Category Archives: Child Safety

Bullying and What You Can Do About It

Bully: a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.

Kids who bully use their power (it could be their physical strength, or popularity or access to embarrassing information) to control or harm other kids. Bullies make threats, spread rumors, attack other kids physically or verbally, or exclude them from a group on purpose.

Mean girls.
Mean girls.

There are four types of bullies, according to the National Centre Against Bullying, in Australia:

Verbal bullying includes name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse.

Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property.

Covert or hidden bullying is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Covert bullying includes:

  • Lying and spreading rumors
  • Negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
  • Playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
  • Mimicking unkindly
  • Encouraging others to socially exclude someone
  • Damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance

Cyberbullying can be overt or covert bullying behaviors using digital technologies, including computers and smartphones and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, and websites. Cyberbullying can happen at any time. It can be in public or in private and sometimes only known to the target and the person bullying. It includes:

  • Abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos
  • Deliberately excluding others online
  • Nasty gossip or rumors
  • Imitating others online or using their log-in.

Warning Signs

Recognizing signs that your child is being bullied is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

How to Talk About Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

You can encourage your kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied.

Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.

Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.

Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.

And of course, when we model how to treat others with kindness and respect, our kids learn it, too.

More Resources

Virginia Rules:  http://www.virginiarules.com/virginia-rules/bullying

StopBullying.gov:  http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/

National Centre Against Bullying:  http://www.ncab.org.au/

What Parents Can Do:  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bullying.aspx

Get Help Now:  http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/index.html

For more resources, go to http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/all

Summer Water Safety

Happy toddler girl having fun in a swimming pool

Now that summer is here and people are heading to the pool, the beach, pond, river or lake, it’s time for some water safety reminders.

Childsafetyblog.org wants parents and caregivers to put on their thinking-bathing caps when they do take in aquatic activities!  Being safe in and around water–even a child’s wading pool–is crucial to your child’s life and your happiness. Unfortunately, we must remind everyone that drowning can occur quickly.

SafeKids’ “drowning prevention” fact sheet ( http://www.safekids.org/our-work/research/fact-sheets/drowning-prevention-fact-sheet.html ) tells us that each year more than 830 children under the age of 14 drown and that nearly 3,600 injuries to children occur from near-drowning accidents.  No matter what we think about the recently televised Casey Anthony trial, the trial drew attention to very necessary pool safety and how easy it can be for very young children to access a family pool.  Here’s a sad factoid:

  • Home swimming pools are the most common site for a drowning to occur for a child between the ages 1 to 4 years.

One might think it would be just the opposite, that at home, parents, family members, caregivers or babysitters might be more available to watch a young child in and around the pool. However, these kinds of accidents usually occur when someone is not watching or paying attention, even though caregivers have claimed that children involved in drowning accidents were being supervised while in the water.

It bears repeating that accidents in and around the water happen fast.

These accidents happened, and the families of these children are bereft. It is painful to ask questions afterward–who was supervising, who was watching?   More facts:

  • 16 percent of drowning deaths in children under 5 years of age are at a family or friend’s pool, while 17 percent of deaths occur at a public, community, or neighbor pool.
  • The majority of infant (less than 1 year old) drowning deaths happen in bathtubs, buckets, or toilets.

This last fact, to us, is stunning.  But it also dictates that we, as parents and caregivers, can be the safety supervisor in our child’s lives when they are doing something as dangerous… as taking a bath.  Yes, dangerous.  Drowning can occur in as little as three inches of water.  SafeKids says that the most dangerous pools are children’s public wading pools, in-ground hot tubs or any others pools that have flat drain grates and/or a single main drain system. For these the danger is entrapment.

Childsafetyblog.org reminds parents to “actively supervise your children when they are in and around water at all times, and have a phone nearby to call for help in any emergency.

Spring, Allergies, and Your Kids

Photo of happy girls with handsome lads in front smiling at camera

I just finished reading an interesting and very relevant article in Parenting magazine about spring, kids and allergies.

It turns out that seasonal allergies, or hay fever, can strike a child for the first time in spring if he’s between two and five. How do you know it’s not another cold he picked up at school?

Princess Ogbogu, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, specializes in allergy and immunology at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. She says there are seven signs to watch for and if your child has several of these signs, he might need to be seen by an allergist. They are:

1.  If you, your child, or his father has suffered from allergies, asthma, or eczema.

2. Ongoing congestion.  That runny nose that hasn’t cleared up after a week or so.

3.  He has itchy, watery eyes.

4. He’s not running a fever or complaining about his body aching.

5. He might have a rash. It can appear anywhere on his body.

6. Or an ear infection. Allergies can lead to inflammation in the ear.

7. The final sign to watch for…your child gets worse on days when the pollen count is high.

A resource I’ve used is the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology: Children and Allergies.

Happy Spring! Make sure you have enough tissue handy!

 

 

Holiday Toy Safety

The consumer advocacy group, USPIRG, has released its annual Trouble in Toyland report highlighting toys that raise concerns because of toxic substances, choking hazards, magnets or excessive noise. All of these toys were purchased from national retailers or online.  Make this holiday a safe and happy one!

warning toy hazard photo

 

 

Kids and Bicycle Safety

Summer means ice cream and fireflies, cooking out, playing outside and bicycling. Riding bikes was such a vital part of my childhood memory. We want our kids to be out of doors and enjoying the break from school, biking to see friends or going on family bike rides.

Our job as parents is to make sure our children understand the rules of bicycle safety and that they’re wearing their helmets. Scraped knees, bumps and bruises are part of being a kid. We can’t protect our children from every little accident but we can do a great deal to make sure they are safe when bicycling.

The most important safety tool for bicycling is a helmet that fits properly and meets the Consumer Product Safety Standard. According to the NHTSA, wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of brain injury and head injury by as much as 85 percent. The statistics show that only 25% of children ages 5 to 14 are wearing helmets, whereas for teen riders it’s almost zero percent. Read more from the NHTSA here.

A properly fitting helmet should be snug, worn level on the head without tilting back on the head or sitting low on the forehead. The chinstrap, made strong enough to sustain an impact, should be firmly fastened to ensure that helmet doesn’t move from side to side or slip up and down. Read how to fit a bike helmet here.

Second in importance is making sure the bicycle is sized for your child. Have your child stand over the bicycle. According to the NHTSA, there should be 1 to 2 inches between your child and the top bar if using a road bike and 3 to 4 inches if a mountain bicycle. The seat should be level front to back. The seat height should be adjusted to allow a slight bend at the knee when the leg is fully extended. The handlebar height should be at the same level with the seat.

Your next step is to teach children bicycle safety tips. The NHTSA has bicycle safety advice and activities geared to the age of your child. Tips include:

  • Don’t wear loose fitting pants or have drawstrings or shoelaces that might get caught in the gears.
  • Don’t carry things in your hands; keep both hands on the wheels. Use a basket or backpack to carry items.
  • Be alert to things in the road like broken glass, rocks or potholes that might cause the bike to fall over.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes. For night riding wear a reflective vest or strip on clothing. It’s important to remember that just because you can see a car doesn’t mean they can see you.

Our children look up to us and they copy our behavior. It’s part of our duty to teach them the rules of bicycle safety and to show them, by example, the importance of staying safe.

Rules of the Road

If your child is allowed to ride on the street, he should follow these road rules:

  • Always ride with your hands on the handlebars.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, an alley, or a curb.
  • Cross at intersections. When you pull out between parked cars, drivers can’t see you coming.
  • Walk your bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
  • Ride on the right-hand side of the street, so you travel in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic.
  • Use bike lanes or designated bike routes wherever you can.
  • Don’t ride too close to parked cars. Doors can open suddenly.
  • Stop at all stop signs and obey traffic (red) lights just as cars do.
  • Ride single-file on the street with friends.
  • When passing other bikers or people on the street, always pass to their left side, and call out “On your left!” so they know that you are coming.

Additional Resources:

Helmets for Every Activity

Helmet Safety for Kids’ Sake

Information on Concussions

 

 

 

 

Raising Healthy Eaters

As the parent of 4 children ranging from 5 to 12 years old, I know how challenging it is to promote healthy eating. Good nutrition is one of those things we know we need to pay attention to, but sometimes it can get shoved aside as we deal with the business of daily life.

Our children’s future eating habits, and consequently their health, are based on what they learn now. Our role as parents is to help shape this awareness of nutrition and healthy eating.  We can’t control what our children are exposed to when they’re not at home, but we can teach them to develop an appreciation for good, nutritious foods.

Some Basic Tips for Focusing on Good Nutrition

Eat meals together. Sit at the table and enjoy the food. Try to serve nutritious meals–minimize the fast food on paper plates. Mealtime should be pleasant and easy going.

Try to reduce the use of prepared foods in favor of home-cooked meals.

D    Don’t force children to clean their plates or finish a food they don’t like. Associating discipline with food sets the stage for emotional eating. Allowing a child to stop eating when he’s hungry teaches him to listen to his body’s needs and will help reduce overeating.

  • If a child doesn’t like a new food, don’t force him to eat it. Quietly find a way to introduce the food another time. Tastes change over time as do eating preferences–if you continue to offer a wide variety of foods, your child is more likely to expand her list of foods she’ll eat.   Just last week, our daughter Cate decided that she now likes milk and green beans – foods that she used to “hate.”
  • Don’t use sweets or salty processed snacks as a reward. No more “Be a good boy and we’ll stop at McDonalds for fries.” Offer treats and rewards like a new book or outing to a favorite place.
  • If you need a refresher on nutrition, see www.choosemyplate.gov for recommendations and tips for parents.

 Get Children Involved In The Foods They Eat

Encourage children to help with menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. When children help prepare meals they develop an interest in the food. Talk about the food, read the nutritional labels and make it a learning experience. Talk as you shop; “what’s fresh today?” “These squash look really nice and colorful, how about we buy these.”  “What would you like for dinner tomorrow night, chicken or fish?” Even the youngest child can help with meal preparation in some fashion. Michael, my five year old, loves to stand on a chair and help me make pancakes by pouring in the measured ingredients.  Toddlers can help by washing a bunch of carrots and this is a great environment to teach an older child how to properly use a kitchen knife.

Change your family’s snacking habits. Dad can’t eat potato chips 24/7 and expect to deny them to the kids. Buy healthy snack foods and make them available to children. Slice veggies and put them in bags, ready to be eaten without preparation. Stock fruits and veggies in the front of the refrigerator.  Move chips, sweets and other less-healthy foods to higher shelves, put them in containers, or stop buying them all together. If you’re a soft drink family, transition to vitamin waters or all natural fruit juices (no sugars added). Offer up water on a regular basis–and let them see you drinking it as well.

If your family is fond of fried foods, sweets and salty snacks, you’ll want to take it slow. Gradually reduce one item at a time so your children barely notice.  Developing healthy eating habits can be done successfully–it just takes time.

Do you have any tips on getting children to eat nutritious meals?

More Information:

Healthy Eating Suggestions    (Link to: http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/food_labels.html#)

Understanding Nutrition Labels, Video  (Link:  http://bcove.me/nq9hn96t)

Children and Junk Food  (Link:  http://www.childsafetyblog.org/2012/11/children-and-junk-food.html)

Go, Slow, Whoa – Teens and Food  (Link: http://teenshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/go_slow_whoa.html )

Kids and Concussions, Part 2

Recently Donna Broshek, Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, and I recorded a public service announcement about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children. During our shoot, I was able to talk with her about this important topic.  One of the things I took away from that conversation is the importance of our role as parents in educating ourselves and our children about concussions.

Four Ways To Help Keep Your Child Safe

Bruised egos, broken bones and concussions are the biggest risks children face in sports–at an age and almost any sport. As parents we can lessen our safety concerns by becoming informed, engaged and in communication with our children, the schools and their coaches.

1)  Educate yourself.  Learn what a concussion is, its symptoms and what you can do to help your child or teen reduce the chances of a traumatic brain injury. For valuable resources see my first article, What Parents Need to Know About Concussions, Part 1.

2) Ask questions. Is your school system in compliance with the 2011 Virginia Student Athlete Protection Act? This bill established the Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes, requiring specific protocols for sports, protective gear and training.  

Talk to the coach, school administration, league representative and anyone else who is involved in your child’s sports.  How knowledgeable are they about concussions? Ask to see a copy of the school or league’s training manual for coaches and parent volunteers.

b) Check to see that helmets and equipment are up to date, in good repair and certified, if applicable.

c) Are athletes given any materials on safety, sportsmanship and injury?  Are parents given materials   on concussions?

3)  Talk to your children.  Talk about peer pressure and well-meaning adults who say, “tough it out” after an injury.  Explain in age-appropriate language what a concussion is and the dangers from returning to play too quickly. Talk from a place of love and concern about why their physical health is more important than playing when injured. Talk about the long-term effects of concussions.

4)  Get involved. Your level of involvement may depend on your child’s age. High school football players aren’t as comfortable with mom around as they were when they were children.  There are ways to become a ‘team parent’–from volunteering with fundraisers and parents’ groups to sitting on advisory committees. Attend games and practices (for younger children), show your support for the team and get to know your child’s coaches.

Your involvement as the parent of a young athlete is vital–it shows you care about your child’s participation and safety. And, should an accident occur you’re right there and able to see what happened and to take an active role in your child’s recovery from a concussion.

In my next article we’ll talk about how to prepare your child to play team sports.

Resources:

Parents’ vigilance can head off kids’ concussion risk (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/09/29/concussion-kids-cantu/1581173/)

The CDC Parent/ Athlete Concussion Information Sheet (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Parent_Athlete_Info_Sheet-a.pdf)

MomsTEAM.com (http://www.momsteam.com) – Helpful website for sports moms and dads.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month!

March is Brain injury awareness month and in recognition of this the Child Safety Blog is featuring a series of articles on concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children.  We also did a public service announcement with Donna Broshek, who is the Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute. You can see the PSA here.

Your role as a parent is to both protect and encourage your child in the world. It’s a tough balance–you want your child to play sports and other recreational activities and you want them to be safe. By learning about concussions, the symptoms and how to prevent concussions, parents can help keep their kids safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year over 207,000 children are treated in emergency departments for sports-related concussions and other TBIs. The highest occurrence is for youth between the ages of 5-18.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Excessive shaking can cause a concussion. Even a seemingly mild bump or blow to the head can be cause for concern and require medical attention.

A concussion may last for a short time or it can produce symptoms that last for days or weeks. While symptoms may appear mild, in some cases the injury can result in significant, lasting impairments.

While these should not be considered the absolute indicators of a concussion, they are signs that your child should seek medical attention:

  • Headache or neck pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in ears
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Temporary loss of consciousness or forgetting the incident

For more complete details on symptoms and what you should do, see this info sheet from The Mayo Clinic. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/concussion/DS00320/METHOD=print)

What To Do If You Think Your Child Has a Concussion

The first thing to do is call your child’s physician. He or she will give you advice on whether to seek immediate medical treatment or to wait and observe your child for a day or two. Some symptoms may not appear immediately so you need to pay careful attention for a number of days after the injury.

Take notes–it’s always helpful for doctors if you can provide a history of an accident. Was he hit in the head? Did she lose consciousness? For how long? Write down symptoms and any comments your child makes that may indicate signs of brain injury. For example, is your child confused about the day or time, or complaining of head pain or dizziness? The more information you can share with the doctor the better.

Try to keep your child calm during this initial period. Discourage too much physical movement and other strenuous or stressful events. Remember it’s always better to call the doctor if you’re concerned.

Some Statistics on Concussions

Children from birth to 9 years of age are most often injured during playground activities or while riding a bike.

  • The highest occurrences are in football and girl’s soccer.
  • Males represent 71.0% of all sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • Children aged 10-19 years account for 70.5% of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • For males aged 10-19 years, sports and recreation-related TBIs occurred most often while playing football or bicycling.
  • Females aged 10-19 years sustained sports and recreation-related TBIs most often while playing soccer or basketball or bicycling.

  (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports/facts.html)

If your child falls off his bike, bumps her head or is injured in a soccer game, he or she could suffer a concussion. Concussions can be serious if left untreated. Seek medical attention and keep a close eye on your child for the next few days–the doctor will give you suggestions on what to look for and what to do in the following days and weeks.

It’s important that you share information about the injury with teachers and coaches, if your child is in athletics, and ask them to help you watch for any potential signs of brain trauma.

And, as Donna Broshek advises in our PSA – when in doubt, sit them out.

In our next article we’ll talk about what parents can do to help prevent concussions.

Helpful Resources for Parents:

Concussions- The Kids Health Blog (http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/concussion.html# )  – Easy to read article describing concussions and the symptoms.

Concussion and Mild TBI (http://www.cdc.gov/Concussion/) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a wealth of resources on concussions.

Moms Team-Concussion Signs and Symptoms  (http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-signs-and-symptoms-physical-cognitive-emotional-sleep-related) Online source for youth sports parents.

Teaching Older Kids to Use Kitchen Knives Safely

I love to cook with my kids.  I was in the kitchen with one of my older girls the other day, and she asked if she could cut an onion for a soup I was making. Her technique scared me a bit, and I realized I needed to teach her how to properly use a kitchen knife.  I used to work as a sous chef for a while after college.  How well I learned to cook is debatable, but I did become pretty proficient at using a knife.  Here are a few tips:

  • Use a good, sturdy cutting board.  Keep it from slipping by using a board with non-slip feet, or put a wet towel or non-slip mat underneath.
  • Never cut food that you’re holding in your hand – place it and cut it on the cutting board..
  • Keep knives sharp – dull knives are more likely to slip and accidentally cause an injury
  • Secure the food with your opposite hand, and tuck your fingers to form a “claw” – your fingers should be straight up and down and can be used to guide the knife.  Here’s a picture of the technique.
  • Use a cutting board with plenty of space, and try to keep the tip of the knife in contact with the board as you chop.
  • Keep knives away from the edge of a counter top, and if a knife falls DO NOT try to catch it.
  • A good tool for kids to use at first is a double handled half moon knife (Mezzaluna).  This can only be used for chopping, but its design keeps stray fingers out of the way of the blade.
  • Always have adult supervision until you’re completely comfortable that a child can use a knife safely.

Here’s a good video that does a good job showing these techniques.  Stay safe and have fun cooking with your kids.

Burn Awareness Week

Every day throughout the United States, children arrive at emergency rooms for scald burn treatment. The major cause is contact with hot liquids, steam or hot foods. SafeKids USA says “90 percent of non-tap water scalds are caused during cooking or drinking hot liquids.” According to Shriners Hospitals for Children, “approximately 65 percent of children under age 4 hospitalized for burn injuries were scalded by hot liquids and 20 percent of those for contact burns.” www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/en/Education/BurnAwareness/HomeSafety.aspx

The majority of thermal burns to children under 14 years old are caused by contact with room heaters, ovens and ranges, clothing irons, gasoline, fireworks, hair curlers and curling irons. During the past 13 years, an average of 496 children each year died from unintentional fire or burn injury. According to the Shriners’ “Be Burn Aware” 2013 campaign, approximately 66 percent of electrical burn injuries in children ages 12 and younger are associated with household electrical cords and extension cords; and wall electrical outlet burns account for an additional 14 percent of electrical burn injuries.

Here are some tips to help avoid scald injuries to children:

  • Lower water heater temperature to 120˚F (49˚C) or less;
  • When filling a bathtub, run cold water first, then add in warmer water;
  • Before placing a child in a bathtub, check the water temperature by rapidly moving your hand through the water. If the water feels hot to an adult it is too hot for a child.
  • In the bathtub, face your child away from faucets;
  • Use knob covers on faucets; and
  • Always supervise your child closely in the bathtub.

And, to keep kids safe in the kitchen:

  • Always supervise children under age 7 using a microwave;
  • Turn pot handles on the stove inward; use oven mitts and potholders;
  • Make sure that micro waved food is thoroughly stirred before consuming;
  • Do not use deep fryers around children;
  • Do not hold children in your arms while cooking or passing hot food to others;
  • Test your baby’s food by placing one quarter spoonful on the underside of your wrist… if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for baby to safely swallow.

And, in case of a fire or burn emergency, Call 911 Immediately!