Feature

More than one in four Aussie kids are overweight or obese: we’re failing them, and we need a plan

Alessandro Demaio addressed the National Press Club today, alongside Karen Carey (former chair of the Consumers Health Forum) and Stephen Duckett (head of the Health Program at the Grattan Institute), to outline the key health issues ahead of the 2019 federal election. This is an edited transcript of Alessandro Demaio’s speech. The year is 1980, and a small number of vulnerable Australian children begin to show early signs of a quiet but dangerous disease. Affecting their kidneys, their hearts and even their brains, this disease has known causes – and solutions. But little or nothing is done and it doesn’t even make the headlines. Jump forward to 1995, the disease is spreading. From just a handful of children in every hundred, this condition is now affecting one in five. Driven by a lack of opportunity and heavily concentrated in our poorest communities, the burden sees a steep rise in type 2 diabetes and other serious complications. This is a disease that soon sees young people developing illnesses previously thought of as older age ailments. And it’s one that singles out Indigenous kids, rural and remote kids, and poorer kids. In fact by 2013, nearly one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian children and adolescents are affected. Read more: Before pregnancy even starts, healthy weight in mums and dads lowers obesity risk in children Jump forward to 2011, and we have now allowed one in four children across Australia to be affected by this chronic condition. We have stood back for so long that 25% of our kids are now living with daily discrimination and long-term, often irreversible health challenges. We don’t know the exact number of children affected by this serious health challenge today, but we know it has surpassed 25%. What is truly irresponsible is that we don’t even have a clear plan for addressing this rising epidemic now affecting hundreds of thousands of Aussie kids. The condition is excess weight, and obesity. If this were any other serious, debilitating, rapidly rising health challenge, we would be calling a national emergency. We would be rallying the troops and putting every resource possible into finding a solution. We have solutions available that are costed, proven, and endorsed by the highest global health agencies, including the United Nations. We now need to implement them. Read more: How obesity causes cancer, and may make screening and treatment harder Other nations have stepped up Research shows advertising increases the consumption of junk foods and drinks, even in children as young as two. England is banning all junk food advertising on the London transport system and implementing strict rules on children’s TV. Chile has banned the use of cartoon characters on junk foods, including sugary cereals that can contain more than the recommended daily sugar intake in a single serve. Cartoons attract young minds and incentivise nagging for already busy parents. When kids see junk food advertised on TV, they want it. From shutterstock.com Meanwhile in Australia, our governments continue to allow some of the highest levels of junk food advertising during children’s TV programming in the world. Some 44% of food advertisements seen by kids are for unhealthy foods. And despite whatever industry will tell you, between 2011 and 2015 no reduction was seen in the rate of unhealthy food advertising. Chile is implementing mandatory and clear front-of-pack labels that make it easy for young consumers to understand what is and isn’t healthy. This has cut the likelihood of people choosing sugary breakfast cereals by 11% and sugary juices by almost 24%. Peru and Uruguay are following. Ecuador has clear “traffic light” labels indicating sugar, salt and fat content in products. Read more: Broad range of prevention efforts need to target obesity in children These countries have a plan. Here in Australia we continue to argue about a voluntary system that experts agree is a good start but too weak, and all while we attack the public health sector for their efforts. We continue to insult every parent and young child by projecting an untruthful dogma that child obesity should be blamed on poor choices or poor parenting. This ignores the fact that junk-food outlets disproportionately saturate poorer neighbourhoods, or that one of the strongest predictors of dying early from weight-related chronic disease is your postcode. We need to tax sugary drinks At latest count, at least 49 countries now have a form of tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – or junk drinks. Evidence from the World Health Organisation clearly shows we need to reduce kids’ sugar consumption. It is linked with type 2 diabetes, which in turn is linked to early death and decades of suffering. It is also a major contributor to missing school, through dental illness. Increasing the price of sugary drinks protects public health. And while some will tell you such a tax will bankrupt farmers, leaders like Professor Stephen Duckett from the Grattan Institute have shown this is not the case. Others will tell you a tax will hit the poorest hardest, but this is untrue too. The poorest households in Australia generally consume the highest amounts of sugary drinks and suffer from the greatest burden of costly, diet-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. They have the most to gain. Obesity among children in Australia is a much bigger problem than it used to be. From shutterstock.com Evidence from Mexico suggests just that. The poorest communities consumed almost 20% fewer sugary drinks as a result of the increase in price within two years of the change. In Philadelphia, the much-needed income from a small price increase in soft drinks was used to subsidise physical activity programs for kids, and childcare for families. Read more: Lessons for Australia from US reversal of childhood obesity Here in Australia, false facts and conflicts of interest drive futile discussions that result in continued inaction. Our health minister makes proud announcements hand in hand with industry, while those same industry players are shown to be funding fake research and manipulating both national governments and United Nations agencies. Meanwhile, junk food fuels two in three adults being overweight, and these overweight adults are malnourished in key nutrients. Why invest in prevention? Australia’s government spends less than about $0.02 of every health dollar on prevention each year. This equates to A$89 per person – considerably less than Canada or New Zealand. Meanwhile, the economic burden of treating obesity-related diseases is estimated to rise from A$12 billion in 2014 to A$21 billion in 2025. In other words, for every dollar we are spending on prevention, we’ll soon be losing A$10 for our lack of action on obesity. Read more: Even if obesity were a disease, exercise may be too bitter a pill For decades our governments have sat back and allowed a preventable epidemic. Adult-onset diabetes is being renamed as it now affects younger and younger members of our community. Bowel cancer is becoming more common in adolescents. And fatty liver disease, once almost unheard of in children, is now increasing. The longer we wait, the longer we go without a plan, the longer we fail to invest in prevention, the longer our kids suffer needlessly. For the health of Aussie kids and our nation, we need a comprehensive plan for prevention. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Author: Alessandro R Demaio, Australian Medical Doctor; Fellow in Global Health & NCDs, University of Copenhagen ]]>

Canberra Mums – Could you be the one?

If your New Year resolution was to make a real difference in the world why not consider becoming a foster parent and you could make the world of difference to a child in need. The statistics around child protection are startling – every day in Australia there are some 186 substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect and one child dies every two weeks at the hands of those meant to protect and care for them. In the ACT alone there are currently more than 700 children living in out-of-home care due to issues of abuse or neglect. That equates to one child in every classroom in need of care and protection. Could you be the one adult that it takes to make a difference in their lives? There is a growing body of evidence that suggests every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed rela­tionship with a supportive adult. The power of that one strong adult relationship is a key ingredient in resilience according to the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child. Could you be the one? ACT Together is calling for new foster carers this year hoping to encourage more people to recognise the impact they can have on the life of a child. Can you provide a safe and stable environment for children and young people who cannot live safely at home? Every child is one adult away from being a success story. Could you be the one? Call 1300 WEFOSTER (1300 933 678) to find out or for more information visit www.acttogether.org.au ]]>

There are no age restrictions for gambling in video games, despite potential risks to children

According to a 2018 report by Digital Australia, 97% of Australian households with children have at least one device for playing video games. More than 60% of households have five or more devices. Since the early 2000s, the boom in mobile technology has seen the spread of video games from desktop PCs to the pockets of young people everywhere. But with that spread has come new hazards, in the form of online social gambling. Read more: ‘Loot boxes’ and pay-to-win features in digital games look a lot like gambling Gambling games are mostly rated ‘PG’ or ‘G’ Gambling via mobile devices or mobile games has remained largely unregulated in Australia. In a 2012 study of more than 100 video games featuring gambling simulations, 69 of them were rated PG (8+) and 33 of them were rated G (for a general audience) by the Australian regulator. In other words, no gambling games received any age restrictions. The Australian Classification Board, the body charged with rating games, consistently underrates games that feature gambling, despite the potential risk they pose to children. Part of the explanation comes down to the way games are classified. In Australia, video games classifications are based on six criteria: themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity. Read more: Social casino games can help – or harm – problem gamblers Gambling comes under the first broad category of “themes” and is generally classifiedaccording to the presence of gambling, gambling references or gambling themes. Game developers use the classification system to their advantage by skirting the edges of what is considered an acceptable “presence of gambling”. Gambling video games tend to fall into three broad categories in this regard: actual online casinos, social gambling games (which can use real money, but can also be played for free) and games that use gambling techniques. The latter type, including games such as Candy Crush, use techniques similar to a slot machine, but do not actually look like a casino. The other types often explicitly look like a casino. Regardless, they still receive a G rating. Risks for children When children and teenagers play simulated gambling games (featuring either real money or fake money), they are more likely to grow up and gamble with real money. One studyfound that almost 30% of adolescents who played simulated poker went on to play real poker with real money later in life. Some companies claim that games can have gambling techniques, with no risk to children, so long as there is no real money involved. However, even if gambling games are ostensibly “free” to play, they pose a risk to young people by making them more susceptible to gambling mechanics, psychological tricks and addiction. To put it simply, when a young person reaches age 18 and finally enters a casino having previously played social gambling games, they will be more susceptible to real gambling and psychological addiction, because they will be primed for it. Gaming classifications are out of step The low classification of gambling games in Australia is out of line with the broader laws on gambling. In all states, there are strict laws on who can enter a casino and who can gamble, with every state imposing age restrictions roughly correlating with adulthood. If these general laws were imposed on gambling games, they would receive a classification of R (18+) – the highest possible rating – rather than G (for a general audience). Since 2013, Australia has had an R (18+) category for games. At the time of its introduction, it was argued that the adult rating would empower the classification agency, and stop kids from having access to games that could potentially harm them. It would appear that that has not occurred with regards to gambling games. Despite recent statements by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation that some video game mechanics can “constitute gambling”, not much has changed regarding the law in Victoria or any other state. Victorian officials state that they can do very little when a gaming company or product is based overseas. However, it is unclear why the regulator, the Australian Classification Board, cannot put higher ratings on gambling games sold in Australia, in Australian stores or on Australian websites. The benefits of gaming Video games do not have to be addictive or feature gambling mechanics to be fun or to make money. Many of the most successful video games today feature no gambling mechanics at all. Some are actually good for you because they help develop creativity, keep an active brain or teach new skills. Read more: The business of addiction: how the video gaming industry is evolving to be like the casino industry The rise of gamification, or the use of games for serious purposes, has led to a variety of games that assist educators, the government and private companies in creating interactive learning experiences. It is unfortunate that some video gaming companies continue to develop gambling and anti-social video games, when the power of video games as a positive medium for change is just starting to develop. Without further action by the regulator, it is up to the states to determine whether online gambling video games should remain out of line with the general laws concerning gambling and age restrictions in Australia. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Author: Joshua Krook, Doctoral Candidate in Law, University of Adelaide ]]>

So your birth didn’t go according to plan? Don’t blame yourself

While childbirth is often a joyful event, it rarely unfolds exactly how we think it will. This causes disappointment or distress among some women, and leaves a small proportion with a diagnosis of postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PPTSD). A negative birth means mothers are more likely to be depressed. This can alter the way they engage with their baby, which can impact on the baby’s development. Women’s relationships with their partners (both sexual and emotional) can also become strained. A recent survey of Australian women found only 58% of women who gave birth in a hospital or birth centre got the birth they wanted and 27% did not. Women were more likely to view the birth as negative if they had an instrumental birth (with forceps of vaccuum) or caesarean section. Partners also increasingly report feeling distressed, traumatised and helpless when things go wrong in labour. After a traumatic birth, the fear of something similar happening can be so intense some women delay subsequent pregnancies; request caesarean sections or avoid hospitals for future births; or simply never have another baby. Read more: For some women, unassisted home births are worth the risks Why doesn’t it go according to plan? Most women want a normal, vaginal birth and many want to be able to do this without pain relief and any medical intervention. The reality in Australia is this may not happen, especially if this is the first baby. When expectations of childbirth don’t match reality, women can feel like a failure – and are somehow at fault. But women are not able to control the baby’s position, whether the baby gets distressed during labour, her blood pressure rising, or the development of diabetes. These factors may require increased monitoring and interventions such as an emergency caesarean section. When birth does not go to plan, this is rarely a woman’s fault. It is sometimes a failure on the part of the care providers. And sometimes nothing could have changed the outcome. It doesn’t help to tell women this is “just one day” in their lives and “at least they have a healthy baby”. This dismisses how women feel and risks women getting “stuck” in their trauma. Remember, there is no one definition of trauma: it is whatever the woman says it is. Women should feel they can talk about it and seek help if they need it. Trauma-related mental illness A small proportion of women who experience trauma in childbirth meet the diagnostic criteria for postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PPTSD). PTSD causes persistent, involuntary and intrusive memories, distressing dreams and dissociative (out of body) reactions after a traumatic event. Postnatal PTSD causes intense or prolonged psychological distress after childbirth. Researchers estimate postnatal PTSD affects between 1.7% and 9% of women who give birth. Our recently published review of 53 research papers found women are more likely to be diagnosed with PPTSD if they have: a past history of trauma, sexual abuse or domestic violence; complications during the pregnancy, birth, or with the baby (such as the baby needing to be resuscitated); poor or abusive care; and lack of support. Read more: Treating post-traumatic stress disorder: confronting the horror Reducing the chance of a poor birth experience Preparing for birth seems to help women have a more positive experience. Having a birth plan can be an important part of this. Birth plans enable you to communicate your wishes for the labour and birth clearly to your health care providers, especially if you have not met them before. You might include who you want at the birth, the positions you would like to give birth in, the use of water for pain relief, and so on. Be flexible and aware you may need to vary this plan, but also remember no one can dismiss your birth plan. Our 2016 research on childbirth education programs found giving women and their partners tools to manage pain – such as acupressure, breathing, massage and visualisation – reduced rates of birth interventions. With these tools, women and their partners approached birth more positively and were more satisfied with the experience. Read more: Parent education and complementary therapies reduce birthing risks My motto with birth preparation is prepare women but don’t scare them. The awful war stories women tell each other about giving birth don’t help. Women should “go there” and consider that birth may require intervention, but not “stay there”. Feeling negative and fearful about the birth can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Women who have a midwife they know through the pregnancy, birth and postnatal periodhave fewer interventions, better outcomes and greater satisfaction with the birth than those who are allotted whoever is on duty that day. Relationship-based care is the safest care, as it allows trust to develop, as well as giving an ongoing opportunity for the woman to discuss what happened. Health providers can significantly reduce negative birth experiences for women by being kind and respectful, avoiding unnecessary intervention during birth and explaining the reasons for intervention when this is needed. We need to give women the chance to ask questions, give informed consent and an opportunity to debrief afterwards. If you feel you need help to work through your feelings about the birth, talk to your midwife, GP or maternal child health nurse, who can refer you to a perinatal counsellor if needed. You can also get a referral from a GP for ongoing psychological treatment. Resources: The book How to Heal from a Bad Birth and the consumer group Birth Talk were created for women disappointed or traumatised by their births. The Positive Birth Movement connects women through social media so they can share stories, expertise and positivity about childbirth. There is also a book based on the movement. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) and Beyondblue offer support services for women with birth trauma. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Author:Hannah Dahlen, Professor of Midwifery, Western Sydney University ]]>

Five tips to help you make the most of reading to your children

Reading to your child is one of the most successful ways of instilling a love of reading in them. But in our recent study, more than one-quarter of primary-school-aged respondents claimed they were never read to at home. Children typically enjoy being read to, and see educational, social and emotional benefits to the practice. But families are busy, and finding time to read aloud can be eaten up by the demands of everyday life. Not all parents have been read to themselves as children, so may not have experienced a model they can then follow with their own children. And many adult Australians may be struggling readers themselves. With this in mind, here are five suggestions that can help make the experience of reading to your children fun, relaxing and educational. 1. Give it all your attention For many people, the best time to read with their children is at night, once the children are in bed. But if you find your child too cranky and disengaged at this time (or if you are feeling tired yourself), you might want to try reading to them earlier in the day. Read more: Three easy ways to get your kids to read better and enjoy it Whatever the time, it’s important to give the book and your children all of your attention. Phones and other devices with enabled notifications should be switched off. Everyone should be comfortable, and children should associate time spent being read to with enjoyment. Where possible, we strongly suggest reading to your child becomes part of the daily routine. The more often children are read to, the more substantial the benefits. Reading to children is both an opportunity to model how the written word sounds and a chance for family bonding. 2. Engage with the story Children don’t typically enjoy having the story stopped every few seconds for comprehension checking, so we suggest you keep interruptions to a minimum. But recapping is useful when picking up a book again after a break. If parents let their children provide this recap (“So, where are we up to?”) this also enables informal comprehension checking. Opportunities for prediction are also beneficial (“Wow… what do you think might happen next!”). Sharing your response to a book and encouraging children’s responses stimulates critical thinking. These techniques and others can enhance learning and comprehension, but they shouldn’t upset the fluidity of the reading experience or turn it into a test. You can share the task of the reading itself with your children if they want to. This is beneficial for a range of reading skills, such as reading comprehension, word recognition and vocabulary building. 3. There’s no age limit You can start reading to your child from early infancy to support their developing language abilities, so it’s never too early to start. The skills infants and young children develop through shared reading experiences can set them up for literacy achievement in their subsequent schooling years. Read more: Research shows the importance of parents reading with children – even after children can read Reading to your children remains important beyond the early years, too, with continuing benefits for literacy development and cognitive skills. We should read to young people for as long as possible. There is no age where the benefits of being read to completely expire. Very recent research in the UK found struggling adolescent readers can make remarkable gains on their reading comprehension when books are read to them at school. This is perhaps due to the opportunity for students to enjoy books that are too hard for them to read themselves. 4. Pick a book you both enjoy We suggest you select a book that interests both you and your child. Reading together is a great opportunity to share your passions while broadening your children’s horizons through making diverse book choices. Don’t be afraid to start reading chapter books to your children while they are still very young. The age to begin this will vary depending on your child’s attention span, but it’s often possible to begin this with pre-schoolers. As long as the story isn’t too complex, children love to be taken on an enjoyable journey into books that are too hard for them to read independently. This can also help to extend child’s vocabulary, among other benefits. Read more: How building your child’s spoken word bank can boost their capacity to read It’s a good idea to take your children to the library and model how you choose interesting books for shared reading. Research shows many primary and high school children are easily overwhelmed by choice when they attempt to pick what books to read independently, so helping them with this is a valuable skill. 5. Don’t worry about your style Not all of us are destined to be award-winning voice actors, and that’s OK. It’s great to use expression and adopt different voices for the characters in a book, but not everyone will feel able to do this. At multiple points in our research, we’ve come across people who have praised the reading efforts of parents who weren’t confident readers, but who prevailed nonetheless. For example, in our recent paper a respondent described being read to by her mother who struggled with dyslexia. This mother, and many other parents, have inspired a love of reading in their children through their persistence. Being taken into the virtual reality of story is a memorable, pleasurable experience that stays with us forever. Reading aloud provides parents with a valuable opportunity to slow down, relax and share the wonderful world of books with their children. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Authors: Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Curtin University; Paul Gardner, Senior Lecturer: Literacy Education, Curtin University; Saiyidi Mat Roni, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University; Susan F Ledger, Associate Dean Engagement, Murdoch University School of Education, Murdoch University ]]>

Domestic Violence Crisis Service – Myth Busting

1. DVCS charges for their services – FALSE DVCS services are free of charge and we do not means test clients. We will provide each person, regardless of their financial situation, with the same level of support. DVCS acknowledges some people will have access to little financial resources and others will have access to a bit more. We also acknowledge that financial barriers can very much impact on a person’s ability to leave a violent and/or controlling relationship, which is why we don’t charge or means test our clients. Men who choose to live in our therapeutic properties as part of their participation in Room4Change are required to pay rent which is based on a sliding scale and is negotiated with them prior to the entering the program. Men can participate in this program without choosing to live in one of our properties and in which case, will not cost them anything. 2. DVCS only supports people for three months – FALSE DVCS supports people for as long or as little as is required and needed by our clients. Each person’s definition of “crisis” will vary, which is why there is no timeframe on how long DVCS will support a client. Some people might experience crisis for a number of days, while others might experience crisis for a number of months. Some people dip in and out of crisis and DVCS might support them over a period of years. 3. DVCS only supports adult women – FALSE DVCS is an inclusive service working with children, young people and adults in the ACT community. At all times, DVCS will prioritise safety. This means that we need to triage clients, just as occurs in the Emergency Department. It is not uncommon for us to engage with and provide support to children who were present during an incident of violence. We do this with the consent of their parents. 4. DVCS report all incidents of violence to Police – FALSE DVCS does not report all incidents of violence and/or controlling behaviour to Police. Not all clients want to engage the Police and Justice System, and that is ok. It is not a requirement of our service that clients engage Police. We respect our client’s decision in this regard. If a client or staff member are in a life threatening situation, yes we will call the Police. For more information on how DVCS can support you or a friend, please call their 24/7 crisis line on 6280 0900. https://dvcs.org.au/our-services/crisis-intervention-and-assistance/ ]]>

When it comes to kids and social media, it’s not all bad news

While we often hear about the negative impact social media has on children, the use of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Children use it in a wide variety of ways – some of which are adding value to their lives. There are risks associated with social media use. But it’s also important to understand where the value is, and how to guide children to get the most out of their time online. Social media can encourage learning Social media is a platform for sharing ideas, information and points of view. This can have important educational value: it extends the information young people can access while also giving them insight into how others think about and use that information. For example, an Instagram image can give first-hand insight into how an artist today – or many artists around the world – interprets and applies Picasso’s cubist technique. This insight makes the information about Picasso real for the child. It supports a deeper understanding of his techniques, and a deeper appreciation that learning about them is worthwhile. With so many trending topics online, young people can be exposed to “insider” knowledge across many different subjects they are familiar with, as well as introducing them to new ones. Maximum educational benefit comes from combining factual information with shared reflection. This can support a balanced, varied and “real” input for kids, which can help deepen their understanding of a subject. Health benefits Research shows social media can have significant benefits for children with a medical condition. A dedicated online Facebook group can help kids connect with others who understand and relate to their condition. This can support them with a sense of belonging, a safe space for expression, and opportunities to better understand and cope with their condition. Social media can also raise community awareness about certain health problems. While it’s not a replacement for reliable, medically sourced information, a thought-provoking image, or first-hand Facebook account posted by someone with depression, or multiple sclerosis, can spark new thinking for others about the condition and how it affects people’s daily lives. Sharing health information in this informal way has been found to help combat the stigma about such conditions in the community. New social avenues One of the benefits of using Snapchat or Instagram is that the regular online connection can help to strengthen the friendships young people have formed offline. For those children who feel marginalised in their local community, social media can help them connect with other people who share the same interests or outlook on life. In some cases, teenagers with critical problems can turn to social networks for fast support and guidance. There are plenty of groups that offer such help online. Social media is also an important platform for driving social issues, such as racial issues, to greater national and international attention. For example, The Books N Bros online book club was established by an 11-year-old boy who wanted to make reading fun for kids while highlighting African-American literature. The Black Lives Matter movement started as a Twitter hashtag before it became a major political movement and a noteworthy issue in the 2016 US presidential election. What should parents do? An awareness of social media’s benefits can help adults understand why technology is so attractive to young people, the potential positive uses of these online spaces, and how to talk to children about their social media use. When approaching a conversation with kids about social media, it’s important not to have an “us-versus-them” attitude. Understanding and accepting that different generations use technology differently is a good starting point. It provides opportunities for understanding each other as technology users, to be more aware of when issues arise, and how to guide children to positive and empowering uses of technology. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Author: Joanne Orlando, Researcher: Technology and Learning, Western Sydney University ]]>

Sharing photos of your children online

When sharing photos of your children, please keep in mind the possible risks that could arise from doing this. Below is a list for you to refer to. Please remember to have your privacy settings on high and remember who you are willing to let view your photos before accepting friend requests. 1. Digital Kidnapping – happens when someone on Facebook steals photos of yourself (or your child) and claims them as their own. They can do this if your photos are easily accessible, and usually end up renaming the child and claiming them as their own under a different alias. Unfortunately, this is quite common and usually you may not even know it has happened to you. 2. Location – When sharing your child’s photo, be sure to ensure that you haven’t posted a location or an image of them standing outside the school. This makes it extremely easy to target them as you have just given away where they will be and what they look like, as well as their name. 3. Consent Issues – This one might sound silly but is in fact just as important as the rest. Sharing photos of your child can have an impact on their future social lives as they may be too young to give consent, and effectively you are taking away their privacy rights from an extremely young age. 4. Advertising – The new Facebook trend is to monitor your profile to target what your interests are. If you are sharing a ton of baby images and are wondering why baby products keep popping up in your news feed, there is your answer. This is used so they can target you with specific ads that meet your needs to help companies successfully sell more of their product. 5. Once Online, Always Online – Once you have shared a photo, and then thought twice and deleted it, it will always remain out there on a server and become public property. 6. Personal Information – This one isn’t just about the Kidlets. By sharing your birthday online, your home address or home town, your full name and a where you work, you are making it extremely easy to become a victim of identity theft and possible repercussions such as break and enter or credit card fraud. Be vigilant. 7. Nude Photos – I know some of us find a baby bottom adorably cute and innocent but that’s not the same as everyone else. Unfortunately pedophiles and predators can use Facebook to access these images, Photoshop them and then use them for their own personal use or sell them off. This is a hard truth to face and I know a lot of us want to believe that it will never happen to our child but we are online. It is an open world and people will decide what they want to access and what they want to do with it. By sharing photos online, you are giving access to BILLIONS of users worldwide and it isn’t impossible for your child’s photo to end up in the wrong hands. If none of the above is convincing enough for you to change your privacy settings or change something, please read this article from a Pedophile Detective who had to work up enough strength during 10 years to write this article. It will change your entire view and show you things from the other side of the fence. (https://sweatdepot.blogspot.com.au/…/what-predators-look-fo…) Please remember that ‘ONLINE’ is never safe which is why we need to look out for each other and make sure that our children and their innocence and privacy are protected. ]]>

Kids’ vitamin gummies: unhealthy, poorly regulated and exploitative

There are many brands of kids’ “gummies” on the market. They are promoted as deliciously flavoured and a great way for growing bodies (and fussy eaters) to get the nutrients they need. The “active” ingredients are usually listed as vitamins, minerals and sometimes omega-3 fats and vegetable powders. They may say “contains sugars” or they may not. Rarely, some list an amount of sugar and other ingredients such as food acids like citric acid, lactic acid and ascorbic acid. In our opinion, these products are unhealthy and exploitative. Their high sugar content may appeal to young children, but they’re not a good introduction to a healthy diet. The problem of tooth decay Dental caries are a significant Australian public health problem. In 2014-15, A$9.5 billion was spent on dental services in Australia, up from $6.1 billion in 2007–08. In Australia, around 50% of children start primary school with largely untreated cavities. In Victoria, 7.1% of children aged under 12 have had a general anaesthetic for dental treatment. Sugars provide food for the bacteria that dissolve tooth enamel. As sugar consumption increases, so do cavities. This damage is irreparable and individuals are left with life-long problems that require fillings, and possibly root canal work or extractions. In addition, food acid (especially citric acid) causes dental erosion that can lead to the progressive loss of the surface of the tooth. This may require complex and lengthy treatment involving fillings, veneers and crowns. The sticky consistency of “gummies” adds to the problem. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says higher rates of dental caries occur when the intake of free sugars (added sugar plus honey, syrups and sugars in fruit juices) is more than 10% of total energy intake. This is despite fluoride in drinking water and using toothpaste. Dental caries rates decline progressively as sugar intake is reduced to less than 5% of total energy intake. Hence, for a range of health reasons, the WHO recommends we get no more than 5 to 10% of our daily energy from free sugars. So, two- to three-year-olds with a daily energy intake of 4,300 to 5,450 kilojoules (kJ) shouldn’t consume more than a maximum 430 to 545 kJ, or about six to eight teaspoons (25-32g) of free sugar a day, and preferably half that amount. And four- to eight-year-olds, with a daily energy intake of 5,700 to 7,100 kJ, shouldn’t consume more than 570 to 710 kJ, or about eight to ten teaspoons (33-42g) a day, and again, preferably half that. Contrary to this advice, 50% of Australian children aged two to three, and 67% of four- to eight-year-olds, consumed more than 10% of their total energy from free sugars in 2011-12. The top 10% of two- to three-year-old boys consumed 18 teaspoons (70g), rising to 23 teaspoons (90g) in the top 10% of four- to eight-year-olds. Knowing how much sugar is in what we eat Part of the problem is there is currently no clear way of knowing how much sugar has been added to a product (including gummies) by looking at the ingredients listed on the label. Choice (the Australian Consumers’ Association) is campaigning for food and health ministers to act on added sugar labelling so consumers can limit their consumption, as advised by the WHO and other authorities. “Gummies” also exemplify the problem of regulating products at the food-medicine interface. Some of these products, such as the Kids Smart Vita Gummies above, are listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as complementary medicines. For complementary medicines, there is a requirement to declare the presence, but not the quantity, of sugars on the label. For no apparent reason, other “gummies” such as Bioglan Omega 3 Fish Oil Kids Gummies have not been listed with the TGA and may be classified as foods by their sponsor. For food, there is a requirement by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to disclose the total content of sugars on the nutrition information panel on the product label. The Bioglan website states each bottle of 60 gummies contains 168g of product; an average serving is two gummies (5.6g), which the formulation states have 3g sugar (54% by weight). They also stated there was 3mg of sugar per 100g of product which is clearly mislabelled; 100g of product must contain 54g of sugar, not 3mg. Using the TGA Food-Medicine Interface Guidance Tool, we determined this product was a food, so we sent a complaint about mislabelling to the NSW Food Authority. However, they advised us to send the complaint to the TGA. The TGA response ignored our concern about mislabelling. We also asked why there were different sugar labelling requirements for foods compared to medicine. The TGA stated the warning statement, “contains sugar”, serves as an advisory without unnecessarily deterring general consumers from taking a medicine they may need. It is our view “gummies” that contain food acids, and have a high sugar content, are not medicines consumers need, and their sale should be prohibited on public health grounds. At the very least, the amount of sugar (and the presence of food acids) should be disclosed. Health benefits dubious In addition to the high and damaging sugar content, we argue these are exploitative products that mislead consumers about the benefit of dietary supplements. Both the website and the label of Kids Smart Vita Gummies Multivitamin for Fussy Eaters say the zinc content will boost the appetite of a “fussy eater”. Zinc is readily available in foods such as meat, fish and poultry while cereals, grains and dairy foods also contribute substantial amounts. We are unaware of any evidence that zinc boosts the appetite of “fussy eaters”. Kids Smart omega-3 supplementation claims “to help support brain function, growth and development”. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends eating oily fish two to three times a week. They do not recommend taking omega 3 supplements, reflecting findings that randomised controlled trials of fish oil supplementation have generally been disappointing and fish contain many more nutrients than omega-3 supplements. Gummy vitamins are unhealthy and exploitative products that mislead parents about the benefits of dietary supplements. The TGA and FSANZ should urgently review the regulation of these products. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article. Authors: Ken Harvey, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University Eliza Li, Biomedical Science & Business Student, Monash University Rosemary Stanton, Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow, UNSW Stuart Dashper, Professor & Senior Principal Research Fellow, University of Melbourne ]]>

‘I don’t want to be teased’ – why bullied children are reluctant to seek help from teachers

In Australia approximately one student in five is bullied at school every few weeks or more often. Many of these students suffer serious emotional and psychological harm, such as persistent anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking, and are unable to concentrate on their school work. It is clear they need help. Teachers routinely inform students that if they are being bullied at school they should seek help from a trusted adult, such as a teacher or school counsellor. A new two-part ABC documentary, Bullied addresses the question of how victimised students can receive help from their school. Part one of the documentary describes the intense suffering of an adolescent victim and the frustration and anguish of his family in finding that the school is not taking any effective action to deal with the case. They do however allow the documentary makers to gather help and support for the unfortunate student through a group meeting with his peers. This approach proves to be successful. But why did the school fail to provide such help? One possibility is that students are reluctant to go to teachers for help. Another is that teachers lack the skill to stop the bullying from going on. Students seek help from peers over teachers Some new research, based on an online survey of 1,688 students in Years 5 to 10, provides data on how many bullied students actually do seek help – and from whom. Of the 631 students who reported that they had been bullied at one time or another at school, over half (53%) said they sought help from other students in the first instance. Slightly fewer (51%) went to their parents. But what is revealing is that only 38% said they would go to teachers or counsellors for help. Students appear far more reluctant to seek help from teachers than from other people. Given that school authorities are strategically placed to observe what happens between their students, and to work with students who are being bullied, – including perpetrators, victims, bystanders and others – it is surprising that they are not the first port of call for distressed students. Why don’t students want to approach teachers? The survey provided some explanations from students who were bullied and did not seek help from teachers. Here’s a summary of the themes that emerged, and a few quotes from the students themselves: Uncertainty about the role of teachers in addressing cases of bullying. “It is none of their business.” “They are here to teach us.” Bullying is a personal matter. “I don’t feel comfortable telling someone I don’t really know.” “There is no-one in the school I can trust.” Lack of belief that they would take the bullying seriously. “They might laugh. I have seen them brush off students’ problems.” Fear of repercussions. “I don’t want to be teased because I told a teacher.” Not wishing to get others into trouble. “The people (the bullies) were my friends and I don’t want to lose them.” A sense of personal inadequacy. “I would feel weak and embarrassed.” Having a preferred option. “I can get help from friends and parents.” So should teachers intervene to stop bullying? According to the survey, telling a teacher produced no better outcomes than telling a friend or a parent. In approximately 70% of cases – where students sought help from a teacher – the bullying continued, though in some cases at a reduced rate. According to students, telling a parent or a friend has fewer potential drawbacks. These findings point to the inadequacy of pre-service and in-service training provided to teachers to counter bullying. Research shows that teachers often rely too heavily on: anti-bullying policies that are not adequately implemented the teaching of social and emotional skills to all students, a desirable initiative but hardly the solution for what to do when bullying actually occurs the use of discredited methods of intervention, such as the use of punishment, sometimes repackaged as “consequences”. As revealed by the Australia study, teachers are generally unacquainted with more effective problem-solving approaches to bullying which involve working closely with perpetrators, victims and other students. A few approaches that could work for teachers Although restorative practices have in recent years been increasingly adopted and employed in some schools, other demonstrably effective intervention methods such as the Support Group Method and the Method of Shared Concern are virtually unknown. Rather than just passing on tips to teachers on how to handle cases of bullying, systematic teacher education is needed to inform teachers of the different intervention methods now available and how each can be effectively applied. Recognising that bullying is a problem of dysfunctional relationships is the starting point. The solution, often overlooked, lies in helping students themselves to think about the difficulties they may encounter in relating to each other and especially the agony experienced by victims of bullying – and then to reach a collective agreement on how to act to ensure that no-one is harmed. Trust issues There remains the problem of students often finding it inappropriate, futile or counterproductive in telling a teacher or counsellor. This is due, in part, to the quality of the relationships that students typically have with school staff, especially in secondary schools. Students commonly report it is hard for them to find teachers they can trust and with whom they can share their personal concerns. Arguably relationships would improve if more teachers were seen as actually having the skills to provide effective help. Teachers almost unanimously told us that the training they have received to address bullying was far from adequate, especially in providing little or no help in how to handle actual cases. But cases of bullying are often far from easy to resolve. They may have their roots in the darker side of human nature and frustrations experienced in the home and in the wider community. What teachers can do will always be limited – but can be far less limited than is the case at present. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Author: Kenneth Rigby, Adjunct Professor, University of South Australia ]]>