Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-18-2013 to 02-24-2013

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Wireless Amber Alert leads to safe return of child http://t.co/NXWe66pIh2
…what happens when we work together to save kids’ lives

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Sex

How do you talk to your kidsFor most parents, the thought of having “the talk” makes our hands sweaty and our minds go blank. We are afraid of saying the wrong thing or saying too much or too little.

There is not a set script. However, here are some guiding principles for you to consider when you sit down to talk to your children about sex.

Set a foundation.

Establish open lines of communication with our children early. They need to trust us and know they can come to us with any and all questions they might have about any topic. Respect their questions, don’t laugh, don’t belittle, and don’t avoid conversation topics.

Talking won’t make them “do it”

Research shows that teens who have talked to their parents about sex are more likely to wait longer to begin being sexually active and are more likely to use contraception.

Don’t be the last to talk.

We might not like it, but peers, the internet, music, and TV are talking to our children about this topic. If we don’t speak up and teach our children, they will listen to all the other voices that are louder than ours. Be sure your voice is heard and don’t be the last one to talk. It is important we talk to our children when they are young, and if possible, have both parents present.

Be Anatomically Correct

Using silly terms for body parts will not make your conversation less awkward. Do your children a favor and talk about body parts using their real names.

Know Your Stuff

It is really hard to have a conversation when you don’t know very much about the topic. Learn the terms so you know how to explain the concepts.

Review the Material

Many schools offer maturation and sex-education to our children in the 5th and 6th grades respectively. Do you know what your children are going to be learning? Go to school and review the curriculum to make sure they are not being taught information you disagree with. Talk to your children before they attend these school classes. It will make it less awkward for both of you and safeguard your children from being embarrassed or blindsided with the information.

Basic Components to Include

  • Anatomy and reproduction.
  • Intercourse
  • Pregnancy
  • Other forms of sexual behavior
  • Abstinence and Birth Control
  • Self Image including the messages that dress and clothing sends to others
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Emotional aspects of sex
  • Religious Views on Sexual Activity

Practice

There is nothing wrong with rehearsing the conversation before it starts. Think through what questions your child might ask and practice your answers.

Listen (…don’t just lecture)

Talk to your kids about sexYour children have probably heard more about this topic than you think. They might not know what all the vocabulary means, but the words are out there. During the conversation, listen, and let them tell you what they know. It will give you a good idea of how to address the topic and what you should say.

This conversation will be different with each child. But if you can keep the above in mind, it will really help as you talk to your children about this difficult subject.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-11-2013 to 02-17-2013

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Kik – What It Is and What Parents Need to Know: http://t.co/j3l7jmrK

Feb 23rd: AMC’s Sensory Friendly Film is Escape from Planet Earth

Sensory Friendly Films logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parentalEscape from Planet Earth panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden”.

On Saturday February 23rd at 10am local time, Escape from Planet Earth will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming March 30th: The Croods 2-D

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Editor’s note: Although Escape from Planet Earth has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action and some mild rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-04-2013 to 02-10-2013

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

YouTube Isn’t As Safe For Children As Parents Think, Study Finds http://t.co/MTVHlv8a

Kik – What It Is and What Parents Need to Know

kik-logo-thumbSexting has parents concerned – and rightfully so. A byproduct of this concern is a heightened sense of awareness that we’re seeing from parents. I get emails every day from parents asking me how to prevent their child from downloading certain apps, and what’s the best way to monitor what their child is doing on their smartphone. Sexting continues to be an underlying concern in all of these conversations — probably because kids and teens use their smartphones to text more than anything else, and according to kids in the UK, sexting is just the new way to flirt. But what a lot of parents aren’t aware of is the fact that their child doesn’t need to be on a texting plan in order to text. There are plenty of third-party apps that offer texting services for free, and one that has come up in several conversations that I’ve had with parents is Kik.

What Is Kik?

Kik is an instant messenger app—think AIM chat or texting. The app is available for free on all mobile platforms, and is well-received by the millions of people, mainly because it can replace a texting plan through their cell provider. Through their data plan or Wi-Fi connection, Kik users can send and receive text messages and photos to an individual on their Kik contact list, or they can start a group chat with several Kik contacts. Instead of using phone numbers, each Kik member has a username. This username can be accompanied by a profile photo, if the user wishes, but ultimately this is Kik’s way of creating a sense of privacy among their users.

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Inviting People to Kik

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Kik users can use the Invite a Friend option to invite new people to connect with them on Kik. This can be done in several ways, but the method that poses the greatest risk to your child’s privacy and safety is the ability to invite people via social networks. With the click of a button, your child can reach out to the public communities on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Tumblr (among many others) with the message “Kik me”. No surprise here, “Kik me” is Kik’s way of starting a new instant message conversation between the sender and the recipient, whoever they may be.

Kik users can also manually search for someone’s Kik username and start a conversation that way, or they can dig into their phone’s contact list to see who’s already on Kik. Of course, the latter is a much safer approach to connecting with people on Kik since these people are already known to the user in some form or another.

Privacy and Parental Controls

Though Kik makes it easy to block other Kik users and ignore message notifications from new people, they offer zero parental controls, leaving it up to the child or teen to set these privacy settings on their own.

Another Kik safety concern that you should be aware of, and this is credited to Michael Sheehan’s blog titled “Parents Beware: Instagram & Kik Messenger Are a Dangerous Combination & What Social Dangers to Check For”, is the fact that kids and teens are sharing their Kik username on public social networks, like Instagram, through comments and profiles. As you can imagine, doing this opens the door to unwanted solicitations from Internet trolls, “pervs” and cyberbullies. In Michael’s case, his daughter’s friend received a request to chat on Kik via Instagram and the next thing she knew she was being asked to send naked photos of herself.

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The reason I wrote this piece wasn’t to bash Kik or to tell you that it’s an unsafe app for your child or teen; whether you feel it’s safe enough is entirely up to you and the maturity level of your child. But just like with any app or website that isn’t specifically created for children (and thus COPPA compliant), the safety and privacy risks tend to be more prevalent. With that being said, if your child is 12 or younger, they shouldn’t be using Kik at all. If your 13 or older teen prefers to use Kik instead of texting, and you’re saving some money in the process, you don’t need to delete the app from their phone, just have a very serious conversation with them about the safety risks involved with sharing their Kik username in public social networks and forums. While you’re at it, take five minutes to make sure they’re using the privacy settings.

The Internet will never be a totally “safe place” for our children, so we as parents have to remain vigilant and educated in order to take what we learn and pass it on to our kids.