Internet Safety for Parents

Internet safety should be considered seriously. Children have access to information, videos, pictures – the list is long – through the internet. Information is easily accessible, and personal information is shared frivolously and dangerously. As a parent, you need to understand how to educate and protect yourself and your children. There are internet safety laws in place to add a layer of protection for your children under the age of 13.

Internet Safety Laws

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) helps protect children younger than 13 and is designed to keep anyone from getting a child’s personal information without a parent’s knowledge or consent (Ben-Joseph, 2018).

Online Protection Tools

Many internet service providers have available software that assists in blocking sites and restricts personal information from being sent online.

Here are some free parental control software programs for you to examine.

  • Qustodio
  • OpenDNS FamilySheild
  • KidLogger
  • Kaspersky Safe Kids

Streaming services like Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV have parental controls built into them. Gaming services like PlayStation and Xbox have parental control options also (Ellis, 2020).

Getting Involved in Kids’ Online Activities

Teach your children safe and responsible online behavior by exploring the internet with them. You don’t have to literally look over their shoulder to monitor your children’s internet usage. Create your own social media accounts, and follow your children to keep tabs on what they are posting and who they are communicating with online.

Share these basic guidelines for online safety with your children.

  • Never post or trade personal pictures
  • Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location
  • Use your screenname only, and don’t share passwords
  • Never agree to meet in person or online without parental consent or supervision
  • Never respond to threatening messages or posts
  • Always tell a parent or trusted adult about any communication or conversation that was scary or hurtful

Remember these basic guidelines for parental supervision.

  • Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch and monitor who uses it
  • Monitor time spent on smartphones or tablets
  • Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access
  • Check credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar charges
  • Find and learn about the online protection offered by your child’s school, after-school care, friends’ homes, or any place where your child could use a computer without your supervision
  • Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange

The Internet and Teens

Teenagers want – and need – some privacy. They may carry smartphones with them and have access to the internet at all times. Keep having the same conversations with your teens about passwords, staying safe online, and being careful about sharing personal information.

The internet can also provide a safe, virtual, environment for your teens to explore and have the freedom to do so. Not everything about the internet is ominous and scary. It can be helpful in learning and acquiring knowledge. It can be helpful in connecting with friends and family who are all over the world. It can be a place where your children can express their thoughts and ideas through informational websites, such as blogs. Starting internet safety conversations at a young age can increase your children’s online awareness and engagement in safe behaviors (Dredge, 2014).

 

References

Dredge, S. (2014, August 11). How do I keep my children safe online? What the security experts tell their kids. Children’s tech. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/11/how-to-keep-kids-safe-online-children-advice

Joeseph, E. (2018, April). Internet safety. Kids Health. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/net-safety.html

Techradar. (2020). The best free parental control software and apps 2020. https://www.techradar.com/best/parental-control

Children under 24 months are sweet enough without adding sugar!

Dietary guidelines for Americans are issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services. The 2020-2025 guidelines include updated information about added sugar for children younger than 24 months and recommend these children do not receive any added sugars. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated labels to include information on whether a food has added sugars and how much. 

Read the labels

The biggest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, and candy. An example of information about added sugar in packaged foods is now available on the “Nutrition Facts” label (FDA, 2021).

What is added sugar?

Many foods or beverages have extra sugar and syrups added to them when they are processed or prepared. These added sugars have many different names, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose (FDA, 2021).

Here are a few ideas for how you can help your family reduce added sugar intake:

  • Read nutrition facts labels carefully (CDC, 2020). Many foods now list whether a food has added sugar and/or the amount of added sugar. You also can find information about added sugar by reading the ingredients. Avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years old. Learn more about nutrition facts labels here (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Serve water and milk. Avoid serving soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, and fruit drinks. Milk is a good beverage choice, and it contains natural sugar (lactose) and provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients children need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Fruit juice has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years old. It is recommended that you do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Go fresh and limit processed, pre-packed food and drinks. Sugar is often added to processed and pre-packaged food items while they are being made or at the table. For example, there are hidden sources of added sugar in processed foods like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressings, and baked beans (CDC, 2020).
  • Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit (Healthy Children, 2020). Keep bananas, oranges, or grapes in your young child’s line of sight, and offer these and other fruits regularly.

By limiting sugar and avoiding added sugars in your child’s diet, you are helping to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy beginning for your child. An app is available through the USDA My Plate Campaign to help you follow the new guidelines available on the My Plate website (USDA, 2021).

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 17). Food and drinks for 6 to 24 months old. Nutrition. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html

Healthy Children. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: APA tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-to-Reduce-Added-Sugar-in-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, January 4). Changes to nutrition facts labels. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). What’s on your plate? MyPlate. https://www.myplate.gov

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020,

December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (9th ed.). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

Social Media and Self-Esteem

The creation of social media sites and applications has changed the ways in which people interact, connect, and share with one another. Perhaps children and adolescents are the most affected by these technological advancements. Teens and pre-teens are among the highest consumers of social media. As the number of social media sites and apps increases, children and adolescents increase their usage (Anderson, 2018). So, questions arise regarding social media usage such as can too much time spent on social media impact the way children see themselves?  Can social media usage affect a youth’s self-esteem?

Social media can be positive and negative. It’s positive for children to use social media as this platform allows them to share interests or posts about their favorite sports, celebrities, artists, and talents with a diverse group of like-minded individuals. However, social media can be negative if children are using social media as a measure of their likability or popularity (Koutamanis, 2015). Parents need to remember that even though technologies are quickly changing, the developmental needs of children remain the same (Orth, 2018).

Research has demonstrated an individual’s ability to verbalize a sense of his or her overall worth as a person emerges around the age of 8, which suggests that this time period is very crucial in the development of self-esteem (Orth, 2018). During this stage, children begin to discover their abilities and characteristics and begin their evolution into being known by and identifying with what they have discovered about themselves. Children in mid to late childhood (i.e., ages 8 to 10 years old) are able to understand that success in domains of personal importance promotes high self-esteem, whereas failure in these domains undermines their sense of competence and takes a toll on self-esteem (Orth, 2018).

As children emerge into late childhood and early adolescence, parental approval continues to affect self-esteem, but it is not as influential as peer approval (Erol, 2011). During adolescence (i.e., ages 11-19 years old), youth are undergoing the process of identity development, and self-esteem is an important part of this development. During this developmental period, adolescents’ self-esteem is likely to be affected by the feedback they receive online through social media sites (Burrows, 2017). Teens describe social media platforms as a key tool for connecting and maintaining relationships, being creative, and learning more about other cultures and diverse peoples. Clearly, in these ways, social media usage can be a positive experience; however, youth are also exposed to the negative aspects of social media use, such as drama and bullying or feeling pressure to present themselves in a certain way (Anderson, 2018). Furthermore, adolescents tend to over interpret or misjudge the extent to which others are evaluating them, which can lead to a preoccupation with how they look in the eyes of others (Valkenburg, 2016). Positive feedback received online has been shown to enhance self-esteem, and negative feedback has been shown to have the reverse effect (Valkenburg, 2017).

Positive impacts on self-esteem can occur through interactions via social media if adolescents feel a sense of connectedness and support, but some experiences online may have a negative impact on self-esteem. The negative impact is not always caused by cyberbullying or a negative comment. When a child does not receive the expected or desired feedback or feels a sense of pressure to “perform” or post content, the right content, for “friends,” this pressure or stress can cause anxiety and will probably negatively affect a child’s self-esteem.

Today, parents must find a balance between mitigating the negative risks to their adolescent’s self-esteem that can happen when engaging in social media and allowing their youth to engage on social platforms. Realizing and enforcing this balance can lead to arguments or a parent’s guilt about his or her child being the outcast or “left behind” socially because he or she is not allowed to be on social media constantly.

Awareness of how much time your child spends on social media and the level of importance he or she places on social media interactions can be a telling factor into how these interactions are affecting your child’s self-esteem (Brewer, 2015). Social media’s negative effects on children may promote unhealthy behaviors like becoming isolated or irritable or experiencing a drop in grades or loss of interest in activities (Verduyn, 2017). To address these adverse effects and help their child develop social skills, parents could foster a sense of purpose through encouraging their child to engage in volunteering, sports, creative arts, clubs, or other in-person activities.

Parents are their children’s first teachers and understanding how to promote your child’s positive online interactions and build your child’s self-esteem can be done by modeling those behaviors. For example, parents may want to carefully consider if they want to post pictures of their child on social media and may want to think about the content of the photos. A “cute” picture of your child taking a bath may be embarrassing to your child. Model ethical behavior, ask permission from your children before posting online pictures or activities that involve them, and teach your children to respect the privacy of others.

 

References

Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior,48, 255–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.073

Burrows, A.L., & Rainone, N. (2017). How many likes did I get? Purpose moderate’s links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,69, 232–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.09.005

Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2011). Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(3),607–619. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024299

Koutamanis, M., Voosen, H. G., & Valkenburg, P. (2015). Adolescents’ comments in social media: Why do adolescents receive negative feedback and who is most at risk? Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 486–494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.016

Orth, U., Erol Y., & Luciano, C. (2018). Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 144, 1045-1080. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000161

Valkenburg, M., Koutamanis, M., & Vossen, H.G. (2017). The concurrent and longitudinal relationship between adolescents’ use of social network sites and their social self-esteem. Computers in Human Behavior,76, 35–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.07.008

Valkenburg, M., Peter, J., & Walther, J. B. (2016). Media effects: Theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology,67, 315–338. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-pscyh-122414-033608

Verduyn, P., Ybarry, O., Résibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social network sites enhance or undermine subjective well-being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review,11(1), 274–302. https://doi.org/10.1111/sipr.12033

 

Influenza and Children: Your child may benefit more than ever from an Influenza (flu) shot this year!

This year’s flu season will coincide with the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are cautioning the occurrence of a “Twin-demic.” That is when two diseases spread at the same time. Yes, you can contract Influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm our healthcare systems.

In children, the flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold. There are more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold, which is an upper respiratory virus that usually only causes symptoms in the nose and throat areas. Rarely does the common cold cause fever or serious complications for children. Influenza or the flu is a lower respiratory infection that attacks the lungs and our oxygen exchange system. The flu commonly causes fevers and reduced oxygen levels, which can lead to very serious and life-threatening illnesses for children, like pneumonia (CDC,2020).

There can be some confusion surrounding the flu shot and how it actually works in our bodies. The flu shot is a vaccination made up of three to four different kinds of influenza virus strains. This year, the flu shot contains the H1N1, Type A, and Type B strains (CDC, 2020). The flu shot has only pieces of the viruses and does not cause the flu. It takes about 2 weeks for the immune system to create antibodies from the flu shot.  Every year, scientists decide what are the best viral strains of the flu to use in the annual flu vaccination, and these strains, on average, have a 45% rate of accuracy (CDC, 2020). Any flu antibodies your body creates will lessen the symptoms and severity of the flu, and you may be better off than if you had not been vaccinated at all (Arriola, 2017).

The flu shot offers several benefits to your child, such as the following:

  • Reduce the spread of flu to others.
  • Reduce flu illnesses and make them shorter and milder if you do get them.
  • Reduce doctor’s visits.
  • Reduce the number of missed school days.
  • Reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death.
  • Provide preventive care for children with chronic health conditions.

The flu shot is very important for children and teenagers who are at high risk of complications from the flu, including those who have the following characteristics:

  • Are between 6 months and 5 years of age.
  • Have chronic heart or lung disorders.
  • Have chronic conditions that weaken the immune system.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have chronic kidney disease.
  • Have chronic anemia or a hemoglobin disorder.
  • Have a chronic neurological disorder.
  • Are severely obese (body mass index ≥40).
  • Need to take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin) on a daily basis.
  • Live with another child or adult who is at risk of complications from the flu.

In addition to children, pregnant women and individuals and caregivers who care for children less than 5 years of age should also receive the flu shot (Thompson, 2016). Given during pregnancy, the flu shot helps to protect the baby from the flu for several months after birth, which is a time when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated (Benzowitz, 2010).

 

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

 

References

Arriola, C., Garg, S., Anderson, E. J., Ryan, P. A., George, A., Zansky, S. M., Bennett, N., Reingold, A., Bargsten, M., Miller, L., Yousey-Hindes, K., Tatham, L., Bohm, S. R., Lynfield, R., Thomas, A., Lindegren, M. L., Schaffner, W., Fry, A. M., & Chaves, S. S. (2017). Influenza vaccination modifies disease severity among community-dwelling adults hospitalized with Influenza. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 65(8), 1289–1297. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix468

Benowitz, I., Esposito, B., Gracey, D., Shapiro, D., & Vázquez, M. (2010). Influenza vaccine given to pregnant women reduces hospitalization due to influenza in their infants. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 51(12),1355-1361. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058908/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 31). What are the benefits of flu vaccination? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 11). A strong defense against flu: get vaccinated! https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/strong-defense-against-flu.pdf

Thompson, M., Kwong, J., Regan, A., Katz, M., Drews, S., Azziz-Baumgartner, B., Klein, K., Chung, H., Effler, P., Feldman, B., Simmonds, K., Wyant, B., Dawood, F., Jackson, M., Fell, D., Levy, A., Barda, N., Svenson, L., Fink, R., Ball, S., Naleway, A. (2016). Influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing influenza-associated hospitalizations during pregnancy: A multi-country retrospective test negative design study. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 68(9),1444–1453. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciy737