Break Point!

Volume 4, Issue 9 View the Archives September, 2001
Break Point Goes Back to School
Heavy Backpacks - The Risks Out Weigh the Benefits
Recognizing and Prevent Bullying
Prepare for the Winter Season in the Fall
Who's Driving? The Distracted Driver
Surf's Up - A Guide to Injury Prevention Sites on the Web

Break Point Goes Back to School

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

The change in seasons signals a return to school for children. Last issue provided tips for children returning to school and this issue will focus on safety when they are at school.

When preparing your child for the first day of school make sure the back pack they are carrying is fitted to your child and isn’t packed too full for them to carry.

Bullying is a serious problem affecting children at school. Breakpoint will provide tips for parents, teachers and children on ways to deal with this problem.

Autumn is the perfect time to prepare your house for cooler weather and to make sure your furnace is in proper working order. Find out tips to prevent injuries from faulty furnaces.

(708) 327-2455

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Heavy Backpacks - The Risks Out Weigh the Benefits

Every parent with a child in school knows how difficult carrying a backpack can be on a child, especially for children in the upper grades. The combination of books and supplies can cause injury to the muscles in their backs and spines.

Children should not carry more than 10-15 percent of their weight over their shoulders and on their backs. The direct pressure to the spine can cause debilitating injury years down the road.

Parents can help their children decrease their risk of injury by following these tips:

  • Place the heaviest items in the backpack first; the closer they are to a child’s back, the less strain they’ll put on the back muscles.
  • Buy an appropriate size backpack. It should end just a few inches above the waist. Use a backpack that has soft, padded straps to maximize comfort.
  • Look for a pack with compartments that help distribute the weight. Try one of the new backpacks with wheels that your child can pull.
  • Encourage your children to carry a pack over both shoulders. This will help distribute the weight evenly.
  • Make sure your kids bend their knees when they first lift their backpacks, to avoid further strain on their back muscles.

Schools can help reduce backpack injuries by supplying 2 sets of books (one for the classroom and one for children to keep at home).

Encourage increased locker use, with enough time between classes to return to lockers so children aren’t tempted to carry all their books from class to class.

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Recognizing and Prevent Bullying

Bullying has become recognized as a serious problem in the school system and in society. Studies have shown that bullying can lead to unintentional as well as intentional violence (i.e. school shootings or suicide).

Approximately 15 percent of students are either bullied regularly or are themselves bullies. (This translates to approximately 5 million elementary and middle school students.) Direct bullying seems to increase through elementary school, peak during middle school or junior high school, and decline during high school. While physical assaults decrease with age, verbal abuse appears to remain constant. Factors such as a school’s size, racial composition, and setting (urban, suburban or rural) seem to make little difference in the amount of bullying seen.

In recent years, the academic definition of bullying has been expanded to include indirect bullying, such as name-calling, spreading rumors, and exclusion from a peer group. Indirect bullying socially isolates children. Both forms of bullying occur repeatedly and over a prolonged time. Boys typically engage in direct bullying while girls tend to use indirect methods, though girls are less frequently either bullies or victims.

Over 7 percent of America’s eighth graders stay home at least once a month because of bullies. Being bullied often increases isolation, depression and low self-esteem, problems that can affect victims for the rest of their lives.

Bullies often lie easily and believably when denying their activity, making intervention difficult unless they are caught in the act of bullying. A brief no-nonsense talk seems more effective than long lectures. Suspensions and other punishments either work the first time or likely not at all, according to some researchers. Facing immediate consequences, such as having to replace damaged property, can work better. Bullies also do well when allowed to channel their power, making them the protectors of other children in roles such as the safety patrol.

What can be done to prevent bullying at the school?

Bullying occurs throughout the school, though teachers and parents are generally unaware of its extent. Making the situation worse, adults often believe that bullying is "part of growing up" and that they should not intervene. In one study, 71 percent of students reported that adults in the classroom ignored bullying. When asked, students uniformly said that they wanted teachers to intervene to stop bullying and teasing. Faced with adult indifference, children are either reluctant to get involved or do not know how to obtain help. Adults in schools must intervene to stop bullies.

Bullying must be fought throughout the school community, using a "whole-school" approach. Effective interventions focus on more than the perpetrators and victims. School-wide bullying policies need to include curricular measures such as teaching conflict resolution and assertiveness training, peer and professional counseling, and improvement of the physical school environment, allowing easier adult supervision.

Schools that have implemented anti-bullying programs have reported a 50 percent reduction in bullying, according to Dan Olweus, a professor at the University of Bergen who pioneered research on bullying. Olweus suggests intervening simultaneously at the school, class, and individual levels. His recommendations have been combined with those from the National Association of School Psychologists below:

  • Prepare an information campaign directed at parents to increase their awareness of bullying and the importance of their involvement in prevention.
  • Teachers and students should jointly develop rules against bullying.
  • Provide individual counseling for both bullies and victims.
  • Provide cooperative learning activities to reduce social isolation.
  • Implement intervention strategies designed to deal with aggressive children.
  • Increase adult supervision at times when victims are especially vulnerable, such as recess or lunch.

A number of themes can be worked into the regular curriculum:

  • Discuss how kids are different and how they are the same.
  • Examine the meaning of courage and lead students beyond the "superhero" image of bravery.
  • Promote friendship between students who are different from each other.
  • Promote friendship between boys and girls.
  • Talk about teasing and bullying throughout the year, not just following an incident.
  • Listen to Your Child About Bullying

Teachers as well as parents can find many books available to help talk to their children about bullying. Here is a short list of the books available.

  • Alexander, Martha. Move Over Twerp. New York: Dial, 1981
  • Berenstain, Stan and Jan Berenstain. The Berenstain Bears and the Bully. New York: Random House, 1993
  • Shreve, Susan. Joshua T Bates Takes Charge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993
  • Webster-Doyle, Terrence. Why is Everybody Always Picking on Me: A Guide to Understanding Bullies for Young People. Middlebury, VT. Atrium Society Publications, 1991
  • Wilhelm, Hans. Tyrone the Horrible. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 1988

Strategies for Students

Students may not know what to do when they observe a classmate being bullied or experience such victimization. For instance, depending on the situation and their own level of comfort, students can:

  • Seek immediate help from an adult.
  • Report bullying/victimization incidents to school personnel.
  • Speak up and/or offer support to the victim when they see him/her being bullied, for example, picking up the victim’s books and handing them to him or her.
  • Privately support those being hurt with words of kindness or condolence.
  • Express disapproval of bullying behavior by not joining in the laughter, teasing or spreading of rumors or gossip.
  • Attempt to defuse the problem situations either single handedly or in a group, for example, by taking the bully aside and asking him/her to “cool it”.

Strategies for Parents

The best protection parents can offer their children who are involved in a bully/victim conflict is to foster their child’s confidence and independence and to be willing to take action when needed. The following suggestions are offered to help parents identify appropriate responses to conflict experienced by their children at school:

  • Work collaboratively with school personnel to address the problem. Keep records of incidents so that you can be specific in your discussion about your child’s experiences as school.
  • Offer support to your child but do not encourage dependence on you.
  • Be patient, problems don’t get resolved overnight.
  • Be prepared to spend extra time with your child, encouraging your child to develop new interests or strengths.

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Prepare for the Winter Season in the Fall

The opening of school signals the end of the summer and a change in weather. It is important to maintain your furnace prior to the first use of the season.

A furnace that is not running at peak performance can be deadly. Carbon monoxide is a natural product of incomplete combustion. Virtually every gas furnace produces some carbon monoxide, which is usually carried away from your home through the furnace's venting. A clean, efficiently burning gas furnace produces very small amounts of carbon monoxide, while a dirty, inefficient one can produce deadly amounts. carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. It causes flu-like symptoms, disorientation, confusion, and even death.

It is highly recommended that you have your furnace cleaned and checked every year. The older the furnace, the more important this service is. Newer gas furnaces are equipped with many features that shut the furnace off when a problem is detected. Older furnaces have no such devices. Over time, furnaces can develop small cracks in the combustion chamber. These cracks may not be visible to the naked eye. It is through these cracks that carbon monoxide can leak into your home.

It is also important to change your furnace filter regularly. The filter usually is found just inside the front cover of the furnace. It may have its own access door on the front of the furnace. A clean filter will help your furnace burn more efficiently, and will help keep dust from being circulated through your home.

Here are some tips to help keep your family safe as cooler weather approaches:

  • Keep the area around your furnace clean and unobstructed.
  • Keep the burner area of your furnace clean.
  • Furnaces that require lubrication on the motors and bearings should be attended to by a qualified heating technician once a year.
  • Do not have anything combustible within six inches of your vent pipe.
  • Do not close off more than 20% of the registers in your house. This can cause high resistance and unnecessary heat build up in the furnace.
  • Do not store combustible material such as paint thinners, gasoline, etc. near your furnace.

Don’t wait until you need to use your furnace to have it checked. Your furnace should be maintained in the fall. Your furnace filter should be changed at least 4 times a year. If you have questions about your furnace, call a licensed professional; don’t rely on a non-qualified serviceman.

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Who's Driving? The Distracted Driver

Research indicates that driving is a risky activity. In fact, being involved in a motor vehicle crash is one of the most likely things that will happen to you in your lifetime. Each year, more than 40,000 people are killed in crashes and over 3 million are injured. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 5-29.

More than 50% of crashes driver inattention was a contributing factor. In fact, when a crash occurs, the driver takes no evasive action 80% of the time and in about 40% of those situations, the incident could have been avoided if the driver had acted properly. These statistics may indicate that in many in many instances, the driver was distracted and failed to recognize the upcoming hazard.

There are essentially two kinds of driver distraction. One kind is called cognitive distraction and takes your mind off of the driving task. Driver instructors estimate that a driver makes 200 decisions for every mile of driving. If you are mentally solving business or family problems while driving, you are adding significantly to your cognitive workload.

The other type of distraction is due to physical manipulation of things that take your eyes off the road and/or your hands off the wheel. If you take your eyes off the road for no more than three to four seconds, at 55 miles per hour, a vehicle travels the length of a football field.

Cognitive forms of distraction can be more dangerous than physically manipulating objects.

Other factors that may increase the impact of distractions include fatigue and the traffic conditions. If you’re tired, distractions have a greater negative affect on your driving and heavy traffic or bad weather require greater levels of concentration

Here are some sensible driving tips to help decrease distractions:

Keep your eyes on the road,
  • If you use a cellular phone, try to use a hands-free model.
  • Never take notes or look up a phone number while driving.
  • Try to use memory dialing or directory assistance while making calls from the car.
  • Don’t use any phone in demanding traffic situations.
  • Designate a front-seat passenger to serve as a navigator than trying to fumble with maps.
Keep your hands on the wheel,
  • Program your favorite stations into the radio for easy access.
  • Arrange tapes and CD’s in a easy-to-reach spot.
  • Wait until the vehicle is parked before retrieving items that fall to the floor.
  • Avoid tending to kids while driving. Pull into a parking space or another safe area to deal with the problem.
  • Keep pets in a appropriate carrier or cage.
  • If you must eat while driving, choose easy-to-handle items and make sure all drinks are secured in cup-holders.
Keep your mind on the drive!
  • Teen drivers are especially vulnerable to distractions. Avoid letting them carry large numbers of passengers.
  • Avoid becoming “lost in thought” while driving, and concentrate on the road.
  • Avoid stressful or confrontational conversations while driving, either on a cell phone or with another passenger.

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Surf’s Up- A Guide to Injury Prevention Sites on the Web

The American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City

This site gives information about furnaces but provides easy to read safety tips on fireplaces and furnaces.

Tucson Fire Department- Heater and Fireplace Safety Tips

This web page further details carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention tips.,1120,1-2931,00.html

A fully family oriented site that lets parents exchange ideas and advice together but provides articles that pertain to children and school. This site has different pages for parents, teachers and children. There is also a page that lists educational products to buy.

A Safer Site- Back to School Safety

This site has compiled information from different safety awareness groups and put it all together on one page. The National Safety Council, Walkable America and The National Safety Belt Coalition all provide information to get children off to school safely.

USDE Bullying Prevention Manual

This manual gives strategies for school personnel and parents to help identify and combat bullying.

National Highway Safety Administration - Child Transportation Safety Tips

If you have adobe acrobat reader you can print these quick tips to help keep your children safe around motor vehicles.

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS)

This site is very useful for businesses that employ drivers yet, even if you are not a business owner this site is for you. Most people drive to and from work and need to be aware of all the road hazards.

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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