Stories about: Social media and health care

Online dating for teens? Why parents need to talk about online relationships.

Online dating is a bad idea for teens—especially young teens.

That’s why it wasn’t particularly responsible of Seventeen Magazine to publish a blog in which “dating blogger” Isabelle Furth floated the idea of using sites like Match.com to find dates. To be fair, she had concerns about the idea, and she’s in college, so theoretically old enough to make these decisions. But college kids don’t read Seventeen. Middle school students do.  And middle school students are remarkably impressionable.

However, if our only response to this blog is outrage (like the comment that Seventeen gave cyber-stalkers a gift-wrapped present), we miss the point—and some important opportunities.

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Millions of children have mental health disorders while treatment budgets shrink

When feeling stressed out by the hectic pace of modern life, it’s easy to get wistful for the carefree days of youth—when it seemed the only thing we had to worry about was getting along with the other kids in the neighborhood.

But according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on childhood mental health, those days are gone or may never even have existed for a huge portion of America’s children.

Analyzing data collected over the past six years, the report shows that millions of kids—as many as one in five—are currently living with some form of mental health disorder. Attention deficit disorder is the most prevalent condition reported, affecting more than 4 million kids nationwide, but other behavioral issues such as anxiety and depression also were heavily documented, affecting 2.2 and 1.8 million children respectively.

While it’s unclear whether or not the numbers in the report mean that these conditions are really more common in kids today, or if parents, clinicians and teachers are just getting better at identifying them, the bottom line is clear: the issue of mental health disorders in American children is too big to ignore.

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How Social Media Could Change Our Understanding of Children

My youngest didn’t talk until he was 2. I knew he was fine—but it was hard to get people to believe me.

When I say that Liam didn’t talk, I really mean it. Liam said absolutely nothing until he turned 2—and then, all he said was “Mama.” Our pediatrician was concerned. Relatives were concerned. Neighbors were concerned. My other kids would say to me, “Shouldn’t Liam be talking by now?” “He’s fine,” I told them.

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Looking for the flu shot? We can help with that

A vaccine offers prevention against the flu

The season is upon us again. No, not fall or football or even holiday—I’m talking about flu season, and all the sneezing, aches and pains that come along with it.

Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made their annual announcement encouraging Americans young and old to get a flu shot.

“Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to prevent influenza, which is a serious disease that can result in hospitalization or death, especially for young children or people with underlying health conditions,” says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, an infection control expert and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Flu is very contagious and can be spread from one person to another even before symptoms develop, so having a high proportion of people vaccinated is important to help limit transmission of the virus during flu season.”

Clearly getting the flu shot is a good idea; especially for families with young children, but one of the questions that at least my family asks every year is where can we get the shot? After all, we have more options now than ever. The corner drugstore? Our doctors’ office? Our neighborhood’s health clinic? And how much does it cost?

We’re not alone, and luckily a tool offered by Boston Children’s HealthMap team can help. Called the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, it’s essentially like a Google Maps for tracking down the flu vaccine. Plug in your address and city or zip code, and it pulls up a map listing pharmacies, clinics, etc. in your area offering the vaccine.

Apart from basic information like address, hours and phone number for each location, the tool can also tell you which kind of flu vaccine they offer (shot, intradermal shot, high-dose shot or nasal spray), what they charge (if anything) and whether they accept insurance.

There’s even a function to help you figure out which version of the flu vaccine could be appropriate for you.

“People sometimes have a hard time deciding where to get a flu shot because there are lots of factors involved in the decision,” says John Brownstein, PhD, who leads the HealthMap team and who last year showed how getting the shot really can make a difference. “We’ve been working with lots of different companies and agencies to pull all information on location, price and vaccine type together into one place for consumers. We hope it helps encourage more people to get the shot.”

You can use the finder here:

Or by visiting flu.gov. Keep checking it, because later this year the HealthMap team will expand the Vaccine Finder to include information on another 10 adult vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, MMR, meningococcal, pneumococcal, Td, Tdap, varicella and zoster).

And webmasters and bloggers: Help your readers and users get vaccinated by putting this Vaccine Finder widget on your website!

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