Unplug and Play Week starts today!

Let’s Move Missoula kicked off the 2014 Unplug and Play week today with a free kick-off event this afternoon at McCormick Park. If you were there then you already know all about it. If you weren’t, check out the Missoulian tomorrow for coverage.

AND, go ahead and make those plans to limit screen time for both yourself and the kiddos for the next week (May 4-11). Here’s a lineup of events to keep the family occupied. And here’s more information about the week itself.

And now, I’m stepping away from the laptop.

UPDATE: Here’s that coverage, as promised – and a little bit early!

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Texts keep preggos, new moms stocked up on useful health info

I could’ve sworn I had an email a while back – was it last week? last month? – urging me to check out this free text messaging service geared toward new moms.

The service offers to send pregnant women and moms “timely health and safety tips by text message.”

But I can’t find the email. Or maybe I read about text4baby somewhere else? See, when you’re a mom and you have a lot going on it’s easy to …

um …

easy to …

what was I saying?

Oh yeah. This service is called text4baby and you can sign up by texting the word BABY to 511411. Or, go to the website: https://text4baby.org/.

When you do, you’ll get a short form to fill out. Once you’re signed up, expect to get about three texts a week during pregnancy and up until your baby is a year old. The texts are timed to coincide with your due date, so they should be relevant. You won’t be getting information on feeding your baby solids when you’re only six months into your pregnancy, for example.

The service is made possible by: the nonprofit National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. It was created in collaboration with Founding Sponsor Johnson & Johnson, and founding partners VoxivaThe Wireless Foundation, and Grey Healthcare Group (a WPP company).

According to the website: “The messages address topics such as labor signs and symptoms, prenatal care, urgent alerts, developmental milestones, immunizations, nutrition, birth defect prevention, safe sleep, safety, and more. Text STOP to discontinue messages or HELP for help at any time.” You can also text BEBE to get the texts in Spanish.

Oh geeze. Now I remember where I first read about this.

Anyway, the service was launched nationwide on Feb. 4, 2010 and has four goals, according to the website:

1.    Demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology to address a critical national health priority: maternal and child health.
2.    Demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology to reach underserved populations with critical health information.
3.    Develop a base of evidence on the efficacy of mobile health interventions.
4.    Catalyze new models for public-private partnerships in the area of mobile health.

I think it’s got some potential. Pregnant women and new moms are inundated with a lot of information at a time when, let’s face it, we aren’t in the best position to absorb it all, let alone retrieve it as needed. These texts could help with that.

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Many moms to spend Mother’s Day reading at a restaurant?

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, there’s a ton of Mother’s Day trend stories out there. I came across one that says Mother’s Day is THE most popular day of the year to dine out – even ahead of Valentine’s Day.

And I came across another that predicts more people will be buying their moms a Mother’s Day gadget such as a smartphone or e-reader.

What do you get when you put these two trends together? I suspect more moms will be fiddling with their techno gadgets under the dinner table this Sunday.

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Eighth-grade essay contest aimed at preventing cyber bullying

I am no longer surprised to see 5- and 6-year-olds with their own personal cell phones. I am no longer shocked that my own daughter, at the tender age of 6, knows how to navigate the PBS Kids website on her own or order a movie through Netflix.

I am, however, appalled at some of the stories about cyber bullying coming out of the national news these days. It’s become a huge, huge deal. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, the White House hosted a conference on cyber bullying prevention.

In Montana, we are turning to the kids themselves for ideas on how to stop cyber bullies. The Montana Police Protective Association and the Montana Department of Justice are sponsoring an essay contest for eight graders, while the goal being to solicit solutions to the cyber bullying problem.

Here are the details, via the Montana Attorney General’s Office:

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Read this news story to your teenager

Icy roads. Cell phones. Seatbelts. All were present in this story of a  caravan of Superior high school athletes returning home from Hamilton after a game.

It’s one of those stories that raises the little hairs on the back of your neck – and it makes excellent reading for driving-age teenagers and their passengers, as it contains several great examples of how to drive responsibly:

It got cold. The roads iced up. Patty Morse was driving. Her car slipped and slid. They got a message to the boys: Go slow.

Morse’s cell phone rang. Because she was driving, she handed it to Cheryl Crabb.

The woman in the pickup was wearing her seat belt, and her 9 1/2-month-old child was strapped into a rear-facing car seat in the back seat, Pfau said. But the woman’s husband wasn’t wearing his seat belt and went into the windshield, breaking it. Five of the six boys were wearing their seat belts, he said.

Thankfully, the accident resulted in only minor injuries. The fact that they all survived this crash really helps drive home these important reminders: Drive slow, don’t talk on your cell phone while driving, and wear your seat belt.

I’ve posted the full story after the jump.

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New DVDs for police and community help protect kids from Internet sex crimes

Every time I turn around there’s another reason to cheer the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in general and the Missoula bureau in particular. Over the past year Missoula’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has busted several alleged would-be child predators who thought they were communicating online with underage girls who were, in reality, undercover police detectives.

Talk about a nasty job. I still cannot fathom how these officers manage to go to work every day and plumb the depths of depravity in search of scumbags who want to have sex with children. But they do – and they could use all the help they can get from the public to keep Montana’s children safe.

Yesterday the state Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, announced the release of two new training videos on Internet safety. They are meant to be used by law enforcement and by “other trained professionals in Montana communities.”

Here’s the full release, complete with links to additional web resources.

– MM

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Thompson Falls School Board may regulate students’ Facebook posts

News from Thompson Falls this morning is that the school board there recently took up a new policy that bans certain electronic devices – cell phones, mostly – in the schools, and that the policy may extend to cover most other forms of “cyber communication.”

The guidelines tighten the restrictions on the use of cell phones and other gizmos in “classrooms, locker rooms and bathrooms, where they can be used to cheat on tests or take objectionable pictures.” The policy also hints that the district has the right to discipline students who post “a disrespectful, threatening or disparaging comment on a Facebook page about another student, teacher or coach,” saying that the board may view this as “cyber bullying” and react “as if the student had made the comment face-to-face in a school hallway or within the practice facility.”

Superintendent Jerry Pauli explains that this policy may become a test case for other districts, and says that the district’s attorney has found the new policy guidelines legally appropriate. According to the article, “He said the policy must be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year because of the effects repeated cyber-bullying could have on a student’s ability to perform up to their potential in the classroom.”

Furthermore, “Principal Don Jensen said he would not become an Internet or Facebook policeman looking for violations, but that if a complaint was registered he would be obligated to look into it.”

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Web sites, apps, give kids access to adult content

A Missoulian colleague pointed me to this ABC news video about how seemingly kid-friendly Web sites, like Nickelodeon’s Nick.com, actually link to some pretty adult content. Stuff like scantily clad women doing suggestive things with their clothes, or role-playing games in which the characters make out.

The discussion that followed hit all the main points: big companies have to do better at allowing parental controls, and making it clear what content is available where, but ultimately it’s parents’ responsibility to know what their kids are getting into.

Of course, parents are busy people. Funny enough, there’s a Web site just for moms who want to keep up on this kind of stuff. It’s called Wired Moms.

I think we need all the help we can get if we want to stay one step ahead of our tech-savvy kids.

– MM

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The Skype’s the limit

I grip the side of my kitchen counter as my daughter totes her laptop from living room to hallway to bathroom to show me her latest lip color. You read that right: I am watching her on my laptop computer screen which is set up where I make my afternoon coffee, and she is giving me a live virtual tour of her dash to the cosmetic drawer. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and I live in Huson, near Missoula, Montana, and we are in the same room. The sky’s the limit; we’re “Skyping.”

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Kids and cell phones

What is the deal with all these little kids carrying around cell phones? I seem to see them everywhere lately – kids my daughter’s age (4 years old), for cryin’ out loud.

I can understand why parents would want to keep tabs on their teens, and to some extent, why they would want to make sure that younger children could reach them at all times, too. But at some point – what point exactly, I don’t know – doesn’t it seem just a teeny bit ridiculous to expect your children to maintain constant contact with you?

Anyway, that’s my RFTD (rant for the day). And now here’s my PSMD (public safety message of the day), courtesy of Nancy White: “11 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe on Their Cell Phone.”

– Missoula Mom

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