Category Archives: Technology and innovation

Not on Twitter? How to stay on top of your kids’ social media use

 

Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Guest post by Maggie Sonnek

If Jennifer Soucheray had a Twitter handle, it probably would be something clever like @JentheMamaHen or @MrsSouchRocks. But this third-grade teacher and mom of three teens doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Or Instagram.

Or Snapchat.

But her three kids do. So, she and her husband, Paul, have had to find ways to monitor their social media use without being, “like, totes uncool.”

I asked Soucheray, along with a few others, to share a few of their tips and best practices when it comes to kids and social media. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits

Whether it’s texting, tweeting or using Facebook these parents tout the benefits of putting limits in place early. According to the Soucheray household, texting and Twitter are where it’s at. Pew Research backs this up: teen Twitter use is at 24 percent – a significant jump from 16 percent in 2011.

“We know their phones are lifelines to their friends,” Soucheray said. “They need these tools otherwise they’ll be ostracized. But as parents you have to develop parameters for what’s acceptable use.”

One way these parents have put boundaries in place? All devices are turned in to Mom and Dad before bedtime.

2. Validate kids every day, offline

Soucheray, who taught middle school for 12 years, says it’s extremely important to validate your kids every day. She said that’s one reason why Facebook and other social media tools are so popular – because we’re all looking to be validated. (Author’s note: Not going to lie; there have been times that I’ve fallen into this trap and checked in on a status update or picture I posted to see how many “likes” it’s received. And when the number is higher or the comments are positive, for some reason, I feel a little better.)

“If a kid doesn’t hear she’s pretty or smart by someone who cares about her, she’s going to look for that somewhere else,” Soucheray said.

Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-teen development specialist and body-image expert agrees.

“Teens are defining themselves during adolescence,” she writes on her blog. “They are figuring out where they fit into their social world and hoping that others look at them favorably.”

Soucheray and Silverman say it’s important to talk about your kids’ true gifts.

“Make sure your children understand that their strengths – such as their kind heart, conscious nature or musical ability – are recognized,” Silverman said, “and really make a difference.”

3. Use the tools for good

One thing that surprised me as I chatted with parents and teachers is that: Kids are using social media more than just a platform to post “selfies.” They’re also using it as a homework-helper.

Dan Willaert, a geometry and AP statistics teacher and Cretin-Derham Hall wrestling coach, tweets out reminders and practice problems to his followers on a regular basis.

“I’ll write out a problem, snap a picture and then tweet it,” Willaert said. He has a Twitter account for wrestling, too, and often sends updates about tournaments, schedule changes and snow days.

4. Be present

Soucheray admits she doesn’t have the right answer or the perfect balance for monitoring tweets and texts, but her one piece of advice is something all parents can take with them. And that’s simply to be present.

“Dig in and be there with them…be in the moment,” she said.

Maybe someday @JentheMamaHen will tweet out that advice to her followers. But for now, she has papers to grade and dinner to make. Her Twitter days will have to wait.

What solutions have you found to monitor your kids social media use? Share in the comments.

Maggie Sonnek is a writer, blogger, lover-of-outdoors and momma to two young kiddos. When she’s not kissing boo-boos or cutting up someone’s food, she likes to beat her husband at Scrabble.

The importance of play – for kids and adults

Hands-on play, where a child uses his or her imagination and ideas to self-discover, creates the best learning environment. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Jeri Kayser

When people try and remember the name of my profession, child life specialist, they often shorten it to “play lady.” That used to bug me when I was a young professional and ready to solve all of the world’s problems, but now I recognize the compliment. We breathe, drink and eat to stay alive – we play to bring forth a reason for all of that effort. Play is how we learn about our world, practice that knowledge and foster our sense of well-being and personal joy; it’s an honor to promote play in the world of health care, but it’s not without its challenges.

One current challenge is tied to the hot topic in popular culture about the value of gaming devices. Is playing a game on a smartphone when you’re 2 years old considered quality play? Short answer: No. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids 2 and younger and only one to two hours a day for older children. The core aspect of the definition of “play” is that it’s self-directive. You’re deciding what you’re going to do with whatever you’re interacting with. One of the problems with electronic games is that game designers have done most of that for you.

Your toddler recognizes the status that phone holds, and it works for a bit to keep a child distracted from the fact that he or she is in the hospital or in a long checkout line at the grocery store.

So what can we use to help guide our decisions to promote healthy play? A great way to look at this is similar to how we all work to promote healthy choices for our diet. Potato chips are fine for an occasional treat, but we wouldn’t want to eat them all the time. If we did, we’d feel awful. Video games kind of are the junk food of play. The more the play requires from the child, the better the value and healthier the choice.

I notice this in the hospital when I come into a room to meet with a family about what to expect with surgery. People often are busy with an electronic device, but as soon as we start to talk, the interest is there to engage and the devices get turned off. When I bring a toy or some arts and crafts activities, kids always gravitate towards that; they want what they need.

I used to work in a summer daycare program for school-aged kids. We would spend the morning on a field trip and the afternoon at a beach. The director wanted us to provide structured activities for the kids in the afternoon, but we quickly learned that the combination of water, sand and friends led to a more-creative, imaginative and enriched play than anything with which we could have come up. Hands-on play, where a child uses his or her imagination and ideas to self-discover, creates the best learning environment.

I heard an interesting story on public radio on my long commute home. At the electronic show in Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest conference, the big news at the conference was the “Maker Movement,” stressing the importance of hands-on play to promote understanding of how our world works. They interviewed an inventor, Ayah Bdeir, who created a toy of electronic bits that fit together with magnets, creating circuits. With this process, you can make all kinds of fun things. He explained the value of this explorative play by stating, “We need to remember that we are all makers and touching things with our hands is powerful and inspiring.”

In another century, another scientist noted the same thing. Albert Einstein declared, “Play is the highest form of research.”

Self-directed play offers the healthiest value for our play “diet,” and this extends throughout our lives. We all need to play. As I wrote this, I overheard a conversation between two anesthesiologists talking about how they used play to help them cope with life stressors. One likes his guitar, while the other enjoys making remote-control helicopters.

This important fact, one of the highest forms of self-care, needs to be part of the planning of how we provide health care. Play is important for all age groups, not just those adorable preschoolers. We need to incorporate this in everything we do, for teens, parents and staff.

Late Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said it best: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Jeri Kayser is a child life specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Recap: MRI-guided laser ablates Gavin’s tumor

Even superheroes don’t always win the first round in a fight.

But, 7-year-old Gavin Pierson came out ahead this week. Gavin, who has a brain tumor that he nicknamed Joe Bully, underwent Visualase MRI-guided laser surgery on Oct. 29. He is the first person in the country with a mature teratoma to have the surgery.

Nothing has come easy for Gavin, who has endured five craniotomies, chemotherapy and countless drugs since his diagnosis a year and a half ago. That included the MRI-guided laser surgery, in which it took two attempts before his tumor could be ablated. But, Gavin had an army on his side. Led by Dr. Joseph Petronio, a team of neurosurgeons, radiologists, nurses and our partners set out to fight Joe Bully.

Here’s a synopsis of how Joe Bully went down:

At approximately 8:09 a.m., Gavin was transported to the OR for sedation.

Bone-in fiducials were placed at approximately 8:46 a.m. A fiducial is an object placed in the field of view of an imaging system and appears in the image produced to provide a point of reference.

Gavin was taken to CT for scans at about 9:05 a.m. and returned to the OR around 9:30 a.m.

With the help of Dr. Richard Patterson, Dr. Petronio began mapping out a plan for placing small flexible laser probes to the intended target area – the tumor.

Around 10:26 a.m., Dr. Petronio created two burr holes before placing the probes.

About 30 minutes later, Dr. Petronio removed Gavin’s shunt, which was unrelated to the Visualase procedure.

Gavin was taken around 11:18 a.m. to MRI for additional scans. The MRI allows the physician to precisely monitor treatment using special Visualase software.

However, Gavin’s tumor deflected the probes. Ablation was halted.

The probes were removed, and skin fiducials were placed to for additional scans.

Gavin’s determined team took him back to the OR, where Dr. Petronio mapped out a new plan and entry point for another probe.

At approximately 3:39 p.m., Gavin was wheeled back to MRI.

About 45 minutes later, the team started ablation, in which laser light heated and destroyed the target area. Temperature maps showed the team the extent of the tissue being destroyed.

Pow! A significant portion of the tumor – an area that Dr. Petronio was unable to reach during craniotomies – was incinerated! Equally significant was the way the lesion responded to Visualase. Because of the type of tumor and its biology (relatively low blood perfusion), the laser distributed the heat extensively and the thermal distribution corresponded nicely to the shape of the tumor and the tumor/normal brain interface, Dr. Petronio said.

“To me, this represents perhaps the most significant development in Gavin’s case, in that we found, perhaps for the first time, that ‘Joe Bully’ has a weak spot, or an Achilles’ heel,” Petronio said. “I’m really encouraged about what we will be able to do with future ablations.”

By 3 p.m. on Oct. 30, Gavin was on his way home – less than 24 hours after surgery.

If you haven’t been following Gavin’s story, catch up here.

Gavin’s story: Fighting his villain with a laser

Gavin Pierson takes on Joe Bully

If this were a comic, Joe Bully would be the villain. A villain that’s about to go D-O-W-N, according to Gavin Pierson.

Joe Bully is the rare tumor inside 7-year-old Gavin’s brain.  But on Oct. 29, with the help of Dr. Joseph Petronio and his latest weapon – an MRI-guided laser – Joe Bully is going to be annihilated, vaporized, defeated.

“It’s a one-two punch,” Petronio has said of the laser, which is complemented by an experimental drug Gavin takes.

Petronio and Gavin’s family started vying for the laser last winter. The laser uses heat and MRI imaging to kill brain tumors. It has already been used successfully on a young Children’s patient with epilepsy. The saga to reach this day has been long, and not without plenty of ups and downs – like the experience of any superhero.

A villain is born

The story began a year and a half ago.

In a matter of just days, Gavin went from being a normal, healthy boy going to gymnastics and playing sports to struggling with double vision and having trouble looking directly at others. At his sister’s seventh birthday party, Gavin’s dad, Steve, asked his wife’s aunt, a pediatrician, to look at Gavin. Armed with a flashlight, she examined Gavin’s eyes. Seconds later, she suggested Steve and Nicole take their son to the emergency department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

During the drive to Children’s, Nicole recalled that she and Steve were worried. They knew something was wrong with Gavin and feared he could go blind.

“I remember us saying, like literally looking at each other and saying, ‘Gavin loves this world so much and nature and science, and oh my gosh, what if he couldn’t see it.’”

Hours later, it would be Steve and Nicole who were blindsided.

Two physicians performed tracking tests on Gavin before order a CT scan. The family stayed in the emergency department following the tests. They were still there when a physician and surgeon returned to talk with Steve and Nicole. Steve could tell by the expressions on their faces that they didn’t have good news, he said.

“I kind of wish at that moment, it was like fast, and I was like can we just press pause because I’m not ready to hear what you have to say.  Unfortunately you don’t get to press pause, and that’s the thing about illness,” Nicole said.

It appeared Gavin had a brain tumor about the size of a golf ball, the physicians said.

Steve didn’t hear past tumor. “It was still ringing in my head that they just said my son has a tumor in his brain,” he said.

The saga continues

In addition to the tumor, Gavin had developed hydrocephalous – fluid on the brain. He needed immediate surgery to place an EVD to drain the fluid. Following surgery, Gavin was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where he spent the next eight days while his parents, along with a team of specialists, determined a course of action.

A biopsy indicated Gavin had a mature teratoma, a benign tumor. But his alpha-fetoprotein level was heightened, a potential red flag for cancer. Gavin needed to undergo chemotherapy for five months.

During treatments, Gavin watched as many movies as he wanted, played games, watched The Dude in Star Studio. It was like a hotel for him, Nicole said.

“From the beginning, he wasn’t scared of anything. He just felt like, ‘Alright, well, they’re going to fix me, and I’m going to fight and big deal. Move on,” Nicole said. “He just seemed like it was nothing. It was just a breeze for him.”

A few months into treatment, an MRI showed the tumor had doubled its original size. At the same time, results from Gavin’s blood test showed there was no cancer in his body.

The cancer was gone, but the Piersons and Gavin’s doctors had a growing problem on their hands, his tumor. Because it was benign, neither chemotherapy nor radiation would obliterate it. Gavin needed surgery.

On June 21, 2012, Gavin underwent his first of three craniotomies in six weeks to reduce the tumor. Complications quickly followed. He developed a blood clot, then needed a Hickman and two shunts. It was one issue after another.

In November, Gavin had his fourth craniotomy. Dr. Petronio, his neurosurgeon, was making headway. The tumor was shrinking.

But Gavin couldn’t undergo craniotomies forever. His oncologist, Dr. Kris Ann Schultz, reached out to Pfizer about an experimental drug that had only been used in adults. She asked for compassionate use, allowing Gavin, the first child, to try it. Pfizer declined.

It wasn’t all bad news that month. During the summer, Gavin had developed agnosia, in which Gavin couldn’t process words he heard. His family learned sign language – about 200 signs – which Gavin picked up quickly and still remembers.

Nicole recalls the first day Gavin heard words again. She was at home, on family leave, with Gavin and his brother, Gage, and she was talking to Gage in the front room of their home. She told him to put on his shoes because they were going to the library. Gavin ran into the room, “Mom, I heard you say library,” he said.

Tears.

November and December were good months for the Pierson family.  Gavin continued to recover from the fourth craniotomy. But around Christmas 2012, he started leaning to one side again. Nicole knew something was wrong. On Christmas Day, she called Dr. Petronio. Two days later, Gavin had an MRI, which showed the tumor had grown.

This is not Gavin’s fate

Gavin’s favorite hero is Batman. He doesn’t have a super power. His power is that he can do what no human can do. Gavin needed someone like Batman.

On Jan. 7, 2013, Dr. Petronio told Steve and Nicole that Gavin likely only had a few months to live. Craniotomies every few weeks and months weren’t going to cut it. They needed another weapon.

Nicole and Steve became desperate. Dr. Schultz contacted Pfizer again. Meanwhile, the Piersons reached out to local media and created a petition on Change.org, anything that might sway the drug company to grant Gavin use of the experimental drug, Palbociclib, which had only been used in clinical trials in adults.

“When the standard approach isn’t working, you have to work hard to find a better answer. There are new treatments being developed all the time and it’s our job to try to match those emerging technologies to the patients who will benefit from them,” Dr. Schultz said.

The day before Gavin’s fifth craniotomy, the company agreed to discuss Gavin’s case at their compassionate use meeting.

“As the parent, you are supposed to make things better…and you just look at how sweet he is and you just, you know, we just felt like, oh my gosh, we just can’t give up,” Nicole said. “This is not his fate, and we were willing to go anywhere at that point and do anything.”

So was Gavin’s care team.

Gavin underwent his fifth craniotomy. Unlike the previous ones, he didn’t bounce back quickly. He needed therapy. It was six weeks before he could walk again.

There had to be a better answer.

Be strong and brave

It came while Gavin recovered from the craniotomy. Pfizer agreed to compassionate use, and Dr. Petronio found a laser that could potentially help destroy the tumor. For the first time in a long time, the outlook was good.

Gavin has been taking Palbociclib since he was approved for it last winter, and it has helped stabilize the tumor. The MRI-guided laser surgery will help decrease the size of the tumor.

His parents have never given up in their fight for Gavin.

“We have to keep pushing forward because, I’m telling you, it has not been easy.  I want it to be easier for other families,” Nicole said.  “I don’t want another kid to have to have five craniotomies before we have a drug that works or before we have a laser.”

The surgery, guided by MRI images, allows precise targeting. It’s also minimally invasive. Unlike previous surgeries, it’s expected Gavin will only have to spend a day or two overnight in the hospital.

He is so sweet to everyone he meets.  He has never made an enemy.  He is here for a higher purpose.  He is going to do great things in his life,” Steve said. “I want to make sure he gets the chance to do that, and that’s why, I think, one of the big reasons we keep pushing because every kid deserves a chance.”

Dr. Friedrichsdorf’s top 10 apps for pain management

By Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

State-of-the-art pain management in the 21st century demands that pharmacological management must be combined with supportive and integrative (non-pharmacological) therapies to manage a child’s pain. At Children’s, we are using physical methods (e.g. cuddle/hug, massage, comfort positioning, heat, cold, TENS), cognitive behavioral techniques (e.g. guided imagery, hypnosis, abdominal breathing, distraction, biofeedback), as well as acupressure and aromatherapy.

For “needle-pokes” (vaccinations, blood draws etc.), for instance, we expect that kids are sitting upright (use sucrose in the age group 0-12 months), that we numb their skin with topical anesthesia (e.g. EMLA-patch, LMX 4% lidocaine patch, or J-tip) and use distraction, such as bubble blowing or blowing a pin wheel. Alternatives can be apps on your smartphone etc.

My personal favorite technique remains teaching children in self-hypnosis. However, in addition, I’m increasingly using apps on my iPhone or iPad with patients. Here are my top apps for pain and symptom management in kids:

 #10 Chalkboard: Drawing on a realistic chalkboard with different color chalk – much more fun than it sounds. [$ 1.99]

 #9 Talking TomThis is a cat that repeats everything you say in a funny voice. You can then record and share videos and send them by eMail / YouTube / Facebook. Kids really enjoy that they can make Tom the cat say funny stuff… [free]

# 8 Simply BeingProvides relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation without prior experience. It allows the child/teenager to choose from 4 meditation times and gives them the option to listen to the guided meditation with or without music or nature sounds. Kids can also listen to the music or nature sounds alone. More for older children and teenagers. [$ 0.99]

 #7 Drums As the name implies, this is a drum kit. Great for kids with too much [or too little] energy. Rock on! [$ 0.99]

# 6 Tesla ToyTesla Toy is a fun interactive “particle toy”. When the fingers touch the screen they generate what looks like a powerful electrical field that makes the thousands of particles react beautifully. 
Kids (& adults) are often mesmerized by this app for a long time. [$ 1.99]

#5 Fruit NinjaA “juicy” action game with squishy, splatty and satisfying fruit carnage! [$ 0.99] 

 #4 Koi PondOne is gazing into a pond of crystal clear water with fish, turtles and more. Kids run their fingers across the cool surface of the pond and water ripples away from their touch.
The koi fish, disturbed, dart away… only to quickly forget and swim close once more… [$ 0.99] 

#3 Easy Bake TreatsThis is a highly recommended app. It let’s children make, bake, decorate, eat and share virtual cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and pizza. They pick their mix, fill the pan with batter and water, mix it all together and slide the pan into the virtual oven to cook.  Then they can add candles to their cakes and cupcakes too! Candles can be lit and re-lit for even more fun! 
Once they’ve baked and decorated their treats, kids can show off and share their delicious virtual creations with family and friends via email or Facebook. Highly addictive – kids can spend a very long time on this! [free]

#2 The Healing Buddies Comfort Kit™ app provides an interactive, virtual way for kids and teens to engage with the latest in integrative medicine techniques and activities to assist in the management of symptoms they may be experiencing. 
Kids and families are increasingly interested in options to improve health and wellness that involve taking fewer pills and that involve supporting their body’s natural, internal healing systems. -combining kid-friendly activities and pre-recorded audio exercises and instructions that teach self-care skills. The Healing Buddies Comfort Kit™ (mobile app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch platforms) offers an interactive, virtual way for kids and teens at home, in a doctor’s office, or in the hospital, to learn and immediately benefit from self-care techniques to manage common symptoms like pain, worries, nausea, fatigue and trouble sleeping. 

The Healing Buddies Comfort Kit™ contains several integrative medicine techniques adapted for use by children and teens that are quick and effective for symptom control so kids can get back to doing what they like to do–and need to do each day. The techniques included in this mobile app are designed by leaders in the field of Pediatric Integrative Medicine (Physicians, Nurses, Psychologists and Child Life Specialists) and have been tested for years in several leading Children’s Hospitals and Clinics. The app leads kids through these various techniques and activities, plus, the Healing Buddies™ make it a fun and engaging experience.

Techniques that kids will learn that are included in the Healing Buddies Comfort Kit™ include:

-Mental Imagery/Visualization: in this technique kids/teens will learn to use the power of their imagination to effect changes in physical and emotional activity.

-Relaxation Exercises: with these breathing and muscle control techniques, kids/teens will learn to calm down and balance the body and the nervous system which helps to reduce symptoms of pain and nausea, improves sleep and can have a powerful effect on controlling & even eliminating worries

-Acupressure: acupressure is part of the ancient Chinese medical system and involves applying pressure to “special points” on the body which in turn releases helpful chemicals and induces nervous system changes that can help to reduce pain, nausea, and anxiety

-Aromatherapy: aromatherapy, which involves smelling oils made from plants, has been around in most cultures for thousands of years. Smelling certain kinds of scented oils offers another tool for kids/teens to use to control unwanted symptoms/feelings

-Positive Self-Talk: this involves learning to be a “self-coach” and harnesses the power of positive thinking. [Disclaimer:

The creation of the mobile app has been a collaborative effort of my department at the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with Ridgeview Medical Center and DesignWise Medical.]

and the winner is…

#1 Balloonimals Absolutely groovy – kids love it! My favorite app to distract a child in pain or discomfort. Beautifully rendered balloon animals spring to life when you blow into the microphone on your iPhone/iPad or swipe with your iPod Touch. Watch the balloon inflate and then give your phone a shake to start constructing your Balloon animal. With each shake, your animal takes greater shape until… Voila! Your Balloon animal appears and is ready to play. Pet your “Balloonimal” to see what tricks it can do.

Apps, which just did not make the list (but I still like them a lot): Art of Glow, Sand Garden, Build a Zoo, Naturespace, SkyView and Disney’s Small World

This post originally appeared here. You can also download Children’s app.