Monthly Archives: February 2009

Prepare now for Daylight Saving Time

On March 8th that semi-annual tradition of changing the clocks and royal screwing up our kids sleep patterns returns once again.

I will not be kicked in the ass by the time police this time around. I will not suffer endless struggles and fights with my kids to get them to bed at 8pm when their biological clock says it is only 7.

I will not put up with 2 weeks of hell as sleep deprived maniacs wreck vengeance on our sacred Mommy-Daddy evening time.

No, this year, we are being proactive and we have begun the transition.

We’re lucky. At 5 and 2 they don’t know how to tell time yet. And we are taking full advantage. Each night, bath begins a few minutes earlier than the night before. Sure, on March 7th they will go to bed at 7 o’clock, but on March 8th when we jump ahead one hour and 7 o’clock becomes 8, it should be seamless for our kids circadian clocks.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. Here’s hoping. In parent life, as you know all too well, things rarely work out as you plan. But we’re still going to give it a shot. If it works, wonderful. If not, well then,  there is always November 1st, when the insanity begins anew.

Flickr Image: Robot Clock by Jek in the Box under Creative Commons license.

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The (non)link between MMR vaccine and autism

To vaccinate or not is a hot button issue with new parents these days, thanks in no small part to one 1998 article published by the British medical journal The Lancet.

The article in question was written by Andrew Wakefild, which made the claim that there might be a connection between the MMR  (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism. Many see this controversial report as the beginning of the current anti-vax movement.

This month, 2 new pieces of information have been added to the debate that might influence the immunization decision for parents.

On February 13th, a special federal court in the U.S. ruled that vaccines do not cause autism. The case is significant for 2 reasons. For one, there were three separate cases involved in this ruling, each with their own judges acting independently of each other. And in all three cases, the rulings were similar in that all three judges found no evidence that the vaccines caused the children’s disorders. That’s three judges independently supporting each other with similar decisions.

In each of the cases, the plaintiffs did not have to prove their case with scientific certainty. They they only had to show that there was a preponderance of evidence or, as the article puts it,  “50 percent and a hair”. All three cases failed to do that.

Meanwhile, a related story from the Sunday Times earlier this month reexamines that original 1998 research by Andrew Wakefield, with disturbing allegations that Wakefield manipulated data and misreported his results to add weight to his claim that there is a link between MMR and autism.

In evidence presented to the GMC (General Medical Council), however, there has emerged potential explanations of how Wakefield was able to obtain the results he did. This evidence, combined with unprecedented access to medical records, a mass of confidential documents and cooperation from parents during an investigation by this newspaper, has shown the selective reporting and changes to findings that allowed a link between MMR and autism to be asserted.

The article also goes on to say that since Wakefield’s results were originally published in 1998, no other researcher has been able to reproduce the findings.

Some used statistics to see if autism took off in 1988, when MMR was introduced. It did not. Others used virology to see if MMR caused bowel disease, a core suggestion in the paper. It did not. Yet more replicated the exact Wakefield tests. They showed nothing like what he said.

As a result of the 1998 report, parents in Britain immediatly began questioning whether or not they should vaccinate their children for MMR. As a result, immunization rates in Britain fell from 92% to 80% and measles in Britain is now “endemic”. In 1998, there were only 56 cases of measles reported. Last year there were 1,348. Since 2007, cases of the measles has increased by 36% in Britain. 2 children have died from measles, a disease that had not taken a British life in 14 years.

There is no doubt that immunization is a controversial topic. There are dozens of websites dedicated to both sides of the issue, some vitriolic to the point of rage, others more reasoned and sensible. As a parent, immunization is just one of those areas where you have to do a bit of research and make a decision that sits right with you and your beliefs.

Flickr Photo credit: The children who will die this year from diseases for which there is a vaccine by grewlike. Used under Creative Commons license.

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The problem I have with David After Dentist

If you are not familiar, the latest viral video making the rounds is David After Dentist. Briefly, Dad with video camera shoots video of son sitting in minivan stoned out of his gourd after a dentist appointment. At last count, it has over 5 million views.

Not to be the wet blanket at the party, but this does raise a troublesome point for me that I seem to be riffing on lately, which is the responsibility we, as parents, have in protecting our kids digital identity.

Set aside the issue of what will David think 20 years from now about this video – and, who knows, maybe this will go down as being one of the greatest things that happens in his life – but let’s take a look at how David is being exploited.

Right now, David’s video is being remixed, mashed and reconfigured by hundreds of people. The vast majority of them benign, respectful and doing it for the love of recontextualizing something old into something new. But there are a lot of people who are making money off David.

Already the remixes are showing up, and getting significant traffic. Many of these remixes have Google Ad overlays and embedded links to other sites as people try to cash in on David’s 15 minutes of fame. In some instances, the video has been downloaded and uploaded to another users account in hopes of driving traffic to that persons website or product. David has become a commercial, and right now there is a feeding frenzy at this Warholian trough.

I’m not casting any stones here at David’s parents. I’m pretty sure David’s Dad had no idea this thing would go viral when he posted it on YouTube. Instead, I think the people who are exploiting this kid to make money are the real problem here.

Not that this would fix it entirely, but one strategy that would help mitigate the risk of commercial exploitation of future David’s is to post your videos on a video sharing site that allows you to add some kind of copyright protection to the video. For example, (and others) allow you to attach a Creative Commons license to your videos that would at least give parents some recourse for legal action. YouTube has no such copyright mechanism.

If you do want to use YouTube but want to reduce the risk of your video going wild, then check out the private sharing options that allow you to share your video privately with up to 25 people.

If you have been reading my posts lately it might seem that I am down on social networks. In fact, I am not. I think that as a society we are better off with social networks and the concept of being open and transparent. But when we use these tools with our kids, we have to temper our desire to share our kids most private and intimate moments with the responsibility we have to respect their privacy and, in this case, protect them from being commercially exploited.

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Man Twitters His Vasectomy

Kev Leitch is web developer, dad to 3, husband to 1, and an active Twitter user. Some may say a bit too active as last month,  Kev tweeted his vasectomy, live while it was happening.

Now, in some respects you kinda have to go whoa, that’s a line we don’t need to cross. But on the other hand, and from an educational standpoint, here is some firsthand experience from someone who has gone through it. For example, if you didn’t read tweets like:

‘let’s get out of here before anything else goes wrong’ jokes doc as he stitches Mr Righty. Ha ha ha

then you might be unexpectedly caught off guard when your medical team casually crack  a joke mid procedure. Or, as way my experience, begin to talk about how you are his last case before catching a flight to Mexico for his vacation. Dude, you have a laser and my testicles in your right hand – get back in the game! Every time my wife feels slightly nauseous I worry that my surgeon was already mentally lying on the beach in Cancun when he performed the procedure. But I digress…

Kev, here’s hoping that “Mr. Righty” is feeling better. Remember, frozen peas are your friend.

Stanford offers free Facebook course for Parents

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Stanford University is offering a free class called Facebook for Parents. The course is being offered by Stanford psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg and his sister Linda Phillips.

It is not an online course, and right now the content on the website is a bit sparse (I suspect it will evolve and become much richer as the course progresses). And the 5 tips, while sound first steps, are basic. But they do give parents new to Facebook a starting point.

The 5 tips Fogg and Phillips put forth are:

  1. Join Facebook
  2. Friend your kids
  3. Review your kids’ profile page
  4. Review who is “Friends” with your kid
  5. Select “More About” your kid

I would think the earlier you can Friend your kids the better, simply because a younger child would probably be more likely to friend you back when they are younger than when they hit their teen years.

Social networks are here to stay and for some parents that is a pretty scary thought. After all, most of us didn’t grow up in this world with social network tools like IM, MySpace and Facebook. Figuring out how our kids use these tools to communicate with their peers can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but one that is neccesary for a couple of reasons.

First, we need to protect our kids. Despite the current perception, the biggest threat to our kids on social networks does not come from the anonymous, unknown predator lurking in the shadows but from their peers. In no way do I mean to downplay the seriousness of child predation, but when you take a long hard look at the facts, the vast majority of kids that run into problems with social networks do so with their peers, and not strangers. Just like in real life, we need to know who our kids friends are.

Second, understanding their tools of communication means we can use them to communicate with them. And I have never met a parent (especially once their kids get into their teen years) who wants to communicate less with their child.

Initiatives like this course at Stanford help us understand these tools and ultimately help us both  protect and communicate with our kids better.