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151124ProblemsWhen I was growing up in Eugene, violent crimes were nearly unheard of, but recently it seems like murders and other horrific offenses are becoming commonplace on the front page of our local newspaper.

We’ve seen multiple young children who’ve been badly abused. A number of our teenage patients have attempted suicide these past few months. We’ve experienced a flood of kids suffering with anxiety or depression who come into our office accompanied by parents in crisis.  

Something has shifted in our community, and I’m worried. I’m sharing my thoughts with you in the hopes of starting a dialogue that will lead to solutions. Why is there so much pain and suffering in our community? And what can we all do collectively to reclaim a peaceful, healthier city?  

As a pediatrician, watching kids and families over the last 20 years, I’ve made a few observations:

•    Kids and adults spend too much time absorbed in technology. The average teen spends more than 8 hours a day in front of a screen, but less than 10 minutes talking to their parents. Many studies have shown that the brains of young children do not develop correctly when they live in cyberspace. According to research, the number of hours a day a teenager spends engaged with technology is directly proportionate to symptoms of reported anxiety and sadness. Screens are replacing our time together and parents and children are drifting apart.

•    The pace of life is too fast. It used to be that you called someone, left a message and received a call back the next day. You had breaks in your day that allowed you time to think, to reflect, to give thanks and to plan. We are now constantly deluged with emails, texts, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, tweets, and many other forms of input and interruptions. And we’ve come to believe that our responses are supposed to be immediate. I am not convinced the human brain was designed to tolerate this much information, this fast.

•    Violence and rudeness have become a normal part of society. So much available information is too graphic, intense, and negative for kids—and often for adults—to stay in a positive frame of mind. Back in my day, we were introduced to Space invaders, one of the earliest and graphically simple video games where the goal was to defeat waves of aliens with a laser cannon. Compare that to Call of Duty, today’s wildly popular series of first-person shooter games that has been criticized for glamorizing violence. Look at the content of TV shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Modern Family, as well as movies, books and other forms of social media. Unkindness, disrespect and sarcasm have replaced good manners.  

•    Our society is increasingly self-oriented and negative. Instant gratification and material wants have replaced the thread of volunteerism and community service of my grandfather’s generation. Complaining and whining about trivial matters has, in many ways, suffocated our ability to recognize our blessings and to be thankful for them.

•    Faith, a sense of a higher purpose, and appreciation for the value of life has waned. I’m not just talking about religious faith—which certainly offers a framework for making good choices to many believers—I am talking about kids and families who appear to be without a guiding moral compass.  

We must also support programs that seek to help people and families stricken by mental illness, and drug and alcohol addiction. And we need to support programs that address social afflictions like homelessness and food insecurity.

In an upcoming blog, I will share my own opinions about ways we can work to change these worrisome trends. But for now, I invite you to share your own thoughts about what’s troubling our society these days. My hope is that we can start a conversation that can potentially lead to positive change in our community. God bless us as we seek to heal our community - somehow.

130924internetbeware4My 12-year-old just introduced me to websites that I think are truly dangerous for kids. Sites that allow kids to ask and answer questions from anyone on the Internet. Kids can show photos and personal data about themselves, and then anyone can ask further questions.

In my child's circle of friends, children can ask about best friends, couples they want to see together and lots of other questions that seem innocent but can hurt feelings and threaten friendships.

Worse yet, predators and complete strangers can ask kids personal questions and follow their responses to every question asked. Children cannot see who follows their content. Kids can be searched for by name or location, if the child listed his or her location on the account.

All of this can happen without a parent's permission or knowledge.

Please get smart, everyone. Ask your kids what they are doing on the Internet, teach them how to be safe (as much as possible) and get on their computers and see what sites they've visited. Don’t hesitate to ban them from dangerous sites by restricting their access with parent controls.

EPA-patientportalEugene Pediatric Associates warmly invites you to sign up for our Patient Portal.

But what exactly is that?

The Patient Portal is a secure way of electronically receiving and sending information between you and our office. Our Portal has many uses, and we hope, as an added service, that you find it convenient and helpful.

Parents can already — or soon will be able to — use the Portal to:

  • Register as new patients
  • Request, cancel or change an appointment
  • Get email or text reminders for upcoming visits
  • Receive developmental and other questionnaires about their child before the next visit
  • Change demographic information
  • eSign documents we send
  • View a chart summary
  • View, print, or forward vaccine records
  • Send a secure message to a nurse or their doctor
  • View documents or links sent by their doctor
  • Pay bills online
  • Prepay deposits, copays, coinsurance
  • Set up payment plans with auto deduct
  • Receive important health announcements from our office

Please call us today to register for the Patient Portal, so you can begin to enjoy this added service of Eugene Pediatric Associates! Call 541-484-5437.

Just like children go through phases in their lives, parents experience their own chapters of parenting.  The ‘tween and teen years of parenting can be especially tricky – ask any parent who’s been there.

School problems, mood swings, friendship challenges, and stubborn or outright disrespectful behavior by ‘tweens and teens toward their family members are just a few of the issues parents will likely face as they watch their babies grow into young adults.  

Here are some tips for those hard times, provided by someone who’s been there (Dr. B has middle-schoolers of her own!):

FamilyBowling•    Don’t leave things open to interpretation, such as your expectations regarding school work, behavior toward family members, activities with friends, sex, drug use, smoking, curfews, etc.

•    Talk, talk, talk – and listen intently. Communication can be a challenge. But your kids need to know that you care about their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Make yourself available. Consider trying different modalities, like texting, if your child can’t seem to open up in person, and you know something is happening.  

•    Plan fun activities with your teen. Spending special time together will help keep your relationship strong. If you have more than one child, do your best to set aside time for one-on-one, parent-child activities at least once a week. This may encourage more open communication.

•    Tell your child every day how much you love them, even if their behavior is driving you crazy. It’s easy for teens to feel poorly supported when their parents are grouchy with them.

•    Eat together. Many show that families who eat together four or more times per week have lower rates of teen problems, Such as drinking, drug use, and school failure.

•    Take a break from technology. Everyone, including parents, needs to follow house rules regarding screen time and time spent in cyberspace. Designate a part of the day when everyone abandons their smart phones, computers and TV shows to engage in family time.

•    Monitor their Internet use – cyberspace can be a dangerous place for kids. Learn how to search their website history and watch for signs that show they make have altered it; learn about parental controls; go through their emails and texts on a regular basis.  

•    Establish routines that you all hold sacred – pizza night, movie night, family bowling – whatever gets you together. Make a promise to show up every time.

•    Never give up, even if your teen is having a really hard time – this too shall pass. Your job is to hang in there and maintain the parent-child relationship while their brain finishes maturing (a process that is not complete until they are nearly 20!).

•    Watch for warning signs of real trouble; and get help if you see your teen becoming withdrawn, grades dropping, sleep or eating patterns changing drastically, friendships shifting in a bad way, or anything else you find disturbing.

If you need help with your ‘tween or teen, come see us at Eugene Pediatric Associates.  We are here to help you every step of the way.