Monthly Archives: January 2014

Video games—pay attention to what your kids are playing

As technology increases at home and school, video games have increased in number.  Each year they become more realistic-looking and exciting.  But they are also often violent, and may contain language and themes inappropriate for your youngster.

Playing video games has benefits, to be certain. They help young people learn eye-hand coordination and computer skills, things they will need to keep up in the modern world.

But there are down sides, too.  Big ones.  Questions and concerns about content top the list, but you should also be aware that many online games require the sharing of personal information and location.

First, content.  The debate continues regarding whether or not violent video games encourage violent behavior.  Opinions abound, but the bottom line is that you should monitor and decide what your child or teen can or cannot play.  In addition to violence, language and themes may often be too adult.

  • Understand ratings.  The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rates virtually all video games in terms of content, age-appropriateness, and interactive elements (including whether or not location and other information is shared).  All three of these areas are important.
  • Content and age-appropriateness.  The ESRB website has a great video and also written language to help you understand ratings and how they define words such as “animated blood” and “adult humor.”  The basic content and age ratings are:
    • Early Childhood;
    • Everyone;
    • Teen (13 and up);
    • Mature (17 and up);
    • Adults only.
    • Pay attention!  Games rated “Mature” have truly adult themes (sex, violence, language) and are simply NOT appropriate for younger ages.  Even those with a rating of “Teen” may surprise you with their level of violence and tasteless language.
    • PREVIEW.  Learn about games before you buy.  This website at Common Sense Media is a great source of information.  If your youngster is asking for a particular game, look for the title here to see some screen shots and other details.
    • Interactive elements.  If you are concerned about private information being shared, or worry your child or teen might be connecting (accidentally or purposefully) with people you don’t know, READ THIS.

One important note about violence.  Whether or not your teen or child plays violent video games, you should pay attention if he exhibits violent behavior.  If she is violent with you or other family members, with schoolmates or with animals, talk to your pediatrician about finding a counselor.

Bottom line:  know what your child is doing, watching, playing.  Video games are fun, but you need to be aware of content and privacy.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved


My head hurts!

A headache is a common complaint for some children and teens, and nearly all kids will get one every now and then.  Causes are numerous.  Usually, a headache is nothing to worry about, though there are times when you should go to the ER or call your doctor immediately (see below).

Headaches can be caused by things like strong smells, stress and anxiety, a cold or the flu, allergies, even changes in the weather.  Other common causes include:

  • Hormonal changes.  Puberty is often a time when headaches begin or worsen.
  • Diet.  Nitrates and caffeine, in particular, can cause headaches at any age.  Does your child or teen get a headache several hours after drinking a caffeinated beverage?  Or eating a hotdog?
  • Lack of enough sleep.  Make sure your child gets an age-appropriate amount of sleep every night.

Some children have migraines, which can (but don’t always) run in families.  The pain can be strong and on one side of the front of the head or the other.  Your child may express a need to lie still in a dark room, and other symptoms may include nausea.

If your child’s headaches are not severe, pay attention to patterns before coming to the see the doctor.  Keep a diary of food and beverage intake (paying special attention to caffeine and nitrates), amount of sleep, allergy attacks, even weather conditions.

There’s an app for that.  Here are a couple of phone apps that can help you keep a headache diary to determine what some of your triggers (causes) might be.

If headaches are bad and persistent, see your pediatrician.

Keep in mind there are times when you should seek medical help immediately.

  • If your child has suffered a blow to the head in an activity, fall, or accident and has a headache.  This could be a sign of concussion.
  • If the headache is severe and other symptoms include high fever.
  • If the pain is sudden and severe.
  • If the headache awakens the child at night.
  • If the headache is accompanied by dizziness, weakness, or other neurological symptoms.

By paying attention, you may be able to help your child or teen reduce their number of headaches, and if they are severe, to get help immediately.


© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Apps to suit your life and lifestyle

Last week we dealt with websites.  Want to be more mobile?  There are many apps for your smartphone or tablet that can help you keep your family healthy.

Here we’ve listed just a few to get you started, all of them inexpensive or free.

  • From the American Academy of Pediatrics, several great apps are available, all of which you can order here.
    • KidsDoc.  Cost:  $1.99.  This app helps you figure out what to do if your child is sick.  You enter your child’s symptoms and are given advice, including options like:  Call 911, Call Your Child’s Doctor Now, Call Your Child’s Doctor within 24 hours or Manage at Home.  Suggestions for managing at home will tell you how to care for your child’s particular ailment.
    • Car Seat Check.  Cost:  $1.99.  Enter your child’s age, height, and weight.  You’ll get reviews of appropriate car seats, installation help, and safety information.
    • Healthy Children.  Cost:  FREE.  Look up health information by age, find out what first aid is best for particular injuries, see what immunizations are needed for particular ages.
    • ADHD Tracker 1.0.  Cost:  FREE.  If your child, age 4-18, has already been diagnosed with (and treated for) ADHD, this app gives a streamlined way to complete and submit a behavioral assessment.
    • Iron Kids.  Cost:  $3.99.  Keep your child healthy and fit and sport-ready with this workout.
    • Other sources and apps.
      • Ages and Stages.  Cost:  FREE.  This app by Parenting magazine allows you to enter your own stage of pregnancy, or your child’s age, to get information tailored for you.
      • Breastfeeding Management 2.  Cost:  $1.99.  The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition sponsors this app.  You can get answers to frequently asked questions; enter your child’s age, weight, and frequency of feeding to determine how many ounces each feeding should be (especially helpful if you’re pumping); research medications and breastfeeding.

Technology and health have always gone together.  These apps can keep you up to date and on top of health issues.

Artwork by Kennedy, age 2

Artwork by Kennedy, age 2


© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Medical websites you can trust

As we enter 2014, many families will decide to be healthier this year.  One way to be on top of your health is to be knowledgeable.  The problem is that there is so much information out there, it can be overwhelming.  Even worse, a lot of the advice is misleading, incomplete, trying to sell a product, or just plain wrong.

What to do, then, if you’re looking answers to your pediatric health questions?  We have a few sites we trust that you may find helpful.

Your first stop should be here, on our own website.  There you’ll find 21 links that we trust to provide good information, on everything from general health and pediatrics to a few common illnesses and conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and disabilities.  Here are a few of the best:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics.  If you read our blog, you know that we refer to the AAP regularly.  They are the go-to organization for reliable information on the health of children and teens, including physical, social, psychological, and intellectual health.  Some of their pages are full of statistics and medical jargon, but check out  It’s very readable, practical, and up-to-date. You can search your topic or question by typing it into the search box.
  • The National Institutes of Health has a huge amount of information.  Some of it is written for health professionals, but much of it—particularly the medline plus section—is also written for the general population.  It’s a great source of health information for all ages, birth to old age.  You can even sign up here to receive e-mail updates on children’s health topics.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives you an alphabetized list of topics and diseases for your research.

If you have a particular issue you’re interested in researching, check with your pediatrician, who can suggest additional specific resources.

Happy internet hunting, and Happy New Year!

Artwork by Audrey

Artwork by Audrey


© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved