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The Hidden Dangers of Competitive Sports

Are you aware of the dangers of high school athletics?

Are you aware of the dangers of high school athletics?

Sports are a staple of high school extracurricular activities, but are they worth the time commitment and potential dangers of injury?

Writer Jonnie Wall on sports website Sportales breaks down the pros and cons of youth athletics, though most of the arguments on both sides are fairly familiar, especially on the emotional and mental tradeoffs of sports. But the most interesting debate is whether competitive sports can be damaging physically. Read more »

Question of the Week: What to Tell your Kids about Kidnapping?

Stranger danger? Photo by sholeh

Stranger danger? Photo by sholeh

A kidnapped child: it’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and as the Jaycee Dugard case has so pointedly reminded us, it’s something that can happen. The clamor surrounding Dugard’s escape and the circumstance of her long captivity (not to mention the behavior of her abductors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido) have heightened many people’s concerns for their children’s safety. Meanwhile, it has also ignited a debate about how parents address this danger, especially when explaining it to their kids.

Even before these recent events, comedic magicians Penn Jillette and Teller tackled a serious subject and raised similar questions during an episode of their myth busting show, “Bullsh$t”, called “Stranger Danger.” In the linked clip, two mothers present archetypal stances on the issue. The first: You can never be too careful; kids should be warned to the fullest extent. The second: making kids think the worst about the world is unhealthy; kidnappings are remarkably rare.

Abductions of children by unknown persons are indeed uncommon in the US. According to a 2002 Department of Justice study, the chances of a youngster being snatched by a stranger are about .47 in 1000. Still for an estimated 33,000 children that year, those stats were meaningless.

Every parent wants to keep their progeny safe, but can (and should) parents find a balance between apprising their kids of the world’s risks and its better aspects. How have you cautioned your child about the danger of kidnapping? Discuss!

NOAA, Bill Gates and You: Ready for a Hurricane

Man with a plan.

Man with a plan.

What you’ve heard is true: Bill Gates is developing a weather control device. No need to panic yet Mac people; it’s far from ready, may be impossible, and the software mogul’s intentions—minimizing the damage and danger caused by hurricanes—seem more akin to his philanthropic tendencies than his world domination ones of years past.

That said, until Gates or someone else succeeds in dictating the weather we will have to deal with hurricanes as they come. We’re currently still in the Atlantic Hurricane season, which lasts from June through November, and this year several storms including the recent Fred have threatened harm to life and property, albeit with limited actual damage. Read more »

Blogger Spotlight on Amy Bellgardt of Mom Spark

Amy Bellgardt of Mom Spark

Amy Bellgardt of Mom Spark

Amy Bellgardt is the founder and administrator of online magazine Mom Spark, a network of 17 moms who contribute advice, stories, and recipes online. She’s also worked with companies like Warner Bros., Ford, and Nestle. We caught up with Bellgardt and asked her what about blogging, social media, and why she never writes about her kids.

So let’s start off simple: why do you blog?

I originally created Mom Spark because I was an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom with a difficult newborn, a strong-willed eight year-old, and a husband who worked a lot. Need I say more? I needed the companionship, advice, and support from other moms, even if I had never met these moms in “real life.” Mom Spark became my therapy, my way of connecting with the world amidst the chaos in my head, home, and heart. Please let me note that I love my children and husband and want to stay home with them and never regret doing so at all, but when I started Mom Spark, I especially needed that extra boost of confidence, assurance, and hope. Read more »

Question of the Week: What's Worse for Children — Exposure to Violence or Sex?

Today, kids are exposed to far more violent and sexually explicit material than when we were young. But which exactly is worse: violence or sex?

Do you know what he's watching?

Do you know what he's watching?

Some say that in a post-Columbine world, violence is the more dangerous influence. The biggest advocate of this position is the daytime advice-doling Dr. Phil. In particular, he targets violent video games as having an adverse effect on a child’s development.

The number one negative effect is they tend to inappropriately resolve anxiety by externalizing it. So when kids have anxiety, which they do, instead of soothing themselves, calming themselves, talking about it, expressing it to someone, or even expressing it emotionally by crying, they tend to externalize it. They can attack something, they can kick a wall, they can be mean to a dog or a pet.

Dr. Phil’s logic makes sense on the page, but anecdotally, having grown up with video games, I’ve never seen anyone “externalize” their emotions from playing Nintendo — at least not in a way that wasn’t just out of good ‘ol competitive spirit.

Still, while you’ll find plenty of articles on the effects of violent content, you won’t find quite as much writing on the dangers of sex. Instead, it seems to be a value that’s simply implied. Of course, there’s also the infamous divide on film ratings between the U.S. and Europe to consider. Americans tend to be more sensitive to content that involves any sexually explicit material — particularly nudity, despite the context — while Europeans are more affected by graphic violence — a quality that doesn’t seem to phase us as much in the U.S.

Still, there’s no conclusive or truly convincing study that proves that either violence or sex affects children negatively. Perhaps it’s too difficult to document, or maybe we’re underestimating the ability of kids to understand that what happens on television should stay on television.

There’s a brilliant headline from humor site The Onion that sums the counter argument perfectly. In reference to Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show debacle: “U.S. Children Still Traumatized One Year After Seeing Partially Exposed Breast On TV.”

So readers, which is the worse influence: violence or sex? Does it vary between movies, video games, and music? Discuss!

Irondads Crave Competition, Family Time

Kevin Nelson transitioning from the swim to the run.

Kevin Nelson transitioning from the swim to the run.

Like any high endurance sport, Ironman competitions carry certain dangers, but one risk in particular can come as a surprise: try the grueling race and you just might get addicted.

That’s been the case for two Minnesota-based athletes, Brian Moynihan and Kevin Nelson, who train for the 26.2 mile run, 112 mile bike ride, and 2.4 mile swim in St. Paul with a group called Performance Power (P2).

At first, the event seems like an impossible feat, and indeed Nelson, a vehicular scheduling manager at the Twin Cities Ford Assembly plant, considered it a joke when a friend suggested he even try training for a shorter triathlon. Read more »

Question of the Week: Do Guns Make us Safer?

Safe space? Photo by Barjack

Safe space? Photo by Barjack

Is it still harder to have a civil discussion about gun rights and gun control than health care reform, that trendy political third-rail? Depends where you look, but judging from a recent video on—one of the sites we follow at Life360—it’s actually possible to talk sensibly about gun ownership.

This particular Momversation episode saw mommy bloggers Dana Loesch (, Rebecca Woolf (, Maggie Mason (, Karen Walrond ( all weigh in on the topic, but despite the respectful and coherent nature of their comments, even these peers fail to offer unanimous consensus. Loesch, an NRA member, is the only panelist who owns a gun, explaining “It comes down to I want to be able to defend myself.”

Each of the three other bloggers offered a variation on the “I don’t feel comfortable with a gun at home, especially around kids” theme, but both those arguing for and against owning a firearm raise the same question, central to the gun rights debate, which is: does owning a gun make you more or less safe?

This, of course, is where things get tricky. Typically each side presents statistics designed to make opponents hopelessly out of touch (often something like: you’re more likely to be killed by someone you know with a gun than a stranger or conversely, increased gun ownership correlates with lower crime rates), but it’s hard to find a conclusive and unbiased study to definitively answers this question.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published “Firearms Laws and the Reduction of Violence”, which stated that while gun ownership is correlated to increased incidence of suicide, while gun accidents in the US have decreased over the last 15 years.

The relevance of even these stats and whether this decrease was caused by increasing gun rights or increasing restrictions, however, remains a point of contention. It’s not an issue that promises to resolve itself anytime soon, but at least open discourses like that on Momversation are a step in the right direction.

Therefore, in the spirit of a frank discussion we ask: where do you stand on the issue? Do you have a gun in your home? Does owning a firearm protect you or put you and those you love at greater risk? Discuss!