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Super Bowl Ads and Kids

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

If your kids are planning on watching the Super Bowl, you should be aware of the new type of advertising that is designed to connect with your kids in a deeper way – especially by using social media. Here I share the perspective of Common Sense Media on what’s happening and also to provide some tips for parents to keep in mind on Super Bowl Sunday. You may also want to consider a report they just released about today’s advertising landscape at   

Let’s start with a break down of how this is happening from Common Sense Media:
As inappropriate as many of the Super Bowl ads will be for kids, TV ads are the least of parents’ concern as advertising methods today are blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment for even the savviest media consumer — let alone young kids, and kids are becoming part of the product-selling cycle.  

Now, instead of relying on big-screen shock value to capture attention, this year advertisers are relying on our kids in large part to spread the word for them. For example, Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” ad contest has been seeking votes all over the web – including kids’ game site Addicting Games – where behavioral and location information can be collected to target ads, and where likes, shares and views are the new measure of success. And while traditional advertising and its effects on kids has been well researched, no one knows the impact of these new media platforms. 

No doubt Super Bowl ads can be outrageous and inappropriate, but millions of kids will be on phones and tablets while watching the big game and it’s the ads they interact with on these little screens – that might not even register as ads – that have far greater implications for kids’ healthy development today. 


Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, provides the following take on the new landscape of advertising and kids:
While it’s fairly easy to explain to kids when ads are embedded in products (like - because kids are literally interacting with the products on those platforms – it’s more difficult to explain the more insidious social marketing which makes kid consumers play an essential role in product promotion.
Retail sites like Abercrombie Kids, Justice, and others have “like” buttons and other social sharing options on all of their product pages. So, if a kid “likes” a pink t-shirt on Abercrombie kids, all of those kid’s friends will get the update from that site. That’s advertising. Sites that ask you to create outfits out of their clothes and then upload those photos (selfies) to the site – that’s advertising that you, the consumer, are providing free of charge to the brand.
Knorr suggests the following tips for parents:
Train kids to recognize the word “ad” – and notice when something carries that label. Advertisers are required to use it in environments that wouldn’t necessarily be obvious (like online in apps, etc.)
Point out where all the ads are – especially the ones that use your search history to target specific ads to you (in games, online, Facebook, Google). Everything kids have searched for or emailed about or posted could potentially be data-mined to serve up specifically targeted ads.
Don’t sign up for text updates from advertisers. Beware of SPAM on cellphones – kids’ cell phones seem to get targeted often by spammers.
Ask your kids what they get out of the arrangement when they “like” a product on a site or upload selfies to a brand site.
From my vantage point, the most important thing here is for parents and kids to be aware of what they are doing online when it comes to retailers. That way informed decisions can be made and there will be at least some clarity of the role kids may (or may not) play in advertising. This year’s Super Bowl may provide a good platform for these kinds of discussions.

Could your child be a professional athlete when he or she grows up? Take our quiz to find out!

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Family Watching TV via

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The Sandy Hook Anniversary: The Public Health Challenges That Still Remain

Friday, December 6th, 2013

As we mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, it is a salient time to consider the substantial public health challenges that were raised by that tragedy – and that still remain. Three are most prominent.

School safety is an ever-present concern. Although no school can eliminate the potential for a tragedy, strides are being made at many schools across the country to put into place practices and technologies to keep children as safe as possible. It has been suggested that 90% of school systems have made some type of concrete change to improve school safety in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Lock down drills have become a reality for children, practiced with the regularity and acceptance of a fire drill. Teachers and administrators are trained to know how to react in the event of an attack and how to best try to secure the safety of their students.

Some schools have video surveillance systems in place that are monitored for potentially suspicious activity. Schools may have changed their policies concerning entry at different times of the day. And at some schools there is a police presence or security guards in place. Yet these types of changes will undoubtedly need to be evaluated, and potentially evolve over time. It does appear, however, that that sad and startling day at Sandy Hook Elementary promoted a nearly universal awareness that no school can be assumed to be safe – and that every school needs to take a comprehensive approach to trying to best ensure their students’ safety.

Gun control – always a polarizing topic – remains a hotly contested issue in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. There have been some actions to promote gun control in some states, and some reactions to ensure gun owner’s rights in other states. As the swinging pendulum of gun control plays out across the country – evidenced by the current swirl of debate surrounding how access to firearms should be regulated – what remains most clear is that we are no where close to coming up with a focused effort to reduce the likelihood of someone with a gun entering a school and killing children and adults. Most influential – and sobering and inspiring – has been the efforts of Sandy Hook parents to promote a ‘cultural change campaign’ to properly orient our attention on violence prevention, particularly gun violence aimed at our children.  It is hoped that this effort will inspire a change in our collective mindset that will do away with the philosophical rhetoric about the pros and cons of gun control and gun rights and focus instead on ways to prevent gun violence from permeating our schools.

Mental health remains another core public health issue that has been illuminated by the Sandy Hook massacre. We have yet to get a good handle – at the most public level – on the burdens faced by those with mental illness, the importance of properly recognizing and treating those who suffer, and the myths and realities about the risk posed to society by some individuals. What can be stated with confidence is that despite the substantial progress made over the last few decades in the identification and treatment of mental illness, we simply need much more support for research and intervention.

This unfortunately comes at a time when our national finances are such that research funding has been cut dramatically over the last few years.  We just witnessed a government shutdown that kept scientists away from doing their work. Deciphering the inner workings of the brain, the effects of genes on development, and the impact of a multitude of environmental factors that convey risk for mental illness is a task of extraordinary complexity. Bringing sustainable, evidence-based interventions to those in the population who need them is a daunting undertaking. Until we grasp how important this effort is, and embrace how much financial support it will take, we may find ourselves wondering and debating  if a future shooting could have been prevented via advances in knowledge and practice.

Although these three public health challenges remain, it is good to know that they are at least not being dismissed or are fading away. We may eventually look back on that horrific day at Sandy Hook Elementary as a turning point and catalyst for making real and sustainable progress in our efforts to keep children safe in school.

More on Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook via

Joe Biden Answers Your Gun Safety Questions
Joe Biden Answers Your Gun Safety Questions
Joe Biden Answers Your Gun Safety Questions

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Arts and Crafts in Childhood Predict Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Adulthood

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Many proponents of the arts have contended that participation in childhood has many benefits which extend past the arts. A new study by researchers at Michigan State University adds to this argument by providing evidence that arts and crafts in childhood promote innovation in adulthood, particularly as an entrepreneur. 

The researchers studied the professional trajectories of students majoring in STEM (science, technology, education, math) between 1990 and 1995. These graduates were much more likely than the average adult to participate in a wide variety of arts in childhood, including music and visual arts. Furthermore, childhood exposure to specific areas – such as photography – was predictive of future innovation (e.g., obtaining a patent). And persistence mattered – those who had sustained experiences in the arts were more innovative as measured by a number of indicators (e.g., patents, businesses created, professional publications).

While cause and effect is always slippery in these types of studies, it’s becoming clear that the processes that are encouraged in the arts in childhood – what the research team refers to as “out of the box” thinking skills that pull on imagination and creation – carry over to many different fields. So as we debate the utility of emphasizing (or even preserving) the arts in childhood, it continues to be important to remember that the arts promote what we most want for our kids – innovation and success.

Art Projects via

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New Guidelines On Screen Time For Kids

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on kids’ screen time  – some of which will become incorporated in the well-child visit with a pediatrician. Here’s a breakdown of the key things to know:

Why Issue New Guidelines Now? It’s been over a decade since the AAP issued formal guidelines – so the current “2-hour” limit on screen time is quite dated. As noted in the AAP report, media use is a “dominant” force in kids lives. School-age kids may be spending 8 or more hours looking at a screen – teens might spend close to 11 hours a day. Some of this is productive time, some of it should be avoided. Thus, new guidelines are offered to help parents regulate screen time and give their kids a platform for making good choices to use screen time wisely.

What Are The Two Key Issues For Parents? Pediatricians will be counseled to ask parents two questions during well visits:

  • How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
  • Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?

Let’s start with “recreational screen time.” It’s acknowledged that kids now use screen time for a variety of purposes – including educational ones. So rather than have an arbitrary number of total “screen time” hours as a guideline, the purpose here is to regulate and limit recreational time. Here the less than 2 hour rule will apply, which is more than reasonable. Kids need to spend time doing other things – like moving their bodies. Trying to cap recreational screen time is realistic and sensible.

The issue of screen time in a kid’s bedroom follows the same principle. Clearly some kids are doing homework in their room and will be using a computer. The point here is to develop some consistent and good practices – especially establishing a rule for turning off the electronics well before bedtime. Using technology is not a good way for kids to unwind and prepare for sleep – and we know that many kids do not get enough sleep. So while having screens in bedrooms – especially with mobile devices – may be common (though not necessarily endorsed), using them right up to bedtime should not be a common practice.

What About Babies? The AAP still does not love the idea of babies staring at screens. Nearly any professional who studies babies will tell you that they need to look at faces, hear voices, and interact with people a lot. This is not going to happen if parents are preoccupied with their mobile device while baby plays with a tablet. So the bottom line is to discourage (not ban) screen time for babies – specifically kids under 2 years of age. It may be added as a corollary that interactive time with baby is more than highly encouraged.

How Do You Make All This Happen? Pediatricians will suggest making a family home use plan for all media, keeping these recommendations in mind. This is a very solid idea, given how much time many of us spend with technology, especially mobile devices that become omnipresent. It will be important to come up with a realistic and enforceable plan for your family and your kids that considers the when and where and how of screen time – including a plan for becoming familiar with and monitoring the content of what your kids are watching. Having some type of plan – and these sensible suggestions to follow – can help parents proactively manage screen time at a time when it is, indeed, “dominant” in our society.

What career will your kiddo have? Take our quiz and find out! Plus, check out our 10 favorite apps for preschoolers.

Baby With Laptop via



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Another School Shooting

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I can’t decide – have we become desensitized to school shootings?

Yes, the recent school shooting in Nevada certainly received its share of coverage. And it will continue to do so. But the story is staying the same:

  • There’s a kid in school with a gun
  • Kids got shot
  • A hero teacher dies
  • The shooter dies

Schools have certainly improved security across the country. School personnel have been trained to respond to a shooter. Law enforcement officials are trained to respond very quickly and decisively. These are all necessary steps forward.

But … we still hear about a kid in school with a gun. We are still reacting to a kid in school with a gun. It’s time we start trying to really figure out how kids are getting their hands on guns in the first place – and really do something about that.

Because the unfortunate reality is that we are going to hear again, much sooner than we would want to, about a kid in school with a gun, in a town where no one thought that would ever happen.

Pistol Gun and Bullets via


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