Simplifying Science

Stuff I Like

I get calls, emails and texts daily asking for product recommendations. From cosmetics to cold meds, vitamins to video games, parents just want to know what’s safe for their kids. Much of the time, it boils down to a simple question: What do you do in your house? So I am adding a feature to the monthly newsletter called Stuff I Like, o know what’s truly worth…READ MORE

Going Gray

Grayscale is disgusting, and that’s the point.

In case you are already lost a dozen words into this post that’s okay, I didn’t know what grayscale was, either, until just a few days ago. I had heard the term floating around – it definitely sounded familiar – but who has time to learn yet another piece of lingo that may or may not…READ MORE

The Care and Keeping, All Grown Up

This month, The Care and Keeping of You turns 20. The big birthday has been celebrated by some pretty amazing press coverage, like this article and this and this one, too. I didn’t write the original book, though as I tell everyone I wish I had. But I did have the privilege of updating it, of writing a follow up book for older...READ MORE

Teen Tracking

Lisa Damour nails it again! There is no benefit to sneaking a peek into our kids' lives without their knowledge. Because when we do, and then we catch them doing something dangerous/forbidden/illegal/just plain wrong, what leg do we have to stand on?

Years ago I had a mom in my practice who eavesdropped on her kids using hidden nanny cams and found out they were engaging in really bad behavior. At first she felt victorious because she caught them before they went down a dangerous road. But when she went to confront them, she realized she had to admit how she gathered the knowledge, which in turn created a rift in trust for a long time to come. Another patient set up a "designated texter" system with his friends - one teen was responsible for texting parents and checking in, reassuring the adults, while the rest of the kids partied.

There are deep flaws and wide open loopholes in location trackers, text check-ins, and nearly every other remote solution parents devise to make themselves feel better about their kids' safety. Wherever you land on this topic, I strongly encourage you to let your kids in on your choice. This way, they have an opportunity to prove their maturity and, if they do get caught where they aren't supposed to be, they know how you know...

If you want to start a heated debate, ask a group of parents what they think about using technology to track a teenager’s location. Plenty of adults balk at the idea of remotely following an adolescent’s movements, while others question why any loving parent wouldn’t.

As the school year gets underway, parents who have just dropped their teenagers off on college campuses may be watching on apps like Life 360 as their freshly minted freshmen try to figure out the best route from dorm to… READ MORE

You Only Have One Brain

Same goes for your kid. It may be encased in a remarkably strong skull, but the neurons inside need to be treated with respect. Tackle football in middle school, not to mention younger, with its hits and slams and sometimes concussions, doesn't show that brain respect. Neither does tackle football in high school, college, or beyond, but the older brain is a little different and the research not yet as crystal clear. At least according to some… I still worry about those brains of older kids' big time.

I am not suggesting that you push your child to live life in a bubble because that's just as debilitating in an entirely different way. But enrolling him in any activity that causes repeated high-impact head bonks can lead to chronic injury inside the brain, often invisible for years until one day it's not. This is the story of CTE. We cannot ignore it, overlook it, deny it anymore. So this is what you must weigh as you decide whether your son (because it's almost always sons) should play tackle football and if he will, then starting when. And since we, as parents, ultimately sign the forms and enroll our kids in one activity or another, driving them, cheering them on, it is on us to choose to be brain protectors.

It’s football season again. With it comes Friday Night Lights, weekend tailgates, acts of soaring athleticism in the face of danger – and the inevitable, and growing, conversation about the game’s future. Many parents have real concerns about introducing tackle football to their children, given the mounting research on head injuries and their potential long-term impact on cognitive and emotional function.

Last year, in a milestone… READ MORE

I Believe in Do-Overs

Glad to see the FDA is taking one. For a year the agency has been rationalizing why it gave manufacturers of e-cigs an extended deadline to prove they aren't marketing to tweens and teens. Parents, pediatricians, educators and public health advocates all went nuts. Of course they are marketing to youth! The way they flavor, package, advertise on social media... it would take a complete ostrich to not acknowledge that young users were primo targets. The FDA was being that ostrich until earlier this month, when it decided to pull it's head out of the sand and make a move. We can criticize the agency's choices or applaud them for the pivot. Don't we all take do-overs as parents? I vote that it's okay to give them credit for the shift. They seem to need the encouragement.

U.S. health officials say teenage use of e-cigarette has reached "epidemic" levels and are calling on the industry to address the problem or risk having their flavored products pulled off the market.

The warning from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday marks a stark shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes, including the popular Juul brand and others, which have become the most used tobacco product among teenagers...READ MORE

How We Communicate

In a new survey of 13 - 17 year olds, Common Sense Media looked at how kids communicate. It’s a pretty fascinating read if you are into communicating with your kids. Among other things 40% agree with the statement, "I sometimes wish I could go back to a time when there was no such thing as social media." This response is kind of amazing, because Facebook was founded in 2004 and MySpace the year before that. So basically, half of the interviewed kids were born into a world where social media pre-existed them. The only version of “going back” would be going back to a time before they were ever alive. And for those who were born pre-2003, at least based upon what we know about the way the brain develops and how memory forms, not one of these kids can remember life pre-social media. So basically, 4 out of 10 kids are harkening back to a time they have never known…

Today's teens prefer texting over in-person communication, use social media multiple times a day, and admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a new survey of 13- to 17-year-olds.

Why it matters: Concerns over the negative impact of social media use have increased recently with reports of teen depression, suicide and cyberbullying on the rise. READ MORE