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Parenting  Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007
Fear of Flying

I'm flying cross-country tomorrow with my two preschoolers. And I can only hope my kids don't break down like 3-year-old Elly from Massachusetts.

In short, Elly and her parents were thrown off an AirTran flight from Florida to Boston because Elly was throwing a fit. An AirTran supervisor then lectured Elly's parents on how to discipline their child. (Rule No. 1, AirTran: NEVER try to tell a parent how to handle their child.)

So, what can we do to try to avoid meltdowns, particularly on long trips? One method mentioned on several air travel Web sites is to tire toddlers out before they get on board. We used to do this by having our crawling boys chase rolling tennis balls around a quiet area in the terminal. Many airports now have play areas specifically designed for families with small children.

For preschool-aged kids and older, try packing a travel knapsack. Fill it with compact travel activities and some surprise toys that the kids haven't seen before. If you have more than one child, consider packing more than one knapsack -- that should cut down on the fighting. And definitely make sure to have snacks, drinks and gum on hand. Some other worthwhile advice from FamilyFun.com: Give toys by the hour, try to sit in a row with an empty seat and bring a map with fun state facts to track the trip.

And for any of you who travel internationally with your kids, you now have one more item to pack. New Department of Homeland Security regulations that took effect yesterday now require you to have a passport or other approved identification for all of your children.

MySpace Continues to Bulk Up Safety Features

MySpace appears to be on a mission to get in parents' good graces. According to Forbes, the social networking site's latest additions are that it now "requires all users to register with valid e-mail addresses. New users will have to confirm their addresses via e-mail. Those older than 18 will also be blocked from contacting younger users, a program that was previously available only for users under 16." Yesterday, the site also said it will begin to post AMBER alerts to users based on their Zip codes. These features were announced less than a week after parents filed four separate lawsuits against MySpace and its parent company alleging that their 14- and 15-year-old daughters were solicited on MySpace and then sexually abused.

Maybe That Car Seat's Safe After All

By now, many of you have probably heard that Consumer Reports has retracted its infant car seat report pending further tests. The retracted report said that of 12 seats tested 10 failed, twisted violently or flew off their bases in 35 mph frontal crashes and 38 mph side crashes. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statement on Thursday: "Our initial review of the Consumer Reports testing procedures showed a significant error in the manner in which it conducted and reported on its side-impact tests. The organization┬┐s data show its side-impact tests were actually conducted under conditions that would represent being struck in excess of 70 mph, twice as fast as the group claimed. When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically."

Consumer Reports is re-evaluating its testing procedures and will publish those results. In the meantime, both CR and NHTSA say parents need to continue to use a car seat -- any car seat is better than none.

Coming In Two Weeks: On Parenting Blog

Today's e-mail will be the last you'll receive in you inbox. Instead, come read and post comments about parenting five days a week at washingtonpost.com's new On Parenting blog starting on Feb. 7, still written by yours truly.

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