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Parenting Resources to Keep Kids Safe Online

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

In many cases, children are more adept at using technology than their parents.  Today’s children are Digital Natives, meaning that they grew up with technology and social media is a way of life for them.  They never knew a time without smartphones and social media.  For anyone over 30, their teen years didn’t involve posing for selfies, using emojis or having to worry about sexting problems.  However, as parents, we have more LIFE experience than they have and that’s what can make the difference in keeping kids safe online.

Many parents feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to what their children do online and that’s to be expected.    The concerns involve not only what can happen to their kids, but how do they help them get through the problems.  From cyberbullying to sexting and online predators, there are many real dangers to our children.  Shawn Henry, of the FBI reported that at any given time, there are an estimated 750,000 child predators online.

Fortunately, there are some great resources available to help parents with their concerns.  If you’re reading this now, then you’ve found one – Pediatric Safety!  Dr. Michele Borba, Dr. Lynne Kenney and others are here for you.  Dr. Kenney’s article on teaching kids empathy, while not specific to online issues, is spot-on about having life experiences that can help kids with problems of both offline and online matters. Kids with empathy are less likely to cause trouble online.

Below are several other resources available to you, including some free online sources and recommended reading to help parents understand more of what they can do and in some cases, use as teaching aids with their children.  They may not always listen to their parents, but when they see real stories about what has happened to their peers, it may open their eyes and make them more receptive to what their parents have to say about online safety.

Cyberbullying Research Center

This is by far, my number one, go-to source on the Internet for help when it comes to online (and even offline) bullying issues.  After all, cyberbullying is simply one more form of bullying.  It has specific attributes, such as staying anonymous, that physical bullying doesn’t have, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful or less damaging to the target.

Heavily focused on doing the research to make their case, Dr. Justin Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja are outstanding in the field.  Too often, people may want to dismiss cyberbullying and its effects as being overblown or simply anecdotal.  These guys have done the research to prove the effects and they have plenty of free resources for anyone to use.

Common Sense Media

For parents looking for help on everything from what apps might cause problems to what movies are appropriate for certain ages, Common Sense Media is your best option.  The site is broken down by age, by topic and provides “ultimate guides” for many popular apps and websites.  There is a wide selection of material available in Spanish as well, which can be extremely helpful!  Like the Cyberbullying Research Center, they are heavily involved in research and can provide you with a lot of data to support their positions

Needless to say, I love this organization and everything that they do.

International Bullying Prevention Association

People who bully offline are more likely to bully online.  So, while their focus is not exclusive to cyberbullying, IBPA does provide resources to parents trying to understand what their kids are experiencing online.  Their dedication to bullying in any form, online or offline, is very hard to beat.  They have resources available for youth, family members, educators and more.

I especially like the resources dedicated to our youth.  Many victims of bullying never tell anyone, suffering in silence.  Just letting kids know that there are resources out there for them, specially designed for them gives them the opportunity to at least find some help if they don’t want to speak to anyone about their problems.

Darkness to Light

Child sexual abuse includes the sharing of intimate pictures of minors online.  Perhaps the most valuable resource they provide is working as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse within the community and at all levels of government in the U.S.  Education is great, but we need more people who will get involved in protecting our kids and Darkness to Light will do just that!

Unless you’ve experienced this for yourself, you can’t relate to how this feels.  Having known a family personally that has been through this experience, I know the kind of trauma it can bring with it.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend their training, I highly recommend it.

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate

I don’t know what I can say about this book except that you should read it.  A target of online harassment herself, Sue Scheff, who I am proud to call a friend and a mentor, does an amazing job with this book.  Her storytelling teaches us how to avoid the problems that so many of us find ourselves getting into all too often.

These stories illustrate the real life repercussions that often accompany online actions.  We tend to think of cybersafety issues such as bullying and shaming as being mainly problems for kids, but Sue shows how it affects people from all walks of life and all ages.  Her examples of what I call the #OnlineMeetsOffline lesson is one that we all need to learn the easy way, not the hard way – by learning how to avoid it, rather than experiencing it for ourselves.

Cyberbullying and the Wild Wild Web

Jayne Hitchcock’s latest book is another great book that provides real-life examples of just how much is at stake when we go online.  The target by an online stalker, she knows full well how dangerous it can be – something that our Digital Natives may not fully appreciate.  While most people would agree that the Internet is largely a wide open, unmonitored and unregulated breeding ground for poor behavior, Jayne shows you quick and easy lessons to avoid problems from happening in the first place.

She uses examples of what can happen to create learning opportunities for people.  For families, the fact that the book is relatively short means that children may be less likely to be intimidated by it and actually read it.  Once they get started, they won’t want to put it down.  I was really involved in reading this book and couldn’t put it down.

Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology

I love this book!  Diana Graber is a middle school teacher and a cybersafety advocate whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person.  She uses great examples of how things can go wrong and shows us how to do them the right way.  Her C.R.A.P. acronym (Currency, Reliability, Author & Purpose) is a great way to teach the value of doing good online research for school – I now use it in my own classes at Thomas Jefferson University.  Diana is very adept at relating to teenagers and parents learn how to talk to their kids about the value of good Digital Citizenship even if they aren’t up on the latest technology.

Conclusion

The approach parents take is key to helping protect our children.  A heavy-handed approach rarely works with children in general and in the case of technology/social media, it’s too easy for them to get around any restrictions parents may place on them.  The use of multiple accounts on the same platform (known as Finstas) and easy access to zombie devices make it almost impossible to prevent them from using the apps, so it’s more important to make sure that they know how to do it wisely.

I know what other parents are feeling, because I’m a father to a teenage daughter.  Our ability to teach our children life lessons based on our own experiences is more important than our ability to use technology as well as they do.

My Roller Coaster Kid: Calm Things Down and Enjoy the Ride

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Up and down, over and under, so the roller coaster goes. Are you worn out just thinking about it?

roller coaster kidLife with an intense child is like a ride on a roller coaster, some moments are thrilling, others calm, still others fear-inducing. Intense kids feel so powerfully, they see more, hear more acutely and feel more deeply. Of course, they have to share all of it with you, ’cause life can be just so overwhelming. It’s almost like in their meltdowns and fits they say, “Here Mom, hold this.” Meaning, hold my pain, suffering and overload for a moment while I try to gather myself together.

What seems like a behavioral issue to many, the school, your parents, (you know what I’m sayin’) is more likely a problem of brain mediation than willful non-compliance.

You see, children want to be calm and happy. Evolution encourages children to strive – to live well, be loved and thrive. When children are willful, obstinate, unhappy or anxious, this is not their healthiest state. Their behavior and mood signal an imbalance in their body and brain.

So what can you do about it?

  1. Know that the limbic brain is older and in the case of intense kids, momentarily more powerful than the frontal lobes. So plan for those amygdala melt-downs and prepare calming strategies with your child ahead of time. Talk about the times they feel like they are going to lose it and ask them if you can help by offering some pre-planned calming solutions like taking a walk, a bath or a bike ride. Consider calming music from advancedbrain.com (sound health) or calmmeforhealing.wmv.
  2. Know that food and nutrition matter. Remember, it is not what you eat but what your body assimilates that is important. Consider whole food pharmaceutical grade vitamins, a transition to whole food and protein at each meal to help your child’s brain have better access to healthy nutrients.
  3. If you need more help see a developmental pediatrician, pediatric psychologist or neuropsychologist who specializes in cognitive and limbic calming strategies. Meditation, yoga and brain exercises can help increase neuronal connections thus harnessing the power of the Thinker to manage the Caveman.

Intense kids are creative, intelligent and lovable, you just have to plan for the squall…after all living on the coast is beautiful, it just storms sometimes

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familycoach-book-smallerThis post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just this past September. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.

Childhood Teeth Grinding: How to Know

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:50 am

When you watch your child sleep you see sweet dreams and peaceful slumber right? This sweet slumber is often disrupted by the sound of grinding or gnashing of teeth.

Most kids aren't even awareBelieve it or not, 3 out of every 10 children grind their teeth at night, also known as Bruxism. This is common in children especially under the age of 5 but fortunately most children will outgrow this bad habit.

Although it is not known why kids develop Bruxism, there are several reasons thought to induce this behavior. Some kids grind because their upper and lower teeth are not yet aligned properly. Pain from erupting teeth or an earache can also be a common cause. Stress is also a known origin of teeth grinding or gnashing.

Bruxism can go undetected with little to no side effects in some children while other cases often turn into what is referred to as TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disease. TMJ is only developed when grinding becomes or persistent in a child.

Typically a child will not be aware that he or she is grinding their teeth so it is usually a family member who picks up on it.

Here are some symptoms you should look for:

  1. Complaints of jaw joint or face pain from your child in the morning
  2. Pain when your child chews
  3. Grinding like noises when your child is sleeping

If you think that your child is grinding his or her teeth at night, take him or her to your family dentist. Any dentist can identify chipped teeth or wear on their enamel as well as any unusual sensitivity. By asking some key questions your dentist can identify whether the problem is psychological or anatomical which will help them develop a treatment plan that will be effective for your child.

While most children will grow out of Bruxism, it’s important that you keep a close eye on your child and maintain regular visits to the dentist in order to keep the problem in check. There are different approaches that may help your child such as a custom made mouth guard or basic stress relieving techniques before bed. Your dentist can help you identify what will work best for your child.

Time for Colds and The Flu: What Can You & Your Family Do?

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:50 am

All the bugs and bacteria that plague human kind are essentially trapped indoors over the cold winter months: windows seldom get opened and cars are sealed shut with the heat on, schools harbor a variety of illnesses and are also sealed shut with temperatures way too high. It’s no wonder that this is a perfect season to share whatever cold or Flu with your closest neighbor. Young children, especially, are not the poster kids for hygiene, and touching and tasting the environment gives infants and toddlers a window on the world. Illnesses that get started in your child can spread rapidly to all members of the family.

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickViral infections and Flu are composed of minute particles that are just waiting for an opportunity to invade the next host. The easiest way to gain entry to the human body is through the mucous membranes that we all have – moist skin that you seldom think about; inside your nose, throat, lining your eyeballs, etc. Once they gain entry they invade normal cells and begin to replicate, reproducing themselves and in so doing, alter or kill the host cells. Whichever cells are involved and how your body reacts to the invasion will dictate the symptoms that you will experience. Most invasions are short lived and most for the purposes of this post are in the respiratory tract, upper (nose and throat) and lower (trachea and lungs).

How to cure a “cold” has been a mystery for scientists forever, but since they are short lived and generally do not produce major problems it has never been worth the resources to attempt multiple and complicated testing to nail down a cure. So viral colds live on and disrupt many lifestyles along the way. The favorite medicines in the world to attempt to cure just about anything are antibiotics, but to do so will not only have no effect on the cold but can cause problems of their own – resistances by bacteria to the antibiotic and reactions to that medicine. So we are left with “taking care” of the cold with various simple measures. Over the counter cold medicines have been shown to have very little effect on the symptoms or length of a cold and also have unwanted side effects.

How to prevent a cold or Flu, or viral illness from spreading is the main issue. Since these particles gain entry through mucus membranes, and are usually carried to that area by contact with your own colonized hands, it is very important to wash hands regularly and completely. Too often this is a cursory act of applying soap and washing it off, but scrubbing the hands for about 20 seconds (enough time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) is usually necessary to do an adequate job. Avoid touching your face as most mucus membranes are in that area, especially your eyes. Of course the group that is most important (children) is not usually compliant with these issues, so you must teach this at home. Spread can also occur by droplets pushed into the air by coughing and sneezing and then transferred to others on your hands. Sneeze into the inside of your elbow and avoid spreading droplets into the air around you.

Unfortunately simple apparent cures, taking extra vitamins, etc. have been shown to have very little if any effect on a cold.

So, bear with it, it will be over soon, and do your best not to share it with anyone. And remember to get Flu immunization for your entire family (age six months and older) as soon as it comes out on the market, and since some Flu seasons can last into April get that Flu vaccine even in early March if you missed it at the end of last year.

In Today’s Culture, Can We Raise Strong, Confident Daughters?

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:50 am

A five-year study of 2516 teens by the American Psychological Association found that girls who frequently read those dieting and weight loss articles are far more likely to fast, vomit, or use Strong Confident Daughterslaxatives to lose weight. In fact, the data proved that the more frequently a girl reads those fashion magazines, the more likely she is to resort to extreme weight control behaviors.

These days it’s almost impossible to not hear what Odeya, Bailee, Ariana or some other pencil-slim celeb is up to. Photos of them all to often leaving some nightclub (drink in hand) wearing some highly revealing outfit and unmistaken sexy look are blasted on every news channel and magazine cover.

But have you ever wondered if those young celebrities influence our kids’ values and attitudes? Could those images actually effect how our kids turn out?

The American Psychological Association’s study confirms what many parents feared: All those raunchy, sexy girl messages do indeed have an negative impact on our daughters and are correlated with eating disorders, lower self-esteem, and depression. Not too long ago The Today Show asked me to address what parents can do to counter those negative messages. Here are a few solutions I offered to help us raise strong, healthy, emotionally secure young girls who can buck those raunchy images and come out on top.

  • Get savvy about our new culture. Remove those blinders and take a realistic look at the new X-Rated world. Sexy, raunchy images of girls are everywhere. TV shows push the limits, magazines flaunt photos young party-going girl celebrities, the Internet has no rules, and CD lyrics are darn-right scandalous. But watch out: these days marketers are targeting even our youngest girls. The new “Hooker Look” (I can’t think of a better term) is the hot new fashion. (Did you know that last year seven-to twelve year- old girls spent $1.3 million on thong undies????) Toy makers are designing new long-legged, doey-eyed looking female dolls in slinky outfits ready for the hot-tub for our preschoolers. You do control the purse strings and that remote!
  • Find healthier outlooks. Discover your daughter’s natural passion and talent whether it be surfing, basketball, art, yoga, soccer, and then support her involvement. Those positive activities will help you focus more on her talents and interests, and show her that you value her for her strengths, not appearance. It will also help her develop a stronger identify based on her passions instead of ones borrowed from young, rich celebrities on magazine covers.
  • Tune into your daughter’s world. From television shows, video games, movies, music and Internet sites, stay involved in your daughter’s lifestyle choices. Monitor what she watches and listens to, and who she seems to admire. Doing so will help you understand her values at that moment, as well as help guide your next discussions about your family values. If you don’t like a TV show, movie, CD, video or an outfit explain “Why” instead of just saying, “No.” Your daughter needs to learn how to make wise choices and needs someone (that’s you!) to be her sounding board as well as perspective maker.
  • Downplay popularity and appearance. Girls need to hear messages that convey: “Who you are is far more important than how you look.” So zip your tongue and halt those comments likes: “She’s lost so-o-o-o much weight!”, “I love her hair!”, “I wonder what moisturizer she uses?” “Did you get invited to the birthday party?” Also, watch your gossip and how you talk about other women–especially in front of your daughter. Your kids are scrutinizing your behavior, and they do copy what they see and hear. Always be the example you want your daughter to copy.
  • Don’t forget your sons. Boys, as well, are bombarded by those sexy images and cause unhealthy images of women to develop. What’s more, our boys may think girls even like to be treated as sex objects. Don’t leave your son out of the mix. Talk to him. Counter those messages by giving him the right view of how women do like to be treated. (So says the mom of three boys!)

Sure, the world these days is more X-rated, but parents have always been an excellent counterbalance to sleaze and raunchiness. Remember you really do influence your daughter’s attitudes, values, and self-esteem. Your goal is to help your daughter from the youngest age know she is a person of worth just for who she is, and not for how she looks. Be mindful of that goal, and don’t deviate from it. After all, raising children to be strong and healthy is a 24/7 proposition and in today’s sexually-explicit culture that aim becomes even more challenging.

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Dr 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

Teaching Your “Very Friendly” Child How to Meet a Strange Dog

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:50 am

Boy meets dogMany of you have children that either grew up with a friendly, sweet, loving dog, or got the pup after you had your children, so it is easy for those children to mistakenly think all dogs are friendly. It is these same children that often do not think twice about approaching a dog they do not know in an open and friendly manner; just to potentially receive a growl, or even a bite.

So how can you teach your child how to appropriately and safely get comfortable around other dogs…. The ones they do not know, and who do not know them?

In my next article, we will talk about how you can help your child if they are very fearful of dogs, how to help them to overcome it… But let’s tackle the ‘overly friendly’ child first. Here are some important rules to set down for your child when meeting a strange dog for the first time…..

  • Always ask the owner first. It is very important to teach your children to ask some important questions before approaching any dog. For example:
  • Is your dog friendly? (Too many people stop asking questions after this one. It is important for your child’s safety that they learn to ask a few other key questions as well….such as…..)
  • Does he like to be petted?
  • Has he ever been pet by kids before?
  • Is there a specific way I should pet him?
  • Are there areas that I should avoid petting?
  • Be aware of the dog’s body language. Even if the owner has said it is okay to pet the dog, and that there are no sore spots or anything on the dog that need to be avoided, not all dogs are in the mood at that moment to be approached. The dog may have been out on a long walk already and may be tired, or maybe the walk was more stressful that day than usual. (See my previous article on recognizing a dog’s body language)
  • Stand to the side of the dog to pet them. When we stand directly in front of a strange dog to pet them, especially a child who is lower to the ground, direct eye contact usually occurs….which any dog can perceive as a threat or a challenge.  Also if they get spooked for any reason, they will not think to go around your child if they go to bolt…. They will barrel straight ahead, potentially causing your child to be knocked over in the process. It is better to go from the side of the dog rather than in front (usually by the dog’s shoulder).
  • Let the dog sniff your hand first. Many people think this process is to let the dog get your scent first. This is not really the case…. They caught your scent long before you approached them. However, many people instinctively go to pet the top of the dog’s head first, which can tend to spook them… as some dogs are what we call ‘hand shy’. In some dogs, it can be perceived as a precursor to getting hit….especially a former shelter dog. So by approaching them from the side and placing your hand palm down under their nose first, it is a very non-threatening gesture to them. It is often said to ‘let them sniff you first” because it is much easier than explaining all the other stuff.
  • Do not hug the dog or get in its face. This may be a common sense thing for us adults, but remember, we are dealing with children. Once they see the dog likes to be pet and is friendly, more often than not, they go in for a hug or to kiss the dog. Hugging a dog…. Any dog, can tend to make them feel trapped or threatened, and in a matter of seconds, they can go from ‘digging this petting session’ to ‘why am I being grabbed and restrained’ and try to break free of the hold. Especially from your children that tend to have a ‘death grip’ so to speak. Also, a dog that might be fine with humans might not be so with other dogs, and a child moving in for a kiss might be reminiscent to the dog of another animal moving in for a bite.
  • Use slow gentle strokes when petting the dog. This piece of advice is for adults as well as for kids…. Often, after we get in the initial pets and see the dog is okay, we tend to be a bit less careful, and may start rubbing the ears, or just scratching the sides…. And more often than not, we take this cue from the owner, seeing them do it, we think it is safe to assume that the dog likes it, and it is therefore okay for us to do it too. But remember, ears, paws, and tail are sensitive areas on a dog’s body…. And even though they may be comfortable with their owner doing this….it is important to remember the owner has already built their relationship with the dog as a safe and comfortable one. The dog does not know you yet, any more than you know them…. So take it slow and pet with slow comforting strokes from the back of the neck to the base of the tail and their sides. Long slow strokes are much more comforting to a dog than quick and rapid movements. And remember to keep ‘checking in’ with their body language. Just because they were okay at the start, does not mean they remain that way. If you notice their body language change, it is time to end things on a good note and move on. This makes for a positive experience for everyone involved.
  • If your child is going to a friend’s house that has a dog, remind them of these rules. It is important to remind them that their friend and the dog have had time to get to know each other, not to just ‘jump in’ and act the same way around the friend’s dog that the friend did, but to take their time so the dog can get to know your child as well.

So a quick recap of everything, make sure to ask all pertinent questions before petting a strange dog…. get in the habit yourself of always doing this.  Remember that kids mimic everything we do, and if this is always the way you do it, it is a pretty good bet that going forward, your child will always do this as well, even at a friend’s house when you are not there to remind them. Go slowly, take your time, greet the dog from the side by its shoulder and put your hand, palm down, under its chin first. Pet slowly from the back of the neck to the base of the tail and the sides, and remain vigilant watching their body language. If it has changed at all, it is time to move on and end things on a positive note. As always, an ounce of awareness equals an advantage in your and your child’s health, safety, and well being.