The Sneaky Science Behind Your Kid’s Tech Obsessions

Son won’t turn off his video game? Daughter obsessed with “likes” on Instagram? It may not be entirely their fault.

Son won’t turn off his video game? Daughter obsessed with “likes” on Instagram? It may not be entirely their fault.
Like the high-octane sugar in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and that irresistible chemical spice in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the ingredients in social media, video games, apps, and other digital products are carefully engineered to keep you coming back for more. While researchers are still trying to discover whether kids (and parents) can be addicted to technology, some computer scientists are revealing their secrets for keeping us hooked.
Resisting the urge to check your phone or shut down Netflix after another cliffhanger “Stranger Things” episode should be a simple matter of self-control. But according to so-called whistleblowers, such as Tristan Harris, a computer scientist who founded the Time Well Spent movement, and Adam Alter, author of “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked”, we humans are totally overpowered.
Features such as app notifications, autoplay – even “likes” and messages that self-destruct – are scientifically proven to compel us to watch/check in/respond right now or feel that we’re missing something really important.
Behind the apps, games, and social media, a whole crew of folks make it their job to make their products feel essential. Many of the techniques they use are ones outlined by experts in human behavior, including Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and BJ Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab.
Harris argues that these methods “hijack” our own good judgment. Most teens care deeply about peer validation, for example. So it makes sense that friends’ feedback on social media – both the positive and the negative – would tug until you satisfy your curiosity.
You have a phone in your pocket, so why not check now? And now. And now?
More and more industry insiders, including some who designed these attention-claiming features, are coming forward to cry foul on digital manipulation, and even suggest ways companies can limit it.
In fact, it’s not just people who are going public. In 2017, a leaked Facebook internal memo showed how the social network can identify when teens feel “insecure,” “worthless,” and “need a confidence boost.” That’s not a problem “likes” can fix.
Until recently, big tech companies would only defend their products. Facebook, for one, says it polls users daily to gauge success of its features. But when mounting concerns led two Apple shareholders to ask the company to design solutions to potentially addicting technology, Apple said yes.
The shareholders also called for more research on the impact of technology use on young users. Such studies could help developers create what Tristan Harris calls “ethically designed” products with built-in features that cue us to give tech a rest.

There is a way to fight back now. Thanks to the folks who are calling out these methods, you can spot specific tricks and reflect on how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Remember: The other side wants to reduce the time between your thoughts and actions. Putting that pause in will help you resist your urges.
Below are some of the key features designed to keep their grips on you. Also check out some ideas you and your kids can use to resist temptation.

Autoplay

Most notable on Netflix and Facebook, autoplay is the feature that makes videos continue to stream even after they’re over. Tristan Harris calls this the “bottomless bowl” phenomenon. With a refilling bowl, people eat 73 percent more calories. Or they binge-watch way too many movies.

What to do

Autoplay is typically on by default, so you have to turn it off. The feature can usually be found in the app’s account Settings. Here’s how to turn it off in Netflix.

Notifications

Studies show that push notifications – those little pings and prods you get to check your apps – are habit-forming.
Push notifications align an external trigger (the ping) with an internal trigger (a feeling of boredom, uncertainty, insecurity, etc.). Every app uses them, but some, such as Musical.ly and YouTube, have discovered that when notifications tells us to do something, such as “Watch Sally’s new video!” or “See who liked your post!”, we respond immediately.
These calls to action not only interrupt us, they cause stress.

What to do

Turn them off. Most devices have a Settings section where you can turn off notifications. You should also be able to turn off notifications in the app’s settings.

Snapchat’s Snapstreaks

A Snapstreak begins after two users send snaps (pictures) to each other for three days straight. You might think competition is the motivation behind Snapstreaks, but it’s more likely due to a psychological theory called the rule of reciprocation. Humans have a need to respond to a positive action with another positive action. Voilà, a Snapstreak is born.
Kids can become so obsessed with sustaining a streak that they give their friends access to their accounts when they’re unable to maintain their own streaks (which is actually a privacy risk). The rule is also at play with “like backs” – when you like someone’s post and ask them to like yours back to bolster your total number of likes.
Of course, companies exploit the rule of reciprocation, because more data points for them means more opportunities to understand their users and try to sell them stuff.

What to do

Help kids understand how companies like Snapchat are using their (positive) desire to be nice to their friends to get them to use their product more. If your kids’ streaks are getting out of control, try allowing one time per day that they can send snaps – for example, after they take out the garbage, clean their room, and finish their homework.
Finally, if your kids’ streaks are merely annoying and not harmful, you may need to ride out this phase until your kids go on to something new.

Randomness

If you knew that Instagram updated your feed at precisely 3 p.m. every day, that’s when you’d check in, right? But that won’t keep you glued to your phone.
Instead, social media companies use what’s called “variable rewards.” This technique keeps us searching endlessly for our “prize,” such as who friended us, who liked our posts, and who updated their status.
Not coincidentally, this is also the method slot machines use to keep people pulling the lever. Since you never know what’s going to come up, you keep coming back for more.

What to do

Turn off app notifications, usually found in your phone’s Settings but also in the apps’ settings themselves. Schedule a timer to go off at a certain time every day and check your feeds then.

In-app purchases

Free games, such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush, lure you in by promising cheap thrills, then offering in-app purchases that let you level up, buy currency to use in the game, and more. But the real sneaky stuff is how companies keep you playing, and buying.
The more you use the game and the more in-app purchases you make, the more companies learn about you. Thanks to games that connect to Facebook, they also know who your friends are. That lets them tailor specific products to you at the precise times you’re most likely to buy.

What to do

Spring for the full, paid version of games. They’re cheaper – and safer – in the long run.
Written by Caroline Knorr for Common Sense Media.

What We’re Listening To: Story Pirates

What do whoopee cushions, dino bank robbers, and dogs’ rights have in common? They’re all subjects of the hilarious podcast Story Pirates.

What do whoopee cushions, dino bank robbers, and dogs’ rights have in common? They’re all subjects of the hilarious podcast for kids (and the grownups who love them) by Gimlet Media: Story Pirates.
It’s on heavy rotation in our household, with my kids requesting some of the episodes by name. And on more than one occasion around the dinner table, we have sung “Some day … some day you will turn into spaghetti!” (From the episode “The Girl Who Turned into Spaghetti,” obvi.) Because, well, my daughter seriously might turn into spaghetti. Apparently it’s been known to happen.

What it’s about

Each episode of Story Pirates is done in three parts. In the first part, the two hosts – Lee and Peter – read a story written by a child. The kid can be as young as two, right on up to tween. Given the age of the authors, the stories are not always linear and are often adorable.
In the second part, talented improv actors take the original story and turn it into sketch comedy. The fundamental story remains unchanged, but the actors take liberty with dialogue, often add in a song or two, and generally make podcast mayhem.
Finally, one of the hosts interviews the author of the story to hear a bit more about the child’s inspiration for the story, and a bit what life is like where they are.

Why we love it

The kids love this podcast because it’s hilarious. I mean, a story about whoopee cushions? You can bet my kids are all over that.
But the podcast is also empowering. This is a podcast where the kids write the stories! I mean, how cool is that? It has even inspired my daughter to submit a few stories of her own for the show. Her “The Big Pirates Steal Mate” was an instant classic, though, alas, not picked up by the Story Pirates crew.
Despite (or perhaps because of?) the potty humor, I love this podcast for those reasons too, but also because of the interviews with the kids at the end. The host, Lee, has a way with kids that gets them to open up about little aspects of their lives in Iowa or Minnesota, or wherever they are. It’s a unique opportunity to catch glimpses of kids’ lives, what they love, and why they love to create.

Start with this episode

We have two absolute favorite episodes in our house. First, as mentioned above, “The Girl Who Turned into Spaghetti.” It’s about – spoiler alert – a girl who ate so much spaghetti that one day she woke up to find that she actually was spaghetti. Double spoiler alert – it all turns out okay in the end, after a surprising twist that her mother also turned into spaghetti when she was a kid!
Our other favorite is “Dino Bank Robbers Who Actually Stole for Charity.” Perhaps you think you can tell what the episode will be about based on the title? Well, yes. You’re right. But oh my gosh, this one is so funny. My favorite line, when the police officer dino tells bank robber T. Rex to put his arms up: “This is as far as they go!”

If you like this podcast, you might also like:

Check out The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian, a serialized science-fiction podcast where you follow along with the adventures of eight-year-old Finn and his friends Abigail, Elias, and Vale as they explore space, meet aliens, and try to prevent their planet from being vaporized. You can contribute your own ideas to this show, too.

The details

Rating: Listen with kids. Specifically recommended for ages three to 103.
Subscribe to Story Pirates on iTunes here.
Find our review of another great podcast for kids, Circle Round, here.

All Your House Is a Stage: Babyproofing as Safety Theater

Babyproofing may offer more safety theater than actual safety.

In his 2009 critique of the TSA, technologist Bruce Schneier argues that most anti-terrorism resources are wasted in response to movie-plot threats.
Whether the threat is real (terrorists flying planes into buildings) or imagined (“terrorists contaminating the milk supply”), Schneier argues that movie-plot stories have an outsized effect on our decision-making. Our collective response to those movie-plot threats, Schneier argues, is “security theater,” that is, “measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security.”
Babyproofing – the various steps taken to protect babies and young children from hazards in their homes – is more similar to the TSA’s responses to terrorism than we might like to think. Many baby safety devices are movie-plot driven responses to isolated or extremely rare events that parents attempt to ward off by investing in expensive and often underperforming to ineffective gear. Babyproofing may offer more safety theater than actual safety.

Many dangers aren’t that dangerous

Some babyproofing measures, like fencing pools and securing dressers, can lessen life-threatening dangers. But many of the other dangers we attempt to avert through babyproofing aren’t as dangerous as we imagine them to be.
Outlet covers are a useful example. Cheap tiny plastic plugs and more expensive sliding plates are intended to guard against electrocution. These devices fall far short of their promise, not because they fail to prevent electrocutions but because electrocutions are so rare to begin with. A child who puts a finger or fork inside an electrical outlet is not going to get “electrocuted.” That’s because the word “electrocuted” specifically refers to a person killed by electricity.
And although people do die from electrocution each year, those people are largely adult men who are killed by a hazard at their occupation, such as high-voltage wires. The likely outcome of tampering with a home outlet is electric shock, which still happens surprisingly little. One 2013 estimate was 68 children under the age of one, all of whom were released from the emergency room, which suggests that their injuries were relatively minor.

Babyproofing doesn’t work

Of all types of babyproofing gear, the baby gate is probably considered the most important. A study released in Pediatrics in 2012 used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) – a database of injuries from 100 representative emergency rooms across the country – to estimate the overall rates of pediatric injuries from falls. The researchers found that in the U.S., a child is injured by a fall every six minutes.
Although newsworthy, that six-minute claim is probably misleading, at least about the need for baby gates.
The study looked at a wider age group than would normally be considered for babyproofing: children ages zero to five. Using NEISS data, researchers estimated over 900,000 stair-related injuries, but that number included the daredevil kindergartener antics of jumping off or riding a tricycle down the stairs. Approximately 439,000 children between zero and two were estimated to have been injured between 1999 and 2008.
That figure, however, is not an accurate reflection of the number of injuries that could be prevented with baby gates. 25,000 of the falls occurred from baby walkers, which are no longer sold in the US out of safety concerns. Another 9,500 were in strollers, which suggests that some falls occurred in public places that could not be expected to have baby gates. 45,000 of the falls occurred when children were being carried, meaning that a baby gate, even if installed properly, could not have prevented a fall.
One additional comment from the researchers suggests that babyproofing may provide some false confidence and even a potential safety hazard. The researchers also examined the narrative reports of injuries in the NEISS fall data, and found that having a gate doesn’t necessarily prevent an accident: “A review of the case narratives in this study showed that the gates were often removed by another household member or the young child was able to knock or climb over the gate.”
The gates themselves can also lead to other unintended injuries. Another group of researchers studying NEISS data specifically on baby gates estimated that between 1990 and 2010 children sustained an average of just under 1,800 injuries a year from baby gates. Kids aged two and under were most likely to be injured by falling, while kids between ages two and six were most likely to crash into the gate.
Furthermore, that injury rate is climbing, from 3.9 children per 100,000 children in 1990 to 12.5 children per 100,000 in 2010. It’s unlikely that gates are getting less safe; rather, it’s likely that more parents are buying gates, and with more of any baby item, there are going to be more injuries.

We develop a gear-based approach to problem solving

If babyproofing is safety theater, it’s a large-scale production with expensive props.
Bath thermometers – as well as color-changing tub inserts, bath mats, and rubber duckies in coordinating patterns – are designed to tell parents when the water temperature isn’t safe for their babies. Many of these items are made redundant by your own hand, which can easily test the safety of water temperature. And if you don’t trust yourself to accurately gauge the temperature, you can always lower your hot water heater to 120 degrees.
More gear makes parents feel confident that they have done something, that they have made their babies safer. But that reassurance comes at a cost. Imagining that you buy all of the standard recommended babyproofing items, and that you had to buy impermanent ones (say because you’re a renter or because you don’t want the locks affixed to adulthood), here’s a rough cost estimate of the least expensive babyproofing items available, according to their current prices on Amazon:

  • Removable drawer locks, two packs for kitchen and one for each bathroom: $30
  • Removable oven door lock: $5
  • Universal stove knob covers, pack of five: $8
  • Entry-level wall-mounted baby gates for top and bottom of stairs: $60
  • Insertable outlet covers: $3
  • Pack of screw-in sliding outlet covers for objects you want to plug and unplug frequently: $12
  • Toilet seat cover: $8
  • Tub faucet cover: $8
  • Table cover bumpers: $9

You might look at this list and think that $143 is a small price to pay for a safety, but is that what you’re really purchasing with these babyproofing items? You’re not buying a guarantee of safety. Your child could fall from lots of things other than the stairs, and even the stairs if you forget to close the gate. Instead, you’re buying a talisman that makes you feel safer.
Encouraging parents to buy more gear to make their babies safer also obscures much more effective and coordinated approaches that could increase safety for all babies. The National Electric Code requires tamper-resistant spring-loaded electrical receptacles in new and renovated homes, which decrease risk of accidental injury from electric shock without requiring outlet covers. The authors of the Pediatrics fall study advocate for new building codes for home staircases, which could reduce falls more successfully than inconsistently-used gates.

Children will always devise a more creative solution

The basic premise of babyproofing is that you crawl around to get a “child’s eye view” and then install barriers to prevent your child from killing or maiming himself. One problem with this approach is that the barriers are ineffective or inconsistently used. Another far bigger problem is that although we’re at a child’s level, we are not actually seeing the world through those eyes, because that child doesn’t see “danger,” but rather “exciting new challenge.”
In his profile of Schneier and his analysis of security theater, Charles C. Mann recalled a conversation briefly after 9/11. Schneier bet Mann that the United States would not see another large terrorist attack in the next decade, at least not using airplanes. That’s because, Schneier argued, Americans were now prepared for the specific occasion and would attack airplane hijackers. The same goes for shoe and snow globe bombs, methods that aren’t likely to be used because they’re now highly publicized. Terrorists are constantly innovating.
Babies will also invent a solution around any new obstacle. There’s scant data on babyproofing effectiveness, but some of the existing data suggests that kids are creative problem-solvers when it comes to dismantling safety devices. Install a baby gate? The baby will learn to climb over it. One small study of outlet covers found that kids ages two through four could remove even the most difficult covers in an average of 39 seconds.

Babyproofing robs parents and children of valuable lessons

We buy table corner protectors to avoid cuts, stove knob covers to prevent burns, door guards to avert pinched fingers. We buy drawer locks to shield our kids from sharp things. But tables aren’t the only household objects that have corners. There are walls, doors, and the ubiquitous IKEA MALA easel, to name just a few household fixtures. Stoves aren’t the only things that can burn kids. Doors aren’t the only things that can pinch them, and knives aren’t the only things that can cut them. When we babyproof selectively, we’re robbing kids of the category learning that hot things burn or sharp things cut.
When parents stage elaborate safety theater, we rob ourselves of valuable lessons as well. When we’re constantly preparing for what might happen rather than what is happening, we increase our parental anxiety. When we’re always anticipating and neutralizing potential hazards around our children, we miss the chance to trust our children to explore and learn from the world around them. When avoiding homes without stove knob covers and drawer locks, we further isolate ourselves during a period when many parents already feel cut off from the world.
Are you a believer in babyproofing? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Calling all Kid Artists! Now's Your Chance to Doodle for Google

If you’ve got an artistic kid in grades K-12, you should know about Google’s annual Doodle contest.

For the last 10 years, Google has run a contest that is open to students in grades K through 12, in which the students are invited to create a doodle that may be featured as, “an interactive experience on Google.com.” In addition, they are eligible to win great scholarships and tech packages for their schools.
This year’s theme is, “What inspires me?” If your child is artistic, this is an amazing opportunity for them to get wide exposure by having their artwork displayed on Google.com. Students should create a doodle and describe what it is and how it represents something that inspires them.
Parents, teachers, non-profits, and after school programs may enter doodles on behalf of their students, but only one original per student may be submitted. Any medium may be used to create the doodle.
The winners will be in the following categories: State and Territory Winners, National Finalists, and the National Winner. The doodles will be judged on Artistic merit: Based on artistic skill, Creativity: Representation of the contest theme, use of the letters in the Google logo, and the unique approach to the doodle Theme communication: How well the contest theme is expressed in both the artwork and the written statement.
The contest is judged by grade groups (Grades K-3, Grades 4-5, Grades 6-7, Grades 8-9, Grades 10-12) by a panel of guest judges selected for each year.
The national winner will receive a behind-the-scenes experience with the Doodle team and a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 Technology package for their school/non-profit organization, a trip to Google Headquarters in California, and Google hardware and swag.
The four national finalists who do not become the national winner will have their doodles featured on the Doodle 4 Google gallery and receive a $5,000 college scholarship, a trip to Google Headquarters in California, and Google hardware and swag.
State winners will have their doodles featured on the Doodle 4 Google gallery and receive Google Hardware, an assembly celebration at their school, and Google swag.
Once the entry period is closed and the judges have narrowed the field to the 53 best doodles, the public will be asked to vote online by selecting their favorite doodles, one from each grade group.
See previous winners here and apply here.

Could Daycare Surveillance Actually Be a Bad Thing?

More and more childcare facilities are investing in software that allows parents to log in and watch their kids in real time. Could there be drawbacks?

More and more, daycares and childcare facilities are installing CCTV cameras and investing in software that allows parents to log in and watch their little one in real time. Some parents love this new technology and enjoy being able to check in on their child during the school day, but others worry that these surveillance systems may have negative implications.

As a former teacher, I have some reservations about the idea of parents being able to watch a class. I worry about it violating the teacher’s privacy. There are lots of things that go on in a classroom that don’t involve children at all.

Overworked teachers will often eat, mark books and papers, prepare for classes, and even change their clothes in an empty classroom. While a classroom is certainly a shared space, it’s also the place where a teacher spends the majority of the day and should therefore offer some measure of privacy.

Another concern is the potential use of the recorded images. The companies that produce this technology are quick to point out security features and password protections, but passwords can be shared, computer screens can be left open, and screenshots can be taken and disseminated elsewhere. This technology could lead to a situation where anything that now happens in that class is potentially available to view in the public sphere.

Some may think this is acceptable and even preferable. Why shouldn’t classrooms be open? What do teachers have to hide? If only exceptional levels of teaching and learning are taking place, why does it matter if they are open for observation?

Here are some reasons it does matter. First, exceptional levels of teaching and learning are not happening every minute of every day. Even award-winning teachers have off days.

Second, I’ve witnessed a variety of occurrences in classrooms that would benefit from the relative privacy of a closed door: For instance, a teacher suffering from a diabetic seizure, an out-of-control child punching another student, an older student losing control of his bowels, small children changing their clothes for a school play, a student disclosing abuse, or a teacher finding out about a death in her family.

It’s easy to see how any of these scenarios would be problematic if filmed and viewed publicly.

Whenever a teacher is observed by either a colleague, administrator, or by a group of parents during a school open day, it inherently changes the nature of their lesson. They are bound to experience some anxiety, as anyone would when being monitored. More importantly, it interferes with the normal camaraderie between teacher and students.

Teachers, of course, expect regular observations and appraisals by administrators and use feedback to improve their teaching practice. However, constant monitoring can be draining. Working to appear professional, teachers may seem stiff in comparison to their normal classroom persona and, in doing so, damage the rapport with their class.

Teaching is a performance. We become attuned to our unique and familiar audience. Throwing in a constant unseen viewer changes the dynamic of that performance.

Educators might also feel self-conscious about some of the more animated yet effective parts of their job. Teachers routinely sing, dance, make animal noises, pull faces, and put on character voices – all of which may suddenly feel embarrassing in front of an adult or unknown audience.

Like it or not, every teacher also usually has one parent that acts as a thorn in their side. These surveillance systems may encourage difficult parents to micro-manage every aspect of a teacher’s performance, which goes a long way to stifling a teacher’s overall effectiveness.

Although these issues concerning teacher’s privacy and dignity are close to my heart as a former educator, the protection and welfare of children is even more important to me. Here, too, the use of surveillance in the daycare and school classroom is deeply troubling.

In group settings, people very quickly fall into assigned roles. There’s the quiet and thoughtful ones, the leaders, the motivators, the organizers, and unfortunately, there are the maligned, the blamed, and the ‘naughty’ ones.

Children (no doubt motivated by what they see from parents and teachers) quickly work out which of their classmates are behaving and which are not and often gleefully relay this information to their parents. For a poor child to be labeled as a “problem” is damaging enough, but imagine if that child knew that groups of parents were watching his every transgression, or if every time he made a mistake there was an audience ready to criticize.

Children can become typecast in behavior roles, which can be almost impossible to escape. This reputation follows them from class to class, from grade to grade.

The act of observing bad behavior also becomes a shaming mechanism. This can lead parents to think it’s within their right to admonish a student simply because they witnessed an event, even though they were not present and perhaps don’t understand the context or other drivers.

Mike Holiday, a parent and homeschool educator, is very concerned about the issues of privacy posed by surveillance in the classroom. “A camera in the classroom might put everyone on their best behavior. But the possibility of abuse of power is too great. It is also a huge step towards legalizing other invasions of privacy.”

Parents witnessing stigmatizing behavior problems is bad enough. Add to that the bystanders who believe they understand an entire incident simply because they’ve watched it on-screen. Sometimes seeing isn’t believing. A camera angle can make all the difference. A critical event that happened off-screen may not be taken into consideration, and therefore, viewers who think they have the whole story simply don’t.

Some parents may use the camera as a control device by telling their children, “I’ll be watching you.” This can do irreparable harm to the authority of the teacher within the classroom. Perversely, this can be used as a control device by the teachers themselves with such statements as, “Your mother can see what you’re doing.”

Even more worrying is a tactic witnessed by Kristi, from South Carolina: “The teacher told the kids that Santa watched them through the cameras.” Kristi approves of the use of cameras in the daycare center for visual records in case of incidents or emergencies. But she’s opposed to “the teacher indoctrinating the kids to think surveillance is okay.”

Another area of concern is for those children struggling with developmental or learning difficulties. Surely those students’ privacy is violated if all parents can see which reading group they’ve been assigned to or how much help they receive or if they are sometimes unable to participate in an activity.

Zaida, a mom of two girls and inventor of the Wiggletot Diaper Changer, has other concerns about “the effects of Wi-Fi on thin skulls.” Besides these oft-debated health concerns, she also points to the danger of children having their otherwise private school day dissected by their parents. “Having a parent report back on everything they think wasn’t appropriate or should have been changed in a child could lead to an increase in anxiety in kids.”

Unfortunately, not all children live in caring, loving homes. To that end, most troubling of all is that the use of surveillance could lead to the dissolution of the classroom as a safe space. For children of abuse or neglect, the classroom can represent one of the few places where they are protected, nurtured, and can receive love, attention, and care.

That, if not for any other reason, is compelling justification for keeping classrooms camera-free.

The use of cameras in educational and childcare settings can have benefits. Some parents who are nervous about leaving their children for the first time with strangers may find that this technology puts their minds at ease. Parent Arlene Guzman Todd explains, “I am a big fan of the cameras, they helped provide a feeling of security and allowed me to build trust by watching the caretaker’s interactions with my children.”

There are also situations where parents and carers may not be physically able to see their children, such as in the case of divorce, separation, or when a military parent is deployed. This is the case with Arlene’s husband, an active duty service member. “The live feeds allow him to check in on the kids regardless of what part of the world he is in,” she says.

One school district in Pennsylvania has been trialing a new app that has proved popular with both teachers and parents. The Classroom Dojo program functions like a closed-circuit Twitter account. The teacher can use the app to post photos and positive updates throughout the day, making the parents feel informed and included.

Melissa Fullerton, Director of Communications & Community Relations at Governor Mifflin School District, reports that the result has been that “[t]he ongoing feed of positive and day-to-day updates has led to a noticeable decrease in parent frustration and negative communications.”

The difference here seems to be in the concept of control and consent. There’s no live feed. Furthermore, the teacher can choose when to share updates, exactly what to show, what to exclude, and what days and times are going to best showcase the class and the learning that is taking place. (Friday afternoon after Phys Ed, for example, would probably not be an optimum viewing time.)

We should work toward a balance between maintaining appropriate privacy and respect in the classroom whilst also creating an open and inviting environment for parents.

Why I Wish My Kids’ Classrooms Had Chalkboards

We might not all get a teacher with a texting embargo, but maybe we can hope for a little more balance, inside the classroom and out.

My daughter’s second grade teacher hand-wrote a classroom update to the parents each week, her name signed with a beautiful cursive flourish. She used a wooden pointer to teach U.S. geography and phonics. She had an upright piano in her class and played it regularly. She was the only teacher in the school whose classroom did not have an interactive whiteboard.
This all ran anathema to the modern classroom. As Lewis Buzbee writes in the 2014 “Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom”, “Whiteboards are the rule these days, and all to the better, it seems, if only for their lack of screeching. But the whiteboard disallows a long-standing classroom rite: cleaning the erasers.”
When I pick up my daughter now as a fourth grader, a highly-digitized classroom equipped with iPads, I long for her second grade days. She and her classmates were always delayed, helping to wash the chalkboard and clapping those vestigial erasers. They were part student/part maintenance, and they appeared to love it.
In fact, I heard very few complaints about these “old school” methods, especially from fellow parents. I can understand why the parents favored this experience: clapping erasers, coloring freshly Xeroxed pages, cranking the pencil sharpener. Our own second grade years came rushing back.
I well remember getting “locked out” of school when I volunteered to clap erasers with my own second grade crush. It’s possible I let a door-holding eraser slip out of place to extend my chore time. Oops.
Nostalgia aside, there was another reason I think we were so happy for our kids’ uniquely undigitized teacher. We all had a chance to catch our breath. We’d been texting fellow playdate parents and e-mailing pediatricians throughout our children’s lives. We’d been downloading and uploading forms since before our children were born. The same goes for our digital native offspring, born effectively with a tablet device in their hands.
At parent-teacher conference, my daughter’s teacher apologized: “I’m sorry I don’t do that texting. You are always welcome to call me, though!”
I told her it was a relief. It had been wonderfully welcome to not have to be hyper-conscious of how much screentime both my kid and I were spending in the name of her education. In the years since the Classroom in Analog, I’ve realized how much my kids’ teachers can steer the ship.
I have the deepest respect for educators and understand the immense pressures they are under to communicate constantly above the din of the whirring propellers of helicopter parents. It can be invasive, though – the text blasts and newsletters and reminder slips that litter our inboxes and kitchen tables.
The emotional and financial toll of raising a child is no secret, even to those who are not in the business. But rarely do we mention the administrative side of parenting.
Writer Jen Hatmaker is among the few who have made a public plea to reduce the sheer volume of paperwork that educating a child entails. Hatmaker appeals to the teachers: “Teachers, we need to make a deal that after April testing, we don’t have to do anything else.”
I wonder how realistic this might be?
The flood of reminders…can we agree to a tapering system for both teachers and parents alike? Might even our kids be tasked with remembering a few things rather than piling the onus to bring in five dollars for the Valentine’s Party on the parent?
And might the goal of pumping more iPads into classrooms and educating more app-savvy kids be offset by a little bit more analog in their lives? If not a piano, then perhaps a real, tactile deck of cards (versus one that a mouse clicks to shuffle).
We might not all get a teacher with a texting embargo, but maybe we can hope for a little more balance, inside the classroom and out.
The ’90s notion of the “information superhighway” promised media convergence and limitless access to all who traveled it. Within the framework of our children’s education, though, we and their teachers are tasked with setting the speed limits. The challenge is remembering that we get to decide where the exit ramps should be.

Would You Order From the Original Kids' Menu?

The kids menu dates back to Prohibition. And while it may have changed a bit over the years, there’s a bleakness that seems to endure.

The children’s menu is nearly one century old. Michele Humes at Slate traces it to Prohibition. The dry laws implemented in 1920 meant that restaurants, which were used to upcharging on alcohol, had to drastically rethink their strategy. In an effort to accommodate more female diners, restaurants began writing menus for their children.
The kids’ menus then were as uniform as they are today, although the fare was much different. Most kid’s menus, including the Waldorf Astoria’s, offered a broiled lamb chop, which Humes calls “the chicken nugget of the Jazz Age.” The chop, along with a complement of other bland offerings, was the healthiest food to feed children, according to the pediatric wisdom of the time.
You can see bleak kid’s menu offerings in menus throughout Prohibition, including some of those cataloged in the New York Public Library’s expansive menu collection. The Cortile’s Luncheon menu for March 27, 1933 included Chilled Apple Juice, Cream of Spinach Soup, a Parsley Potato, and, of course, a Broiled Lamp Chop.

Courtesy of the New York Public Library

Menus like The Cortile’s represented the pediatric wisdom of the time that “wholesome” food made wholesome people. A tour through the dietary wisdom of the time demonstrates that although our menu offerings have changed, our approach to kid dining needs seasoning.

Boiled, mashed, bland

To understand this received wisdom, we need to travel back a few years to the 1907 edition of L. Emmett Holt’s “The Care and Feeding of Children.” The free, full-text version is well-worth the read, both for the striking similarities to modern parenting and the fascinating divergences.
In some ways, Holt sounds much like a modern pediatrician. He is pro-nursing, firmly anti-bedsharing, and staunchly pro-vaccination. He writes to parents who note that smallpox is on the decline and wonder if vaccination is necessary: “It should by all means be done. It is only by the practice of general vaccination that small-pox is kept down.”
Other parts of Holt’s text show their 110 years, including his entry for masturbation, “the most injurious of all the bad habits.” Holt advises parents to be ever alert, and to help children overcome their baser impulses by rewarding their good behavior.
That same mix of timeless and dated advice permeates the section on “The Diet of Older Children.” Holt’s dietary guidance for four- to 10-year-olds begins with the nutritional value of milk, eggs, and meat, making it not all that different from modern food guides.
A closer look at Holt’s advice reveals an interesting pattern. Although “no food that we possess has so high a nutritive value as milk,” kids should never be given “the rich milk of a Jersey herd.” Eggs are “a most valuable food,” but “fried eggs should never be given and all omelets are objectionable.” Many meats are forbidden, including “ham, bacon, sausage, pork, liver, kidney, game, and all dried and salted meats.” Fried meat was out of the question.
According to Holt, a child’s first vegetable should be white potatoes (baked or boiled, never fried). Most green vegetables are okay from early age, as are carrots and beets, but other vegetables, like sweet potato and cauliflower, are best saved until a child is six or seven. Corn and eggplant are for even older kids, and under absolutely no circumstances should a child under 10 years of age be served a salad.
Holt asserts that vegetables can cause digestive trouble, but that is not the fault of the ingredient but its preparer: “It is, in fact, almost impossible to cook them too much; they should also be very finely mashed.”
Given his attitudes about the dangers of raw vegetables, it’s not difficult to imagine where Holt came down on sweets: “A stale lady-finger or piece of sponge cake is about as far in the matter of cakes as it is wise to go with children up to seven or eight years old.”
Holt’s low-fat, low-taste diet goes generally unsourced. Humes hypothesizes that “although he stopped short of saying what it was that was so inherently great about the plain ones,” Holt saw “moral danger in sensual pleasure, and damnation in indulgence.”

You are what you eat

Holt wasn’t the only believer. His advice has roots in medical practitioners concerned with people’s moral failings, one of whom was much more explicit about the role of food in curbing people’s basest impulses.
In “Plain Facts for the Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life,” which was first printed in 1877, J. H. Kellogg chronicles the moral failings of the time. He devotes an enormous portion of the work to the “solitary vice” of masturbation (which he contrasts with partnered, “social” vice). Kellogg lists among its causes all of the usual suspects: “sexual precocity, idleness, pernicious literature.”
Kellogg also includes “exciting and irritating food,” which was thought to cause erections, “amorous and exotic thoughts” (which also caused erections), and sleep disturbances (which created idle time that led to amorous and exotic thoughts which caused erections). Children with adventurous palettes were imagined to have equally voracious sexual appetites: “A boy or girl who is constantly eating cloves or cinnamon, or who will eat salt in quantities without other food, gives good occasion for suspicion.” For Kellogg, spicy food made spicy people. Bland food made moral citizens.
Kellogg’s solution to the problem of solitary vice was to feed children a diet of “wholesome and unstimulating food.” Kellogg developed these ideas while working as the superintendent at the Western Health Reform Institute. When the institute burned down, it was rebuilt as the Battle Creek Sanitarium. There Kellogg set to work making the kinds of wholesome and unstimulating foods he argued for in his book, including granola and – as you’ve probably guessed given his name – Corn Flakes.

Spicing up the menu

The medicalization of kids’ menus makes it a bit easier to understand the dishes on offer then, but also now. In some ways, the menu hasn’t changed much. Kids’ meals are still often separate from the adult offerings. Although there isn’t much “wholesome” about burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and pizza, the main offerings are, like their originators, still beige, and still largely non-vegetable.
In the 20s and 30s kids were served bland food because adults wanted to keep them pure. Although the menu items we offer them now are much different, they’re still clearly delineated as “kids” food. None of the food poses a challenge. Kids aren’t encouraged to try anything new. They aren’t even encouraged to try flatware: four of the five most popular options can be eaten without it. By giving kids all this bland food, we are producing bland people.
Now that we’re not concerned about a slippery slope from raw vegetables or cinnamon to sexual depravity, perhaps it’s time to make kid food stimulating again. Jeffrey M. Barker of The Takeout notes how insulted adult diners would be to receive a menu titled “for troglodytes with unrefined palates.” Such a menu would defy one main reason for dining out. “Going out to eat is supposed to be fun.” Barker writes. “It should be a treat, an adventure.”
One way to regain that sense of adventure stems from another byproduct of Prohibition: the speakeasy. Let’s just tell the kids that they cannot, under any circumstances, order off the grown-up menu. Not even if they’re really hungry. Not even if the food sounds delicious. Not even if we leave the table to go to the bathroom. Might they wave the server over and in conspiratorial tones ask for the chicken makhani? The pad thai? The pesto flatbread?

The Effects of Pre-K May Last Longer Than You Think

A new study indicates there are several measurable benefits of pre-K once the students reach middle school.

Is pre-K worth it? This is a hot button question that has been debated for many years since states began funding pre-K programs. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, nationwide state-funded preschool program enrollment reached an all-time high in 2016, with nearly 1.5 million children, or 32 percent of four-year-olds enrolled. Policymakers, educators, and parents want to know if pre-K provides an academic advantage to children. Now a new study out of Georgetown University published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management indicates that there are several measurable benefits of pre-K once the students reach middle school.
The Georgetown research team began tracking about 4,000 children in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2006 when they started pre-K through the time they were in eighth grade. The pre-K program in Tulsa was of special interest because it has been around for quite a few years, reaches a relatively large portion of four-year-olds, and is considered high quality. It has also been featured in the national debate about the merits of universal pre-K because the program has been studied in depth over more than a decade, Oklahoma was the second state in the nation to adopt a universal pre-K program, and President Obama highlighted it in his 2013 State of the Union as he endorsed universal pre-K as a national policy.
In order to evaluate the program, researchers reviewed performance measures throughout middle school in areas including standardized tests, GPAs, enrollment in either a gifted program or honors courses, grade retention, special education placement, absenteeism, and suspensions.
They discovered the following facts about eighth graders who attended pre-K:

  • They were less likely to be held back than their classmates who did not attend preschool.
  • Their scores on the state’s math achievement test were higher.
  • They were more likely to take algebra in eighth grade, which is a consistent predictor of college readiness.
  • They were more likely to be enrolled in honors courses.
  • They were more likely to be engaged in class, less timid, and more confident overall.

Then the researchers extrapolated the Tulsa data to project the impact of the program into adulthood. They predict that those students who attended pre-K will have a higher income and less of a chance for incarceration. This is a big deal for parents evaluating whether to send their children to preschool or not. It’s clear from this study that pre-K can help lead to success later in life.
The study also looked at the quality of the education provided. Tulsa preschool teachers devoted more time to academics and were more apt to talk with, not talk at, their students, than teachers in 11 other states who they were compared to. Additionally, the student-teacher ratios in the classroom were impressive, and every teacher has at least a bachelor’s degree and is certified in early childhood education.
William Gormley, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and one of the lead researchers for this study, thinks that a main reason for the success of the children in Tulsa who attended pre-K is that the elementary and middle school teachers have made the curriculum more challenging because the students are much better prepared than those who did not attend pre-K. In a nut shell, pre-K gives kids a jumpstart in their education and the positive social, emotional, and academic benefits surface later in their educational journey and after graduation.

If Childhood Aggression is Genetic, What Can We Do About?

You can play a positive role in reducing your child’s aggressive behavior. Here are some ways parents can do this.

Aggression in children is common, especially in toddlers. Children are developing mammals and, as part of that, they have aggressive impulses that they may even develop in play.

This was quite shocking to me when I first became a parent. At the time I strongly believed in the social-learning model in which children are largely shaped by their home environments. Then I was pinched by my firstborn and had to reconsider my point of view. My child had certainly not learned that behavior from observing me.

Aggression in young children can often be a source of conflict in mothers’ groups. If your child is a biter or hitter, the responses from the group can be such that you may want to stop attending. Mothers who want to protect their babies have strong reactions to criticism of their offspring. Aggression in children may be feared, judged as a sign of abusive home life, or viewed as a sign of future behavioral problems.

A recent study by the Université de Montréal studied aggression in children and how that may change as children age. Stéphane Paquin led a study on 555 sets of twins that examined proactive and reactive aggressive behavior. (Proactive aggression is the psychological term that means physical or verbal behavior with the intent to dominate or obtain advantage. Reactive aggression refers to a defensive response to a perceived threat.) Proactive and reactive aggression are, for the most part, closely related although some children may only exhibit one or the other.

The study’s cohort of twins included 223 sets of twins with an identical genetic code and 332 sets of fraternal twins. The closeness of genetics in identical twins is ideal when studying the interplay of genes and environment. In this case, using twin children allowed researchers to separate whether the individual differences in proactive and reactive aggression were due to genetic or environmental factors. Teachers provided reports of children’s aggressive behavior at ages six, seven, nine, 10, and 12.

Paquin found that at age six, both types of aggression have most of the same genetic factors. Aggressive behavior reduces in most children as they age. Between ages six and 12 years, environmental factors rather than genetics were responsible for increases or decreases in aggression.

“Too often we forget that aggression is a fundamental part of a young child’s social development,” said Paquin. “Human beings show the highest levels of aggressive behavior towards their peers between the ages of two and four. As children grow, they learn how to manage their emotions, communicate with others, and deal with conflict. They are able to channel their aggressive impulses, whether proactive or reactive.”

The study paves the way for looking at how to help parents and teachers shape aggressive behavior. “Our findings also corroborate those of other studies, demonstrating that programs designed to prevent reactive aggression should focus on reducing experiences of victimization, whereas those meant to counter proactive aggression should be based on the development of pro-social values.”

What this means for parents

If your child is using aggressive behavior, the environment you provide is important. This means you can play a positive role in reducing your child’s aggressive behavior. Here are some ways parents can do this:

  • Provide a low conflict home.
  • Manage dominance conflict and prevention via supervision between siblings to ensure victimization does not occur. Sibling fighting and competition is normal, but if it involves one sibling regularly dominating the other, parents must intervene.
  • If your child is bullied at school, ensure that strategies are put in place to protect your child.
  • If your child is aggressive, work on pro-special behaviors such as friendship skills, valuing others, sharing, and the like.
  • Model prosocial behaviors in your day-to-day life and reduce your own use of aggression.

If you have an aggressive child in your playgroup, keep in mind that while prevention is important, excluding children won’t help them develop prosocial behaviors. A better solution is to encourage better supervision and behavior redirection at high-risk times.

It’s good to know that we can all play a role in reducing our children’s aggressive behaviors.

Is an Emergency Department Visit Necessary? Probably Not as Often As You'd Think

Roughly half of children being seen in the emergency department don’t need to be there. How can you avoid being one of those parents?

There are many costs to using the emergency department for non-urgent care.
There’s the literal cost of care, given that emergency room visits generally have higher co-pays than clinic visits.
There are also plenty of figurative costs. Bringing your child to the emergency department when she does not have a serious illness or injury is likely to lead to a long wait, because she will be triaged behind the actual emergencies. After that long wait, you’re likely to receive an unsatisfying diagnosis and/or treatment: a Band-Aid for a cut, a directive to drink fluids for a run-of-the-mill cold, etc.
These experiences may erode your trust in the emergency department, especially when you receive the bill. It’s hard not to feel snubbed, like your child’s pain doesn’t matter, even when you are being told that your child is medically fine.
If you and your not-so-sick child are in the emergency department all night, both of you might miss out on a good night’s sleep, and, as a result, school and work tomorrow. While logging all that time in the waiting room, you and your child are also susceptible to hospital-acquired infections from all of the other sick patients.
Visiting an emergency department for a non-emergency can also have longer-range consequences. Taking a child to the emergency room for common ailments like ear infections can harm continuity of care, argues a recent review article in the The Journal of Pediatric Health Care.
When parents seek treatment for such issues at the ED, their children’s primary care providers (PCPs) might not receive valuable information about different illnesses. Without knowing how many ear infections or cases of strep throat a child has had, a PCP will not know whether or not to recommend interventions, like tympanostomy tubes or tonsillectomies.
All of these consequences focus on your child, but there are consequences for other people, too – including the truly sick children whose care may be delayed by overcrowded emergency departments or by overstretched hospital staff.
Given all of the negative consequences of bringing children to the emergency department for non-urgent conditions, it’s surprising that so many parents are doing it. A study of 31,076 emergency department visits from 33 different pediatric practices found that nearly half of those visits (47 percent) were classified as non-urgent by hospital staff. In other words, roughly half of children being seen in the emergency department did not need to be there.
Why are so many parents bringing their children with non-urgent conditions to the emergency department? How can you avoid being one of those parents?

It’s rarely a matter of life and death

The ED is for acute medical problems that may kill or maim if left untreated, which is why many hospitals around the country use the Emergency Severity Index to triage patients. The ESI’s triage algorithm is easy to read and worth parents’ time, because it shows exactly what a triage nurse or other healthcare professional will be asking when evaluating your child’s case.
The ESI flow chart begins with one easy question: “requires immediate life-saving intervention?” A “yes” answer leads to an ESI score of 1, and hasty attention in the ED.
A “no” answer leads to another set of questions. If the situation is not high-risk, the triage score will be somewhere between 3 and 5, depending on how many resources will be required to help a patient. If a patient does not require any resources (say, for a cold or flu), then the patient will be scored a 5. Many parents who bring their children to the ER for non-urgent categories will get a 4 or 5.

Why parents head to the ED

If their children are not at serious risk, why are so many parents heading to the ED?
One recent study found that parents’ tended to rate their children’s conditions more severely than medical professionals did. The hospital staff determined that of 381 visits, 298 (78.2 percent) were non-urgent cases.
In other words, just over two in 10 patients actually needed emergency care. However, almost 40 percent of parents asked to rate their children’s conditions reported that their children needed emergency care.
One explanation for overuse of pediatric emergency services is that parents, who are, on the whole, less experienced medical providers than doctors and nurses, are simply not good at evaluating whether or not a medical condition constitutes an emergency.
That explanation, however, fails to account for the nearly 40 percent of parents in the study who brought their children into the ED knowing that they had a non-urgent condition.
One way to better understand why parents bring their children to the emergency room is to simply ask them. Two different interview studies have done just that, questioning parents who took their children to the ED for non-urgent conditions. Both studies took place on weekdays during normal work hours, in order to determine why parents chose the emergency room over a PCP.
In the first study, researchers identified three main reasons for choosing the ED over the PCP. Some parents indicated that they chose the ED because their PCP recommended it, either after an in-person visit or after a phone call.
Another group of parents chose the ED because of problems with their PCPs, including impolite staff, confusing directions from the PCP, or even a PCP whose accent was confusing to parents. Parents also saw advantages to the ED, which was available for walk-ins and might be closer to home.
The second study found similar reasons for ED use, but went a step further in matching those reasons to parents’ health literacy. Researchers found that parents with lower health literacy tended to seek care for a diagnosis and treatment, while parents with average health literacy usually came to the ED with a diagnosis in mind but seeking reassurance from a trusted source.
Both groups feared “getting it right” when it came to their children’s diagnoses. In that sense, the ED operated as a space to reassure parents that they were providing good care to their children.
The most interesting finding of this second study was that all parents heard alarm bells over some symptoms. No matter how much health literacy they had, nearly all parents in the study panicked about fever. Parents feared ear damage, brain damage, and other consequences frequently misattributed to fever, and took their children to the ED even when it was not recommended by their children’s PCPs.

What’s the best way to keep your kids out of the ED?

Boost your own health literacy.
What’s clear from the interview studies is that parents with stronger health literacy are better assessors of risk, better able to distinguish between non-urgent, urgent, and life-threatening situations.

1 | Learn to identify true emergencies

You’ll probably know a true emergency in the unlucky case you see it, but if you need reminders, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children site for parents offers a useful list of situations that count as emergencies.
Although medical emergencies come from the whole alphabet, remembering just the Bs is a good start: behavior changes (like disorientation), bleeding, breathing problems, broken bones, burns, and button batteries (only if swallowed). All of those things will be considered high priority in an emergency department, because they are either life-threatening, high-risk, or causing severe pain.
When you’re on the fence about whether or not emergency care is right for the situation, your child might be better served by urgent care. Many lacerations, for example, are urgent but not life threatening, and therefore do not require a trip to the ER. In fact, they may be more quickly resolved at an urgent care center.
Some hospitals, like the Mayo Clinic, operate both emergency departments and urgent care centers, which makes it possible for parents who are unsure about the severity of a condition to be redirected by the hospital staff.
If you don’t have a combination ED and urgent care center near you, and aren’t sure which of the two to go to, check out Colorado Children’s Hospital’s helpful quiz to train you to distinguish between urgent and emergency situations. Actually, if you have time to take the quiz, you probably have an urgent care need and not an emergency.
Many other terrifying-looking medical issues, like a high fever in a child over three months old or even febrile seizure, do not require urgent care and can be handled through follow-up with your child’s PCP, which is why the next step is so crucial.

2 | Develop trust in your child’s primary care provider

Try to see the same PCP for all of your child’s well visits. Doing so can help you build trust in that person’s judgment, which you can lean on when making middle-of-the-night healthcare decisions.
Your child’s PCP is there to monitor your child’s health, but also to educate you about how best to care for him. Make sure you are receiving the resources you need, including, for example, information on urgent versus non-urgent situations.
Many PCPs operate phone services for health questions. These hotlines are different from the insurer hotlines you might call to find out about health coverage. Instead, these hotlines put you in touch with a healthcare professional, often a nurse, who will help you determine how serious your child’s health issue is. That person can also contact your PCP to get further advice about how to proceed.
If your pediatrician does not have a triage after-hours phone service, ask why not. If you don’t trust your primary care provider, get a new one.

3 | Ask what you’re buying with an emergency department visit…and where else you can buy that

The hardest part of deciding not to go to the emergency department with a sick or injured child is probably not a medical issue. It’s a philosophical one.
One possible explanation for the overuse of emergency departments for common childhood illnesses is that parents are seeking reassurance more than they are seeking medical care. Although training yourself to identify true emergencies, developing trust with your child’s PCP, and cultivating a list of after-hours resources will all help you make better decisions, what you need most is to develop trust in yourself as a parent.
If you review the above studies about the ages of children brought to the ED, you would notice a distinct drop-off after the first few years of life. That’s not because young children are necessarily any more vulnerable than preschoolers or kindergarteners. It’s because parents of one-year-olds don’t trust themselves to identify and resolve their children’s health problems.
For the first three months or so, no new parents know what they’re doing. This is also the time period when some issues, like fever, are considered emergencies. So you might choose to follow an informal three-month rule, erring on the side of caution and making frequent calls to your child’s PCP until you can start to separate urgent from non-urgent.
As you begin to learn these distinctions, and develop your health literacy, start to trust as much in yourself as in your child’s medical staff.