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Erin’s Law: Teaching Children to Recognize & Avoid Sexual Abuse

In October 2011, New York State announced it would join the ranks of those states to introduce a bill entitled Erin Merryn’s Law. The measure would require schools to make a change to their existing curriculum for child abduction to include child sexual abuse prevention. This alteration would give critically important information to victims – many of whom do not know there is a way out of their horrific situation. As a child, Merryn was abused by both a neighbor and a family member. She says she stayed silent due to a combination of threats from her abusers, and the lack of knowledge about available help. If passed, New York would become the third state to enact Erin Merryn’s law, following Missouri and Merryn’s home state of Illinois.

In light of recent events at our nation’s universities, parents should continue to be vigilant about teaching child sexual abuse prevention in the home. By age three, children should be taught that their bodies have private parts and no one is to touch those parts (with the necessary medical and hygiene exceptions). Of course children should be taught the correct terminology for their body as nicknames can be confusing and delay a disclosure. The following are some tips that are often overlooked:

  1. When someone tickles a child, if the child says No, all tickling should cease. Children need to know that their words have power and No means No.
  2. Teach children that it is OK to say No to an adult. Without permission from you, many children may be reluctant to do so even if the adult is doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  3. Teach children that all of these lessons apply to other children as well. If another child is touching your child in a way that makes him or her uncomfortable, teach your child to say No, get away and tell someone.
  4. Be careful with the language you use when speaking with children. Avoid saying things such as “Have a good day and do everything your teacher tells you to do.” Children are very literal and need to be told that they should not listen to someone who is telling them to do something that might be harmful to them or to someone else.
  5. Let your child decide how they want to express affection. If they do not want to hug or kiss Grandpa goodbye or sit on Santa’s lap, do not force them. You take away their power over their own body if you force them to be demonstrative in their affection. Children need to be taught their body belongs to them.
  6. Teach children to respect the privacy of others. They should learn to knock on doors that are shut before opening them and close the door to the bathroom when they are using it. If they learn to respect the privacy of others, they may be more likely to recognize that an invasion of their privacy could be a red flag meaning danger.
  7. Use your poker face. Encourage your child to come you if they have questions about anything. Avoid looking shocked or embarrassed by the question. Children who sense their parents’ discomfort will be less inclined to approach the parent next time he or she has a question.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused by age 18 in the United States. 93% of the abuse happens at the hands of those entrusted with the care and protection of the child. With the passage of Erin Merryn’s Law, critical information will reach every child in New York State.

Is your state advocating for the welfare of children?

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Editor’s Note: Erin’s Law passed in New York in August 2019. On passage, they became the 37th State to mandate that K-8 students get at least an hour a year of instruction on how to spot the signs of child abuse or exploitation. Often described as teaching “good touch, bad touch,” the idea is to help youngsters distinguish between an adult who is simply being compassionate and who is being sexually abusive.

Thank you New York for working to keep kids safe!

When “Going Viral” is a Bad Thing: What Parents Need To Know

We’ve all heard the term, “going viral” and we all know what it means. What we may not realize is just how quickly it can happen.

It’s fine when it’s a cute video, but what about when it’s a picture or video of someone in a way that they wouldn’t want themselves seen? Or a story that paints a person (true or false), maybe your child, in a bad way.

That’s when it can get even worse. It’s bad enough that someone has to see the post about themselves, but knowing that people are talking about them behind their back makes the pain increase exponentially. The comments will likely not remain “just online”, either. Too often, the targets of the bad behavior are attacked offline as well.

When I’m presenting to students or parents, I always use the example of Six Degrees of Separation, which states that that everyone is six relationships (or less) away from any other person in the world. The scary part is just how quickly this can happen!

Making this as conservative as possible, we’re going to pretend that each person who sees a picture shares it with just one other person in each round, but in reality, it could be sent out to dozens of people in seconds. Maybe hundreds. Here’s how it works:

  1. One person takes a pic and sends it to a friend. Two people have now seen the pic.
  2. Both of them decide to share the pic to just one person. Now, four people have seen the pic.
  3. Each of them repeats the process. Now, eight people have seen it.
  4. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 16 people have seen it.
  5. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 32 people have seen it.
  6. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 64 people have seen it.
  7. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 128 people have seen it.
  8. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 256 people have seen it.
  9. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 512 people have seen it.
  10. Each of them repeats the process. Now, 1,024 people have seen it.

In only ten rounds, over a thousand people have seen the picture. In another 10 rounds, it will be over a million people. And this entire process may take only a few minutes!

 

Why This Matters

What we do and say, as well as what other people say about us, can affect us offline. It can affect us as soon as it happens or years later, when we’ve long forgotten about it.

From schools looking for new admissions to employers looking for potential new hires to people curious about who they may be about to go on a date with, people need to realize that the #OnlineMeetsOffline lesson can cause real problems or open new opportunities for them. What they find largely falls upon us.

Social media sites, especially Twitter, are very easy to search if you know how to do it. Human Resources employees and Admissions Officers are well versed in how to do it.

What’s the Solution?

To be perfectly honest, there really isn’t one. At least, not a full proof one. With today’s graphics software, it’s very easy to manipulate an image that can be very convincing to most people. That said, a good start is to minimize your child’s pictures online.

We all want to show our kids off, but we may be doing them more harm than good. In France, parents can actually be arrested or sued for posting pics of their children online – it’s considered an invasion of their privacy if it’s done without their consent.

Make sure that your kids avoid posting images that can be taken the wrong way. – Yes, that’s almost impossible. They can start by never sending any inappropriate pictures of themselves with anyone – ever! I recently watched “Do Revenge” on Netflix. It’s a new release and the problems all start when a senior girl sends a topless video to her boyfriend, only for it to be seen by every kid in the school. That’s when the problems start for the girl, and she becomes a pariah bent on revenge.

The best advice that I can give on this topic is that an ounce of prevention is not worth a pound of cure – it’s worth an immeasurable amount of cure!

We all need to realize that what we do online can have long-term consequences. If we realize that what we say online may be read in open-court one day, we may choose not to do some of the things that we might do otherwise. It may take some of the fun away from using social media, but it can prevent a lot of problems down the line!

Check-Out What Movies are Sensory Friendly this Month at AMC

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment. This Saturday, December 10th, Strange World is Sensory Friendly at AMC.

Enjoy the magic of the movies in an environment that’s a little quieter and a little brighter. We turn the lights up, and the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or even sing! 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 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. Strange World Movie PosterMany 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“.

Families can view a sensory friendly screening of Strange World on Saturday December 10th. Tickets are typically discounted 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 TO AMC SENSORY FRIENDLY IN DECEMBER:
Devotion (Wed. Dec. 14th) and Avatar: The Way of Water (Wed. Dec. 28th)

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Editor’s note: Although Strange World has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action/peril and some thematic elements. 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.

Sibling Warfare? Stay Neutral!!

When your kids practically come to blows over which one got more cream cheese on their bagel, you know you’ve got a serious case of sibling rivalry. It’s likely you also know that there’s no avoiding it. “The only way to prevent sibling rivalry is to only have one child or to space kids 18 years apart,” says John Rosemond, author of The New! Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children (Andrews McMeel Publishing). But while you may not be able to keep the peace between your kids, there are things you can do to squash the squabbling.

Be Switzerland Resist the urge to rush in, because “when you intervene, you’re likely to identify one child as the villain and one as the victim,” says Rosemond. The obvious problem: It takes two to squabble, and you may be unfairly maligning one kid. The not-so-obvious problem: You’re creating a dynamic that will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If that victim gets attention for being a victim, he’s going to continue to elicit that villain behavior from his brother or sister,” Rosemond says. Instead, let them work out squabbles themselves. (Note: If your younger child is 3-years-old or under or you sense either child is in physical danger, by all means play ref.)

Don’t compare siblings to each another You probably know not to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” But it’s a common mistake to compare kids in even more subtle ways: “Julie, look at how nicely your brother is playing with those puzzles.” It’s fine to praise one child’s unique skills; just make sure you don’t have a hidden agenda — like getting Julie to stop hurling puzzle pieces across the room.

Be a supermodel You and your spouse provide a powerful example of how two family members should speak to each other. “If the kids see you arguing and calling each other names, it’s hard to get across the message ‘We don’t do that in this family,’” says Rosemond. So play nice with your spouse, and who knows? You just might hear less bickering from the playroom.

Give each kid space You know the famous line by Robert Frost about how fences make good neighbors? Well, imaginary lines (in the car, in a shared bedroom and so on) make good siblings. To avoid turf wars, “the ideal situation is for each child to have his own clearly defined space,” says Rosemond. If you can’t spare a bedroom, give each child his own desk or toy chest in the communal space.

Don’t insist on shared playdates Sure, it would be easy if your 7-year-old could take your 4-year-old under her wing whenever she has a pal over. But asking older kids to always include younger ones on playdates and fun outings can create serious resentment. Giving older kids private time with their friends will make them more likely to play nicely with their siblings when nobody else is around.

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…How to Keep Your Family Safe

As the winter months rapidly approach and the cold starts to set in, It is inevitable that people will start to break out the heaters. It is around this time of year that you will start to see an increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide stories in the news and especially in the hospitals. It’s the Carbon Monoxide I would like to talk about today.

What is Carbon Monoxide and how can I tell where it is?

Carbon Monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created from unburned Fuel Sources such as gas, oil or coal. So any appliance that uses fuel can create carbon monoxide. Heaters, Furnaces, Dryers, Cars, Fire Places, Chimneys, Generators, Barbecues, etc.. all have the ability to create carbon monoxide. Please make sure that any fuel burning item in your home has been properly installed and sealed, and that all manufacturer instructions for doing so have been followed.

Items that use electricity do not burn a fuel and do not emit carbon monoxide. While these items may pose a significant risk of fire when used improperly or left unattended, they do not burn fuel and do not pose a risk of Carbon Monoxide.

Common Locations of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Automobile Garage – Cars warming up or left running in a garage will cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Laundry Room – Laundry machines that run on natural gas or propane can emit propane.
  • Basement – Furnaces and Heaters located in a basement or enclosed area can cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Kitchen – Gas Appliances like ovens can emit Carbon Monoxide.
  • Bedroom – Fuel burning heaters such as gas lamps and heaters can emit Carbon Monoxide.

What are the Signs of CO Poisoning?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Breathing.

How Can I Detect CO In My Home?

While CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas it can be detected with Carbon Monoxide monitors that can be bought at many stores. Things to know about CO detectors before you purchase:

  • CO detectors come in many sizes.
  • CO detectors are NOT all the same. Some detect non-lethal low levels of CO while others only detect potentially lethal high levels of CO. Please read the package on the detector you purchase.
  • Some can be hardwired to your house alarm system and some use batteries AA or 9volt batteries.

Where In My Home Should I Place CO Detectors?

  • CO detectors should be placed in areas of the house you spend the most time in. The living room, Family Room areas are great places to put them and they should also be placed outside the bedroom areas to alert occupants Before it reaches the bedrooms.
  • CO detectors should not be placed next to or near items that emit a lot of heat as it may cause the device to malfunction. As always, please read and follow the instructions on whichever device you purchase.

What should I do if my CO detector is activated OR someone in my home begins to have the symptoms of CO poisoning?

  • If the detector is activated you should immediately open doors and windows and go outside.
  • Once outside, assess to see if anyone is having symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is having symptoms CALL 911 AND Follow the instructions they give you.
  • If the alarm continues to sound call 911 and let the fire department clear the home.

For more information on Carbon monoxide you can contact the following:

  • Your local Fire Department
  • Underwriter Laboratories – 1-847-272-8800
  • Utility Companies in your area. The Gas company for example.

As always, I urge everyone to err on the side of caution and CALL 911 if any concern exists about CO in your home. Please be safe and use your items carefully. Here in South Florida during hurricane Irma there were fatalities due to CO because people ran generators and motors inside of their homes while they slept and succumb to CO poisoning. Always run motors and any fuel burning device in an opened, ventilated area!

Be Safe and stay warm.

BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Liners: For Baby’s Safety AND Comfort

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Liner; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter mesh crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby mesh crib liners so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit www.cpsc.gov to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Liners. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety

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Editor’s Note: So often with health and safety issues we have to make trade-offs between one risk and another: take a medicine to address a disease, but deal with the side-effects; exercise for health benefits but risk injuries. In the case of babies and cribs, parents have long had to make a trade-off between keeping babies safe from suffocation due to crib bumpers and protecting them from entanglement and injury in the crib slats. BreathableBaby mesh crib liners help parents address both these issues with peace of mind. We first ran this BreathableBaby post in 2011 and the company has continued to thrive, with additional products and awards to their credit.

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