Sunday, August 26, 2018

Must reads

Youth summit sends messages of hope and embracing diversity, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Youth summit sends messages of hope and embracing diversity, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Youth summit sends messages of hope and embracing diversity

SINGAPORE - Lasalle College of The Arts student Claire Teo suffers from an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa and has vision limited to the scope of a 10 cent coin.

But the 19-year-old's visual impairment did not stop her from participating in a mass fan dance on Sunday (Aug 26) as part of the two-day Youth Summit, under Buddhist organisation the Singapore Soka Association's Youth Division.

The event was held at Our Tampines Hub and saw over 13,500 youths from various backgrounds, ethnic groups and faiths participating over the weekend. The summit's theme was "choose hope - embracing diversity, empowering lives".

Miss Teo said taking part in the performance was challenging, but she was fortunate to have the support of friends and fellow participants.

To learn the dance steps she had to rely on a friend who verbally described each move.

"It took a lot of patience on her part, but my friend has been very supportive and fellow participants have been very encouraging," said Miss Teo, who practised for three months.

"I see this summit as a gathering of people who want to fight for hope and peace. I want to contribute and say that I've chosen hope. I hope that whoever sees us dance will be encouraged and choose hope with us."

Speaking at the closing of the summit, Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Culture, Community and Youth, said: "We cannot take our racial and religious harmony for granted. This bears emphasising because our country's openness - through immigration and the influence of the Internet- contributes to an increasingly complex religious landscape."

She also said it was important to bridge understanding among ethnic and religious groups. "This will strengthen the foundation for trust and respect between diverse communities, for us to face future challenges together as one people."

The summit also included exhibitions featuring young people who had made a difference, such as Mr Abdul Hakeem Mohamed Yunos, 26, chairman of the Jamiyah Singapore Youth Group which started the initiative 'Muslim Youth Ambassador of Peace'.

The initiative aims to counter threats to peace and raise awareness about self-radicalism. Mr Hakeem said: "We need to understand each other so we can co-exist and embrace diversity. We shouldn't be afraid to talk about things like radicalism, in fact we should discuss it."

Since May, the Singapore Soka Association's Youth Division has been organising various projects in the lead-up to the summit, which included interactive opportunities with the community and interfaith groups, as well as projects for the less privileged.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Blue light from mobile phones and computers can cause irreversible damage to eyes: Scientific Reports study, Tech News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Blue light from mobile phones and computers can cause irreversible damage to eyes: Scientific Reports study, Tech News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Blue light from mobile phones and computers can cause irreversible damage to eyes: Scientific Reports study

Blue light from devices such as smartphones and computers can cause irreversible damage to the eyes, a study in the United States has found.

The study, which was published in July by researchers from the University of Toledo (UT) in Ohio, found that blue light from digital devices could cause diseases such as loss of central vision and night blindness.

One of the researchers of the project, Dr Ajith Karunarathne, told the UT website that humans are continuously exposed to blue light because the eye's cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it.

"It's no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina," she said.

"Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop."

The study was published in Scientific Reports, a free online journal from the publishers of Nature. Nature is a science journal that was first published in 1869.

Blue light has a very short wavelength relative to other visible lights, so it produces a higher amount of energy.

Exposure to blue light causes a particular molecule in the eye to produce poisonous chemical molecules that affect light-sensitive cells, said the UT researchers.

This can lead to diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and night blindness.

AMD is a irreversible medical condition that results in loss of central vision, and is also a major cause of blindness for those above 50 years old, according to the Singapore National Eye Centre website.

Patients can still have enough peripheral vision to continue with some daily activities, but will have difficulty recognising faces, driving, or reading.

The UT researchers are currently measuring light coming from televisions, handphones and table screens to better understand how cells in the eyes respond to everyday blue light exposure.

They added that people who want to protect their eyes from blue light can avoid looking at cell phones or tablets in the dark, and wear sunglasses that can filter both ultraviolet and blue light.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Commentary: Afraid your kids will catch HFMD? Don’t let modern day parenting be ruled by fear - Channel NewsAsia

Commentary: Afraid your kids will catch HFMD? Don't let modern day parenting be ruled by fear - Channel NewsAsia

Commentary: Afraid your kids will catch HFMD? Don't let modern day parenting be ruled by fear

If we want our children to grow up courageous, resilient and independent, then parents must display these values in facing everyday challenges, says one mother of three

Commentary Commentary
Father daughter family Singapore
A man and a child on a beach in Singapore. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)
(Updated: )


SINGAPORE: Parental fear begins from the moment you find out that you are going to have a child.

Will my baby be alright? What if I give birth prematurely? Will we have sufficient finances to give the child our best? The list goes on…

Then by some miracle the child grows up strong and healthy, and new fears emerge.

When I read the news about the HFMD virus that has been spreading like wildfire in Malaysia, I couldn't help but worry. My second child contracted it when he was three, and it was one of the hardest seven days of his life.

When I see posters warning of terrorist attacks and public service messages telling us what to do in cases of molestation, I fear for the day when my kids will travel on public transport on their own.

But should we allow these fears to drive our behaviour?

Because of the potential threat of catching a virus, do I ban my kids from going near a playground?

We often tell our kids that they should face their fears bravely, and that it's unproductive to worry unnecessarily, but are we taking our own pill of faith?

READ: Protecting your kids from failure isn't helpful parenting, a commentary


Academics is another huge area where children seem to be hapless victims of parental paranoia.

Led by an overwhelming fear that our offspring will be disadvantaged when "everyone else is doing it", we enrol them in all manner of tuition even before they start Primary 1.

students classroom
Students attending a mathematics class at a primary school. (File photo: TODAY)

For many of our children, tuition is a way of life, regardless of the stage of academic life.

Granted, that our children will be left behind or struggle later in life are very real concerns. These lead us to constantly wonder: "Am I doing enough?"

They may also lead to extreme measures such as having for tuition in all four subjects when the child is already coping well, just so they have something to occupy them while we are away.

But as parents, we have the responsibility to define what is enough, and not let societal expectations and our own fears lead the way.

We have a duty to build their sense of confidence to face an uncertain future. The onus is on us to put a dam against the flood of anxiety.

Anxiety is contagious. The more anxious we feel about our children's grades and achievements, be it extra-curricular or academic, the more our children will feel it, and hold back from taking risks.

Are our fears feeding into a generation of anxious youths? And how do we expect them to rise up to challenges and adapt to change, if we cannot model the same courage and resilience we want to see in them?

primary school students first day of school 2018
File photo of primary school students. (Photo: MOE)

READ: Move by St Margaret's Primary a test of parents' ability to deal with change. Will they rise to the challenge? A commentary


These attitudes can shape our everyday actions if we are not mindful. As a parent of three school-aged children, I sometimes catch myself doing things for them that they are fully capable of doing.

One example is clearing their plates after meals. My fingers instinctively find their way to their plates. I have to remind myself that I'm doing them a disservice by "helping".

Many of us grew up in households where we were expected to help out at a tender age. I recall being allowed to head downstairs to grab bread or simple grocery items by the time I was in Primary 2.

Having to cross a carpark to the provision shop was never a major safety issue, and I probably developed a strong awareness of my surroundings on these occasions.

Serving in the home is a great way to instill responsibility and ownership. Yet why don't we enlist their help more often?

I wonder if the strong emphasis on academics is a big factor here. There seems to be an underlying assumption that kids should just focus on their studies, and be excused from other "menial" tasks.

Where then will they get a chance to learn responsibility? And will they grow up with a warped belief that their sole purpose is to get good grades, get into a good school, and earn a good living?     

Will they learn that life has no model answers or automatic route to success?

Two children playing in a playground
Two boys at a playground. (Photo: Unsplash/Hisu lee)


Giving in to our fears may cost us invaluable opportunities to build our children's independence, responsibility and life skills.

Perhaps it is time to examine and confront them.  

Weigh the consequences of taking a small risk, such as allowing your child to take public transport on their own for the first time.

And what is the worst that could happen if we roster our kids to dinner table or laundry duties?

For schoolwork, review the goals that you and your child have set. Before the upcoming semestral assessment (otherwise notoriously known as SA2), discuss the options that are available if they fall short or exceed those goals. If they show improvement in a subject that they have been getting tuition for, it may be time to drop some tuition classes, and find alternative uses for the time gained.

This way, they will start to see that they need not rely on any tuition teacher for the rest of their lives. They also gain a chance to grow their own resourcefulness and desire to learn.

Fear that leads to over-protection (or over-tuition) can stifle the growth of our children's inner resilience and strength.

What we can do though is map out a plan to stare these challenges in the face.

As Singapore just celebrated her 53rd birthday, my hope is that we too will find our inner strength and resourcefulness as a society, and carry on that same grit and perseverance our nation's pioneers exemplified.

Our children will find and carve their own pathways in life. All we need to do is to tame our fears and instill in them a belief that they can do it.    

June Yong is a mother of three, an educational therapist and owner of Mama Wear Papa Shirt, a blog that discusses parenting and education in Singapore.

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