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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!

Parenting: An Imperfect Role Model

As a mother, I used to think I had to set the perfect example, especially since I have two daughters. I had to work hard. I had to eat the healthiest foods. I had to dress well. I always had to arrive on time. I had to be nice. I could never tell a lie. I had to donate money to anyone who ever asked. And I could never mutter a bad word, even during life’s most frustrating moments.

Striving for perfection, however, was exhausting. It was also impossible to achieve. Take the time my daughter Annie and I got rear ended by a reckless driver last year on our way home from a piano lesson. A few choice words slipped out of my mouth that day. Annie quickly learned that her mom was hardly “perfect” and never would be.

And that, I decided, is okay.

Even the most perfect among us are hardly perfect. We get angry. We get grumpy. We snap. We judge. Simply put, we don’t always do what’s considered the right thing. Most of the time, however, we’re just decent people, trying to do the best we can. I call it being human.

Letting my daughters see my imperfections gives them — and me — room to breathe and allows them be the imperfect people they are. It frees them up to relax a little when they mess up. It also teaches them to forgive others when they are imperfect and to move on with the bigger picture in mind.

Does that mean there are things I’ve done that I don’t regret? Absolutely not. Does it mean I think it’s okay to be rude, inconsiderate and crass? Not at all. What it does mean is that I don’t pressure myself to always do the right thing, even when I know my kids are watching me.

Freeing myself from the strict standards of perfectionism allows me to relax and teaches my kids the best lesson of all: no one is perfect.

And that’s perfectly fine by me.

Kids and Animal Bites – a Pediatrician’s Perspective

little boy and catAnimal bites are very common, particularly in young children due to their inquisitive nature.

The smaller the child is the more likely are the bites liable to be on the head and or neck – the most common place is however on the hands and arms. The most common bites are from our domesticated animals, cats and dogs. While a family pet is a good thing for teaching responsibility, a healthy dose of respect for other families’ pets should also be taught as not all pets are as friendly as yours, especially with strangers.

Children should be taught to approach other pets carefully and always from the front, offering a hand for the animal to smell first before touching. Wild animals are another issue entirely and it is best to be very conservative and teach your child to never go near a wild animal, no matter how “cute and cuddly” it looks. If your child comes in proximity with a wild animal that has been “domesticated” by ownership, the same should apply. More and more now there are increasing limits on the type of wild animals allowed to be kept as pets.

Let’s get back to cats and dogs.

A dog bite can be quite severe as dogs will grab and hold on to an arm or leg and toss their heads back and forth in an effort to subdue an “enemy”. If a dog unknown to you bites your child, and after seeking the care for the injury, you should contact your local health department as that animal will need to be investigated and sometimes placed under surveillance for several weeks. Your own pets should be vaccinated by your vet as recommended by authorities. Some dog bites, if severe enough, can be sutured closed but this must be done carefully and sometimes left open to avoid infection.

Cat bites while usually not as severe as dog bites, stand a greater chance of becoming infected as these are usually more of a puncture wound quality making infection a higher risk.

Contact your Doctor immediately should any bite occur for further information, but please teach your children the do’s and don’ts of approaching animals of all kinds.

Teachable Moments: Valuable Lessons on Life and Love for Kids

Meet Jack Bear. For such a little guy he offered many opportunities to teach our kids very valuable lessons about life and about love.

Here is a part of Jack’s story.

Jack was given up when he was 10 years old. By all reckoning that is old in dog years- perhaps 70 years old. It seems he was no longer fun and no longer desired. I always found it hard to imagine giving up a dog for no other reason than age but here was Jack. Then again in many adult relationships we see an end, perhaps a separation or a divorce. To outsiders it may seem that there is no good reason.

Teachable Moment 1– things change, feelings and perceptions, wants and desires and it does not always make sense. Often the truly innocent are caught in the middle and pay the highest price. Things will change in the lives of our children that especially to them make no sense and seem unfair.

From the time he was given up he began to cry non-stop- an unwanted behavior. His crying combined with the fact that he was old and funny looking- undesired characteristics- he was perceived as unadoptable. Differences real or perceived are one reason kids bully each other. The beautiful picking on the less so and the big picking on the small and the “normal acting” picking on those whose behavior is outside the expected or desired. Jack had all three.

Teachable Moment 2– Value the differences don’t condemn them. Jack eventually stopped crying and became a loved member of the family. No- he was never like the rest of our dogs-never played with other dogs at the park. He was not identical to the other dogs- he was his own dog. Teachable Moment 2.5– be yourself. His smaller size, this ‘flaw’ made him a perfect lap dog- better than many others. In this case his size was an advantage.

Teachable Moment 3– there are a myriad of ways to look at things and when we do so we open up tremendous opportunity. I never thought I would grow fond of a funny looking, old, Toy Poodle with the name Jack Bear- I did. See Teachable Moment 1- things change and sometimes perceptions and feelings change for the better. Our daughter never saw Jack’s flaws, was never bothered by his crying, his looks or his age. Teachable Moment 3.5 – one truly good friend who sees the real you and all your potential is worth more than 100 lesser or false friends.

Jack’s health failed him. He developed cataracts and went blind. His teeth fell out and his hearing failed him. He had to be hand fed and could not always control his bladder. In other words he grew old as we all will.

Teachable Moment 4- we will all grow old and we will all die. We need to help kids to understand that this is a natural life-path. Yes seeing loved ones sick is never easy- in fact it is down-right hard. It is natural to feel anger and to feel sad. There is a natural progression of emotions. Understanding this does not erase the pain but it does make one feel unique and less alone.

Teachable Moment 5– as the saying goes,” it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” It might seem better to avoid the pain but closeness, love and friendship though often painful are the greatest gifts in the world. My life was so much more enriched by having Jack in my life than not.

Teachable Moment 6– we can all find teachable moments, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places if we just take the time to look. Thanks Jack- Bear, rest in peace.

What Happens at Home CAN Cause Problems at School

Can your child get into trouble at school for what they do online at home?

While the answer to that question depends on where you live, the most likely answer to this is that a school can discipline a student for off-campus activities in some cases. The majority of U.S. states allow for it, reports the Cyberbullying Research Center. The rationale for this is for when activities off-campus negatively effect on-campus life beyond a reasonable amount.

That means that when a student engages in inappropriate behavior online, such as bullying a student or sending out racy images of another student, the school may have the right to take disciplinary action. While students (and parents) may argue that their actions don’t fall under the school’s province, the courts have decided otherwise.

And this is not just limited to actions taken by students. The same rules apply to staff/faculty as well. In my own county, a teacher was fired for comments made on her blog under an assumed identity that was derogatory towards her students. Her lawyers argued that she had the right to free speech, but a federal appeals court agreed with the school district for firing her, saying that her actions were “so disruptive at school as to tip the Pickering balance in the school district’s favor.” The Pickering balance refers to a 1968 case that determined that an employee’s right to free speech is protected IF it is a matter of public concern AND if the employee’s interest outweighs the public employer’s interest in an efficient workplace.

When my daughter was in sixth grade, I spoke with the vice-principal about this: kids using social media and how it affects the school environment. He told me that a day didn’t go by when he didn’t have students in his office, discussing something that happened online that caused a problem when the students saw each other again.

What makes that even more troublesome is that this was a grade school, going up to sixth grade. At this point, the students are almost certainly no older than 12 years old. This is important because most social media companies out there require that users be at least 13 years old to use their apps in order to avoid violating the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Rule of 1998, more commonly known as COPPA. This act was designed to limit the amount and type of data that companies can data-mine from them. In reality, it is one of the most broken laws we have, as millions of minors use apps that they should not be using.

How to Avoid Problems

Let’s be honest – most children have at least one incident through their school years that requires the school to take corrective action of some kind. One way to minimize that from happening is to follow the T.H.I.N.K. Principle, as recommended by Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying, an organization designed to help families who have been affected by bullying in any form. The T.H.I.N.K. Principle helps teach everyone to avoid doing or saying something that could cause problems for them later by focusing on five key points:

  • TRUE Is what I’m saying True?
  • HELPFUL Is what I’m saying Helpful to the situation?
  • INSPIRING Is what I’m saying Inspiring to others?
  • NECESSARY Is what I’m saying Necessary?
  • KIND Is what I’m saying Kind?

It always amazes me as to what I see people post online, especially on Twitter. People say things online that they would never do in person, sometimes hiding behind the anonymity of an app. If we can’t honestly answer yes to these five questions, then we probably shouldn’t post it.

Maybe a better way to consider it is that we should dance like nobody else is watching, but post like we expect it to be read in the principal’s office or even open court someday.

Teaching Your Child The Fine Art of Swallowing Pills and Capsules

For any parent, getting children to take their medication can be a frustrating experience. The flavor of a liquid such as Prednisone may be off putting to a child. You worry about spilling liquid medications or dosing accurately. That’s why I find that teaching children as early as possible to swallow a pill or capsule to be a wise idea.

You may wonder “Why worry about teaching my child how to swallow a pill or capsule now?”

First, some medications only come in solid form. To be honest, there aren’t swallow a pill 3many but there are a few.

Second, pills and tablets are much easier to travel with and don’t require refrigeration. Think about toting around that bottle of antibiotic next summer on your next family trip. Not fun!

Third, you will never have to worry about spilling or dripping a liquid again. Plus the dosing on a pill is accurate. How many times have you gotten to the bottom of the bottle of liquid medication and not had the full teaspoon?

In my experience, children as young as age 3 or 4 can learn to swallow a pill. I taught my own daughter who was not yet 3 to swallow pills. While a few teens can’t seem to master the skill, children are quick learners and repetition and patience along with some simple tips can help if you start children young.

It’s also a good idea to teach your child these techniques before they really need them. A sick little child is not great student!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

  • Multi-colored round candy balls called mixed decors found in the cake-decorating section of a supermarket
  • Tic Tacs (I think the fruit flavor works best)
  • Mini M&M’s
  • Reese’s Pieces or M&M’s

THE TECHNIQUE

  • Start with the smallest candy ball from the cake decorating kit. Explain to your child that you are going to teach him a simple way to learn to swallow pills and that it starts with learning to swallow candy balls. (Now is a good time to explain that medication is NOT candy but that you are using candy because it is an easy substitute. Explain that you should NEVER take medicine without permission of Mom or Dad).
  • Parent should demonstrate by putting a single candy ball as far back on your tongue as possible, use the straw technique, and take three gulps of water.
  • Tell your child it’s their turn. Also tell them that if the candy doesn’t go down the first time, they have to try at least two more times. If it doesn’t go down by the third try, they can chew the candy ball and take a break before trying again.
  • Repeat this until they get comfortable with a candy ball, usually about three successful tries. Then move up to a slightly larger candy (I like to use the bigger cake decorating sprinkles, then move up to mini M&M’s) and repeat the procedure until there is success at this level.
  • After three to five successes with the mini M&M’s, move up to a larger candy like an M&M or Reese’s pieces. After they have mastered that, compare it to a pill size wise. At this point they should be able to swallow most pills with minimum problems.
  • Remember to limit the “session’ to 15 minutes. This will be a Process that requires days, perhaps weeks depending on your child.

SOME TIPS

  • Have your child take a few sips of water before beginning. It is very difficult to swallow a pill or tablet with a dry throat.
  • These tips works best if your child is thirsty. He/She may be drinking quite a bit, practicing their pill swallowing technique.
  • Session should last no more than 15 minutes and be fun.
  • Room should be free from distractions. Leave toys in another room and turn of the television.
  • Stay calm and positive.
  • Be patient, this is a task that will require some time.
  • Demonstrate pill swallowing to your child in matter of fact way. When they see you do it calmly they will want to emulate you.
  • Use lots of Positive Praise! Avoid negativity. This is not going to motivate your child to learn to swallow pills/tablets.
  • Be consistent.
  • Have your child put the pill on his/her tongue. Then using a straw, suck down three big gulps of water. With a straw there is no pill floating around in your mouth like there is if you just try to swallow a pill with a big mouthful of water.
  • If water isn’t working try milk, a fruit smoothie, Pediasure, a milkshake, or fruit juice or nectar. Thicker fluids create more bulk, making it harder for the pill to separate itself from the fluid during swallowing.
  • Always end with a success. If your child has difficulty swallowing a large piece of candy, end by having him swallow a smaller piece or even a gulp of liquid. Always end on a positive note.
  • When swallowing a pill, have your child tilt their head back slightly. With capsules (which float), you do just the opposite. Have your child look down at the floor and swallow the capsule while still looking downward at the floor. The capsule should just float to the back of his mouth and slide down his throat with his drink.
  • Make sure you have your child place the pill or capsule in the center of their tongue rather than to the right or left, especially if they are going to be swallowing an oval-shaped pill. An oval-shaped pill should be placed so that the length is parallel to their throat. Otherwise, the pill may go into the throat “sideways” and create discomfort.

DON’T

  • Don’t break a tablet in half if it is too large. When you do this the rough edges can be scratchy and even more difficult to swallow than a larger smooth tablet.
  • Don’t take pills with a dry mouth. It’s more difficult to swallow when your mouth is dry, and capsules and tablets may even stick to a dry tongue.
  • Don’t bargain or bribe your child. After all you don’t bargain or bribe your child to brush his or her teeth or comb their hair. This is a skill they WILL learn. It just takes time and patience.

The techniques I shared with you should help you, help your child become proficient at swallowing pills and tablets. This is a skill that is a necessary part of life and when learned early can really be a very handy tool for a child to possess.

Remember to be consistent, patient and use positive praise and these techniques will have your child swallowing pills, tablets and capsules in a reasonably short time!

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