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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

The Internet's Mixed Messages

By January 23, 2013

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Parents get a lot of information about how they should be doing every day, especially from other parents, books, and more and more these days, it seems, the Internet.

Too often though, parents are getting mixed messages.

Take, for example, the tragic story of a 4-year-old near Houston who died after he was mauled by a neighbor's pit bull. To be fair, the dog was chained and the 4-year-old had climbed the fence to get into the neighbor's yard.

Having a ferocious dog in a neighbor's backyard brings back memories of the movie "The Sandlot," but I think we all hope to never be in such a situation. After all, many of us have kids who have had to go into a neighbor's yard to recover a lost baseball, football, or Frisbee, etc., or have had to do it ourselves when we were younger.

As in other such tragedies, the "where were the parents?" comments began very quickly. Why is that a mixed message to parents? The 4-year-old was in a fenced backyard with his 9-year-old sister while his mother was inside their home with a newborn baby. That's hardly a situation where a toddler or preschooler was left unsupervised to play on a busy street.

Unless there is a tragedy though, parents more often hear about how they are overprotective, hover too much, and are afraid of raising free-range kids. You rarely hear that a parent was overprotective when a tragedy occurs though.

That doesn't mean that you should live in fear and never let your kids outside unless they are glued to your hip. But in addition to knowing when your kids are ready to do things, which is going to depend on your child's personality and developmental level, you need to know about all of the hazards in and around your home. You would hope that your neighbor's dog wouldn't be one of those hazards though.

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