Almost all parents and caregivers are familiar with bullying that happens in person. But fewer adults understand cyberbullying. It refers to bullying that happens in the digital world via devices like smartphones, computers and gaming systems.
A type of harassment, cyberbullying includes sending messages meant to intimidate, humiliate, manipulate or cause other distress. Cyberbullying can be private, one-on-one bullying that happens via texts and other direct messages. It can also be public, such as creating social media posts that everyone can see. Cyberbullying happens a lot, and it can affect kids so deeply that it’s sometimes a factor in suicides and suicide attempts.
To help protect kids, parents and other caregivers must understand the different forms of cyberbullying. Here’s a brief look at some of the most common types.
Spamming is a form of cyberbullying in which the person who bullies floods another person with unwanted messages. It can involve sending hundreds of texts or emails and may include images and videos. Trolling happens when someone posts offensive content (comments, photos or videos) that is meant to ignite emotions and create open conflict.
Some forms of cyberbullying go beyond harassment. These tactics can cause emotional damage, ruin reputations and even lead to physical harm. Exclusion involves purposely leaving someone out of group chats or other virtual group events. Outing is exposing information about a person that is personal, private or secret — with the intention of humiliating that person. Doxxing (also spelled ‘doxing’) is revealing someone’s personal information such as their home address or phone number without their consent. It’s done to encourage others to harass or harm them. Stalking can include ‘following’ someone online or collecting information about them to make them feel unsafe. Catfishing involves pretending to be someone else online, and often includes creating fake personas and social media profiles. The person who bullies lures someone into conversations to gain personal knowledge about them and may even pretend to be interested in a relationship.
How can parents and caregivers help protect kids from cyberbullying? Awareness and communication are key. We need to know what our kids are doing online, including the apps and services they’re using. As part of our regular check-ins and ongoing conversations, we can ask them if they see cyberbullying or ever experience it themselves. We also need to be sure they understand that any negative online content can have terrible consequences because it’s permanent and gets passed along. And of course, we can be positive role models by posting with care and never provoking or harassing others. Visit stopbullying.gov for more information, including what steps to take when cyberbullying happens.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of a baby under age 1 and most often occurs during sleep. SIDS and other sleep-related deaths can happen when a baby suffocates, overheats or strangles. You and everyone who cares for your baby can help prevent SIDS. Follow safe sleep practices at home and away from home, for both naptime and nighttime.
Your baby should sleep alone in a bassinet or crib with a flat, firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet. While bed-sharing is not recommended, experts advise keeping your baby’s crib in your bedroom for the first six months. Always place your baby on their back to sleep. Make sure the crib is completely empty of all objects including blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, toys, sleep positioners and bumper pads. These can block airways or overheat or strangle your child. Following these and other safe sleep practices can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS.
You may recall hearing about the ‘tripledemic’ last fall and winter. It referred to three different viruses that caused a trio of separate illnesses to circulate around the same time: the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Many daycares, schools and nursing homes were hit hard with widespread illnesses. Some hospitals, urgent-care clinics and medical offices were overwhelmed by people needing care.
This viral season, we can be better prepared by getting the recommended vaccines and treatments.
- Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each fall.
- Everyone 6 months and older can get COVID-19 vaccines. Not sure if your family’s COVID protection is up-to-date? Check the website for the Centers for Disease Control or ask your doctor. (The answer depends on age and past COVID-19 vaccines.)
- There’s a new RSV vaccine for people 60 and older.
- To help protect babies and young children from severe disease from RSV, two antibody treatments are now available, given as shots.
- An RSV vaccine, given to pregnant people to protect babies from birth to 6 months, is also available.
Vaccines and other treatments can be a bit confusing, so be sure to ask your doctor or your child’s doctor if you have questions. And of course, everyone should wash their hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, and stay home when they’re sick. Also consider masking in public when illness is spreading in your community.
Learn more about why immunizations are needed and how to prepare your child for them.
Button batteries and lithium coin batteries — those disc-shaped batteries found in many household devices — can be very hazardous.
Too often, children swallow them (partially or completely) or get them stuck in their ears or noses. In addition to being a choking hazard, the batteries can burn the delicate tissue inside the ears, nose and esophagus. Coin batteries with a 20 mm diameter (roughly the size of a nickel) are especially dangerous because they’re about the size of a child’s esophagus. If your child ingests or inserts a button battery, take them to an emergency room immediately.
Button and coin batteries are found in games and toys, remote controls and many more common items. Be sure you know which devices in your home contain them. If you have very young children, keep all these items out of reach. When children are old enough to understand, warn them of the dangers. Also be sure that all your child’s caregivers are aware of the risks.
Learn more, including one family’s story about the dangers of button batteries.
Washington state law says kids must ride in a booster seat until they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall — for most kids, that’s until they’re 10 to 12 years old. Has your child outgrown the need for a booster? Before switching to a seat belt only, test that all five of these are true:
- The full length of their back is against the seat.
- Their knees bend at the edge of the seat.
- The lap belt fits low against the upper thighs and the shoulder belt rests across the mid-shoulder.
- Both feet rest on the floor.
- Your child and their seat belt stay in position for the entire trip.
Melatonin is a hormone people use to help them relax and sleep. It’s available in tablet, capsule, liquid, spray and gummy form. Because it’s sold as a supplement and not a drug, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate melatonin or oversee its ingredients.
A recent study found that most brands of melatonin gummies (a popular form for kids) contain more melatonin than what’s shown on the label. Taking too much can cause serious side effects including vomiting, trouble breathing and excessive sleepiness. Melatonin can also interact with some medicines. Between 2012 and 2021, calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers relating to kids ingesting melatonin increased 530%.
Even when a correct dosage is taken, kids may have minor side effects. These include feeling drowsy during the day, vivid dreams and having to urinate more at night. If you’re considering giving melatonin to your child, first discuss it with their doctor. Find out whether it may be helpful — and if so, which kind you should try, what dosage and what time to administer it.
Your doctor will likely recommend that before you try melatonin, you first try improving sleep hygiene. For kids of all ages, stick to a regular bedtime schedule every day of the week. Having a soothing bedtime routine can help kids ease into a good night’s sleep. For younger kids, this might include a ritual of brushing their teeth, putting on pajamas, and reading a story. For tweens and teens, it might be a calming shower and listening to quiet music. Be sure to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime — including TVs, computers, tablets, phones and video games. Since sleep is so important for your child’s overall health, it’s best to remove all these devices from your child’s bedroom at night. And most importantly, you can set an example by modeling good sleep hygiene and media usage. Healthy sleep habits can make a huge difference for the whole family!