Snapchat Partners With Three Non-Profits To Launch A ‘Safety Center’

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Tuesday was/is* Internet Safety Day (*depending on your location) and Snapchat took the opportunity to raise awareness of safety on its service after it introduced its ‘Safety Center’ resources site in partnership with three non-profit organizations.

“Most of our community uses Snapchat every day, and it’s a big part of their lives, that’s why we’ve built this safety center with real-world, practical advice for staying safe while using Snapchat,” the company said.

The Safety Center — which can be found at — is primarily targeted at parents and teachers who know little about the service, but there is also information for users, such as its community guidelines. Snapchat said it has partnered with three non-profits — ConnectSafely, iKeepSafe, and UK Safer Internet Center — for this project.

This move to raise awareness of safety practices makes sense for Snapchat as the messaging app seeks to become an integral part of the internet lives…

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Parents, Calm Down About Infant Screen Time

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Parents of infants face hard choices about how to raise their children, and sometimes misleading information can get in the way of their decisions. Take screen time: readers of the Guardian were recently treated to the claim that allowing toddlers to play with iPads or other small screens could damage their brains. It turned out, however, that the story (since corrected) was not based on an actual research study, but a press release regarding a commentary in the journal Pediatrics. The story was one in a series of claims in recent years that tablet use hurts infants’ development—scary headlines that too often mislead readers about research that is much less clear or consistent than claimed.

Both journalists and scholars are responsible for needlessly scaring parents. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long called for complete avoidance of screen time in infancy. Yet a number of scholars…

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Dear Parents, What Do You Tell Your Sons and Daughters? #BlackLivesMatter

Parents, I really need your help on this one.  I know many of your children are young, and you’d rather them worry about homework or not forgetting their part in the upcoming play at school or recital at church.

Not what to do to prevent their own harm if approached by a police officer.

I’m sure you’ve seen the startling images all over the TV screen- we literally saw Eric Garner in the chokehold that ultimately took his life.

And yet, it’s official: another police officer will not have to stand trial for killing another unarmed Black man.  Just last week, a Missouri grand jury decided that Darren Wilson would not be tried for killing Mike Brown, an unarmed teen.  Earlier this year, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of killing Trayvon Martin, another unarmed teen approached simply because Zimmerman felt like he didn’t belong in that neighborhood.

I want you to know that I hear your frustration and your grief.  I’m crushed, too–not just because justice is so elusive in these heartbreaking cases–I’m crushed by your despair over how to prepare your children for confrontations with police officers (and even civilians) who are quick to take cues from a person’s skin color and shoot.

Parents, I’d like to know from you:

How are you explaining these events to your children, if at all?

What kinds of questions have they been asking you?

For those of you who don’t have young children anymore, how would you advise these younger moms and dads?  

The Bible book of Proverbs says that, “in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety” (Prov 11:14).  So, please share.  Your experiences are the wisdom we need right now.

#OzsInBox: How Dr. Oz Can Lead Allopaths Back to Kansas

There used to be a time when patients mostly turned to their own doctors for advice about staying healthy and managing illness.  But in the age of information and celebrity (including celebrity-physicians like Dr. Oz), this has obviously changed.  In light of this latest  Dr. Oz controversy, I started thinking that he could actually be the best thing that happened to the allopathic medical community.  Oz, I believe, could actually show allopaths a way back to Kansas, a way back to the more sacred trust between the physician and her patient.  Consider, WHY do some Dr. Oz viewers equate or even elevate his opinions over their own doctors’?  The #OzsInbox hashtag really got me thinking about this one.

I bet Dr. Oz’s team had NO IDEA what they were opening themselves up to when they solicited questions from his 3.58 million Twitter followers.

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Lots of folks responded, and according to a post on the blog MDigitalLife, this included several physicians and medical professionals who tweeted hundreds of responses– and they weren’t exactly lavishing praise on the embattled cardiac surgeon.

As a physician myself, I have a little bit of a different take on Dr. Oz’s celebrity platform.  First, I agree with my fellow physicians (and the U.S. Congress) that he should refrain from talking about weight loss supplements and other products that haven’t proven effect from rigorous studies, like they’re miracle pills– I mean, he should really cut that out.  It’s misleading and downright wrong.

BUT, I think many of us in the medical community may benefit by stepping back and asking some soul-searching questions, like WHY do audiences trust Dr. Oz so much?  While I think part of the answer lies with the fact that miracle pills trumpeted by a doctor are insanely attractive, I think another part has to do with the perceived HUBRIS of the allopathic medical community.

From my own experiences watching the show, I respect the fact that he at least acknowledges alternative medical treatments and interventions, all of which are rarely discussed or outright ignored by the broader, allopathic community.  (And I do recognize that many alternative therapies lack a level of evidence-base, but lack does not always equal negative or no treatment effect– lack of evidence means, “lack of evidence.”)

Implied in Dr. Oz’s acknowledgement of alternatives is that allopathic medicine has short-comings, too— and I think people are drawn to that idea.  Obviously, Dr. Oz doesn’t have all the right answers… but neither do we.  Allopathic medicine– yes, even evidence-based allopathic medicine, has important shortcomings that our community often fails to sufficiently acknowledge.

I would even go as far as to say this is why we are struggling to promote life-saving vaccinations, or why leadership at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) failed to engender the public’s confidence and trust in its handling of ebola in the U.S.  When allopathic medicine makes the equivalent of miracle pill statements by touting treatments and certain preventative measures as fool-proof, the public takes even the perception of any failure whatsoever, and blows it up in ways that really mess up our credibility on some things.  Bottom line, we just don’t do that great a job of communicating risk and uncertainty to the public.

Listen, I’m just one MD with one opinion; most of my colleagues may disagree.  But maybe the irony here is that in examining Dr. Oz, we can learn something valuable about ourselves.  Maybe he is the beginning of our roadmap back to Kansas.

If your child stutters, s/he’s in good company!

Star Wars, The Lion King, The Great White Hope– and those old Verizon commercials– just a few of the countless blockbuster hits and prominent features showcasing the rich vocal and acting talents of James Earl Jones.

He recently dished in an NPR interview that he actually stutters– key word here is, “stutters” not “stuttered”. In other words, one of the most articulate and widely known voices in the mediaverse still stutters.

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I found this information oddly comforting, because I, too, stuttered as a child and still stutter as an adult.  It’s most prominent when I’m tired, excited, or in any setting where my brain is firing too quickly for my mouth to keep up.  I try speaking more slowly in those situations, but sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.  So, I’ve pretty much grown to accept stuttering as a part of who I am.  And apparently, I’m not alone– according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 3 million Americans stutter.

If you have a child who stutters, they’re not alone, either; about 5% of American children will stutter for anywhere from weeks to years of their lives.  It usually becomes apparent between the ages of 2 and 5, the period when children are learning and mastering their speaking skills.  Most children grow out of it, but for those of us stuck with it, there is no cure.  It also tends to run in families, and affects people of all ages.

Children with moderate or severe stuttering problem may need referral to a speech-language pathologist, who can offer help with improvement (but no cure, because there isn’t one).  Of course, if you have concerns, talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

Want to learn more?  Check out these great resources.

Kids Health from Nemours: Stuttering

Stuttering Foundation of America

StutterTalk website and podcasts

Finally, I want to hear from you!

Do you stutter?  If so, what have been some of your experiences with it?

If you have a child who stutters, how have you helped him or her feel empowered despite stuttering?  What would you tell another parent of a child who stutters?

Not Your Average PSA: Clever Use of Drama and Suspense to Destigmatize Mental Illness

I was watching a scary movie on Chiller yesterday, and this super creepy commercial came on advertising, so I thought, another scary movie.  I was sufficiently intrigued that I decided to hold off on refilling my popcorn bowl to watch it unfold… and I was absolutely shocked and in awe of the ending.

Kudos to Bring Change 2 MInd, the organization behind this work of pure genius.

After you check it out, let me know what you think!

Do you know someone affected by schizophrenia, or another mental health issue?

How did this PSA make you feel?

Did it affect your ideas about stigma and mental health?

To learn more about schizophrenia and the unfortunate stigma attached to it, check out Schizophrenia: shattering the stigma and Bring Change 2 MInd.