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Tag Archive for: kids health

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Keeping Up Appearances: Social Media and Self-Esteem

Guest Blogger:  Susan Wang, Occupational Therapist

In the current age of media, the internet and social media sites (especially Instagram) contribute heavily towards bombarding young girls with images and videos of models. Approx. 90% of adolescents use social media daily, frequently for more than 2 hours a day.  Girls are more exposed in higher rates to media than boys which make females much more vulnerable to the negative impacts of media than boys. With the rise of social media use for marketing and advertising, content creators and models can interact heavily with their viewers through comments and live videos. They create heavily curated profiles and document intimate moments of their lives that thousands (sometimes millions) of individuals follow and keep up with. This, in addition to the popularity of Instagram use by celebrities, can create the illusion of forming authentic relationships with their audience. The interactive nature of social networking also provides opportunities for girls to compare their appearance with their peers. For example, taking selfies may cause women to scrutinize their own image from an observer’s perspective, which is then further reinforced by instant feedback on their appearance through the form of comments and ‘likes.’

Social media presents unique pressures on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. It is a highly visual environment in which appearance ideals and the pursuit of thinness are promoted. Indeed, the interactive nature of social media appears to contribute to increases in disordered eating. As social media marketing and advertising continues to grow, competition amongst content creators and “influencers” also rises. There is a need to create a persona and create images/videos that stand out amongst the thousands of other marketers competing for the same sponsorships. This results in models utilizing photo editing apps to alter their images. With the rise of “FaceTune” and other photo editing apps, it is increasingly easier for individuals to alter their images, without needing to consult professionals or develop skills in photo editing. This has resulted in girls comparing themselves to unrealistic beauty standards.

In addition, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have normalized the usage of surgical enhancements. Lip injections, breast augmentations, “fillers”, and other cosmetic surgery has been on the rise in recent years.  Cosmetic doctors have reported an increase in teens seeking lip injections, citing photos of Kylie Jenner as an inspiration. Studies have shown that women who rated their self-esteem, life-satisfaction, and attractiveness as low, were more likely to undergo cosmetic surgery.  This study also indicated that women with high social media exposure were more likely to undergo plastic surgery.  There is also an increase in the number of teenagers seeking plastic surgery. In 2017, approximately 220,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients aged 13-19 and social media plays a large part in this trend.  The average Millenial takes over 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, which is one of the major reasons for the self-esteem issues in this age group. In a recent American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, more than 40% of surgeons said looking better in selfies on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook was an incentive for patients of all ages getting surgery. This is magnified for teens, who use social media more often.

Instagram vs. Reality

There are existing efforts to combat the rise in unrealistic beauty standards by raising awareness about the increasing use of photo editing apps. One such example is a community on the forum “Reddit” that posts side-by-side comparisons of edited images posted by models and celebrities and non-edited photos or videos depicting what they actually look like. While some of the posts contain borderline offensive/body-shaming comments, the concept can be helpful, especially for young girls, in highlighting the efforts and altering (posing, editing) that goes into celebrities’ images.

Some additional helpful resources we came across include:

References:

Brown, A., Furnham, A., Glanville, L., & Swami, V. (2007). Factors that affect the likelihood of undergoing cosmetic surgery. Aesthet Surg J, 27 (5). 501-508.

Paul, K. (2018, October 10). Do Instagram and Snapchat distort how teenagers see themselves? MarketWatch. Retrieved from
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-unsettling-relationship-between-selfie-filters-and-plasticsurgery-2018-08-02

Paul, K. (2018, September 30). More than 200,000 teens had plastic surgery last year, and social media had a lot to do with it. MarketWatch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/should-you-let-your-teenager-get-plastic-surgery-2018-08-29

Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2015). The mediating role of appearance comparisons in the relationship between media usage and self-objectification in young women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 447–457.

Oberst, U., Wegmann, E., Stoft, B., Brand, M., & Chamarro, A. (2017). Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: The mediating role of fear of missing out. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 51-60.

Costa, L. D. C. F., de Vasconcelos, F. D. A. G., & Peres, K. G. (2010). Influence of biological, social and psychological factors on abnormal eating attitudes among female university students in Brazil.

Journal of Facial Plastic Surgery (2014). Selfie trend increases demand for facial plastic surgery. Retrieved from https://www.aafprs.org/media/press_release/20140311.html

Salmela-Aro, K,, Upadyaya, K., Hakkarainen, K,, & Lonka, K. (2016). The Dark Side of Internet Use: Two Longitudinal Studies of Excessive Internet Use, Depressive Symptoms, School Burnout and Engagement Among Finnish Early and Late Adolescents. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 46 (2). DO – 10.1007/s10964-016-0494-2

de Vries, D. A., & Peter, J. (2013). Women on display: The effect of portraying the self online on women’s self-objectification. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1483e1489. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.015 .

Spettigue, W., & Henderson, K.A. (2004). Eating disorders and the role of the media. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 13 (1), 16-19.

 

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The Rights of a Child

Written by Justine Huszczynski, Occupational Therapist

November 20th marks the date when Canada adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Simply put, the UNCRC is a treaty that outlines the basic human rights for children and youth.

Among other rights, the UNCRC outlines “survival and development rights” which are explained as “the basic rights to life, survival and development of one’s full potential”. Looking into this a little deeper, Article 23 under the “survival and development rights” states:

“Children who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the rights in the Convention, so that they can live full and independent lives.”

So, how is Canada ensuring that the rights of children with disabilities are being fulfilled? Of course, we have public healthcare which provides children prompt access to medical attention. But Article 23 goes beyond this. It also includes the right to services – therapy services perhaps – that children with “any kind of disability” should be able to access such that they can become independent adults and experience a fulfilling life.

While Ontario offers plenty of publicly funded early intervention services for children with disabilities (based on the availability of government-funded children’s treatment centres across the province), how are the outrageous waitlists for some of the most valuable services offered in these centres acceptable? For example, in 2013 the Toronto Star surveyed nine of the government-funded treatment centres and found average waitlist times ranging from one to four years for a child to receive intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy.

So how does this follow the guidelines of the UNCRC? Honestly, it doesn’t. Simply having a service available to a child with a disability is not enough. The service needs to be provided. Long waitlists do not allow children to “live full and independent lives” but in fact can stifle a child’s development by denying access to programs that are most effective as “early intervention”.

Therefore, while we celebrate how far we have come to secure the rights of children, we need to look ahead and aim for a brighter future for those children that may need some extra support – sooner rather than later. An example of striving for a brighter future comes from the parents of one of my clients who devoted their time to being their child’s advocate when “he didn’t have a voice”. After this young client was denied services by one of the government-funded children’s treatment centres in Ontario, his parents scheduled a meeting with their local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to advocate for their son’s dire need for early intervention services. As a result of the advocacy skills of my client’s parents, the MPP ordered the treatment centre to complete a reassessment and the child was granted the early intervention services that he absolutely deserved and required. During a conversation with the mother of this client, she stated, “It is my job to be make my child’s life better”. This statement is heartwarming, and perhaps we should view it as a challenge. A challenge for all of us – therapists, health professionals, teachers, citizens, governments– to truly make it our “job” to ensure children are given the best life possible. So take the challenge and advocate for our children – ask more questions, get second opinions, research the available charitable funding, schedule meetings with your MPP, school board trustee, and don’t take no for an answer.

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Try Yoga for Improved Focus and Self-Regulation in Children

Guest Blogger Jana Maich, Occupational Therapist

Working as an occupational therapist in pediatrics, I am always on the lookout for simple strategies I can offer to parents and classroom teachers that can be easily be implemented. One of the main difficulties expressed to me by concerned parents or teachers is that a child is having difficulty controlling their activity level, focusing or attending, or controlling emotional outbursts. In other words, a child is having difficulty self-regulating.

What does this mean? Self-regulation is our ability to monitor and control our body’s arousal level (in other words, our level of alertness) in order to remain in an optimal state that is appropriate for the current situation. Self-regulation is critical to being able to attend, focus, and learn (1). When our body’s arousal level gets too “high,” we may feel anxious, nervous, or stressed. When our body’s arousal level gets too “low,” we may feel lethargic, sluggish, or tired. Often unconsciously, adults participate in a variety of self-regulation strategies to remain in an optimum state throughout our day. For example, in a boring meeting where your level of alertness may be “low,” you may tap your pencil, shift in your chair, apply pressure to your mouth or chin with your hands, or drink water in order to bring your arousal level up. After an intense day of work when you may be feeling too “high,” you may take a bath, read a book, or participate in some other sort of relaxation promoting activity (1). There are many ways to regulate ourselves, and just as adults require self-regulation strategies, children do too. Yet, in today’s changing and fast-passed society, children are more stressed than ever before. School demands have increased, daily schedules are jam-packed, and they don’t have as much play or “down” time as kids once did. Unfortunately, unstructured play activities that are critical to a child’s innate self-regulation needs have been replaced by TV and electronics. All of this has ultimately stressed our young generations, resulting in disrupted self-regulation.

Yoga is one activity that has become recognized as a suitable and helpful regulation activity – for people of all ages. (2). For children, yoga offers many potential benefits – both physically and emotionally. Benefits include improved postural control, immune functioning, body awareness, strength and flexibility, emotional control, attention, sleep, and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Yoga is a simple strategy with a variety of exercises that can be completed anywhere including at home, when on vacation, while lying in bed, or as a group in the classroom. Depending on the current needs of the child, there are various poses and breathing exercises designed to bring arousal levels up or down as appropriate. Over time, children begin to develop an enhanced mind-body connection and an improved ability to monitor and manage their own levels of arousal (2).

In my personal experience, using simple breathing strategies and poses in my practice, has demonstrated firsthand how yoga can positively affect children with both physical and mental disabilities including autism, ADHD, emotional difficulties, mental health conditions, and motor coordination difficulties. In older children, learning how to control their own emotions and arousal levels empowers them and creates both self-esteem and self-control.

So what are you waiting for? Search out local yoga programs for you or your child. Try these links: www.yoga4classrooms.com or www.childlightyoga.com. Consider that many places will let you try a class without a commitment, or offer great starter incentives. Or, buy a CD or DVD, or check out some poses and breathing exercises via online videos to see if this might work for you or your family.

Originally posted July 2014

(1) Williams, M., & Shellenberger, S. (2012). “How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the Alert Program for self-regulation.” Albuquerque, NM: Therapy Works

(2) Flynn, L. (2010). Yoga 4 classrooms. Tools for learning, lessons for life. Dover, NH: Yoga 4 Classrooms.

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So I Guess Your Kid Doesn’t Wear a Seat Belt Either?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I get very confused when I see children riding bikes without helmets.  Over the last many years the safety benefits of a helmet for biking, skiing, skateboarding, ice skating (and many other sports) has been well studied.  Research shows that helmets can be extremely effective in preventing head injuries and ¾ of all cycling fatalities are the result of head trauma.  You don’t even have to hit a car or tree to sustain a head injury – the ground or even your handlebars are often enough.

The laws in Ontario are clear:  since October 1, 1995 anyone under the age of 18 is required to ride a helmet on a road or sidewalk (http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/helmet/helmet_law.htm).  Based on an increasing number of adult cycling deaths by head injury, it is likely that this law will soon be extended to adults as it is in other provinces.

So, considering the laws and the well-publicized risks, why are children (including young children) still seen riding bikes without helmets?

As adults, I recognize that we were not raised to wear helmets.  Adopting this practice has been difficult as we find it unnatural, maybe uncomfortable, and probably uncool.  However, most of us likely wear seat belts when in a vehicle.  Why?  BECAUSE WE WERE RAISED THAT WAY.  Seat belt laws in Ontario were passed in 1976 and so many of us were raised in the era of this as mandatory.  Many of us probably don’t even have to think about our seat belt anymore as it is part of our regular “get-in-the-car” routine and we feel naked and exposed without it.  We need to apply the same concept of “normal” to our children regarding helmets. 

There are two main reasons why children need to wear helmets. 

1. They are safe and have been shown to save lives and reduce disability.

2.  IT IS THE LAW.

As a parent, by not requiring that your child wear a helmet on their bike you are not only putting them at risk, but are also teaching them that laws don’t matter.  And I am not talking about the diligent parents whose children leave the house with a helmet on, to later have this on their handlebars or undone on their head.   I am mostly talking about the young kids in my neighbourhood who are out on their bikes without helmets, often under the supervision of their parents, and are thus not being taught that helmets are law, mandatory, and safe.

I am going to hazard a guess that no parent would put their child in a car without a seat belt.  Heck, child seats are also law and until a certain age, these are five-point and offer more protection than the adult restraint.  So, for the same reasons you put your child in a seat belt (protection and law) you need to ensure they are wearing a helmet for biking (skating, skiing, skateboarding).  And lead by example – get a helmet for yourself and model the appropriate behavior.  And be firm: no helmet should equal no bike.  No discussion.

 

Previously posted June 2016

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Adaptive Physical Activity Guidelines for Children with Disabilities

Participaction and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, have created a fantastic resource for parents of children with disabilities.  The Ability Toolkit’s purpose is to ensure that all children are meeting daily movement requirements.  The toolkit helps to break down what a healthy day should look like for children and youth and provides ways to modify and adapt activities for many physical disabilities.  Take a look at the Ability Toolkit here and if you’re struggling to find adapted physical activities for your child consult an Occupational Therapist who are experts in providing solutions for living.

The Ability Toolkit

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Screen Time: How Much is Too Much and How to Change It

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I was enjoying a nice dinner with a friend (also an occupational therapist) and we started a great conversation about phone use with our children.  She asked me “how much screen time is too much”?  Of course, there isn’t really an academic answer, but we talked from a professional perspective about the behavior of phones, the social risks and benefits, and from the parent side of our fears and worries about how these have become a staple in the lives of our kids. Then, she changed my world by introducing me to the concept of screen time (more on that below).

Parents have very polarized views on phones, so I get that how I manage this in my household may not fit with the values of others.  To recap, I have four teen daughters ages 14-18.  Our phone philosophy is that we provide our girls a phone for their 14th Birthday (Grade 9) and pay for this until their 18th Birthday.  After that, they are on their own to fund this expense (and can get as many gigs as they want).  On our plan, they have 2 gigs each and do not get an extension if they run out.  Their access to Wi-Fi at home is scheduled and is not limitless.  They are not allowed to have their devices in their bedrooms (concessions are made sometimes but they already have “old school alarm clocks” to negate the “I need it to wake up” argument) and they know that if this is beside their bed it needs to be in airplane mode to not disrupt their sleep.

Too strict?  Perhaps, but I see phones like every other “potentially harmful” thing I keep my kids from.  Sedentary time, junk food and pop consumption (tip – just don’t buy it!), and of course we do not serve them alcohol or buy them cigarettes.  I ensure they are all engaged in something active and encourage them to make decent food choices, even if they don’t.  Those things are easy for me to “parent about” because it is well established that “sitting disease” is a thing, “diabetes and obesity” are a problem, and alcohol and drugs are horrible for developing brains (not to mention illegal for my kids based on age).  But screen time?  How much is “too much”?  We don’t really know that yet.  We know that phones are highly addictive – more addictive than cocaine – and cause a whole host of behaviors that, like addictions, are hard to break.  They also promote highly sedentary behavior (they are typically used while sitting). So, here is how I handled this (and note this is for iPhones with a family plan, I don’t know how this works with any other devices):

  • Go to: “settings, screen time”.  To get to know how this works, the top shows your usage.  Push on that and you have the option to look at Today or the Last 7 Days.  Below that is a list of all the things you do on your phone and for how long.
  • Go back to “screen time” and you will see somethings below your usage:

o   Downtime (schedule time away from the screen)

o   App Limits (set time for apps)

o   Always Allowed (things you want to always have access to)

o   Content and Privacy (blocking inappropriate content

  • Then below that, you will see “Family” and a list of those “underage” as per your family plan.

Now for the cool parent stuff.  You can click on any one of your children’s devices and you can see for each of them what you can also see for yourself.  Patterns, usage behavior, time on certain things, and you can also put limits to the above (Downtime, Apps, Always Allowed and Content).  It asks you for a password so as a parent you can pick something that the kids won’t know.  They can’t change their limits on their own.

I don’t recommend arbitrarily just going in and setting limits as I think the best part of the “screen time” feature is the conversation that can happen around figuring out what is “reasonable”.  With my kids, I chatted with each of them about their usage pattern (something they never looked at).  We talked about the time on their Apps, and for some, questions like: “4 hours on Rodeo Stampede”?  This brought their awareness to their habits and allowed me to understand their insight into whether this was “good, bad or ugly”.  And honestly, it was a mix of all three.  After we understood their patterns, we decided on our “screen time limit” (for us three hours / day) and went through to give permission for all the “good” to continue, the “bad” to be limited, and the “ugly” to stop.  And the best thing is that these limits apply regardless of data or Wi-Fi – so even if they have unlimited Wi-Fi in public places, they can’t use their devices more than programmed.

Since implementing this several weeks ago, their screen time has dropped significantly, and they don’t even use their devices to their limits (which were set lower than their averages to start with).  In fact, three hours might be more than they need.

All of this brings me back to a popular concept in my profession of occupational therapy:  behavior change starts with being able to track and understand it in the first place.  Once you know where behavior is at, you can make a conscious and concerted effort to modify it to improve your own health.  Even if you drop your usage by 30 minutes a day and maintain that for several weeks, you just returned yourself 3.5 hours per week to do other (healthier?) things.

What’s next Apple?  An iFridge?

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My Child is a Picky Eater… Help!

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Do you have a child that is a picky eater?  You are definitely not alone!  Picky eating is a common issue, and while it is normal for kids to have food preferences and dislikes, it can be quite concerning for parents.  The good news is an Occupational Therapist can help!

Occupational Therapists can work with families to create solutions tailored to the individual child. Some general suggestions may include some of the following tips:

  • Remove the pressure
  • Allow the child to “play with their food”
  • Encourage food exploration on their own terms
  • Maintain a consistent meal-time routine
  • Introduce changes and new foods slowly – overcoming picky eating is a very gradual process

Watch our popular video below to learn more about how an Occupational Therapist can help families overcome the picky eating problem and raise healthy, happy eaters.

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Give Gifts That Help Children ‘Grow’

If you’re a keen and organized shopper, I’m sure you have the majority of your holiday gifts already purchased, and if you’re anything like my Mother had everything done and wrapped in August! However, if you’re anything like my husband, you are waiting until the 24th to think about Christmas.

Although Santa and his Elves are hard at work building the toys your children put on their Christmas wish list, there may be a few items you still need to purchase.

We consulted our talented team of Pediatric Occupational Therapists and are happy to provide you with some fun but functional gift inspiration. These are gifts that are educational and stimulate child development:

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Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks: Can You Spot the Difference?

Are you able to spot the difference between a regular “sports drink” like a Gatorade and an “energy drink” that is full of caffeine and sugar without looking at the nutrition label?  It might be harder than you think—and if it’s hard for an adult, think of how many kids might make the mistake.  Learn more about a concerning new study warning the dangers of “energy drinks” for youth care of CBC News.

CBC News:  U of C researcher warns parents about dangers of high-caffeine energy drinks

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The A to Z of OT: K is For… Kids Health

Occupational Therapists work with people of any age, including children.  Occupational Therapists can assist children in many ways including, growth and development, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, overcoming eating issues and more.  Learn about some of the many ways an OT can help children in our post, Occupational Therapy Works for Kids.

 

October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!