a peek inside the fishbowl

I need a bit of time to think about some of the issues I brought up in the first part of my post about kids and smartphones. Can you tell I’ve hit a bit of a breaking point? Sigh. In the meantime, I wanted share with you some information about an important campaign kickstarted by Shoppers Drug Mart that is helping women in our community.*

Growing Women’s Health

Earlier this month, Shoppers Drug Mart LOVE. YOU. launched the 15th annual Growing Women’s Health in-store campaign. It’s a program that has supported more than 500 unique local women’s health charities in cities and towns across the country.

Here in Ottawa, a group of 35 stores have chosen to raise funds for The Ottawa Hospital Breast Health Centre.

I am a big fan of The Ottawa Hospital and the great work they do there. A couple of years ago I interviewed Dr. Jean Seely, the head of Breast Imaging at TOH, for a series of articles I was working on for the Ottawa Business Journal. To put it plainly, she knocked my socks off. In fact, all of the doctors and researchers I spoke to for that series left me feeling – how can I put it – happy, astounded, amazed, and relieved. These are passionate people who are at the top of their field, whose mission it is to deliver first-class health care to us, the people of Ottawa. But the hospital story isn’t just about diagnosis and treatment. Few people pause to think about the research and innovation that goes on behind the scenes and how driven these people are to find ways (both big and small!) to make a patient’s journey through the medical system the best it can possibly be. And let’s be real. The journey of a breast cancer patient is a particularly tough one. Did you know that as the core of breast health services for Eastern Ontario, The Ottawa Hospital sees more than 35,000 patient visits a year?

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. So I was glad to hear that 35 Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Ottawa are fundraising for breast health. SDM customers can purchase and personalize a “Growing Women’s Health” icon; a “leaf” for a loonie, a “butterfly” for $5, an “apple” for $10 and a “bird” for $50. The icons are prominently displayed on the Growing Women’s Health Tree in all participating stores. Ask about it at the counter, because these donations really add up. Funds raised in past years, and in 2017, will support the hospital’s brand new state-of-the-art Breast Health Centre at the General Campus, which will include a patient waiting area named in honor of Shoppers Drug Mart’s generous customers. To date, more than $875,000 has been raised by Shoppers Drug Mart in support of The Ottawa Hospital. That is something that is worth talking about, don’t you think?

*This post is sponsored in part by Shoppers Drug Mart.

“When you eat an orange, eat an orange.”

I don’t know who originally said this. Some sources attribute it to an unnamed Zen master, others, to Vietnamese Buddhist monk and religious leader, Thich Nhat Hanh. Regardless who said it, this philosophy is one I try to live by and instill in our kids. It reminds me to live in the moment and to focus on the task at hand. If I focus on peeling, chewing, truly spending time with that orange, I enjoy that orange much more, and my busy brain has a chance to regroup. Eating an orange can be a contemplative act (a mini-meditation, in a way!), or a rush job over the sink while I’m checking my email for the 100th time that day. And where’s the joy in that? Sometimes I eat that last slice of orange (or let’s be real, the last chip in the bowl) without even realizing I did it.

I always loved going back to school, so it was pretty exciting when it came time to stock up on new binders, pens and pencils, and stacks of clean white papers. This excitement has carried over to my adult years. I still feel a little thrill when buying office supplies, and I enjoy taking my daughters – who are now in high school and university – to buy new supplies for school as well. Of course, it’s different now than when I was a kid. Marketers have done a remarkable job of convincing parents that kids need all kinds of new gear to be successful students. Much of it is technology – laptops, tablets, e-readers smartphones – and there is a surge of sales of these items this time of year.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think kids in elementary school need a smartphone. And it’s very likely that he or she is too young for it.

Our eldest daughter received her phone when she started high school. She’s 18 now. Awhile back I asked her at what age kids should get their first phone. Her answer might surprise you: high school.

I should point out that she’s been spending the last five or six summers working with school-age kids as a camp counselor and has firsthand experience. She’s met kids who can’t focus, don’t know how to play, or get along with others. We can’t blame technology for all of this, of course, but I do believe it is a contributing factor. At the very least, smartphones, computer games, and apps do not cultivate patience or teach kids how to get along face-to-face.

My daughter thinks kids should get really good at being kids first, because learning how to play and get along with others is a critical skill that needs practice. She doesn’t believe younger kids are ready for the responsibility of having a smartphone. And it’s not just about losing or breaking it, but knowing how to use it in a healthy way. Because health is ultimately at the core of the “When should I buy my kids a smartphone” question, and I’m not just referring to mental health, but physical health as well.

Parents want to raise the healthiest kids possible. This is not even up for debate. We make sure our kids eat a balanced diet (no matter how many arguments we have about it!), get fresh air and exercise, wear sunscreen and learn to swim. So what if someone told you that smartphones could cause more harm than good? What if someone told you that these kinds of devices lead to brain damage, a brain rewiring that affects everything from a person’s ability to study to their ability to have good relationships and hold down a job. Would that change your opinion of smartphones? Would you still rush out to buy one for your kid?

I say this now because I feel like my own brain is scrambled, and I’ve only had a smartphone for the past five years or so!

The Canadian Pediatric Society has stated that too much screen time is harmful to “aspects of cognitive and psychosocial development” and in 2012 they published the following guidelines for children and adolescents:

  • Children under two: no screen time is recommended.
  • Children 2-4: less than one hour screen time a day.
  • Children 5-11 and youth 12-17: no more than two hours a day.

One also has to wonder, if the kids are on their phones, what are they not doing? They are probably not playing a game of pick-up hockey or dress up, doing puzzles or building a fort in the backyard. Encouraging a healthy life balance and cultivating good tech hygiene has to start early. What do you think?

Part two of this post coming up tomorrow.

Awhile back I wrote a post about lice removal service here in Ottawa that happens to be handily close to where we live in Westboro. We’ve had kids with lice. Teens with lice. I’ve known parents with lice in the neighbourhood too. I’m relieved to know there’s a place we can go when we need help.

I think a lot of you already know about Lice Services Canada – Ottawa Lice Treatment and Removal and their expert services, but what you may not know is that they’ve introduced a twist to their services which will definitely be of interest to parents of school-age children here in Ottawa. This new program does two things: it gets expert information about lice right into the teachers’ and caregivers’ hands AND helps the school raise extra some funds.

If your school is registered with Lice Services Canada, 10% of sales of lice removal services (even during the summer!) and $5 from their pesticide-free products will go back to YOUR school. It’s really a win-win for all… except the lice, because THEY ARE HISTORY. Families get expert help when they really need it, and the schools get a little something as well.

Interested? It’s easy. Just send an email to your school principal or parent council, because they need to be the ones who register on the Lice Services Canada website. Once the school is registered, they’ll start getting the word out to parents. That’s it! If you don’t need the services, great. But if you do, it’s nice to know your school is getting something back, isn’t it?

And whether your school is registered or not, you should know that if you find something in your kid’s scalp and you’re not sure if it’s a louse or not, you can always take a picture and email it to Lice Services Canada for a free diagnosis.

*This post is sponsored by Lice Services Canada in Ottawa.


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  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Supporting women's health in Ottawa (*sponsored) - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] need a bit of time to think about some of the issues I brought up in the first part of my post about kids and smartphones. Can you tell I
  • Tudor: My most recent blog post is about this - http://tudorrobins.ca/2017/09/technology-issues/ - it was prompted by my fifteen-year-old, who is now in grad
  • andrea tomkins: It's REALLY tough. And I definitely want to address the peer pressure aspect too. That being said, i do recall a study done by MediaSmarts that report
  • TD: For us it was when the kids started riding OC Transpo to school on their own. This meant grade 7 as that was when the school board gave them presto p
  • Molly: This is timely for us - in fact, we were just talking about when the kids *need* a phone. We figured high school, too. I agree that more screen time
  • andrea tomkins: You're welcome! It's really a win win for Ottawa families!
  • Molly: This is great! Thanks for sharing!

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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