That was the opening line—to me and my good friend—after our families had dinner together. It was her tween asking. Of course, we nodded.
“The girls,” she continued, referring to her 7-year-old sister and the sister’s visiting friend, “Asked YouTube, ‘What is sex?’”
What followed was a lot of chaos, during which we confiscated the iTouch the second-graders had been using. I opened the web browser and frantically toggled back. I clicked on the videos they watched and held my breath. Miraculously, both only showed fully clothed adults kissing.
We had a lot to sort out, and many things were thrown in stark relief for me. Parents must talk about sex early if we want to be the first voice of authority on the subject. Kids can find anything on the Web, and fast. Kids can never “unsee” what they watch. And we are insanely dependent on services such YouTube to not scar or scare our kids.
Yet I couldn’t get over how gentle the video was that they found. It was on the iTouch that the 7-year-old normally uses to watch cartoons and play with apps when she travels. Did YouTube know that she is so young based on what she usually watches?
Back at work, I tried the same search on my computer. What I got was much more…um…instructional. Maybe because I look up videos of baby products for my work with American Baby? The hits I got were literally of the “how to make a baby” type.
Next I used my middle schooler’s phone and looked up “What is sex?” on her YouTube app. Her videos were in some middle ground, many done with blocky illustrations. There was also a video called, “What sex is like the first time.” Gulp.
I sent an email to Common Sense Media to ask what they know about how YouTube filters search results. Jill Murphy, their editorial director, confirmed that the search results are tied to search history as well as to what videos are normally viewed. What videos someone views is weighted even more than search, so even if the girls kept searching YouTube about sex, their long history of viewed cartoons would skew results toward the PG-rated.
I’m still rattled, but maybe a bit reassured that if my kids ever look up topics on YouTube before coming to me (and what kid wouldn’t be tempted?), I have some small measure of calm knowing (hoping?!) that their own devices might keep things age-appropriate. I will also be more vigilant about not letting them use my grown-up phone. There is clearly a big difference in what comes up if kids get ahold of an adult’s device.
All this happened two months ago, but my friend and I still talk about it. We are so out of our element, having grown up in a world where you snuck a peek at sex passages in books and used your imagination. Now all I can say is…please help us, YouTube. Please don’t let kids see things they’re not quite ready to have played out in front of them.
Jessica Hartshorn is the Entertainment Editor for Parents magazine and still enjoys watching animated kids’ shows herself.
I am the oldest of five siblings, (3 sisters and 2 brothers). Being the oldest means I got to move out first, go to college, and then move right to New York City. But I have always maintained a great relationship with my siblings. Even long distance my sister and I talk almost every day. Because no matter how many times she sneaks my little gold necklace out of the jewelry box I left at home, she’s still my little sister.
For many of us, siblings represent a wonderful, lifelong friendship. For anyone who doesn’t know, April 10th is National Sibling Day (now officially recognized by 49 states, excluding California). And, as you may have seen on your twitter feed, it’s gaining some major star power. This morning, twitter was filled with sibling love and has seen #NationalSiblingDay become its top trending tag. If you haven’t told your sister how much you really appreciate her, or thanked your brother for always being there, now is the time to do so. Pick up the phone! Shoot him a text! And since today also happens to be #FlashBackFriday, why not get nostalgic and post that picture of you guys playing the backyard from so many years ago!
The Sibling Day Foundation was founded to promote April 10th as a celebration of brothers and sisters. Its goal is to gain the same notoriety for National Sibling day that is held by Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and to recognize how important siblings are to all of us. The foundation hopes that through National Sibling day it can encourage us all to realize how lucky we our to have siblings and thank them for being our closest friends and provide anchor for one another.
National Sibling day is about celebrating these relationships and reminding everyone not to take them for granted. Find a way to show your sibling some love today. Even if you aren’t close to your brother or sister, telling them you care can make her day.
Alexandra Pastore is the editorial intern at Parents.
I have a soft spot for children’s hospitals. For more than 10 years, they’ve supplied me with info on their survival rates, success at performing complex procedures, and innovations for a story that ranked the best of the best. But as I interviewed families, it became abundantly clear that the hospitals not only cared for the kids’ medical needs, they went the extra mile to make sure their little patients (and their parents) were in a good spot emotionally too. Many of the pictures in the 2015 Children’s Hospital Association photo exhibit capture those moments. Parents Photo Director Lily Alt served as one of the judges. Take a look at three of our favorites below and spin through all 50 here.
Austin rides his Big Wheel through the halls at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. When a bone marrow transplant didn’t cure his acute lymphoblastic leukemia, he qualified for a research study that injected lab-engineered cells to attack the cancer. (Emma Whitehead, featured in this Parents story last year, was the first child to receive this treatment.) Nine months later, Austin is cancer-free.
Alexandra, a patient at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, rocks the superhero costume while starring in a video that teaches kids and parents more about what to expect when their child undergoes anesthesia.
You may have read about these conjoined twins, Knatalye and Adeline Mata, at Texas Children’s Hospital. About six weeks ago, they were successfully separated in an 18-hour surgery. “We are so grateful to all of the surgeons and everyone who cared for our daughters and gave them the incredible chance to live separate lives,” says their mom, Elysse. “We know how much planning and time went into this surgery and we are so blessed to be at a place like Texas Children’s where we have access to the surgeons and caretakers that have made this dream a reality.”
Photos courtesy: John Maniaci, American Family Children’s Hospital; Julie Stefaniak, Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo; and Allen Kramer, Texas Children’s Hospital
Karen Cicero is contributing editor at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @karencicero.
Last November we featured a guest post from a mom named Tori Tomalia: “3 Kids, 6 Lessons, and 8 Months to Live: A Lung Cancer Story.” In May 2013, Tori, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. At the time, she had a 4-year-old son and twin daughters who weren’t yet 2. Through extraordinary fortune, her aggressive treatment plan has worked for nearly two years.
But when I got an email from Tori a few weeks ago with an update, I was almost scared to read it. Instead, I found myself laughing out loud (see the image at right). Tori and her husband Jason have made a huge decision: They’re opening an improv theatre and brewery. See, they’ve both been involved in the theatre for a long time; they’d even talked about opening their own space back on their very first date. Meanwhile, Jason has gotten into microbrewing in recent years, and they’ve decided to join those two passions. As Tori put it, “We realized that if there was ever a time to pursue our dream of building something together, the time was NOW.”
The name comes out of a particularly rotten day Tori was having. Chemo was getting her down in a major way, and she asked Jason the question I can imagine goes through everyone’s mind when they’re enduring this kind of all-consuming, exhausting, painful treatment: “What if I go through all this, and it still just ends up awful? What’s the point? Everything just feels so pointless.” Jason responded, “Okay, maybe it is all pointless…. So let’s do this. Let’s open a pointless brewery and theatre, and make our pointless dreams come true.”
Tori explains, “It’s the perfect name. How often do we waste our days doing what we are supposed to do, looking the way we are supposed to look, saying what we are supposed to say. You get up, rush to work, drink coffee to stay awake, work hard to get ahead, stress over deadlines, all for what? What is the point of that? If you knew your time were limited, wouldn’t you spend it doing things you love, and spending time with the important people in your life? When it comes down to it, all that matters is the people you get to meet, spending time with the ones you love, and bringing joy to the world. Everything else is pointless.”
It’s one of the most inspiring, life-affirming reactions to a horrible situation I’ve heard of. I was so excited when I learned that Pointless Brewery & Theatre is on Kickstarter, because I bet lots of you feel the same way I did: Sign me up! If you’d like to help Tori and Jason make their pointless dreams come true, consider donating this week–in another happy twist, a kind donor has committed to match every pledge that comes in by this Friday (up to $5,000). They need to raise a total of $50,000 and as of right now they’re at $31,409. Any amount will help, truly — and if they don’t get to $50,000, all donations will be refunded. Please take a minute to watch their funny, emotional video here (it’s different from the video below) and I guarantee you’ll want to chip in.
Kara Corridan isthehealth director at Parents and a mom of two daughters.
Now that April is here and it’s slowly starting to feel like spring in New York, I’ve got helping the environment on my mind. (Technically Earth Day isn’t until April 22, but shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to better our planet all year long anyway?) So I was excited to find out that HBO is airing another piece of their six-part documentary Saving My Tomorrow this Earth Day. The special, which was created in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History, is a call from kids to other kids to help take care of our world. While it features several readings and performances by celebrities—including Alan Cumming, Laura Dern and Pete Seeger—the real stars of the show are the children from all over the world, many of whom have done amazing things. They’re recycling, planting trees, and cleaning beaches. And some of them have even gone above and beyond by creating petitions to ban plastic bags, giving public speeches, and joining in marches to raise awareness. While the adults are still squabbling about whether or not global warming is a real issue, these little ones are getting stuff done. I’m impressed.
One moment that really struck me during Saving My Tomorrow was when 9-year-old Abby—who uses the profits from her lemonade stand to buy seeds—made a comment about how grown-ups have gotten the kids into this mess, and it’s going to be on the kids to clean it up. And she’s right—every second that we waste, the situation grows more dire. The Northeast is being hit with colder, snowier winters while California is forced to enact water restrictions to deal with droughts. But with kids like Abby taking action, I’m hopeful that the younger generation will be better at solving this problem.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to teach today’s kids about global warming and taking care of the planet. And you don’t have to make a speech in front of city hall to make a difference. Your family can help in small ways, like turning lights and electronics off, using reusable lunch boxes, containers, and water bottles rather than paper bags and plastic bottles, and recycling your waste rather than throwing it away. (Want more ideas for going green? We’ve got tips and suggestions here and here.) With these actions, you’re not only helping the Earth, but you’re also showing your kids that being environmentally-friendly is important to you, and that every individual can have an impact on the world.
Check out the trailer for Saving My Tomorrow:
PS: Don’t forget Earth Day’s other big release this year: Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom follows Maya and her baby, who must leave their home in the jungle of South Asia and relocate to a big city. See it during opening week and Disney will make a donation to Conversation International, an environmental nonprofit.
How is your family making a difference this spring? Tell us in the comments!
Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. While she doesn’t have kids of her own yet, she is the proud “mom” of a furry little corgi. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.