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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt's Blog

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on CNN.

The series, "13 Reasons Why" which premiered March 31 on Netflix, follows the fictional story of a teenage girl named Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) who leaves behind 13 mysterious audio recordings on cassette tapes after killing herself. She addresses each recording to a person who she says played a role in her tragic decision to end her own life.

Some mental health experts say the show could pose health risks for certain young people, such as those who have suicidal thoughts.

Others suggest the show provides a valuable opportunity to discuss suicide risk with young people, as well as teaching them how to identify warning signs of depression or suicidal thoughts among their peers.

Among American young people, those between ages 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Suicide contagion" describes when exposure to suicide within a family, within a group of friends or through the media may be associated with an increase in suicidal behaviors, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Among 12- to 13-year-olds, being exposed to a classmate's suicide was associated with being five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2013.

The risk of suicide contagion and copycat behavior is one of mental health experts' leading causes of concern tied to "13 Reasons Why."

School districts across the country -- including the Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas and Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey -- are sending letters to parents about the suicide-related content on the show.

 A statement from the National Association of School Psychologists includes "cautions" and "guidance" for educators and families of teens who might watch the show.

"We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies," the statement said. "While many youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital."

Source: CNN

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on U.S. News & World Report.

A new study says parents of preschoolers can do three simple things -- regulate meals, bedtime and screen time -- and not only improve their child's emotional health, but also substantially cut down on the likelihood their child will be obese.

Previous studies have shown that the risk of obesity for children decreased when preschoolers got enough sleep, ate meals with their families, and had limits on their screen time. The new research is the first to ever take a look at family structure routines and health outcomes in their preteen years.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found a link between those early, preschool routines and the ability for very young children to learn how to self-regulate their emotions, and later on with problems regarding weight gain and obesity.

This type of research is no longer a surprise for social and behavioral scientists, but the study shows clearly that family structure matters. Problems linked to obesity later in life were found in children with greater "emotional dysregulation." Researchers for this study (and others) measure emotional self-regulation in young children based on responses from parents to questions about how easily their child becomes frustrated or over-excited. Children with less ability to self-regulate have greater emotional dysregulation.

What the study found was that preschoolers with better self-regulated emotional health – which is fostered by regular bedtimes, regular meals and limited screen time – appear to have better emotional and physical health outcomes later. Children with greater emotional dysregulation were more likely to be obese later in life.

"This study provides more evidence that routines for preschool-aged children are associated with their healthy development and could reduce the likelihood that these children will be obese," said the lead author, Sarah Anderson, a professor at Ohio State's College of Public Health.

The researchers were able to study nearly 11,000 children as part of a long-term study that has tracked children's activities and health outcomes for more than a decade. The Millennium Cohort Study observed a diverse population of children born in the United Kingdom in 2001-2002.

The researchers found that at age 3, 41 percent always had a regular bedtime, 47 percent had a regular mealtime schedule and 23 percent had their screen time (TV and videos) limited to less than an hour a day. At age 11, about 6 percent were obese.

Researchers also found that one of the three family routines for preschoolers – a regular bedtime schedule – might be the most important of all.

The research showed that the absence of a regular preschool bedtime routine is an independent predictor of obesity at 11. The risk of obesity was greatest for those with the least amount of consistency in their bedtimes, compared to those who "always" had a regular bedtime.

Source: U.S. News & World Report

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Water is a better bet than sports drinks for young athletes, sports medicine specialists say.

Most youngsters don't exert themselves at an intensity or duration that requires the extra sugar and salt contained in sports drinks, said Dr. Matthew Silvis. He is director of primary care sports medicine at Penn State Health Medical Center.

"Sports drinks can replenish some of what you lost during exercise, but you really need to be exercising for more than 45 minutes to an hour before you would consider that," Silvis said.

"Many of our kids are not doing enough to warrant it," he added in a university news release.

Also, giving children sports drinks with extra sugar puts them at risk for weight gain and tooth decay, Silvis and his colleagues noted.

Dr. Katie Gloyer is a primary care sports medicine physician at Penn State Medical Group, in State College. She agreed that "kids and adolescents really should not be using these drinks. Water is the best method of hydration."

Energy drinks that contain caffeine or other stimulants are also ill-advised for children, the physicians said. These beverages can boost blood pressure, cause heart palpitations and heart rhythm disorders, headaches and upset stomach.

Some kids may also feel jittery or nervous after downing an energy drink, the experts added.

Coaches and parents should provide water to make sure children are properly hydrated during exercise, the doctors said.

"If they are playing 30- or 45-minute halves, they should have a water break, and maybe add fresh orange slices or a granola bar to add a bit of sugar and/or protein at an appropriate level," Silvis said.

Source: HealthDay