Monday, November 2, 2009

Over connected to your kids?

By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

“Please refrain from using your cell phone during this workshop,” requested the presenter at a recent conference. Despite that announcement, the woman next to me continued to furiously send text messages on her iPhone. After about 15 minutes she turned to me and apologized for her behavior.

“I hope that I’m not disturbing you, but I’m in the middle of a serious family emergency with my daughter,” she explained. My annoyance immediately transformed to understanding.

“It’s fine,” I responded. “I hope that things are okay with your child.”

Working in a pediatric hospital, I wondered whether the emergency involved any accident or serious illness. The woman asked me to watch her materials while she made a phone call to her child. She returned in about 30 minutes, just as we were taking a morning break.

“Is your child doing any better?” I gently asked.

“I think we have the problem solved,” the mom responded. “She’s a junior at college and got locked out of her dorm this morning. She has an exam at 3:40 pm and really needed the books in her room. I made a few phone calls and got someone to let her in. I’ll text her throughout the day to see how see is doing after this setback.”

“I’m glad things worked out,” I remarked.

Here’s what I really wanted to say:

Since when did an adult being locked out of her room become a “serious family emergency” for a mom? Spend a few hours where I work in a children’s hospital and you’ll see real emergencies. Kids come into our hospital seriously injured from car accidents or barely able to breathe due to asthma attacks.

Your child is an adult. Why does her inconvenience become your issue to solve? She is a junior in college and can’t figure out how to deal with such a simple problem? While I understand that text messages are a convenient way to stay connected with your child, you may have built up a dependency between you and your daughter that isn’t good for either of you.

I’m sure you love your child very much, but one of the goals of parenting is to prepare our children for a world in which we are not there to answer their every question, solve their problems and protect them from failure and frustrations. If your daughter is depending upon you to make phone calls to get her into her room, how will she handle more serious issues when you are not around?

Your adult daughter will never develop the confidence to successfully navigate solutions to real problems if you continue to reinforce her dependency on you. This also makes me wonder about your own life and whether you have developed interests and activities other than your children.

It’s time to cut the technological umbilical cord and let your child live her own life.

Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit

Safe Kids USA Celebrates Safe Crossing Week

In 2008, approximately 744 people were killed and 1,372 were injured in incidents involving trains in the United States. These incidents involved either trains and pedestrians or trains and motor vehicle occupants. Twenty-two children ages 14 and under were killed, and another 122 were injured, in incidents involving trains.

Safe Crossing Week, Nov. 1 to 7, 2009, is sponsored by CN, one of the largest railroads in North America, and Safe Kids USA. They suggest the following tips for parents and children to stay safe near railroad tracks:
  • Only cross at marked railroad crossings. Always look both ways before crossing the tracks.
  • Obey all signs and signals. Listen for a warning bell or train whistle. Watch for flashing lights.
  • Never try to cross the tracks if a train is coming. Trains are very large and heavy, and take a long time to stop!
  • When a train is coming, stand at least 10 giant steps away from the tracks. If one train passes, make sure another one isn’t coming. Trains can come from any direction at any time on any track.
  • Get off your bike and walk it across the tracks. Don’t forget to wear your helmet when you ride your bike.
  • Walking or playing on or near railroad tracks is dangerous.

Daylight Savings Time Reminders

On November 1, we turned back our clocks allowing us an extra hour of sleep. The end of Daylight Savings Time is welcomed by many  however it's important to remember that it will be getting darker earlier - putting pedestrians, especially child pedestrians, at risk. Pedestrian accidents increase during this time of year - through February - due to shorter days and increased darkness.

Remind child (and adult) pedestrians about these tips to keep them safe on the road:
  1. Be light and bright - Wear light colored clothing and reflective safety gear to be seen by drivers.
  2. Use crosswalks - Cross in a crosswalk or at the corner - places to cross the street where drivers will be expecting to see you.
  3. Choose a lit path - Whenever possible, walk and cross the street in areas with good lighting
  4. Make eye contact - Make sure that the driver sees you before you cross the street.  Look left, right and left again before crossing.
And finally, remind drivers to use extra caution in watching for pedestrians.

The Dangers of Second-Hand Items

With so many people looking for ways to cut corners, the pediatric experts at Dayton Children's are concerned that some parents who are trying to save money might be buying cheaper, second-hand items that can actually be dangerous to their children.

According to the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) resellers are now allowed to sell or offer for sale:

Products that have been recalled by CPSC.

  • Toys and other articles intended for use by children, and any furniture, with paint or other surface coatings containing lead over specified amounts.
  • Products primarily intended for children age 12 or younger with lead content over a specific amount.
  • Certain toys or child care articles that contain any one of six prohibited chemicals known as phthalates, which are primarily used as plasticizers.
  • Other products that violate CPSC’s safety standards, bans, rules or regulations or otherwise present a substantial product hazard.

For details about each of these items you can download the Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers which was created by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to help sellers of used products understand the new law and existing regulations.