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Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Being there


Tonight was my daughter’s dance recital. This is an event we’ve been looking forward to for nine months. She’s taken lessons nearly every Saturday since mid-September, with a few exceptions for holidays and vacations. It’s been a journey of growth for her and for me. There was even a time early on when there was a question of whether she’d be able to continue with the class because she was so undisciplined her first day the teacher feared she’d be a bad influence on others.

But tonight, she shined. And I don’t have one photo of it or one minute of videotape. This was a choice made by a parent who has 17,000 photos on my Mac, 99 percent of which were taken since the Pumpkin was born four years ago.

Why did I choose not to record this precious memory? Because I wanted to live it. I didn’t want to see the Pumpkin dance through a viewfinder or a 3-inch LCD screen. I didn’t want to be distracted. I wanted to be present in the moment, enjoying every second. And I was. And I did. I cried. I smiled big. I held her father’s hand. I was *there*.

As a parent who watched her daughter blow out her birthday candles two years in a row from behind a camera, I can say that being there — truly there in the moment — beats the recorded memories.

I can only look at the pictures of that fourth birthday moment because I don’t have the images in my head to enjoy.

Tonight, I have something better than pixels. I have the afterglow of the feeling that welled up in me. I can only describe it as bliss.

I’m curious about the choices readers of this blog have made in similar circumstances. Have you, like me, been too willing to experience the milestones from behind the lens? What occasions have prompted you to just put down the camera and live? Or, do you derive such joy from rewatching the event that it’s worth it to be distracted by the filming of it?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Saturday, June 27th, 2009 at 12:39 am |
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Exploiting parents’ worst fear


Worry. This is a catch-all word for emotions that can range from mild to heart-pounding, depending on whether your child is merely testing her skills on the playground or pulling out of your hand to run toward traffic.

I’m what an earlier generation liked to call a “worrywart.” I worry about almost everything, but usually succeed in communicating none of that worry to my child. I encourage her to try new things, while taking appropriate care against hazards of course.

Probably most parents are worrywarts to some extent, which is why marketers are so effective at getting us to spend a fortune baby-proofing our homes and buying safety devices.

In my in-box today was a promo for a product called the <a href=”http://www.snuza.com/pages/en/home.php” target=”_blank”>Snuza</a>. It’s a baby monitor that clips to your infant’s diaper and monitors movement. If the device doesn’t sense a movement in 15 seconds, it stimulates the baby with a “pulsed vibration.” If no movement is sensed after another 5 seconds, an alarm goes off. On the Web site’s frequently-asked-questions page, the maker acknowledges this is not a medical device but is more akin to the heart monitors people wear while they exercise.

As I read all this over, I found myself getting angry at this company for exploiting parents’ fear of sudden infant death syndrome to sell a lifestyle gadget.

You see, my daughter, as readers of this blog know, was a preemie. When she was in the hospital for more than two months, she was hooked up to an actual medical monitor. Learning to interpret the sounds it made took a while. At first, I was worried every time it went off, but the nurses assured me that those weren’t the beeps to be concerned about. Then, one day, I was holding her when it went off with a new sound. Assuming it was one of those unimportant beeps, I ignored it. That was until a nurse quickly came up and started vigorously rubbing my baby’s back to remind her to breath. That wasn’t the only time I had that experience. I, too, learned to rub her back when the monitor went off a certain way.

Then, one day, it was time to take her home, to take her off the monitor where I could watch how fast her heart was beating, how many breaths she took a minute and how much oxygen was in her blood.

It was leap of faith. Faith in the doctors that they wouldn’t send her home before she was ready. Faith that she would be OK. And faith that I would at last get to be her mom in our own home.

I buried my worries and embraced a normal family life. If my daughter had needed a monitor, then the doctors would have sent her home with one. (As, indeed, they did for some preemies.)

What if I had given in to my darker fears and bought a contraption like the Snuza? It’s not a medical device, as the maker clearly states. If your child needed a monitor, wouldn’t you want a medical device that could actually save her life? So who is it for? The parents. To feed their worry. The Web site proclaims: “How did we cope before Snuza? It’s been a great relief to finally get a good night’s sleep.”

What kind of goodnight ritual is it when you attach a monitor to your baby’s diaper? Isn’t that saying, in effect, I don’t trust you to live until morning without this thing? Every new parent has this fear, and every new parent gets over it — except those who are reminded of it daily when they buy products like the Snuza, that is.

I am not minimizing the risk of SIDS. I can easily imagine the agony. But the American SIDS Institute does NOT list devices like the Snuza in its <a href=”http://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm” target=”_blank”>advice for parents</a>, which includes placing infants on their backs to sleep without any soft coverings that can suffocate. New research also shows that having a <a href=”http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-06-SIDS-fans_N.htm” target=”_blank”>fan in the room</a> can also lesson the risk of SIDS.

What do you think about devices like the Snuza? More harm than help or a useful addition to the nursery?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 pm |

My son and the icy little “planet”


I remember one of my son’s first trips to the Museum of Natural History years ago. He was at the height of his interest in astronomy — one of those rites of passage evey kid seems to go through. It’s like the interest all kids develop at one time or another in dinosaurs.

So there we were in the parking garage entrance area, where the ticket booths are. Along the far wall are models of the planets, and we followed them from the start: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on. We followed the line down until we hit Neptune, then kept walking and wound up inside an adjacent gift shop.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, we’re looking for Pluto,” I said.

“It’s not a planet,” she said.

My son and I were greatly disappointed, to say the least.

Little did I realize at the time that we were at the height of controversy surrounding Pluto, which has since been officially demoted from planet status.

I’m actually in the midst of finishing a book about it all, titled the Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson, head man at the museum’s Haydn Planetarium. Turns out the museum started an uproar when it refurbished the planetarium without Pluto among the planets.

Anyway, it’s a story that, as they say in my business, has legs. Just last week, our neighbors had a dinner party which they dubbed “astronomy night” for all the kids, and we pulled out a couple of telescopes to see Saturn in the southern sky.

In the middle of it all, my son decided to poll everyone at the party on whether Pluto really was a planet. Needless to say, the results were inconclusive. But I couldn’t help but sense that a lot of the kids really miss Pluto as a full-fledged planet. My son certainly does.

The experience heightened my realization that our kids are growing up with some different realities than we had as kids.

These aren’t necessarily life-changing situations or ideals. It’s just different. When I was a kid T. Rex was supposed to have been a slow, lumbering creature that walked like Godzilla in the Japanese monster flicks, and there were a few less elements in the periodic table that I had to memorize.

But I’ve come to see it as a positive thing. Parents are traditionally supposed to help educate kids on the world around them. Now it seems my son and I are learning a thing or two together. And that’s kinda cool.

Even if I had one more planet than him.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |


My cellular kid


I got my 11-year-old son a cell phone.

I know, why does an 11-year-old need a cell phone? I actually dwelled on this for a while, understanding that some of his schoolmates have had them for a couple of years. And I wondered why he would need one. The upside was that he would be able to reach out to us in an emergency or if there was a change in plans during afterschool activities or while at a friend’s house for the day. The downside was, well, why does he need it?

So, in the end I got him one, and I figured it was a good exercise in responsibility for him: Manage your  minutes, use it wisely and you’ll be able to keep it. As an aside, I also wanted him to have a way to keep in touch with his cousin, who he is very close with and who he is likely to see less off now that my ex’s mom — their grandmother — passed away at the end of last year. She was the glue that kep those kids in touch. Now they’re able to text and stay in touch regularly.

But I wondered about what it would cost. I have friends whose kids chalked up hundreds of dollars in cell phone bills after first getting one. So I waited for the “report card” — the first cell phone bill since we added him to our calling plan. Well, it came this week, and he’s well within his minutes. Phew.

Still, was it still a good idea? What age should we be hooking up our kids with telecommunication gadgets?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 4:15 pm |

Family photo project


Imagine taking a picture of each person in your family once a year in the same pose. Now imagine doing it for 25 years. That’s what Diego Goldberg of Buenos Aires, Argentina, did in an amazing photo essay. It starts in 1976 with Diego and his wife, Susy. In 1977, Nicolás comes into the world. And the next year comes Matías. Sebastián is born in 1983. The photos continue to the present so you can see both parents and all three young men, now grown. It’s breathtaking in its simplicity (all the photos are black-and-white face-forward head-and-shoulders pictures) and poignancy. Check it out <a href=”http://www.zonezero.com/magazine/essays/diegotime/time.html#” target=”_blank”>through this link</a>.

I have taken, conservatively, at least 8,000 pictures since Pumpkin was born in 2005. But I haven’t began a project as ambitious as this. I am thinking about it now, though. (Hopefully the photos of me in the future will show me getting thinner and thinner!)

Thanks to <a href=”http://photojojo.com/” target=”_blank”>Photojojo!</a> for the tip.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, March 21st, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
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In case you missed it….


Interesting business story today about “changes to MySpace”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080115/BUSINESS01/801150324 to increase monitoring of the site. I’m sure we’re all familiar with MySpace, and the concerns many parents have with the unfiltered access some kids and teens have to it. So, this move would put in some changes to target sexual predators who may frequent the site.

According to the story, 49 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the changes for the site, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Apparently, only one state, Texas, has failed to back the measure. What’s up with that?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 at 11:04 am |
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So, I was reading the news online one evening last week and saw Apple stock reached $200 a share. I shared this tidbit with my husband, who said, “You should have let me buy those 100 shares when it was $12.� He was referring to the time in the late 1990s when Apple was in the doldrums. This was before the iPod and before the Apple Store became the coolest retailer at the mall. It was also during days of eTrade and the online do-it-yourself stock-buying frenzy that went out of style after the dot-com bust. It was around that time that he did say he wanted to invest $1,200 in Apple stock. I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I persuaded him not to do it. Well, he did a quick calculation in his head and figured his $1,200 investment would be worth $20,000 now if I hadn’t said no. Then, remembering that Apple had split, noted that it would actually be worth $40,000. I felt sick inside hearing these numbers. That $40,000 could be part of a down payment on a bigger home with a backyard for Pumpkin. It could help pay for Pumpkin’s college education in 16 years — even Harvard, thanks to interest compounding. It could even mean I could have chosen to stay home for a couple of years while Pumpkin is still little. It would have been wonderful. But when I turned back to my computer screen, I saw another headline. This one was about a 7-year-old girl who received a cute purple and pink bicycle for Christmas. She went outside to ride it for the first time and was struck and killed by a driver who didn’t see her. It was the most amazing juxtaposition for me. On one hand, we missed a windfall. But on the other hand, our little girl was upstairs sleeping and safe. My momentary twinge over the lost money was gone. I just felt so full of gratitude that the only thing that really matters is ours.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 at 1:24 am |

Cherished memories lost, maybe forever…


I am very good about backing up my photos. I keep copies on a portable hard drive and I regularly burn DVDs. If only I had been smarter about my e-mail. It’s funny, you don’t think about treasuring your e-mail, but in my case, I do. And now a tech disaster has me heartbroken that three years of sent messages are gone, perhaps forever.

Since my daughter Pumpkin was born in May 2005, I had been sending friends and family regular updates on her life, from little quick e-mails on her daily achievements to longer notes when she had her regular checkups and made milestones. My e-mail was kind of like a virtual baby book for me.

I had been saving all of these notes in my sent messages folder. I intended to use them to make captions for photo memory books. I haven’t done this project yet because I’ve been waiting to buy a new computer. I foolishly believed these notes were safe in my e-mail program.

Well, about a week and a half ago, I got a little flash drive in the mail as a promo item from a local company. I had forgotten my iPod that day, which I normally use as a hard drive to take files back and forth between work and home. I popped in the flash drive and saved my notes. That night when I plugged it into my computer at home, I got a big system crash. Oddly, it wiped out my e-mail account in my Mac Mail program. I was initially concerned because my entire inbox was gone and I had some work notes in there. I was able to restore the account and my inbox came back. I thought all was well.

Well, today, I opened an e-mail from my sister-in-law asking for camera buying advice. A few weeks ago, I had put together some camera links for a friend. Rather than replicate the work, I searched in my sent box for the word “camera,” figuring I’d just cut and paste. Well, it didn’t come up. Then when I started scrolling through my sent messages, I found that although all the subject lines were still there, the message content was gone.

For example, on this e-mail from 2006, this is all that I see when I open the message: “The message … has not been downloaded from the server. You need to take this account online in order to download it.” I fear the messages are permanently gone. I don’t know how this could happen.

Now, I’m the tech reporter. I should know better. I shouldn’t have placed faith in technology for my precious memories. I am learning the hard way. If you are an expert in Mac’s Mail e-mail client, or Optimum Online, please offer some advice here or e-mail me at jalterio@lohud.com. And, for other moms and dads: Consider this a cautionary tale. Hopefully, my disaster can be a learning experience for other moms and dads who assume their computers are safe places to store cherished photos, video or even e-mail.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 at 4:45 pm |

Photos from a toddler


If you’ve ever wondered what the world looks like through a toddler’s eyes, check out <a href=”http://mattzollerseitz.blogspot.com/2007/10/my-three-year-old-could-shoot-that.html” target=”_blank”>this blog post by Matt Zoller Seitz</a>. Matt gave his 3-year-old a disposable camera and stood back as his son captured photos of life from his perspective. This post will make you run out and get your kid a camera.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, October 29th, 2007 at 1:08 pm |
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Sizing shoes with printable charts


1019-crocs.jpgFall is here, and it’s time for new shoes. Even though she loves them and practically lived in them this summer, Pumpkin can’t wear her purple Crocs in the cold and wet. Instead of lugging Pumpkin to the mall, I decided to shop at home using handy sizing charts from our favorite brands. What’s nice about this option is you can go online, download and print the chart, measure your child and buy the shoes in a fraction of the time it takes to visit a store. What’s even better is you’ll get instant feedback about whether the size you need is in stock.

My first stop was <a href=”http://www.striderite.com” target=”_blank”>Stride Rite</a> to replace the sneakers I bought last spring with a larger size. I kept to the <a href=”http://www.striderite.com/shopping/product/detailmain.jsp?itemID=1145&itemType=PRODUCT&RS=1&keyword=riley” target=”_blank”>same style</a> because it’s a simple white sneaker with modest pink trim. She can wear it with any color and it doesn’t clash. Another plus: The shoe is one of the least expensive in the store. When you get to the Stride Rite home page, just click on e-fit to find the chart for your child’s age and gender. It turns out one of Pumpkin’s feet measured a size 7 and the other a size 7 1/2. I ordered a size 8 to give her some growing room.

1019cat.jpgThen I went to Robeez. Pumpkin wears Robeez in the house in the cooler months when socks aren’t warm enough. They are soft and slip-proof and stay on snugly. Here is a link to their <a href=”http://www.robeez.com/SiteCM/U/D/7A301144B4341926.pdf” target=”_blank”>downloadable sizing chart</a>. It turns out that she still fits in the 18-24 month size, so I was able to buy this <a href=”http://www.robeez.com/Robeez-Kitty-pink-Baby-Girl-Shoes–Robeez-baby-shoes/product.aspx?ProductID=9&deptid=224&PriceCat=2&Lang=EN-US” target=”_blank”>adorable cat shoe</a>.

I couldn’t help but visit Crocs to see what the company’s offerings are for winter. Here is a link to the <a href=”http://www.crocs.com/assets/files/1/9/sizingchart.pdf” target=”_blank”>Crocs sizing chart</a>. I also printed out the <a href=”http://www.gap.com/Asset_Archive/GPWeb/content/0000/761/496/assets/shoe_chart.pdf” target=”_blank”>Baby Gap sizing chart</a>.

I have to admit that I didn’t buy any of the shoes from the company sites. Instead I went to <a href=”http://www.zappos.com” target=”_blank”>Zappos</a>, found the Stride Rite sneakers and Robeez and got free shipping. Please share your shoe-shopping tips. And if you try the downloadable charts, let us know how it works out for you!

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, October 19th, 2007 at 2:37 pm |

So Nintendo DS is good for something


Most times, I’m fussing with my 9-year-old son about being mesmerized by his Nintendo DS. While he doesn’t play with it during the school week, he’s pretty much attached to it on Saturdays and Sundays.

Good thing. Because now that I’ve discovered the Brain Age game, the Nintendo has become mine during the week and on weekends after he goes to bed.

I love this game! I bought it for myself, but encouraged my husband and kids to use it, but I’m the one who’s a regular.  It’s a good, quick and fun way to keep my 40-plus brain from atrophying, after so many years of watching inane cartoons and kid’s shows, playing with clay, making dioramas and watching football games that I don’t understand. Sure, my brain is taxed at work and at home, but not like this. Brain Age includes word puzzles, math equations, visual tests and Sodoku puzzles that help to keep you sharp. I don’t know whether or not it’s for real, but according to the little man in the game, after about three weeks of training, my brain age has gone from about 56 years old to about 23 years old. Anything that makes me feel younger works for me!

By the way, my boys — who have no patience for Brain Age but can play Kirby and Super Mario for hours — have brains of 80-year-olds. Or so the little man in the game says. 

Are there any of your kids’ toys that you’ve completely hijacked?

Posted by Gayle T. Williams on Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 8:21 am |

The TV thing


My son still thinks it’s bizarre that I only had access to seven television channels when I was his age. Actually, we had nine channels if you count the two static-prone Spanish-language channels on UHF. Today my son has access to that many movie channels, not to mention the assortment of children’s channels like Cartoon Network, Nick and Disney.

For us, the debate over TV use in my home began before my son was born. I think every parent has at some point made a rule to limit or even eliminate television from their child’s life. There are certainly plenty of studies and reports cautioning on the extent to which television usage can negatively impact children. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, has “an informative web page”:http://www.aap.org/family/mediaimpact.htm. Another thorough look at the subject is featured on the University of Michigan “child issues web site”:http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/yourchild/tv.htm.

In truth, I’ve never been that severely opposed to television usage. I could certainly do with more outdoor time with my son, but I find that some of the channels my son is now drawn to are beneficial to him. He enjoys Discovery and the History Channel, for example. And a dose of cartoons doesn’t necessarily bother me. I do like to ensure that he gets ample reading time, as he does enjoy books, and that he gets his fix of outdoor time, be it with me or his mom, at camp or at school.

But I also feel that cartoons and age-appropriate children’s shows help provide a foundation for my son to socialize with other kids. Just like all his friends read the Harry Potter series, most watch the same shows and movies, and they have that in common. The question just becomes how much is enough, and how much is too much of that TV thing?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 10:53 am |


My so-called cyber education


What blows me away about my son’s generation is how quickly they were immersed in computers. Don’t get me wrong, I spend the bulk of my day in front of a keyboard or online. Comes with the job. But my generation was so late in coming to it. I’ve often told the story of my first computer class in college, which takes us back all the way to 1981. I can’t recall what I learned, but I do remember the professor telling the class that one day every home would have a computer. We all laughed.

Yet, here we are. I’m 0-1 on computer predictions. The only question now is how many computers you have in your home. My son has his own laptop, and a computer at both his mom’s place and my place. At 9, he has more passwords to remember than I did at 29. I found one analysis from the National Science Foundation that reported that 21 percent of children 2 or younger have used a computer; 58 percent of children 3 and 4; and 77 percent of 5 and 6 year olds. And those are 2005 statistics.

Heck, I can’t even get over my parents using computers. If you told me 10 years ago that my dad would be computer savvy, I would’ve laughed yet again, as i did in that classroom in 1981. Yet, here we are. I’m 0-2.

Anyway, what got me thinking about all this is that my Internet access went down Thursday, and I haven’t been able to log in from home since. The repair guy came twice (to be fair, the second visit was because he left his tools behind the first time) to no avail. I even spent 20 minutes on the phone with my girlfriend’s ex, since he’s a computer programmer. Still, no fix.

So I started to wonder how my computer-savvy son is going to cope without Internet access when he gets back from vacation with his mom. He likes doing research online, playing games and checking out videos on YouTube.

Then it dawned on me: He’ll take it in stride. He’s got the neighbor’s kids and the playground to go play. He’s got books, games, sketch pads and, God forbid, X-Box in a pinch. Computers are just one part of his world, and a familiar part that will always be there again. I’m the one that’s going to miss the Internet: No checking email or the blogs; no online news from around the world; no YouTube (heck, I can waste a way an hour there myself). So even after years online, I think it’s still more of a novelty to me than it is to my son.

I mean, who would’ve thought in 1981 that I’d be missing my home computer. I guess I’m 0-3.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 5:04 pm |

Baby Einstein, the reality and the hype


goat.jpgSo, as all you moms and dads have probably heard, there’s yet another study out that shows that planting your children in front of the TV doesn’t produce any geniuses — regardless of the name on the DVD box.

The main finding of the <a href=”http://uwnews.washington.edu/ni/article.asp?articleID=35898″ target=”_blank”>new study</a> is that for every hour spent watching a baby DVD, an infant understood an average of six to eight fewer words than babies who didn’t watch them. The study’s lead author, Dr. Frederick Zimmerman of the University of Washington, said the research shows no benefit to infants from baby videos and some evidence of harm. The study didn’t find an effect on toddlers ages 17 to 24 months.

What got me a bit riled was a comment from the other author, Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, a colleague of Zimmerman’s and a pediatrics researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. He said that babies are awake and alert for a limited amount of time and if that time is spent in front of a TV, that’s time the child is not spending interacting with a parent. This implies that parents can be engaged with their children for all of their waking hours.

While there is no disputing the fact that time with mom and dad is best — and in no way am I advocating hours of TV for babies — I can’t help but feel he’s living in a different reality from mine. As working parent who hasn’t had child care every minute of the day, <a href=”http://www.babyeinstein.com/” target=”_blank”>Baby Einstein</a> has been a blessing at times. In Pumpkin’s first year, those 20-minute videos — which did mesmerize her, I must say — provided me with the time for luxuries like, oh, going to the bathroom and taking a shower. And in Pumpkin’s first months at home, she was spending her days sleeping and nights awake. We found that Baby Einstein DVDs helped us catch a few winks while she was happy and occupied.

What’s more, Pumpkin seems to have really connected with these videos in a way that’s been positive for her language skills. For instance, her favorite DVD is “Baby Van Gogh,â€? which is “hostedâ€? by a goat puppet, “Vincent Van Goat.â€? (Yes, I know.) As a result, she loves goats! When we go to <a href=”http://www.westchestergov.com/parks/Muscoot/mainMF.htm” target=”_blank”>Muscoot Farm</a>, she spends a long time looking at the goats. And “goatâ€? was one of her first words. Now, of course, the word “goatâ€? isn’t actually spoken in the video. She got that from us. That’s part of the key: We watch the videos with her, too.

Instead of just venting to all you other moms and dads, I decided to ask the researchers exactly how they would respond to my points. Here’s the e-mail I sent (I’ll post the answers if I get a reply):

Dear Drs. Zimmerman and Christakis,

I read the reports about your study about Baby Einstein. As a reporter who writes a blog about parenting and the mom of a 2-year-old who has had Baby Einstein videos in the house from the beginning, I have some questions I hope you can answer.

• My first reaction was: Is it news that it’s better to sit and talk to your baby? That’s the ideal. But don’t the researchers realize that no parent can talk to a child all of their waking hours? Aren’t they parents themselves? There has to be time for a shower or bathroom break, right? What do you propose we do with the baby during these times? Why isn’t a Baby Einstein video better than letting the child be strapped into a bouncy seat starring at nothing? Or perhaps screaming about being left in the playpen?

• Surely we all know that hours of TV are no good, but what’s the harm in 20 minutes a day?

• The images in some of the videos are beautiful. Why is it better to look at pretty pictures in a book than pretty pictures of video? The nature scenes are gorgeous.

• These days, my daughter watches a 20-minute Baby Einstein video with her morning milk. We watch it together and both enjoy it. Why isn’t this an OK activity in your view?

• My daughter also has so many books that if they were stacked, they’d be much taller than she is. We read, we play ball, we swim, etc. Why can’t a video be part of this picture?

• As a parent who doesn’t turn on the TV to watch my own programs until my daughter is in bed, I can’t help but feel that the minimal amount of time she has watched Baby Einstein (and lately I’ve been Tivoing “Sesame Street”) isn’t harmful. Should I be concerned about even her limited viewing?

Update: Dr. Christakis replied with a link to a Web page about his book: “The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for your kids.” If I get a copy and read it, I’ll tell you what I find out. If anyone has read this, I’d love to hear what you think.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 at 2:02 pm |

Protecting kids from the sun


beach1.jpgIf you have kids who love the outdoors — but need some prodding to apply sunscreen — check out my <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007707240360″ target=”_blank”>story about new strategies to avoid skin damage</a>.

In my reporting, I learned that one of the most effective ways to protect your skin is to wear clothing with sun block built in. In Australia, where skin cancer is an even bigger health threat than here, clothing is more popular than sunscreen. Here in the United States, it’s just catching on. I became intrigued by the topic when I looked for a swimsuit for my daughter. I decided to buy one from <a href=”http://www.llbean.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?page=wave-bodysuit&categoryId=45507&storeId=1&catalogId=1&langId=-1&parentCategory=8138&cat4=8137&shop_method=pp&feat=8138-tn” target=”_blank”>L.L. Bean</a> that covers up a good 75 percent of her body and features SPF 40 protection. Even so, and despite liberal and frequent applications of SPF 50 sunscreen on the exposed parts, Pumpkin finished last week’s vacation on the beach with tanned arms and legs. Her head, thankfully, was completely protected by a white hat with flaps that my sister-in-law bought from her dermatologist.

My story also talks about cute fish-shaped stickers from Huggies that sense how long you’ve been in the sun. When they change color, it’s time to apply more sunscreen. I brought them with us on vacation, but didn’t end up using them. I think they would be ideal for an older child who needs a gimmick to accept a second application of sunscreen.

sensor.jpgI did take along Oregon Scientific’s Personal UV Monitor with Exposure Timer (pictured here at right). It is a pretty cool little gadget. I had to take some good-natured ribbing from my brother-in-law about using it. (“What’s the UV index, Julie?”) It seemed to work pretty well. On a cloudy day, it reported the UV index was low to medium. On a bright day, it was high. The only problem is that we weren’t that affected by these reports. After all, when you go on a week-long beach vacation, you tend to … go to the beach. And since I’m a sunscreen nut to begin with, I slathered us all up equally on the cloudy and sunny days.

The results from our poll on the topic found that most of you (82 percent) rely on sunscreen to protect your kids from the sun. Just two people said they use hats, long sleeves and other gear. Just one person admitted being a sun-worshipper who doesn’t worry about the topic.

Any thoughts? Have you invested in sun gear? What’s your sun-protection strategy?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, July 30th, 2007 at 11:48 pm |


About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE