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PG-13 Movies


PG-13 movies now have more gun violence than R-rated ones.

I was in fourth grade when Red Dawn debuted as the first PG-13 rated movie back in 1985. At the time Red Dawn was released, it was considered one of the most violent films by The National Coalition on Television Violence, with a rate of 134 acts of violence per hour, or 2.23 per minute. And although not every PG-13 movie has had significant violence (think Pretty in Pink) it turns out PG-13 and gun violence have become close bedfellows over the last 28 years.

New research out today in Pediatrics finds that gun violence is becoming a more common thread in the movies. Researchers sampled 945 films (all from the top 30 grossing films annually) since 1950, coding and evaluating 5-minute violent sequences in those films. The results proved unsurprising but unsettling: overall gun-violent sequences more than doubled in the sixty years from 1950 to 2012. When looking specifically at PG-13 movies researchers saw a tripling in gun violence since the rating was created in 1985. The trend for violence in these PG-13 movies has grown so rapidly it’s created a new reality. Over the past 30 years, R-rated movies have shown no change in the amount of gun violence sequences while PG-13 have soared making gun violence more prominent in PG-13 movies than in R-rated movies. Stunning when you think of it — gun imagery densely populating the movies targeting our teens. Yes, violence sells.

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Birthdays

Stomp rocket jumpingSomething amazing about birthdays. Just a day of celebration in our child’s life, perhaps, but something altogether different for we parents. It seems to me that birthdays serve up quite vivid moments for reflection.They offer up a day to assess progress, loss, growth, and quite easily acknowledge the annual tick of time. Earlier this fall a 70+ year-old man at a conference said to me (I’m paraphrasing), “Well, life as a parent is simply a blur. It’s a hazy smattering of years of frenetic events peppered with poignant traditions–all you can do is look back and remember the holidays and birthdays in a sea of years that go by.” He may be right. All the more reason these birthdays carry so much meaning.

Our youngest just turned five. And although it was quite a wonderful day of celebration (see evidence in that photo), I couldn’t suppress the ever-rising pit in my stomach. I have vivid memories of my own 5th birthday and it’s clear that time really is flying by. “The days can seem like years and the years like days,” yes of course, but on birthdays I think we parents experience complex emotions. It’s easy to suggest we should just celebrate and rejoice. “Consider the alternative!” you could say. I’d suggest we do celebrate and we do rejoice; it’s a settling and lovely thing to watch our children soak up their birthday. I’m uncertain though that’s enough of a description of these days for most parents.

Like so many other friends and parents have shared, I’m really starting to want things to slow down. I can’t help thinking about the reality that I can barely carry my 6 year-old anymore and there are mornings when he beats me to the kitchen and pours his own bowl of cereal. I know soon the days will close when O wants to eat dinner sitting on my lap. This grace of intimacy in parenting young children is for me the treasure of life. And I’m mindful, thankful, present, and proud but I can’t help hurting as I witness the sunset on this time.

I love these boys more and more and more every day I know them and I enjoy parenting them more and more and more each day too. I know it will only get better as so many ahead of me suggest. It doesn’t mean though, that it doesn’t hurt to see the candles multiply on top the cake.

Numbers For You On Flu

It’s time for flu shots. Winter respiratory season is on its way and, “The single best way to protect against flu is to be vaccinated every year.” Ideally your child (and you) will have had the flu shot at least 2 weeks prior to any exposure to the virus. If your infant, child, or teen hasn’t yet had their flu shot call today for an appointment. Waiting provides no added benefit and only increases the time a child is more susceptible to getting influenza this season.

Listen to the video for information on quadrivalent versus trivalent flu shots, options for nasal flu spray (NO POKES!), and new viruses included in this year’s flu shot.

Information For Parents Online: Protection from Flu Shots

Halloween

I worry most about pedestrian injuries on Halloween. In fact data from Safe Kids Worldwide finds that children are 2 times as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Eeeps! The news isn’t all bad though — a 2010 report found that in the emergency room doctors see more sports injuries on Halloween than they see Halloween ones. We just have to be smart about how our children enjoy the exciting day.

Quick Tips & Reminders For A Safe Halloween

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Trick-o-Treating: Every child deserves and needs a sober adult supervisor. If your children are 13 years and up, consider letting them go out with a group of friends but have a route planned and a contract that they’ll call to check in every 1 hour or so– even if just with a quick text message.

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Candy: Make a plan ahead of time for candy. Discuss how much they’ll have on October 31st and then how much each day thereafter. Don’t forget to employ the Switch Witch on November 5th to eradicate the candy battles from continuing 1 week after Halloween. If your child has a life-threatening allergy to any food I recommend there is a parent around with Epinephrine at all times while out. If your child has a diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes check out a list of carb counts for common candy.

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Costumes: Costumes should –of course– still allow your child to see and move without causing them harm. Because getting hit by a car is a real risk when out and about on Halloween, ensure they are set up for success. If you’re thinking about colored contacts, read tips on selecting safe ones – who knew they were considered medical devices and thus regulated by the FDA? Whenever possible attach lights, LED add-ons, and reflectors so the rest of the world can see your child’s costume. Here’s more tips on safety from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Remarkable Facts About Young Brains

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I’m thinking about the high stakes of parenting. Thing is, the more I learn about early child brain development, the more I’m astounded by the opportunity and simultaneous great responsibility it is to care for and nurture young children during their first few years. The reality is: the brain is rapidly evolving as children grow– the connections between brain cells shift and change based on experiences children have. I mean, the brain really just learns how to think as our children age, especially as infants and toddlers.

I’m at the national American Academy of Pediatrics meeting this weekend in Orlando. I’ll be sharing ideas and things I’m learning on Twitter and my Mama Doc Facebook so please follow along if you’re interested. Yet in the immediate I wanted to share a couple things I heard this afternoon about early brain development that can easily change how we think about our children’s lives now.

The first speaker I was lucky enough to hear is Dr Pat Levitt an expert on early brain development from University of Southern California. He shared some fantastic science. Here are 4 quotes from his talk and 5 ideas for what we can do to incorporate science into everyday life while raising children: Read full post »

Tiny Little Kisses

I’ve had an enormously stressful week or so. Seriously maxed out in a way I haven’t been in some time — smooooshed if you will. The reason I mention my stress is that I’ve found in the past, like this week, these stressful episodes are often peppered with moments of mindfulness that penetrate into my life and stick. Little reminders of what matters most — they seem to bubble up inconveniently, often during these times, and then form exceptional meaning going forward. I’m certain you know what I mean—I think perhaps its the context or the heightened sense of acuity when trying to balance work and family during stress that brings us to our knees while also serving up reminders to consume life’s essence.

Thankfully there are buoys around us that get us through these stressful episodes. A joke our child makes while running by, a story on the radio that allows us to pause, the simple beauty of a red tree passing into sight on the side of the road. Sometimes when we’re most amped and stressed our lenses on life de-fog in a way where the beauty is just crystal clear.

What I’m talking about is my sudden sense of realizing how the tiny little kisses I give my boys at bedtime may be the most essential routine of my day. I’ve just written about bedtime routines and their importance for children’s health. But yesterday I realized how essential they are for their social emotional wellbeing, too.

Here’s why: Read full post »

Buying Breast Milk Online

New research out today confirms that buying breast milk on the Internet via milk-sharing sites may not be safe. Although breast milk purchased from online sites may be free or as cheap as $1-$2 an ounce, it may carry significant risk for babies. Clearly the benefits of breast milk are vast; pediatricians and health experts recommend exclusive breast feeding until 6 months of age. However, simply put, breast milk obtained from unknown (or known) individuals online may carry contamination from medications/drugs excreted in the breast milk,  bacterial, or viral contamination. If a mother isn’t able to provide enough breast milk for her newborn or infant, parents must know that milk from online sellers can be contaminated at the time of collection and/or during transport, dangerous especially for babies born prematurely. If buying human breast milk parents should look for a certified milk bank.

Back in 2010 the FDA spoke out against the practice of buying breast milk online, warning parents of potential risks due to bacteria or viral contamination, exposure to chemicals, medications, and drugs. The research out today confirmed these hesitations: nearly 3/4 of the breast milk obtained by researchers online had bacterial contamination and 20% of the samples tested positive for a virus called CMV.

It should be noted that breast milk bacteria (or virus) counts aren’t deterministic for infection, meaning that just having bacteria in a breast milk sample doesn’t mean a baby will get sick from it. How old a baby is, the amount of bacteria in the sample, and the immune status of an infant all also play a part. However, there are reports of premature babies and babies with immune dysfunction becoming seriously ill from donated unpasteurized breast milk so caution is necessary.

To be very clear the breast milk obtained and studied in the new research was NOT from a milk bank. Human Milk Banking of North America (HMBANA)  breast milk banks screen donors for infections (like HIV) and pasteurize the breast milk to ensure improved safety protection. The trouble for many families unable to make enough breast milk with using these banks can be very costly secondary to the handling, screening, and pasteurization. Milk can be several dollars an ounce! Read full post »

Status Update: Facebook Changes For Teens

Facebook imageFacebook changed its privacy policy for teens this week, despite work from advocacy groups and media experts against the change. On Wednesday October 16th teen privacy settings were adjusted to allow teens to share status updates and photos publicly. The change literally allows the public a window into a teen’s thoughts and photos on Facebook for the first time.

Fortunately, teens can control this by opting out of public sharing. The default setting at this point for teens when joining Facebook will not automatically allow for public sharing. Teens can opt-in after clicking through a pop-up notice. This step could of course change.

Visit the privacy setting page on Facebook with your teen.

In my opinion this is not in the best interest of our children. As we evolve and adapt to using social tools, we’re all still getting our footing. So are our teens as they begin to create a digital footprint of thoughts and photos online. Further, concerns about this shift include public access to teen sharing that will likely be data-mined and scoured by advertisers and companies hoping to target teens with goods and services.

Read this blog post from pediatrician and social media expert, Dr Megan Moreno, on the new changes for teens. Information and links on how to talk to teens about changes along with resources for learning more are included. A recent Q&A she completed online about parents and teens is linked. She says it best when she says:

This situation presents an enormous opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teens about privacy settings online.  For parents who have already had these conversations in the past, it’s time to sit down and discuss Facebook’s decision, review your family’s rules about online safety, and review your teen’s current privacy settings on Facebook – both their overall  “privacy settings” and the “audience” for their posts.

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Nothing Better

sleepNothing better than watching our children sleep peacefully. Independent of our circumstance there is nothing more settling, or prettier, than a child at peace. A day of happiness and good health or one where a child has battled pain or a fever, one filled with challenges at school or one where we’ve simply had a bad day at work. Doesn’t really matter what’s stirring or what’s not, there is something precious we all discover once we become parents–we can stare at our children endlessly while they rest. It can provide a sense of ease unmatched elsewhere in our lives.

Slipping back into the room to catch a glimpse of our children enjoying a peaceful rest is truly one of life’s greatest gifts.

Years ago an experienced father said to me, “Don’t let a single night go by where the last thing you do before heading off to bed isn’t kissing your kids goodnight one more time.” I took the advice. The ritual has perhaps compounded the obvious truth ~ nothing better than witnessing the beauty of our children at peace. Sleep is such a treasure.

Consistency May Be The “Secret Sauce”

Consistency may be the “secret sauce” in parenthood. Anything from helping children survive temper tantrums to helping your children eat more diverse foods, providing consistency with expectations and daily routines may be the very special thing we do that allows our children to thrive. Like most challenges in life, talking about and identifying the need for consistency is easy, implementing it throughout our daily lives is much more of a challenge. Finding and securing a consistent bedtime is one place where this “secret sauce” may really work. New data on sleep patterns for young children drives this point home. Getting your children to bed at the same time each night is powerful.

A study out today in Pediatrics evaluated data from over 10,000 children in the UK. As a part of a larger study (UK Millennium Cohort Study) researchers collected bedtime data at age 3, 5, and 7 years for children. They found children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. Further, as children progressed through childhood there was incremental worsening in children’s behavior scores as they were exposed to more and more inconsistent bedtimes. Read full post »