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Three must-have conversations about online child safety

  • Written by ARA

15944466_web(ARA) - Academic performance expectations, attendance at school functions and balancing extra-curricular activities with time for homework — parents and children have a lot to talk about at the beginning of the school year. Few conversations, however, will be as important  or as fraught with tension as discussing how children should and should not behave online.

While many kids look forward to reuniting with school friends from last year, they’ll be meeting new people, too. Many of those interactions will take place, in part, in the digital world bringing online child safety front-of-mind for parents as back-to-school season arrives. To help protect your child while he or she is online, start the school year with three important conversations:

How to behave when connecting online

The anonymity of the Internet makes meeting strangers seem appealing and safe. But kids should use at least the same level of caution when meeting someone new online as they would in the real world.

Explain to kids why they should never initiate or accept online contact from someone they haven’t first met in person. Given all the information we tend to give away in our online profiles, it’s like walking up to a stranger on the street and inviting him or her into your home.

Employ tools like SafetyWeb to help keep kids safe online. The tool helps parents monitor online activity and includes an active blog/forum that allows parents and pros to discuss the latest child-rearing challenges of the digital age. Review the privacy settings on your child’s social media accounts so that your son or daughter understands what’s visible to friends and what is visible to everyone else (preferably, nothing). Create the social media accounts with your child so that you know what sites she uses and who her online friends are.

Establish designated times when children are allowed online for social media use and times when they can use the Internet for schoolwork. Never allow children to use the Internet behind closed doors. Yes, they’ll probably say everyone else does it and that you’re ruining their lives, but keeping Internet-enabled devices in a common area can help make it easier for you to protect your child.

How to behave when interacting online

As a parent, you have two concerns for your child’s online life: first, that he or she experiences no harm from online interactions. Second, that he or she causes no harm to others.

The digital world makes communication fast and easy, yet its drawbacks are many: it’s highly conducive to impulsive behavior, it’s difficult to accurately convey tone and intention, and it’s nearly impossible to erase something once it’s posted online. Children need to understand the limitations of this form of communication and that missteps online can have a long-term impact in the real world.

The anonymity of the Internet has made it easier for people to be mean to each other and given rise to a whole new type of bullying: cyberbullying. A study by isafe.org found that 58 percent of fourth- through eighth-graders have had mean or hurtful things said to them online, and (even more disturbingly) 53 percent admitted to having said something mean or hurtful to another person online.

Help your child understand the type of behavior that constitutes cyberbullying so that she can both avoid cyberbullies and avoid engaging in acts of cyberbullying. In addition to monitoring your child’s online behavior, encourage him to have a robust social life in the real world — the environment in which we really learn how to behave with others.

How to behave when interacting in person

While you’re teaching about appropriate online behavior, it’s important to reinforce lessons about being a good person in face-to-face interactions. Bullying has been around as long as people have; teach children how to recognize instances of in-person bullying and help them learn techniques for coping with bullies.

Being a good citizen of the digital world starts with being a good person in the real world. Reinforce with kids the importance of good behavior both online and in person, and most importantly — lead by example.

Creating super summer snacks with grapes is a breeze

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) - Early summer marks the beginning of the California grape season. These bite-size treats are the perfect snack —  crisp, sweet and only 90 calories per 3/4 cup serving. Grapes are also very juicy, making them a welcome source of hydration as outdoor activities and temperatures increase.

Always ripe and ready-to-eat, convenient (no peeling, no seeds), and packable for a picnic or day camp, grapes are really today’s super snack. And there’s more good news: Grapes of all colors are a delicious source of antioxidants and other polyphenols, and research suggests that grapes support heart health and may help defend against a variety of age-related and other diseases.

Selecting grapes is a breeze, since all grapes are fully ripe when they arrive at the supermarket.  Simply look for plump grapes with pliable green stems. Once home, keep your grapes unwashed and refrigerated in a plastic bag until ready to use, then rinse with cold water and serve.

While fresh grapes are most often enjoyed as a snack, more and more people have discovered the versatility of grapes as an ingredient. Why? Fresh grapes from California add color, crunch and a light touch of sweetness to snacks and meals. Toss them into yogurt or nearly any kind of salad: fruit, green, grain, chicken or tuna. Create grape and cheese skewers for an easy appetizer. For a cool summer treat, freeze your grapes: just rinse them, pat them dry and place them in the freezer for two hours. The result is like sweet bursts of sorbet.

Here are a couple more tasty snacks for kids and adults. These wholesome and easy-breezy treats show off grapes’ natural pairing potential with all things dairy.

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Grape, Honey and Yogurt Pops

Makes eight standard size frozen treats.

Ingredients:

1 pound red or black seedless California grapes, rinsed and stemmed

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 container (16 ounces) vanilla or honey Greek yogurt or a combination

Directions:

Puree the grapes in a food processor or blender (you’ll have about 2 cups). Transfer to a medium-size pot and bring to a boil. Boil the grapes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the sugar and honey and let cool to room temperature.

Fold in the yogurt just until nicely swirled, then spoon into frozen treat molds. Cover with foil, insert sticks and freeze for 4 to 6 hours or until set.

Nutritional analysis per serving: calories 127; protein 4.2 g; carbohydrate 27 g; fat 1 g;  7 percent calories from fat; cholesterol 2 mg; sodium 16 mg; fiber .5 g.

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Grape Snack Bites

Makes eight snack bites.
Ingredients:

2 full graham crackers (to yield 8 small rectangles)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lowfat cream cheese

8 seedless California grapes, sliced

Directions:

Break each graham cracker into its four small rectangles. Spread 1 teaspoon cream cheese on each cracker and top with sliced grapes. Serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per snack: calories 28; protein .7 g; carbohydrate 4 g; fat 1 g; 35 percent calories from fat; cholesterol 3 mg; sodium 40 mg; fiber .1 g.

For more grape snack and recipe ideas, visit www.grapesfromcalifornia.com or Facebook at www.facebook.com/GrapesFromCalifornia.

When parents should seek professional help for an out-of-control teen

  • Written by ARA

Adolescence can be a tough time for children and their parents. While it is a natural part of childhood development to test boundaries and explore autonomy, how can a parent tell when to call in a professional for help with an out-of-control child?

It can be difficult to tell what is normal development and what is beyond the pale, especially between 12 and 16 years of age. There is an established rise in difficulty in the parent-child relationship in the late middle school and early high school years, says Devin Byrd, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions at South University.

“Around this age, children are developing abstract thought and autonomy,” says Byrd, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is an expert in child and adolescent psychology and development. “Children and teens are finding that their friends have opinions they may want to agree with, which can lead to a loss of authority for parents.”

While some level of boundary-testing is natural, Byrd says that there are signs that parents can look for to tell if their child needs help.

“Some children exhibit externalizing behavior: acting out in school, fighting, stealing and being less tolerant of others’ behavior. Some will internalize things. They will become anxious or depressed, withdraw from friends and family, and be less interested in activities and schoolwork,” he says.

Other signs could be bad grades, a change in peer groups and a tendency toward daring, high-risk activities. Sometimes these changes can be tied to a life-changing event, such as divorce or the death of a loved one. But the changes may also occur so gradually that a parent may not be able to recognize how bad things have become.

Byrd suggests talking to your child’s teachers and even your friends and family members to gauge whether a child has gone too far. Overall, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is better to get help too early than too late.

Once you have decided to seek professional help, you may be able to find a referral for a therapist from your child’s doctor or from school or church officials.

Another option may be to go through your health insurance provider or workplace employee assistance program.

When you have chosen a therapist, Byrd offers a few suggestions for your first visit:

• Talk to your child about why you want to seek help, and be open about the process. Don’t think you can trick your child into therapy.

• Take any notes you have made about your child’s behavior, along with any drawings, poems or stories that the child has created.

• Go in with your child for the first visit. It will show your child that you are committed to the process. After that, the therapist may or may not invite you back for future sessions.

• Be ready to talk in an open, honest manner  and be prepared to make changes alongside your child. Byrd says to remember that “you are not dropping your child off to be ‘fixed.’ You may well be part of the problem.”

Depending on the issues involved and the style of the therapist, the length of time your child may spend in therapy will vary. But in general, be prepared for a commitment of two to three months or longer.

Therapy can and does help adolescents through what can be a very difficult period in their lives, and you can demonstrate a healthy pattern for living by addressing issues with the help of professionals.

“As with any therapy, having a professional take an outside view at the situation can be quite beneficial,” says Byrd. “It is much easier for someone else to see what is going on with us than it is for us to see what is going on with ourselves.”

Do you hear what I hear?

  • Written by ARA

What you need to know about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in adolescents

Due to the increased use of earbuds, adolescent hearing loss is up 5 percent over the last decade, which now affects 20 percent of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 19, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s no surprise the increase in popular portable digital media player ownership from 18 percent to 76 percent over the past five years, along with frequent use at loud volumes, has contributed to young people losing their hearing.

“Since hearing loss in children and teens is on the rise, it is important for adults to play an active role in prevention and seek out methods to minimize hearing loss, such as understanding safe volume levels,” says Michelle Atkinson, vice president of Energizer North America Marketing. “Ensuring your children have the appropriate products can make a big difference in their lives.”

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sounds and usually occurs gradually over time, according to the Better Hearing Institute. Since this form of hearing loss is painless and invisible, it would be difficult for you to detect the problem in your children and grandchildren. But, there are things you can do to help prevent NIHL.

“Even minimal hearing loss can result in educational and behavioral problems in children,” said Lara Noble, Au.D., CCCA, chief audiologist of the Center for Hearing and Speech of St. Louis. “It is important for people to practice safe listening habits with the kids in their life.”


Safe listening tips

• Turn it down. Get into the habit of listening to the TV, radio and personal audio devices at a softer level.

•  Get high-quality earbuds with noise cancelation or sound isolation properties.

• Use 60 percent of a device’s volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time, since the longer the duration of exposure, the greater the risk.

• Download a noise meter app to determine the sound levels in your environment.

• For an affordable and effective way to protect your hearing, use earplugs.

Do you need a hearing aid?

Don’t miss out on important moments in your life. If you experience any of the symptoms below, you should contact your physician and ask for their referral on a hearing specialist:

• Your lack of hearing starts to interfere with your normal way of life.

•You have trouble understanding people on the phone.

• You have a hard time following conversations when people are speaking at the same time.

• You misunderstand others when they are talking to you.

• Your family and friends complain you’ve got the volume too loud on the TV or radio.

For more information on these symptoms, visit www.healthyhearing.com.

For those who need a hearing aid, Energizer ZEROMERCURY hearing aid batteries are a superior solution. The batteries are recently improved and more powerful than ever, and with EZ Turn & Lock packaging that allows for hassle free battery dispensing, Energizer is a reliable choice. Find out more at www.energizer.com/hearingaid.

Step into summer with tips for family fun in the sun

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) - Summer days do not have to be lazy. Children may be used to action-packed schedules in school, but by stepping up their planning, families can enjoy outdoor activities that are engaging and help keep children active. Whether camping or simply exploring the park down the street, it’s important to plan ahead for summer fun, especially when it comes to sun protection.

Alison Sweeney, host of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and mother of two, says family routines do not have to be complicated. Simple things such as hiking and bike-riding are among her family’s favorite summertime activities, and she does everything she can to keep her family healthy in the process. “I always encourage my family to be active outdoors as part of a healthy lifestyle, even if it’s just a quick walk around the neighborhood or an impromptu scavenger hunt in the backyard. No matter what activity we are doing, practicing sun safety habits is a must,” explains Sweeney.

Having long been an advocate for daily sun protection, Sweeney has four practical tips for families as they gear up for outdoor fun this summer:

• Develop a sun-safe program for your family. Just like brushing your teeth before you go to bed, it’s important to teach your children to practice the proper sun safety habits before heading outside for some time in the sun. Any good routine includes the use of essentials such as broad spectrum sunscreen, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

• Choose the right sunscreen for your activities. If you plan on engaging in intense outdoor activities that will make you sweat a lot such as rock-climbing or hiking, try Coppertone Sport Pro Series. These lightweight formulas stay on strong, but also allow your skin to breathe while keeping it hydrated. “It’s so important to find a sunscreen that can keep up with the activities you have planned for the day. I love to use Coppertone Sport Pro Series during long bike rides because it doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight or greasy,” says Sweeney.

• Time flies when you are enjoying the outdoors, but be sure you are making time to reapply sunscreen. Look for some new sun protection options that help simplify reapplication so that you can get back to having fun with your family more easily.  “I make sure we reapply every two hours or after towel drying, swimming or sweating,” says Sweeney. “My children love to be in the water, which is why I use Coppertone Wet ‘n Clear Kids. It cuts through water on wet skin and sprays on clear, so you don’t even need to towel dry the kids before reapplying.”

• Know when to break. It’s important to take breaks and get out of the sun for a while, especially on hot days and between the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  When it’s time to grab a snack with the family, find some shade and relax.

Coppertone is teaming up with Alison Sweeney to help find the next Little Miss Coppertone through a nationwide search on Facebook. For contest details, visit www.facebook.com/coppertone.