Watch Out, Baby!

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I both work and we have our 2-year old daughter in a lovely home daycare. We really like the provider—she makes organic food for all the kids she takes care of, and does a lot of fun activities with them. But we recently found out that she also has the kids in front of the TV or playing video games for several hours every day. It’s so hard to find good-quality, affordable childcare these days, plus our baby really loves her caregiver. How bad is it for toddlers to watch a little TV?

A: Unfortunately, the whole issue of babies and TV is far from being black and white. The official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that kids under two should have as close to zero time in front of screens as possible, and kids older than two should limit screen entertainment to an hour or two per day (not including time on computers that are being used for homework, of course). The point is that children should spend a lot more of their time interacting with other people than with electronics.

In an ideal world—where most of us don’t happen to live—that’s definitely the right approach. But we all have situations that call for a little rule bending, and an hour of TV while you’re taking a shower or making a phone call probably won’t cause any long-term damage. And neither will the parental magic trick most of us perform when trying to tame loud or restless kids: pulling out the tablet or smartphone and putting it gently into those little hands.
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Cyberbullying: When Going Viral is Bad News

Dear Mr. Dad: My teenage daughter is often very upset and withdrawn after she uses her computer or checks her phone. And lately, she’s been refusing to go to school in the morning. She won’t talk to my husband or me about what’s going on. Could she be a victim of cyberbullying, and if so, is there anything we can do about it?

A: Humans have been bullying each other ever since we lived in caves, and students have been bullying each other ever since the first school was built. Bullying is so common that it’s almost impossible to find anyone who hasn’t witnessed it, been victimized, or done it.

Unfortunately, thanks to technology, bullies can now do their nasty work 24/7 and from anywhere in the world. Experts estimate that half of 6-12th graders have experienced cyberbullying at least once, and about a quarter of them experience it regularly. Worst of all, studies show that when bullying happens on line, people are more likely to join in—and less likely to do anything to stop it.

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Privacy? Sorry, there’s no app for that

Think about all the apps you have on your phone, iPad, and anything else. And have you ever looked at—I mean really looked at—the privacy policy for those apps? Well, if you did, you’re certainly in the minority. I don’t think I’ve ever read the fine print (or any of the print at all) on most privacy policies. I just check the box and move on. After all, what harm could come of it?  [Read more...]