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Facebook Will Now Show AMBER Alerts on Your News Feed

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Facebook AMBER Alerts screenshotYour texts aren’t the only place AMBER Alerts will now appear.

Today, Facebook announced their partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to provide alerts about missing children on your news feed (mobile and desktop). An official Facebook press release notes:

When local or state police determine that a case qualifies for an AMBER Alert, the alert is issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and distributed through the Facebook system with any available information, including a photograph of the missing child, a license plate number, the name and description of the child, and suspected abductor.

Law enforcement determines the range of the target area for each alert. The number of alerts people will see depends on how many alerts are issued in their area — some people may see a few each year and many people will likely get no alerts at all. The alerts will appear in News Feed, but will not trigger any notifications to a person’s phone.

AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, and the alerts were created in honor of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and killed over a decade ago.

With the rise in social sharing, this partnership (the first with a social media site) will ensure that more people will notice and look out for missing children. More than 720 kids are recovered each year because of AMBER alerts, some who have been found because of shared posts on Facebook.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

Image: Screenshot of a Facebook AMBER Alert courtesy of Facebook

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Smartphones: The New Reason Why Kids Sleep Less

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Sleeping boy with tabletOnce upon a time, you probably worried that putting a TV in your child’s room might distract him from going to sleep. These days, smartphones — with its portable, easy access — are the new sleep distractions, reports HealthDay.

A new study, which will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics, focused on data about the sleep patterns and smartphone use of more than 2,000 kids in elementary and middle school, specifically the fourth and seventh grades. The results revealed that kids who had smartphones and tablets in the bedroom slept less at night and fell asleep more often during the day.

“We found that both sleeping near a small screen and sleeping in a room with a TV set were related to shorter weekday sleep duration. Children who slept near a small screen, compared to those who did not, were also more likely to feel like they did not get enough sleep,” says Jennifer Falbe, the study’s lead author.

Researchers discovered that kids with electronic devices (but not necessarily TVs) in the bedroom have worse sleep patterns than kids with only TVs in their rooms. Kids with smartphones and tablets went to sleep 37 minutes later than their usual bedtime and slept 21 minutes less per day, versus kids with only TVs in their bedroom went to bed 31 minutes later and slept 18 minutes less per day.

On average, kids should get around 10 hours of sleep at night and a routine, uninterrupted bedtime schedule can ensure good eating habits, healthy brain developments, and positive academic achievements. In an increasingly technical world full of electronic devices, it would be difficult to ban gadgets from the home.

Instead, try following the American Academy of Pediatrics’s media guidelines by having “screen-free” zones at home where no electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, computers, or TVs) are allowed in the bedrooms. And parents should keep establishing rules to curtail the use of electronics to a few hours a day and prevent their presence at the dinner table.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy
How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy
How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy

Image: Sleeping boy holding a tablet via Shutterstock

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Want Smarter Kids? Don’t Feed Them Fast Food!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Hungry boy looking at burgerWe all know fast food (even without trans fat) is bad for you, but a new study now offers a significant link between fast food being detrimental to kids’ education, reports ScienceDaily.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there. Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom,” says Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study.

The study, published online in Clinical Pediatrics, tracked 11,740 students starting in fifth grade and then again in eighth grade. Data was collected between 1998-1999 by the National Center for Educational Statistics and sorted by various researchers at Ohio State University.

Kids were asked about their fast food consumption in fifth grade only, and then tested on reading, math, and science in both grades. Researchers discovered that kids who ate fast food either every day or four to six times a week in fifth grade showed significantly lower improvement in all three subjects by the time they were in eighth grade. There was a 20 percent difference between kids who ate a lot of fast food and kids who didn’t.

And kids who ate fast food one to three times a week also tested lower in math, compared to kids who didn’t eat any fast food.

Although more research will have to be conducted, the study shows the importance of encouraging healthy eating habits in kids from an early age. Parents don’t have to ban fast food from kids’ diets, but whenever possible, they should provide foods high in vitamins and nutrients and low in sugar and fat, to help improve kids’ achievements in school.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Hungry boy looking at burger via Shutterstock

 

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Kids Exposed to Mom’s Depression More Likely to Become Delinquents

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Sad woman sitting alone silhouetteIt’s almost a rite of passage for kids to rebel as they get older, but a new study published online in Pediatrics reveals a reason why some kids can go beyond general misbehavior.

HealthDay reports that young kids with depressed mothers were more likely to smoke, use drugs and alcohol, and engage in violence during their early teens. In fact, children exposed to depression from ages “6 to 10 [were] actually more strongly associated with those risky health behaviors,” says Ian Colman, co-author of the study.

Research for the study was conducted in Canada and started in 1994, with 2,900 pairs of moms and children (ages 2-5) being analyzed. Moms were given a questionnaire to fill out every two years, with questions about their own lives, plus their partners’ and children’s lives. When the kids reached age 10, they were given their own questionnaires to fill out, until they reached age 16 or 17. Their questions focused on substance use, stealing, carrying weapons, fighting, being approached by police, sex, suicide attempts, and other delinquent behaviors.

Data from the decade-long results revealed that 4 percent of the mothers who were depressed were more likely to have troubled teens. Researchers noted that these troubled teens were 1.4 times more to drink, 2 times more likely to smoke, and 3 times more like to use drugs than teens who did not have depressed mothers.

While this study does not prove that a mother’s depression definitely leads to delinquency, as many other factors (such as genetics, parenting styles, and family environments) can affect a child’s development. The study also did not focus on how a father’s depression may affect kids, but Colman believes there is likely a similar correlation between the two factors.

Parents, especially mothers, who are experiencing depression should still get help from a trained medical professional to help alleviate the stress of parenting.

Postpartum Depression:
Postpartum Depression:
Postpartum Depression: "I couldn't even talk... without crying."

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea

Image: Sad woman sitting alone silhouette via Shutterstock

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Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates May Cause Lower IQs in Children

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Pregnant women belliesDon’t be surprised if “phthalates-free” labels become more important than ever. A new study released by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City has linked the harmful chemicals to a decrease in children’s IQ, reports HealthDay News. The study was published yesterday in the science journal PLOS ONE.

The study centered on 328 mothers and children from low-income backgrounds in New York City. Researchers analyzed how the exposure to five types of phthalates during the third trimester of each woman’s pregnancy affected her children’s IQ at 7-years-old. Each woman’s urine was measured for chemicals during pregnancy, and later on, each school-age child was given an IQ test.

Results showed that children whose mothers had the highest exposure to two phthalates (DnBP and DiBP) had IQs that were at least 7 points lower than children whose mothers had lower exposure to the chemicals. The three other phthalates (BBP, DEHP, and DEP) did not seem to have any significant affects on children’s intellect.

Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly added to plastics as stabilizers. “Depending on the specific phthalate, they are used to make plastic flexible, as adhesive and as additives to cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products, as several ‘hold’ scents,” says Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., the study’s author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. According to the CPSC, paints and inks can contain phthalates. CBSNews adds that the two specific phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, can also be found in products like “vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food containers, raincoats, dryer sheets…”

Even though this study is not conclusive that pthalates are the definite cause of low intellectual development, the results add to the ongoing belief that exposure to phthalates can have toxic negative long-term affects. Other research studies have shown that phthalates can disrupt hormones, cause physical defects (cleft palates and skeletal malformations), increase asthma, and lead to insulin resistance, reports CBSNews.

Manufacturers are not obligated to include labels that point out their products contain phthalates, but Congress permanently bans three types of phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DBP) from being used in amounts greater than 0.1 percent in children’s toys and children’s products related to feeding, sleeping, sucking, and teething. Three other phthalates (DINP, DIDP, DnOP) are also banned from children’s products on an interim basis. “While these regulatory actions were taken to protect young children, there have been no regulatory actions to protect the developing fetus in utero, which is often the time of greatest susceptibility,” Dr. Factor-Litvak noted.

Avoiding all phthalates is impossible, but it is possible to reduce your exposure to them. Dr. Factor-Litvak suggests that food never be microwaved in plastic containers and that scented products (such as personal care and cleaning products) never be used. Also, “avoid use of plastics labeled as #3, #6 and #7 as these contain phthalates as well as BPA (bisphenol A), and store food in glass rather than plastic containers as much as possible,” she adds.

Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Hair Dye and Nail Polish During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Baby products that don’t contain phthalates:

 

Image: Group of pregnant bellies via Shutterstock

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