Category Archives: Youngsters

Funny on Sunday: what if Bart Simpson and other famous cartoons were hipsters?

Hipsters, those coffee drinking, Macbook using, living subculture icons have been the inspiration for Illustrator Matt Lassen to adapt some famous cartoon characters:

Check more here, but this is my favorite:

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Arab Youth Survey: Inside The Hearts And Minds Of Arab Youth (report, presentation & video)

I’ve noticed that this relevant report isn’t getting much attention. You can download the white paper here. The video and presentation give a summary:

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A bit of a different tune: Time spent playing video games may have positive effects on young children

Quite often when computer games and kids get publicity the news is rather negative. This new study by researchers at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues at Paris Descartes University has a different ring to it. The researchers assessed the association between the amount of time spent playing video games and children’s mental health and cognitive and social skills, and found that playing video games may have positive effects on young children. Results are published online in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

From the press release and do note what I’ve put in bold and the correlation-nature of the study:

After adjusting for child age, gender, and number of children, the researchers found that high video game usage was associated with a 1.75 times the odds of high intellectual functioning and 1.88 times the odds of high overall school competence. There were no significant associations with any child self-reported or mother- or teacher-reported mental health problems. The researchers also found that more video game playing was associated with less relationship problems with their peers. Based on parent reporting, one in five children played video games more than 5 hours per week.

Results were based on data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project for children ages 6-11. Parents and teachers assessed their child’s mental health in a questionnaire and the children themselves responded to questions through an interactive tool. Teachers evaluated academic success. Factors associated with time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older, and belonging to a medium size family. Having a less educated or single mother decreased time spent playing video games.

“Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children. These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community. We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains and important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success,” said Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Abstract of the study:

Background: Video games are one of the favourite leisure activities of children; the influence on child health is usually perceived to be negative. The present study assessed the association between the amount of time spent playing video games and children mental health as well as cognitive and social skills.
Methods: Data were drawn from the School Children Mental Health Europe project conducted in six European Union countries (youth ages 6–11, n = 3195). Child mental health was assessed by parents and teachers using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and by children themselves with the Dominic Interactive. Child video game usage was reported by the parents. Teachers evaluated academic functioning. Multivariable logistic regressions were used.
Results: 20 % of the children played video games more than 5 h per week. Factors associated with time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older, and belonging to a medium size family. Having a less educated, single, inactive, or psychologically distressed mother decreased time spent playing video games. Children living in Western European countries were significantly less likely to have high video game usage (9.66 vs 20.49 %) though this was not homogenous. Once adjusted for child age and gender, number of children, mothers age, marital status, education, employment status, psychological distress, and region, high usage was associated with 1.75 times the odds of high intellectual functioning (95 % CI 1.31–2.33), and 1.88 times the odds of high overall school competence (95 % CI 1.44–2.47). Once controlled for high usage predictors, there were no significant associations with any child self-reported or mother- or teacher-reported mental health problems. High usage was associated with decreases in peer relationship problems [OR 0.41 (0.2–0.86) and in prosocial deficits (0.23 (0.07, 0.81)].
Conclusions: Playing video games may have positive effects on young children. Understanding the mechanisms through which video game use may stimulate children should be further investigated.

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New review study on how to fight bullying

Next week we’re having the annual week against bullying in our country, and while in many countries the amount of children being bullied is getting smaller, it’s still an important problem. A new review of research out today outlines roles and recommendations for peers, parents, schools and new media platforms to stop bullying.

From the press release:

This review was published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) journal published in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

“The fact that there are so many ways to intervene provides hope for stopping bullying and its negative effects,” wrote study author Dr. Amy Bellmore. “Yet even with a mound of evidence about what may work, we still face many challenges to implementing these changes, as the most effective approaches are likely to require action on many fronts.”

Building on more than 20 years of bullying research, Bellmore constructs a multi-tiered approach to stop bullying, with recommendations for four stakeholders:

Peers Higher levels of bullying are reported in classrooms where victims are not defended by their peers than in classrooms where students intervene on the victims’ behalf. Students can defend victims by sharing their emotional reactions, offering support and helping to shape peaceful alternatives. In addition, students should be informed that adults can help stop bullying only when they see or hear about specific instances. Though students have a role in stopping bullying, the overall process must be instigated and supported by adults within school and at home.

Parents Children that have warm relationships with their parents are less likely to become bullies or victims, compared to children that have neglectful or abusive parents. To help reduce bullying, schools or communities could provide training in relevant parental skills to help facilitate communication about incidents of bullying occurring in schools. Such training may also be effective for parents whose children are not at risk of becoming bullies or being bullied as it could help parents encourage their children to defend their peers.

Schools The school-based anti-bullying programs that have been most successful at reducing bullying and victimization are those that last longer, have more intensive interventions and many components, such as school rules, discipline, playground supervision and parent informational and training meetings. When deciding on whether or not to implement anti-bullying programs, schools should view their efforts to reduce bullying as promoting a positive school climate for all students as focusing on wide-ranging benefits will help motivate schools that are concerned about limited time and resources. Schools should select bullying intervention programs that have evidence of success, implement the programs with caution and evaluate success within their specific context and among their students.

New Media Platforms Law enforcement may not get involved in cyberbullying unless it results in such behavior as harassment and threats and schools are still seeking guidance in determining their level of involvement; however, the public opinion is that companies running social media platforms have some culpability. To ensure the safety of its users, some large social media sites offer resource pages dedicated to bullying, instructions for blocking accounts of bullies and reporting mechanisms for users to report online abuse.

“Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage for children,” continued Bellmore. “Bullying is destructive to youth who experience it directly, to the schools in which it resides, and to the broader public.”

Abstract of the study (open access):

In the last 20 years, public awareness of the problem of bullying has increased to the degree that legislation has been developed to protect youth in all 50 United States. Bullying is clearly harmful to students’ social, psychological, and academic functioning. Researchers are now challenged to prevent or reduce bullying and its negative effects. The potential that key stakeholders—peers, parents, schools, and new media—hold for stopping bullying is reviewed. The evidence from the large body of bullying research offers hope for many ways that stakeholders can produce meaningful reductions in bullying, when provided proper supports for their efforts.


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No, it’s not swag or yolo after all: teenagers’ role in language change is overstated

The idea that teenagers have an important influence on our language – with new words popping up every now and then – is not wrong as such, but youngsters are not solely causing language change. A new study by Mary Kohn et al shows that language changes occur throughout a lifetime and not just during the teenage years. In fact, teenagers may not be causing language change the way that we typically think…

From the press release:

If you’re too “basic” to “YOLO” or think that slang is never “on fleek,” fear not: How teenagers speak IRL is not ruining the English language, according to Kansas State University linguistics research.

In fact, teenagers may not be causing language change the way that we typically think, said Mary Kohn, assistant professor of English. Kohn studies language variation and how language changes over time.

Kohn’s latest research found that teenagers are not solely causing language change. Rather, language changes occur throughout a lifetime and not just during the teenage years.

“Our research has shown teens are being dynamic with language, but not necessarily in a consistent way,” Kohn said. “We aren’t eliminating the possibility that teenagers are driving sound change, but we might be grossly overstating the role of teenagers.”

Kohn found there was not a consistent language path that a person took from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Language change is more individualistic and varies for each person, she said.

“Very commonly, people think that teenagers are ruining language because they are texting or using shorthand or slang,” Kohn said. “But our language is constantly developing and changing and becoming what it needs to be for the generation who is speaking it. As a linguist, I find this really exciting because it shows me that our language is alive.”

Kohn used the Frank Porter Graham project, which is a database that followed 67 children from infancy to their early 20s. The database includes audio and interview recordings from nearly every year of the children’s lives and also has recordings of family members, friends and teachers — all valuable information for understanding how language changes as individuals grow up, Kohn said.

Using this database, Kohn studied sound waves — a precise measurement of how people pronounce words. She focused on 20 individuals during four different time periods: fourth grade, eighth grade, 10th grade and post-high school at age 20. Kohn measured pronunciations to see if the participants dramatically changed during the teenage years. Her longitudinal approach offered a before and after look at linguistic pronunciation during the teenage years.

The teenager subgroup did not stand out as a group from the rest of the subgroups, meaning there was nothing special about being a teenager,” Kohn said. “Just because you are a teenager doesn’t mean you will change your language. Perhaps our stereotypes about how teenagers speak are often based on subgroups of teenagers that stand out to us as most distinct. We notice the kids who make bold fashion statements, so we also might notice the kids who are making dramatic linguistic changes.”

Other subgroups experience language change, Kohn said, and she suggests that sources of language change may happen in younger children. Children turn away from adult influence when they get to school, which may be the crucial point when language starts to shift.

During high school, teenagers often explore their own identities and may again choose to change their pronunciations and use language as a part of their identities. When these teens grow up and graduate from college or get a job, they may change their language again to sound more professional and meet the demands of their jobs and pressures of the workplace, Kohn said.

“All languages, throughout history, change as generations grow up and move through life,” Kohn said. “As long as there are people who are living and breathing and speaking, we’re going to invent new words. We’re going to invent new ways of speaking.”

Kohn recently published the research in a monograph, “The way I communicate changes but how I speak don’t.” The research was a collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University, including Walt Wolfrom, Janneke Van Hofwegen, Charlie Farington and Jennifer Renn.


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Filed under Myths, Research, Review, Trends, Youngsters

Worrying times for adolescents

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with an interesting study on adolescents:

Although worrying is a normal response to an anticipated threat, excessive worry can be problematic. A new article in the British Journal of Health Psychology analyzes the development of worry throughout childhood.

The authors used data from The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a longitudinal population-based cohort study that enrolled pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. Mothers completed self-report questionnaires on their child’s development and health at regular intervals, including on their child’s level of worry and the impact on daily functioning at age 7, 10, and 13.

All reported analyses were conducted on the sample of mothers who completed the questionnaire at all three ages (= 2,227), and the authors took the mothers’ own anxiety levels into account. Mothers reported a peak of worrisome thoughts at age 10. Emotional disruption was highest at 10, and the highest level of interference in daily life was observed at 13, especially for girls. Advanced pubertal status and worry frequency were positively associated for boys at 10 and girls at 13. Advanced puberty at 10 was also associated with overall higher worry frequency and emotional disruption.

The authors conclude that their findings align with existing research on patterns of childhood depression, but note that the generalizability and validity of the results might be restricted by the sole reliance on mothers’ report of child worry.

Abstract of the study:

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood and adolescence; however, longitudinal research investigating the development of worrisome thoughts throughout childhood is lacking. This study investigated mothers’ perspectives on their child’s normal development of worry as the cognitive component of anxiety and its impact on child functioning in a longitudinal population-based cohort.

The data for this study were extracted from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Mothers (N = 2,227) reported on their child’s worry content, frequency, control, emotional disruption, and interference when their child was 7, 10, and 13 years old using the parent component of the Development and Well-being Assessment. At age 10 and 13, pubertal status was assessed using children’s self-report of pubic hair developmental progress.

Mothers reported a peak of worrisome thoughts at 10. Emotional disruption was highest at 10, and the highest level of interference in daily life was observed at 13, especially for girls. Advanced pubertal status and worry frequency were positively associated for boys at 10 and girls at 13. Advanced puberty at 10 was also associated with overall higher worry frequency and emotional disruption.

Findings are discussed within a developmental framework outlining the normal development of worrisome thoughts, associated distress, and interference throughout early adolescence. Increased knowledge of normative worry could be informative to further our understanding of adolescence as a vulnerable period for the development of mental health problems, such as generalized anxiety disorder.

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Maybe not surprising, but reassuring: most teen mood swings decline with age

Maybe we need to introduce a ‘No shit, Sherlock’-price for research, but that would be wrong. Checking assumptions that everybody feels that they are right is often needed (cfr learning styles as an example). This new Dutch 5-year-long longitudinal study has found that adolescents’ mood swings decline gradually as they get older what sounds logical and which should reassure parents about their moody teens. But more important it can also help identify when instability is considered risky and requires intervention.

From the press release:

“We found that early adolescence is the period of the greatest volatility, but adolescents gradually stabilize in their moods,” according to Hans M. Koot, professor of developmental psychology at VU University Amsterdam and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, a coauthor of the study. “An important message to teens, parents, and teachers is that temporary mood swings during early adolescence might actually be normal and aren’t necessarily a reason to worry.”

Researchers followed 474 middle- to high-income Dutch adolescents from ages 13 to 18. Forty percent of these adolescents were at high risk for externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggressive or delinquent behavior) at age 12. Using Internet diaries, the teens rated their daily moods in terms of happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety during three weeks of the school year for five years (that is, a total of 15 weeks spread over five years). Using these daily assessments, the researchers calculated fluctuations in day-to-day mood and then analyzed whether these showed any developmental changes across the five-year period.

During the course of adolescence, teens’ moods became more stable for happiness, anger, and sadness, the study found. Although girls had higher variability than boys in happiness and sadness, the rate of change across adolescence was similar for both sexes.

The researchers posited that teens’ moods could become more stable because events that are new in early adolescence (such as first romances, which can be exciting, and conflicts with parents about leisure time, which can be frustrating) happen less frequently as teens grow older. And it’s likely that adolescents figure out over time how to deal more effectively with changes in their moods.

Anxiety was the only mood that didn’t fit in with this overall pattern. The variability in teens’ anxious moods waxed and waned, with an initial increase, then a decrease, followed by an increase again toward the end of adolescence. This trend could be explained by the transition toward adulthood, the researchers suggest, which might induce more anxiety swings in late adolescence due to teens’ increasing responsibilities (such as leaving school, going on to higher education, or getting a job).

“In general, heightened mood variability will eventually pass,” notes Dominique F. Maciejewski, a Ph.D. student at VU University Amsterdam and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, and the study’s first author. “By demonstrating that most teens get less moody across adolescence, our study provides a solid basis for identifying adolescents who develop in a deviant way. In particular, teens who continue to be extremely moody or who get even moodier across adolescence may need to be monitored more closely since earlier studies have shown that extreme mood swings are related to more emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal problems.”

Abstract of the study:

This study explored the development of mood variability in 474 Dutch adolescents (56.8% male, 90.1% medium to high socioeconomic status) from a community sample, followed from ages 13 to 18 years. Three times per year, adolescents reported on daily happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety for 5 days using Internet diaries (15 assessment weeks; from 2006 to 2010). Mood variability scores were calculated as means of absolute differences between consecutive days. Results showed that happiness, anger, and sadness variability continuously declined across adolescence, while anxiety variability increased initially, then decreased, and then increased toward late adolescence. Despite females experiencing higher happiness and sadness variability, the rate of change across adolescence was similar for both sexes. Implications for normative emotional development and future studies are discussed.

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Appetite, Obesity, and the Brain (video)

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You are too old for this game! (study on thinking about effect video games)

A new study scores big on the ‘no shit, Sherlock’-factor, but still is quite interesting: The older the clinician, the more likely they are to think playing video games leads to violent behavior. Also female clinicians tended to be more negative. The study published in Computers and Human analyzes the opinions of 109 clinicians asking them whether video games are a problem for society. Why is this relevant: often these – older – clinicians can have an important impact on media and policy.

The study in short:


  • Clinicians were surveyed regarding their attitudes toward video games.
  • No consensus among clinicians regarding video game effects was observed.
  • Older clinicians and female clinicians were more likely to view games as harmful.
  • Clinicians with negative attitudes toward youth were more likely to view games as harmful.

So do note: the study is not about the question if computer games can have a negative effect but about what the clinician think.

From the press release:

Psychology professor Dr. Christopher Ferguson, author of the study from Stetson University, US, says his findings go some way to explaining why people have different opinions about the effect of video games and suggests many of the reasons come down to generational issues. For parents, one way to close this gap is speaking to children and testing out the games themselves.

As long as video games have existed, people have thought about and studied their effect on behavior. But thirty years of research hasn’t fully answered the question of whether playing games causes harm and people still have conflicting opinions about the topic. Two experts – for example clinicians – can look at the same data and draw the opposite conclusion, so Dr. Ferguson wanted to understand what factors affect their opinions.

In the study he analyzes the opinions of 109 clinicians who work with children and families to see whether they believe video games are a problem for society.. Overall, there is no agreement – only 39.5% of clinicians think playing video games causes violent behaviour.

Most of the clinicians surveyed who have a hostile view towards video games are older and the majority of the clinicians surveyed are not gamers, reporting that they played zero hours of video games a week in the last six months. Dr. Ferguson says there is a generational effect at play.

“Older people who are parents or grandparents don’t tend to use new media, such as video games, and they often only see clips of its worst examples, so they believe there is some potential to cause harm,” said Dr. Ferguson. “The young people who use the new media don’t buy into this, but no one listens to them because they’re kids.”

Dr. Ferguson suggests that to minimize the generation gap effect, parents could talk to their children about video games, and even try them out. “Ask kids why they like playing these games, and play them yourself,” he suggests. “Direct experience will give you much better insight than a 20 second clip on Fox News.”

This concern about new forms of media is not new. In the 1950s, there were Congressional hearings in the US over comic books causing juvenile delinquency. In the 1980s the story returned, but this time over the dangers of listening to rock music: some people thought it was causing suicide, violence and occultism in young people.

“We tend to see a lot of controversies like this around young people; moral panics about teens are nothing new,” said Dr. Ferguson. “As a nation, we freak out about something, then everyone thinks it’s crazy 15 years later. Now we can’t imagine how anyone thought listening to Tom Petty and Cindy Lauper was making us behave violently.”

“As people get older, the culture changes and they feel it slipping away from them,” said Dr. Ferguson. “Comic books, rock music and video games are the sorts of new media that older people don’t feel part of when they emerge, and that can skew their opinions. Clinicians are no different – they’re people too, and are susceptible to these reactions.”

Such opinion bias in experts like clinicians could be problematic, since they provide expert testimonials and policy statements. For example, scholars are currently lobbying the American Psychological Association (APA) to retire their statements on video games, as their conclusions are controversial and do not reflect consensus.

Abstract of the study:

Debates regarding purported negative effects of video games have raged among scholars, clinicians and in the public arena. Surveys of both scholars and the general public reveal wide discrepancies in beliefs about the potential harmfulness of video games, and some evidence suggests that a “generational divide” may be at play. The current study examines this in a sample of 109 clinicians and clinical researchers. Beliefs about the potential harmfulness of video games varied widely in the sample, reflecting absence of a consensus. Beliefs about the harmfulness of video games were predicted by respondents’ age, female gender and negative beliefs about youth. Contrary to hypotheses, respondents’ neuroticism, openness, pacifism and previous gaming experience did not predict beliefs about video games. These results suggest that, even among clinicians, debates about video games are influenced by historical patterns of generational conflict with harmful beliefs endorsed mainly by older individuals who are hostile toward younger generations.

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Most kids in the UK today are gamers (VIMN-study)

Computer games have been around for a couple of decades now (yes, you’re getting old) and gaming has become a massive industry.

What are kids’ gaming habits like in the UK today? And how do boys’ and girls’ gaming preferences and attitudes differ?

These questions were posited by a recent gaming project by Nickelodeon UK. This research was heavily featured in a July article on the future of gaming in The Guardian. Here are key findings from this study:

TV dominates UK kids’ screen time … but gaming is a huge (and growing) part of their lives.

  • Television viewing on the main TV set occupied 59% of their screen time
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) of their total screen time went to gaming

Gaming among kids is nearly universal in the UK, according to parents.

  • 99% of kids play games on handhelds, consoles, or mobile devices weekly, according to parents
  • Over half (56%) of kids play games daily—and it only grows with age (45% of K6-8, 57% of K9-10, 70% of K11-12)
  • Gaming moves hand-in-hand with personal device ownership, which also increases with age (46% of K3-4 own a device, 68% of K5-7, 85% off K8-11, 94% of K12-15)

Parents love gaming, too—especially as a family.

  • 3 out of 4 parents say they love to play games as a family
  • Nearly 7 in 10 see games as a great way to bond
  • As more Millennials become parents, new parents are very tech-proficient and pass that down to their children

Gaming isn’t just for boys—girls love it, too!

  • 70% of girls say they love to play games
  • 1 in 4 consider themselves a gaming addict
  • Boys play more frequently from a younger age–but at age 9-10 both genders are on an even playing field, with 54% of boys and 60% of girls gaming daily
  • Gaming peaks for girls at age 9-10—after that, their focus shifts toward their social lives (while boys’ passion for gaming continues)

Boys and girls play games differently.

  • Consoles are the #1 gaming device among boys (50% say it’s their favorite), followed by tablets
  • Smartphones do not really register for boys—they prefer bigger screens and more immersive experiences
  • Tablets are girls’ preferred device, driven by younger girls
  • Apps have made gaming more accessible to girls and offer more “girl-driven” games than consoles
  • At the peak gaming age for girls (9-10), consoles are important to hard-core gamers (25%), though the tablet still reigns (43%); as girls move into secondary school they focus more on smartphones

Boys’ gaming preferences shift with age. They start with exploring and racing games, then move into sports and shooting games.

  • While all boys are competitive, the youngest ones thrive on being the fastest, biggest, best
  • Competition becomes more advanced as boys grow — sports games become more popular and a way to bond with friends
  • Shooting games are more common among older boys (11-12)
  • Exploring/Building (primarily Minecraft) games remain relatively consistent across age groups

Girls love puzzle games the most.

  • Puzzle games are more suited to mobile devices (their preferred gaming device)
  • Singing and dancing games are popular, but skew younger
  • They also love Minecraft, character world games, and simulation games like The Sims
  • In general, girls stay with kids’ brands and immersive world longer than boys

Boys bond with each other through gaming, while girls prefer to play alone.

  • Boys enjoy playing with friends in the same room (something that increases with age); playing online kids in at 9 and by 11-12 a third of boys play online with friends (vs. 14% of girls)
  • Girls are more private about gaming, with 50% preferring to play alone (which increases with age)

When kids talk about gaming, conversations turn toward competition and new games.

  • Among boys and girls, levels completed and high scores are among the most common topics
  • New games are also a hot topic
  • Boys are more competitive than girls–as boys get older, they talk more about high scores and methods for increasing them (tips and cheats, YouTube videos, walk-throughs, etc.)
  • The playground is the main place where kids talk about and discover new games
  • YouTube is also a key source of gaming information for kids (especially boys) over 9

Summary of UK boys’ and girls’ gaming habits and preferences:


  • Core focus on game consoles because they are immersive
  • It’s all about completing the game and being the best
  • Tablets skew young or are more for casual gaming; they could be used to complement console games or promote conversation
  • YouTube is important for knowledge, discovery, and passing on skills—and should be embraced!


  • Gaming peaks at age 9-10, then migrates to smartphones in secondary school—social or puzzle games appeal the most
  • Don’t stereotype—racing and platform games are popular
  • Be inclusive
  • Mobile has opened up the market to girls – embrace the opportunity with this audience!

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