Precautions For Play Dates

Things are different today than when I was a kid (yes, I was a kid once). Back then, I would come home from school, do my homework, and then go out front where I would meet my friends and play. We'd play stickball, hide-and-seek, ride bikes, or just hang out.

Eventually, my mother would call through a window, "Manny, get your body into this house right now! It's suppertime!"

"Yes, Mom, coming!"

Nowadays, play time is a little more sophisticated — at least in urban areas. In places like New York and Los Angeles, many parents find the type of freedom we once enjoyed is all but impossible. What with crime and terror alerts, some parents just do not want to take a chance with unsupervised play.

That's how we got "The Play Date." All over schools, lunchrooms, sporting events, coffee shops, supermarkets and yes, even the Internet, parents are matching their children with friends or with people they'd like their children to call friends.

Now, children do have some say in whom they play with, but typically they are a minority shareholder, especially since they do not drive. One of the arguments for this new form of child's play is safety. Parents agree on time and place and who will be responsible for the supervision.

But are we really making our children any safer by sending them to play at someone else's house? Here are some facts to consider:

• Guns: Many homes — and by that, I mean many homes in the US — have guns. For example, there are guns in almost half of all of Minnesota's households. There is nothing wrong with having guns in the home, as long as the family sticks to gun safety standards.

• Medications: As I have written before, in other blogs, prescription pills left lying around the house could be mistaken for candy.

• Windows or open balconies: How can you be sure that other people have properly installed window guards, or other safety measures?

• Pets: Some animals don't enjoy hugging, pulling and jumping and could lash out at small children.

Look, I know we cannot shelter our kids completely. What I am pointing out is that sometimes parents think they are doing the right thing without looking at the bigger picture. I think it is important for parents to discuss childrens' safety before sending them off to a play date.

Parents should visit each others homes and address these issues openly. Make sure you know who will actually be supervising your children when they are at someone else's house — is it the parent, or the teenage babysitter, or the grandma? And remember to also make sure that the children and their host are familiar with any allergies or special needs they may have.

But most important — let the kids have some fun!

P.S. Don't forget to watch FOX News Channel. And please feel free to write to me at DRMANNY@FOXNEWS.COM and tell me what you think. Ask a question, share a thought, share a remedy — We'll try to answer all of your mail online or on the air.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit