Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Parents who use smartphones and other devices while also trying to interact with their children report more cranky and frustrated moods than parents who avoid texting and other technology-driven activities in front of their kids, according to a new study by researchers at Boston Medical Center. More from Time.com:
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a fellow in developmental-and-behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, specializes in counseling parents about developmental and behavioral issues with their children. So she was naturally curious about how the ubiquity of smartphones, and their distracting allure, might affect the quality of time that parents and their children spent together. Previous studies showed that TVs, even if they are only on in the background, can inhibit children’s creativity and siphon their concentrating and focusing powers.
To study the effect of smartphones, Radesky and her colleagues sent in undercover investigators to surreptitiously observe any adult-child grouping with more than one youngster as they ate at a fast-food restaurant. The observers recorded the behavior of both the adults and the children in 55 such groupings, as well as how frequently the adults used their smartphones.
The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.
“What stood out was that in a subset of caregivers using the device almost through the entire meal, how negative their interactions could become with the kids,” she says. While the study did not code or quantify the reactions, Radesky says that there were “a lot of instances where there was very little interaction, harsh interaction or negative interaction” between the adults and the children. “That’s simply unfair to the children,” says Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Children’s Hospital and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog.
In light of the data, Radesky is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop some guidelines for the smart smartphone use in front of the kids — just as the academy has advice for parents on TV viewing (none for toddlers younger than 2).
Image: Mom on smartphone, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
A new study has confirmed what doctors have long advised–that children who suffer concussions should engage in “brain rest” and abstain from cognitively challenging activities including reading, playing video games, and sending text messages for several days after the injury. More from The Boston Globe on the study:
A new study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital tracked 335 student athletes who were treated for concussions incurred on the playing field. They found that those who took the most time off from tasks that required a lot of thinking had the quickest recovery from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other concussion symptoms.
A majority of those who got the most cognitive rest were symptom-free 40 days after their head injury, but it took 100 days for symptoms to resolve in the majority of those who got the least amount of rest, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
While the study couldn’t determine exactly how much rest was optimal, study co-author Dr. William Meehan said the results confirmed the sensibility of recommendations to avoid mental challenges right after a concussion.
“For the first three to five days, we tell our patients with concussions that they should really aim to be at a zero level or complete cognitive rest,” said Meehan, director of the sports concussion clinic at Boston Children’s. That means no reading, homework, text messaging, or video game playing; basically, it’s fine to lie in bed quietly, watching TV or listening to music with the volume on low.
“Those experiencing severe symptoms may prefer to be resting anyway,” Meehan said, “but those with mild symptoms may think they can go back to school or resume exercise right away, which may delay their recovery.”
After a few days, kids can slowly add mental activities such as doing a crossword puzzle or sending a few text messages to see how they feel. “If symptoms exacerbate, they should go back to resting,” Meehan said. If they’re feeling okay, they can continue to gradually add mental challenges, resuming some school work on a lighter schedule. Throughout, they should continue to assess their symptoms and cut back if the headaches or dizziness return.
The brain likely needs to rest from mental processing to reserve its precious energy to balance its systems after the injury. Neurologists believe that the blunt trauma to the brain triggers nerve cells to release a flood of chemicals causing an imbalance that leads to concussion symptoms. At the same time, there’s often reduced blood flow to the brain following an injury which lowers the brain’s supply of glucose for energy. Any glucose expended for mental challenges means less energy is available to restore a biochemical balance.
“Concussions are really a problem with brain function and the movement of ions, or charged particles, around the cell membrane,” Meehan said. This type of malfunction, though, doesn’t appear on brain imaging tests, though technological advances may enable such imaging in the future.
For the time being, parents helping their kids recover from concussions may need to explain why rest is necessary when the brain scan looks fine.
Image: Kids playing soccer, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
Sexting, or sending sexually suggestive text messages or photos, is becoming more common behavior for younger and younger children, as a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found in a study of seventh graders. Research has linked sexting with a greater likelihood that teens will engage in sexual behaviors. More from Today.com:
Almost a quarter of troubled seventh-graders send sexually suggestive texts or photos, with those sending explicit pictures especially likely to engage in sexual behavior, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Certainly, if (parents) see photos, then that’s an extra warning sign that there might be a real need to have a conversation and to monitor,” Dr. Christopher Houck, lead author of the study and a psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital, told TODAY Moms.
“Previous studies have suggested that a very small percentage of early adolescents were sexting, but we don’t really believe that.”
Houck said the only other research to include this age group relied on phone interviews with kids while their parents were present, likely affecting the results.
This study focused on adolescents identified by school counselors as having “symptoms of behavioral or emotional difficulties.” The eligible seventh-graders, who were 12 to 14 years old and enrolled in public middle schools in Rhode Island, were then given questionnaires to fill out about their sexting behavior, as well as their sexual experience.
Image: Tween using a cell phone, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
A growing trend in pediatric care may be in the technology devices teenagers carry with them everywhere they go: doctors are using text messaging and other communication strategies to communicate better with their patients. From The New York Times:
But using social media also raises questions about doctor-patient boundaries, privacy laws and confidentiality. Should doctors “friend” young patients on Facebook? What rules should doctors establish about texting with teenagers: content, hours and expectations of speedy replies? How should doctors take into account the reality that teenagers’ cellphones are often missing in action, only to be found — and pored over — by friends and parents?
For these reasons, many doctors stop short of texting. Because texting is not encrypted and does not comply with privacy laws, “my clinic rules forbid me,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician who treats teenagers at the Everett Clinic, which is outside Seattle, and at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
But teenagers follow her on Twitter and her Seattle Mama Doc blog, on which she writes commentary and posts health news and videos.
During visits, she will ask a teenager the safest way to pass along private information. For those on birth control, she’ll say, “Take out your cellphone and put in a daily alarm about when to take your pill. Call it…‘strawberry.’ ”
Dr. Swanson won’t answer individual questions on her blog. “But if they ask a question in my office that I think a lot of teens would like to know about,” she added, “I can put the content on the blog without identifying the patient.”
In New York, Mount Sinai Hospital’s Adolescent Health Center uses a program called Text in the City to send patients tips and reminders about medications and appointments. Patients can also text questions, understanding that answers may not arrive for 24 hours. Dr. Katie Malbon, who writes most of the responses, said she cautions: delete an answer after reading it….
….But many doctors cannot imagine adding social media responsibilities to an already exhausting practice. Dr. [Natasha] Burgert, 36, is a juggernaut: With two children, she has a busy practice, keeps a blog on her group’s Web site, posts Twitter messages, texts her teenage patients and still sticks to an 8-to-5 workday.
She carries a paper notebook to jot reminders, and spends 15 minutes a day sending texts and e-mails. It saves her hours of phone tag with patients.
The teenagers don’t overload her with exchanges, she said. “They understand it is a privilege, that not all physicians will do this. Actually, I have more problems with first-time parents.”
Image: Doctor texting, via Shutterstock
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Monday, September 24th, 2012
A rising number of American teenagers are suffering from injuries while walking down the street, and researchers believe that the prevalence of text messaging is to blame, and that September and October are the problem’s deadliest months because teens are walking to, from, and around schools. More from MSNBC.com:
A new report shows that in recent years, pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19 year-olds increased 25 percent. Teens aged 14 to 19 made up half of all child pedestrian injuries, according to the report from SafeKids, a global non-profit organization focused on preventing injuries among children.
The study, Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation, took snapshot views of pedestrian death and injury among five year intervals from 1995 through 2010 and looked at age groups 0 to 4, 5 to 9, 10 to 14 and 15 to 19. Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau, SafeKids found that the death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger kids, with 1.11 deaths per 100,000 members of the population as opposed to .47, .33, and .45 in the other cohorts respectively.
While the report, sponsored by FedEx, doesn’t break down how many of those were using mobile devices at the time of injury, Kate Carr, president and CEO of SafeKids Worldwide, says she believes that’s what is driving the rise in injuries.
“In addition to the increase in pedestrian injuries we saw among older teenagers, we also examined numerous outside reports about how much mobile use has increased among teens, “ she says. “We know that the average number of texts per teen has risen dramatically. Couple that with drivers who are talking on the phone or texting, and you have distracted people on both sides of the equation. Our hypothesis is that the rise in injuries among these older teens is caused by their dramatic increase in their cell phone use.”
Image: Teen texting, via Shutterstock
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