Parents, Teenagers And The Dangers of Online Dating

Gabriella van Rij

When most of today’s parents were teenagers, they developed their romantic crushes on the person they sat next to in algebra class, bumped into in front of their school lockers, or spotted at the next table in the cafeteria.

But these days, teens in search of a date for Saturday night can find romance online, which brings both convenience and risk.

“More than ever, teenagers need a crash course in online safety and social media issues that they encounter on a daily basis,” says Gabriella van Rij (, a kindness activist, anti-bullying proponent and author whose latest book is Watch Your Delivery.

February is an opportune time for parents to broach the subject because it’s National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. But van Rij says any time is the right time.

“It’s a subject you should have ongoing conversations about,” she says.

Online dating is extremely popular among adults, but teenagers haven’t been left out as technology continues to shape the way people meet and interact. A Pew Research Center study found that 8 percent of all teenagers say they met a romantic partner online. Most teens, though, reported they hadn’t dated anyone at all. When Pew narrowed its findings just to teens who have dated, the percentage who met their dating partner online jumped to nearly 25 percent. [Read more…]

What Happened To The Stars?

DSC_0290-239x300By Justin and Le-Anne Noble

Have you seen the greatest show on earth? It boggles the mind and will leave you in awe. You won’t see this show in any theater, on any TV, or in any arena. It’s a show that has taken billions of years to produce. It will send you through time, and take your imagination to amazing heights. It’s a show that is free to us all, yet most of us don’t take the time to tune in. It’s a huge part of us, and yet we neglect it more and more every passing day. This amazing show is the night sky, and it’s more important to you and your child’s health than you think.

Every clear night, not too long after the sun sets, we are all offered front row seats to the wondrous spectacle that is our universe. Humankind has tuned in to this show for as long as we have existed. It’s been the source of legends and myths. It has inspired some of the most breathtaking works of art ever created. It was an instrumental tool in helping us navigate the seas and explore our own planet. It was the subject of our earliest forms of science and philosophy. It has been the launching pad of dreams. And it continues to provide perspective on humanity and our place in the universe. [Read more…]

Media Consumption & Your Kids: How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

shutterstock_215591425It’s amazing how savvy young children are when it comes to mobile devices and entertainment technology. Their aptitude with electronics is admirable, but how much screen time is too much? Here, we address the risks associated with too much screen time and solutions for cutting back on your children’s tech use.

Excessive Use of Tablets & Smartphones

Nearly 40 percent of children ages two to four have used a tablet-type device to play games, use apps or watch videos, according to a Common Sense Media report. And more than a quarter of parents have downloaded apps for their child. The 2013 report also showed that the number of children who use technology on a daily basis has more than doubled since 2011.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that excessive device use has been associated with obesity, aggression and behavioral issues. For some reason, children light up when they see Mom or Dad’s smartphone, and it’s hard for parents to say no. In addition, many parents are fascinated at their children’s ability to master the device.

To put our love for tablets into perspective, Dr. Aric Sigman, a psychologist, told The Guardian that children born now will accumulate an entire year’s worth of screen time by age seven. He doesn’t exclusively mention tablets or smartphones, but their portability and ease-of-use makes them a top source of screen time.

The solution: As with anything, moderation is key. Avoid passive screen time. Use mobile devices such as the Google Nexus 6 for educational games or shared time together, and monitor the time your child spends using these devices. The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests parents avoid using technology to keep children occupied and advises against giving children a device when they are fussy or throwing tantrums. If your child is upset, her or she needs the comfort of a parent, not a gadget or device.

[Read more…]

Parental Cheat Sheet for Teaching Kids Water Safety at the Pool, Beach

United States Swim School Association provides tips for water safety during vacations

Vacation is a great time for families to kick back and relax at the pool or beach. Kids can burn off their extra energy splashing around while mom and dad enjoy some much needed time sitting back in a chaise lounge without worrying about a to-do list. Before arriving at the pool or beach though, parents should prepare by evaluating their kids¹ water safety knowledge and swimming skills. While some kids have the opportunity to swim year round, most only spend time in the pool or at the beach in the summer or during vacations. This makes it essential for parents to go over water safety rules before arriving at the pool or beach when kids will be over excited and distracted. 

The United States Swim School Association has compiled the following tips parents can use to prepare their children to be around water while on vacation.

[Read more…]

Five Steps to Encourage an Attitude of Gratitude in Our Children

dr-monishaBy Monisha Vasa, M.D.

My brain knows that gratitude is important.  I know when I am in a state of gratitude–aware of my blessings, small and big, I feel happier and less alone.  I feel more connected to the people around me, and my life experiences. I feel in my body a life force greater than myself.

But my heart can find it difficult to stay in a sustained place of gratitude.  Rather, it is a practice of reminding myself over and over, to start, over and over.  Sometimes that means making lists of things I am grateful for at the end of each day, or at least at the end of the week.  Sometimes that means taking a deep, conscious breath before I get out of bed and put my feet on the floor.

I am learning to practice gratitude as an adult.  But what would it be like if we could introduce the concept of gratitude to our children when they are young?  If gratitude just became a part of their vocabulary, a daily habit like brushing their teeth or eating dinner?  If they can experience the magic of gratitude early, perhaps the practice wouldn’t feel so challenging or foreign to them.  

Here are five steps to encourage an attitude of gratitude in our children:

[Read more…]

Angry Fans Cited in Shortage of Refs in Western Pennsylvania

Tim Hammond’s refereeing nightmare began when he called two borderline fouls during a fifth-grade boys basketball game in Beaver County.

After the second whistle, the coach complained from the sidelines: “That wasn’t a foul! Just let ’em play.”

Someone in the stands yelled, “Hey, ref! Meet me in the parking lot.”

“Holy cow,” thought Hammond, a first-year official. “This is a fifth-grade game and they’re threatening to beat me up.”

A parent approached him afterward and told him he didn’t know how to officiate. In her opinion, he had blown several calls.

Hammond, 35, of Beaver Falls listened politely. When she was finished, he told her, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and hurried out of the gym.

Western Pennsylvania’s youth sports leagues are experiencing a referee shortage. And a big part of the reason, sports officials say, is criticism referees endure from spectators and coaches.

Read more at the Tribune-Review.

I Had to Fire the Nanny!

TeresaTaylor_HeadshotBy Teresa Taylor

Now what?

Daycare Failure: two words that panic any working mother. We work to split ourselves from our maternal feelings, and we theorize that if we have a system of day care for our children, with numerous backup and contingency plans, it will allow us to be at our workplace’s beck and call, to meet every demand, and to run at any pace.

We also work on the belief that if we find the right people and create the right depth to our system, it will immunize us against feelings of guilt or inadequacy when it comes to our kids.  This belief is as readily available as office coffee. Just when we feel that we have a smooth rhythm and some assembly of peace, something goes sideways.

I thought I had found the perfect person to come to my home to take care of my first son.  She had great references and was a co-worker’s daughter.  However, after a few weeks my son cried when I put him in his favorite swing, when I called during the day she took too long to answer the phone, and I noticed that she cooked way too much for one person to eat in one day.  All little signs that something wasn’t right.  So, I did what any nervous mother would do—I showed up unexpected in the middle of the day! (At that time we did not have nanny cameras)

[Read more…]

Some Say Pennsylvania Not Prepared to Handle New Child Protection Laws

In the wake of number of new child protection laws that went into effect this year, advocates and state workers say the system that’s now in place to process all the new clearances and potential child abuse complaints is completely overwhelmed.

“The system very clearly is not responding to that volume,” said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Family Support Alliance, a group that trains so-called “mandated reporters” how to recognize and report possible child abuse. A number of professions are mandated reporters, such as school personnel, doctors, social workers, and others who might regularly come into contact with children.

Because of changes that were part of an overhaul of the state’s child protection laws last year, there are more professions that are now mandated reporters, and additional training is required for all of them.

Additionally, expanded background checks are now required of certain school volunteers. State legislators passed, and former Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law, more than 20 child protection bills in the last legislative session, many of which did not take effect until Dec. 31. The new laws were an effort to improve the state’s efforts to track and fight child abuse, and were recommended by a task force put together after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Read more at the Post-Gazette.


Caring for Children and Aging Parents

By Julie Fry

Parents today are caring for their own parents and their children as well — what to do to help relieve stress and save time

Are you one of the many parents who is raising a family while at the same time caring for your aging parents as well?  You aren’t alone as almost 45 million Americans are caring for aging parents according to the US Census Bureau.  That means lots of us have little ones speeding around our homes while Grandma is doing her best to walk by with her walker.  Below are some tips and helpful ideas on relieving stress and saving time if you are a caregiver for both your children and your parents.

First, have activities planned and set up they can do safely together.  Reading books, playing cards, playing board games or having your parent ‘help’ your child practice her musical instrument can all be engaging and entertaining for both your parents and your child.  Be sure to know everyone’s limits and design activities which both are capable of doing. 

Second, set a designated “Grandma Area”.  This is Grandma’s space and only grownups are allowed in Grandma’s space.  If Grandma says your little guy can come visit then he is allowed, but he needs to be supervised by an adult at all times.  These areas are also particularly important when storing Grandma’s medications or medical devices.  Boundaries are necessary for safety and for relief of worry as well.

[Read more…]