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One Wrong Click! Your Kid’s in Trouble Now!

We hear in the news that companies get hacked all the time, but we rarely hear about when it happens to people like us. Trust me, it happens a lot!

Ransomware is more common than people realize, making its way into a device, such as a laptop, phone or tablet. Its name comes from the demand from the hacker to have their victim pay a fee to regain control of their device.

For private citizens, the danger includes targeting our children via emails and on social media. Even the most innocuous looking link can be a Trojan Horse, just waiting to infect a device. Kids may not realize the dangers inherent in clicking links and without meaning to, introduce malware onto their device or maybe even onto your device if family members share a device.

About eight years ago, Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf’s laptop was infected with malware. As a result, her laptop’s camera was recording her in her dorm room without her knowledge. Another teenager contacted Miss Wolf and threatened to release the intimate pictures of her unless she sent him more pictures. According to the records, he threatened to turn her “dream of being a model…into a porn star.”

That’s why I always keep a cover over my laptop’s camera unless I’m actively using it! Covering the microphone isn’t a bad idea, either.

To show you how easy it is to be tricked, all three of the links below appear as though they will take you to Google’s home page. The truth is that only one of them actually does what it appears to do. Can you tell which one that is? Don’t worry if you’re wrong, because the others take you to safe sites, I promise.

https://www.google.com/

https://www.google.com/

https://www.google.com/

On a laptop or tablet, you may be able to move the mouse/pointer over the link and see its destination before you click on it. Maybe. But on cellphones, that’s not an option and once you click on it, it’s too late – you’re in trouble and may not even realize it until it’s too late.

If infected with malware, the FBI’s official policy is to not pay the ransom, but many people feel it’s the only way that they will get access to their technology again. The key is to avoid getting infected in the first place.

Here are five steps that you and your kids can take to avoid potential malware problems:

  1. Explain to your children why they should never click on unknown links or download files from a source that is not completely trustworthy.
  2. Either design your devices so that they backup your data automatically or teach your children how to make backups of your data regularly, probably onto a flash drive.
  3. Teach them why they should never plug an unknown flash drive into your device.
  4. Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date and make sure that your children let you know about any warnings or messages that pop up on their devices BEFORE they act upon them.
  5. Make sure that your kids know to avoid letting others use their equipment, as they may not follow the same steps mentioned here and could introduce a virus onto the device.

Even by following these steps, keep in mind that nothing is foolproof, but anything you can do to help prevent your devices from being infected with viruses are well worth the effort. Even if no critical school or work files are lost, imagine the inconvenience of not having the devices available until they are fixed or maybe, replaced!

Hackers quickly come up with new coding that works around existing anti-virus software. The companies that make it are often playing catch up, learning about the new virus only after it has affected someone. Even Microsoft, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, has paid millions to hackers, paying them to expose weaknesses in their security. Like most problems involving both technology and our children, an ounce of prevention isn’t just worth a pound of cure – it’s worth an immeasurable amount of cure!

So where do you start??

Go back to the basics and remind your kids to not click on links from people that they don’t know. Even links sent by friends could be a problem if they’re just forwarding on a link from an untrustworthy source. Many hackers or predators will use the same technique that I used above to trick people into following links that look perfectly safe, but aren’t.

The best analogy that I can give you to use is to tell your kids to treat their computer like your own home. Just as you wouldn’t give a stranger the keys to your house, letting malware into your computer can give them access into plenty of personal information, including banking and credit card accounts, control over your device’s microphone/camera and a lot more…all without you even realizing that you’ve been attacked!

By following the steps above, you and your family will be far less likely to have malware introduced onto your devices and avoiding the problems in the first place is by far, the best possible outcome.

Is Your Indoor Air Good for Your Family’s Health??

Let’s clear the air: Dry indoor air during cooler months may be contributing to your seasonal sore throats, congestion and other respiratory infections. To be sure, cranking up the thermostat causes the humidity level in your house to drop. When it falls below 35 percent, mucous membranes dry out, making you more susceptible to inhaling fine particles that may carry viruses. But a humidifier can be a breath of clean air for your health — and your home. First, buy a quality hygrometer (available at hardware stores, from $5) to constantly monitor your in-house humidity level, which should stay between 35 and 50 percent. Too much can contribute to mold-spore growth and be bad for your health, too. If the humidity is too low, consider purchasing a room humidifier.


Which Type of Humidifier Is Right for You?

Evaporative cool-mist humidifier. The most widely available and least expensive among humidifiers, evaporative humidifiers use a fan to pass dry room air through a water-soaked wick filter in the base of the unit. The water evaporates into the air while the wick filter traps any impurities and minerals in the water. The cool air lowers the room’s temperature, making it easier for you to breathe, which is why evaporative humidifiers also tend to be a physician favorite. “Think about it this way: When you go outside on a cold day, your nose usually runs because the cold shrinks your mucous membranes,” says Dr. Amy Guiot, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The cool air from an evaporative humidifier has a similar effect.”

Warm-mist humidifier. Quieter than evaporative humidifiers (there’s no fan), warm-mist models heat water to a boil and disperse a hot, impurity-free steam into the air, making a cool room feel considerably warmer. But Guiot says she wouldn’t recommend warm-mist humidifiers to those suffering from any respiratory infection, since heat causes mucous membranes to swell rather than shrink and drain.

Ultrasonic humidifier. Often dubbed the quietest humidifier around, ultrasonic models use high-frequency sound waves and a demineralization cartridge to break down water into an ultrafine, mineral-free vapor. Some ultrasonic humidifiers are also equipped with a heating option.

Features to Think About When Shopping for a Humidifier

  1. Tank size and shape. A humidifier should be sized appropriately for the room. Typically, removable tanks range from 1- to 4-gallon capacities (which refer to the gallons of moisture the humidifier will expel into a room daily). Humidifiers are rated for square footage, so measure your room before settling on a model. If the humidifier is too large for the room, condensation will appear on the interiors of the windows and invite bacteria and mildew to grow. Too small, and you won’t reap any of its benefits. If you want to avoid the fuss of lifting and carrying potentially heavy refill containers, opt for a unit with an easy pour-in feature.
  2. UV anti-microbial humidifiers. Some humidifiers — both cool- and warm-mist models — now feature UV light designed to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, germs and viruses in the water before they enter the air you breathe.
  3. Indicator lights. Look for a model equipped with a light to signal when the tank needs to be refilled or — better yet — a humidifier that automatically shuts off when the refill container is empty.

Maintenance

Once you have a humidifier, make sure to take care of it! It needs to be cleaned and dried regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filter changes and cleaning guidelines; improper care could pump bacteria and mold spores into the room.

6 Layers of Protection That Keep Your Child Safe Around Water

How many layers of protection does the child in this photo have? Coat to prevent against the elements? Check. Securely buckled into an approved car seat? Check. Extra blanket for warmth? Check. A car that has passed stringent safety tests? Check. But the most important layer is the one you can’t see – he is constantly being taught to always buckle up when he is going in a car – by your actions and possibly by your words. We can make our children’s environment safe by using car seats, safety belts, airbags and cars with good crash-test ratings, but unless we teach a child why those things exist and how to use them, we are only doing half the job of protecting them in the future.

‘Layers of protection’ is the buzzword of choice for drowning prevention. It makes sense for exactly the same reasons we teach children to buckle up. Young children are learning self-control and cause-and-effect – our job is to keep them safe while they are learning, but also to teach them how to be safe, and why, at the same time.

To keep your child safe around water, here are the basic layers of protection you need.

  1. Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. Personally my rule-of-thumb is that they must excel on a swim team or choose to shower instead of bathe before this rule ends.
  2. If you have a pool, fence the pool. Not the yard, the pool. Look at installing self-closing gates, door alarms and pool alarms as an added layer of protection. Safety Turtle is a great portable choice for holidays and trips to Grandma’s.
  3. Always watch your child near water. Assign an adult to be a ‘Water Watcher’ for 10 minutes, give them a whistle, badge or a sign to hold to remind them that their only job is watching the kids, then rotate so that no one loses focus or misses out on the adult fun.
  4. Empty and turn over buckets, wading pools and anything else that can collect water. Think about covering any ornamental pools or bird baths while your children are under five.
  5. Learn CPR, because drowning happens in under 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Accidents do happen. Your local Red Cross or Park District will have classes.
  6. The most important layer though is teaching your child how to be safe around water. Talk to them about why there are fences, why you are watching them, why they need an adult around whenever they are near water – back up your actions with explanations. There is a book about water safety that young children (under 5) love, that can help you with this conversation. It’s called ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’.

With everyone of these actions you are sending two positive messages that will keep your child safe their whole life: Water is fun and you need to act responsibly and safely around water.

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Jabari, which means “brave” in Swahili, is a cute and lovable lion cub. Like most young children, he’s energetic, enthusiastic, curious, and sometimes even a bit mischievous. But Jabari always wants to do the right thing. Children will easily relate to him and want to emulate his positive behavior. Through Jabari’s stories and adventures, children will learn how to be safe in the water. And parents will learn the biggest lesson of all: Always watch your children while they’re in the water. ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ is available on Amazon.com.

5 Practical Tips to Teach Kids the “Never Give Up” Work Ethic

Many historians feel that one of Winston Churchill’s greatest speeches was given at a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. He had worked on the speech for hours. When the moment finally came, Churchill stood up to the cheering crowd, and in a strong, clear voice shouted just three words, “Never give up!” He paused a few seconds and shouted the words again, “Never give up!” He then reached for his hat and slowly walked off the podium, satisfied that he had told the graduates the message they needed to succeed.

We need to make sure we pass on Churchill’s message to our own children. Only when children realize that success comes from hard work and diligence will they be the best they can be.

The following five techniques are designed to boost children’s work ethic and help you help them understand how critical perseverance is to achieving success:

  1. Define “perseverance.” Take time to explain that perseverance means “not giving up” or “hanging in there until you complete the task you started”. When your child sticks to a task, point it out: “There’s perseverance for you. You hung in there with your work even though it was hard.”
  2. Teach “don’t give up” words. Help your child tune in to the language of persevering individuals so that he can learn to use the terms in his own life. Ask, “What are the kinds of things you hear people who ‘don’t give up’ say?” Write a list of phrases, such as “I can do it!” “I’ll try again.” “Don’t give up!” “I won’t quit.” “Hang in there. Don’t stop!” “It’s usually harder at the beginning.” “Almost! Try again.” “You’ll get it. Keep at it!” “The more you practice, the easier it will be.” “Keep it up–don’t stop!” “The harder you try, the more successful you’ll be” and hang up the poster; encourage everyone to say at least one phrase a day. The more you repeat those phrases the more likely your child will be to adopt them for his self-talk.
  3. Model effort and a strong work ethic. Take a pledge to show your child how you don’t give up on a task even when things get difficult. Before starting a new task, make sure your child overhears you say: “I’m going to persevere until I am successful.” Modeling the trait is always the number one teaching method.
  4. Start a family, “Never give up!” motto. Begin using the family motto, “Don’t quit until you succeed.” A father once told me that conveying this life message to his children was so important that they spent an afternoon together brainstorming family anthems about perseverance such as “Try, try, and try again and then you will win,” “In this family, we finish what we start,” and “Quitters never win.” They wrote the mottos on index cards, and his kids taped them on their bedroom walls. Develop your own family anthem as a reminder that your family code of behavior is to never give up.
  5. Create a “Stick to It” award. Ask your child to help you find a stick at least the length of a ruler to acknowledge stick-to-itness. A family in Seattle uses an old broomstick; another mother said her family uses a yardstick. Print “Stick to It Award” across the stick or dowel with a black marking pen. Now tell everyone to be on alert for family embers showing special persistence for the next month. Each night have a family gathering to announce the names of family members who didn’t give up, and print their initials on the stick with a marking pen. Make sure to tell the recipients exactly what they did to deserve the award. Make it a contest to see how long it takes to fill the stick with family members’ initials. Children love to count how often their initials appear on the stick!

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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

Back-to-School Tips for Special Needs Kids and Caregivers

back to school pencils 2It’s back to school time! For some kids this is an exciting time – seeing former school friends, getting new clothes and prepping for an exciting school year. But for special needs kids and their caregivers, transitions can be challenging. Kids with social issues may dread going back to a room full of people. Other special needs kids, as well as typical ones, may not be looking forward to ending the summer days of play and going back to long days of work – and homework.

To help the child transition:

  • Get kids involved in school supply shopping. Let them choose notebook colors, lunchbox characters, eraser shapes and juice box flavors. This may help them get excited about returning to school. Even if you are annoyed by Annoying Orange, that silly face may make your kid smile. Also, check in with your child about food preferences – last year’s favorites may be considered yucky today.
  • Brainstorm lunch and dinner ideas. Some kids like looking forward to a special treat in their lunches. It also may help some kids get through the week by counting off until Taco Night, Spaghetti night or whatever food fits into your child’s special diet.
  • If safe, set up playdates with school friends your child hasn’t seen in a while so they can reconnect outside of campus. If that’s not possible, review pictures or yearbooks to see last previous year’s classmates.
  • If school hasn’t started yet, visit the school to refresh your child’s memory. If you can’t get on campus, just drive by. If your child is visual, make a map of the route to school or of the campus. Try letting your child “drive” to school on Google Earth.
  • Meet the child’s new teacher ahead of time. Or look up your school’s website and find a picture of the them. Some sites even have little bios of teachers. Help your child send an email or write a letter to the teacher.
  • Start school bedtimes and mealtimes a week before the first day if possible. Start earlier if your child takes longer to adjust.
  • Print out some worksheets or let your child play online educational games to get those brain gears engaged. If you can get a copy of this year’s reading list, visit the library and browse the books to get your child interested in the stories.
  • Play school. Let the child have a turn as the teacher.
  • Start a rewards system for homework, daily behavior, reading time or any other issues specific to your child. Get suggestions for rewards from the child for extra motivation. There are a number of sites that offer printable rewards charts for everything from doing homework to not picking their nose. You can also make your own as a craft project or print personalized ones with your computer. Or do the marble method (add marbles to a glass or jar, when a certain mark is reached the reward has been earned), paperclip chain or anything else that appeals to your child.

For caregivers:

  • Watch your language. Be sure you are talking up school in a positive way.
  • Be sure all medications, permissions and arrangements have been set up with the school.
  • Do as much as you can the night before. Here are some suggestions:
    • Prep ingredients for lunch and/or dinner. Dust off the crockpot if needed.
    • Set up the coffee pot. This is a big one for me!!
    • back to school bus 2Pre-pack lunchboxes with non-perishables.
    • Lay out clothes. Cut off tags or prewash with fabric softener if your child has sensory issues.
    • Check for signed forms, paperwork and homework.
  • No matter how much your child fusses, stay calm. Save your tears and frustration for when you get back into the car alone, or meet up with other moms for coffee after drop off so you can vent.

Remembering 911: Creating a New Future For Our Children

This past weekend was the twentieth anniversary of the worst attack against America and our way of life and is a day a national remembrance. The 911 attacks attacked differences. Differences of religion, differences in appearance. The attacks said we are worthy to live, you are not. The attacks said we are better.

Love - 9-11.final2Taking a moment to remember, reminds us to embrace our differences, to embrace other religions, different governments and different appearances. Taking a moment to remember says we all deserve to live. Doing so builds a better life and better future for our children, for all children, for many generations to come. Only we can teach hate and only we can erase hate in the future for our children with love.

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Editor’s Note: This post first ran on 9-11, 12 years ago. It is the author’s hope – and ours – that by remembering and telling our children, we create a better world for them. They deserve it. We all do!!
With heavy hearts…and with love…from Pediatric Safety.