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Helping and Talking to Your Child About the War in Ukraine

Helping Children and Young People to Make Sense of Distressing News

As a global community, we have faced a turbulent few years, ruled chiefly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it brought. Now as we enter Spring 2022, the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken over media attention and national concern. We live in a time of constant news streams and updates. It’s hard not to be filled with uncertainty and heartache every time you switch on the television or look at your phone. While we are all struggling to cope with the news, it is especially concerning for children and young people.

To help you guide those in your care through this uncertain time, our online safety experts have created this support for parents, carers, teachers, and safeguarding professionals. You’ll find a synopsis of important terms and questions, as well as our top tips for helping children and young people cope with distressing news.

What is the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military forces to begin an invasion of neighbouring country Ukraine. This is an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war that began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president of Ukraine was removed from office and Russian soldiers seized Crimea.

Since the invasion, there has been worldwide condemnation of Putin and his supporters. Protests have spread across the world (with protests in Russia resulting in arrest from police forces) as international support for Ukraine grows. Heavy sanctions (penalties to trade, sporting, and economic goods that are put in place by international leaders to try and pressure other leaders to a conduct agreement) have triggered a financial crisis in Russia, which has led Putin to put Russia’s nuclear forces on ‘high alert’ and has increased global fears of a nuclear war. Over 2 million Ukrainian citizens have fled their country. Thousands are suspected dead, with estimates expected to be higher. Many are trapped without access to necessities or medical aid. Recently, a maternity and children’s hospital was hit by a Russian airstrike resulting in multiple injuries and casualties.

Live reports are coming in every few minutes. Major news networks have constant news updates available for the public to see, despite difficulties in confirming news reports. However, the news is not the only avenue reports are appearing on. Social media is full of harrowing imagery and stories to encourage global support of Ukraine. While this is done to raise awareness of the atrocities happening in Ukraine, some of this content is extremely distressing. It’s worth nothing that if a child or young person engages with these posts on social media, the algorithms in place on these platforms will show them more.

How children react to distressing world events

While the recent news is upsetting and worrying for everyone, it is not the first disruptive event to affect the children and young people in your care. They have spent over two years adapting to a pandemic. They have endured lockdowns being isolated from their friends and family. They may even have lost loved ones during this time. Experts have warned that these events alone would have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of children and young people going forward. If someone in your care is struggling, they might be:

  • Fixated, spending more time on phones or tablets to stay ‘up to date’.
  • Anxious, especially about future plans or dreams.
  • Irritable, over-reacting to minor inconveniences or issues.
  • Withdrawn, not engaging with their friends, school, or extracurriculars.
  • Distracted, with disruptions to regular eating, sleeping, or personal hygiene habits.
  • Obsessive, thinking over every circumstance and talking about possible outcomes.
  • Pessimistic, sharing a more negative or hopeless outlook on life.

If you are worried about a child or young person in your care, you can encourage them to speak to you or someone on their trusted team of adults. You can also point them to Childline’s support services.

Why is it important to talk to children and young people about what’s happening?

Children and young people are naturally curious. They want to know about what is going on in the world as much as they want to know the latest TikTok trend. Even if you try to limit the content they consume, they will inevitably hear about big world events from various outlets, such as television, social media, friends, family, and school environments. They might even overhear something from one of your conversations! If it’s what everyone is talking about, their interest in the topic increases.

This wide variety of sources makes it difficult to validate information and know what content the young person in your care is viewing. If you don’t acknowledge any questions or concerns they may have, they could ‘fill in the gaps’ with the wrong information. This might cause further anxiety, ignorance, or worrisome behaviour. Educating those in your care yourself is important to assure they know how to process news reports on their own with critical thinking and media literacy skills.

Some children may be curious, but not worried. Others may be uninterested in what is happening. Whether your child asks you about it or you bring it into conversation, remember to stay calm, listen to them, and reassure them that you are there if they need support or further guidance.

Top Tips for how to talk to children and young people about war

Every child is different. Their ability to process information will depend on their age, character, and resilience. As their guardian, you have to decide how much you share. You will know them best, but assessing their abilities can help you choose the level of information you share with them. For example, if you are a parent or carer of a young child who is prone to anxiety, start off with simple statements about the event while continually reassuring your child that they are safe and you are here for them. It’s important to:

  • Acknowledge their concerns. Don’t deny what is happening or negate their worries by telling them it will ‘all blow over soon’. Instead, tell them their concern is completely understandable and that you want to discuss it with them.
  • Be honest. While it is up to you as their guardian to protect them, it’s important that you refrain from lying in your responses or ignoring any questions or thoughts your child has. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. This allows you to open up a discussion with your child. You could even suggest seeking the answer together!
  • Ask them how they are getting their news. Having a discussion around trustworthy news sources and how difficult it is to confirm things during times of conflict might be helpful. Holding yourself to this standard is important as well! Be mindful of any news playing in your house and how you are conducting your own conversations.
  • Validate their feelings. It is likely these emotions are complex and confusing for them to deal with. Remind them that, in this situation, feelings like this are normal.
  • Listen to them. No matter how worried or anxious you are, they will look to you for reassurance. Set your feelings aside and give the young person in your care the attention and space they need to feel heard.
  • Encourage them to limit their news intake. If they feel they are unable to look away from their phone or if they see something upsetting on their tablet, suggest they switch it off. If this isn’t realistic, advise them to only check news sources 1-2 times per day.
  • Discuss what you are grateful for as a family. This could be around the dinner table or during morning drives to school. If a young person in your care seems to struggle with guilt, remind them that they have nothing to feel guilty about – just things to be thankful for! Suggest researching places that are taking in donations to bring to refugees or other ways to help the crisis in a local capacity.
  • Use your words and actions to support them.Your reactions to their reactions are key to helping those in your care feel protected and loved. Tell your child you love them. Give them hugs or hold their hand. Allow them space when they need it, but remind them that you are here for them.

We know it can be difficult to decide what to share and how to respond. Remember – it’s important to remain calm, open, and honest with those in your care regardless of their age. Below, you’ll find some examples of questions you may receive about the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our online safety experts have crafted some examples of appropriate answers to help you frame what you would like to say.

What is happening between Ukraine and Russia?

Why does Russia want to invade Ukraine?

Does this mean Russians are bad?

Why are people getting hurt?

Why do those people have to leave their homes?

Is World War 3 going to happen?

To help you navigate those difficult conversations, check out our toolkit on ‘Having Supportive Conversations’.

This article was copied from

Youth Unity Hugs

New Study: The More you Hug your Kids, the More Their Brains Develop

Hug:To borrow a phrase: love works in mysterious ways. We are born to love and, as it turns out, love and affection are necessary for both optimal positive emotional and physical development. And to be honest, nothing feels better than giving your loved one a warm embrace –or being on the receiving end.

Role of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter the hypothalamus produces and the pituitary gland secretes. Scientists first identified and observed it in 1906. (1) Oxytocin is essential in the process of childbirth in mammals, stimulating uterine contractions and lactation. Later studies found its role a much deeper and far-reaching one that affects social interaction and bonding between people. Scientists call it “the love hormone“.

As Psychology Today explains “…As a facilitator of bonding among those who share similar characteristics, the hormone fosters distinctions between in-group and out-group members, and sets in motion favoritism toward in-group members and prejudice against those in out-groups. Ongoing research on the hormone is a potent reminder of the complexity of biological and psychological systems.“ (2)Advertisement

This special hormone is present in both sexes, stimulating all aspects of the reproductive process, beginning with trust and sexual arousal. (34) Oxytocin stimulates pleasure and reward centers and is the neurological basis for social bonding, especially with the people closest to you.

The brain rewards us for living with others. (5) Oxytocin increases feelings of trust, which are intrinsic to all close personal relationships. (6)

Humans are Social Animals

Some animals are solitary but humans are not. Social inclusion and interaction are necessary for our survival. This becomes evident when we become socially isolated, starting with depression and often culminating in disease.Advertisement

The neurobiological mechanisms of love and attachment are a wonderful circle: we fall in love, have a baby, raise the child with love and affection, and the child continues the process.

The attraction and bonding between us are the physiological and emotional manifestations of our need to reproduce to perpetuate the species.

What’s more, oxytocin is essential for embryonic brain development (7). More specifically, it plays a role in blood vessel formation in the pituitary gland, which controls several physiological processes such as stress, growth, and reproduction (8).

With this as a foundation, we are more able to cope with stress and avoid destructive addictive behaviors. (9) This complex process begins with the bonding between parents and child.

The brain produces a high level of oxytocin to stimulate labor during pregnancy. After birth, oxytocin is even higher in infants than in mothers.

Additionally, in combination with prolactin (another hormone), oxytocin stimulates milk production for breastfeeding. The levels stay high for mother and baby for as long as the baby nurses.

The chemical reaction that follows is nothing short of amazing:

“Through three different release pathways, oxytocin functions rather like a system activator and often influences the release of other signaling substances such as opioids, serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Through these activations, different behavioural and physiological effects are facilitated and coordinated into adaptive patterns, which are influenced by the type of stimuli and environmental factors. ”Advertisement

“Oxytocin can be released by activation of several types of sensory nerves [including in the skin]…Light pressure, warmth and stroking contribute to oxytocin release caused by ‘pleasant’ or ‘non-noxious’ sensory stimulation of the skin.” (10)

Opioidsserotonin, and dopamine are all pleasure hormones.

It is interesting to note that newborns instinctively use their hands in addition to their mouths to stimulate milk flow. This type of skin stimulation promotes the production of oxytocin in the mother for milk release. (11)

Instinctual Parent-Child Bond

A fascinating study of oxytocin in parents with infants found that levels increased where there was a positive interaction with their babies. In addition, increased oxytocin was found in parents who enjoyed positive close relationships with their partners and their own parents, indicating that we pass on the love hormone through positive social interaction.

Interestingly, reduced oxytocin levels in the urine of mothers stressed by parenting and negative interaction with their infants were noted. (12)

Oxytocin Can’t be Replaced

The long-term emotional and societal effects of oxytocin are tangible.

Oxytocin release during sexual activity, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and onward directly correlates to the ability to trust and form meaningful relationships. Once a baby is weaned from her∕his mother, the brain produces oxytocin as the result of affectionate touch. Healthy personal interactions also stimulate hormone release. Hugging your child is the most natural instinct a parent has because it feels good for the both of you.

As we’ve seen, physical affection in childhood is instinctive and feels good because it fosters a solid emotional (and physical!) foundation and the ability to develop trust and strong bonds with others.

So while all of love’s mysteries will never truly be understood, we know that it’s part of who we are as a species and is necessary for our survival. Spread those hugs around—everyone needs ʹem.

SOURCE: https://dailyhealthpost.com/hug-baby-brain-development/2/

Undated file photo of female students walking along a corridor. Core school spending per pupil in England will remain lower in real terms than in 2009-10 despite the Government's funding boost, an analysis suggests.
Schools serving disadvantaged communities face the "biggest challenges" as they have seen larger cuts in per pupil spending over the past decade, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) researchers have warned. Issue date: Thursday September 2, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story EDUCATION Funding. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Schools can tackle bullying by teaching children anger management and empathy, study finds

Source: Will Hazell Education CorrespondentSeptember 2, 2021 4:34 pm(Updated 5:36 pm)

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About 800,000 children are bullied each year – but research suggests schools can do something about it

Schools can effectively tackle bullying by teaching pupils skills such as anger management, conflict resolution and empathy, research has found.  

The Early Intervention Foundation charity conducted a review of nearly 30 studies looking at bullying and antisocial behaviour.  

It found that schools could explicitly teach skills to prevent the onset of behaviour problems and to reduce the likelihood that young people will engage in aggressive behaviour or bullying.   

Getting children to practice certain positive traits helped to develop skills such as anger management, empathy, problem-solving, conflict resolution, communication and decision-making which meant they were less likely to be bullies.  

The review also found that taking a “whole-school approach” to bullying – for example by creating a supportive school environment and raising awareness of mental health – is also effective in reducing aggressive behaviour. 

Tackling bullying also had a number of other beneficial consequences for young people, including “improved psychological functioning, wellbeing and quality of life”, reductions in police contact and even reduced smoking, alcohol and drug use.   

Schools meanwhile saw reduced participation in disciplinary procedures and less truancy.   

Dr Jo Casebourne, the EIF’s chief executive, said: “Research shows bullying in the teenage years can lead to increased risk of suicide, getting in trouble with the police, anxiety disorders and a whole host of other negative outcomes.  

“We know that both bully and the bullied can be adversely affected. The upside is we know that support in schools can be effective both for the bully and the victim.”  

The research found that teachers were equally as effective as external professionals in delivering bullying prevention programmes. 

However, teachers were less effective than technology experts when it came to providing cyberbullying prevention programmes.   

In 2020, about 800,000 children in England reported that they were bullied in a given year, with 2.5 million children experiencing some form of bullying before the age of 18.  

If a young person experiences bullying during their teenage years it increases their risk of having an adult mental health problem by more 

Parents’ Guide for Safe YouTube and Internet Streaming for Kids

You work hard to keep your children safe from so many different dangers, but every day they are exposed to countless threats online. Predators, disturbing content, identity theft attempts, and other things you wouldn’t let them experience in real life are all waiting for them.

Shockingly, 1 in 5  teenager say they have been approached in a sexual way by strangers online; only 25% told their parents.

As a parent, that’s terrifying.

Young people have access to a nearly infinite pool of content thanks to websites like YouTube and Reddit. Worse, the Internet, the rise of smartphones, and the culture of social media allow us to access these things from anywhere. No matter what you think of it or how much you know about it, platforms like YouTube are changing how children are growing up.

While that’s not always a bad thing, kids have more access to new sources of information, some good and some bad. Finding useful information on YouTube is easy, but so is stumbling across harmful or even malicious content.

How can you restrict what your children watch on YouTube?

The answer to this question isn’t simple. Fortunately, there are options available to parents when it comes to controlling YouTube and Internet access.

The number one priority for parents should be to teach their children to protect themselves online and use social media safely. As a parent, you can’t monitor everything your child does all the time, and older teenagers might want (and genuinely need) some digital privacy. Instead, focus on being proactive about their safety while teaching your children how to protect themselves online.

What Children Do Online

In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 92% of teenagers go online daily and that 75% own a smartphone. An Australian study later reported that 95% of 8- to 11-year-olds have accessed the Internet in the last month.

The most common websites they used were YouTube, Facebook, and online games like Roblox. In fact, email and even text messaging have taken a backseat to social media for many younger users. Platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and others provide a nearly infinite supply of content.

The Threat of Online Strangers

Sites like Instagram and Twitter not only let you connect with close friends and family members, they also open communication with complete strangersNearly half of Facebook users accept friend requests from people they’ve never met before, and most users are familiar with stories of social media or chat requests gone wrong. But did you know that YouTube allows comments on most videos and that those comments sections can contain links posted by predatory adults hiding behind fake profiles?

Parental Controls

Many modern devices, apps, and web browsers offer parental controls that restrict access to certain content for their kids but did you know that many antivirus software already include parental controls? Not all of the top antivirus software in 2021 have parental controls, but the ones that do offer two layers of protection with one installation. Some popular options include:

  • Bitdefender – the premium version comes with a lot of features, but some of them are intrusive. These features include a webcam filter, activity reports, history and alerts, social media and mobile phone tracking, IP monitoring and blocking, SMS and call monitoring, website and app blocking, and location tracking.
  • Norton – this household name features time, web, search, social media, and location supervision, protection of personal information, access request, and support for up to 10 devices.
  • Avast – the website blocking feature is less intrusive than the other options mentioned. Parents can block specific websites and keywords.

A quick search will show you which antivirus software includes parental controls but in our experience, the best way to encourage safe Internet browsing is education and conversation.

Many platforms like Netflix have built-in parental controls that restrict content with a passcode. Netflix supports kid-focused user accounts to block adult-only shows. iPhones also have parental controls in their settings menus.

Some tech-savvy kids can bypass parental controls by installing certain software. Prevent them from doing so by giving them access to non-administrator user accounts on your operating system. Most will only let certain accounts install new software.

Finally, educating your kids on some smart browsing habits goes a long way toward ensuring their safety. You want to teach them to:

  • Never share personal information online, like your phone number, email, address, or personal pictures.
  • Think before you post. Your name is attached to everything you say online, so don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a teacher, a friend, a family member, or a potential employer to see.
  • Understand that their actions online can have consequences in real life.
  • Take some time to go through the privacy settings on Facebook and other online platforms.
  • Don’t share passwords.
  • Don’t meet someone you’ve befriended online without parental permission.

These are just general guidelines. It’s worth looking into the specific services and platforms your children enjoy using the most to see if they offer any customized parental controls.

Facebook

Facebook is still one of the most popular social media platforms, but younger audiences are increasingly turning away from it. Chances are if your child does use Facebook, having a profile plays a huge role in your child’s ability to fit in with friends at school. Not only are the usual online dangers present, but what your child posts can impact his or her livelihood down the road. College admissions officers and job recruiters have reported that content on Facebook and other channels could harm an applicant’s chances.

What does this have to do with streaming videos? Facebook introduced a streaming feature called Facebook Live. These are videos being broadcast to the user’s friends list, but the recording of it can be shared. That means raw, unedited footage of anything the user opted to broadcast can be shared to unconnected users. Unfortunately, Facebook has come under fire for some of these videos, especially ones of gang rape and of the murder of Philando Castile.

YouTube

YouTube modernized access to digital media and this popular video sharing website is used by people of all ages. Many parents rely on YouTube to entertain or instruct their children and while this works for many, there is a lot of troubling content on YouTube that masquerades as kid-friendly.

YouTube has everything: children’s shows, toy reviews, video game footage interlaced with player commentary (known as “Let’s Plays”), and so much more. YouTube’s content creators are more than eager to provide content that appeals to young children. The official Peppa Pig YouTube account, for instance, streams episodes of the show live for free.

<strong>YouTube</strong>

But you can’t expect everything to be kid-friendly. Plenty of malicious and racy content can be found on YouTube. While users have the ability to “flag” objectionable videos and YouTube offers a kids’ mode, these solutions aren’t perfect. The only way to ensure safe browsing for very young children is to be aware of what they are watching.

  • Let them watch without headphones so you can listen in on.
  • Check their video history from time to time.
  • Understand the current trends when it comes to questionable content (more on this later).
  • Encourage them to watch channels that you know are kid-friendly.

YouTube’s Darker Side

Among the kid-friendly channels, it’s important to know how to recognize any questionable content your child might be exposed to on YouTube. There are countless channels that appear harmless on the surface, however, a deeper look will reveal how disturbing the content actually is.

The Logan Paul Generation

Logan Paul is a popular YouTuber with millions of subscribers, including many younger fans. The online celebrity experienced controversy in late 2017 after posting a video of a dead body while exploring Japan’s infamous Suicide Forest.

He was heavily criticized for exploiting the man’s suicide for his online show. Logan eventually took down the video and issued an official apology but it was deemed “too little, too late” by many.

<strong>YouTube’s Darker Side</strong>

Elsagate

Another YouTube controversy is the Elsagate scandal. Recently, several videos featuring iconic child-friendly characters like Spiderman, Elsa from Frozen, and Peppa Pig emerged in videos that contained disturbing, non-child-friendly themes. These videos were produced illegally without permission from the official owners, yet many children watched them daily.

<strong>YouTube’s Darker Side</strong>

While some of these videos were clearly fake, others featured standard animation, making it difficult for kids to tell the difference. In these videos, the characters would often:

  • Inject each other with needles.
  • Attack, steal, and break things.
  • Get another one of the characters pregnant. There were countless videos featuring pregnant Elsa and other Disney characters.

Bizarre Disney and Marvel Live Action Content

<strong>YouTube’s Darker Side</strong>

There are also popular videos in which actors dress as Disney characters and create live action skits. Once again, these videos are full of disturbing content that is far from kid-friendly.

The majority of these questionable videos often ranked well because their creators knew how to manipulate the YouTube algorithm. A simple search for Spiderman or Elsa would often put these videos near the top of the search because they were viral.

Suggested Content

Another issue parents have to deal with is suggested content. Many children are still building their attention spans, and after a few minutes in one video, they might click a suggested video from the sidebar. Suddenly, they’re falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube’s suggested content feature.

YouTube displays suggested content based on a set of specific ranking factors. If a video is extremely popular and somewhat related, it will be displayed. So, if your children click suggestions after watching a Frozen clip, it won’t take long for pregnant Elsa and Spiderman videos to pop up in their feed. As parents, this means your children are being served content that even adults would find creepy.

How can you stop it? There’s virtually nothing you can do to stop this other than strict parental controls and monitoring your kids’ internet use in real-time.

YouTube Parental Controls

Parental controls exist on YouTube. They are far from perfect and some bad content will still sneak through, but you can minimize the risk that your children will see something disturbing. Here’s what you can do through YouTube’s parental controls:

  • Block specific content types and creators. If there’s a specific channel you are aware of or a genre of content, you can block it.
  • Allow approved content only. Parents can also limit what their children watch by approving specific content. Children will only be able to watch this content and nothing else.
  • Turn the search off. The search function on YouTube can be turned off. This is a great option for parents of children who are able to read and write.
  • Limit use to YouTube Kids. This is a popular option for parents who want a kid-friendly version of YouTube. While it doesn’t block everything, it does remove a lot of the adult content.

Snapchat

Snapchat is a messaging app for mobile devices where users can send images and videos to friends. The app is popular with teens and young adults, and surveys have shown that 32% of US teens have used Snapchat.

Unlike Facebook, you cannot monitor your child’s activity on Snapchat without having direct access to his or her account. Instead:

  • Ask your child to open Snapchat messages along with you.
  • Go into the app’s settings and make sure messages can only be received from friends rather than strangers.

In 2014, Snapchat was in the spotlight after a third-party “snap saving” app was hacked. Over 90,000 revealing photos were leaked on the Internet, many of which contained underage nudity.

Remember, “snaps” can be pictures or videos, so the same concerns you may have about Facebook Live or YouTube content applies to Snapchat.

Online Gaming

Video games have increasingly moved toward an online multiplayer business model where players can interact and communicate with other players. Games like StarCraftWorld of Warcraft, PUBG, and Fortnite are entirely multiplayer, while others like Minecraft and Call of Duty offer both single player and multiplayer modes.

It’s important to understand that the ESRB rating system for determining age and content ratings for video games typically doesn’t consider online interactions. So, while a video game like Fortnite may seem child-friendly on the surface with its colorful graphics and cartoony art style, adult players can say anything they want to in the game’s voice chat.

<strong>Online Gaming</strong>

Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal

Video game controversies can be extremely complex. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is an online multiplayer combat video game that offers in-game microtransactions, where virtual in-game items can be purchased using real money. In particular, CS:GO sells “skins,” or spray-painted designs to decorate a player’s weapons or character. Certain skins have been known to cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

<strong>Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal</strong>

It’s also possible to trade skins between accounts. This has led to the creation of websites built to allow players to wager the value of their skins against other user’s skins. Trading websites like these employ famous YouTube celebrities to advertise the service to millions of viewers as well.

Don’t fool yourself, these are gambling websites.

On these websites, players bet and win skins based on random chance and betting on live matches. While this setup is essentially gambling, trading skins manages to dodge the legal definition of gambling by not involving actual money, but rather virtual items that can be sold for money. Nonetheless, the game’s developers have been hit with class-action lawsuits over the possibility of underage players gambling on these sites.

There was even a major scandal in 2016 when popular Counter Strike YouTubers TmarTn and Syndicate, who were famous for creating videos of them gambling on these types of websites, were caught rigging bets on a website they owned. In these videos, the two players would gamble and show players how much they were winning. However, they never revealed to their audience that they were gambling on a website they owned. All of their winnings were staged, misleading their millions of supporters, many of whom were underage, and encouraging them to gamble.

<strong>Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal</strong>

Loot Box Addiction

A similar new trend is the rise of “loot boxes.” In certain games, players can purchase or earn a virtual crate which, when opened, give the player a randomized selection of further virtual items that can be used in-game. Thanks to the randomization factor, loot boxes have been claimed to be gambling in disguise.

In fact, the Belgian government ruled against loot boxescalling them a form of gambling. Major corporations continue to push loot boxes because of how lucrative they are. In the video game industry, major companies have even coined the term “whales” for users who purchase an excessive number of loot boxes.

<strong>Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal</strong>

You might hear about loot boxes under different names. The video game Rainbow Six: Siege, for instance, refers to them as “Alpha Packs.” The screenshot above shows a seasonal “loot box” from Overwatch.

In-Game Purchases

Mobile phone games usually include microtransactions. These transactions involve any form of transaction that takes place in a game. They typically charge whatever credit card is linked to your App Store or Google Play Store account. PlayerUnknown’s BattlegroundsPokemon Go, and Roblox are a few examples of free-to-play games that include excessive microtransactions.

Parents need to be aware of microtransactions. They can be addictive for your children, and in extreme cases, your child may rack up a large bill on your credit card.

<strong>Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal</strong>

The Takeaway

For the majority of kids and teenagers, the Internet has had a positive impact on their lives. Your responsibility as a parent, though, is to ensure a healthy balance between Internet use and your children’s online privacy and digital security. Talk to them extensively about social media and content consumption, and be prepared to step in whenever issues do come up.

Be an active listener, educate them about the dangers of specific content, and make sure they understand that their actions online can have consequences. Take some time to understand the websites and services your children use the most as well. Teaching them how to engage with others online is integral to succeeding in an increasingly Internet-centered society.

source: https://www.safetydetectives.com/blog/parents-guide-for-safe-youtube-and-internet-streaming-for-kids/

Screenshot 2021-04-19 at 14.16.36

April is World Autism Month

Every April Autism Speaks celebrates World Autism Month, beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Throughout the month, we focus on sharing stories and providing opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, fostering worldwide support.

What is World Autism Month?

Every April Autism Speaks celebrates World Autism Month, beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Throughout the month, we focus on sharing stories and providing opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, fostering worldwide support. This year, we are committed to keeping the spirit of the month alive, as now more than ever we know the autism community needs support, kindness and compassion. In April 2021 we’re inviting the community to #LightUpWithKindness.

How can I participate?

There is power in kindness and one small act can have a ripple effect to foster kindness in our communities. We believe that that kindness can help create a world where all people can reach their full potential.

Supporters can participate in the initiative by visiting autismspeaks.org/wam where they can:

Other ways to participate include wearing blue on April 2, lighting buildings blue and exploring stories and photos shared by the diverse autism community. 

What is Light It Up Blue?

The Light It Up Blue initiative was created by Autism Speaks in 2010. Since that time, joined by the international autism community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world light blue on World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) in recognition of people with autism.

With the recent Autism Speaks logo change from blue to the spectrum of colors, can I still “Light It Up Blue?”

Yes!  Autism Speaks is still rooted in our legacy blue.

Where can I get items to show my support of Autism Speaks?

Please visit the Autism Speaks eStore to purchase t-shirts, bracelets, pins, yard signs and other promotional products to spread kindness. Printed materials such as posters, flyers and brochures can be downloaded for free from the resources page.

How can I light my home blue?

You can purchase Phillips Autism Speaks blue light bulbs at Home Depot stores or visit www.homedepot.com and search “Autism Speaks Lights.”

I want to light my commercial building or public structure blue. What resources are available?

Visit www.rosco.com/LIUB for information on commercial lighting options.

How can I share my WAM photos online?

Download our Selfie Frame to use and show your support for people with autism. Then share photos by posting them with the hashtag #LightItUpBlue and #kindnesscounts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram.

Can I use the Autism Speaks World Autism Month marks for my event/fundraiser?

Yes. Logos may be downloaded from the resources page and used for informational or educational purposes during World Autism Month. All uses of the Autism Speaks World Autism Month logo must comply with the following Terms of Use:

  • The logo must remain intact. You may not change or add anything to it.
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  • In the US, any fundraising activity utilizing the World Autism Month marks (or any Autism Speaks marks) must have the authorization of Autism Speaks. Contact marketing@autismspeaks.org and an Autism Speaks representative will contact you directly to review guidelines.

Where can I get the World Autism Month logo?

  • Permitted logos are available on the resources page. Please abide by the Terms of Use above.

Source: https://www.autismspeaks.org/

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Fostering: Make a difference to a young persons life

Instinctive Behaviour is a UK based music production company representing the collective interests of the UK’s music industry – including artists, songwriters and more.
Founded by well known and acclaimed music producer and songwriter Major.
 
 
Major is also a foster carer and has over the years devoted his time to raise three young men. 
 
Read the full article below
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Revealed: Drug Gangs Are Stealing Children From Loving Families – Even In Lockdown

A ruthless child-grooming gang flew a boy back to Britain so he could continue dealing drugs after his desperate parents sent him to Kenya for his own safety, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Another grooming victim had to be held down by his mother and siblings as he tried to knife his innocent step-father, unrecognisable from the star pupil and keen footballer he had been a few years earlier.

These are among dozens of horrifying stories from desperate families whose children have been threatened, attacked and ultimately trapped by county lines gangs with little hope of escape. 

HuffPost UK has spent a year working with families through grassroots charity Minority Matters in north London to shed light on the devastating impact of these drug trafficking operations. We heard how the British gangs who have driven the trade in vulnerable young people for decades have devised even more sophisticated ways to continue their illegal activities during the pandemic.

“Covid has made things worse for groomed and criminally exploited young people and children. More children have gone missing, been caught dealing drugs, not listening to their parents, getting hurt. Drug dealing has increased rather than decreased during this pandemic,” said Sadia Ali, co-founder of Minority Matters.

Ali and her colleagues at the youth organisation told us councils and law enforcement across the UK are largely powerless to decondition young people who have been groomed.

Children are taught how to get excluded from school and what to say to police, and many refuse help for fear their families will be attacked.

Ali’s colleague Aisha Ahmed told HuffPost UK: “Exclusions and antisocial behaviour are signs of grooming. Children are told to act out as the first step towards eventually being sent to run county lines.”

The goal is to “destroy any safety net that might prevent them from being criminally exploited”.

“When children start showing negative behaviours, the system is set up to look into the home and parents as possible causes,” Ahmed said. “Groomers know that they’ll have free rein while schools and social services are investigating the parents.”

Some end up doing jail time rather than expose their loved ones to harm, and others fall prey to knife crime – either as victims or perpetrators.

The jaw-dropping tactics, witnessed again and again by the grassroots anti-gangs workers we spoke to, are used to recruit children to sell and transport drugs up and down the UK.

While drug gangs running county lines operations are not new, they say police and social workers haven’t got to grips with the sophistication of the networks and the way they insulate themselves against intervention, a problem made worse by lockdown as the gangs adapt faster than the authorities can keep up.

“School closures have had a huge impact,” said Ali. “For just a few hours children would be in a relatively safe environment but with the lockdown many parents have found out their children were getting calls then making excuses to break lockdown rules by going out to deliver drugs. It then became clear that these children are engaged in criminal activities.”

I was pinning my own son down to the floor. He had a knife in his handGiselle Samuels*

Often parents don’t have proof that their child has been entrapped in county lines activity until they are deeply caught up. There’s never any grand admission from their child about dealing drugs; clues could include seeing them picked up by unknown vehicles such as minicabs, disappearances, discovering train tickets to county areas in their room, and overhearing phone calls detailing drop-offs.

Ali told us about the case of one boy whose parents sent him to Mombasa, where she thought he would be safe from the gang that had been exploiting him in London – only for the gang to wire him cash to return to the UK.

The boy’s own family were too afraid for their own safety to speak to us directly, even on the condition of anonymity.

“Money was sent to him to make his way back to the UK, with the embassy there issuing him a passport to return with. This was despite the parents’ objections,” Ali said.

“Like many, he went from the airport to being missing.”

Devastated mother Giselle Samuels* told HuffPost UK how her own son Patrick* was lured away from her – and how the nightmare came to a head when he launched a frenzied knife attack on her partner in the family home.

“I was pinning my own son down to the floor,” she said. “He had a knife in his hand and, if I let go, I would’ve been stabbed. I still can’t get over the fact that this is how our lives have ended up.”

Had Samuels not managed to overpower Patrick with the help of her two younger children, she believes her partner Andy would be dead. 

But she insists Patrick is a victim in this case too. He had been groomed by a county lines gang years earlier, changing the family forever.

Young and vulnerable people are exploited as a direct result of drug prohibition, and exposed to high levels of exploitation, intimidation and violence, through the “county lines” drug supply phenomenon.

How to run a county lines operation

“County lines” works like this. Gangs from urban areas – often but not always London – set up a mobile number in a new area to sell drugs directly at street level. Potential customers ring the number and local runners are then dispatched to make deliveries. The “runners” are often children, typically boys aged 14 to 17, who are groomed with the promise of money, gifts and status, then deployed or coerced to carry out the illicit deals on a daily basis.

Children and young people go missing, or “run away”, when their groomers send them to run the county lines. They are frequently used by gangs to expand inner city drugs operations into rural towns and are forced to work 24 hours, in a “trap house”, for weeks on end.

These vulnerable youth are not allowed to leave, have to be on call, are discouraged from sleeping and, in some instances, don’t even get food. The missing episodes aren’t a choice – they have to go or they will get in trouble with their groomers.

Children as young as 11 have been reported as being recruited by these highly organised networks.

Nearly one in six children notified to the National Referral Mechanism – the system used to identify victims of modern slavery and human trafficking – as suspected victims of child criminal exploitation are girls. 

According to the Children’s Commissioner, some 46,000 children are involved in gang activity in England, and 4,000 teenagers in London alone are being exploited by county lines networks each year. 

However, Minority Matters thinks this number is much higher. 

Aisha Ahmed, the charity’s development manager, told HuffPost UK: “The way criminal exploitation of children is identified puts these children into the same statistics as modern day slavery victims from Eastern Europe and Vietnam who have been forced into prostitution, fruit picking, car-washing and drug farming. 

“It’s only recently that they’ve become a sub-category in the wider category of modern slaves. Even so, the numbers are hiding how widespread this issue is. Think of all of the youth drug offences which have been tried at court but were never linked to county line activities. Or knife crime, where perpetrators and victims’ activities point to the wider picture, but no one bothers to put together the pieces.”

Patrick is just one example of a child who was groomed and exploited by a county lines gang.

He was repeatedly arrested on drugs-related charges, sent to prison, and released after serving his sentence. Each time her son returned home from jail, his mother recognised him less and less.

She said he didn’t seem to know what was or wasn’t reality any more. “On one occasion, my son basically said to me there’s only two options for him: to either be in prison or to kill himself – because he can’t see having the standard, normal life. The person I’m describing isn’t my son. I know him to be a loving caring person,” Samuels added.

Patrick was 17 when his family started to notice changes in his behaviour. Patrick and his mother, especially, had always enjoyed a close relationship.

But when his parents got divorced, Patrick became increasingly detached, erratic and rebellious. His mother assumed the marriage breakdown had hit him hard. With hindsight, however, she realises that he was being groomed by a county lines gang. No one in her family had ever been involved with drug dealing or breaking the law.

At first, things weren’t too bad. Patrick and his siblings accepted their mother’s new partner warmly, while their own father continued to play an instrumental role in their lives.

Then Patrick, who had been academically gifted and talented at sports, began refusing to attend college and skipping football practice. Worse still, he began to go missing – for long periods of time.

“There’s a misconception [about] single parents, broken homes – that probably family members naturally engage in criminal activity which causes their children to face a heightened risk of being groomed. But we weren’t a broken family. My husband and I both worked, were homeowners, were educated and so were my kids. This is happening to kids from all different backgrounds.”

 Children’s Society report entitled Counting Lives: Responding To Children Who Are Criminally Exploited highlights that young people affected by family breakdown and living in poverty may be deliberately targeted by grooming gangs. 

However, it also concludes that any child can be at risk of exploitation, and that anyone who wants to fit in, feel less alone or make money can be at risk.

“There are definitely cases around young people from minority ethnic backgrounds being targeted more, particularly in areas like London, but there’s not one type,” added Patrick’s mother.

“Though there’s a consensus that young Black men that are exclusively being groomed by county lines gangs, when you look at the issue more broadly, it’s not just Black kids. Young people who go missing and get caught up in county lines could be any child.”

The leaders of county lines deliberately deploy white youth to transport drugs to certain areas because of a decreased likelihood of them being stopped and searched by police, HuffPost UK has heard.

“It’s the ‘clear skin’ phenomenon,” explained London-based substance misuse worker Adam Johnson.

“Remember: the most successful drug dealers just blend in, drive a brown Fiesta and live with their mum. A Black kid goes to certain areas, they’ll stand out and be targeted by the police. Hiding in plain sight is what you have to do and the line leaders know this so they’ll target white kids who are in care, white kids who are not known to the authorities and flagged as missing to the police for example, children who are displaced, people who can slip by undetected.”

A similar phrase, “clean skin”, is at least two decades old, referring to drug dealers who are able to elude police attention. Both phrases more than hint at the racial disparity in the criminal justice system – something campaigners have been urging authorities to address for even longer still.

But despite the fact grooming gangs target children of all ethnicities, Black young people are far more likely to be charged for possession rather than cautioned, to be taken to court, to be fined or imprisoned, and to get a criminal record than their white counterparts.  

Three times as many Black people aged 21 and under are convicted of Class A drug supply than white people of the same age.

Ahmed, from Minority Matters, said: “Our stance is that the only vulnerability that children have is the fact that they are children. However, in terms of Black and ethnic minority children, they come from communities usually disregarded by statutory bodies. They can be used as cannon fodder. 

“Even when they’re caught drug dealing at a young age, the police and government are less likely to see them as victims, do not do enough to look for the groomers, the people at the top of the illegal enterprise. 

“This links with the statistics of Black boys being more likely to be convicted than their white counterparts.”

She added: “The system doesn’t take their abuse seriously.”

Minicabs and mobile phones

Like many industries, drug trafficking relies on outsourcing.

Just as drug chiefs need vulnerable children to do the dirty work of moving illegal substances around the country, they rely on workers from other sectors to provide services such as mobile phones and transport, without which they wouldn’t be able to run their business.

Cheap “burner” phones can be bought from local corner shops and supermarkets without paperwork being exchanged and then discarded, making calls harder for authorities to track. Minicab firms that accept bookings over the phone make it easy to chauffeur drugs and their young carriers around the country without the attention that might be attracted by using public transport.

Children as young as 12 have been known to embark on these journeys alone, for long distances and during school hours. These journeys are either paid for in cash or through rider accounts authenticated through stolen credit cards.

In 2018, this prompted the government – in a collaboration with Crimestoppers – to produce posters advising private vehicle hire company managers to spot the signs of vulnerable young drug runners being forced to utilise their services. But even in lockdown, helpless parents tell HuffPost UK, it has made little difference.

My son does not need to be on the street. He’s only on the street because he’s not safe where he was supposed to be

“During lockdown some families have caught their children calling minicabs, getting inside and disappearing for hours and days at a time,” Minority Matters managing director Sadia Ali said.

“Families would then call 101 to report their children missing and be on hold for up to an hour only to be told that there’s nothing the police can do. Day and night, parents hovered on the streets looking for their loved ones while there was no help in sight.”

Larry Simpson*, a south London minicab office manager, told HuffPost UK how he had once flagged details of a suspected child drug trafficking incident with the police after a worrying message from one of his drivers.

When the driver arrived to pick up a customer in Clapham one afternoon, he was shocked to see a 15-year-old girl jump in the vehicle and ask to be taken to Brighton and back. The youngster paid him £150 and the journey lasted an hour and a half each way.

The incident happened in 2016 – before the Home Office got wind of the problem and rolled out its awareness campaign.

“When my driver described how young the girl looked, that is when my suspicions were raised,” he said. “I contacted the police and handed over a record of the details of the drop-off address.

“The gang groomers are very clever now. They realise that if the child is missing for a long time, the parents or somebody else will alert the police, therefore what they do is use them to sell drugs in the county areas and tell them to go home in the evening. This is also a new trend which the police are aware of.”

He added: “Nowadays, drivers work for Uber and all of these other app-based cab companies, which makes this harder to detect.”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins has been in talks with groups such as Uber and the Licensed Private Hire Car Association to help drivers spot trafficked youngsters.

An Uber spokesperson said: “We take a zero-tolerance approach to any illegal activity on our app. If we are made aware of any allegations of this nature we reserve the right to immediately terminate access to the app and we work closely with police authorities across the UK. We’re doing everything we can to help tackle dangerous county lines, and encourage drivers to call the police if they have any suspicions of assault or spot unexplained injuries.”

Rural drug dealing networks use phone lines to set up deals. When a customer calls a number and requests drugs from a line leader, a runner is called on another number and dispatched to make the sale.

As part of a national crackdown on county lines, senior police officers in June initiated talks with telecoms companies to shut down phones used for illegal drug sales automatically.

The grassroots campaigners fighting for justice

Minority Matters is a grassroots charity run from a small office on the Andover Estate – a complex of high- and medium-rise council flats off the Seven Sisters Road in north London built in the 1970s.

In the 10 years since it was founded, a stream of desperate parents of missing children – most of them women – have been through its doors near Finsbury Park station asking for help. Hundreds of concerned families have also taken part in the charity’s safeguarding events, fearing their children could be next.

The charity was established to address the disconnect between ethnic minority communities and the statutory service providers, managing director Sadia Ali told HuffPost UK. It provides support for families of children who have been groomed by county lines, occasionally collaborating with local authorities, the police and the legal system.

The estate and surrounding neighbourhoods have seen an increase in drug dealing and serious youth violence as a result of grooming. According to recent statistics drug offences were the only crime type that increased year-on-year in the borough of Islington between September 2019 to October 2020. 

These offences saw a 22% increase during this period. Ali and Ahmed now estimate that up to 70% of Islington’s Somali community have extended family affected directly or indirectly by county lines and drug dealing.

The local council led a group of local authorities lobbying central government and the Home Office to take action at a national level in 2017. Its integrated gangs team (IGT) includes police, health workers and charities, and was praised for helping bring down knife crime at a time when it was rising everywhere else in London.

But Minority Matters contacted HuffPost UK in early 2020 because Ali and Ahmed didn’t feel the authorities – chiefly the criminal justice system, but also local social and children’s services – were doing enough. And it’s clear from the heartbreaking experiences of the women we spoke to that children in Islington and beyond still aren’t safe from groomers.

Ali told us: “We provide vital support to parents from ethnic minorities whose children are being criminally exploited and groomed for county lines. We bridge the gap between the families and local authorities in accessing the help they need.

“In doing this, we also try to encourage statutory bodies to tailor their services to match the needs on the ground.”

It is a myth that poor parenting is to blame for kids being groomed, says Ali. She adds there is little people can do to keep their kids safe until police smash the drug gangs themselves.

At first, children like Samuels’ son Patrick may misbehave at school and start coming home later and later. Eventually they go missing for longer periods of time and get kicked out of school.

They may get caught committing petty crime. Later, they become either the victim or the perpetrator of knife crime, and end up behind bars or released into inadequate rehabilitation programmes, where they meet more experienced criminals.

In either case, they are told to continue trafficking drugs once they are released – and they know their families could be at risk if they try to break free.

His father is a shopkeeper and offered him £200 a week to work for him. My son replied that he doesn’t need that as he’s making more money

More mothers from the area told HuffPost UK how their sons fell prey to the gangs. One typical case went like this: a 15-year-old boy went missing for four days, and his mother embarked on a frantic search to track him down. It was completely out of character – he’d never done this before. The woman printed his photograph on missing posters and plastered them all over their north London neighbourhood.

While speaking to his friends, she learned that he had been groomed in his school playground by a local gang, had a street name, and was selling drugs after school while claiming he had gone to play football.

“My son was one of a few of the young people to be recruited, I found out. By that time he was in it for almost a year and a half,” the woman explained. Her son was picked up by Metropolitan Police officers multiple times in Norfolk – almost 100 miles away from the family home.

Another woman, Carol Smith*, described how her son was targeted by a grooming gang at the age of 16 and eventually imprisoned for drug dealing charges.

“My son is now 21 years old, on remand, and It’s now reached a point where he doesn’t want to go to university or work,” she told HuffPost UK. “He’s been to prison twice, served his sentences and was released. All this time the disappearances were consistent. I have two older daughters – a teacher and optician. This was never an issue with them.

“His father, my husband, is a shopkeeper and offered him £200 a week to work for him. My son replied that he doesn’t need that as he’s making more money. When we asked to see the money, my son said: ‘Someone is keeping it for me.’ Which sensible drug dealer who hasn’t been groomed and knows exactly what they’re doing would give his profit to someone to keep?”

Grooming gangs employ a wide range of grooming techniques to entrap vulnerable children ranging from plying them with free food in chicken shops to lingering outside school gates and instructing young recruits to engage their own peers in the same activities.

Numerous official reports and campaigners detail how gang leaders target excluded truants and students who have been left to languish in pupil referral units. It is a known tactic for gangs to target young people in places where they are supposed to be safe.

So-called chicken shop grooming was described in written evidence submitted to the youth select committee, which is investigating the UK’s knife crime crisis, last year.

They tell us concerned parents that the problem is complex but it’s their job to gather intelligence and take action. Why do we still see drug dealers in our communities on every corner?Patricia*

But inner city community members and youth workers had long been aware of this grooming tactic. A month before the youth select committee heard this evidence, London Grid For Learning – a community of schools and local authorities in the capital – rolled out its “there’s no such thing as free chicken” poster campaign to highlight the dangers of chicken-shop grooming.

The youth justice board of England and Wales also reported that some young people said their peers had been targeted by gangs hanging around outside pupil referral units (PRUs) and outside sports centres – claims echoed by many of the parents Ali has supported.

Labour’s shadow youth justice secretary Peter Kyle told HuffPost UK: “For all the talk of national crackdowns, the Conservatives have failed to protect child victims and to stop them being exploited by criminal gangs. We need tough, strategic and urgent action to help the victims of child criminal exploitation.”

One mother, Patricia*, told HuffPost UK how her son Adam* – who attended a private school – was groomed at the age of 13. As is commonplace, he would go missing for long spells and was once away for a month and 10 days before being discovered in Whitechapel. No social services or police visited Patricia’s in that time despite her reports, she said. 

Adam was stabbed in 2017 over a drugs dispute but refused to tell anyone who was responsible. It is not uncommon for physical violence and knife attacks to be carried out on the orders of groomers as  a form of punishment, and warning to other children within their networks. It is not always perpetrated by competitors or other gangs.

Having physically recovered from his injuries, Adam remained mentally scarred and fearful for his life. One day he left home armed with a machete for protection and was arrested by the police following a stop-and-search. Adam spent six weeks in Belmarsh Prison.

The 20-year-old is now too afraid to go outside in case he’s stabbed again and unable to protect himself. 

“The police will launch an entire operation, sometimes shut down areas, too apprehend a young drug dealer, but have difficulties rooting out the leaders of the county line gangs,” Patricia said. 

“They tell us concerned parents that the problem is complex but it’s their job to gather intelligence and take action. Why do we still see drug dealers in our communities on every corner?”

It isn’t uncommon for many children involved in gangs to commit crimes themselves – but sometimes they aren’t seen as victims by adults and professionals, despite the harm they have experienced, the NSPCC said.

“The children going through this, seeing the desperation in their eyes means they’re either going to die on the streets or kill somebody on the streets,” added Ali.

One mother added: “My son does not need to be on the street. He’s only on the street because he’s not safe where he was supposed to be.

“Let’s not beat around the bush: the root cause is the drugs. Something needs to be done about the drugs – and also to get rehabilitation for them.” 

Substance misuse worker Adam Johnson believes police are reluctant to arrest gang leaders because it can unleash a “wave of violence” in the lower ranks.

“The cops know what’s going on and where the dealers are – but don’t want to take them out,” he said.

“If they take them the top out, all of his lieutenants stab and shoot each other to fill that vacancy. It creates a wave of violence and you’d rather live with equilibrium because at least you know what’s going on.”

But this has dire consequences, Johnson said. “The thing is the kids get pulled into the gangs and once that happens they get written off.  Boris Johnson and co don’t create a system to do social mobility. No, they want people on the estate to stay on the estate. And once you have a drug conviction then getting a job is a nightmare. So what else do you have left?”

* Names have been changed to protect sources

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/

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Parents need their voices to be heard.

Parents, can we talk about the toll our kids’ education has taken on us this year?

Article by: Christine Derengowski, Writer

We’re home but we’re not really home. It doesn’t feel like it anyway. It’s now a battleground for a few hours every day and it has been for months. I ask my five year old who’s standing on his chair to sit and he growls, “I don’t want to do computer school today.” I beg, I barter, I get mad, I wonder if it’s better to log him out and let him fall behind his class, I get him in his seat, but he’s not participating.

I’ve won the battle but I’m losing the war. He throws his pencil at the screen. He’s frustrated. I’m talking through gritted because I’m beyond frustrated now too. And I’m tired. I’m tired of doing a job I’m neither trained nor equipped to do. I’m tired of fighting a war in my heart between, “my kids are going to fall behind” and “this isn’t worth the fight”. I resent that my relationship with my children now consists of a daily power struggle over school. I miss the days when cherishing the little moments came so easily. Lately I have to remind myself to be present. Because after 11 months of this, I’m gradually checking out. I’m watching my kids do the same. I miss missing my kids. I miss picking them up from school feeling refreshed and having freedom to enjoy my time with them any way I choose. I feel like I’ve sacrificed our relationship at the cost of their education. It seems too high a price to have paid. And I regret that I’ve fought them so hard for so long. Because despite the fact that we’ve done everything we can on our end to complete the required work, my son is still behind.I feel like a failure every day. Like I’m the one being evaluated.His report card doesn’t reflect the amount of blood, sweat, and tears I’m pouring into his education. It doesn’t reflect the hours I’ve spent with him at his computer or how desperately I’ve tried to help him succeed.Remote learning provides no consideration for families. It requires a fully engaged adult on both ends of the computer.

Parents have been given a full time job on top of their full time jobs. We never should have had to choose between financial stability and educating our children, forcing parents to quit their jobs. We never should have burdened students with so much while surviving a pandemic.Families deserve better than this.

Our kids deserve better than this. They deserve their childhood back. They deserve parents who aren’t burning candles at both ends to teach them their abc’s. At what point do we acknowledge we’ve asked too much of parents?

That enough is enough for these kids?

We need choices that work for our families.

Parents need their voices to be heard.

Join me in the trenches at Christine Derengowski, Writer

Follow Christine on Facebook

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Homes schooling – a good perspective

written by Christine Derengowski, Writer

I’ve lost a year with my kids battling over school and I’m done.My seven year old and I were in the midst of our usual asynchronous day battle. I had his writing homework in my hand from school.

He’d written several full, well-thought-out sentences.But he won’t do the same for me, at least not without a fight.I told him he didn’t have to write about his best day like his teacher asked, he could write about his worst. He could write about whatever he wanted as long as he wrote a few sentences.

He said he’d get in trouble. He said he was doing a bad job in first grade. He was on the brink of tears but didn’t know why, and it hit me, instead of getting frustrated and pushing the assignment, I sat down with him at his desk in his superhero bedroom. I said “you won’t get in trouble and you can’t fail first grade, in fact, you’re kind of a superhero yourself. ”He sat up in his chair just a little and looked at me with disbelief. I said, “Do you know that no kids in the history of kids have ever had to do what you’re doing right now? No kids in the history of kids have ever had to do school at home, sitting in their bedroom, watching their teacher on a computer.

You and your friends are making history.

”A visible weight lifted from his seven year old shoulders, “What does that mean? ”I told him it means I haven’t given him nearly enough credit for rolling with the punches. I told him how proud I am of him and his friends.

That kids this year are doing the impossible and they’re doing a really great job. I apologized for not saying it sooner and more often. A little tear fell down his cheek.

We’ve thanked everyone from healthcare workers to grocery store employees but we haven’t thanked the kids enough for bearing the burden of what we’ve put on their shoulders this year. We’ve said kids are resilient, and they are, but they are the real superheroes in this whole scenario for having ZERO say in their lives but doing their best to adjust every day. We closed his school-issued laptop and spent the rest of the day playing. This was supposed to be temporary and here we are a year later still trying to hold our head above water.

This is our home and I won’t turn it into a battle ground anymore over something we can’t control. Something that no longer makes sense.

Hug your little superheroes today and don’t forget to cut them the slack we’ve given everyone else.

Join me in the trenches at Christine Derengowski, Writer !!

Youth Unity

Researchers Reveal Kids Who Get More Hugs Have More Developed Brains

There’s nothing like the warmth and security of a loved one being enveloping you in their arms.  The simple act of giving and receiving genuine hugs can completely change your mood.  You feel loved, cared about, safe, and unique.  I’m not sure there is a single action that can replicate the feeling of giving and getting a hug.

It’s a good thing that giving is the same as receiving when it comes to hugs, right?  Now, science says you can be smarter for it. If you were about two feet long and weighed roughly 10 pounds, your brain would develop better.  Researchers reveal kids who get more hugs have more developed brains.

BABIES AND THEIR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TOUCH

When we think about learning, we consider reading, studying, using our hands, calculations, and other processes.  We started, as babies, we began exploring by touching things.  Of our five senses, touch is the first to develop.  From this, a newborn baby must navigate their new world.

According to an article from Stanford’s Medicine, Dr. Susan Crowe, an obstetrician, and director at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, outlines the nine instinctual stages right after birth.

Birth cry, relaxation, awakening, activity, resting, ‘crawling’ (a shifting movement toward the breast), familiarization, suckling, and sleep.”

As soon as physically safe for both mother and baby, it’s time for skin-to-skin contact and guiding the baby toward breastfeeding.

Just the holding of the baby within the first hour, regardless of breastfeeding, can help in normalizing the baby’s body temperature, heartbeat, and pattern of breathing.  For many babies, it also decreases the amount of crying.  Simultaneously, the mother releases more relaxation hormones.  This also becomes the bonding time for mother and baby. Should the partner of the mother also hold the baby, it begins the bonding time for them as well.

BENEFITS OF INFANT MASSAGE

Infant massages could be integrated into this bonding experience, as well.  The same article in Stanford’s Medicine notes a wide array of benefits. According to Maureen McCaffrey, a certified infant massage instructor at Packard’s Children Hospital, these benefits consist of:

  • Better sleep patterns for the baby
  • Baby appears more aware of being loved, secure, and accepted.
  • Improved digestion and bowel movements
  • Babies demonstrate more comfort by less fussy behavior
  • Weight gain improves
  • Mother and baby appear more relaxed
  • Neurological function in babies is improved

Another study done at the University of Washington aimed to locate the area of the brain in which a baby registers both “felt” touch and “observed touch.” This study proves babies can discern between an actual physical touch vs. an image of a hand touching another person.  The study found that by seven months old, a baby can not only understand the concept of their “self,” but also knows their body is separate from another person.

THE POWER OF TOUCH FOR BABIES

That knowledge is what established the foundation for mimicking others’ behavior as well as developing empathy.  The researchers discovered through specialized imaging that touch registers in the somatosensory cortex.  Depending upon if it was an actual touch, what part of the body the contact occurred in, or if it was an image, the location, and strength of the signal within the somatosensory cortex in which it was registered changed.

What was also fascinating was recognizing that the baby, before it can speak or know the words for body parts, already understands that their hand or foot moves similarly to another person’s.  Through imitating how the other person moves, the baby is also able to move.  It is this process which makes both imitations, and later, empathy, possible.

In a study of the opposing focus, researchers learned of detriment to children who don’t receive touch.  A report in Pediatrics Child Health, published in PMC, outlines the results of various studies, one of which was the result of providing touch to children who were previously deprived.  The study focused primarily on limb movement as a form of sensory stimulation.  They discovered that with 10 minutes a day of handling, over ten weeks, babies “spit up” less.Overthinkers, pay attention to this one!https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.437.0_en.html#goog_975658294Volume 90% 

The babies with 20 minutes of daily tactile stimulation, over ten weeks, increased in their developmental scores.  In the case of premature babies, stroking their limbs, and mild limb movement demonstrated weight gain, longer alertness, more mobility, better adaptation to repeated stimuli, and awareness of their bodies. After a year, they scored high on weight and growth and motor skills and had reduced mild neurological dysfunctional symptoms.

OXYTOCIN AND HUGS

Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter produced in our hypothalamus and released from our pituitary gland.  Its levels increase during breastfeeding, orgasm, and hugs.

In regards to the effect on babies and their development, oxytocin encourages bonding between a mother and her baby.  This might explain why breastfeeding increases a woman’s hormone levels. It tends to foster feelings of trust, closeness in relationships, and maternal instinct or care.  Ironically, this hormone was discovered by scientists at the Weizman Institute to be the construction crew for its own future paths of blood vessels while in an embryonic brain.  Therefore, it facilitates the baby’s ability to produce oxytocin after the brain, his or her brain, fully develops.

While oxytocin has been nicknamed the “love hormone” or the “hug hormone,” it is more complicated than what was initially perceived.  It originally was recognized as the hormone that, when released in our blood, aids in uterine contractions during childbirth and induces labor.  Over time, it was discovered that it has a different reaction when it is released into the brain.  It then has variable effects on our cognitive, emotional, and social behavior.

MORE EVIDENCE

In the journal Nature, an article was published with outlined various studies which have been performed attempting to single out the role of oxytocin on our behavior.

The study focused on the response of female mice, who had never birthed, toward crying babies.  Initially, the female mice had little to no reaction toward the babies.  They then injected the mice with oxytocin, and they began responding as a mother would.  Interestingly enough, before the injection, their brain neurons were a bit scattered and unfocused.

After the injection, the neurons came together in focus as a maternal mindset would. Additionally, researchers noted that oxytocin appeared to decrease specific neurons. While hearing the cries, the oxytocin enhanced the cries and made them more important.  The scientists theorize this may be related to why some mothers claim they can distinguish their baby’s cry from another.

Another study posted in the American Psychological Association tested women at various stages of their pregnancy – the first trimester, the third trimester, and the first month after birth.  What they discovered was that more women with high levels of oxytocin in the first trimester bonded better with their child.  The women who maintained high levels of oxytocin throughout the pregnancy and the month after developed a closer relationship with their children.  They tended toward singing special songs, using more personal, specific ways to feed or bathe their baby, etc.

UNDERSTANDING OXYTOCIN AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

The general understanding of how oxytocin affects our emotional and social behavior is a bit complex.  Essentially, if you are with an individual or group of individuals, and experience an interaction that triggers higher levels of oxytocin as a positive experience, then you will view those individuals as safe, trustworthy, and develop affection toward them.  Conversely, your brain will then see others who are different than those individuals as less credible, not safe, and you will be more guarded.  This is one method in which you establish your “tribe” of friends and establish who your family is.

Additionally, it may play a role in your social memory.  Through the release of oxytocin, your memory views a specific event more favorably than one where it didn’t release oxytocin.

What does this have to do with hugging your child and brain development?  Researchers continue to study oxytocin due to its very complex nature. However, it’s important we understand that how we perceive friends, family, and strangers and interact emotionally with each other is definitely a factor in our memory and behavior.  This holds true for a baby who is newly forming their understanding of the world based on how they interpret the actions of those around them.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON HUGS AND CHILDREN

Science may still be struggling to find the formula for why touch is so important and how our brain assimilates it in regard to our development, but most parents seem to understand it regardless.  The results from hugging a baby, a child, your teenager, or your spouse are ones most of us can recognize.

Source: www.powerofpositivity.com