Parents today have to worry about a slew of concerns regarding their child’s health and safety that previous generations did not. Every generation had their own concerns from polio and scarlet fever to chicken pox and smallpox. Thankfully, through the invention of vaccinations, most of these diseases are preventable. The issues of today seem more complex and overwhelming. With technological advances, the changing active to sedentary lifestyles, processed foods, video games, social media and societal pressures have opened up new problems that parents, educators and the health care world must recognize and take action to alleviate these significant challenges. Here are some health care issues/safety issues that parents report are their biggest concerns in 2015:
- Obesity-this is not just a parental concern, but also a worldwide problem. Approximately 17% of children in the United States are obese. There are many reasons that contribute to this problem. Children aren’t receiving as much exercise as they should. Schools are cutting recess hours down, and with the invention of on-line games and Smartphones, kids spend more time inside sitting down instead of running around in the fresh air. Processed foods are certainly more convenient, especially for families on the go, but the additives and preservatives contain hidden carbs, fats and sugar that lead to unhealthy eating choices. Obese children are at risk for developing adult diseases such as diabetes, bone and joint problems, and heart disease.
- Bullying/Internet Safety-it’s estimated that over 160,000 American children miss school every day to avoid bullying at school. Although many schools have anti-bullying measures in place, it is often hard to catch, unless the victim reports it. Verbal and emotional abuse occurs daily, leading children to feel depressed, anxious and occasionally suicidal. Many children have on-line social media accounts, and bullying does take place on there from anonymous mean and damaging comments, to digital rumor spreading through entire communities. Not to mention, the Internet allows the whole world into your home. Children are easy targets for on-line predators.
- Smoking/Drug/Alcohol Abuse– this has been a problem for ages, but armed with education about what these things do to your body, hopefully leads to less use among teens. Unfortunately, new drugs have made their way to our kids-synthetic drugs, marijuana, and inhaled substances are becoming more popular. Kids have the wrong impression that e-cigarettes are harmless. The truth is, any inhaled substance into the lungs is harmful. Children in grades 8-12th report having regular access to alcohol. Vodka is easily placed in a water bottle and consumed out in the open without adults realizing this is happening. Abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise, including teens selling their ADHD medications to others.
- Sexting/Teen Pregnancy– in 2014, sexting was the 13th overall concern of parents. This year, that bumped up to 6th place. Every day, we learn of a girl (or boy) who sends naked photos to a “crush” only to have those photos quickly shared with other students. This causes embarrassment and humiliation, leading to depression and suicidal ideation. Children in middle school are particularly vulnerable to this activity and often fail to realize the long-term consequences of their decisions. As many as 240,000 teen girls become pregnant between the ages of 15-19. Although there are programs out there encouraging abstinence and safe sex, this is still a problem.
- Stress-Children today have pressures of “being perfect” that are simply not attainable. They have constant worry about grades, college acceptance and competition and managing complex schedules that include school, sports, homework and other activities. Kids today report feelings of anxiety over performance, overscheduling, decreased appetite and difficulty concentrating.
- School Violence-in the old days, perhaps we worried about being pushed against lockers or being ganged up on after school. Today’s children walk through metal detectors and have to face the growing number of unprecedented school shootings that are occurring with alarming regularity in the United States.
Please refer to my next blog post about how we as parents may help our children navigate these very serious and devastating childhood health and safety scourges.
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