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Five areas where we need to pay closer attention when looking after our children

CNN Health News recently highlighted some important studies presented at the pediatric conference in Washington.  From cyber-bullying that could threaten your teen’s self-esteem, to dangerous distractions that could cause you to crash while driving your kids, here’s a look at five studies about the health of children that were presented at the conference.

Moms and dads are distracted while driving kids

Researchers asked 600 parents what distractions they encountered while driving their most precious cargo: their children. Among the interruptions: talking on the phone, texting, surfing the Internet, checking a navigation system, and changing a CD or DVD.  Almost 90% of parents admitted to doing at least one of these technology-based distractions.

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“These distracted drivers were more likely to have been in a crash,” noted the study’s lead author, Dr. Michelle Macy, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Michigan’s  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Teen drivers are distracted, too

In another study, researchers reviewed a survey of 7,833 high schoolers. During the past 30 days, almost half had texted or emailed while driving.  Laws banning texting didn’t seem to stop the behavior all that much. In states where texting was illegal, 39% of teens still sent messages, compared to 44% of teens in states without restrictions.  “The reality is that millions of teens text while driving,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, the study’s senior investigator, who specializes in the behavior of kids at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

Teenage cyber-bullying hurts a lot of kids

Another of Adesman’s studies looked at how texting and other electronic means of communicating are empowering high school bullies. Researchers reviewed a survey of more than 15,000 high school students.  One in six acknowledged getting bullied electronically in the last year. More girls reported being attacked than boys.

Adesman stated “We must recognize that these new technologies carry with them the potential to traumatize youth in new and different ways.”

High school athletes hide concussions  

In this study, researchers asked 120 high school football players in Cincinnati whether they’d let a concussion sideline them.  The football players were well aware of the symptoms – headache, dizziness, difficulty remembering, sensitivity to light and sound, difficulty concentrating, feeling in a fog – but only half said they’d fess up and report a potential concussion to their coach.

A small percentage even said “athletes have a responsibility to play in important games with a concussion,” according to the study’s co-author, Dr. Brit Anderson, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  “It is possible that concussion education alone may not be enough to promote safe concussion behaviors in high school football players,” Anderson said.

Doctors aren’t following guidelines to treat preschoolers with ADHD

For preschoolers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder the initial recommended treatment is behavior therapy—not medication.

But this new study finds 1 in 5 specialists—neurologists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians—are using medication as part of the initial treatment, either alone or along with the recommended behavior therapy. Researchers heard from 611 specialists to reach their conclusion. “It is unclear why so many physicians who specialize in the management of ADHD…fail to comply with recently published treatment guidelines,” said Adesman, who was also involved in this new research.

Adesman says parents should know that, generally, using medication as the first treatment for their preschooler’s ADHD isn’t recommended.