When I was a kid, when school was out for the summer we just hung around with our friends, slept in, went to the park or got a summer job (for me it was picking strawberries and scooping blueberries starting at the age of 12, then worked at a takeout to save money for nursing school).
Times have changed. As parents and community members, it is a must that we watch out for our children. There are many kids who are home alone while parents work, therefore the potential for something going wrong is there.
Safety is a huge issue.
With more kids on the streets, walking around or riding bikes, drivers must be aware. Kids often are riding bikes or skateboards with earphones on, therefore not paying attention to road rules.
Skin safety is also important. From the health perspective, sunlight offers warmth, light and vitamin D exposure. From a health challenge perspective, it offers UV radiation, risk of sunburns, skin cancers, diseases of the eye and immune suppression.
Kids seem not to be concerned, but as parents, we need to be. Ensuring youth are minimizing their exposure by wearing UV-protective clothing, staying out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and applying SPF 15 sunscreen (15 minutes before going out and every 30 minutes after) are all key.
I would also recommend showering at the end of the day to remove left over sunblock. If you are concerned about discoloured spots or moles that are bleeding, crusty or change colour, please see a physician for an assessment.
Sunglasses are also important to protect kids’ eyes from UV damage.
Ensuring that sunglasses are UV protected is important. Kids want to look cool, so letting them pick out sunglasses (as long as they fit the cost factor) will go a long way in getting them to wear them. For any concerns regarding eye care, contact your optometrist for testing and further recommendations.
Internet and social networking, although a wonderful way to stay connected to friends over the summer, can pose huge threats to kids. Kids are generally innocent. They often connect with people they believe to be a friend.
It is important as parents to be aware of your children’s friends, both in person and those on the internet. Keeping an eye on computer histories and who they are speaking to is important.
Cyber abuse is worrisome and should not be ignored. Kids can also be lured into situations of physical and sexual abuse.
As parents, we cannot always be with our kids. Teaching them about boundaries and safe internet use is essential. Setting up internet blocks so they are not exposed to inappropriate sites is a must.
Limiting internet use, especially later at night when kids could be online and parents are sleeping, is important. Ensure cell phones are not in the room when they are sleeping for the same reason.
As parents, we are responsible for keeping our kids safe. We owe it to our kids to set up safe boundaries for them.
Be open with your children so they feel safe to tell you anything.
Planning is necessary to keep your kids busy. Spending time with them, talking about what they would like to do this summer, adding in some chores to help at home, getting a summer job, volunteering, or completing a project, is a good start.
When idle, opportunities may present that could cause long-term challenges for them, and you too. Be wise and keep your kids safe.
Karen Hourtovenko, RN(EC), is a Sudbury-based health and wellness consultant.
Posted by Vivian Scinto