Yes, it’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to head to the attic, your basement, or your storage closet and bring out those boxes of decorations that have been collecting dust for the last eleven months. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or maybe all three! You know you love it when all of the lights are up, the tree is decorated, and the candles are lit…but while you’re busy decorating the house and admiring the romantic glow of the fireplace, safety might be the last thing on your mind.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 240 injuries per day related to do-it-yourself holiday decorating activities during November and December of 2017. Let’s make sure you have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season with your friends and family.
Here are some of my top tips to keep in mind as you deck out your home in style this season.
1. Trees Get Thirsty Too!
A dried-out tree will definitely catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Be sure to check the water level every day to ensure it has proper hydration.
2. If You Fake It, Make It Safe!
If you decide to ‘go faux’ and buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire-resistant.” Fire-resistant trees are less susceptible to catching fire.
3. Double-Check Your Lights
The CSPC issued new guidelines for seasonal light safety back in 2015. There is a setting for minimum wire size, as well as standards for strain relief and over-current protection.
4. Prevent Electrical Cord Damage
Always avoid using nails or tacks when hanging up those cords, and don’t mount lights in a way that might damage the cord. Use hooks or insulated staples to prevent any type of damage. Cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors or windows, placed under rugs, or located near heat sources.
5. Secure Those ‘Old Flames’
Old flames can die hard…especially when they’re burning on a holiday candle. Never leave a lit candle unattended, because these neglected candles are the cause of one in five home candle fires. Always keep them on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Battery-operated candles are the perfect substitute, with none of the risk and all of the glow!
6. When You Say “Lights Out,” Mean It!
When leaving the house, make sure to turn all lights off to avoid a short that could start a catastrophic electrical fire. Half of home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am. When it’s time to call it a night and the kids have finally made it to dreamland, be sure to turn off all of the lights before your head finally hits the pillow.
It’s important to have fun decorating this holiday season and enjoy special quality time with your family and friends. If all goes as planned, hopefully there won’t be any accidents if you follow these simple tips. If by chance you do have a minor mishap, it’s always good to have a first aid kit nearby and our PreparaKits have got you covered with the essentials.
Be smart, have fun and be safe this holiday season.
It can be very difficult at times to pull your child away from that special video game that they love so much, and this is why it’s so important to prepare your children for the ‘online gaming world.’ A recent study from the Pew Research Center indicates that 59 percent of girls and 84 percent of boys ages 13-17 regularly play video games. Many of these games are played online and may involve multiple players.
In addition to safety and privacy concerns, parents must ensure that their child’s gaming activities do not become an addiction. When a gaming addiction develops, children may become detached from reality, resulting in negative consequences regarding their ability to socialize and regulate their emotions. In extreme cases, parents may need to look to a professional for help. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent this.
Setting healthy boundaries for your kids can help to guard against extreme gaming behavior. For example, ensure that children have their homework finished before allowing them to engage in gaming. Also, limit gaming sessions to a set time period of time. When finished playing video games, children should move on to other activities, engaging in active movement and social interaction with others.
Parents should also know the ratings on games, talk to their children about how they feel when they play, and even play these games along with their children to experience them first-hand. I know I do this quite often with my children, so I can see the kind of activity that is taking place within the game.
Here are some helpful talking points to help start the conversation with your child about video games and online gaming:
1. Can you show me your favorite game?
It is a good idea to get to know the games yourself and sit down with your child to let them show you how the game is played. Talk to your child about what they can do in the game they’re playing. What is the overall objective of the game? What do they like most about playing it? Is there anything about the game that they don’t like?
2. Can you play against other kids?
Some games have optional multi-player modes where your child can play with and against others. Make sure you’re clear on whether you are happy for your child to play with others. If you are, ask them who they are playing with. Establish rules around this that you can both agree on. Most games have a rating you can check to see if they are age-appropriate.
3. How much time should you spend playing?
It makes life a lot easier if you bring this subject up early on; it can be tricky to change well-established practices. Talk about why it’s important to have limits. It’s a good opportunity to talk about the importance of being active, being outdoors, and spending time in the company of other children, and striking that suitable balance is key.
Remember, it can be hard to enforce restrictions. It can also be difficult to accurately track the amount of time they are spending playing the game. Some devices allow you to use parental controls to strictly enforce daily or weekly limits. In many cases, the device simply switches off once the allocated time has been exceeded. While this is handy; it can be very frustrating for a child who is just about to reach a landmark in the game after a great deal of effort. We recommend not relying exclusively on parental controls, but use them to support your usual parenting approaches.
4. Can you chat with the other kids you are playing?
Many games allow players to chat with each other. Be sure to agree on rules around this, and ask your child about who they think it is okay to talk to online. Discuss your expectations around the type of language they should not use and how they treat others. Be very clear on the consequences of using bad language, being disrespectful, or not following the other agreed rules. The threat of withdrawing access to the game can be a good deterrent to bad behavior.
Check if the game gives the option of disabling chat and if there is a safe chat mode. Some games allow limited forms of chatting where gamers can communicate with each other by selecting from a menu of phrases.
5. What sort of information is NOT okay to share when gaming?
Explain to them the importance of not giving away any personal information online. In the case of online gaming, it is a good idea not to use real names for game profiles and not to share passwords with friends.
6. What would you do if something inappropriate happens when you are playing a game online?
It’s important that your child is familiar with safety settings, privacy and reporting tools. It is equally important that your child understands they can talk to you if they experience anything inappropriate online. This is also a good opportunity to encourage your child to play fairly and treat other gamers with respect.
Whether we like it or not, the online gaming world is here to stay so it’s best to be proactive and responsible when navigating this with your children. As much as we may think some of the games in this ‘virtual world’ are disturbing or are indoctrinating our children with bad behavior, these games are here to stay. We have to teach our children how to play and use these games responsibly.
After all, I can still remember when Nintendo & Atari were the ‘new gaming devices.’ There was a time when people thought a game called ‘Donkey Kong’ was violent because they hit each other. Nowadays kids are seeing things in these newer games that are a lot more disturbing than that, and in ten years those same people will be saying the same thing about the games of today.
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with us as parents. We have to teach our kids right from wrong, so when they are out in the ‘real world’ they will know the difference.
Online photo safety for kids should be on every parent’s mind. It’s not uncommon nowadays for photos of children to be posted online before they are even born, but is it safe? Announcing your pregnancy by posting a baby scan is a ‘thing’ on Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t stop once there, a recent survey found that an average parent will post almost 1,000 photos of their child online before he or she turns five. We live in an age of “sharenting,’ so we have to learn how to navigate this new trend in a safe manner.
Our children learn most from watching us and copying what we do. If you want your child to only post photos when they have the consent of the people in them, ask their permission before posting photos of them. Likewise, if they ask you to remove a photo that they find embarrassing, take it down. The chances are your child will do the same if they find themselves in a similar situation.
There are no hard and fast rules for this topic, however, there are some things to consider before you hit the share button:
Edit your life:
Be selective about what you share online. Don’t post photos of everything that happens in your life no matter how cute you think your child looks in them. Think twice about sharing photos taken in bathroom and bedroom settings. You can’t control the context in which the photos will be seen.
Ask yourself will this photo cause my child embarrassment now or in the future?
Everything we post online creates a digital footprint and for young people maintaining a good online reputation is becoming increasingly important. Parents should consider any long-term risks of sharing photos of their children online. Some photographs have the potential to go viral.
Check Your Settings:
Social networks regularly update settings, so it is important to review your settings. If you are a regular user of Facebook, the social network allows users to do a Privacy Checkup which makes it very easy for users to understand who they are sharing content with.
Who will see my photos?
Ensure you are happy with your privacy settings and understand who may potentially see your images. It is a good idea to regularly review your friend/connections on social networks. Some networks, for example, Facebook allow users to limit/customize who they share posts with. Some things will always be public. Parents should beware that some posts/photos are always public for example; Twitter profile photos, Facebook cover images and featured photos.
Is your location service disabled?
Many social networks and apps allow you to share your location. Some people may not be aware that this function is automatically enabled on some apps and networks. Consider reviewing this when sharing family photos.
I realize that we ultimately want that ‘connection’ with people- to share our lives, our families, our children, and a great way to do this is through posting photos on social media and online. The virtual world has brought us an entirely new way of interacting and connecting with others, but we just want to ensure that we do so in the safest way possible.
Let’s do it responsibly, and you will find that if they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” we will be sharing beautiful novels with our friends, families and loved ones every time we post our cherished photos!
How do we keep children safe in the ‘online world? I know the ‘ordinary world’ we live in can be extremely difficult to navigate (especially with kids). The ‘virtual world’ is no different. Our responsibility can get even more complicated as parents. It makes me wonder how can we protect our children effectively in this ‘brave new world?’ How are we supposed to keep them safe from something that is nearly impossible to control?
Online Safety Tips for Kids:
I didn’t have a guide for how to handle the internet with my children, but now I do. Check out my top internet preparation tips to make sure going online is a positive experience for both you and your kids:
1. Discover the Internet together
Be the one to introduce your child to the internet, because for both us as parents and children it is an advantage to discover the internet together. Try to find websites that are exciting and fun so that together you achieve a positive attitude when it comes to surfing the web. This could make it easier to share both positive and negative experiences in the future so that your children will come to you for anything.
2. Set rules with your child for Internet use
Try to reach an agreement with your child on the guidelines which apply to Internet use in your household.
Discuss when and for how long it’s acceptable for your child to use the Internet.
Agree on how to treat personal information (name, address, telephone, e-mail).
Discuss how to behave towards others when gaming, chatting, e-mailing or messaging.
Agree on what type of sites and activities are OK or not OK in your family.
Follow the rules yourself! Or at least explain why the rules are different for adults.
3. Encourage your child to be careful when disclosing personal information
A simple rule for younger children should be that the child should not give out their name, phone number or photo without your approval. Older children using social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, should be encouraged to be selective about what personal information and photos they post to online spaces. Regardless of privacy settings, once material is online you can no longer control who sees it or how it’s used.
4. Talk about the risks associated with meeting online “friends” in person
Adults should understand that the internet can be a positive meeting place for children, where they can get to know other young people and make new friends. However, for safety and to avoid unpleasant experiences, it is important that children do not meet strangers they have met online without being accompanied by an adult you trust. In any case, the child should always have their parents’ approval first. In addition, it’s also a good idea to have a fool-proof plan in place such as calling them shortly after the meeting begins so that they can bail out if they feel uncomfortable.
5. Teach your child about evaluating information and being critically aware of information found online.
Most children use the internet to improve and develop their knowledge in relation to schoolwork and personal interests. Children should be aware that not all information found online is correct, accurate or relevant. Show your child how to check the information they find by comparing it to alternative sources on the same topic. Show them trusted sites they can use to compare their information.
6. Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet
Children may come across adult material by accident on the web. Also, a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember that it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material. Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them, and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity. We have to be careful but also realistic in our assessment of how your child uses the internet.
7. Let your children show you what they like to do online
To be able to guide your child with regard to Internet use, it’s important to understand how children use the Internet and know what they like to do online. Let your child show you which websites they like visiting and what they do there.
8. Remember that the positive aspects of the Internet outweigh the negatives.
The Internet is an excellent educational and recreational resource for children, so encourage your child to make the most of it and explore the internet to its full potential.
As we know, the internet is now part of our culture and it is here to stay. Since it is such a valuable resource for us as parents in many positive ways, it’s not something we should be fighting against, rather something that we need to embrace with our children in a healthy way. If we help them to develop these good online habits at an early age, these practices will stay with them through their adult lives and will help them to form a positive relationship with the internet, making their virtual world a healthy and safe reality.
As always, I’d love to hear which blogs resonate most with you! Feel free to reach out and message me on Facebook & Instagram!
Mary Poppins famously said that “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” But unfortunately, sugar has become a huge problem with children.
An occasional piece of candy quickly adds more sugar to what’s already a surprisingly high amount in what we think are healthy choices. Not only is childhood obesity becoming an issue, but it’s also setting our kids up for health problems.
I don’t want to sound like an alarmist saying that everything must be totally sugar free. Like everything else, sugar should be enjoyed in moderation. It was very helpful to me to understand the exact amounts of sugar that are considered ok for our kids to have each day.
So how much sugar are kids eating?
According to some sources, as much as 76 grams of added sugar a day. Let’s put that into perspective.
Where’s the sugar our kids are eating coming from?
Believe it or not, it’s not because our kids are gorging themselves on candy and cookies and cakes every day.
In reality, it may not even be a problem with food at all but with drinks. A can of regular soda has 9.75 teaspoons, over half of their total daily allowance.
If you think a juice box is healthy, think again. It has almost 6 teaspoons of sugar (5.75 to be exact) which is roughly one-third of the daily allowance.
By contrast, a glass of milk has about 3 teaspoons of sugar and a low-sugar juice pouch has only 2 teaspoons. A healthy option for anyone when it comes to beverages is plain water. You can add fruit to the water to give it flavor.
Some foods do have hidden sugars to look out for.
If you think that granola bars are a better alternative to Hershey bars, then you need to realize that they have almost the exact same amount of sugar (25 grams or about 6 teaspoons). Yogurt is also a culprit here with some brands containing 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar. I know I was sure surprised to learn this!
Knowing is half the battle!
Please know I am not saying you must cut these foods completely out of your kids’ diets and put them on a strict regiment of kale, bread, and water. We have to be aware of what is going on with our food and with everything else we have going on, it’s easy to miss this. As a fellow concerned parent, I know we have to take a moment at the grocery store and read the labels.
Encourage comparison shopping with your kids and look for the options that have less added sugar. When they’re old enough to begin making choices for themselves about what to eat, you will have passed this habit on to your children! The results will be kids who are ready to be independent, healthy eaters.