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Information You Need to Know…

7 dangerous Apps that parents need to know

Information Security Officer lists some of the scariest technology for your kids

By: Jody S. Hawkins, Information Security Officer

Over the past several years, I have been actively speaking to parents, children, tweens, teens, and young adults regarding the dangers of the Internet and social media. I discovered rather quickly that I could not prepare a single set of presentations to use over and over again. Rather, I need to conduct new and fresh research for every single presentation I do, regardless of how much time has passed from one to the next.

Why? Because that is how fast things change in the world of technology and online interactions.

I am not going to go on a long rant about immorality or express my true feelings about the class of a person it takes to create certain apps for monetary gain, all the while knowing full well that children can and will fall victim while using those apps; instead, I am going to stick with the matter at hand.

Parents, you need to be aware that truly dangerous apps exist and are readily available to your children. And, if you are reading this as a young person or young adult who thinks I am being condescending, tough. In order to write an article such as this that is intended to reach the parents of potential victims, I have to be general in my assumptions and sweeping in my aim. I would rather offend you than not get the message out to someone that could prevent a devastating, life altering event for a child.

In my presentations to parents, I list a handful of apps; however, you have to understand that there are literally millions of apps available and, even those apps where the intended purpose by the app’s creator may be innocent, can be used dangerously. The reverse is also applicable; however, with the apps I am about to showcase, it is unlikely that they would be used in a benign way. With that, let’s talk about them:

1. SeekingArrangement.com – Brandon Wade is the founder of this site and supporting apps are available on GooglePlay for Android devices as well as iTunes for all iOS devices. SeekingArrangement identifies itself as a “sugar daddy dating app”. While discussing SeekingArrangement, it is also important to note that Brandon Wade also created an app called CarrotDating. CarrotDating (no longer available at the time this article was written) was an app that was borderline prostitution in the same way backpage.com ads are also “borderline” prostitution. The “borderline” is fairly evident. Although CarrotDating has been nixed, the philosophy behind the trend is still evident… bribes for dates. Of course, “dates” can be defined in ways other than going out to dinner and a movie.

2. Yik Yak – This App is one of the most dangerous. It allows users to post text-only “Yaks,” or messages, of up to 200 characters. The messages have no filter and can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to – and contributing to – sexually explicit content, abusive language, and personal attacks so severe that schools are starting to block the App on their Wi-Fi. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users. This app is a rumor machine and a perfect channel for the kinds of bullies who hide behind a screen, hurting other people behind a shield of anonymity.

3. Ask.fm – This app allows users to ask a specific person anonymous questions. Users can answer these questions and posts them to their personal page, truly leaving nothing to the imagination. This is especially dangerous because it allows any user to target a specific person anonymously. Bullies, predators, and more can send anonymous messages to a specific person, asking them inappropriate things or even simply making hurtful statements.

4. Kik Messenger – This is a private messenger app and is coveted by those under 18 for a number of reasons. The App allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t see. This app also allows users to identify themselves by a made up username, posing the dangers of anonymity. To make matters even scarier, third party websites allow users to search for people based on things like age and gender. There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik, which obviously poses the risk of sexual predators chatting with your child. And again, this is an easy tool for sexting. Just last month, a 13 year old girl was murdered by a man she presumably met on Kik Messenger.

5. Omegle – This App has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009. When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service – chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger;” the app’s slogan is “Talk to Strangers!” You don’t have to register for the App. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. This app is the perfect channel for sexual predators. Experts say these predators blackmail young children, by starting inappropriate conversations with them, then threatening to send the messages, photos, or videos to their parents if they tell anybody, therefore trapping the child in a disgusting, dangerous situation.

6. Whisper – This is a meeting App that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you. You are also able to communicate with users who post secrets. A quick look at the App and you can see that online relationships are forming constantly on this App, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year.

7. After School – This app is a message board that students can join by scanning their school I.D. or Facebook profile. While the scanning feature provides some security from outside users, once in the app, the user is anonymous. However, this app effortlessly creates drama and conflict among users because they all attend the same school. Students are able to freely post about anything. This year, a single school had problems with posts that included topless photos, alarmingly vulgar posts from males talking about fellow female students, and more. There is even a section where students can scan their driver’s license and enter a discussion only for students ages 17 and up, openly creating an environment for the discussion of more explicit material.

As with my presentations, articles such as this are a moving target as things get more troublesome by the minute. The biggest problem is that these apps make money. Because of this, more apps get developed that push the envelope of morality and safety. Look, if the developers could ensure the apps would only be used between consenting adults, I wouldn’t have a problem with all of this; however, the only way to ensure that to any reasonable level is to pretty much kill the app’s revenue streams. Because of this, we must remain diligent and be ever on the lookout for the next worst thing that could fall into the hands of our children. These apps make criminals out of cowards.

Please note: You can turn location services, or GPS, off on cell phones by going in to the device settings. This will keep the Apps and photos from posting the exact location or whereabouts of the phone user.

 About the author  –  Jody S. Hawkins, Information Systems Security Officer, has been in technology for medical facilities since early 2000 and has been practicing for more than 20 years with his start in the United States Air Force. He is a part of Cook Children’s Experts on Call Speakers Bureau. Hawkins specializes in privacy and technology safety and is a regular speaker at the National HIT/HIPAA Conference. He has been quoted and published in several national publications, including Health Information Management Magazine.

Resiliency Critical to Overcome Effects of Bullying

by Rick Nauert PhD

Resiliency Critical to Overcome Effects of Bullying

New research suggests that since most children will experience bullying at some point in their lifetime schools, families and communities should take a more proactive role in helping children learn to be resilient.

Investigators discovered the reason some children are devastated by bullying while others are not is because children who have developed resiliency skills are buffered and protected from internalizing the harm intended though bullying and cyberbullying.

The study by researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, validates how resilience differentiates children who just survive bullying from those who thrive when faced with adversity.

Children do in fact play a significant role in allowing or disallowing the harm that takes place when bullied. The researchers believe the ability to be resilient is innate, but it needs to be nurtured through social and environmental factors.

The study, “Cultivating Youth Resilience to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying Victimization,” appears in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

For the research, investigators hypothesized that resilient youth are less likely to be targets for bullying both at school and online, and that those who are targeted are less impacted by it at school.

To test this concept, they used a validated biopsychosocial 10-item resilience scale to explore the relationship between resilience and experience with bullying and cyberbullying.

The scale included statements like “I can deal with whatever comes my way,” “I am not easily discouraged by failure,” and “Having to cope with stress makes me stronger.”

Items on the scale were designed to assess both the protective capacity of resilience as well as its ability to repair or restore equilibrium in the lives of youth when they face adversity.

Based on a nationally-representative sample of 1,204 American youth ages 12 to 17 and living in the United States, results from the study found that uniformly, students with higher levels of resilience were bullied at school or online less often.

Moreover, among those who were bullied, resilience served as a buffer, insulating them from being affected in a negative manner at school. Their experience with various forms of interpersonal peer harm also varied inversely with the students’ self-reported level of resilience.

“Resilience is a potent protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and mitigating its effect,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within Florida Atlantic University’s College for Design and Social Inquiry. Hinduja co-authored the study with Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“Resilient kids are those, who for a variety of reasons, are better able to withstand external pressures and setbacks and are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less-equipped peers when facing this type of victimization.”

Hinduja and Patchin hope that the latest data from their study will bring attention to an often-neglected and even forgotten component of the ways that schools, families, and communities address the role and responsibility of the child who is bullied.

There is heavy interest to identify better solutions to bullying these days, and Hinduja recently shared their research on resilience in keynotes with the International Bullying Prevention Association, the World Anti Bullying Forum, and social media companies’ intent on helping targets help themselves.

“We want children to learn and develop the skills they need to deal with problems, and yet we rarely help them engage with those problems so that they can grow in their ability to solve them,” said Hinduja.

“Instead, we seek to constantly protect and insulate them — instead of bolstering their self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose — which are all innate strengths.”

Hinduja points out that in many forms of verbal and online bullying, targets do have some ability to allow or disallow much of the harm that others try to inflict if they are trained to manage this form of adversity.

As such, adults and organizations have a responsibility to teach and model for them the proper strategies to deflect, dismiss, or otherwise rise above the insults and hate.

 psychcentral.com/news/2017/10/12/resiliency-critical-to-overcome-effects-of-bullying/127291.html

Nine Tips for Talking to Kids about Trauma

After a tragedy like the Paris attacks, kids will have questions. How do we respond?

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In a video that has gone viral after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, a father comforts his son, who is worried about “bad guys” shooting them.

“They might have guns, but we have flowers,” the father says, referring to the impromptu memorials people had been laying out to honor the victims. “France is our home.”

After some back-and-forth, the boy ultimately seems comforted by his father’s words—and millions of viewers have been moved by the man’s tenderness, patience, and care.

The video reminds us that while we can’t always protect children from witnessing violence and tragedy in the world, we can comfort and communicate with them in the most healing way possible.

But many of us don’t always know the best way to do that—we may lack the confidence and presence of mind demonstrated by that father, later identified as Angel Le.

Fortunately, parenting and education experts have produced a wealth of resources for having difficult conversations with kids about tragedies like the Paris attacks.  Check the following link for nine tips to talk with your children. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_tips_for_talking_to_kids_about_trauma

Opinion: Georgia’s Pre-K is changing lives every day
By Governor Nathan Deal –  As a father and grandfather, I want the same thing that every Georgian does: for my loved ones to have every possible opportunity for success. As Governor, I’m proud to lead a state that supports thoughtful, innovative educational programs that offer those opportunities to thousands of Georgians every day. One such program, Georgia’s Pre-K Program, has been helping our state’s youngest learners…

Read More at http://www.myajc.com/news/opinion/opinion-pre-changing-lives-every-day/8S7J0g4AbEpQEpAkqHcajJ/

HIV/STDs In Our Community   

In 2013, an estimated 3,011 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in Georgia. Georgia ranked 5th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2013.

Untreated STDs are a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and chronic pelvic pain. In 2013, Georgia ranked 9th of the 50 state in chlamydial infections and ranked 8th for gonorrheal infections.  Please review the data charts below –

Per CDC Georgia 2015 State Health Profile, https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/stateprofiles/pdf/georgia_profile.pdf

Chlamydia 2017

STD incidence 15 to 19 2015

Dangerous Apps and Your Teen

With the ability to access the Internet and download applications from the “App Store”, teens can innocently be dragged into danger! While the majority of parents are familiar with and know to regulate the more mainstream apps, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, there are many other apps that your child could be using that are potentially dangerous. Here are a few apps to keep your eye out for:

Texting Apps

  • KIK MESSENGER:  This is a texting app that lets you to text for free – completely unlimited! (STRANGER DANGER!) There are many ways people can disguise themselves as someone they are not and easily communicate with other KIK users. This app was allegedly used in various high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child pornography case – That’s scary!!
  • WhatsApp: This is an app that allows users to send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message fees or limits. (Another platform of STRANGER DANGER)

Micro-blogging Apps and Sites

  • Tumblr: This is a social media platform that’s like a cross between a blog and twitter. It’s a news stream full of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users are capable of creating and following “tumblogs” or short blogs that can be seen by ANYBODY online. Parents need to know that porn is easy to find here! While this social hangout spot can be easy to find creative ideas, it can also open a world of trouble. Self-harm, drug use, offensive language, violence, pornographic images and videos are easily searchable! These posts are most often copied, shared, and re-blogged keeping it online forever!
  • Twitter: This is also a micro-blogging tool that allows the users to “tweet” messages to other followers, users, or celebrities. While this is a good tool for keeping up with the latest sports information or news from your local area, it can allow teens to tweet in the heat of the moment – possibly posting something they don’t mean, which in turn could ruin their reputation later on. (Remember – it is out in cyber space, FOREVER!)

Self-Destructing and Secret Apps

  • Whisper: This is a social “confessional” app that allows its users to post whatever is on their mind paired with an image. Parents should know that the content expressed on Whisper could be very negative including topics related to insecurity, substance abuse, depression, and lies or “secrets” of teachers or peers. While this app is anonymous from the start, the “meet up” section encourages users to share personal information. (Not so “anonymous” after all)
  •  Yik Yak: This is a social network app that allows users to post brief posts or comments to geographically nearby Yik Yak users within a mile and a half away! Rumors, secrets, lies and opinions are common things to find while viewing the Yik Yak feed. Parents should know that many schools are banning access to this while at school because of the gossip, threats, and cruel nature that Yik Yak can hold.

Meeting and Dating Apps

  • Omegle: This is a chat site and app that randomly pairs two strangers together in a chat or video room. Parents should know that there is NO registration and the connections made are complete strangers across the world! Due to the site being completely anonymous, foul and explicit language and sexual chat thrives.
  • Tinder: This is a photo and messaging dating app that allows users to browse others users’ pictures for potential matches within their area. Parents should know that this site is all about getting ‘swipes’. You either swipe right to “like” a photo or swipe left to “pass”. If another person “likes” your photo too, then they are paired together. Meeting up is the main goal for teens and in-app geo-location makes sure they’re close by too. But beware – you just never know whom you will really be meeting up with!

So, parents, please be aware! Cell phones aren’t what they used to be anymore. With the advancements of technology, this generation of teens is experiencing complete access to the world at the touch of a finger. We encourage you to talk with your child about cell phone safety and share your expectations.

Originally published at:  http://www.heartsforfamilies.org/blog/blog-dangerous-apps-and-your-teen.aspx

Parent Power.   Teens say parents most influence their decisions about sex, according to new national survey data released earlier this week by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Teens age 12-19 say parents are more influential than friends, the media, siblings, teachers aSurvey_Says--Parent_Power--October--LETTER--imagend educators, and others, according to the representative survey of 3,038 individuals age 12-24. Other survey results include:

  • Both younger teens (52% of those age 12-15) and older teens (32% of those age 16-19) say parents most influence their decisions about sex. Friends are cited second most often by both age groups.
  • Non-Hispanic black teens (54%), Hispanic teens (50%), and Non-Hispanic white teens (43%) all say parents most influence their decisions about sex.
  • Those age 20-24 (27%) say friends most influence their decisions about sex; 16% of those age 20-21 and 19% of those age 22-24 cite parents.

See the report at –
https://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/survey-says-october-2016

Mom and Dad: It’s Time to Put Down the Phone! A recent study in the journal Current Biology has shown a connection between the time and attention a caregiver gives to an object, and how long an infant is focused on that same object. The study found that if a parent or caregiver is distracted during playtime by their phone or another electronic device, they may raise children who have shorter attention spans. Developing attention span is a critical ability for children, and is a known indicator for success in areas like language, understanding, and problem solving. This study is one of the first to consider attention as not an individual characteristic, but as something developed through social interaction.  For More Information: The full article can be found here, or a  summary of the article can be found here.

Georgia Family Connection Celebrates 25-Year Commitment to Health and Well-Being of Families and Communities

Georgia Family Connection—the only statewide network of its kind in the country dedicated to the health and well-being of families and communities—turned 25 this year.

“This anniversary represents a significant milestone for us,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), a public-private partnership that supports the Family Connection statewide network. “It’s a testament to our unwavering commitment working toward measurably better outcomes for everyone—healthy children who are primed for school and succeed when they get there; families who are stable, self-sufficient, and productive; and communities that are vibrant, robust, and thriving.”

This anniversary is also a testament to the strength of the relationships Family Connection maintains with partners in all 159 counties. “What we do is vital, because on any given day thousands of Georgians are sitting at tables across the state focused on improving conditions of the children and families they know best,” said Smith. “One of our core beliefs is that lasting change is local.”

This statewide network gives Family Connection a unique vantage point—not only to see the big picture, but also to operate effectively at a local level.

“Every community has families that need help at some point,” said GaFCP Board Chair Bryan Williams. “Their conditions improve when caring people come together to provide those folks with tools and opportunities to succeed. Every community has its own unique set of needs, and people rally around their own local needs with greater passion than they do arbitrary program goals assigned by an outside agency. I saw that in action when I served on the Berrien County Family Connection Collaborative, and now I see that across the state as a GaFCP Board member.”

Legacy  Back in the early 1990s, conditions for children and families in Georgia were among the worst in the nation. The private and public sectors—though working hard to improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens—weren’t working together. Georgia Family Connection was established to connect and convene key community members committed to improving the well-being of children and families.

“It was a privilege to work with Governor Zell Miller to introduce the bill to create Georgia Family Connection,” said Sen. Nan Orrock. “Today, 25 years later, I am heartened that this groundbreaking collaborative effort continues to excel in serving Georgia’s children and families so effectively.”

Fifteen communities volunteered to participate in the pilot. By 2004, all 159 counties had voluntarily joined the statewide network, and in 2003 The Annie E. Casey Foundation named GaFCP the state KIDS COUNT grantee.

“GaFCP is the backbone organization for Georgia’s statewide Family Connection initiative,” said Stan Schneider, president of Metis Associates, a national research and consulting firm headquartered in New York City.

“Through sustained guidance, support, and advocacy, they’ve mobilized the state’s community Collaboratives to collectively bring about significant improvements in key indicators like teen birth, high-school graduation rates, and instances of child abuse and neglect. This work not only deserves our admiration, but warrants national recognition and systematic replication.”

Reimagining the Future  “We have a lot to celebrate,” said Smith. “But we also have a lot of work to do. I believe Georgia is poised to do tremendous things for our children and families in the years to come to ensure that this state remains a great place to raise children and to do business in.”

Georgia Family Connection has 25 years of experience grappling with thorny or complex issues, making sense of it all, and getting results. Listening, learning, acting, and gaining wisdom along the way—wisdom it happily shares through stories, resources, and its statewide network. Family Connection will embark on the next quarter century by refreshing its brand and redeveloping its website to better connect partners to the resources they need to empower communities to craft local solutions based on local, data-driven decisions.

“Providing an infrastructure for communities to help themselves makes Georgia different than any other state,” said Williams. “It’s where we excel. Through this structure, our state has cultivated an effective resource flow for our communities and families. That flow is leading to measurably better conditions in all our communities—and is benefiting each of us as Georgians.”

Smith agrees. “I was born, raised, and educated in this state, and I love it dearly,” she said. “And I feel like it’s part of my responsibility, just as you do, to make sure this state remains a great one for all the children who will come after us.”

The documentary “The Beginning of Life” is now available on Netflix, iTunes, and Google Play

Looking for something new to watch this summer? Check out “The Beginning of Life” which is now available on Netflix, iTunes, and Google Play! This exciting new documentary explores early childhood brain development and how it is impacted by a child’s environment. The film features Gisele Bündchen and Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner James Heckman. The 90-minute film is supported by UNICEF and hopes to educate people about the important role that early childhood development plays in the likelihood of successes later in life. The film follows and explores the lives of families all over the world with different cultural, social, and ethnic backgrounds and how the social and political landscape can effect the lives of young children.  Check out the trailer to this amazing documentary!

Georgia falls to 42nd

On June 21st the 2016 National Kids Count rankings were released. The Kids Count rankings reflect the well-being of children and families across the United States. The report tracks 16 indicators in four specific areas; economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Georgia moved down two spots from 40th to 42nd for its overall Kids Count ranking. Although Georgia’s overall ranking declined, other areas, such as child health and child economic well-being, did improve. Rebecca Rice, Georgia’s Kids Count Coordinator, believes that “continuing investments in early childhood education and in school-age children, will help propel Georgia toward greater improvements”. For more information, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Book.

LOOK AGAIN!

On May 31, 2016, Governor Nathan Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal, and Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs will call for families and caregivers of children to have heightened awareness of the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles. Since 2010, 11 children in Georgia have died due to vehicular heatstroke. For more information: http://decal.ga.gov/CCS/LookAgain.aspx

Housing Stability Coalition Meeting 

Too many of our working neighbors and friends, citizens, are under housed or doubled up due to the lack of reasonably priced housing. Citizens who have income either from their payroll, disability, child support, pension/SS earnings, or other source struggle each day to provide a stable home for themselves and/or their families. All are invited to participate in a town hall meeting at The Depot on Tuesday, May 17, starting at 6:00 pm. to discuss safe, stable, and affordable housing needs in our community. For more information call Family Connection, 706-602-5139.

Momentum Growing for Higher Minimum Wage

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Georgians work harder and longer than ever before. Yet they still struggle to get ahead due to low-wage jobs. Raising Georgia’s minimum wage is an effective policy to put workers on firmer footing, giving them a needed boost as they work to lift their families into the middle class. The Georgia Senate Insurance and Labor Committee will consider the need for a higher minimum wage at 1 p.m. today in room 450 at the state Capitol. This fact sheet details reasons the time is now for state lawmakers to give working Georgians a raise.

 

 

1bac3bf8-3559-40af-9b2a-c621971f14ceNew Illustrated Guide

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and Georgians for a Healthy Future today announce the joint release of  “Understanding Medicaid in Georgia and the Opportunity to Improve It.” In this three-part booklet you will find infographics, new data and compelling charts that simplify the complex issue of Medicaid in Georgia.
Part one explains who gets Medicaid in Georgia, how Medicaid protects Georgians during economic downturns, how Medicaid controls costs in the state and more.
Part two outlines Georgia’s opportunity to close the coverage gap.  Here you’ll find out what Georgia’s health insurance coverage gap is, how we can use Medicaid to close it, and who stands to benefit detailed by job sector, demographics and veteran status.

Part three details economic and social benefits of closing the coverage gap. Why is closing the coverage gap is a good deal for Georgia and the state’s economy? What are the savings other states realize by closing the gap? How does coverage affect a person’s financial and physical health?

http://gbpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Georgia-Medicaid-Chart-Book.pdf

 

Safe Sleep for Your Baby

Safe Sleep for Your Baby

About 3,400 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States.** Most of these deaths result from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant death, such as suffocation. Safe to Sleep Campaign launched in 1994, formerly the Back to Sleep campaign

Mission: to educate parents, caregivers, and health care providers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death

Number of SIDS deaths: 4,669 in 1993 and 1,910 in 2011

The proportion of infants placed on their backs to sleep increased from 17% in 1993 to 73% in 2010*

The U.S. SIDS rate dropped by more than 50% since 1993**

Sources:
* NICHD national Infant Sleep Position Study
** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Safe Sleep Environment

To reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death:

–Always place baby on his or her back to sleep for all sleep times, including naps.

–Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room next to where you sleep.

–Use a firm sleep surface, free from soft objects, toys, blankets, and crib bumpers

Learn more about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death at http://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov

 

Apple launches Suicide Prevention App

Apple’s Siri is a phone voice assistant that allows people to send text messages, ask questions and find information, and place calls. Apple has just updated Siri to provide helpful information if users make suicidal statements like “I want to kill myself.” Siri immediately pulls up the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and asks if the user wants to call it. If the user does not respond, Siri provides a list of local suicide prevention centers.

According to John Draper, director of the Lifeline, Apple was “extremely excited and interested in helping, and they were very thorough about best approaches….They advised us on key words that could better identify if a person was suicidal so it could then offer the Lifeline number.” The improved Siri response fills an important need since many people say very intimate things to their Siri especially when they are isolated, according to Draper. sprc.org/news-events/the-weekly-spark/weekly-spark-thursday-june-27-2013