Don't do it....don't leave kids unattended in the car!

It never ceases to amaze me that an adult can leave a child unattended in a car.

Leaving a child unattended in a car (locked in vehicles on hot days) is THE most dangerous, stupid, irresponsible things that any person could do! How can people who do this not see the potential disaster and heartbreak it can cause.

Nothing is worth placing a child in such potential danger.

I do try to consider why an adult would do such a thing but I can’t get past that question to try to understand their thinking or lack thereof. I cant get past their selfishness and pure stupidity.. I just cannot fathom what they would consider an acceptable reason.....because there is not one!

It astonishes me the prevalence of it. It concerns me and is extremely worrying that it is becoming such a common news story that we seem to be desensitized to it.

Yet it was again in the news today with some shocking statistics. In an article I read that was specific to NSW there were almost 2000 kids locked in cars this year! 2000 is 2000 too many! That equates to almost 7 children a day in one state.

If those stats don't scare you I don't know what will as it is only a matter of time until another child dies from being left unattended in a car.

The stats didn't shock enough last January in Victoria when 53 children were left in cars between Monday and Friday in the heat wave of Victoria.

What will it take another death for people to stop and take notice to how dangerous it is. Well, it would appear apparently not. 22-month-old Noah Krespanis died in  Victorian earlier this year and it sadly does not seem to have had an impact or influence the change required for adults to stop from leaving children in cars. This young child's death is unfortunately not the first and won't be the last in a preventable situation.

A temperature of a car can reach high temperatures inside the car even if it is not what one would consider hot outside. For example,  a car can reach 46 degrees inside while it was just 22 outside.

There are what I consider a few non-negotiable ‘rules’ when you have kids and leaving a child in a car hits as one of them. There is also law which defines the fact that we should care for the child in our care....Parents, caregivers actually, anyone at the time that has parental responsibility has a duty, by law, to provide children in their care with the ‘necessities of life’, which includes providing financial support, food, clothing, accommodation, healthcare and access to education.

So if not in good conscious then it must be by following the law that as an adult the preventable dangerous situation of leaving a child in a car is a NO NO!

Never leave a child unattended! Pure and simple!

I can’t believe that common sense seems to fly out the window with these types of incidents. It amazes me that you bring a child into the world and at that point see their complete dependence and innocence and lack of judgment and complete reliance on you for all their needs, and despite that it doesn’t seem to cross their mind that perhaps, just perhaps, leaving a child unattended in a car isn’t the best or safest option.

I can’t believe that this is something I seem to be talking (ok, possibly ranting) about on such a regular basis.

Over the course of SK there have been SO many occasions where I have wrote articles, tweeted or blogged about this particular topic. I, like those at the forefront of trying to get the message through seem to be going blue in the face.

I remember tweeting about a mother who had left her 8 month old in the car in freezing temperatures to go hunting!?!  Hunting I say. To me it doesn’t matter what the reason, but it does seems that if you add the reason into the article we might be expected to have an “ohh, well that’s why. I can see why now type of response”. Well no, that doesn’t happen. What happens is that we are too often left shaking our head in dismay and disbelief.

Some of the reasons I must say, while we are on the reasons behind why one would leave a child unattended in a car, are downright ludicrous. Let me give you just a few examples. And I only offer a few as there are SO many to choose from.

A man in Victoria previously had left his two sons, both under the age of five, in a car while he placed a bet at the pub.

A dad in Melbourne’s east left four children under the age of 10 unattended while he went into a bottle shop to buy alcohol.

Do you remember the baby boy who was left in the car and died in the front of the day care centre ?

Or there was the mum who left her child in the car to go shopping (can’t miss those Boxing Day sales!). That mother is being charged with an offence called ‘unattended child’.

A mother from Bendigo  who was committed to stand trial on a charge of manslaughter after she left her five month old baby daughter in a car for 2 ½ hours (by mistake apparently… really? For 2 ½ hours!).

Shall I go with the many examples? These are just a few of the more publicised cases. Some cases are lucky escapes and some sadly end in tragedy.

What does that show us? That the message is not getting through?

More frighteningly is the question as to why? Why it is still happening in the first place, and apparently so frequently.

Thankfully, some progress seems to being made. And while the laws are not so clear in Australia, and vary from state to state as to the actual legislation and consequences, it does seem that there are consequences and people are being made accountable for such neglectful actions.

And some of those have already been charged and faced court...here are some previous outcomes.

Such as a dad from Rockhampton back in 2011 pleaded guilty to manslaughter after his 8 month old dies after he had forgotten it in the car and left it in the driveway. He received 4 years jail.

Another QLD dad is on probation (2 years) as he was so busy playing the pokies at the pub (for nearly 1 hour!) and left his 14 month old son in the car with the windows wound up,

A mum who left her baby in the car for 45 minutes to do a spot of shopping. She was fined $400 for leaving her baby in the car.

Then there was the dad who left his 4 year old son in the car while he went to a massage parlour. He was sentenced to 6 months jail.

A 31-year-old woman is likely to be charged for leaving her 9 month old son in the car while she did chores in a nearby unit.

A Blue Mountains mother has been charged after she allegedly left her three-year-old daughter in the back of her car with the windows closed while she went shopping.

So what is the law in each state?

NSW: Parents are expected to make reasonable decisions about their children’s safety with fines up to $22,000. This is in accordance with Section 231 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

WA: if charged and convicted you can face jail for five years if they are found to have left a “child or young person” in a car without proper supervision, if they become emotionally distressed or ill. Penalty: a fine of $36 000 and imprisonment for 3 years.

NT: This year the NT Government ­refused to introduce legislation that will see the banning of children left unattended in ­vehicles. The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not provide specific legislation relating to children being left unsupervised. The police do have the power to remove children from cars and they have the power to potentially charge those involved, but sadly it appears only if there is an injury.

QLD: here there too are now jail terms of up to three years’ jail for the crime of “leaving a child under 12 unattended.

VIC: It is illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle under the Children, Youth and Families Act (2005). The penalties for leaving a child unattended in a car in Victoria include:
  • A fine (currently $3,690), or;
  • A maximum of 6 months jail
It is crazy to think that the Police should be patrolling a car park or checking parked cars just to make sure that a negligent parent hasn’t left a child in the car!

It is such as dangerous thing to do and I cannot fathom how parents can’t see that they are endangering their child if only for a moment while they go to the bottle shop or pay for the petrol.

One moment is as bad as one hour and each case of a child left unattended in a car is tragic with the potential for an even more tragic and deadly outcome.

Winter car seat saftey

Do you sometimes have your baby snug as a bug wrapped up in winter wear, in perhaps a jacket, and then pop them into their car seat?

This is potentially a very dangerous thing to do.

Safety advocates warn that winter coats along with sleeping bags, wrapping in blankets, snow suits, head & body inserts and buntings are not safe to use. They could literally mean the difference between life and death in an accident.

Whilst we are conscious of keeping our baby warm and cozy in the cold winter months it is important to be aware of the dangers.

So what is the issue?
A jacket or thick layering can make all the difference to the overall safety (and effectiveness) of the car seat and ultimately impact on the safety of your child within that seat. In the event of an accident the child is not restrained correctly and dire consequences could occur. Additionally the car seat manufacturer is not at fault in this instance and the warranty is voided.

Using a winter jacket, or something similar such as wrapping or swaddling them in their car seat compromises their safety. In order for the seat to work and protect your child the straps need to be secured and remain tight against the child. Bulky winter coats can pose a serious threat when worn under the straps of car seats including booster seats, by creating too much space in between your child’s body and the harness itself.

There is a real chance that in the event of an accident a child can be ejected from their car seat!
Additionally, there is a real chance that your child may overheat if wearing one whilst in their car seat.

How to keep your baby/child warm without using a coat?
It is possible to keep your baby/child warm without using the coat in their car seat. The goal is to have your child comfortable….not too hot and certainly not too cold.

It is recommended to ensure that nothing alters the way a child interacts with a car seat. Nothing should come between a child and the car seat straps. This is applicable for all seats including booster seats. Basically if your baby’s back is resting directly onto the car seat then it is a safe option such as the following suggestions.

Dress them warmly. You can layer their clothes which allows them to be warm. 2- 4 layers depending on the weather is sufficient. Once your child is buckled into their seat, cover them with a light blanket tucked around the sides. Make sure nothing is behind your baby’s back! If you feel they may still not be worm enough you can add another heavier blanket over the top, again ensuring it is not behind their back as this can act as a catapult in the event of an accident.

If it is really cold then whenever it is feasible warm the car before putting the baby in their seat.

Some companies have developed car seat covers. these are designed specifically to fit over the whole seat once the baby is in it and they have a peep-hole so that baby’s face remains uncovered.

Another option is to use the coat that they will wear once they are out of the car seat and once they are harnessed in to the seat place the child’s coat on backwards over their arms. This will keep them warm without compromising safety.

It is safe to swaddle your baby over the harness. Never swaddle under the straps. There are specific swaddling products able to be purchased that are designed specially for the car seat and are considered safe to use as they are not behind the baby.

How do I know that my child is strapped in correctly in their winter clothing?
The best way to see is by using what is called the Pinch test. This is where with your thumb and your index finger, pinch the harness near the child’s collar bone. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing when you pinch the strap, the harness is considered snug enough.

Guest blog: How to choose the best app for your kids

There’s no doubt that the Internet is a popular pastime for many of today’s youth. In fact, a report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that while the internet is first seen as a ‘filler’ activity, children rapidly begin to see it as an activity in its own right - and years of reaching for it as a solution when they’re bored encourage them to continue doing that as they grow older.

The criteria of a good app:

There are so many applications today that attempting to strictly define all of them is pointless. However, we can establish a set of guidelines you can use when examining the app and its capabilities.

Privacy:
Many of today’s young children do not understand their ‘digital footprint’ - the permanent mark they leave on the internet as they continue to interact with it. Over time, this footprint grows and serves to act as a picture of who they are.

Fortunately, it is possible to curb the growth of this footprint by examining the privacy settings of the app. If your children are on a social network, you should be able to restrict who can view their profile - while non-social apps (such as single-player games) shouldn’t be asking for any personal identification. All apps are required to clearly state what information they request from the device, and you should carefully review this prior to downloading it.

Development: 
Children of different ages can benefit most from different kinds of apps. Prior to becoming teens, children should have their use of electronic devices strictly regulated, and they should not be encouraged as an instant solution to boredom - that can lead to smartphone addiction.

Instead, focus on educational apps and teaching games that can help your child build the skills they need later in life.

Once your child grows older - they’ll probably start wanting to get onto Facebook at twelve or thirteen years old, for example - talk to them about the apps they want access to and make it clear that you have to give permission for each one.

There’s a good chance that they’ll want to get any given app “because my friends have it” - which is fair enough, but you’ll want to make sure that they won’t have easy access to content they shouldn’t be seeing.

Contact Risk: 
‘Contact Risk’ is the potential for kids to be contacted by strangers through a social network. Now, as frightening as this may sound at first, it’s not always malicious - in many cases, it’s just marketing efforts by companies who may not even realize they’re talking to a child, and they’re not going to push the issue if contact is rejected.

However, people do use social media and apps as a way of trying to contact children - mostly, but not always, older kids - and form a relationship with them. This is a critical point to understand. Many potential predators are not planning to stalk and ambush children. Instead, they focus on becoming the child’s friend and gradually developing a willing relationship. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to any strangers that your child seems particularly interested in chatting with.

In summary:

The ideal app for your child has:
     Some kind of social or educational value
     Ways of controlling privacy and blocking unwanted contact
     Methods for monitoring the content posted

If the app in question doesn’t meet your criteria for all three of these, your child probably shouldn’t be using it - and while they may be upset at first, chances are they’ll understand if you explain it and ask them to find a better app that does meet your criteria. You might be surprised at what they’ll come up with!
Written by: Amy Williams