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Parents: Beware The Zombies (Phones, That Is)!

When cellphones made their introduction into the market, they were only capable of audio transmissions (calls).  Technology increased, opening up the opportunity for texting and eventually, video transmission.  Today’s smart phones are so different from their ancestors that I don’t even refer to them as phones, but as portable computers that are capable of telecommunications.

zombie hand holding phone

New 5G phones work at speeds of 300 Mbps – fast enough to stream video calls, YouTube videos or even movies from Netflix, Hulu or any other service.  The difference in speed is only one difference between the two generations.  The way they transmit data has also changed.  Dramatically.

No longer dependent on a service provider and access to cell towers to transmit data, these portable computers only need access to Wifi to be virtually 100% equal to a phone that has phone service.

In mid-August of this year, a story went viral about a teenager named Dorothy who was punished by her mom for not paying attention to the stove, resulting in a fire.  The punishment, if the story is to be believed (there is some doubt) goes that her mom took away all of her devices, leaving the girl cut off from her online life.  Not to be outsmarted by her mom, Dorothy was able to access WiFi capable devices, even sending out a tweet from her refrigerator!  Shortly afterwards, #FreeDorothy started trending online.

Teenagers are Digital Natives.  They grew up with technology.  Even at pre-school, they may have been using technology on a daily basis.  I didn’t get to use my first computer until I was a high school sophomore and it was about the size of my current car.  Today’s middle school children are likely to have a computer in their pocket that is more powerful than the Cray supercomputers from decades ago that only the elite could use.

And they’re virtually addicted to them.  In a 2015 study conducted by CNN called Being 13: Inside the Secret World of Teens, one young girl stated that she might take as many as 200 selfies just to get the “right” one that is good enough to post online.  She wasn’t alone in showing just how engrained social media had become to her generation.

Even if Dorothy’s story is untrue, it still illustrates the degree to which technology has become an integrated part of our daily lives.  It’s in places we’d never expect and is capable of doing things that would surprise most people, including parents.  As a result, any inactive phone that is capable of using WiFi can be used to go online, access social media accounts, or send texts and emails.  That’s a zombie phone.

In fact, with apps like WhatsApp, the calling app owned by Facebook, they can even create a unique phone number and continue to make calls.  While watching a cybersafety program delivered by a local police department, the detective told us how he got a phone call on his personal phone, but he didn’t recognize the number.  He was amazed to hear his grade school aged daughter on the other end, who explained that she downloaded WhatsApp on her tablet and called her dad.

Taking away a child’s devices might be done for any reason, including doing something inappropriate online or offline.  In theory, it’s a punishment that should stop a child from getting online, but the reality is very different. Restricting a child’s access to their phones might have no real effect on their ability to go online.  With so many homes and businesses having WiFi, any device that can use WiFi can get them back online.  That includes desktop computers, laptops, tablets and inactive portable computers that are capable of telecommunications.

While at home, parents can see who is using their WiFi without their knowledge. Outside of the home is another matter entirely.  Many businesses, restaurants, public libraries and the like offer free WiFi as a way to encourage people to spend more time there.  In addition to providing a child with the opportunity to “get around their parent’s decision to keep them offline for a time”, using open/public WiFi also opens the device to viruses and malware.  While that may not be a concern for an old, inactive phone, it also might put their account information at risk too, including passwords and even credit card information.

So what does all this mean for parents?

The solution is not an easy one.  Many children may already have zombie phones and their parents may never know about them.  Certainly, if this is a concern to a parent, they should take older phones from their children with each upgrade so that they no longer remain in their possession.

Another way to see if children are using zombie devices is to check their social media accounts.  Parents should not just assume that their kids are not able to get online once their devices have been “removed”, so there’s no need to check on their online activity.  With schools back in session now, they will most likely have access on school devices as well as using zombie devices with a school’s WiFi, so keep that in mind.

Learning what technology is capable of doing and involvement with our kids’ online lives is the best way to be keep them safe.  That may not sound simple and in fact, it’s not, but our kids are worth it.  Learning what technology is capable of doing is the easy part.  Getting the kids to open up to their parents is the hard part.  However, in an article I wrote here for Pediatric Safety last June, I showed parents ways to help get kids to open up to them.  Try it for yourself and you should see a difference.

3 Stress Busters for Kids and Teens

Think stress is just for adults? Not these days.

Research finds that between 8 and 10 percent of American children and teens are seriously troubled by stress and symptoms. And stress is also hitting our children at younger ages. If left untreated stress not only affects children’s friendships as well as school success, but also their physical and emotional well-being. Chronic stress symptoms break down children’s immune system as well as increasing their likelihood for depression.

One thing is certain: Stress is part of life and each child handles stress differently. The critical four parenting questions are:

How does my child handle stress?

What could be triggering the stress?

What can I do to reduce unhealthy stress?

And does my child know healthy ways to reduce the stress?

Here are three steps to reduce kid stress and solutions to help children and teens cope with stress.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 1: Defuse Home Stress

One recent study found that 85% of teens say they are stressed—and the number one cause: the stress at home! It may be time to take a Home Climate Stress Check. Here are just a few things to consider:

How is the everyday climate in your home

Does it increase your kid’s stress level or help him relax? Are there opportunities for your family to relax?

Are you watching your family’s diet intake for things that could increase stress?

Are there times you’re modeling how to let down and cool off to your kids?

Are you checking your kids’ (and your) stress loads?

Are you making sure sleep is on everyone’s agenda?

Are you taking time to talk to your kids about their day and their worries?

Are you checking your kids’ work load? Can they keep up?

Watch out! Stress is mounting and is impacting our children’s emotional health. Competition, after school activities, a lack of sleep, a crunched schedule, peer pressure, tests, and bullying are just a few things that boost our kids unhealthy stress levels. Make sure your home is a place where your kids can de-stress. Build in times where you and your kids can relax.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 2: Know Your Child’s Stress Signs

Each kid responds differently, but the key is to identify your child’s physical, behavioral or emotional signs before he is on overload. A clue is to look for behaviors that are not typical for your child. Here are common stress signs to look for in your child:

  • Physical Stress Signs: Headache, neck aches and backaches. Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, vomiting. Shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, lightheadedness. Bedwetting. Trouble sleeping, nightmares. Change in appetite. Stuttering. Frequent colds, fatigue.
  • Emotional or Behavior Stress Signs: New or reoccurring fears, anxiety and worries. Trouble concentrating, frequent daydreaming. Restlessness or irritability. Social withdrawal, unwilling to participate in school or family activities. Moodiness, sulking or inability to control emotions. Nail biting, hair twirling, thumb-sucking, fist clenching, feet tapping. Acting out, anger, aggressive behaviors such as tantrums, disorderly conduct. Regression or baby-like behaviors. Excessive whining or crying. Clinging, more dependent, won’t let you out of sight, withdrawal.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 3:  Teach Family Members How to Handle Stress

This last step is crucial but often overlooked: Make sure you teach your child a specific way to reduce stress. Without knowing how to cut the stress, it will only mount. Here are a few strategies. Choose the one that works best for you and your family. Then practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit and your child can use the stress reducer without you.

  • Melt the tension: Tell your child to make his body feel stiff and straight like a wooden soldier. Every bone from his head to toe is “tense” (or “stressed”). Now tell him to make his body limp (or “relaxed”) like a rag doll or windsock. Once he realizes he can make himself relax, he can 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 stress slowly melting away from the top of his head and out his toes until he feels relaxed or calmer.
  • Use a positive phrase: Teach your child to say a comment inside her head to help her handle stress. Here are a few: “Calm down.” “I can do this.” “Stay calm and breathe slowly.” “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
  • Teach elevator breathing: Tell your child to close his eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine he’s in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. He presses the button for the first floor and watches the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, his stress fades away.
  • Visualize a calm place: Ask your child to think of an actual place he’s been to where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When stress kicks in, tell him to close his eyes and imagine that spot, while breathing slowly.
  • Blow your worries away: An instant way to relax is taking a slow deep breath from your diaphragm that gets oxygen to your brain. A quick way to teach the skill is to tell her to pretend she’s blowing up a balloon in her tummy (as you count “one, two, three” slowly). Then she lets the air out with an exaggerated “Ah-h-h-h” sound (like when the doctor looks in her throat). Explain that taking slow breaths from deep in your tummy will help blow her worries away and then encourage her to practice taking slow, steady breaths by blowing soap bubbles or using a pinwheel.
  • Find a relaxer: Every child is different, so find what helps your kid relax, and then encourage him to use it on a regular basis. Some kids respond to drawing pictures or writing about their stress in a journal. Other kids say imagining what “relaxing” or “calm” feels like helps. (Show him how to make his body feel like a slowly moving fluffy white cloud or a rag doll). Or allocate a cozy place in your home where your kid can chill out when he needs to ease the tension.

All kids will display signs of stress every now and then. Be concerned when you see a marked change in what is “normal” for your child’s behavior that lasts longer than two weeks. When you see your child struggling and feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional. And don’t wait: Stressed-out kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and as teens they are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and WildestWorries, 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 has been released and is now available at amazon.com.

Would You “Sabotage” Your Special Needs Child For More Services?

We all know the bad news about the economy. We also know that raising a child can be expensive, and raising a special needs child can be incredibly expensive. Public schools and agencies can’t keep up with demand, so only the most extreme cases qualify for services. Usually this involves an assessment or examination. Many times I struggle with myself – I want my child to do well on these tests, but I also want her to get as much assistance and support as possible.

Other special needs moms say things like, “Well, I know he can do that task but he was tired so he wouldn’t cooperate,” and I wonder if they put their child to bed late on purpose. Or a caregiver will “forget” a medication, or let a dietary rule lapse before an appointment.  And I wonder if they really forgot something they have done every day faithfully up until that point.  Did they actually not know the ingredients of that food when they read all labels diligently?  Or are they deliberately sabotaging their child in order to gain more assistance?  And would I do the same?

It seems to be more and more cut-throat out there.  Caregivers must constantly advocate for the special needs children in their lives.  My fear is that anything my child is given means that another child with greater support needs might not get helped.  I feel guilty about that.  But on the other hand, anything my child is denied means she may never reach her true potential.  She may have to learn to live with a challenge that she could have overcome if it had been addressed in therapy.  Isn’t it my job to give her the best future possible?

So where do you stand?  Where do you draw the line?  Have you ever sabotaged your child accidentally, or on purpose?  It’s okay, your secret is safe with me because I really, truly understand.

Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay with Dental Sealants

Cavities are a common problem for children that can begin at an early age. Approximately one fifth of kids ages 2-4 and over fifty percent of eight year old children are affected.

Dental sealants can help! Sealants are a thin plastic covering Dental-Sealants-Resultsplaced on the grooves of the posterior chewing teeth or molars. Sealants prevent decay on the chewing surfaces by covering the skinny, narrow, cracks and crevices referred to in dentistry as “pits and fissures”. This lessens the hiding places for the bacteria that cause cavities or “caries” and makes the back teeth more cleansable. We recommend sealants on any premolars or molars that have not had any fillings. In some cases we have seen a sealant stop a cavity that has already started forming!

You may hear some press relating sealants with a link to BPA. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical in some plastics. Human and animal studies have linked BPA to an estrogen like chemical that can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease in adults. Minute BPA levels rise in the saliva in the first three hours after sealant placement and then quickly drop off. The benefits of sealants outweigh the potential risk of BPA exposure. Dental materials cause far less BPA exposure then normal, daily, used consumer products such as plastic bottles and the linings of metal cans.

The first eruption of permanent molars typically occurs around age 6. Sealants can be placed on these teeth shortly after they erupt through the gum.

If sealants are regularly applied to the surface of your child’s teeth and they have the recommended use of fluoride, most decay can be prevented in their childhood years.

Finally – A Step Towards Safe Transport for Kids in Ambulances!

Last updated on August 8th, 2019 at 07:02 pm

In 2008 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) convened a working group of representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Emergency Medical Services for Children, the American Ambulance Association, and other key organizations and started a project called “Solutions to Safely Transport Children in Emergency Vehicles”. Finally a long-standing problem was being recognized and addressed: “there are no Federal standards or standard protocols among EMS and child safety professionals in the U.S. for how best to transport children safely in ground ambulances from the scene of a traffic crash or a medical emergency to a hospital or other facility. The absence of consistent national standards and protocols … complicates the work of EMS professionals and may result in the improper and unsafe restraint of highly vulnerable child passengers.”(1)

In fact a 1998 study regarding the use of child restraints in ambulances revealed that 35 States did not require patients of ANY AGE to be restrained in a ground ambulance. Of those States that did require some sort of child restraint system, requirements for an “acceptable restraint” varied significantly.(2)

It is illegal in the US to travel with an unrestrained child in an automobile. However, when a child is already sick or injured, we have been willing to transport them in a vehicle where the passenger compartment is exempt from most safety requirements, they cannot be properly restrained and they have a higher probability of an accident than an automobile. We might not if we knew the following:

  • It is estimated that up to 1,000 ambulance crashes involve pediatric patients each year.(3)
  • In a collision at 35mph, an unrestrained 15kg child is exposed to the same forces as in falling from a 4th story window.(4)

Wednesday September 19, 2012, after an intense 2 year research effort, a public meeting in August 2010 to review the findings and gather input (see Pediatric Safety Post by Sandy Schnee “A Public Meeting on Safe Transport for Kids on Ambulances“), and 2 additional years refining the results, NHTSA has released the official:

BEST PRACTICE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SAFE TRANSPORT OF CHILDREN IN EMERGENCY GROUND AMBULANCES”          Thank you NHTSA!!

 The working group outlined 5 potential child transport “Situations” (see chart below) and for each described their “Ideal” solution – the best practice recommendation for safe a safe transport for each situation. They also presented an “If the Ideal is not Practical or Achievable” alternative – basically an “acceptable” backup plan.

They also came up with guidelines to assist EMS providers in selecting a child restraint system – particularly important because due to the lack of regulation and testing requirements specific to ground ambulances, many of the available child restraint devices were not designed for use in ambulances, some were tested to automotive standards and others were not tested at all.

In the end, the ultimate goal of ALL the recommendations: Prevent forward motion/ejection, secure the torso, and protect the head, neck, and spine of all children transported in emergency ground ambulances.

In short – transport these children safely.

We know that since the adoption of “mandatory use laws” in the U.S. for child safety restraints in automobiles, that thousands of children’s lives have been saved. Yet for years we have continued to allow children to be transported unrestrained on ambulances. With this report, we have finally taken a step in the right direction

It is hoped that the recommendations provided in this report will address the lack of consistent standards or protocols among EMS and child passenger safety professionals in the United States regarding how to most safely transport children in ground ambulances from the scene of a traffic crash or medical emergency to a hospital or other facility. It should be noted that the expectation is that States, localities, associations, and EMS providers will implement these recommendations to improve the safe transportation of children in emergency ground ambulances when responding to calls encountered in the course of day-to-day operations of EMS providers. In addition, it is hoped that EMS providers will be better prepared to safely transport children in emergency ground ambulances when faced with disaster and mass casualty situations”.

…. Amen to that !!

 

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Editorial Update:  Quite a bit has happened since the original publication of this article.  Suffice it to say that while this was a terrific step in the right direction – it was not enough to cause the system-wide level of change hoped for.  According to ems.gov… unanswered questions remain, primarily due to the lack of ambulance crash testing research specific to children.”  To address this,  in 2017 the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) established the Safe Transport of Children Ad Hoc Committee, with the goal of improving the safety of children transported by ambulance through the creation of evidence-based standards.  Pediatric Safety will continue to follow their efforts in future articles as they work to improve the national standard of care and establish consistent guidelines for the safe transport of all our children on ambulances. Every ride, every time.   

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References:

1. Notice published by NHTSA of Public Meeting on August 5th, 2010 to discuss draft version Recommendations for Safe Transport of Children on Ground Ambulance Vehicles: Federal Register, July 19, 2010,

 2 & 3. Working Group Best-Practice Recommendations for the Safe Transportation of Children in Emergency Ground Ambulances: NHTSA / USDOT, September 2012

4. “EMS to Your Rescue?” Int’l Forum on Traffic Records & Hwy Safety Info. Systems – Levick N, July, 2008

Senseez Pillows: Vibrational Therapy to Soothe Anxious Kids

senseez logo -smallMy name is Stephanie Mitelman. I am a Mom and I created the Senseez Pillows. The name Senseez means to ease the senses… Let me tell you the story of how Senseez was born…

When my son was 2, he was diagnosed with a special need. One of his difficulties was sitting in one place long enough to eat his meal, read a story, or sit for circle time.

I spoke to an occupational therapist who recommended a vibrating mat to help with this.I bought one for my son, and he instantly loved the sensations!

But one day, I wanted to take him to our local library for story telling, and though the mat would help… it was large, black, heavy, and had to be plugged in. I was also concerned about my son looking different or standing out with this large mat.

So I went on a search to find a small, lightweight, portable pillow that would offer the same sensations that he could take with him. I couldn’t find one!

So Senseez was born!

Senseez are colorful, lightweight, fun shaped vinyl pillows that offer a gentle vibration when they are squeezed or sat on. They operate on batteries and have a small pouch inside that can vibrate to offer sensations to relax, calm or soothe the body. They’re small enough to take anywhere and are made just for little bums!

Painting on a Senseez pillow

Kids that have trouble sitting for meals, stories, car rides, shopping trips, school work, movies, or anything else will be comforted by the vibrations of Senseez. Kids that have trouble falling asleep will enjoy the relaxing sensations.

The original prototypes were sewn in the basement of our home! We made about 25 pillows by hand, and distributed them throughout schools and therapy centers in our area. Since Senseez was created to be taken everywhere and to be used by multiple children, we used a vinyl material, since it is considered to be the most hygienic and easiest to keep clean. The vinyl is also water resistant. We also created a Senseez furry option for children who would like more tactile input.

After we got some feedback, we hired an engineer to perfect the vibrating mechanism we needed. Once that was complete, we had the pillows tested by Canadian standards for lead, small parts and flammability.

We then connected with an importer who handled the production. Our first order was for 600 pillows. Once the word started getting out, we sold out within 9 months!

In April 2013, we were also invited to do a taping on the Dragon’s Den television show. Today, we have 14 different distributors across Canada and the US, and the pillows are now being used across schools, therapy centers and many homes! The feedback we get is so positive, and the ways in which the pillows are being used is so inspiring. Here is an example:

I wanted to share a positive story regarding your Senseez Pillows. I gave one of the pillows to my client who is part of our deaf blind program. Although she is very fluent in hand over hand sign language as well as Braille, she struggles a lot with expressive communication. We have been working closely with her to initiate requests, preferences, feelings…..communication in general. The pillow was introduced during a session as a sensory aid with vibration. She immediately started hugging the pillow and placing it behind her back ……all while signing the word “happy”.

While her expressive communication still remains a struggle, she is now on a regular basis asking for the “vibrating pillow”. She has created a sign that meshes together the words vibrate and pillow, which she independently will communicate to others!

It’s a huge break through!!!!!! It is the first time that she has communicated a want.

Needless to say, we will be needing some more pillows 🙂

Research shows that vibrational therapy has been used for many years in many different forms. Some children require the vibrations to help calm their bodies, while other children just enjoy the way it feels!

We are thrilled that our pillow is helping children, parents, teachers and therapists!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Tips for working with children who have difficulty sitting in one place for any length of time:

  1. Some children do best with time limits. Let the child know how long they will have to sit for. A start and finish time can help. i.e: sit for 3 minutes to finish snack.
  2. Sometimes using a visual timer can help. Visual timers are available at most special needs stores.
  3. When training a child to sit for a period of time, start small and the build it up. One minute, goes to two, then five etc…
  4. It is okay to use outside reinforcers during this process. Children respond well to rewards, like their favorite treats. You want to build in a reward at the beginning and it won’t be long before long they won’t need it anymore.
  5. It is also okay to use other distractors like TV or iPad in the beginning. We want to calm the child during this hard task. For some children, TV and iPad can help reduce the anxiety of staying one place may cause. After a while, the distraction won’t be needed either.
  6. And you will need to verbally prompt at the beginning. Prompting is giving a gentle reminder about what the child is supposed to be doing, and reinforcing it when they do.
  7. It is always important to reinforce the good behavior (when they do sit in one place), and not only discuss when they don’t.
  8. And lastly, some children enjoy different sensations to help soothe their senses. Vibrations are helpful. Other sensations could be a weighted vest or blanket, or something that offers compression.

Note: Each child is different and you will have to experiment with what works with your child!