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Your Child

Sexting and Internet Safety Increase as Health Concerns for Children

2:00

With more and more young kids using cell phones and surfing the web, parents are increasingly concerned about children ‘s sexting and Internet safety according to a new poll.

Internet safety rose to become the fourth most commonly identified major problem in the 2015 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital national poll on children’s health, up from eighth the year before, with 51 percent of adults this year citing it as a top concern.

Sexting, meanwhile, was cited by 45 percent of adults and advanced to number six on the list of most pressing problems this year, from 13th place in 2014.

 “The public is well aware of the potential risks to children and teens of Internet activities and sexting, such as cyber-bullying and predatory behavior,” poll director Dr. Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said by email with Reuters.

“Children’s use of the Internet continues to grow, so it makes sense that growing use, without much evidence of greater safety, would lead to higher levels of public concern,” he added.

The poll was taken of 1,982 adults age 18 and over and took place in May.

Smoking and tobacco use, usually rated near the top of the list, dropped from fourth to seventh place, which may reflect a declining number of children who have this habit, the researchers note.

School violence ranked number eight, followed by teen pregnancy and stress.

The top 10 health concerns in the poll also highlight a need for parents to foster open communication with children and teens and monitor not just their comings and goings but also their activities online, said Kathleen Davis, director of pediatric palliative care and ethics at the University of Kansas Hospital.

“Parents must take on a greater ‘hands on’ approach to parenting, knowing what their child is texting, emailing, Snap chatting, Facebooking and blogging and with whom they are communicating in those fashions,” Davis, who wasn’t involved in the poll, said by email.

While the new technologies may seem alien, the parenting strategies to deal with children’s online lives should be familiar, noted Lisa Jones, of the Crimes Against Children Research center at the University of New Hampshire.

“Striking the right balance with controlling technology use and access for children, or monitoring their behavior is something I think we are still figuring out and will probably be an ongoing process for parents, just like deciding how much to control what children choose to wear, who they can hang out with, and where they can go on their own,” Jones, who wasn’t involved in the poll, said in an email to Reuters as well.

“The key recommendation for parents is to keep communication open,” she said. “Make sure your children feel comfortable coming to talk to you when problems come up.”

Many teens and pre-teens aren’t aware of the dangers associated with sexting and how those photos and comments can follow you the rest of your life.  Without good guidance kids don’t truly realize that it’s become a viral universe and posts can gain speed worldwide before you know it. Also, a child may think that only the person they are sending the text to will see it- that’s not always the case and others, including pedophiles can learn where a child lives, the school he or she goes to and their daily habits by “friending” or following a child or their friends online.

Parents still need to monitor their children’s web surfing and texting as they move from childhood into adolescence. It’s not always a pleasant job, but it’s incredibly important for a child’s health and safety.

Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/10/us-health-kids-internet-safety-idUSKCN0QF1X820150810

 

 

 

 

 

Your Child

Kids: Texting Harassment Up

2.00 to read

For many children, text messaging has become the number one way they communicate with their friends.  A new study shows that a growing number of these kids are reporting being harassed via text messaging.

Of more than 1,100 middle school and high school students surveyed in 2008, 24 percent said they had ever been harassed by texting. That was up from about 14 percent in a survey of the same kids the year before.

On the other hand, actual bullying was down a little. 

In 2008, about eight percent of kids said they'd ever been bullied via text, versus just over six percent the year before.

Though similar, harassment and bullying are not the same. Researchers determined that harassment meant that peers had spread untrue rumors, made rude or mean comments, or threatened a peer. Bullying was defined as being repeatedly picked on.

Parents need to pay attention to their child’s text messaging, researchers say, but they don’t believe parents should be alarmed by the study’s results.

"This is not a reason to become distressed or take kids' cell phones away," said lead researcher Michele L. Ybarra, of Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc., in San Clemente, California.

"The majority of kids seem to be navigating these new technologies pretty healthfully," she told Reuters Health.

The study included 1,588 10- to 15-year-olds who were surveyed online for the first time in 2006. The survey was repeated in 2007 and 2008, with about three-quarters of the original group taking part in all three.

When it came to Internet-based harassment, there was little change over time. By 2008, 39 percent of students said they'd ever been harassed online, with most saying it had happened "a few times." Less than 15 percent said they'd ever been cyber-bullied.

And even when kids were picked on, most seemed to take it in stride.

Of those who said they'd been harassed online in 2008, 20 percent reported being "very or extremely upset" by the most serious incident. That was down a bit from 25 percent in 2006. (The study did not ask about distress over text-message harassment.)

"I don't think it makes sense for parents to get anxious about every new technology, or every new study," said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

"A lot of the old parenting messages still hold true, like teaching your kids the 'golden rule,'" Finkelhor said. "These are discussions that aren't specific to the Internet or cell phones."

And despite concerns that technology has made teasing and taunting easier, Finkelhor said there's evidence that overall, kids are doing less of it these days. "Bullying and victimization are down over the period that Internet use has gone up. It's improving," he said.

Finkelhor credited greater awareness of the problem, among schools and parents, for that decline.

One way that the anti-bullying and harassment message is getting out is through a school program called Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. The program was inspired by Rachel’s acts of kindness and compassion. 

According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, the programs exists to stand alongside education professionals at every level to inspire, equip and empower students from K-12 to make a positive difference in their world.

Rachel’s Challenge list their objectives for schools as:

  • Create a safe learning environment for all students by re-establishing civility and delivering proactive antidotes to school violence and bullying.
  • Improve academic achievement by engaging students' hearts, heads and hands in the learning process.
  • Provide students with social/emotional education that is both colorblind and culturally relevant.
  • Train adults to inspire, equip and empower students to affect permanent positive change.

Rachel’s Challenge is just one program that schools are looking at to help students understand and stop harassment and bullying. Researchers say that parents still play the most important role in helping children navigate through life’s sometimes hard and cruel maze. One suggestion is for parents to become more familiar with current technology. Other ideas from online support groups are:

  • Encourage your kids to get together with friends that help build their confidence.
  • Help them meet other kids by joining clubs or sports programs.
  • Find activities that can help a child feel confident and strong. Maybe it's a self-defense class like karate or a movement or other gym class.

The study’s findings were reported in the journal Pediatrics

Your Teen

Keep Teen Drivers Safe

Firm parents keep teen drivers safe. No more texting in the car while driving.Your parenting style can make a huge difference in your teen's safety once he or she gets behind the wheel of a car.

Parents who set firm rules, but do so in a helpful, supportive way, can reduce the likelihood of their teen getting into an auto accident by half and decrease rates of drinking and driving, two new studies find. Positive rule-setting can also increase the odds a teen will wear a seatbelt and lessen the likelihood of talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. "Parent involvement really matters. Active parenting can save teenagers' lives," said Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Parents who give rules, set boundaries and monitor those boundaries with warmth and support can have a really dramatic effect on teen driving safety." Ginsburg is the lead author of two studies published online in Pediatric. Both studies were sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The first study looked at the association between parenting styles and teen driving behaviors and attitudes, while the second assessed teen behavior based on their access to a vehicle. It included a nationally representative sample of 5,665 teens in 9th through 11th grades. Parenting style was reported by the teens and fell into one of four categories: authoritative (high support along with rules and monitoring); authoritarian (low support with rules and monitoring), permissive (high support with low rules and monitoring), and uninvolved (low support and low rules). Teens who had authoritative or authoritarian parents wore seatbelts twice as often as teens with uninvolved parents. Teens with parents in these groups were also half as likely to speed as those with uninvolved parents. Teens with authoritative parents -- high support and rules -- were half as likely to get into a car accident, 71 percent less likely to drink and drive, and 29 percent less likely to talk or text on their cell phones while driving compared to teens with uninvolved parents. The second study included 2,167 teens and found that 70 percent had "primary access" to a vehicle. That didn't necessarily mean that the teens had their own cars, Ginsburg said, but it could mean they had easy access to the keys and didn't need to ask permission to take a family car. After controlling the data to account for the extra hours these teens likely spent behind the wheel, the researchers found that teens with easy access to a vehicle were more than twice as likely to crash, about 25 percent more likely to use a cell phone while driving and about 25 percent more likely to speed than teens who had to ask permission to use a car. Why the difference? Ginsburg said he suspects it's because teens with easy access to a car don't necessarily feel as accountable. They don't have anyone asking where they're going or whom they'll be with. "They miss out on that conversation and appropriate monitoring," he said. Parents should control the keys to the car for at least the first six to 12 months of driving, he added. Ginsburg said there are clear rules that must always be followed, and rules that will change as your teen gains experience and demonstrates responsibility. Those rules include:

  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Never speed.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Never drive fatigued.
  • Never use your cell phone or text while driving.

Rules that can change as your child gains experience and skill include having passengers, driving at night, increased access to the car and driving in bad weather. Ginsburg said it's important to make sure there's a reward for your teen for good driving behavior. "There has to be something in it for them," he said. Most parents worry more about sex, drugs and drinking than they do about driving, but car crashes are the biggest threat to teen safety, Ginsburg added. "The great news is that parents really matter. And, when you stay involved and do so in a way that promotes safety, not control, driving becomes the greatest opportunity to promote their children's safety.

Your Teen

More Teens Texting While Driving

New study more teens are texting while driving.

One third of teens ages 16 and 17 say they have texted while driving a new study shows. That same study also shows that 48 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 say they have been in a car while the driver was texting.The study was conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart said she was surprised "to hear (from teens) about how it’s often parents or other adults who are doing the texting or talking and driving, and how for many teens, this is scary or worrisome behavior." For its Teens and Distracted Driving study, Pew surveyed 800 teens ages 12 to 17 between June and September. The non-partisan organization also conducted nine focus groups with 74 additional teens in the cities of Ann Arbor, Mich., Denver, Atlanta and New York between June and October, in conjunction with the University of Michigan. "Much of the public discussion around these behaviors has focused on teens as young, inexperienced drivers, but some of the adults in these young peoples' lives are clearly not setting the best example either," said Mary Madden, a Pew senior research specialist who also worked on the survey. "Teens spoke not only of adults texting at the wheel, but also fumbling with GPS devices and being distracted because they're talking on the phone constantly," she said. "And the reactions from the teens we spoke with ranged from being really scared by these behaviors to feeling as though it wasn't a big deal." Among other findings from the Pew survey:
  • 52 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who have cell phones say they have talked on their phones while driving.
  • 34 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who text say they have done so while driving.
  • 48 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
  • 40 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver "used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger."
  • 75 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have a cell phone, and 66 percent of them send or receive text messages.
Boys and girls are "equally likely to report texting behind the wheel," Pew said, and while a third say they do so, "texting at the wheel is less common than having a conversation on the phone while driving." Pew did not further ask whether that driving and talking on the phone was being done hands-free. The teens in the focus groups had various reasons for texting and driving at the same time, Pew said, including "the need to report their whereabouts to friends and parents, getting directions and flirting with significant others." Some teens "felt as though they could safely manage a quick exchange of texts while the car was stopped. One high-school-aged boy shared that he would text 'only at a stop sign or light, but if it's a call, they have to wait or I'll hand it to my brother or whoever is next to me.' "

 

Daily Dose

Too Much Texting?

1.00

During my tween/teen checkups, I try to spend some time talking about how much time an adolescent spends on their phone, how much time on their computer and how much time they are watching TV. Kind of a compilation of how they handle “on line/on screen” per day. 

While everyone is different I do like to see if parents have discussed rules with their teens surrounding the use of ALL electronics.  I find that most adolescents and their parents do have rules about the use of their phones and computers and most parents try to limit their child’s constant need to be “on screen”. 

I was recently talking with a teen boy, who is one of 5 children. He has great parents and they are very attentive to all of the distractions related to cell phones and computer use and try to keep all of the screen use in moderation. 

During his routine exam, I asked him about his cell phone usage, and if he had rules for using the phone, he answered that he didn’t have a phone.....anymore.  Upon further “polite probing” he told me that he had had his phone taken away due to the fact that he had been texting too much. 

Now, in my practice, many of my patients seem to be texting all of the time. Many parents had already told me that their child had unlimited texts and several had told me that their children had bills with as many as 9,000 texts/month.  But, when I asked him how many texts he had recorded in a month he sheepishly told me 16,000!!!  WHAT?? 

So, I came home to my computer to try and figure out how many texts that was per week, day, hour?  (he had told me that his dad had a spread sheet that he could get me if I wanted).  I went straight to my own calculator. If he had 16,000 texts/month, that is 571 texts per day (assuming 28 day month).  If you figure that a teen is in school for 8 hours/day (where I guess they are not supposed to be texting) and they SHOULD sleep at least 8 hours, that leaves 8 hours for texting?  

Now these may be a bit off by an hour or so (and who knows if he keeps that cell phone really turned off during school), but that would mean 71 texts per hour when not either in school or asleep!!  In other words more than 1 text per minute when he is awake!  WOW!! 

So if you are not discussing texting and limiting constant communication with your tweens and teens I think you should be. This boy even admitted to me that he felt he had gone overboard with texting and really enjoyed talking to his friends. He told his mother during the course of our visit that when he did get the privilege of having a cell phone again, that he thought he needed one that just made phone calls. He told her, “get me a really old fashioned one that just rings, as I don’t want to be tempted to text!”  Bright teen don’t you think? 

 

Daily Dose

No Screen Time for a Week!

Kids are spending over 7 hours a day in front a screen: TV, watching video, playing games event texting. How much is too much?So, how much screen time does your child have?  You know what I mean, TV time, computer time, playing video games, using a cell phone (including texting). The list goes on and on!

The average American child spends 7 hours a day involved with some type of media, which is more than any other activity besides SLEEP! With that being said, this is National Turn Off Week!  My colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics are supporting an effort to encourage parents to implement a “screen free week” in their home. If the average child spends over 1000 hours a year involved in some type of media but only 900 hours a year in school it seems obvious that we are doing something wrong. The solution is to start limiting screen time beginning at the earliest ages. With so many parents believing that Baby Einstein videos will make their infant smarter (there is no proof), and parents who are teaching their children to use a computer or I-phone or I-pad by the age of two, early guidelines regarding time spend “on screen” are exceedingly important. The AAP endorses a “no TV for children under the age of two” rule and limiting TV/media time to 2 hours per day for children and teens.  Unfortunately, many parents may know that their children are home, but are not clear about what they are doing while at home, which often involves screen time in the “privacy” of their own rooms. I ask every patient and or parent about media time and if there is a TV or computer in the child’s room. I am continually amazed at how often the answer is yes, even for the elementary school set. Parents often view putting a TV in their child’s room as a “right of passage” despite the fact that there are really good studies to show that having a TV in a child’s room contributes to poor sleep habits which may impact children in many negative ways. I must say, there isn’t a teenager that I take care of that is “happy” that we are discussing media time, but just like other subjects that need to be addressed during a pediatric visit, this one may be more important than previously thought. For all of this interactive screen time may actually be becoming new “peer group” for a child, rather than having face to face time with their peers. So by turning off the “screens” and spending some time enjoying one another, a new normal could be started.  Families cooking together after the homework is finished, or going outside for a family walk or quick game, or reading together, or even playing board games, the list seems endless.  What a treat to get back 2, 3 or even 4 hours a day with your child.  Think about the  benefits that come from decreasing screen time, which include better academics, better sleep, less depression and anxiety and even an impact on obesity. I know it is challenging for all of us, but this is a “do-able” task for a week. While all of the screen are in the “OFF” mode, talk about new guidelines for when the screens go back on.  In this case the adage “less is more” seems appropriate. That's your daily dsoe for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to  Dr. Sue!

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

A few life lessons & fun with Elf on the Shelf!

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