Texas Parenting News
Are your kids on Facebook?
Facebook requires that youngsters be at least 13 years old before they create a Facebook account. Yet a survey by Consumer Reports, published in the June 2011 issue (www.consumerreports.org), found the following facts:
Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million—or more than one-third—were younger than 13.
Among young users, more than 5 million were 10 and younger, and their accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents.
One million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the site in the past year.
Children cruise through Facebook’s age screen—a question—by lying about it. No credit card or other hurdle is required to proceed. This easy entry makes useless a 1998 federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, that requires parental notice and consent for children younger than 13 to divulge personal information. See www.ftc.gov/os/1999/10/64fr59888.pdf
Parents can delete Facebook accounts or ask Facebook to delete them. For more information, see Facebook’s help center for parents and educators, www.facebook.com/help/?page=937.
Save energy and money with fluorescent bulbs
Many stores have begun selling compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)—the curved spiral type—in response to a 2007 law requiring that light bulbs be more energy efficient.
Compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs use about 75 percent less energy. And they can last up to 10 times longer. How is this possible?
Think of incandescent bulbs as little heaters that create light. Electricity heats a filament inside the bulb, and the hot filament gives off light. In fluorescent bulbs, on the other hand, electricity excites a gas that produces ultraviolent light. Ordinarily, we can’t see UV light, but in a fluorescent bulb, the UV light strikes the white phosphor coating inside the tube, causing it to fluoresce or produce light we can see.
For best operation, fluorescent lights need to be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time. Switching them off and on can shorten their life and decrease their energy saving benefits. ENERGY STAR-rated CFLs have a two-year warranty. If the bulb fails within that period, return it to your retailer.
Law requires more energy efficiency
In 2007 President George W. Bush signed a bill that set a timetable for replacing standard light bulbs on store shelves with ones that use 30 percent less energy. The timetable starts with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and cycles through other sizes, ending with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014. A second tier, requiring all bulbs sold to be at least 60-70 percent more energy efficient (like today’s CFLs) would go into effect by 2020. Manufacturers are already complying with these requirements.
A common misconception is that the law forces us to use CFLs. Not quite. It says only that lights be 30 percent more energy efficient. It’s possible, for example, that manufacturers will develop better performing incandescent lights and that other technologies such as halogen and light emitting diodes (LEDs) could meet the standard.
Fluorescent bulbs pose a safety threat not found in incandescent bulbs. The gas used in fluorescents is mercury, a toxic element that can damage the brain, kidney, and lungs and impair the development of the brain and nervous system in children and babies developing in the womb.
The amount of mercury is small, an average of 5 milligrams, or roughly enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By contrast, old home thermostats contain a hundred times that much. CFLs pose no hazard when used properly. Follow these guidelines:
Handle CFLs carefully when buying and transporting them.
Store CFLs on a high shelf or locked cabinet out of children’s reach.
Avoid rough handling when dusting or cleaning light fixtures containing CFLs.
Position lamps with CFLs in places where children and adults will not easily bump into them.
If a CFL breaks, mercury vapor can escape. If that happens, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends the following:
Have everyone leave the room immediately.
Open windows or doors to ventilate the room for 10 to 15 minutes before returning to clean it up. Turn off the central heating and air for several hours.
Sweep up the broken pieces and visible powder. Don’t vacuum. Use protective gloves and a damp paper towel or bar of soap to pick up the pieces. You will be at greater risk if you get cut by broken shards.
Place bulb pieces and clean-up materials in two sealed plastic bags.
Discard as recommended by your local waste management agency.
When a CFL wears out, recycle it so the mercury may be reused. Some states and localities prohibit dumping any fluorescent lights into trash headed for the landfill. Two options:
Visit www.earth911.com, an environmental services company that enables you to find recycling centers by ZIP code. Or call 1-800-CLEANUP. Home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, will often accept used CFLs.
Call your local waste management agency for instructions. If your disposal service incinerates trash, seek another option. CFLs should not be burned.
Take the same care in handling and disposing of long fluorescent tubes. Do not break the tubes to fit into a container, and recycle them if possible.
Eggs: What you need to know
For years, doctors and dieticians told us to avoid eating eggs. The high cholesterol, they argued, would clog our arteries.
Today, that advice has changed. Recent studies indicate that it’s trans fats such as margarine, not dietary cholesterol, that contribute to heart disease.
Health experts are again promoting the nutritional benefits of eggs. They are rich in protein and provide Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, and iron.
Eating an egg a day is fine for most people, including children. Babies can begin eating eggs soon after starting solid foods, at 7 or 8 months. Some babies are initially allergic to eggs, but most children eventually outgrow the allergy.
Federal law requires that commercial egg producers with 3,000 or more hens submit to inspection and take steps to prevent salmonella, but small farms that sell directly to consumers are exempt.
Salmonella is a family of bacteria that causes diarrheal illness, which can result in serious illness and even death. Infants, young children, and pregnant mothers are especially vulnerable.
People usually develop the illness by eating food contaminated with the feces of infected animals or people. Any raw food of animal origin, such as eggs, meat, poultry, milk and dairy products, and seafood may get contaminated. Salmonella can be on the outside of the eggshell because the egg exits the hen through the same passageway as feces.
Prevent the illness caused by salmonella
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, www.fsis.usda.gov, recommends these safety precautions with eggs:
Buy eggs from a refrigerated case.
Open the carton and look for clean, uncracked shells.
Note the expiration date. Don’t buy eggs that have gone out of date.
Refrigerate eggs promptly. Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees F.
Cook eggs until the yolks are firm, and thoroughly cook foods containing eggs. Don’t eat foods containing raw eggs, such as milk shakes, homemade mayonnaise and ice cream, eggnog, raw cookie dough, and Hollandaise sauce.
The USDA also recommends the following food safety procedures:
Clean: Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item. Wash dishcloths in the hot cycle of the washing machine, or use paper towels.
Separate: Separate eggs, raw meat, and seafood from other foods in your shopping cart and refrigerator. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat and seafood. Never place food on a plate that has just previously held raw meat.
Cook: Cook whole cuts of beef and pork, including steaks and chops, to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F., and allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or eating.
Cook ground beef, pork, and lamb to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
Cook all chicken, turkey, and other poultry to 165 degrees F. Cook casseroles and other dishes containing eggs to 165 degrees F. Cook stuffing separately from poultry.
The USDA issued these new recommended temperatures in May 2011.
Chill: Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers with two hours of cooking. Thaw food in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave. Do not thaw foods by leaving them out at room temperature.
Read the egg carton label
Today you can buy a great variety of eggs. The egg carton label may boast “brown eggs,” “Omega-3 DHA enhanced,” or “All Natural.” How to choose?
Color: Eggshell color doesn’t affect taste or nutrition. White and brown eggs come from different breeds of chickens.
Grade: Eggs sold in stores are generally Grade A, which means the whites are slightly thinner than those in the higher Grade AA. If the grade appears with the USDA shield, it means the egg producer has voluntarily asked the USDA to check the eggs for quality and weight.
Size: Egg sizing is based on the total weight per dozen eggs, not the dimensions of the individual eggs. While some eggs in the same carton may look larger or smaller, it is the total weight of the dozen that determines size. A dozen extra large eggs weighs 27 ounces, for example, while large eggs weigh 24 ounces.
Omega-3: This fatty acid, also known as DHA (docosahexaenoic), is important for healthy heart and brain function as well as good vision. The chickens that produced these eggs were fed supplementary flaxseed or fish meal, both rich sources of Omega-3.
Cage-free: These eggs come from chickens that have some freedom of movement. Ninety percent of eggs sold in stores come from commercial poultry operations that squeeze chickens into cages, forcing them to live in what animal welfare activists claim are torturous and filthy conditions.
Free-range: These eggs come from chickens that have access to the outdoors, but the size or quality of the outdoors and the time outdoors are not specified.
Natural: This term generally refers to minimal processing between the farm and the store. The word is not backed by any independent inspection system and may be used to imply that the food is somehow more healthful.
Organic: The eggs have been produced according to USDA organic standards. The chickens have not received growth hormones or antibiotics (to prevent infection) and have been fed organic feeds (grown without pesticides and fertilizers). The chickens usually have not been kept in cramped cages.