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AG Mills shares safe shopping tips for families
December 11, 2015
AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet T. Mills wishes to share information and resources to ensure that the brightly wrapped gifts being exchanged this holiday season contain no unwanted surprises and to remind families to set ground rules for the proper and safe enjoyment of digital devices year-round.
“There is nothing like seeing the joy of a child opening a gift,” said Attorney General Mills. “But if that gift is a digital device, parents should be thinking now about how to most appropriately use that gift in the months to come. Ask yourself if your child should have 24/7 access to the internet and how you can establish clear, consistent rules for the use of these devices in your home. Review with your child what information they can share on social media and reinforce how quickly ‘private’ information and photos can become public. Remind them that the ‘golden rule’ also applies to their online behavior – they need to treat others with respect online.”
Once families decide to purchase a gaming device, tablet, computer or smart phone, it can be difficult for parents to keep up with the rapidly evolving array of games, websites and apps that appeal to young people. Parents should review and monitor what sites and apps their child uses to ensure they are age appropriate. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB.org), the non-profit organization that assigns age and content ratings for video games and mobile apps, offers a list of helpful tips for parents who want to ensure they make the right choices for their families, from fulfilling their kids’ wish lists to ensuring their playing time is appropriately managed and safe. Local retailers are well versed in the ratings system and can provide advice at the point of sale.
“We are pleased that organizations like the Entertainment Software Rating Board assigns age and content ratings to video games and mobile apps to help Mainers make the right choices for their families. We are glad that Attorney General Mills is helping spread the word to promote safe shopping this holiday season,” stated Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine.
There are websites that can help parents and children learn about the best games and apps for them and how to learn about smart online behaviors. Parents can also review their individual device to install settings that limit the content available.
• OnGuardOnline.gov offers tips to parents and has information for other adults as well.
• ESRB.org assigns age and content ratings for games and mobile apps and has information and tips to help parents strike the right balance for kids between time spent with the game or app and time spent with the family, school work, extracurricular activities and other interests.
• CommonSenseMedia.org reviews apps, beyond the ESRB ratings, to help you determine if the app is right for your child.
• NetSmartzKids.org helps to educate your child about what information about themselves or their families can be shared on social media and how to prevent cyberbullying.
• SafeSurfingKids.com has a model ‘contract’ so that parents and kids know the rules governing their device use and online behavior ahead of time.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics has established guidelines for appropriate limits on screen time and access to media for children. Between school work, entertainment and ever present smartphones, kids are exposed to much more screen time now than ever before. Parents should be mindful of how much of their child’s time is spent looking a screen.
“People should also consider the safety and age-appropriateness of traditional gift items for children,” said Attorney General Mills. “Most toys have a recommended age on the package because it may contain small parts that pose a choking danger to a small child who puts items in their mouths. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website with recalled children’s products – everything from cribs and car seats to pajamas and toys. It pays to stay apprised of items that may have high lead levels or other hidden dangers.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.gov) offers these three pieces of advice to holiday shoppers: 1. Choose age appropriate toys by reading the age label on the toy. For children younger than 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking. In particular avoid deflated or broken balloons, small parts or small balls. 2. Scooters and other riding toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit. Avoid riding a scooter on a street or roadway with other motor vehicles. 3. Magnets – Children’s magnetic toys are covered by a strong safety standard that prevents magnets from being swallowed. High-powered magnet sets, which are covered by a mandatory standard, also have small magnets that are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Whether marketed for children or adults, building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
“However you celebrate, I hope this season is filled with joy,” said Attorney General Mills. “Taking a little extra time now to think about some of the responsibilities that come with giving a child an electronic device will ensure these gifts continue to deliver that joy for many months to come.”