Parents: Tips for Smarter Holiday Tech Device Gift Giving

The holiday season is about to arrive and that means shopping for gifts. If that includes tech gifts for children, there are some special considerations to take into account first. To help parents and their kids have the best possible experience with the new devices, here are some tips that should help your kids enjoy their new gifts while protecting them from some of the dangers that exist online.

Do Your Homework

Start your shopping mission by looking at reviews. Industry reviews by magazines are a good start, either online or in print form. This includes bloggers, but in those cases, you need to know the reputation of the person giving the review. The FTC requires that anyone who received compensation in any way, including a free unit, must disclose it as part of their review.

Next, look at online reviews by actual customers. Most importantly, don’t just look at the number of reviews and the average score. Pay particular attention to the highest and lowest ratings. Many sites, including Amazon, give people the opportunity to search reviews based on the level of the reviews. Knowing what others didn’t like about a device can avoid headaches later for your kids….and for you!

Open the Box and make Sure it Works.

Tech devices are usually very reliable, but you don’t want to be the parent who gives them the gift of their dreams only to have it not work. If it works, great. If not, you have time to get it replaced before the big day. Personally, I’m not a fan of putting insurance plans on tech devices because they usually get replaced before they wear out, but they make sense if the device will be used by a very young child or be used in a risky environment.

Most devices these days come with at least a partial charge to them, depending on how long they’ve been sitting on the shelf, so make sure that the device has a full charge, because tech devices for kids are likely to get a lot of use as soon as their opened. For newer designs, it’s possible that the charging cord is different than the other devices in the home. Be sure that you have at least one spare charging cord around the house.

If you want to get the entire family a gift that they can all use, consider getting a multi-hub charging station. Digital Trends did a great job reviewing some of the models available to you.

Cybersafety Starts on Day One!

If your child’s new “toy” allows for online access, now’s the time to put steps into place to protect your children from seeing content that is inappropriate for them. Most search engines, including Google and Yahoo, have a feature known as “Safe Search”. While not foolproof, this filter can prevent adult content from being seen on the device. Be sure to set the filter on any potential search engines that might be used, not just those that you believe they will use.

Next, if desired, installing a parenting controls app should be done now, before any child ever gets to use the device. There’s a wide variety of options available, and they can be as permissive or restrictive as a parent might want.

Naturally, your child will want to spend time on the device as soon as they rip open the gift wrap. However, before the day is over, make sure that the device has a PIN installed to prevent unauthorized use by others. The salesperson should be able to help with this, if needed. Make sure that you have the codes in case you ever have the need to access the device.


Technology is probably going to play a big part in many families’ holiday gift giving. By following these tips, you’ll make sure that it goes off as smoothly as possible and help protect your kids from the dangers that exist online.

How To Travel Safely For The Holidays With Pets AND Kids

As I have said previously in numerous previous posts, I love that our dogs have become so much a ‘member of the family’ that many would not give it a second thought to bring them along on their holiday travels, or include them in their holiday plans. But there are several things you can do to ensure that you, your pets, your kids, and others around you also have an enjoyable holiday as well.

For starters; if you are driving

  • Make sure you have seat-belts for each dog. A dog being allowed to roam free in the car is a safety hazard for everyone in the car. If you have to slam on the brakes, they can go through the windshield just as easily as any other unrestrained passenger in the car would. Another serious issue that could arise if you should have to suddenly hit the brakes is they could accidentally slam into your kids, causing a serious injury. I have personally gotten some painful ‘fat lips’ just from going to kiss my dog on the top of his head at the same moment he brought his head up quickly…. So you can just imagine the injuries that could occur in a fast moving vehicle that suddenly stops! On top of that, dogs will instinctively use their front paws to brace themselves, and their nails can really hurt your children if they are on their laps. Lastly, if they hit the back of your seat when you are driving, it can put everyone in the car in serious jeopardy.
  • Make sure the seat belt is attached to a harness. Never attach a seat belt to your dog’s regular collar. This can cause some serious injuries to your dog’s neck if you have to stop short or are in an accident.
  • Make sure they are in the back seat. Even if they are appropriately restrained (a booster car seat for small dogs, or a harness for larger dogs) a deployed air bag can be deadly for our furry friends.

Hotel ‘Etiquette’

  • Make sure hotels are pet friendly in advance! If you are traveling with your pet, the days of ‘We’ll just find a hotel from the road” are a thing of the past. Unless your dog is a service dog, make sure the hotel is pet friendly. You must map out your trip in advance, and most importantly, you must inform the hotel that you will be traveling with a pet. Many hotels have specific rooms used for pets, not unlike ‘smoking rooms’ for smokers. So I recommend you call them and make sure they can accommodate you and your pet. Here is a link that allows you to search for pet-friendly hotels in whichever state you are traveling to. If you are getting a separate room for the kids, I recommend the pet stay in YOUR room. As I always stress, children should never be with pets unsupervised.
  • Remember that the dog should be on a leash outdoors at all times. This is especially important as many hotels are located on busy roads…. Not a great idea for the kids to be the ones to walk them, even if it is their job to do it at home. For safer nighttime walks, bring a flashlight with you. Many hotel guests arrive at night, and they may have been on the road for a long time, and are tired too. This will ensure they will see you and your dog when they are pulling in. It will also help you to see Fido’s poops so you can responsibly clean up after him. You might want to ask the hotel staff if there is a designated ‘Pet Relief Area’ that you should bring him to. Make sure you have a leash that is no longer then six feet, and free of any fraying, rips or tears. Also, do not use retractable leads while out and about. You need to have control of him at all times, and if your friendly outgoing dog runs up to another child that is fearful of dogs, you can be putting someone else’s child in danger.
  • Since you’ll probably want to go out as a family:
    • Bring a crate with you. Do not forget that this is not your dog’s regular environment… and you are ultimately responsible for any damage your dog does. You do not want to risk your dog panicking and tearing up pillows or blankets or chewing on furniture while you are out. Also, leave a note for housekeeping on the door informing them that there is a dog inside. Just because it is not your home does not mean your dog will not be protective of its environment, and a person that your dog does not know who unexpectedly enters into ‘his space’ can be a recipe for disaster.
    • Bring a blanket or bed for your dog, and plenty of bones or toys. Make sure you have brought sufficient items to keep your dog occupied while you are out.
    • Make sure you leave at least one cell phone number at the front desk if you have to go out. I have seen some of the best trained dogs still panic when left alone in an unknown place, causing them to bark and whine. Be considerate and make sure you leave a reliable number for the hotel staff to contact you if your dog is freaking out while you are out.
  • Be aware of ‘No Pets Allowed’ spaces, and respect their policies. Pools and spas are there for the humans to enjoy, not the dogs. If the hotel has a restaurant or serves a Continental breakfast in the morning, dogs should not be in those areas unless they are service dogs.

Flying with your dog

  • Always check the Airline’s policy. Each airline has its own policy with regards to flying with your pet. puppy in a travel bagMost small dogs are permitted to fly in a carry case under the seat, but each airline’s seat dimensions are different. Make sure you have the appropriate sized travel bag for your dog that will fit under your seat. Keeping a constant eye on your children in a busy airport is imperative, so the last thing you want is to spend any time being distracted because your dog’s flight bag is not fitting.
  • Find out security’s protocols in advance. Having to go through security is stressful enough… add corralling kids through there, it can be very difficult. Now you are adding a dog to this as well! Find out exactly what you need to do in advance. Do you need their leash and collar off? Do you walk through first and then send the dog through…. Knowing exactly what to expect allows you to have them ready in advance so that you can safely and effectively help the kids through.
  • Make sure you know where the Pet Relief Areas are. Call up the airline in advance and make sure you know where these are, and take them for one last potty break before boarding. Last thing you want is Fido relieving himself in flight!
  • Leave the dog in his bag! The kids may feel badly that their pup is cooped up in a tiny bag and wedged under a seat the entire time, and may beg you to take him out. This is not a safe idea for anyone! Think about how loud it is to us, and multiply it ten-fold with their sharp hearing! I absolutely hate take offs and landings, but I calm down once we are in the air. Just because I have calmed down, does not mean my dog has!! So for the safety of everyone around, leave your pup where he is until you have safely landed and are off of the plane. Some bags have a leash inside so you can open a flap and pet your dog…. I suggest leaving the flap closed! If he is scared, the second that flap is opened, he will try to get out, and getting the ‘genie back into the bottle’ will be no easy feat!! Especially in a small cramped area!
  • Pack a chew stick for him in his bag for takeoff and landing. I do not honestly know if their ears ‘pop’ the way ours do, but if it does, the chewing motion will help.

Going to friends or relatives houses

  • Always ask in advance if it is okay to bring your pet. Just because you view your dog as a family member, does not necessarily mean your host will too. Be courteous and ask beforehand. Hosting a ton of people in their home can be difficult enough without a dog running around! Also, you never know if another guest, especially a child, is allergic to dogs, or if someone else DID ask in advance and is bringing their dog!
  • Keep a constant watch over your dog. As we discussed in an earlier article (Kids, Pets & Your Holiday Party: Read this List (check it twice!) your dog may react differently to “everyday situations” than they would in their home or typical environment. A child that your dog does not know, doing nothing other than reaching over to calmly pet your dog, can get a serious bite if your dog is in a nervous heightened condition.
  • Be aware of your dog’s body language at all times! Holidays can be stressful for people – imagine what it might be like for your dog. Be alert to what their body language is telling you! Dogs only have two options when they are in a heightened state… fight or flight. Hopefully, they will always resort to the latter one, but they can resort to the former one in an instant! So let’s avoid this by being constantly aware of them, and if you see signs that they are getting stressed out, remove them from the situation! If you need some assistance on what your dog’s body is saying to you, read my article (Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Gets Bitten) to help you out!
  • Again, bring a crate with you. If your dog is getting stressed, the last thing you want is to have no options of where to put him! Do you want to be on ‘doggy patrol’ all night? Having a crate gives you a place to put him so he and everyone else around you are safe!


The last thing I want to touch on is grooming your dog prior to taking him on vacation with you! Regardless of whether you are driving or flying, staying at a hotel or going to a friends, make sure they are well groomed. Give them a bath, make sure their ears are clean and do not smell. If they have a long coat, even if you brought them to the groomer, make sure you brush them out thoroughly to get rid of any dead hair and excess dander (helps with allergies in close quarters) and make sure nails are trimmed back so no one gets scratched accidentally.

So to wrap this up, the most important things to remember before traveling with your beloved pet is to do your research and always be courteous to others around you! Much of what I have written is common sense, but the fact is, in a stressful time, even the incredibly obvious can escape each and every one of us!!! So follow some of these guidelines laid out for you, make your to-do lists, check them twice, and you, your family, and everyone around you can have a fun, wonderful and safe holiday!!

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

A Sincere Thank You To Responsible Special Needs Caregivers…

I was literally brought to tears by yet another story of a special needs child who was mistreated by their alleged caregivers. So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to express my gratitude, appreciation and admiration.

Thank you…

  • To every caseworker, nurse and doctor who questions parents and caregivers diligently and actually follows up…
  • To every teacher’s aide who forms a bond with a special needs student…
  • To every therapist who really cares about every client, whether they make progress or not…
  • To every child on every playground who has included a special needs child in play…
  • To every teacher who spends personal time on assessments and IEPs…
  • To every agency or non-profit worker who strives to bring special needs children experiences and opportunities…

To every special needs parent or caregiver who treats that child with love, especially if they are incapable of expressing it back…



Editor’s Note: Children with disabilities may be at higher risk for abuse or neglect than children without disabilities. According to the CDC, this is what we know, and this is what parents can do to protect them

Your Kids, Strep and Strep Throat

strep throat examStrep infections are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus Pyogenes and can range from mild to very severe and, at times, life threatening. The bacteria enter the human body by one of three ways: airborne, direct touch, or circulating through the blood stream and seeding into various organs. The most common illnesses we see in children are those that are airborne or acquired by direct touch and cause mild to moderate illnesses.

Some forms of impetigo, a superficial skin infection, can be caused by strep or staph and, while contagious to touch, can be easily treated and will not cause any subsequent problems

The more well known infection is that causing tonsillitis, an infection in the tissue of the tonsils, those lumps of pink tissue just behind and above the tongue when you open your mouth wide. This is also contagious and travels from untreated person to person through air droplets. Usually in the winter time, the person becomes ill rather rapidly, over 1-2 days with some combination of sore throat, fever, headache, generalized tiredness, muscle pains, trouble swallowing, and sometimes tender swollen glands in the front and side of your neck, up under the jaw. Often times the symptoms are mild but almost always eventually results in severe sore throat as the primary symptom. Children under the age of two years old seldom get significant illness.

When your Doctor examines your child he may find any combination of red swollen tonsils occasionally with white or grey pus on the surface, tender swollen glands in the neck, foul breath, fine red rash all over, and occasional red tongue with a rash on it.

The diagnosis can be made easily in the office by a rapid throat swab test which is positive in about 85% of people with significant strep throat. If your Doctor finds a negative rapid test and really feels that your child has strep throat he/she may elect to have a culture done on the same swab and even begin an antibiotic. The culture test can take 48 hours for the results.

There are many antibiotics that can successfully treat strep throat* and relief from symptoms is felt by your child within 24-48 hours. The reason that strep throat is treated at all is that in a very small percentage of patients with untreated strep throat there can arise certain serious illnesses that might lead to heart damage or kidney damage. If left untreated, this illness would go away on its own over a 3 – 5 day period, just like a cold. In general, ten days of medication is necessary but occasionally that time can be shortened depending on the antibiotic used: it is important for your child to complete the entire course of the antibiotic as prescribed by your Doctor. Usually within 24 – 48 hours of onset of treatment there are no more strep bacteria in the throat and your child may return to school.

Once the treatment has been completed, the illness is over.

This does not mean that your child cannot get strep throat again by contacting someone with active untreated strep infection, but the chances of acquiring those serious secondary problems has been reduced to nearly 0.


* It is of interest to note that although strep throat is a very common illness and the strep bacteria has been exposed to more antibiotics than most other bacteria, strep alone has remained sensitive to just about all of the antibiotics used. Other bacteria develop rapid resistances to antibiotics they are repeatedly exposed to.