Computer Vision Syndrome: Can Tech Harm Your Family’s Vision?

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 12:13 pm

*Editor’s Note: Given the extensive amount of time many of our families are spending “sheltering in place”, it seemed like the right time to revisit MomRN’s article on Computer Vision Syndrome.  Stay Safe Everyone!

Computer vision syndrome symptomsIn today’s technological society, most of us have become accustomed to using multiple devices that have screens – televisions, computer monitors, tablets, smartphones, hand-held gaming consoles, and the list goes on.

And as the number of screen devices has increased, so has our time spent staring at these devices. It’s not unusual to spend several hours of each day looking at these various screens and this has led to concerns about what affect all this screen time may be having on our vision…and on our kid’s vision.

Could your technology harm your vision? I was asked to address this concern on Fox 23’s Great Day Green Country.

 

According to the American Optometric Association, the vision problems associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain can be reduced or possibly even prevented by “taking steps to control lighting and glare on the device screen, establishing proper working distances and posture for screen viewing, and assuring that even minor vision problems are properly corrected”. For more information, see their article on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of Computer Vision Syndrome here.

Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About A Scary, Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiAs parents, we can reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. School shootings. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse, COVID-19.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, coronavirus, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of sickness and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of school massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and hospitals filled with sick and dying coronavirus patients from their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” to describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

Several years ago I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I asked them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism  when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.”  It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, makeshift morgues and tents setup in convention halls to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others.  And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally Present – Don’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a health-care hero (a supermarket gift card, home-made masks and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and leave a batch of homemade cookies outside her door.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or is quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

STOP! You’re Stressed, But Please Don’t Shake A Child

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:48 am

The day dawned at 6:00 a.m. with a diaper change and feeding. You were up several times through the night either changing, feeding or both. You are still trying to get used to having a newborn in the house- trying to get used to not sleeping through the night. A good solid night’s sleep sure would be welcomed. The first couple of weeks you were able to catch a nap in the afternoon and that helped. Lately though it seems the baby is crying most of the afternoon and evening. It is just after lunch and it is finally quiet- perhaps time for a few precious moments of sleep. God please just a few moments sleep. Your eyes close and sleep begins to take over.

The screaming starts from the crib next to you- startling you awake. God all I wanted was a little sleep- is that too much to ask. Yesterday she cried for four straight hours. She just could not be comforted- she just would not STOP. “I can’t go through this again today.” Desperation rises- so too does anger. With just a few steps you are at the crib…the screaming seems louder…you pick up your baby…the anger grows…the desperation…with tears streaming down your face… you would do anything to get the crying to stop…you cry out, stop…please stop…why won’t you stop crying.

Your anger, your fear and your tone are reflected in the baby. The crying gets worse, grows louder, more shrill. Barely aware of your actions you begin to shake your precious child.

STOP-Don’t Do It.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is the name given to a variety of signs, symptoms and behaviors. Shaking a crying child can lead to blindness, lethargy, permanent developmental disability, seizures and death. Shaking a baby is a crime. It may be inflicted by males or females though most often by males. All babies cry and understanding this is often helpful. That a baby cries does not equal bad parenting- not even unrelenting seemingly inconsolable crying. In the past such crying has been called colic. To many, colic sounds like a disease or an illness and the name does not lead to understanding. Now many are referring to this as the PURPLE period. The PURPLE period may begin at 2-3 weeks old and may last until 3 or 4 months of age.

PURPLE stands for:

P:  Peak of Crying- again perhaps beginning at 2-3 weeks and lasting till age 3-4 months

U:  Unexpected and you don’t know why

R:  Resists Soothing

P:  Pain like face- appearing as though they are in pain though they really are not

L:  Long lasting- perhaps up to 5 hours in one day

E:  May cry more in the late afternoon or early Evening.

Many hospitals are providing training to new parents on crying as well as methods to manage both the baby and the stress. They are also providing education about the dangers and hazards of shaking a baby. There are many ways to cope but when the stress and frustration get to the level where an injury may occur:

  • Take the baby to a grandparent or responsible neighbor.  *Understandably during the COVID-19 quarantines this is more difficult, so…
  • Get away – walk out – even if it just outside the door. It is better to move out of earshot than it is to harm the child.
  • If you are a grandparent, friend or coworker of a new parent let them know you are willing to help or at least, that you are willing to listen. If you are a parent yourself- tell them you went though some pretty bad times- help them understand they are not alone. Look into hospitals that offer training and education on crying and shaken baby syndrome. Talk to your pediatrician, obstetrician or personal doctor.
  • Here are some additional things you can do to help you relax and get rid of your frustration and anger

Take action before tragedy strikes.

For more information please go to:

Thumb Sucking or Pacifiers – What Can a Parent to Do?

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:48 am

The most popular argument, in the debate between thumb sucking and pacifiers, is that the pacifier can be taken away if the child seems to be developing a prolonged habit. While this point is valid, some children may develop a prolonged habit of thumb sucking after the pacifier is taken away anyway. Another argument is that the use of orthodontic pacifiers may lessen the chance of dental problems. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that all pacifiers and thumb sucking affect teeth the same way. Some of these issues may include malocclusion and affected speech. Malocclusion is a misalignment of teeth or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches. Prolonged thumb sucking and pacifiers can cause the front teeth to be pushed out and forward. This position is called an overbite as the child’s jaw is altered from a U to a V shape. Orthodontic treatment is the only way this can be corrected.

Since the American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS recommendations have found pacifiers have helped “reduce the risk of SIDS”, only offering a pacifier at naptime or at bedtime is one good way to lessen the chances of it becoming a habit. Keep in mind that thumb/finger sucking is completely normal and that most children give it up by age two. Every child is different and you can’t guarantee whether your child will prefer one over the other. The only “problem” is when the act becomes prolonged.

Some helpful tips to help stop the habit:

  1. Distract your child. If thumb sucking is the issue, find an activity that requires the use of both hands. Holding a book at nap time is one option.
  2. Develop a game. Use a secret signal that only you and your child know to signal when they have put a thumb or pacifier in their mouth. The act is sometimes done unconsciously and a helpful, fun reminder might do the trick.
  3. Use your Pediatrician or Dentist to reinforce the need to stop. Children often see these people as authoritative figures and may be more apt to listen.
  4. Make them feel like it’s their idea. “Giving” old pacifiers to the needy or younger babies make them feel proud and helpful.

What about you?  What tips have worked for your little one?