Teach Your Child How to Not Get Caught by a Catfish

At any given moment, there are thousands of predators online, looking for people to exploit. Children are often the target, but not always.

To realize just how easy it can be to create a fake, but realistic-looking online profile, consider the case of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. He thought that he was in a relationship with a woman named “Lennay Kekau”, only to find out that it was an elaborate rouse. Law enforcement suspects that Te’o was not the only person to fall into this trap.

The very nature of social media often encourages the idea of anonymity. Very few people, beyond celebrities or politicians, bother to get themselves verified by social media platforms. The general public rarely bothers, even it is available. At the current time, Facebook does not even offer this feature.

Many social media platforms, such as Omegle and Whisper, don’t offer users a profile, much less a profile picture. They embrace the idea of anonymity. Anyone can claim to be whomever they choose online, simply by stealing an image online and putting it on their account. Kik has taken to occasionally having people prove that there is at least a real person using their service to avoid automated accounts, known as “bots” from becoming too common.

Legally, in the U.S., at least, a person can be punished for impersonating another person online. Assuming they’re caught, which is pretty difficult to do.

However, there is no law prohibiting a person from pretending to be related to someone else. That means that a predator or jokester can claim to be someone’s aunt/uncle, sibling, or any other relative without the threat of reprisal. This can lead people into accepting friend requests based on the premise of “innocent by association”.

Chris Hansen, who you may know from his television show, To Catch a Predator, is back with a new show, Hansen Vs. Predator. The original show routinely presented cases where men tried to “hook up” with young girls for sex. It was canceled in part because an Assistant District Attorney in Texas was caught in the sting and committed suicide when police came to arrest him. His family then sued NBC, who settled out of court in a wrongful death case.

Hansen used Kickstarter to fund his new show to protect underage users from online predators. He found that the situation had barely changed since his previous show was taken off the air. If anything, it may have gotten worse, as more kids are using social media than ever before.

The point is that this would not have been a problem if the teens had taken some very simple precautions. Online predators live in the darkness, like the trolls from fairy tales who live under the bridge in the dark forest. Being exposed is their worst fear. They will do anything to avoid it!

To avoid being taken in by a catfish who is trying to prank, groom or even kidnap a child, here are some easy things that they can do:

  • Maintain strict privacy settings on all social media accounts. Otherwise, predators can learn all they need to pretend to be from the same town or even the same school as the child by simply looking at their profile.
  • Look at their list of friends. Too few or too many are unrealistic. Pictures with only a few of the same people in them are a potential concern.
  • Does their account have a lot of typos or grammatical errors in it? This is especially important if the mistakes are in what should be their native language.
  • Look at the groups that they belong to online. Again, being a member of too many groups, especially with a very wide range of topics, should raise red flags.
  • Look at their posts, tweets, etc. If there are only minimal posts, that’s a sign of a new account. Be warned, though, that many predators maintain multiple accounts, posting over a long period of time to divert suspicion from them.
  • Never speak to someone online that you don’t know in real life and provide them with any personal information.
  • Before you accept a friend request or connection, verify the request offline. It could very easily be someone pretending to be a friend in real life trying to get access to your profile and contact with your friends and family. Once someone is accepted as a friend, they use this as a way to make other friends online from their victim’s other online friends.
  • If the app allows for it, have them send a very specific picture – one that is not likely to be faked. For example, ask for a picture of them holding a pencil in their hand while making the Vulcan salute with their face also in the picture. The likelihood that anyone would have such a picture on their computer already or could make one up on short notice is very slim. If they won’t provide such a picture, there is a good chance that they are a predator, no matter what reason they give for not being able to give you such a picture.
  • Ask them for a video where they answer a question, such as what is their favorite baseball team or the city they want to visit the most. Again, their face should be in the video.
  • Take a screenshot from their profile and upload it to the reverse image search by Google to see if the image shows up anywhere else.
  • Even without pictures or videos, if the person on the other end is someone the target potentially already knows, ask them a question that ONLY the real person would know, similar to how websites ask security questions for people who have forgotten their passwords. It’s not as reliable as a video or picture, but it’s a start.

No predator will want to acquiesce to these kinds of requests. Just be prepared to reciprocate, proving to them that you are who you say you are. Turnabout’s only fair.

For additional information on grooming by predators, visit:


School Bus Stop Arms Are Being Ignored: How to Fix That

school bus stop sign armWithin the next several weeks most or all schools across the country will be back in session. Some already are. Last year, as in previous years, many of the headlines were about school shootings. These are tragedies by every definition. However these are well covered in the media as are many steps to prevent future occurrences. There have also been recent headlines about tragic school bus crashes and this is perhaps the subject of a different article. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that by design and other factors, school buses are the safest transportation method to get children to and from school. Most injuries and fatalities happen off the bus.

In this piece I want to instead focus on a different school hazard and that is the act of driving past school bus stop arms. We will not likely hear much about this in the media until a group of students is run down.

Once a year the state of Kansas conducts a survey asking bus companies/drivers to participate.

  • For 30 days they ask the drivers to record and report the number of times other drivers pass an extended stop arm sign.
  • In the most recent survey (2017) nearly 10,000 occurrences of stop arm violations were reported.
  • Simply multiply this number by 50 states and there could be as many as 500,000 stop arm violations each and every month school is in session.

The laws may vary by state, whether the road is divided and if so how many lanes etc. Confusing laws is no excuse for violating laws- for putting children’s lives in jeopardy. In one study up to 2% of all violations are on the passenger side- the side where the door is when students are being off loaded. The side where the curb is; where students gather to wait for the bus. This is not allowed in any state for any reason. Think about it 2% of 500,000 is 10,000. The number and the potential is staggering. This risk is real. A child hit by a vehicle going often 25 plus MPH has little chance of a good outcome- perhaps little chance of surviving.

What can be done.

Know the laws and obey them. Talk about stop arm safety at back to school orientations and PTA meetings. Get your local police involved. Have them wait at known high hazard bus stops. Contact local TV and radio stations ask them to run public service announcements (PSA’s). There has been considerable media in the past – there is chilling video. This is a story with a real human interest. Consider stop arm cameras. These specialized cameras make it easier to prosecute violators. A few states don’t require stop arms on school buses- ask your legislators to reconsider.

What you should not do.

Don’t wait until tragedy strikes your area- a car strikes a child- a child is crippled or killed. Don’t regret that perhaps being proactive could have prevented the loss. Don’t assume someone else in your community is taking care of this. The more people involved- the higher the success.

Like this article- share this article- spread the word.

Child Health & Safety News: 8/27: FDA Approves Generic Epi Pen

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Safety News: 11 month old Baby Suffers Stroke After Exposure To Chicken Pox By Unvaccinated Siblings bit.ly/2w4Cw3B

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 15 events & stories.

  • One in ten children in Ireland not using seat belts when travelling in back seat bit.ly/2NgRTwi 2018-8-26
  • FBI encourages ‘Child ID’ safety app heading back to school bit.ly/2BO7Skl The app stores information about your child on your phone – height, weight, eye color, etc. so that it can be quickly transmitted to law enforcement IFF needed. 2018-8-26
  • ATVs kill more children than bicycles: AAP urges families to yield to safety bit.ly/2wdkBYD 2018-8-26
  • Lifestyle of Mothers Plays Important Role in Obesity Risk for Their Children | bit.ly/2waZkPq 2018-8-25
  • ‘Rosie’s Hugs’ brings happiness to kids in emergency rooms bit.ly/2NgvpeS 2018-8-25

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week
FDA Approves Generic Epi Pen At Last bit.ly/2BTe5vA

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics just published a clinical review with citations on the importance of play for children’s health and brain development. Children need outdoor play, recess and activity throughout the day. bit.ly/2BO35iY 2018-8-25
  • Prevent Blindness focuses on kids’ eye health in August bit.ly/2BMRRv8 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health reported that in the U.S. less than 70% of children receive appropriate eye health services. 2018-8-25
  • Schools are using AI to track what students write on their computers bit.ly/2oebtPf safety vs privacy?? 2018-8-24
  • The Debate on Teens and Social Media: In Perspective bit.ly/2BmiAOL 2018-8-24
  • How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions pewrsr.ch/2LiotMv 54% of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and two-thirds of parents express concern over their teen’s screen time. 2018-8-22
  • Your Kids Can’t Catch Cystic Fibrosis- What Else You Need to Know bit.ly/2Bmg0Z7 2018-8-22
  • How Should You React When Your Child Makes a Mistake? bit.ly/2OQWvK8 2018-8-21
  • Parkland Students Made a High-Tech T-Shirt That’s Actually Getting People to Register to Vote bit.ly/2MmpA3j a QR code that leads to voter registration is embedded in the design 2018-8-20
  • Why You Need to Stop Giving Energy and Sports Drinks to Kids bit.ly/2MEQanP 2018-8-20
  • The Costs of Motherhood Are Rising, and Catching Women Off Guard nyti.ms/2OO30x9 2018-8-20

When Should Kids Get Their First Orthodontic Evaluation?

Pediatric dentists play a key role in monitoring the health and development of your child’s smile. One of the most significant aspects of orofacial development is how your child’s teeth bite (occlude) together.

Both orthodontic experts and pediatric dentists recommend that all children have an orthodontic evaluation by the time they reach age 7. At this point in development, your child most likely has a mixed dentition of both primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth. As such, it’s usually the earliest that a children’s dentist can detect orthodontic complications or prevent them from developing in the first place.

Who Can Perform an Orthodontic Evaluation?

An orthodontic consultation can be completed during your child’s routine checkup and dental exam. As such, it doesn’t add any extra time to the appointment you already have scheduled.

A pediatric dentist will evaluate tooth development, spacing, and biting patterns to determine if any type of early intervention is necessary. If it is, interceptive treatments can be started in the dental practice to minimize more complex orthodontic needs later on.

What Does an Orthodontic Evaluation Consist Of?

Here are a few of the things your pediatric dentist will look for during an orthodontic evaluation:

  • The way upper and lower teeth occlude together
  • Open, cross, or under bites
  • Tooth eruption patterns
  • Premature tooth loss
  • Spacing concerns
  • Oral habits, such as tongue thrusting or thumb sucking
  • X-rays to detect missing or unerupted teeth
  • Placement of developing permanent teeth

Advantages of Children’s Orthodontic Screenings

The earlier orthodontic problems can be diagnosed, the more effective your pediatric dentist can help you to correct them. In many cases, interceptive therapies minimize the length of time that a child may have to wear braces later on.

For example, if a tooth is lost prematurely, a space maintainer can be attached to the next tooth, preventing the space from closing-in due to the teeth shifting. This may not seem like a serious concern, but it can directly impact whether the developing adult tooth erupts correctly or becomes impacted due to crowding. A few years down the road without a space maintainer, complex surgery or lengthy orthodontic work may be the only option.

Ask Your Pediatric Dentist for a Screening

If your child is coming up on their 7th birthday or you have a checkup planned soon, make sure to discuss an orthodontic screening with your family’s pediatric dentist to get the answers you need.

The Debate on Teens and Social Media: In Perspective

The debate over the effects of social media on our teen’s mental health is a heated one. Some argue that social media is causing narcissism, depression, and anxiety among other things. Others believe social media actually aids people with depression and anxiety by giving them an outlet and a support group that they might not have had otherwise.

With rising depression and suicide rates, it is understandable that we would seek causes that are easily actionable, like social media use.

Regardless of which side you are on, this debate highlights some important issues facing our society right now:

Our society is developing at a faster rate than has ever been seen before. We are living in the Information Age and our children are more immersed in news, politics, pop culture, and advertisements than any generation before. Information is now widely available to adults and children alike and the dark parts of our society are coming more into the light. Our children know and see things that many of us didn’t have to deal with until we were adults, or didn’t have to deal with at all.

This means our dialogue with our children will have to change and the direction we choose to take this conversation will affect our future.

The internet is bringing mental health issues to light in a way that has never been possible before now. Social media platforms give individuals, who otherwise might never have had space, the place to discuss their experiences. This can be cathartic for them and help them find a community of people who relate. This is especially important for children and teens who may not have a healthy home life and good support system within their physical community. Mental illness is a major problem in our society and has been for a long time – as it becomes less stigmatized it will be easier for the kids and teens affected to reach out for help.

As they become more comfortable reaching out, it is up to us how their call for help is answered. Parents and communities have a wonderful opportunity to use the internet to observe and act on mental health issues before they become a crisis. However, social media, like mental illness, doesn’t play favorites. If the wrong person responds, the situation can escalate from bad to worse very quickly.

Social media can serve as a type of coping mechanism, something that helps kids, teens, and adults deal with the stressors of life. Coping mechanisms are important, but it is very important that they be used in a healthy way. Anything can be used to the point where it causes harm under the right circumstances and social media is no exception.

Social media is a tool. Tools are very important. Social media can be used to spread hatred and violence, or it can be used to organize protests against those same ideals. It can be a support system, a place of comfort, or a sounding board for a new creative project. It can be used amongst friends to make plans and share moments when they are far apart, or by loved ones to keep up with relatives who live in different cities. It can also be used to bully kids and spread disinformation.

We need to learn the positive impacts of social media on the world as well as the negative so that we can, in turn, teach our children how to use it in a healthy and positive way.

As we continue to find our way in this new world I believe it is important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Mental health issues are caused by a variety of factors, and the seeds for the crisis we are facing now were sewn long before social media.
  • Teaching our children to respect themselves and others will go a long way in both the physical world and online
  • For better or worse, the Internet is here to stay and social media is a huge part of that. I believe we need to keep an open mind and remember the good that can come from this shift as well as the bad
  • The Internet is a reflection of our physical world, the issues facing children online are also facing them in the real world and we won’t change the Internet without addressing the causes of those issues in the outernet.

When tragedy strikes we look for explanations. When something like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting happens, we must ask questions like, did social media exacerbate Cruz’s mental illness to the point of violence? Or did we miss his calls for help and, in our grief, use social media as a scapegoat for a society that ultimately failed him?

For more information on the links between social media and mental health, check out these resources:

Teens, Social Media, and Technology – Pew Research Center

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking – NCBI

Can Social Media Help People with Serious Mental Illness Feel More Connected to Their Community? – NIDILRR

Benefits of Social Media For Mental Health Support – Healthyplace.com

Your Kids Can’t Catch Cystic Fibrosis- What You Need to Know

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. This causes lung infections and problems with digesting food.

In the UK, most cases of cystic fibrosis are picked up at birth using the newborn screening heel prick test.

Symptoms usually start in early childhood and vary from child to child, but the condition gets slowly worse over time, with the lungs and digestive system becoming increasingly damaged.

Treatments are available to help reduce the problems caused by the condition and make it easier to live with, but sadly life expectancy is shortened.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis

The build-up of sticky mucus in the lungs can cause breathing problems and increases the risk of lung infections. Over time, the lungs may stop working properly.

Mucus also clogs the pancreas (the organ that helps with digestion), which stops enzymes reaching food in the gut and helping with digestion.

This means most people with cystic fibrosis don’t absorb nutrients from food properly and need to eat more calories to avoid malnutrition.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis include:

People with the condition can also develop a number of related conditions, including diabetes, thin, weakened bones (osteoporosis), infertility in males, and liver problems.

Diagnosing cystic fibrosis

In the UK, all newborn babies are screened for cystic fibrosis as part of the newborn blood spot test (heel prick test) carried out shortly after they’re born.

If the screening test suggests a child may have cystic fibrosis, they’ll need these additional tests to confirm they have the condition:

  • a sweat test – to measure the amount of salt in sweat, which will be abnormally high in someone with cystic fibrosis
  • a genetic test – where a sample of blood or saliva is checked for the faulty gene that causes cystic fibrosis

These tests can also be used to diagnose cystic fibrosis in older children and adults who didn’t have the newborn test.

The genetic test can also be used to see whether someone is a “carrier” of cystic fibrosis in cases where the condition runs in the family.

This test can be important for someone who thinks they may have the faulty gene and wishes to have children.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has more information on genetic testing for cystic fibrosis (PDF, 130kb).

Treatments for cystic fibrosis

There’s no cure for cystic fibrosis, but a range of treatments can help control the symptoms, prevent or reduce complications, and make the condition easier to live with.

People with cystic fibrosis may need to take different medicines to treat and prevent lung problems.

Physical activity and the use of airway clearance techniques may also be recommended to help clear mucus from the lungs.

Find out more about treatments for cystic fibrosis.

Complications of cystic fibrosis

People with cystic fibrosis also have a higher risk of developing other conditions.

These include:

  • weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis) – medicines called bisphosphonates can sometimes help
  • diabetes – insulin and a special diet may be needed to control blood sugar levels
  • nasal polyps and sinus infections – steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics or sinus flushes can help
  • liver problems
  • fertility problems – it’s possible for women with cystic fibrosis to have children, but men won’t be able to father a child without help from fertility specialists (see a doctor or fertility specialist for more advice)

They’re more likely to pick up infections, and more vulnerable to complications if they do develop an infection, which is why people with cystic fibrosis shouldn’t meet face to face.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has more information about complications of cystic fibrosis and preventing cross-infection.

Cause of cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition. It’s caused by a faulty gene that affects the movement of salt and water in and out of cells.

This, along with recurrent infections, can result in a build-up of thick, sticky mucus in the body’s tubes and passageways – particularly the lungs and digestive system.

A person with cystic fibrosis is born with the condition. It’s not possible to “catch” cystic fibrosis from someone else who has it.

How cystic fibrosis is inherited

To be born with cystic fibrosis, a child has to inherit a copy of the faulty gene from both of their parents.

This can happen if the parents are “carriers” of the faulty gene, which means they don’t have cystic fibrosis themselves.

It’s estimated around 1 in every 25 people in the UK are carriers of cystic fibrosis.

If both parents are carriers, there’s a:

  • 1 in 4 chance their child won’t inherit any faulty genes and won’t have cystic fibrosis or be able to pass it on
  • 1 in 2 chance their child will inherit a faulty gene from one parent and be a carrier
  • 1 in 4 chance their child will inherit the faulty gene from both parents and have cystic fibrosis

If one parent has cystic fibrosis and the other is a carrier, there’s a:

  • 1 in 2 chance their child will be a carrier
  • 1 in 2 chance their child will have cystic fibrosis


Cystic fibrosis tends to get worse over time and can be fatal if it leads to a serious infection or the lungs stop working properly.

But people with cystic fibrosis are now living for longer because of advancements in treatment.

Currently, about half of people with cystic fibrosis will live past the age of 40. Children born with the condition nowadays are likely to live longer than this.


Support is available to help people with cystic fibrosis live as independently as they can and have the best possible quality of life.

It can be helpful to speak to others who have the same condition, and to connect with a charity.

The following links may be useful:

Information about you

If you or your child has cystic fibrosis, your clinical team will ask you if you consent to being on the UK Cystic Fibrosis Registry.

This is a secure anonymous registry sponsored by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust that records health information on people with cystic fibrosis.

The registry helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the registry

**Resources outside the U.K.

NHS Choices logo

From www.nhs.uk