Worry Alert: 5 Things Your Kid Is Encountering That Should Have You Concerned


Oh hey, was that you wide awake at 2:30 am, worried and terrified about all the things that could possibly hurt your kid? Yeah, us too. There are a lot of things that we really shouldn’t worry about (not that knowing that is really going to stop us) but there are a few things that our kids are going to be confronted with and have to make decisions about, that really are concerning. We don’t want to bum you out, but we do want you to be vigilant and prepared. So, read on for information on 5 Things Your Kid is Encountering That Should Definitely Have You Concerned. 



A few years ago, we spoke with Dr. Srikant Kondapaneni, Chief of Pulmonary Medicine at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center about the rise in ecigarettes and why usage by kids was a bad idea. Everything he said then is still true now, only in recent weeks, a new concern has arisen. More and more cases of a mysterious respiratory disease are surfacing every day and the current suspicion is that they are related to vaping. In fact, the first person died of the disease recently. This mysterious illness has been receiving increasing amounts of attention in the media and in the medical community in part because it’s well, mysterious. So far, no one cause of the illness has been definitively identified. 

Why you need to worry: First of all, this disease starts out looking like a lot of other infections. So, if your doctor doesn’t know what to look for, they might miss the signs of this particular disease. Second, this disease affects mostly people who are otherwise in good health. And finally, the substances that can be used in vaping are currently unregulated. Not only do we not know exactly WHAT kids are inhaling, we don’t know HOW MUCH. For young people whose physiology is still changing, that’s a big deal. 

What you can do: Two things. First, educate yourself about vaping, what the devices look like, and all the downsides. Then, and you know what we’re going to say here, talk to your kids. We know you want to protect them from the bad things in the world, but telling them about this mysterious illness and reminding them that inhaling unknown substances or substances that might have come from sketchy sources could lead to illness that requires hospitalization or even death might just make them think twice before taking that next (or first) puff.



Here’s what we know. We know that social media is here to stay and kids have to figure out how to deal with it. We also know that while we might make certain social media sites off limits in our houses, our kids might still be exposed to them elsewhere. TikTok, formerly Music.ly is mostly used by tweens to make and post videos of themselves lip synching. It seems like mostly harmless fun between friends. 

Why you need to worry: Anyone can upload anything onto TikTok. There are few parental controls that allow you to filter or restrict what exactly your kid sees when they’re in there and even those are easily skirted. We have personally been treated to at least one conspiracy theory about how Michael Jackson is alive and helped Taylor Swift write the song, “Me” courtesy of the app. And that’s benign compared to some of the things kids can see. Additionally, uploading videos to TikTok opens kids up to the world of anonymous validation and criticism. Your child will fall into the cycle of checking likes and reading comments. Which gets far less innocent. TikTok does have some controls but it also has code words and some troubling content and the chances of your kid stumbling onto something you don’t want them to see are high.

What you can do: Let's start with what you can't do. You can't keep your kids from experiencing questionable content or using TikTok. Even if you don't allow them to have it at home, they will certainly have access to it through one or more of their friends. The best you can do as a parent is to clearly understand the full scope of your kid's digital landscape. Julianna Miner, author of the new book, "Raising a Screen-Smart Kid: Embrace the Good and Avoid the Bad in the Digital Age"  reminds parents that, "ultimately, both you and your children are in control of your devices and what you click on. Take your concerns seriously and use them to discuss safe behavior and setting limits online. Talk about why we don't have our phones in our bedrooms at night and why we wait to get social media accounts and smart phones." Miner suggests reading articles that discuss the perils of social media with your kids and encouraging them to think critically about the validation and feedback cycle of social media and how it affects them and their peers. Most importantly, Miner says, "use this opportunity to discuss what will happen when (not if) your child encounters something inappropriate or alarming online. Remind them that disturbing content should be brought to your attention and, this is critical, not shared with their friends. Assure your kids that you won't get angry, you know things like this happen, and you're there to help them process the experience." 



YouTube/Social Media Manipulation:

Not to pile on the internet because there’s so much out there to love (and also, you’re reading this on a website for goodness sake) but YouTube and social media influencers are also worth your attention. Let’s talk influencers first. Please remember that the cool kids who have rocketed to fame by making slime, eating weird stuff, unboxing toys or sharing their hauls are advertisers. They might not start out being paid to push products but at some point, after they get enough followers, that’s exactly what they’re doing. So, if your child wants to buy, eat or visit something because someone they watch on YouTube told them to, remember that objects on TV are often not what they seem in real life. We recently had that issue when, on vacation, the locations that had been visited by some of our kid’s favorite YouTubers weren’t quite as fabulous (or big) as they seemed. 

Why you need to worry: First, not everyone can afford the same kind of hauls that YouTubers often get for free in return for their endorsement. Then, remember that influencers become influential because they are friendly and approachable. You should be concerned if these online personalities begin to seem too real to your kids or if your kids start to shun actual interpersonal interactions in favor of their YouTube “friends”. You should also be super vigilant about the way that memes act as propaganda, grooming kids to behave or think in certain ways.   

What you can do: In this world of bots and misinformation on social media, it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s real.  This article by a professor of political science gives some helpful hints. And then, again, talk to your kids. Point out the ways in which facts have been exaggerated or distorted. We know it often seems as if you are talking at them and not to them but believe us, they hear you. Keep at it. 



An oldie but a goodie. Being a kid or teen is hard. Sure they don’t have to go to work everyday or have the stress of figuring out how to pay the mortgage or what to make for dinner. But there is pressure to perform academically, expectations for how they should behave, tricky social interactions with kids and adults alike. Plus, they have no autonomy. Kids are completely at the mercy of the whims of the adults who surround them. Add in the anxiety of extracurricular performance and it’s a lot for kids to carry.

Why you need to worry: Stress and anxiety can cause lifelong health and wellness problems. Sleep or eating disorders, physiological ailments, and the inability to develop and maintain personal relationships can all be the result of anxiety and stress. 

What you can do: First, watch for the signs of stress in your kids. Especially now. Back to school is a high stress time and even kids who are usually able to manage their stress get anxious. If your child’s stress seems to be particularly pronounced or if their anxiety seems to be increasing, it’s probably time to speak with your pediatrician or a therapist. Stress and anxiety won’t really ever go away, but helping kids find constructive ways to manage how they’re feeling is best done sooner rather than later. A great resource is the upcoming book written by clinical psychologist, John Duffy, “Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety: A Complete Guide to Your Child’s Stressed, Depressed, Expanded, Amazing Adolescence.” Even if you don’t have a teen, you will eventually and the topics discussed in here can be relevant to parents of younger kids too. 


Dieting Apps for Teens:

Weight Watchers, or WW, has recently introduced an app called Kurbo for teens. The program, for kids ages 8 – 17, has been marketed with the purpose of helping children “reach a healthier weight” and uses a traffic light system (red, yellow, green) to help kids understand which foods are allowed and in what portions. 

Why you need to worry: Health providers and dieticians have noted that dieting in children is not a good idea nor has dieting for people of any age proven to be effective in the long term except in a small number of cases. This kind of app could lead to disordered eating in the most susceptible kids and it contributes to the already rampant problem of weight stigma in this country. Additionally, the psychological effects on kids of labeling some foods as off limits or bad is often to create a need to binge on exactly those foods when access is given.

What you should do: First, educate yourself regarding the “Hierarchy of Food Needs”. It’s a long read but worth it. Then, consider talking to your kids about intuitive eating which basically means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It means listening to the body’s cues and taking note of how one’s body feels after eating certain foods. We all know that we feel bloated, unsatisfied, tired or cranky when we’ve had to miss a meal, make less than healthy food choices, or grab unhealthy snacks on the fly. When we pay attention, we know that we don’t feel the same after eating a bag of chips as we do after eating an apple. Teaching kids to pay attention to that information will help them far more in the long run and might just have long term health benefits too. 

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