Keeping an Eye on Cell Phone and Computer Use

Web_GG_introductory_style_220x180_Jan2010Today, it's easy for teens and pre-teens to stay in close touch with their friends and family. There are some great tools they love to use, like cell phones and texting, Internet and emailing. But since kids are kids, they sometimes lack good judgment.

With cell phones and computers, messages and photos can be sent in an instant. And kids often don't think things through before they act. You have probably heard news stories about "sexting," the sharing of sexual photos and messages by cell phone. The photos might be "sexy" poses taken with clothes on, or they might involve being partly or fully nude. Kids may also be sharing sexual photos and messages by email, and through social websites like My Space and Facebook - even though that's not what these sites are meant for.

Parents should know that this behavior is fairly common among teens and pre-teens. Also, sexting is a word created by the news media and used by adults. Kids have their own names for it, depending on their age and social group.

So, what can parents do? We can set clear rules, stay aware of what our children are doing, and help them make smarter choices. We can also warn them about what can go wrong. Start talking early, before they are likely to make bad choices.

First, have a calm and honest talk with your child, and be clear that this behavior is not okay with you. Find out if your child is getting pressure or dares from friends to do certain things. Help your child understand that anything sent to a friend will probably be seen by others. In fact, these embarrassing photos could even show up again years from now.

It may be hard for kids to understand that today's actions can affect their future. So help your child understand "the big picture." Point out news stories that show how this behavior can lead to big problems at school, and might even hurt their chances of getting into college. Some kids have gotten into serious legal trouble for sending sexual photos and messages.

Many parents place blocks on their child's cell phone, so photos cannot be sent or received. And of course, if your child uses his or her phone or computer unwisely, you can take away the privilege for a while.

More to explore: Teens and MySpace: Teach and Learn About Social Networking.

Is Your Child Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Web_GG_in_context_style_145x145_Jan2010_orange Children of all ages - from newborns to teens- need 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. Vitamin D builds strong bones and prevents rickets in children. In the long term, it may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and help boost the immune system. To get enough vitamin D from their diet, children must drink at least four cups (32 ounces) of vitamin D-fortified milk or formula every day.

If your child drinks fewer than four cups each day, or if your baby is breast-fed, a daily supplement is recommended. Supplements come in liquid drop and tablet form.

Direct sunlight is not a safe or effective way for children to get their daily dose of vitamin D.

To learn more, ask your child's doctor or watch our short video on vitamin D.

Prepare Your Babysitter for Success

Web_GG_in_context_style_220x180_Jan2010_bbsitter It's normal to feel nervous when you use a new babysitter. One way to feel better is to use a babysitter who is older, with lots of experience, or choose a pre-teen or teen babysitter who has taken a class on babysitting. Then, follow these steps to help things go smoothly for everyone.

First, ask the new sitter to arrive 30 minutes early. This allows time to go over information about your home and your kids. Offer a tour, and point out where the fire extinguisher and first aid supplies are. Show the sitter how your oven, TV remote control and other items work.

Write down phone numbers such as your cell phone, the place where you will be and a trusted neighbor. Also list emergency contacts, including poison control. Include your home phone number and address in case of an emergency.

Write out information about your children, and discuss this with your sitter. Cover their likes and dislikes, medicines, allergies, ages, weight and sleep schedules. Be clear about bedtime routines, including things like story time, pacifiers and nightlights. Also cover your house rules for TV, computer, video games and playing outside.

It's wise to call home once to check in and see if the sitter has any questions or concerns. After returning home, ask: Were there any challenges? How did the kids behave? Did anything unexpected happen?

Hopefully, you'll find that your sitter is friendly, trustworthy, has common sense and is fond of your kids. If you'd like to use this babysitter again, you might suggest they take CPR training and a first aid class. You might even offer to pay part of the cost.

To learn more, read Choosing and Instructing a Babysitter or get details on Children's Better Babysitter class.

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Web_GG_in_context_style_145x145_Jan2010_feverHow can you tell whether your child has a bad cold or if it's the flu? The main difference is that a cold is centered on the nose, whereas flu (influenza) causes the whole body to feel sick.

Most often, a cold starts slowly and causes mild fatigue, little or no fever, no headache or muscle aches, no chills and not much change in appetite. The flu often comes on quicker and makes your child very tired, bringing with it a fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and loss of appetite.

Most people with the flu do not require medical care or testing. Use the same judgement about going to the doctor or hospital that you normally do. When in doubt, call your child's doctor.

If your child has a chronic health condition, flu can make them sicker. The doctor may want to test for flu, and will probably want to rule out other serious conditions, such as pneumonia or strep throat, which can be tricky to detect.

To learn more, call your child's doctor, use our cold and flu symptom guide or read Flu Season: Be Ready, But Don't Panic.

"Mommmm! She's Driving Me Craaaazy!"

Web_GG_in_context_style_145x145_Jan2010_siblingsSound familiar? If you have more than one child, it likely does! Brothers and sisters often seem to have endless energy for fighting. This can be tiring for parents, who may feel the need to referee. But should you? If there is danger of physical harm, yes - but otherwise, avoid stepping in if possible. Your kids will learn key life skills from solving their own problems, and you can help most by staying calm and not taking sides.

If you feel yourself being pulled into their argument, leave the room for a few minutes. If you need some support, talk with trusted friends and do some reading, starting with the article found at the link below. If you need more advice, talk with your child's doctor.

To learn more, read Sibling Rivalry.

Tips for Healthy Lunches and Snacks

Web_GG_in_context_style_145x145_Jan2010_milkSack lunches and snacks can be tasty, healthy and budget-friendly. Start by buying fewer pre-packaged products, which usually contain more sugar, salt and calories - and cost more, too. Invite your kids to grocery shop with you, and choose something new from among the fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, cheeses, yogurts and whole-grain products.

Make healthy foods fun and tempting. Try peeling carrots into curls, make roll-up sandwiches using whole-wheat tortillas. For snacks, use fancy toothpicks to serve cheese and fruits. Arrange snack items in the shape of a smiley face or create "mix ups" with nuts, non-sweetened cereals and colorful dried fruit. Yum!

Growing Pains Are Common

Web_GG_in_context_style_145x145_Jan2010_yawningAre "growing pains" real? You bet! Growing pains affect up to 40 percent of kids, and strike most often during two periods: from age 3 to 5, and from age 8 to 12. The pain is most often felt in the shins, calves or behind the knees, often happens in the evening and can wake a child at night.

The term "growing pains" is a bit misleading, because these aches aren't caused by bone growth. They are always concentrated in muscles, and may simply be caused by lots of running and jumping during the day. They can be soothed by massage, stretching, heating pads and non-aspirin pain relievers. If your child has a painful reaction to touch or has tender joints, see your child's doctor.

Read Growing Pains.