Getting Your Child to Talk to you About What They see Online

Perhaps the only thing harder than getting kids to eat their vegetables is getting them to open up about what happens online.

A recent study in the UK reported that an overwhelming majority of kids would tell a teacher if they saw something bad happen to another student in person. The same study reported that only about a third would tell a teacher if they saw something online that upset them. Parents did not fare much better, with the majority of kids saying that they would not tell their parents, either.

Why is this the case?

There are a number of factors which come into play here. At the top of the list is likely that teens are worried that parents will overreact and take away their devices. Related to that is that they don’t expect that adults can relate to how important social media is to them. And they’re right! Parents of teenagers cannot realize how important social media is to them because they have no firsthand experience in the matter.

In 2015, CNN did a great report called #Being13. They worked with teens, with parental consent, for a full year, seeing what they did online. CNN had full access to everything the teens did online. The results were stunning – even knowing that CNN was monitoring what was happening, some kids still engaged in cyberbullying and other inappropriate actions.

To help you understand how they feel about social media, here are a few quotes from teens who were part of the study:

“I don’t think parents and teachers understand why social media matters so much to kids my age. They don’t get that everything relies on how we look in a picture, how many likes/followers we have, if we get a comment back from someone, etc.”

“I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away. It’s really bad.”

“Oh well, it (being cut off from his friends) happens a lot because my mom keeps taking away my phone. I guess sometimes I feel like I am not able to talk with anyone. I feel sort of like cut off from all my friends, because I am not going to be able to talk to them to see what they are doing.”

“My parents would ground me from my phone before they would ground me like into my room, because I am constantly always on it. If I am disconnected from that, I just feel like I have nothing to do.”

“I don’t like dealing with things face to face because it’s really easy to hide behind your phone.”

The feelings about how important social media should be clear to you now. During the televised show, CNN reported that 58% of teens would rather be grounded than have their phone taken away from them.

So, how do parents get their kids to open up to them? Because they really do want you to know what happens to them. They’re just afraid that their parents won’t be able to relate and will overreact to what they find out about what happens online.

Parents may not get their children to initiate the conversation about what happens online, but that doesn’t mean that the conversation can’t happen. It just means that parents need to be smarter about how they get the conversation started.

Here are some suggestions:

Ask the Questions the Right Way

Avoid the urge to “pounce” on a child at the first opportunity if you see questionable activity. Instead, calm down and be sure to ask your questions in a way that are more likely to get real answers. By that, I mean avoid asking questions that allow teens from simply providing one-word answers, such as “yes” or “no”.

Instead, ask open-ended questions that require the child to think about an answer and avoid one-word answers.

For example, instead of asking if they’ve ever seen anyone getting attacked online, ask them how often they see it happen. They can still answer in a single word, such as, “never”, but they are more likely to seriously consider the question and answer honestly. Other suggestions include:

  • How do you respond when you see something inappropriate online, such as cyberbullying?
  • How often do you see someone sending inappropriate images?
  • What upsets you the most online?
  • Can you explain to me what a catfish is?
  • Which social media apps do you no longer use and why?
  • Who would you come to if you saw something that upset you online?
  • What can I do to help you online?
  • What parts of social media do you like/dislike the most?

Never Respond Online to Bad Behavior

When you were younger, did your parents ever scold you in front of your friends? How did it make you feel? Now consider that something like that happens, but it’s saved for posterity because it was done online. The Internet never forgets.

If a parent does see something online that upsets them done by their child, avoid the temptation of responding online. This will only embarrass them and encourage them to start hiding their online actions from their parents. Many teens have multiple accounts on the same platform, otherwise known as Finstagramming. These accounts can be used to attack others in anonymity, but are often used to keep adults unaware of what they are really doing online.

Speak with your Child, not at your Child

Best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey, once said that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen to with the intent to reply.” While he was speaking about people in business, the same principle applies to parenting.

When speaking about what happens online, it is important to realize that parents should be having a (two-way) conversation, not a (one-way) lecture. Speaking AT a child instead of WITH a child is an inevitable way to ensure that they never bring up the topic again. Or any other topic, for that matter.

Getting children to open up about their online lives can prevent problems before they get out of hand. Parents want to make sure that they are having discussions with their kids on a regular basis before a stranger online begins talking to them and convinces them to do things that are not in their best interest, otherwise known as “grooming” them.

In this case, an ounce of prevention is not worth a pound of cure. It’s worth an immeasurable amount of cure!

My Twins are Behind in Talking…How Can I Help?

On average, twins are about six months behind single babies in their language development.

Twins may be slower to pick up speech and language skills because:

  • twins tend to receive less attention in shorter bursts than single babies
  • parents often speak to one twin while looking at the other, but children need eye contact to help their language development
  • twins tend to spend more time with each other, so they pick up each other’s speech rather than that of adults and older children around them
  • twins have less time to practise speech as they compete to get themselves heard
  • sometimes one twin may answer for the other

Don’t worry if your twins seem to be slow to speak. Just try to make sure they have plenty of time to talk and express themselves.

Talking to twin babies

Nappy changes can be a good opportunity to give twins one-on-one attention. You could bathe each baby separately to give you time to chat with them individually.

You can also:

  • turn off the TV and radio for at least 30 minutes each day, so your babies can listen to the noises around them with no distractions
  • listen to your babies and respond to them as they experiment with different sounds
  • try to play and read books with your babies individually; make time to talk to your babies individually each day, using their name and making eye contact
  • encourage older siblings, friends and family to talk to your babies one to one

Read more about how to encourage language skills in children.

Twins & Multiple Births Association (Tamba) has information about twins and language. Tamba also has a free (in the UK) telephone helpline. Twinline** is open every day from 10am to 1pm and 7pm to 10pm on 0800 138 0509.

Talk to your GP (*doctor) or health visitor if you’re concerned about your children’s language skills.

Editor’s Note:

* Clarification Provided for our U.S. Readers

** Resources Outside the UK:

  • Multiples of America: US non-profit providing information, research studies and clubs throughout the U.S. for multiple birth families (and families-to-be)

NHS Choices logo



Child Health & Safety News 6/25: 2YO Climbs Locked Pool Ladder

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Health News: WHO says ‘gaming disorder’ is a mental health condition

Welcome 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 social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 25 events & stories.

  • Crusader for health of Flint kids keeps up fight to heal lead-poisoned city 2018-6-24
  • More than 30 children become sick at Cloverleaf 4H summer camp in Lake Placid, FL – none were serious and cause is still unknown. 2018-6-24
  • 15 Summer Acts of Kindness for Kids: Ideas for Developing Emotional Intelligence {plus a FREE printable} 2018-6-24
  • Massachusetts Department of Education, USDA Partner in Local Summer Food Service Program This summer, they will collaborate with UMass Dining’s BabyBerk food truck to serve healthy meals to children and teens at no charge. 2018-6-24
  • What Causes Iron Deficiency in Your Child – and How to Spot It 2018-6-23

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Top Headline of the Week
If you think you’ve child-proofed your swimming pool, you need to watch this.
Video shows 2 year old child climbing locked ladder leading to pool

  • Teenager’s lack of sleep proven to visibly impact their health 2018-6-23
  • 54,000 Volkswagen Atlas SUVs recalled for child safety seat installation problems 2018-6-22
  • Four-legged friend named Huggie helps young patients cope at UC Davis Cancer Center 2018-6-22
  • A Day in the Life of an Anxious Stepmother 2018-6-22
  • Tomorrow morning, AMC Has a Sensory Friendly Screening of Incredibles 2
  • These photos of the McAllen, TX detention center for unaccompanied immigrant children were an attempt to quiet criticism. They’re doing the opposite 2018-6-21
  • 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Teach Your Preschooler to Make 2018-6-21
  • AAP agrees with ending the forced separation of children and parents at the U.S. southern border, but detention facilities are an environment AAP has said is no place for a child. 2018-6-21
  • How have UK Hospitals changed for pediatric patients over the past 70 years? A retrospective… 2018-6-21
  • Bad Eating Habits Can Be Broken Thurs Time Capsule 06/10 2018-6-21

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News #2 Headline of the Week
UChicago launches test-optional admissions process with expanded financial aid and scholarships. The new undergraduate initiative is designed to increase accessibility for first-generation, low-income students

  • New app helps parents with tracking child development 2018-6-20
  • 8 Sensory-Friendly Indoor Games and Activities 2018-6-20
  • The UN is calling for an end to the cruel policy of separating migrant children from their parents & jailing families for crossing the border. The following link is to a petition demanding the administration stop this practice 2018-6-20
  • How Can I Avoid Food Poisoning During Pregnancy? 2018-6-20
  • #teenstoo experience sexual harassment 2018-6-19
  • 8 Magical Words Your Children Need to Hear guide to helping parents write encouraging letters to their children 2018-6-19
  • This oral hygiene program helps kids undergoing chemotherapy avoid serious infections. 2018-6-18
  • Compare the Signs: How to Tell a Tantrum From a Meltdown 2018-6-18
  • Personal WaterCraft & Kids: How to Make Them Fun AND Safe! 2018-6-18


Kids and Medication: What Parents Should Know to Avoid Errors

Let’s discuss medication use in children because many parents feel that an office visit to the Doctor for their child is not complete without a medication to use regardless of the cause for the visit.

First, many Doctors are getting away from using medications of all kinds for minor illnesses. Antibiotics are not effective for the most common infections seen in Children, viruses. Typical “cold medicines are found to have side effects: these adverse effects include, but are not limited to irritability, loss of appetite, poor sleep and restlessness to name a few. Antibiotics are becoming even ineffective against certain bacteria because of over use and development of resistances to those antibiotics. Those people who may contract an infection for which the choices of antibiotics have become limited potentially pose a problem for every one.

Next a few “rules of the road” when using any medication on children:

  1. Children are not to be considered “ just small adults” when given any medicines- the dosages are calculated differently, they react to medicines in a different way than adults, the illnesses to be treated are not necessarily the same in adults and children, side effects of these medications can appear different in adults and children. Never look at your child and try to calculate any dosage based on a percentage of your own weight, or any side effects that you may have.
  2. Just because a child has an illness does not mean that “medicine” is necessary. There are some who reach for the medicine cabinet as soon as their child sneezes or exhibits a runny nose, or cough. Given what I explained above, this is certainly not necessary and in some cases may make things worse. Same thing occurs with onset of fever and this has been discussed previously, not all fevers require medication to lower them.
  3. Learn some easy measurements:
  • 1 cc or 1 ml is 1/5 of a teaspoon which is 5ccs
  • 5ccs or one teaspoon is 1/3 of a tablespoon which is 15 cc
  • 30cc is approximately one ounce, and 8 ounces is a cup
  • 1000 cc’s equals one liter or a little more than a quart
  • 16 ounces = 1 pint and 32 ounces = 1 quart
  • 4 quarts = 1 gallon

It is good to know these equivalents but be sure you totally understand the instructions for a medicine before you leave the pharmacy, and be sure the pharmacist has supplied you with the correct measuring utensil. These can come as accurate little measuring spoons or even syringes measured in cc’s. A kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon is not very accurate and is often not close enough for the required measurement. Ask the pharmacist about this before you leave the pharmacy and don’t use a kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon for your child’s medicine unless they say it will be ok.

  1. When giving your child medication according to a schedule, write the times and dosage down as a reminder and save any dosing instructions until they have completed the entire prescription. If they accidentally miss a dose, in “most cases” (unless these are cardiac meds or similar) it will likely not make a difference, however I recommend checking the dosing instructions just to make sure your doctor has not specified “not to skip a dose” in which case you should probably give the dose when you think of it. If in doubt contact your child’s doctor or the pharmacy.

Your child will be happier and safer if you remember these few things

Tues. at AMC, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is Sensory Friendly

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, 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 parental 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“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as a sensory friendly feature film tomorrow, Tuesday, June 26th at 7pm (local time). Tickets can be as low as $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 full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in July: Ant-Man and The Wasp (Tues. 7/10 & Sat. 7/14); Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (Tues. 7/24); Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Sat. 7/28)


Editor’s note: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly “Mature Audience” screening. Parents should be advised that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

A Day in the Life of an Anxious Stepmother

How do you cope with worry over your children? I have always been a worst case scenario type of woman. I struggle with anxiety on a nearly daily basis. My step-son, however, has never evoked particular anxiety in me. He’s a sweet kid and funny to talk to. I enjoy spending time with him and we usually just hang out and play with legos or chase each other in the yard.

We don’t see each other often and I’ve never experienced him falling or injuring himself in one of the numerous ways I hear boys his age do. I had never truly feared for his safety until a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I went for a day hike up in North Georgia. We only bother with our phones during a day hike if we are worried about getting lost. Usually, we keep them on airplane mode or even leave them in the car. We hiked probably five miles that day before heading back around dinner time.

My husband checked his phone for the first time as we approached the car. He had a text from his mom saying that his son had fallen and hit his head on the radiator and they were in the emergency room. That was all it took. The anxiety took over in a matter of minutes. I trained as an EMT, I know what head trauma can do. I have experience with brain injuries caused by concussions and now all of that prior knowledge is flooding into my thoughts. I need more information.

I urge my husband to call his mom since the message was an hour ago. He glances at me pointedly and calls her. No one answers. We call her a couple of more times, no response. I am flustered. Why would she only send that one text? Don’t they know we need to know how bad it is?!

My husband calls his dad who answers the phone with a smile in his voice, I am annoyed instead of relieved. How can he smile at a time like this? I must know how badly my step-son is hurt. I need all the information.

I start whispering commands to my husband about what to ask and when his dad says “well, he won’t need to have his head removed,” I start sputtering so loudly that my husband gets annoyed. It should be noted, he has not panicked at any point.

It turned out that everything was fine, there would be bruising and if he fell and hit his head again, he would need to see a doctor immediately. My husband’s parents scheduled a follow-up appointment and that was that. We called Darion later to check on him and he was excited to watch Doctor Who all night.

My panic was unwarranted and next time, I will try harder to keep my calm until I actually know what’s going on. Both for my own mental sake and the sake of those around me.

I only realized later how badly I had freaked out and it made me think about those of you who do this full time. I’m deeply impressed with the mental strength and fortitude is takes to be a parent.

Mental health is so important and you must have some amazing coping mechanisms.

Please know, I see you holding that crying baby and calmly catching your toddler before she can hit the ground again as she explores the sidewalk, and I am impressed. I know you’re working so hard to keep everything balanced and raise beautiful children and I want to recognize you for that and tell you that we will keep supporting you the best we can.

I would love to hear from you guys!

Tell me your stories of panic-inducing moments or drop tips in the comments about how you support your mental health as a parent or caregiver.