Stories about: internet

When is it time for my daughter to get an email account?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

Q: At what age do you think it is appropriate for a child to have a personal e-mail address? I have a 10 year old who wants one, but I don’t feel she is old enough. I think she can be trusted and has proved to be responsible, but it’s the world out there I worry about. How would we block inappropriate e-mails?

eQuestioning in Mansfield, MA

A: Dear eQuestioning,

Treat personal email like any other tool: When it’s the right tool for the job at hand—whether that job to communicate with loved ones or to send homework to a teacher—that’s the time to introduce it to your child.

But that doesn’t mean her email needs to be private. In fact, as your child starts using this tool on her own, your supervision and guidance can help her learn to navigate that world safely and successfully. Start with an email service that allows you to access her account, set controls, and review emails yourself before she sees or sends them.

As you and she gain confidence in her email skills, give her more independence and freedom bit by bit—perhaps by checking less often and starting to let her monitor her own email, with the clear and explicit understanding that you are passing to her the responsibility to keep her email healthy and safe.

And no matter how much freedom she has with email (and with texting, which has already eclipsed email for peer-to-peer communication), check in with her continuously, and make sure she feels safe, supported, and able to reach out for your help. For more information, see these other answers:

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,

The Mediatrician®

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Tracking outbreaks online

flickr/warrentedarrest

Are you looking to read reviews about the new Greek restaurant that opened up down the street? Google it. In an argument about who drove in the final runs in the Red Sox’s 2004 world series run? Google is right there to let you know it was Trot Nixon. While most of us use Google for seemingly trivial purposes, (I know Sox fans, ’04 was anything BUT trivial in your eyes) researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston are using the powerful search engine to fight disease.

John Brownstein, PhD

A team from the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP), led by John Brownstein, PhD, put their heads together with people from Google and found that web-based search data is a great info sharing source for citizens and public health officials alike. With this in mind, the team recently turned their attention towards tracking outbreaks of dengue, a mosquito-borne virus affecting 500 million people living in tropical parts of the globe. To help accurately record dengue outbreaks as they occur, CHIP and Google have created an online tool called Denguetrends, which collects information on dengue activity as it occurs in real time. The advantage of this type of data aggregation is that it warns people when dengue is being reported in their area and gives public health officials the chance to immediately respond to outbreaks as they happen, instead of waiting for data to be collected and processed. Its creators hope the tool will lead to faster response times and more efficient management of dengue outbreaks.

“By using search data, we’re tapping into a freely-available, instant dataset that can be gathered, analyzed and released much more quickly and at much lower effort and cost than through traditional national surveillance and reporting programs,” said Brownstein, director of the Computational Epidemiology Group in CHIP. “The kind of information the tool provides can help direct public health officials target interventions aimed at mosquito control and disease prevention, such as education campaigns, as early as possible.”

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This week on Thrive: Feb. 15 – 19

Here’s a quick look at what Thrive was up to last week.

School life for children after cancer takes a toll. Children’s Nelson Aquino, CRNA, reflects on his life-altering experience in Haiti. There are ways to confront bullying and cyberbullying head-on. Children’s injury prevention expert offers fire safety tips for your family. Learn how to make snacking a healthy time for your child. Are infants who swim more likely to get asthma? Girls’ soccer injuries are preventable. What are parents’ legal responsibilities when it comes to sexting? Is there such a thing as Internet overload for your child’s brain?

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Internet overload: Are we spending too much time online?

We’re all familiar with the myriad benefits of the Internet, a tool which has undeniably changed the way we communicate, learn and use entertainment. But how much of a good thing is too much? For a small fraction of kids, the Internet’s draw may prove too enticing, as Internet addiction (loosely defined as excessive use of the Internet that negatively impacts academic, social and family life) appears to be on the rise in much of the industrialized world.

We spoke to a neurologist specializing in the teen brain, media expert Michael Rich and a psychologist for this article about Internet addiction and its possible effects. Read on to find out what you need to know about your child’s Internet use–and how you can help them manage their screen time effectively.

That’s important to do, as a national survey recently found that the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically: Today, 8 to 18 year olds spend an average of almost eight hours a day using digital media. And because they are often “media-multitasking” (like instant messaging on the computer while watching TV and texting friends on their cellphones) they actually manage to cram a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those eight hours.

So, is it bad for kids and adults alike to spend so much time using digital media? The answer isn’t straightforward, as the article makes clear, and much more research needs to be done. A Frontline documentary also probes the question.

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