.

This is key, in particular, for year 11 and 12 students who must maintain focus on their studies for the end of year exams.




Read more:
Homeschooling is on the rise in Australia. Who is doing it and why?


It can be useful to know why schools choose certain types of work for students to do. So you may wish to browse through the state and territory curriculum documents (NSW, VIC, WA, SA, ACT, NT, TAS and QLD)

Key to understanding these sometimes confusing and complex documents is looking for outcomes and indicators – such as this for year 5 English. You can find all of this information in the relevant year level and subject category.

Outcomes are, in simplest form, the goal a child is to achieve at a certain level. Indicators are the suggested ways your child will show their achievements.

All aspects of the Australian Curriculum can be downloaded as required. States and territory regulators offer guides to understand each curriculum, such as Victoria.

5. Be around to help, but don’t get in the way

States and territories are putting supporting information online for how the parents can be a teacher’s guide and facilitator.

If your child is finding a particular task difficult, be available to make suggestions and answer questions, but try to let them do things themselves as much as possible.

If you don’t know the answer, work with your child to discover a solution. Let your child, where possible, self regulate – that is to take control of their own learning and not rely on you.




Read more:
How to help your kids with homework (without doing it for them)


You may need to take your child back a step to reinforce a concept before they move onto a new one. An example might be in long division, where reinforcing decimal points, or even subtraction, needs to be revised first.

If all else fails…

There are many online support activities for children learning from home. Where possible try to only use those from official education authorities. The NSW home schooling regulator (NESA) has published some links for home schooling families, that anyone can use.

If you are lost in what to do, then encourage your child to read. Model reading, get your children books and discuss them. Developing a love for reading in your children will help them in all learning areas, no matter how long they don’t physically go into school.




Read more:
Kids at home because of coronavirus? Here are 4 ways to keep them happy (without resorting to Netflix)


The Conversation


David Roy, Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australians lost more than $10 million to scammers last year. Follow these easy tips to avoid being conned.



File 20190115 152989 6tmpd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Scammers impersonating the Australian Taxation Office have fleeced Australians of more than $830,000.
Shutterstock

Damien Manuel, Deakin University

Many of us start a typical day by checking our phones to read emails, social media posts and the weather. Our phones are trusted devices we use constantly throughout the day to communicate. But the trust we place in our phones, and the way we interact with the world, also makes it easy for scammers to target us.

Our evolutionary past also makes us susceptible to scams. Humans are curious social animals, which means we are more trusting than we should be. That’s especially the case when we’re dealing with people over the phone, email or via SMS, where we don’t have the normal body language cues we would subconsciously process when making decisions.

We are also susceptible to fear and other psychological tools scammers use to create a sense of urgency that tricks us into making irrational decisions and taking action. Simply being aware that scams are out there is not enough to protect us from them. We also need to change our behaviour.

Scam using branding and authority to make you click to see the confidential information.
Damien Manuel



Read more:
Why ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams continue to dupe us


Who are these scammers and what do they want?

Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are individuals, others are gangs. The more sophisticated scammers are criminal syndicates and foreign governments looking for a way to subvert international sanctions and obtain money through cyber crime.

The motivations of scammers ranges greatly, but can include:

  • stealing intellectual property
  • tricking you to install malicious software (to steal your data or hold you to ransom)
  • stealing your identity so they can pretend to be you and conduct fraud
  • tricking you to part with your hard earned cash
  • gaining control of your device to steal information at a later date or using your device to attack other people you know.

What techniques are they using?

Scammers are experts at social engineering and use a number of tricks to build rapport, credibility and trust with their targets.

Modifying the caller ID is a simple way to build credibility by making a call or SMS appear to come from an authority like the Australian Tax Office. The rise of cheap Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and other online tools has made it even easier for anyone to exploit the phone systems and “spoof” other numbers.

An SMS scam that uses urgency and fear of fines to get people to click a link.
Damien Manuel

In the VoIP phone system, the person initiating the call defines the caller ID seen by the receiver. This is the same for traditional phone systems, however the lower price of VoIP and ease at which the caller ID can be modified without any technical knowledge (via a simple web page) makes it faster and cheaper for scammers to cycle through a number of fake caller IDs in a single day. It also allows them to move to a new source number or VoIP provider very quickly, making it harder for telcos in Australia to block.

There are legitimate business reasons for allowing the caller ID to be modified, such as when companies operating call centres want all outbound phone calls from their staff to appear to originate from a single “help desk” phone number.




Read more:
New ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam targeting Chinese students makes use of data shared online


Email spoofing is also common and easy to do. This is where an attacker forges the email header, making the email look like it originated from a friend, authority or service provider, such as a bank. A key way to identify a spoofed email is to check the email address itself (the reply field) rather than just relying on the display name in the “from” field.

Most email clients (such as Gmail or Outlook) on desktops or laptops are capable of displaying email headers. Unfortunately email clients on most smartphones and tablets make it difficult to see the real source and often only show the forged “display name” information.

Phone and email are the two main scam delivery methods. Losses from attempts to gain your personal information rose by more than 61% between 2017 and 2018. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Last year, Australians lost more than $10 million to scammers.

An example of a scam email.
Damien Manuel

Signs of a scam

Ten common warning signs you are dealing with a scammer include the following:

  • being asked for password, PINs or other sensitive information
  • being told you are owed a refund
  • being told you have unpaid bills, unpaid fines from the police or a government department
  • being notified there is a problem with your email or bank account
  • being asked for urgent help
  • being congratulated on winning a competition (you didn’t enter)
  • being asked to click on a link or open a document
  • being sent an unexpected invoice to open
  • receiving a critical alert message with a link to click
  • receiving a tracking number and link for a delivery (you didn’t order).
A scam telling you your mail box full is designed to make you click on a link.
Damien Manuel



Read more:
More than just money: getting caught in a romance scam could cost you your life


Simple tips to avoid being conned

Firstly, don’t click on any links, don’t respond to offers to opt-out or unsubscribe, don’t call return calls from numbers you don’t recognise and, most importantly, don’t give out personal information – even if you think it isn’t important.

Remember, some scams are multi-step scams. The best thing you can do is to report the scam and tell your friends and family to be aware of the scam so they can modify their behaviours.

Scams can be reported to various government agencies, such as Scam Watch, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and, in some cases, the service provider – for example, the ATO, Telstra, AusPost and the banks.The Conversation

An example of a multi-step scam that validates your email is real and then harvests the credentials you enter.
Damien Manuel

Damien Manuel, Director, Centre for Cyber Security Research & Innovation (CSRI), Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Five tips to get the most out of your workday


Image 20170419 32700 vcew7e
Drinking coffee at work has a range of benefits.
Shutterstock

Mary Barrett, University of Wollongong

Getting a lot done each day is about more than just having the right productivity tools and setup. It’s about taking care of your body and mind, and this starts even outside of the workplace. The Conversation

We all need strategies for increasing productivity; here are five to get you started.

1) Get a good night’s rest

The first key to productivity is plenty of sleep. Getting 7-8 hours sleep a night will flow through into your work, from sharper decision making and problem solving, to better coping with change.

It is not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but quality as well. You should try to stick to a regular sleep pattern.

Going to bed late during the working week and hoping to catch up with a sleep-in on the weekends may make you feel more productive, but you are disrupting your sleep-wake rhythms. This makes it difficult to feel alert and ready for work on Monday.

Get into a good sleep routine by setting a regular bedtime. Then avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.

Limit light exposure – including from TV, phone and computer screens – in the evening. Eat, drink and exercise enough, but not too much and not too close to your bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is a calm place, and use it only for sleep and intimacy.

Shift workers may not be able to keep to a sleep routine, of course, and they need to be even more careful to get good sleep when they can.

2) Drink some coffee at work

Coffee helps you feel alert because it blocks adenosine, the main compound in your brain that makes you sleepy.

A study of US Navy SEALs found caffeine had a range of positive impacts beyond keeping you awake. Benefits ranged from increased alertness and reaction time, to improved learning, memory and even mood. The effects lasted from one to eight hours.

Another study found that caffeine speeds up how quickly we process words.

But coffee isn’t just effective on a chemical level.

Researchers at MIT found that scheduling coffee breaks so that the entire team took it at the same time increased productivity. When tested at a bank call centre, efficiency increased by 8% on average, and 20% for the worst performing teams. The benefit here came less from the caffeine and more from increasing the interactions between team members.

But before you rush out to grab a coffee, remember that in these experiments “a good cup of coffee” means black coffee. Research shows the levels of the beneficial antioxidants in coffee were higher and lasted longer in black coffee drinkers than for people who added sugar or non-dairy creamer to their coffee.

3) Take a break and do some exercise

Researchers in America have found that taking breaks during the workday is important for workers to replace workplace “resources” – energy, motivation, and concentration. These resources aren’t limitless, and periodically need “charging” by doing activities that require less effort or use different resources than normal work, or are just something the worker enjoys.

A break could be mean completely stopping work and doing something fun. An office-worker might go for a run, for instance. Or it could just mean switching tasks and doing something different, such as a supermarket shelver sitting down and doing paperwork.

The researchers also found it matters when you take your break. You will be most productive after a break if you take it early in the work day rather than later, when you are already tired.

But perhaps you should also carve out special times in the day for physical movement. Researchers in Sweden found that devoting some work time to physical activity increases productivity. The research found that as little as two and a half hours of physical activity a week led to more work being done in the same amount of time, and reduced absenteeism due to sickness.

4) Conquer procrastination

Procrastinating not only reduces your immediate productivity
by delaying work, but increases stress and lowers well-being. This can make your productivity even worse, later.

There are a range of relatively simple interventions you can do, such as eliminating notifications on your devices, only working for 15 minutes to get a project started, or creating smaller goals.

A classic remedy now supported by a University of Pennsylvania study is to divide tasks into smaller pieces so you can work through a more manageable series of assignments. Use the higher energy levels you have in the morning to do a small task you don’t feel like doing, such as phoning someone you have been reluctant to contact. You’ll give yourself the mood and energy boost that comes from a small achievement.

5) Do one thing at a time

Don’t be tempted to multitask. Our brains are not suited to dealing with multiple streams of information or doing multiple jobs at the same time. The more tasks we try to do simultaneously, the slower we complete them and the more mistakes we make.

Further, the research found that those who do multitask are more prone to becoming distracted by their environment.

By contrast, take that difficult phone call you just made. You gave it your full attention and finished it. Now, do something else important and then take a short coffee break, perhaps a walk. Your body and your mind will be in top gear and so will your productivity.

Mary Barrett, Professor of Management, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Lifehacker – Great Place for Tips


I want to give a web site/Blog a plug today. This is a Blog I go to on a daily basis, just to see what has been posted and see if any of the tips are useful to me. Quite often I’ll find a post that I find really useful, whether it be something that might help me on a web site, purchasing something, making life a little easier, etc.

Some of today’s posts at Lifehacker include turning your car into a beat box, how to make a recharger and key holder out of Lego, tips for the computer, etc.

Yesterday there was a post about how bicarb soda can help to save your towels. There was a post about 10 rules to raise happy kids. There was also a post about encrypting a web page so that visitors who can answer a special question will be the only ones able to access it. Another was on how to polish shoes with a banana.

So, as you can see, there are tips for doing many things.

Have a look for yourself at:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/