Internet Bullying

Children and teens spend much of their time online, which makes bullying even easier. Cyberbullying allows the bully to be bolder, due to the possible anonymity, and allows the bully to reach the victim at any time of the day or night, leaving the victim with nowhere to hide. Another reason cyberbullying can be worse than physical bullying is the fact that it spreads much more quickly. Cyberbullying has been used for many purposes, and often parents have no idea their child is being bullied because the child is hesitant to tell them.

Keeping bullies at bay

  • Block the bully from your child’s account, and do not respond to any messages from the bully.
  • Refrain from sharing contact information online, such as email address and phone numbers.
  • Take pictures of threatening messages for evidence.
  • Remind your child to report any bullying or threatening messages to an authority figure.
  • Visit sites such as stopcyberbullying.org and wiredsafety.org to learn about how to deal with bullying and other internet safety tips.

Besides internet bullying, another concern is internet crime, as offenders continue to become smarter and sneakier and are able to lure children in. Parents should be cognizant of the ease of accessibility to their children for internet predators, and be sure their children are aware of the potential online dangers.

Find other tactics parents should employ to protect their children, along with these:

  • Use parental controls to block certain websites, and monitor chat room use.
  • Maintain access to your child’s account, and monitor it regularly.
  • Tell your child to NEVER arrange a meeting with anyone they met online.

Parents that allow their children to be involved on the internet and on social networks should also have an online presence. Not only does this allow parents to monitor their child’s activities, it also provides a new means to bond with their children.

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

E-cigarettes are a growing concern because of their availability, addictiveness and attractiveness to teens. But what exactly are e-cigarettes and why are they so bad? And how should you talk to your kids about their potential dangers? Below are answers to some common questions many parents have about vaping, e-cigarettes and teens.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) – also known as e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, vaping devices, or by brand name, e.g., JUUL – are battery-powered devices that produce a vaporized mixture of liquid composed of flavorings (such as fruit, candy, peppermint or chocolate), chemicals and often nicotine that are inhaled by the user. The devices can resemble traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, but teens are more likely to use devices that pass as small common gadgets such as USB memory sticks or pens.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, e-cigarette use has sharply risen and is now the most commonly used nicotine product among youth. The vaping “epidemic” has infected 12 of every 100 high schoolers (who in 2017 endorsed use of an e-cigarette in the last 30 days), with use starting as young as 12 years old.

Why are e-cigarettes dangerous?

The harms from e-cigarettes come in at least three ways. First, the vapor itself contains toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and metals that harm the lungs short-term with inflammation (which may make youth more prone to pneumonia, asthma attacks and decreased sports endurance). Inhaling hot vapor also may temporarily cause dehydration and taste bud damage that results in decreased sense of taste or smell (“vaper’s tongue”), as well as nosebleeds. The long-term effects of vaping on the body are not yet fully known, so there is no known safe amount that can be recommended…even if it’s “nicotine-free.”

Second, the developing brain (up until age 25 years) is uniquely susceptible to nicotine. Even one inhalation of nicotine can alter the brain to crave more and start the cycle of vaping more often to get rid of unwanted nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Imagine what happens in the brains of teens who vape a whole JUUL pod per day (each pod contains about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes). If your family has a history of addictions, your teen is at higher risk of nicotine dependence when using ENDS.

The negative effects of nicotine on the body are cumulative and include increased blood pressure and heart rate and stomach ulcers. Youth may complain of heart racing, chest palpitations or abdominal pain, especially if they also consume caffeine from coffee, soda or energy drinks. Life threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and heart disease may occur long-term.

Third, vaping poses risks to others. Accidental ingestion of the highly concentrated e-juice used to refill the e-cig devices is an increasing source of infant and child nicotine poisonings. While some e-cigarette devices have cartridges that are replaced as a whole, many have pods that require refilling with a dropper from a bottle of e-juice obtained online or from a vape shop. Adults should keep these products out of children’s reach. E-cigarettes that have substantial plumes of vapor also pose a health risk for bystanders who breathe in the polluted air. However, certain low-vapor devices are more popular with youth, e.g, JUUL, PHIX, and Suorin, possibly because fewer plumes facilitate undetected use on school grounds.

Although most youth hold negative views about traditional cigarette use that prevent them from uptake, they do not perceive harm in e-cigarette use. Unfortunately, kids who use e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to traditional cigarettes and suffer the better-known negative health consequences.

How do I talk to my teen about e-cigarettes?

It’s very important to communicate openly with your teen about e-cigarettes and vaping; ideally starting just before middle school. You can start a conversation with questions like “Do any of your friends use electronic cigarettes or vape?” Or “what are your thoughts about vaping?” Teens rarely identify themselves as “smokers” or “vapers” or “regular users.” One way to get around this is to ask them specific questions about behaviors, such as “Have you ever tried an e-cigarette?”

Teens respond better to specifics about the dangers of ENDS (see above), rather than being told “it’s bad” or “just say no.” Most young adults have a negative view of people who use traditional tobacco products, but that view doesn’t always transfer to e-cigarettes. By pointing out that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and still carry some of the same risks as other forms of tobacco, you can help them make that connection. You should also remind them that the contents of what they inhale may contain nicotine despite labeling, or may be spiked with cannabis extract without being able to tell (or smell).

You can also have a cigarette smoker in the family explain the challenges they’ve faced cutting down or quitting their nicotine addiction as a prevention message to youth. While adults already addicted to nicotine products may use ENDS as a harm-reduction or cessation strategy, it is important to point out that the use of ENDS by teens can lead to nicotine addiction since their brains are still developing.

If you don’t seem to be getting through to your teen, consider enlisting your pediatrician or adolescent medicine specialist to talk with them confidentially. Youth are more likely to engage in discussions about risk behaviors, like use of e-cigarettes, if they have time alone with their health care provider.

How can I tell if my teen is using e-cigarettes?

Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell if your teen is using e-cigarettes. Unlike traditional cigarettes, ENDS come in all shapes and sizes, may have small plumes of vapor that can be blown away discretely, and don’t have the odor associated with burning tobacco. It is definitely not a good idea to go through your child’s room or bag looking for e-cigarettes, cartridges, or containers of e-juice. Instead, opt for open and consistent communication, especially if you notice unfamiliar USB drives or parts in the trash bin. Warning signs that your child may be using nicotine products relate to the side effects, such as increased thirst or sudden avoidance of caffeinated products.

What should I do if my teen smokes e-cigarettes?

If your teen does smoke e-cigarettes, you should talk to them about their expectations. Ask them how often they think it’s okay to use cigarettes without long term health consequences. Then explain that vaping just once a week can easily increase to twice a week, then daily and eventually lead to addiction.

Emphasize that you want your teen to quit vaping, but don’t use commands, threats or ultimatums. Instead, ask your teen why they started using ENDS and what are the good and not-so good things about their use. Understanding what motivates them can help you address the situation and help them identify ways to cut down or stop. Once you set a quit date, co-develop a plan to help them distract themselves from cravings and have them write it all down. Encourage them to hang out with friends who don’t use ENDS or smoke cigarettes and practice how they might turn down offers to use by peers.

Your healthcare provider or school counselor can also provide support, or you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW – a toll-free number operated by the National Cancer Institute that will connect you directly to your state’s tobacco Quitline. Quitlines offer free advice and counselling to teens and adults, information about nicotine replacement products, self-help materials and referrals to other cessation resources. Most teens should be able to quit nicotine use with the support of their family and friends, but your adolescent medicine specialist or pediatrician can help make decisions about whether to use nicotine replacement therapy.

Is My Child Too Sick For School?

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC). the common cold is the main reason for school absences each year. Additionally, about 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17, missed three or more school days this past year because of illness or injury.

It’s often hard to draw a line on when to send your kid back to school after he has been sick and when to keep him home an extra day.

“Kids should stay home, if they have fevers over 100.5 degrees,” say CDC officials. “Then, the child should stay home until 24 hours without a fever have passed.”

Children also need to stay away from school if they need regular, special attention, for example if they are throwing up, need to take multiple naps throughout the day, or are on a nebulizer treatment. Staying home from school when the child is experiencing the above symptoms, not only helps the child get better faster, but also spares fellow students from catching various bugs.

CDC officials point out symptoms that children can have and still attend school.

Safe symptoms: 

  • Have a cold, but no fever
  • Runny nose or cough is present: Just make sure to wash hands frequently!
  • Green snot: Contrary to popular belief, the presence of green mucous does not mean a child is sick, it actually is a sign he is getting better.
  • Eating normally
  • Child is energetic

“Of course there are tons of different types of illnesses, each with their own exclusion criteria, but they are so individualized. Just makes sure to ask your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions,” say officials. “And make sure you ask when your child can go back.”

Back To School Transition!

For a smooth back-to-school transition, make sure you talk to your child about the transition, identify potential stressors and try a “dress rehearsal” to get them used to the routine.

Transitions, regardless of whether they are wanted or not, are challenging! Although many children will say that they look forward to going back to school, the transition can bring about stress that parents might not expect. For instance, kids might become clingy, moody or irritable if they have anxiety about leaving a school or teacher or starting something new in the fall.

Ways to help ensure a smooth back-to-school transition

  1. Talk to your child. Your child may appreciate that you recognize that these transitions, even if welcome, are not easy. It might also help them to identify where some of their negative feelings are coming from. For younger kids, read books about ending or starting school (for example, Franklin, Berenstain Bears, etc.) or let them draw pictures about their experience or feelings or act out scenarios with toys/dolls. For older kids, listen carefully without judging or trying to solve the problem. If your child does not want to discuss it, don’t force them to, but let them know you are ready to listen anytime they want to talk.
  2. Identify stressors and make small changes to help. For example, if your child is bored by the slower pace of summer, schedule some activities or find a way to create more structure. If your child is anxious about leaving old friends behind or making new friends, set up social activities with friends from a previous class or a new class.
  3. Try a “dress rehearsal” to get them used to the routine or the new location, building or classroom. Let them check it out ahead of time and talk about what it will be like. Remind them it can be hard at first but that it will get easier and you will be there to help them. Remind them of how nervous they were the previous year and praise them for how they adjusted then.

As with so many issues, listening openly and warmly to your child’s concerns without making them feel bad, embarrassed or that they are complaining too much is important. Although some of these issues may seem small to parents, they feel very big to kids.

Heat Illnesses In Children

On a hot and sunny summer day, the last thing a child wants to think about is sitting in the shade. Kids produce more heat during activities and sweat less, which is why they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, especially on hot, humid days.

Parents can help to avoid heat-related illnesses by making sure their children are wearing the right clothes for hot weather and drinking plenty of water.

Parents should also keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep kids in light colors
  • Wear loose fitting, cotton clothing
  • Wear a wide brim hat, preferably with ventilation
  • Stay hydrated

According to the Children’s National Health Systemheat-related illnesses exist on a spectrum, ranging from heat cramps to heat stroke. Below we explain some common heat-related illnesses, along with symptoms and treatment recommendations.

What are heat cramps?

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat-related illness and the first sign of trouble. Symptoms include:

  • Painful cramps, especially in the legs
  • Moist, flushed skin

If your child is experiencing the effects of heat cramps, there are a few ways to treat them:

  • Move the child to a cool place and rest
  • Remove excess clothing and place cool clothes on the skin (you can fan the skin too)
  • Give the child cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar, such as Gatorade
  • Stretch cramped muscles slowly and gently

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and happens when water and salt lost from the body through excessive sweating is not replaced with enough fluid. When a child’s body is unable to cool down, he or she may feel these symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale, moist skin
  • A fever higher than 100.4°
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety, and faint feeling

The treatment for heat exhaustion is similar to that for heat cramps, but the fever heightens the need for further medical attention:

  • Move the child to a cool place and rest
  • Remove excess clothing and place cool clothes on the skin (you can fan the skin too)
  • Give the child cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar, such as Gatorade
  • Stretch cramped muscles slowly and gently
  • If there is no improvement or your child is unable to take fluids, call your child’s physician or take your child to an emergency department immediately. IV (intravenous) fluids may be needed.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness and occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by excessive heat and can no longer regulate temperature. Dr. Cohen says you can tell when a child is in danger of heat stroke when there is no sweat and the skin is dry. Children experiencing these life-threatening symptoms need medical attention:

  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever, usually over 104º F
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Stupor
  • Seizures, coma, and death are possible

If your child is experiencing heat stroke, these are the steps you should take to treat them:

  • Move to a cool place and rest
  • Call 911 or your local emergency medical service. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency and needs to be treated by a physician
  • Remove excess clothing and drench skin with cool water; fan skin
  • Place ice bags on the armpits and groin areas
  • Offer cool fluids if alert and able to drink

 

Water Fears

Whether it’s on the beach or at the pool, many kids spend time engaged in water activities over their summer break. For most children, this is cause for celebration. But for some, these activities can cause a lot of anxiety. A fear of water can develop for many reasons, including:

  • A naturally anxious temperament
  • Seeing parents or friends who are afraid of water
  • A bad experience
  • Exposure to news of events like shark attacks or other children drowning

It is important to foster a healthy sense of respect and regard for water in your child, as there can be some risk of injury or death to children around water.  How do parents do this without creating fear in their children that prevents them from enjoying water sports and other activities? And, how can parents help a child who is afraid of the water?

First of all, it is important to talk to kids about how water can, and should be, a lot of fun, but that it can also be dangerous if kids don’t follow basic rules. Have a family meeting about rules around the water. Rules can include: always letting an adult know when you are going in the water and checking in when you get out of the water. You should emphasize that the pool rules (no running, no diving, etc.) should always be followed or the child must leave the pool immediately. For parents, make sure your kids are properly supervised to their level of ability in the water. Even with all these rules, it is important to convey to your children that they can have fun and be safe around the water.

If you have a child who is scared of water, don’t belittle them or tell them “not to worry.” Ask them what they are afraid of and let them know their feelings are okay.  It can be helpful to teach kids that their fear levels sometimes get out of whack, like a smoke alarm. If their fear (or what I call a “danger detector”) is set to go off too easily, they may miss out on some things that are actually safe and fun. This can happen with a fear of water. Let your child know that as a team, you can reset their danger detector.

To do this, encourage your child to get used to the water gradually and together. For instance, start with putting toes in. Praise them for trying! Next, put feet in, and so on. Keep praising, reassuring, and helping your child calm his or her fears through breathing or distraction. Sometimes it helps to remind them that the scary feelings, such as their heart beating fast or butterflies in their stomach, is just their danger detector going off and they have to use their brain to remind their body that it is okay! Tell them what a great job they are doing. Little by little, they may be able to work through their fear. If you need to use rewards, that can work too. For example, if they can stand in knee-deep water in the pool for a minute, they can get a nickel, or be allowed to play a favorite game for five minutes.

If your own efforts are not working and the child’s fear of water is getting in the way of family fun, a psychologist with expertise in treating specific phobias may be able to help.

Is My Child Ready For Camp?

Lots of kids love sleepaway camp. But how do you know when your child is ready for camp?

Generally, children are ready for an overnight camp between 8-10 years of age. Parents know their children best and should know if they are mature enough to handle it. A shorter, “trial” camp is often a good route for first-time campers.

Some indicators that your child may be ready:

  • He can get himself dressed, teeth and hair brushed and show some independence during daily routines
  • She has had a successful sleepover at a friend’s house
  • Your child is able to verbalize concerns to an adult comfortably

Benefits of summer camps

  • Provide opportunities to develop maturity and independence
  • Promote flexibility, problem solving and social skills (in a fun setting)
  • Specialty camps – for specific sports, interests or children with specific diseases – offer a way for kids to gain new skills with kids who have similar interests.

Talk with your child about camp

Include him in the decision-making process to find a camp that’s right. Schedule a tour of the camp ahead of time if you can.

Another tip is to talk with your child about specific scenarios and how to handle them. What if she doesn’t like the food one day? Or if she’s feeling sick? Counselors are trained to handle these situations so encourage them to confide in a camp counselor.

Manage your own expectations – and emotions!

Many children have a great time at camp and often forget to call or write home every day. And if they do, you should be prepared to hear a range of emotions. If your child is upset, be supportive – but don’t give him an easy out to come home. Everyone has bad days, and learning to cope with them is part of the experience.

Telling your child that you have confidence in them to succeed at camp is also important. Also, kids pick up on adults’ social cues, so if you’re anxious about camp, try not to show it!