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Why you need to talk to your kids about media right now

Chad Sapieha | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Kids are interested in following the news—but have a hard time discerning which stories are legitimate and accurate. These are some of the key findings in a new study undertaken by US-based Common Sense Media, a non-profit advocacy group that aims to educate families on the safe use and consumption of technology and media for kids.

The report, which collects the results of an online survey of nearly a thousand American kids between the ages of 10 and 18, found about half of the respondents believe news is important to them and can prepare them to make a difference in their communities. Seventy percent say paying attention to the news makes them feel smart and knowledgeable.

However, less than half (44 percent) said they think they can tell fake news stories from real ones. And nearly a third of the kids surveyed admitted to sharing an online news story  in the last six months that they later learned was false or contained inaccurate information.

This is a disheartening finding, but hardly surprising. As the dad of a news-hungry eleven-year-old who prides herself on being engaged in her community—she recently led a campaign in her Kitchener, Ont. school to send letters of support to indigenous communities in Saskatchewan after learning from the news of the suicide epidemic among these groups’ young people—I spend part of every day helping her digest what she sees on TV, hears on the radio and, most worryingly, what she learns from online sources.

Indeed, the study reports kids prefer getting their news from online sources (39 percent) as opposed to traditional media (24 percent) or even family members, teachers, and friends (36 percent). And the online sources they typically go to—tweens tend to use a mix of YouTube and Facebook, while teens rely primarily on Facebook—aren’t exactly known for providing reliable, well-vetted news stories.

The good news is that even though kids might prefer getting their news from dubious sources online, the research suggests that they still trust us parents the most. Fully two-thirds of the kids surveyed said they trust news coming from family members “a lot.”

That’s encouraging for parents like me, whose walks to and from school are often spent talking about and trying to make sense of what’s going on in the world. If my kid trusts me, then these conversations, in which we don’t just recount what we’ve heard but analyze and attempt to figure out whether people in power have taken appropriate action, will help her form a foundation for critical thought. This, in turn, could help lead to a healthy and pragmatic skepticism—the key tool we adults employ in distinguishing news stories and sources that are trustworthy from those that aren’t.

But perhaps the hardest part is simply figuring out whether or when to shelter our kids from certain types of news. According to the study, 63 percent of kids admit that the news can make them feel afraid, angry, and/or sad or depressed. Tweens in particular are more likely to feel frightened by the stories they see or read in the news.

We need to be there to provide support and reassurance when our kids see something on the news that scares them. When my daughter started hearing talking heads on TV speculating about how the results of the American election have potentially brought us closer to nuclear war, she was understandably afraid. I knew this because I was watching the news with her. And I was in the right place at the right time to provide some calming words.

That may be the biggest key in helping our kids navigate the often treacherous landscape that is modern news media. Be there with them. Help them to understand rather than fear the news. Teach them to spot false and purposefully misleading stories by showing them what to look for, which sites to trust and which reporters they can rely on.

We won’t always be there to steer them in the right direction, but we can set them on the path.

Spring forward this weekend to March Break next week

Patricia D'Cunha and Samantha Knight | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Spring is less than two weeks away so it is only fitting that clocks spring forward an hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

The time change means it will be brighter in the evenings, but the downside is that you lose an hour of sleep from Saturday night into Sunday morning.

The extra daylight comes at a perfect time with March Break around the corner. With that extra daylight, children and their families will be able to spend more time outdoors and at the various events being held across the city.

Not everyone is heading out of town for March Break, and if you are staying in town, there is no shortage of things to do. The City of Toronto also has tons on tap such as various camps, drop-in programs, outdoor skating, swimming and activities at historic sites.

ROM’s Big Blue March Break
Take an underwater adventure this March Break at the ROM. The museum’s Big Blue March Break gets underway on Saturday and runs until March 19.

A woman walks behind a blue whale skeleton on display at the unveiling of "Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story" at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on March 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

It features a new exhibition, Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story, where guests can come face-to-face with an 80-foot skeleton of a blue whale. There are also lots of marine-themed activities, including big-blue-sea-inspired balloon sculpting and a look at the historical mystery, The Franklin Exploration.

NHL Centennial Exhibit
Celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey with a new exhibit that opens at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday.

Several items will be on display, including the gloves, stick, and helmet worn by the “Great One” when he scored his 802nd career goal, and the gloves worn by Sidney Crosby to win the Stanley Cup in 2009.

The gloves worn by Sidney Crosby when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME


The gloves, stick and helmet worn by Wayne Gretzy when he scored his 802nd career goal. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME

Click here for other things you can do at the Hockey Hall of Fame over March Break.

Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic
More than 160 shadow puppets will be used to tell the story of star-crossed lovers Zaul and Rudabeh, based on the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh (The Book of Kings).

A scene from the shadow puppet play "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic." TIRGAN

The family-friendly play is the creation of filmmaker and visual artist Hamid Rahmanian, in collaboration with shadow master Larry Reed. Performers with ornate handmade masks and costumes are projected on a cinema-size screen to capture live animation.

Four performances will be held March 10-12 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets start at $25.

Toronto Zoo
March Break festivities kick off this weekend at the Toronto Zoo. Guests can enjoy daily character meet-and-greets, featuring PAW Patrol’s Marshall and Chase, Bob the Builder, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Michelangelo and Raphael, Dora the Explorer and Boots, and Hatchimals.

Families can also check out the new Connecting With Wildlife Conservation Giant Panda Cub Interpretive Station.

Sugar Shack
Sugar Beach is getting a whole lot sweeter this weekend with the return of Sugar Shack TO.

The event kicks off the first weekend of March Break with two sugar shacks serving up authentic Ontario maple taffy, a winter marketplace, specialty bar and live entertainment. There are also ice activities for kids, including painting on an ice canvas, giant ice tic-tac-toe and battle of the chainsaws.

Sugar Shack runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is free.

Fun at the AGO
Don’t know what to do with your child’s abundance of creative energy? Let them unleash it at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

For nine whole days, starting Saturday, your child can explore a life-sized cardboard maze, build a city out of cardboard, create a mini art gallery, colour all day long, and more. If your kid wants to strike a pose, family yoga is the way to go.

March Break activities at the AGO are free with the price of admission, which is free for children aged five and under.

‘Discover your inner hero’ at Casa Loma
If you are planning to stay in town for March Break, you can still travel to a castle right here in the city. Live interactive shows will take you back to the Middle Ages when knights in shining armour really did exist.

Children can try their hands at arts and crafts, as well as cookie decorating. They can also indulge in s’mores and hot chocolate.

Girl, 4, at centre of Amber Alert found: Toronto police

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

A four-year-old girl who was at the centre of an Amber Alert on Friday morning has been found.

More to come

Earlier version:

Christina Nguyen was in the car with the engine running while her parents went back inside to retrieve her younger sister. When they came back out, the car – and Christina – were gone.

The vehicle was stolen just after 6 a.m. from the Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue area, Toronto police said.

The car, a black 2008 Toyota Camry with the licence plate BHVH 392, was later seen near Highway 401 and Highway 403. The driver was driving “erratically,” police said around 7:30 a.m.

Police are warning that if you see this vehicle, do not approach it. Instead, call 911.

Nguyen is wearing a red jacket, pink pants and a white hat. She is around three-feet-tall with black shoulder-length hair and brown eyes.

The Camry has four doors and rust on the front passenger side.

Clarification: Toronto police released the name of the child, but later said that was an error and her name should not have been released. Once the Amber Alert was issued, her name and photo were released.

Toronto police are looking for a Toyota Camry similar to this one after a car was stolen with a child inside on March 10, 2017. TORONTO POLICE

Amber Alert issued after girl, 4, abducted from Jane and Lawrence area

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

An Amber Alert was issued for Christina Nguyen, who was abducted from the Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue area on March 10, 2017. ONTARIO AMBER ALERT

An Amber Alert has been issued after a four-year-old girl was abducted early on Friday morning.

A vehicle was stolen with the child inside just after 6 a.m. from the Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue area, Toronto police said.

The car, a 2008 Toyota Camry with the licence plate BHVH 392, was later seen near Highway 401 and Highway 403. The driver was driving “erratically,” police said around 7:30 a.m.

Police are warning that if you see this vehicle, do not approach it. Instead, call 911.

The child, Christina Nguyen, is wearing a red jacket, pink pants and a white hat. She is around three-feet-tall with black shoulder-length hair and brown eyes.

The Camry has four doors and rust on the front passenger side.

The girl’s mother put her in the car, and started the engine to warm up. She went back inside for a moment and when she came out, the car was gone, 680 NEWS reports.

Clarification: Toronto police released the name of the child, but later said that was an error and her name should not have been released. Once the Amber Alert was issued, her name and photo were released.

Teen with Cerebral Palsy makes desperate midnight phone calls to find shelter

Avery Haines | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Benjamin Williamson is a 17-year-old honours student.

He has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair.

He’s also homeless and his plight paints a stark picture of what it means to be homeless when you are living with a disability.

For nine long months, the Richmond Hill teen has been desperately searching for a way out of a family home life he describes as “unhealthy and toxic”.

“The majority of homeless shelters I contacted throughout the GTA were not accessible physically, and wouldn’t allow for me to have my personal support worker because of the confidentiality of other residents”.

Williamson finally landed a spot at 360Kids emergency shelter in Richmond Hill last week, after staying up late for months to make what he calls his “midnight phone calls.”

“They start a new wait list every day at midnight. As soon as a bed becomes available they look at the top of the list, so if you call at midnight you hope that you are one of the first people on that list.”

360kids has just 14 emergency beds, and while the building is wheelchair accessible, it is not a long term solution for Benjamin because there’s a four month cap on how long any teen can stay.

“Ben can’t stay here forever,” said Bonnie Harkness, executive director of 360 Kids. “This is a temporary solution to help people move on.”

But moving on will be a challenge for Ben. He estimates his odds of ever finding an accessible place to live at “one-in-a-million.” Benjamin says the March of Dimes apartment complex has a wait list of 10-15 years. He’s been told the wait for accessible subsidized housing in York Region is 15-35 years. But Harkness says teens from her facility rarely ever make it to the top of the list.

“I know our young people rarely get called on that list.”

Harkness added that young single men are often pushed to the bottom of the list because of the more pressing needs of seniors and families with children.

Benjamin Williamson with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Benjamin is no ordinary teen. Born with Cerebral Palsy, he has extremely limited use of his legs and cannot write with his hands. But he says “my mind is as sharp as anybody else’s.”

With that sharp mind, he has become an activist by necessity. His poignant letters to Ontario’s Housing Minister were so impressive that he has landed a co-op job at the minister’s constituency office. Ben has also been appointed to the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities, advising the Premier on policy that relates to young people.

Benjamin Williamson with Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne

Despite his connections, Benjamin says his life has been a constant battle, but one where he usually comes out on top. For six months, for example, he fought his high school over how many courses he could take each semester. The school said it could only provide an Educational Assistant, who transcribes two courses per semester for him. “They do this because it’s cheaper for the board,” he said.

Benjamin fought for, and won the right to take three courses.

“I was not going to forsake my education because of a policy decision that needs to be changed.”

Even so, he won’t graduate with his friends this year.

“Unfortunately, their lack of accommodations, means I won’t graduate until the first semester of my 20th year”.

Benjamin Williamson describes being a homeless teen who lives with a disability as a life with “hundreds of daily discriminations and challenges.” But he isn’t angry. The system, he feels, is designed to push people down, to make their voices marginalized. “By giving up and being frustrated and angry you’ve let them win.”

Instead, the teen says he will continue to fight because “no other child should have to go through what I have gone through. You have to remember, we are just kids.”

With just four months to find his “one in a million” shot at a permanent home, the 17-year-old, isn’t letting go of his bigger dream of becoming a lawyer who advocates on behalf of children in need.

“I’m not going to sit back and do nothing”, he said. “I don’t want young people, or disabled people thinking this is the way they have to live. It’s not. ”

Majestic display: Massive blue whale skeleton makes its Toronto debut

Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Ever wonder what a dead blue whale smells like?

A Fossil wrist watch that Mark Engstrom wore as he helped preserve the bones of Blue, a 24-metre female whose skeleton goes on display Saturday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, will give you an idea.

“It’s this kind of permeating, oily smell that’s as much of a taste as it is a smell,” said Engstrom, the deputy director of collections and research at the ROM.

Engstrom gave lectures after the blue whale was recovered in May 2014 from a beach in western Newfoundland. People would line up for a whiff of his stinking watch, he recalled in an interview.

The timepiece will now be on display “in full, smelly glory” as part of the exhibit, he said with a laugh.

Blue’s 350-bone skeleton can be viewed until Labour Day. Her skull measures nine metres on its own and researchers figure she weighed about 90 metric tonnes.

The ROM, on Toronto’s tony Bloor Street, is a long way from the scenic stretch of Newfoundland coast where she washed up almost three years ago, making global headlines as officials wrangled over who was responsible for a sad cleanup job.

There were also worries, swiftly discounted by experts, that the buildup of internal methane could make her explode, raining blubbery chunks down on a prime tourist region.

Blue’s massive carcass beached at Trout River, N.L., while another landed in nearby Rocky Harbour. Both towns border western Newfoundland’s spectacular Gros Morne National Park.

They were among nine of the endangered species, the largest animals by weight on Earth, to surface dead in heavy pack ice in April 2014.

Just Blue and another female were recovered. The latter is still in preservation stages before her skeleton heads to Memorial University of Newfoundland.

It took 10 people five days to dismember Blue. Her bones were stripped of blubber and trucked back to Trenton, Ont., in two 18-wheelers. After that, it took about nine months to compost the bones in enough cow manure to fill two 15-metre truck containers, mixed with sawdust, to remove remaining flesh.

Several more months of de-greasing followed, to rinse oil from the bones with detergent.

The numbered pieces can now be put back together for display in about three days, Engstrom said.

“It was definitely a tragic story to lose nine of them,” he said of the mysterious deaths. Blue whales in the western North Atlantic are still extremely rare since they were decimated before whaling stopped in the 1960s.

Remaining numbers for that population are estimated at just 200 to 400.
“But what we’re going to gain is learning, both in our DNA studies and, even more so, bringing to the attention of the public the conservation issues that blue whales are facing,” Engstrom said.

They include ocean contaminants, noise pollution which hampers intricate communication, and ship traffic in their main habitat between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

Engstrom said there are just two other places in Canada to see similar blue whale exhibits, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

It’s not clear what killed Blue and the eight other whales.

“The two skulls that we have were damaged,” said Burton Lim, assistant curator of mammalogy at the ROM. But it’s not certain if thick pack ice fatally crushed the whales or if that damage happened after they died from some other cause, he said in an interview.

Their deaths will, however, contribute to understanding of a species that scientists have had relatively few chances to study.

“We’ll be sequencing the complete genome, so all of the DNA that’s found in a blue whale,” Lim said. “That’s never been done before.

“These particular samples that we got from Newfoundland will be very important baseline data for future research into not only the evolution of whales, but also their conservation.”

Preliminary tests confirmed the two recovered females did not have the same mother, he added. It’s hoped more study and perhaps future samples will help answer questions about why population numbers in the western North Atlantic have not grown as elsewhere.

Worldwide, it’s estimated there are about 20,000 blue whales, still way down from around 300,000 in the 1800s before whaling took its toll, Lim said.

Full grown adults don’t have natural predators, although young ones may be prey for killer whales or sharks, he said.

“The blue whale can be a flagship species. If we can bring blue whales back to the pre-whaling numbers, we’ll … also save the ocean habitat for other species to be able to survive and live.”

Pearson Airport braces for busy pre-March Break Friday

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Toronto Pearson International Airport is bracing for a hectic day on Friday, which happens to be its busiest travel day of the spring season.

Staff are preparing for a rush of approximately 130,000 passengers by ensuring all available staff members will be on site and ready to help the flow of travellers get to their March Break excursions smoothly.

If you are one of the thousands who will be visiting Pearson Airport throughout this week, we have a list of useful tips to help your check-in a breeze.

If you’re staying in town, check out our guide of events around the city.

Check your flight status

Start your journey with a quick check of your flight status before you leave home. It’s important to know if your flight is delayed or even early so that you can make it to the airport at the appropriate time. Pearson Airport’s schedule is available here online and you can also track your flight using the free Toronto Pearson App.

Research parking options.

If you plan to drive in to the airport, plan ahead for where you’ll park. Pearson Airport has multiple lots and the best option for you depends on what terminal you’ll use to board. Check out Pearson’s parking options here.

Get to the airport extra early

It’s not called the busiest travel day of the season for nothing. A surplus in travellers means longer lines, wait times and check-ins. So to ensure you’re not starting off March Break in a frenzy, get to the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for all U.S. or international flights.

Be aware of baggage restrictions

Different airlines have different baggage restrictions and charges to be aware of. Check your airline’s website for information before you leave to ensure there will be no expensive surprises during check-in. Also make sure that any liquids and gels in you carry-on luggage are in containers no larger than 100 milliliters, and be prepared to take your electronics out of your bags for safety screening. For more details on what you are allowed to bring, visit CATSA.

Take advantage of complementary airport services

Did you know the airport is offering free coat-check for travellers during March Break? If you’re travelling between March 9 and March 26, you can check in your coat for free at several terminal locations and it will be held for you until you return. One less thing to carry.

Keep kids occupied

Keeping organized while navigating through the airport is a challenge, but it’s even harder to do that with little ones. Keep kids on their best behaviour by bringing a variety of snacks and maybe their favourite toy or gaming device, but also make sure you’re fed and ready to go. If you did not get a chance to grab a bite before checking in, Pearson Airport has a promotion where kids can eat free (from March 9 to March 12) at a select few restaurants! For a full list of included eateries, go here.


Car Dashboard Warning Lights: What you need to know

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 9th, 2017

Do you know what to do when these dashboard warning lights appear in your car? George Iny, Director of the Automobile Protection Association, breaks down what these symbols mean and what you should do when you see them in your car.

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