Big News On My Rheumatoid Arthritis

I don’t make a big deal about having rheumatoid arthritis. I written the odd blog post and mention is now again again but other than that I leave it as one of those parts of me I’m comfortable with and happy to leave in the background. Until now…

You see it’s just over two years now since I was diagnosed and started taking a drug call methotrexate on a weekly basis. Just so you know here’s a run down of side effects I’ve borrowed from WebMD:

  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, drowsiness, or dizziness may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
  • Temporary hair loss may occur. Normal hair growth should return after treatment has ended.
  • Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
  • Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: mouth sores, diarrhea, signs of anemia (such as unusual tiredness, pale skin), signs of liver problems (such as dark urine, persistent nausea/vomiting, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin), easy bruising/bleeding, black stools, enlarged glands/lymph nodes, bone pain, unusual pain and discoloration of the skin, signs of kidney problems (such as change in the amount of urine), dry cough, muscle weakness.
  • Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: weakness on one side of the body, neck stiffness, severe headache, vision changes, irregular heartbeat, mental/mood changes, seizures.
  • This medication may lower your ability to fight infections. This may make you more likely to get a serious (rarely fatal) infection or make any infection you have worse. Tell your doctor right away if you have any signs of infection (such as fever, chills, persistent sore throat, cough).
  • This medication can affect sperm production, an effect that may lower male fertility. Consult your doctor for more details.
  • A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
  • This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

So as you can see the drug that is actually keeping me pretty damn healthy has some potential nasty shizzle up it’s sleeve for me. In addition to all that I have monthly blood test to monitor me because I take this drug, and one such reason is that it is processed by the liver and they’re check for damage (more on that later).

A few months after I started taking it my dose was increased, not because my symptoms worsened but because I’d not had any nasty reaction. Questionable log if you ask me but I trust the doctors to make the calls. However things did change.

I take methotrexate once a week on a Tuesday evening and by Wednesday evening my appetite is shocking. No longer can I stomach past on a Wednesday or many other foods I’ll happily eat – instead I need basic food, something like burgers and chips will do very nicely. But, I’ve also noticed other appetite changes such as not eating as much I used to and going completely off certain foods – usually meals made from jarred sauces.

My mood was different on a Wednesday too. I am much shorted tempered than usual and can be a real moody b*stard as well. I can see myself being like that as if I’m watching a soap opera but can’t stop it.

By Thursday I’m back to normal again, until the next week.

I was seen a lot during that first year as took part in a study of patients taking methotrexate for RA. But since then I’ve see my consultant just twice. Last April I saw a locum consultant who took just five minutes to check my joints and ask how I was and upped my folic acid medication to every day (except methotrexate day). Folic acid is taken to counteract some of the side effects of methotrexate and I had complained about my appetite changes.

My latest visit to the consultant was last week. I was back to seeing my regular doctor but as this was only the second time I’d seen her it hardly that regular. She spent a little longer with me as we discussed how I was. Physically I am great and the RA is being kept well at bay, the issue with the methotrexate is another thing. I talked about my appetite again and the moodiness and she decided to reduce my weekly dosage to the level I started with, seeing as I was doing well.

Something else came up though that startled me. My GP had written to her to advise that my liver function test levels were raised, but she said that it was nothing to cause concern. I was a bit worried by this, I’d been recalled by the GP for retests when my white cell count was low (methotrexate is an immune system suppressant so not great surprise there) but they’d never mentioned the liver function. Although drinking in moderation is fine on methotrexate I’d cut down my low alcohol consumption to something that wasn’t even worth mentioning. Now I’ve decided not to drink at all because if my liver is being damaged by the drugs I aren’t about to do anything to make it worse. Oh, and I’m phoning the GP to find out why they chose not to tell me!

So all in the big new is the fact they’ve reduced my medication which I am hoping will have good effect on my general mood. But on the flip side my liver might just be starting to show signs of unrest! I’ll just keep going and keep fit and healthy.

If you suffer with rheumatoid arthritis I’d love to here your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

The UKs Weird Child Car Seat Laws

We had revelation recently. Delilah, who is tall, is 9 years old and has been on a back-less car booster seat for a while. But a revelation came when she sat in the middle seat (i.e. directly in the sight line of my rear view mirror) recently and I realised she was very high up. I wondered – is she now too tall for a booster?

I checked on the UK government website for the laws on such things and read the following:

Children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first.

Children over 12 or more than 135cm tall must wear a seat belt.

You can choose a child car seat based on your child’s height or weight.

So out came the tape measure…

She was 145 (and a bit) cm tall – a whopping 10cm above the limit. She is no longer require to use a booster. A milestone reached, a sad day even.

But I’m not here to dwell on the sentimentality of my daughter reaching this milestone. No, I want to question the law itself.

One would presume that the specification for the 135cm limit were born out of some sort of scientific testing. Physicists, biomechanics or some such experts  somewhere working out the optimum for the safety of children in car seats. But to then add the age limit too completely negates the height limit – doesn’t it?

What about a small 12 year old – one that is far shorter than 135cm tall? They are out there, my 13 year old daughter had a friend who is much shorter than that. It happens, there’s nothing wrong with being short at all. But, for example, if a child of 11 years and 364 days is under 135cm then how can that same child suddenly be ok the day after on their 12th birthday?

Is it just me or is this law just a little crazy?

I’d much prefer a law based solely on the science and safety rather than bringing age into it. Yes, some short 12 year olds would think their street cred was being damaged by having to use a booster, but what’s worse – damaged ego or damage body?

Thanks for reading and I’d appreciate your comments.

 

A Parents View On The Sugar Tax

Back in March 2016 the then chancellor, George Osborne, announced the introduction of the sugar tax. This was the UK governments attempt at tackling the rising obesity among children in the UK. It comes into force in April this year.

I recently posted a piece related to this when the makers of Irn-Bru announced they were reducing the sugar in their product so you might want to check out Why I Won’t Stop My Kids Drinking Sugary Drinks before reading this post.

As I said in the above post I believe that people should be able to manage their own diets, therefore their intake of sugar, and that maybe the issue is a lack of education on proper nutrition and sugar. Penalising those that do regulate their intake with higher prices because of the few that are idiots about hardly seems fair.

But the sugar tax itself confuses me. Why are they introducing it? To tackle rising obesity amongst children they say. How? So I’m thinking that the tax will increase the price thus people will buy less and thus consume less suagary drinks. But apparently the expected revenue it will bring in, £520 million each year, is to be spent in primary school sport. Drink with over 5g of sugar per 100ml will have an 18 pence per litre tax and 8g of sugar per 100ml will incur a 25 pence per litre charge.

What exactly does this fix? Improving sports in primary schools is a great idea and I fully support this, but that doesn’t stop kids from drinking sugar filled pop or eating sugar filled foods? Could the money not also be spent in significantly improving food and nutrition education across all school ages? Furthermore, there’s no point educating the children if the parents don’t know as it clear we’ve got a generation of parents with a lack of knowledge. If we’re going to educate the kids we must educate the parents too.

Simply increasing sporting activity isn’t going to solve child obesity. If anyone thinks that then they are deluded. Forcing a child to take part in sports if they really are the sporting kind could be torture for them – why would they enjoy that? Balance must be taught across activity and diet. Brutal honesty with the kids, shocking photos, and tough words might just hit home. 

Sadly I don’t see this doing any good for child obesity in the UK. I do truly hope I am completely wrong and in 3 or 4 years we look back and say massive improvements have been made. I just can’t see it myself.

What do you think? I’d really love to know the thoughts of fellow parents on this one.

Thanks for reading.

Dads Do Make-up Too

How many Dads are out there that would willingly do their daughters make-up? I suspect not many. Well here’s one dad who has learnt to do it and does do it.

Of course I’m not talking about whacking on the blusher before school everyday like one of our teenage daughters does. No, I am talking about the stage make-up our 7 and 9 years old girls are required to have for the pantomime they are in and also when they do dance competitions (oh and dance school showcase too).

I have to admit to been slightly daunted when I fist had a go and getting those black eye flicks even was (and still is) a great cause of frustration. Applying make-up doesn’t come naturally to me and it’s not something I wear myself. But I have found I actually enjoy it.

Not just satisfied at following stringent instructions from Helen and applying the make-up in a specific order I am actually paying attention to what I am applying. Brands, colours, how good it applied compared to other product. What has happened to me? It’s a bit like the fact I have learnt to do their ballet buns for dance when Helen is not around – again, something I actually enjoy. Doing my daughters’ hair is actually quite a cathartic process for me.

Like anything I do I try to do it to the best of my ability and actively try and get better at it. I Google the heck out of it and YouTube is a great source of tutorials too. I did do a some videos on my YouTube channel about this once too.

This one is when I was first being taught to do the make up.

This one is when I tried to do a tutorial for dads on how to do a ballet bun.

Some come on Dance Dads – let have you stories of doing hair and make-up.

Thanks for reading.

 

A Hard Hitting Lesson in Living

Unless you pay zero attention to social media you can’t fail to be aware of a post by the late Holly Butcher – the 27 year Australian lady that recently passed away having battled cancer. As of writing this her Facebook post has been share almost 150,000 times and with good reason.

The thing is I have been aware of this post for a  week or so now but I’ve avoided reading it. A strange fear of my own mortality came over me and reading a post written by a dying woman seems like I was in some way endangering myself. A totally irrational thought. But today I read it – and boy does it hit hard. But I implore you to read it too. She wrote these words just a day before her death…

Click here to read Holly’s words on her Facebook memorialised page or continue reading below here I have copied her words.

A bit of life advice from Hol:

It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy.. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to it’s inevitability.. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us.. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!

Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively effect other people’s days.

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.

You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.

Let all that shit go.. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.

I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise – Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.

I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body- even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.

Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body.. work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is.. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not.. Be ruthless for your own well-being.

Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is shit but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away.

Whinge less, people! .. And help each other more.

Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; More than I could I ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.

It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end.. when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.

Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewellery for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/ buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.

Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are shit at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate. You will gain respect too! Amen sister.

This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves.. strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. Mind you, it was also easier to do in our house because we had no little kiddies there. Anyway, moral of the story- presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas. Moving on.

Use your money on experiences.. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.

Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.

Get amongst nature.

Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.. enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.

Random rhetorical question. Are those several hours you spend doing your hair and make up each day or to go out for one night really worth it? I’ve never understood this about females 🤔.

Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises.

Listen to music.. really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.

Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.

Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay?

Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.

Work to live, don’t live to work.

Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.

Eat the cake. Zero guilt.

Say no to things you really don’t want to do.

Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life.. you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay.

Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.

Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.

Anyway, that’s just this one young gals life advice. Take it or leave it, I don’t mind!

Oh and one last thing, if you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple.

Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year – a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.

..’Til we meet again.

Hol

Xoxo

Some Films I’d Recommend

I’m hardly Barry Norman and thankfully I’m not Jonathon Ross but I do love a good film. Often my taste in films sits at around the 3 stars out of five mark on IMDB. In fact the running joke with Helen and I is that the worse review a film has the more likely we are going to enjoy it!

This week just gone I’ve watched quite a few films, once I’ve seen many times before and the rest were new to me. So, I thought I’d give each of them a write up from my perspective.

First up we’ll start with an old classic…

The Battle Of Britain

With names such as Laurence Olivier and Michael Cane starring in this wartime epic it couldn’t fail to be an enjoyable watch. Even though it was made in 1968 I can’t fault this film at all in terms of the manner is depicts a a point in the war when Britain was arguably at it’s weakest point. The bravery of our young fighter pilots is dramatically told without too much in the way of side story to distract from a visually compelling tale.

Of course watching this film is almost like watching a documentary, given the quality of the action footage and the fact we all know the outcome there is never a sense of uncertainty of the end result of the film. That said, for me there is never a moment when my interest wavered either.

I do love this film. Maybe it’s because I had  a granddad in the war who never liked to talk about it. He was a tank driver not a pilot but still I feel films like this fill in the gaps from those of us who had grandparents who didn’t like to talk about their awful experiences of war.

My verdict: 5/5

The Siege of Jadotville

A Netflix original and a film I’d never heard of. It came up on the recommended list after I’d watched The Battle of Britain and from the photo was clearly a war film. I was feeling pretty rubbish on a Sunday night so I started watching.

Basically it’s the telling of a true story of an Irish army regiment is the first ever UN peace keeping force sent out. They went to the Congo and were charge with protecting Jadotville. The actual story was buried by the Irish for decades after the vent of 1961 until the story was told in a book. This film tells that same story.

I wont’ give too much away and of course you can Google the actual historical events that the film depicts clearly. I urge you to watch first though and there are moment of complete disbelief at what went on and how the brave Irish soldiers were treated.

Well worth a watch.

My verdict: 4.5/5

Sand Castle

Another war film. I see a trend here. I was off work sick and took once again to Netflix and once again a Netflix original. This time set during the Iraq war and centred around an American reservist, who only signed up to make money for college, who was sent out there on a tour.

The lead role is played by Nicholas Hoult, a British actor who you may remember as far back as being the boy in About A Boy with Hugh Grant. It’s rather refreshing to have a leading role played by a Brit taking on an American character.

Essentially the story centres on him; from his really not wanting to be there and trying his best to get sent home to the action they get involved with an a fight over water. Having seen enough Iraq and Afghan war documentaries over the years it does a pretty good job of telling the story.

It lacks a little polish for me. It drags in places and doesn’t quite entertain as a film like this should. There is action, but limited and the quieter moments are forgettable rather than drawing you into the story.

A good effort and probably worth a watch if you like this kind of film but not one I’d likely watch again.

My verdict: 3/5

The Polka King

Yet another Netflix original and another true story. This one stars the brilliant Jack Black playing the part of Jan Lewan the Polish immigrant Pennsylvanian polka phenomenon.

The story centres on the polka activities of Lewan and the fact he fleeced millions of dollars from investors via a ponzi scheme. If you research the guy you realise just how much he took from people and the film somehow make you feel sorry for him. The sense is that he got into this by accident and it snowballed, then it just kept going until finally the authorities caught up with him and he was sent to prison.

For me it’s not one of Jack Black’s finest films. It’s mildly entertaining but more from the aspect you want to find out what happened to Lewan. The trailer hooked us in on this but in reality the film failed to meet expectations.

My verdict: 2.5/5

Thanks for reading and do let me know what you think of these films and any other you think I should check out.

Running Diary 2018 – Week 2

Distance this week: 0km
Number of runs this week: 0
Distance to goal: 1988.9km

I pretty much want to forget this week in terms of my physical activity! It’s a write-off and nothing more. That said it has allowed me some vital rest time.

The fact is I got ill – a virus. I knew I would, it’s that time of year and with my suppressed immune system living with another five people – two of which had been ill – meant it was inevitable. It was bad enough to warrant me not going into work on Monday and staying in bed.

Even now, a week later, I can feel the effects with head cold symptoms still persisting. And at the weekend a little running around with the little ‘un was enough to leave my chest burning with annoyance at me for daring to raise my heart rate.

But I have to be thankful I can run. Having rheumatoid arthritis means I take each day as it comes and run if I can. I am yet to have a flare up in the two years since I was diagnosed and started treatment so I am lucky. And last week I had my annual rheumatologist check-up at the hospital which went really well and I came away with a reduction in my weekly medication.

I did get out for a good walk with the dogs on Sunday into the fields and by the river. It was nice to be out in the fresh air and the brisk walk was just what I needed. The dogs enjoyed it too – better than the laps around the streets of town.

So whilst my running week was not one for the history books it was a week of rest and reflection. I am looking forwards and not back and I am determined to improve my fitness.

Happy Anniversary

Today we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and next month marks 20 years since we first met and got together.

I say “celebrate” in a loose way because the truth is that we don’t really have time to celebrate as such. You see Helen is working, the young girls have dance all morning and a pantomime performance in the afternoon and by the time the evening comes we’ll both be knackered! Oh the life of parents eh. The other reason is that we are trying to cut down on spending as we’re paying for and saving for our holiday later this year (our first trip abroad with them all). Sacrifices must be made.

However, we relaxed our “no wasting money on take-aways” rule and got a lovely curry in. And of course we exchanged card and I bought flowers.

Helen and I not long after got together back in ’98

It’s not that the romance is dead, it’s just the life of super busy working parents. We both know that this time of year is crazy busy for us (see a previous post Dealing With It All) so we have to make some compromises. Compromises like the fact that our weekend away for our 10th anniversary last year was taken 9 months later!)

So I just wanted to dedicate a post here on the blog to my wife Helen…

Eleven years has flown by,
A sign of fun along the way.
I loved you then, I love you now,
And until my dying day.

Thanks for reading.

When Speeding Isn’t Speeding

Last year, after being a licensed driver for 20 years, I was caught speeding by a mobile speed camera. When the letter from the Police traffic bureau arrived I knew it straight away – I remember the day clearly.

I was on the way home from Park Run with the older two girls. We were happy, singing along to the radio and laughing. I don’t make a habit of speeding, in fact I make every effort not to speed. But, a lapse in concentration when moving from the 40 to the 30 mph zone had me trapped. I knew as soon as I saw the Police van ahead that I have been caught and waited for the inevitable arrival in the post.

There were no complaints from me – I had been caught and that was that. I was offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course rather that pay a find a receive points on my license – I took that option. Of course you pay for this course and the fee is almost the same as the fine itself. I noted that in the letter from the traffic bureau that they listed a matrix of speed limit violations as to when a speed awareness course would be offered. Here is that matrix as I also found it on their website too.

Source: https://northyorkshire.police.uk/what-we-do/road-policing/speed-awareness-course/

I had been clocked at 36 mph in a 30 zone, I could have done 42 mph in that same zone and still been offered the speed awareness course. This does show though that I could have been doing 34 mph and not received any action against yet at that speed I would still have been over the well 10%  buffer  – but this buffer is actually a myth. But, on 1st April 2017 new speeding laws came into force where there are now 3 bands for the severity of the offence:

  • A: 1-10 mp in excess
  • B: 11-20mph in excess
  • C: 21mph and over in excess

Each one carries a fine now linked to your weekly income.

But does the fact that the police matrix on when a speed awareness course is offered not contradict this? Could I do 33 mph in  30 zone, 3 mph over the limit, and not have action taken?

Recently a local police Twitter account tweeted this:

This got me thinking. When the police are out educating why are those people let off with a talking to? I had to pay for a course (or have accepted points and a fine) yet some people are getting this treatment? So I decided to query this with them.

They duly replied with this succinct response:

This is kind of stating the obvious really, isn’t it? After all they said in they were doing “speed education”. So, I then followed up with a further couple of questions:

I think the idea of speed education is great and for what it’s worth I enjoyed the speed awareness course I did. Actually, that course is something I think all drivers should do. But the point I am trying to make is that we have a system that has police operatives out with cameras catching and reporting speeding drivers and police officers out catching and educating speeding drivers. Who decides who gets a let off? What are the parameters the police work to for letting speeders off with a telling off, sorry educating chat?

I started writing this post a few days ago and up to publishing this article I have received no further response from the @RyedalePolice Twitter account, possibly because they are too busy or possibly because they saw coming the fact that they let people off when caught speeding whilst others are not. I’ve still not had a response so I’m publishing this now but will come back and follow it up if they ever bother to update me.

If anyone out there knows more about this than I do please do comment below.

Thanks for reading.

Why Are Teenagers Committing Suicide Over On-Line Bullying

Today logged on to Twitter for my morning peruse on the view of the world through the eyes of those that tweet about it. It was the usual mix of news,sport, satire and happy clapper celebrities with their shameless self promotion. Then I came across this from Jeremy Vine:

Initially I didn’t know who Dolly was but clicking on the hashtag soon brought me this this BBC news story – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-42631208#_=_. It made me shudder. I shed a tear and it brutally brough home to me how vulnerable my own 14 and 13 year old daughters actually are.

I re-tweeted Mr Vine’s tweet adding my own thoughts:

I got a bit of a surprise when Mr Vine re-tweeted my re-tweet of his original tweet (you may want to read that twice!). My phone started lighting up like Christmas tree with notifications. People who follow him liking and further re-tweeting my re-tweet. It was then I realised this subject really has struck a nerve.

When I was at school I suffered some low level bullying. Nothing that ever went too far (unless you count the “boxing match” I was persuaded to get into where I got walloped in front of an amused crowd) but sometimes enough to mean I was grateful to reach to sanctuary of home in the afternoon after school. 

Teenagers today, or rather those using social media (which is most of them), no longer have that sanctuary. They are still connected to all those people they left behind at school or on the school bus. They don’t have that escape. They could turn their phones off, but then they have to use the computer for homework, the temptation to check in on social media is there. Or emails, yes they are still a thing to teenagers!

When our eldest was born I was 23 and it was 2003. Social media wasn’t really on my radar although I think I was aware of MSN Messenger which essentially was an early form of social media. My research tells me that there was a a social media platform called Hi5, launched that year, but some 15 years later I’ve never heard of it! I had been working in IT for 3 years when she was born and the internet for me was for email and a source of information when asking Jeeves was still acceptable. I did use Friends Reunited, and of course looking back this was an early form of social media. It wasn’t until 2007 did I join Facebook. Going back further still though I didn’t experience the Internet at all until I was 16 and started work and it was a while later before I got it at home.

My point being is that I, nor my wife, didn’t go through our teenage years with social media and all the negativity it can bring. There is no doubt that social media is a good thing and has positive sides (where else would I get my daily dose of cat videos?) such as keeping up with family and friends for example. But everything has a dark side; social media platforms are like cities and all cities have really nice areas and really shitty ones, they have really nice friendly people and those that you’d just rather not share oxygen with.

Our teenage girls weren’t allowed the platforms they are on until they reached the age requirement of 13. That’s a start as far too many parent’s allow their kids to sign up using a false date of birth and I know of 9/10 years old on Facebook and Instagram – that’s wrong, totally wrong. They also know they are only allowed to use it on the proviso we as parent’s have access to their accounts and police it – how many parents do that? I recently saw a post on Facebook (oh the irony) from a friend who was saying happy birthday to his teenage son (he was 13 – the age requirement for Facebook) and he stated he didn’t know which one of his sons Facebook accounts was in use – the one that says he is 18 or the one that says he is 23! Shocking!

But of course social media has long arms. You might not realise that YouTube is essentially a form of social media with comments and messaging. My girls watch vlogs, and I take not of what they’re watching and check on that. Just last week we had a YouTube celebrity post a video of him discovering the body of a suicide victim in Japan – he actually posted that on YouTube. Kids are watching this shit you know! That channel is banned in our house now but realistically can we police everything they could see?

But what can we do about it? If social media platforms increase the age requirements people will just keep faking their date of birth. Limit it to 18 and verify age with a debit or credit card? Maybe, but I really can’t see that happening this side of never. I have no solutions to offer other than if parent’s are going to allow their children on social media then you must police it, you must monitor it, you must talk to you children about it and you must ensure they are safe. If you are not prepared to do all of that then don’t let them have it – it’s that simple. And, the moment you sniff that something is wrong take it away. Don’t be afraid to do that at all. 

Statistics of where cyber bullying takes place

I’m focusing on social media but of course cyber-bullying isn’t limited to that. There is text and other instant messaging apps and gaming of course. It’s everywhere and unavoidable unless you cut yourself off completely.

Teenagers, or children, and social media will forever be a talking point and one that will constantly raise issues. What’s your view? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll leave you with this infographic that summerises what we need to get into our kids heads when it comes to social media.

Thanks for reading.