Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tips For Kids Going Off To College

(StatePoint) For many college-bound teens, preparing for the start of the semester can be chaotic. Buying textbooks and necessities, socializing and staying healthy at college can be stressful for many students. 

And unfortunately, there's no manual. But here are some helpful tips for kids heading off to college:

* Buy Used Books When Possible: The average student spends $700 on textbooks yearly, but used books from the college bookstore can save you 25 percent. Plus, it's easier to return books to the campus store than to another retailer or Web site. This comes in handy should you drop a class.

"College stores strive to provide as many used textbooks as possible and to make course materials as affordable as possible, but they often sell out quickly," says Charles Schmidt, spokesman for the National Association of College Stores. "Shop the store early or buy directly from its Web site to take advantage of your college's book sales."

* Consider Renting Books or Electronic Texts: More college stores are offering these options, and rentals can give students temporary access to course materials for about one-third to half the price of buying new texts.

* Connect Online: Thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter, college-bound students can now meet roommates before orientation and figure out who's bringing what for their dorm room. 

Students also may be able to virtually meet professors and upperclassman by connecting to the college's social networking sites. Many college bookstores maintain their own Facebook page or Twitter feed, so check them out for money-saving deals.

* Eat Well, Stay Healthy: For many college freshmen, the first time away from home means ice cream before dinner. While, there's no crime in that, a balanced meal helps keep off the dreaded "Freshman 15." Intramural sports also are great for staying fit while socializing.

* Buy Local and Make Friends: While it's tempting to buy books, dorm supplies and electronics from the Internet, this can prove more expensive (especially when you add shipping). Buying locally usually is cheaper and can help new students become acquainted with their new home. In fact, college stores nationwide employ approximately 30,000 students, making them great places to meet peers or get advice from upperclassmen who know the professors. 

You also can be sure you're getting all needed course materials in one place and are taking advantage of local discounts.

* Get What's Coming to You: Students should keep receipts and be aware of tax credits they can get for academic-related expenses.

"Textbooks, as well as tuition and fees not covered by scholarships or grants, can be claimed as a tax credit of up to $2,500 on that year's tax return under the American Opportunity Tax Credit," says Schmidt. 

For details on applying for the tax credit, visit

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Atlanta Families Get Up and Get Playing at Wii Games: Summer 2010 Competition

Six Flags Over Georgia
275 Riverside Parkway
Austell, GA 30168

Fridays through Aug. 13: noon-4 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 15: noon-8 p.m.

Nintendo is hosting a series of special interactive events at Six Flags Over Georgia as part of “Wii Games: Summer 2010,” the first-ever nationwide Wii™ video game tournament. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 15, people of all ages are invited to get off the couch and on their feet for a chance to win great prizes while having fun playing Nintendo’s motion-control video games.

Similar Wii Games: Summer 2010 events are being held throughout the summer at select shopping malls and other Six Flags theme parks across the country. Qualifying winners will win a trip to Los Angeles to compete in the Wii Games: Summer 2010 national championship in September. Full details, rules and regulations can be found at

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Put your cell phone away and keep your hands on the wheel

(ARA) - It's the new drinking and driving -- and for good reason. As Americans become more addicted to their cell phones, BlackBerry devices and other PDAs, lawmakers throughout the nation are taking action in the wake of a disturbing national trend linking cell phone use with car crashes.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) reports the use of cell phones and other mobile devices now accounts for 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes. Research shows that driving while talking, texting or e-mailing with a cell phone or PDA can pose a serious distraction and interfere with driving a motor vehicle.

As a result of the growing number of cell phone-related car accidents, more states are pushing for legislation to ban cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, according to, the Internet's leading Web site for legal information. States that have banned the handheld use of cell phones by drivers include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington as well as the District of Columbia.

The facts are especially alarming for teenagers, for whom driving-related incidents are the leading cause of death. According to an NHTSA report, more than 50 percent of teens admit to talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. At least 20 states, including Texas, currently ban any kind of cell phone use by teenage drivers, says

Because of the alarming trend linking cell phone use and driving, the National Safety Council has gone even further by calling for a complete ban on the use of all cell phones, including "hands-free" devices, for drivers nationwide.

Any activity a driver engages in while driving has the potential to distract the motorist from the primary task of operating the vehicle. A distraction is defined by any event or action that takes your eyes off the road (visual), mind off the road (cognitive), or takes your hands off the steering wheel (manual). Some research findings compare cell phone use to other activities such as passenger conversations or changing a CD while driving.

For example, studies have shown that cell phone use compared to carrying on a conversation with a passenger can be equally risky, while other studies show cell phone use to be more risky. The difference between the two is a passenger can monitor the driving situation along with the driver and pause for, or alert the driver to, potential hazards, whereas a person on the other end of the phone line is unaware of the roadway situation.

But what if a driver encounters an emergency situation or witnesses another driver's erratic driving? As a general rule, if you are in your car and witness a car accident or another emergency, pull your vehicle over to a safe location and call 911.

However, in emergency situations drivers must use their judgment regarding the urgency of the situation and the necessity to use a cell phone while driving. The key here is to avoid creating another emergency because you're using your cell phone.

In addition to using a cell phone, there are many other distractions that can increase the risk of losing control of your vehicle, according to Some activities that appear to be "hands free," such as looking at a GPS map screen, can be just as distracting as navigating a car while eating a hamburger. According to a study by the NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve some form of driver distraction.

The study further concluded that the typical distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash. The bottom line is that drivers who engage more frequently in distracted driving are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident or near crash. Some common distractions that should be avoided include:

* Eating while driving, including unwrapping food products.
* Changing a CD or adjusting the radio.
* Applying make-up.
* Settling a dispute between children.
* Controlling a loose pet.
* Reading a print map or watching a GPS map screen while driving.
* Looking at an object or event outside of your car, like another accident.

It is also important to keep in mind that some activities are carried out more frequently and for longer periods of time and may result in greater risk. The primary responsibility of the driver is to operate a motor vehicle safely. The task of driving requires full attention and focus. Cell phone use can distract drivers from this task, risking harm to themselves and others. Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.

To learn more about cell phone use and driving laws, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Time For Those Back-To-School Vaccinations

(StatePoint) As the school year begins, pediatricians' offices swell with children and conscientious parents making sure their kids get back-to-school vaccinations.

Getting your children vaccinated and making sure their shots are up-to-date will protect them for a lifetime, urge medical experts.

"Vaccinations are important public health measures that prevent the spread of deadly infectious diseases like meningitis, measles, and polio," says Judith S. Palfrey, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "Studies show modern vaccines are safe and effective." 

This year alone, vaccines will prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million infections. 

In fact, viruses and bacteria that cause diseases like whooping cough, chickenpox and meningitis still exist in this country, and travelers can easily bring other diseases here. Without vaccinations, infections like measles could quickly spread, causing a nationwide outbreak. 

Several states currently are experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough, a disease particularly dangerous for infants, and several children have died. And certain parts of the world have seen a resurgence of polio, which could infect unimmunized children who come into contact with travelers from those areas.

"Unimmunized children are at risk of getting sick and dying of preventable illnesses," Palfrey says. "For example, before the 1980s, there were about 20,000 cases a year of Hib disease, a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal. Now that we have a Hib vaccine, the number of cases a year in the United States has dropped to fewer than 100. However, the bacteria that causes Hib disease still exists, which is why children need the vaccine."

The best way to protect children from these diseases is by following the recommended immunization schedule, say the experts at the AAP. The immunization schedule is designed to work best with a child's immune system -- at certain ages and at specific times, when he or she is most vulnerable to serious complications from an infection. If a vaccine requires a second or third dose, they need to be given within a certain time frame or the vaccine will not fully protect your child.

And while most infections are far more harmful to infants, adolescents and adults need to make sure their records are up-to-date, as well. When an entire community is vaccinated, it protects those who are most vulnerable, including people with weakened immune systems and children who are too young to be vaccinated. 

For example, infants are not fully protected against whooping cough (pertussis) until their third dose of vaccine at 6 months of age. That's why it's important that parents, older siblings and other family members get the vaccine to provide a "cocoon" of protection around the new baby. 

The AAP also recommends every child between 6 months and 18 years gets an annual flu vaccine.

For more information about immunizations and what vaccines your child might need, see your pediatrician, or visit

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unique And Affordable School Supplies Under $10

(StatePoint)  Getting the supplies kids need for school, particularly ones they think are cool, can seriously strain your budget. And once they get those supplies into the classroom, it's easy for kids to misplace them or bring home the wrong ones since so many notebooks and folders look alike.

That's why personalized school supplies that can be purchased for less than $10 are gaining popularity with both parents and children. Each item is unique, appealing to kids' burgeoning sense of independence and reflecting each child's sense of style.

"This season, customized stationery products created with digital photos are extremely popular and can be easily made for under $10," says Rick Bellamy, CEO of RPI, which handles the manufacturing and fulfillment for consumer print-on-demand products for many leading photo sharing Web sites and retail stores.

There are many options available for these unique and affordable supplies:

* Personalize Notebooks: Create one-of-a-kind notebooks and notepads for students by putting a favorite photo on the cover. It can be a picture of anything -- a family vacation snapshot or a photo of a favorite pet. And who knows? Your kids just might be more inspired to look inside the books if they like the covers. 

You can create personalized notebooks at online sites such as Snapfish by HP ( or at stores like, which offer notebooks and notepads for $5.99 to $9.99 that can be filled with lined, blank or day planner pages.

* Customize Calendars: If your kids aren't day planner types, get them customized academic calendars with photos of friends or favorite sports and activities. As an added bonus, you can pre-mark dates for birthdays and other significant events to make sure they don't forget. Customized academic and wall calendars are available at Costco ( for $9.99.

* Stick It: Kids who are having trouble transitioning to school might enjoy sticking photos of themselves or their friends on their belongings. This is an appealing alternative to writing your child's name in permanent marker on everything from lunch containers to backpacks. Photo stickers are available in sheets of 20 at such stores as Walmart Photo Center or for only $2.99.

* Customized Locker Decor: Encourage self-expression by making a photo poster for your child's room or locker, available at Walmart Photo Center starting at $7.00. For college-bound teens, large posters make great dorm room decor and give them a taste of home while they're away at school. 

Of course, customized photo products aren't limited to kid-oriented items. You might want to consider turning those first-day-of-school photos into a photo book for grandparents who miss their summer babysitting duties. School can be hard on them, too!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tips to get a leg up on back-to-school shoe shopping

(ARA) - She lived in sandals all summer long and he barely took his cleats off, even to go to bed. Summer fun and casual style may leave your kids facing back-to-school season in serious need of some new shoes.

"Notebooks, pens and new clothes aren't the only fresh supplies children need when heading back to school. Quality shoes that provide the support growing feet need are among the most important purchases on any back-to-school shopping list," says Dr. Kathleen Stone, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

While your kids will certainly have something to say about the style of shoes they want, back-to-school shoe shopping isn't child's play. Parents should consider several important factors before buying new shoes for their children, the APMA advises.

* Take your child shoe shopping with you, rather than buying something without your child present. Every shoe fits differently and buying something in your child's size doesn't necessarily ensure a proper, comfortable fit. Measure your child's feet (both of them, since feet are rarely exactly the same size) and have her try the shoes on. Plus, letting a child have a say in the shoe-buying process can help ensure she adopts healthy foot habits later in life. Children's foot health is as important as adult foot health.

* Feet swell later in the day, so it's best to try on shoes later in the day when feet are their largest.

* When evaluating a shoe, look for a stiff heel. Press on both sides of the heel counter to measure for stiffness; it shouldn't collapse. The shoe should bend with your child's toes. It shouldn't be too stiff or bend too much in the toe box area. It should also be rigid, and should never twist in the middle.

* Don't rely on last year's shoes. Children's feet grow like the rest of their bodies. Shoe and sock sizes may change every few months as their feet grow. Even if last season's shoes are in good condition, they likely won't fit properly after several months of your child's feet growing.

* Never hand down footwear. A used shoe may be the right size for your child, but still might not fit comfortably, especially if it's seen a lot of wear and tear. Just because the shoe fit one child comfortably, doesn't mean it will fit another the same way. Also, sharing shoes can spread foot fungi like athlete's foot and nail fungus.

* Buy for the larger foot. Mismatched feet are more common than not. Measure your child's feet to see which is larger and select shoes that best fit the larger foot.

* Choose shoes that are comfortable right away. Avoid shoes that need a "break-in" period. And be sure your child tries shoes on while wearing the type of socks he'll be wearing with the shoes on a regular basis.

"Healthy feet and comfortable shoes play important roles in children's overall health," Stone says. "Parents should monitor their children's foot health and seek the advice of a podiatrist if they notice a problem. Podiatrists are specially trained to diagnose and treat ailments of the foot and ankles in people of all ages." You can find a podiatrist at the APMA's website,

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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