Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sue Scheff: Supervised Underage Drinking



As New Year's Eve is fast approaching, people have made their plans or in the process of deciding what they will be doing. One thing is almost certain, many plans include drinking alcoholic beverages. It is a fact that the rate of drunk driving increased during holiday times, however that doesn't mean we can't still remind people that drunk driving and buzzed driving kills!
The topic of underage drinking is also a huge concern, and a topic every parent of a teen needs to be aware of. According to a Connect with Kids article this past summer, it gave some insights as to why some parent "allow" this and the philosophy behind it.

Here are some excerpts from the article, and you make your own decisions.

"It's kind of like [parents] open the door as soon as you get to the party, and they have a bowl to the side where they take your keys before you even start drinking."

- Cameron Herron, 19

New research from Penn State University reports that high school kids who aren't allowed to drink alcohol are far less likely to drink heavily when they get to college. This contradicts the conventional wisdom that forbidding alcohol turns it into a kind of "forbidden fruit" that causes kids to go wild in college.

But still, every year there are parents who break the law: they host a party and serve teens alcohol.

How often does this happen? According to teens, all the time.

"It's kind of like they open the door as soon as you get to the party," says 19-year-old Cameron Herron, "and they have a bowl to the side where they take your keys before you even start drinking."

Why do some parents allow underage drinking?

"Because they would rather it be at their house and for them to have the control," answers 19-year-old Marlena Flesner, "and for them to know where their kids are."

"I hear that a lot," says Dr. Michael Fishman, an addiction specialist, "and the fallacy is ‘to keep the kids safe'."

That's the assumption, but is it true? Is it really safer when kids drink with adult supervision?

"I've been at parties where I've seen a mom say, ‘hey, this kid is a little too drunk - no more for him,'" says 19-year-old Anthony Machalette.

The problem, kids say, is that sometimes there is no supervision.

"And it was pretty much all of us downstairs partying," recalls 19-year-old Ryan Soto. "The parents are upstairs doing - nothing. They just kind of minded their own business and let us have a party downstairs."

"Usually they are not around," agrees Marlena Flesner. "They just kind of host it and sometimes buy the alcohol - or they just allow it."

And often, the kids start drinking at home - but they don't stay there.

"In fact, some people are going to leave that house intoxicated," says Dr. Fishman.

"It was a lot of the wealthy parents who had a big house," says 20-year-old Jessica Holt, about one party she attended. "A lot of people could come. They wouldn't collect keys or anything."

Finally, experts say, allowing kids to drink at home sends a message.

"You're introducing a lifestyle to your 15, 16, 17 year old and that lifestyle is alcohol. And so by allowing them to drink in your home, you're basically giving them permission to drink in the world at large and any time they'd like," explains Stacey DeWitt, President of Connect with Kids.

She says it's easier for kids to say no if you make a stand against underage drinking that is loud and clear.

"I know my mother would kick my behind if I was drinking underage," says 20-year-old Erin Smith.

What do you think? Watch the video - be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Please have a safe and healthy New Year's Eve, and you really don't need alcohol to have fun! Learn about to put your own twist into the New Year Eve's party with your teens!

Also on Examiner.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting 2009 Wrap-up (Part 2)


Parenting is always a priority. 2009 has been filled with stories of cyberbullying, sexting, school violence and more. Of course we also have to look at the positive, teen volunteering increased and more teens and parents are taking the time to learn about college applications.

6. Encourage your teen to get a job or volunteer: In today's generation I think we need to instill responsibility and accountability. This can start early by encouraging your teen to either get a job or volunteer, especially during the summer. Again, it is about keeping them busy, however at the same time teaching them responsibility. I always tell parents to try to encourage their teens to get jobs at Summer Camps, Nursing Homes, ASPCA, Humane Society or places where they are giving to others or helping animals. It can truly build self esteem to help others.

7. Make Time for your Child: This sounds very simple and almost obvious, but with today's busy schedule of usually both parents working full time or single parent households, it is important to put time aside weekly (if not daily at dinner) for one on one time or family time. Today life is all about electronics (cell phones, Ipods, Blackberry's, computers, etc) that the personal touch of actually being together has diminished.

8. When Safety trumps privacy: If you suspect your teen is using drugs, or other suspicious behaviors (lying, defiance, disrespectful, etc) it is time to start asking questions - and even "snooping" - I know there are two sides to this coin, and that is why I specifically mentioned "if you suspect" things are not right - in these cases - safety for your child takes precedence over invading their privacy. Remember - we are the parent and we are accountable and responsible for our child.

9. Are you considering outside treatment for your child? Residential Therapy is a huge step, and not a step that is taken lightly. Do your homework! When your child's behavior escalates to a level of belligerence, defiance, substance abuse or God forbid gang relations - it may be time to seek outside help. Don't be ashamed of this - put your child's future first and take steps to get the help he/she needs - immediately, but take your time to find the right placement. Read Wit's End! for more information. Take a moment to read a recent News Articles from the Miami Herald on Wit's End and Sun-Sentinel - Rescuing Your Troubled Teens.

10. Be a parent FIRST: There are parents that want to be their child's friend and that is great - but remember you are a parent first. Set boundaries - believe it not kids want limits (and most importantly - need them). Never threaten consequences you don't plan on following through with.

Did you miss the first five reminders? Go Back. <<<<<
Parenting 2010 - Five Part Series that will help you become more computer savvy to further protect your kids while they surf online.

Do you have an at-risk teen? Visit http://www.helpyourteens.com/

Don't forget to subscribe to my articles for more parenting and Internet advice throughout 2010!

Also on Examiner.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting Online Chat rooms - Who are your kids talking to?


It is school break, holiday time, and more kids, especially teens, are surfing in cyberspace. The breaking story of the parents in the UK posing as their daughter to catch predator is an example of the dangers that lurk online.

Chat rooms are one of the riskiest places our kids can mingle in. It is difficult to monitor all their cyber time, so the best solution is to educate them. First, parents need to be educated. Reminder to parents: Order your FREE booklet on Cyber safety from the FTC today.

Here are some Chat Room Safety Tips for Teens:

Source: Assembly of Words

1. Never enter into private chats or private chat rooms with people you don't know. Most kids know about stranger danger and are taught not to talk to, or give personal details to strangers in the street. The same rules apply, don't do it with strangers online either.

2. Think before you send a message. Once a message is out there, there is no way to get it back so think before you send the message and be careful about what you let others know about you.

3. Be careful of who you trust or think you know. Online predators specifically target chat rooms as most kids feel safe as they are in the comfort of their own home. Just because you have seen someone's profile, they are still a stranger.

4. Always use a nickname on your personal profile and don't include any personal details.

5. Log out if you, in any way, feel uncomfortable and make sure you tell a parent or adult immediately.

6. Stay in control. Never give out personal details in chat rooms, it doesn't matter how well you think you know them. This includes your name, nickname, address, phone number, password details, email addresses etc. If they are a friend, get their home email address(not an online one) or phone number and communicate personal details that way.

7. Learn how to block and/or ignore people.

8. Never meet anyone you have met in a chat room in person. If you must meet someone in person make sure you discuss it with an adult so that they can make sure its in a public area and with an adult present.

9. Learn how to save parts of your chat room conversations you may want to show your parents or report to the authorities.

10. Look out for your friends.
Never use their information instead of yours and make sure they follow the same guidelines. Let your parents know if you think your friend is in trouble or out of their depth.

11. Know how to report any suspicious behavior to your chat room provider and tell your parents. Things like inappropriate comments, asking for personal information, talking about things that make you uncomfortable should all be taken seriously. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed of any inappropriate behavior online, it is not uncommon and it is not your fault, so please tell an adult.

If teens and kids follow these simple steps they will significantly reduce any potential chat room dangers for themselves.

Be sure to be ready for 2010 by making a resolution to learn more about Internet safety and your family.

Parenting 2010 - Getting ahead of your kids technically! T.A.L.K.
Also on Examiner.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teens and Eating Disorders


This weekend's loss of a beautiful young actress is a tragedy. There are some reports that Brittany Murphy was looking exceptionally thin within the past few weeks prior her death. Although there are no confirmed reports of any eating disorder, it is a topic parents need to be educated on.

Eating disorders among teens, especially girls, are a serious concern. With today's peer pressure to keep up with the trends, fit into those skinny jeans and be a part of the cool clique can lead your teen down a troubled road.

What is an eating disorder? The MayoClinic describes it as follows:

Eating disorders are a broad group of serious conditions in which you're so preoccupied with food and weight that you can often focus on little else. The main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, and there are also many subtypes.

Most people with eating disorders are females, but males also have eating disorders. The exception is binge-eating disorder, which appears to affect almost as many males as females.

Treatments for eating disorders usually involve psychotherapy, nutrition education, family counseling, medications and hospitalization.

Anorexia nervosa
When you have anorexia nervosa (an-o-REK-se-uh nur-VOH-suh), you're obsessed with food and being thin, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation. You may exercise excessively or simply not eat enough calories.

Bulimia nervosa
When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging. During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories by vomiting or excessive exercise. In between these binge-purge episodes, you may eat very little or skip meals altogether. You may be a normal weight or even a bit overweight.


Binge-eating disorder
When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat excessive amounts of food (binge), sometimes for hours on end. You may eat when you're not hungry and continue eating even long after you're uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals, triggering a new round of bingeing. You may be a normal weight, overweight or obese.

Eating disorders in youngsters
Eating disorders can affect people of any age. In children, it's sometimes hard to tell what's an eating disorder and what's simply a whim, a new fad, or experimentation with a vegetarian diet or other eating styles. In addition, many girls and sometimes boys go on diets to lose weight, but stop dieting after a short time. If you're a parent or guardian, be careful not to mistake occasional dieting with an eating disorder. On the other hand, be alert for eating patterns and beliefs that may signal unhealthy behavior, as well as peer pressure that may trigger eating disorders.

Causes of eating disorders:

It's not known with certainty what causes eating disorders. As with other mental illnesses, the possible causes are complex and may result from an interaction of biological, psychological, family, genetic, environmental and social factors. Possible causes of eating disorders include:


Biology. Some people may be genetically vulnerable to developing eating disorders. Some studies show that people with biological siblings or parents with an eating disorder may develop one too, suggesting a possible genetic link. In addition, there's some evidence that serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical, may influence eating behaviors because of its connection to the regulation of food intake.

Psychological and emotional health. People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional characteristics that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, anger management difficulties, family conflicts and troubled relationships, for instance.

Sociocultural issues. The modern Western cultural environment often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin. The media and entertainment industries often focus on appearance and body shape. Peer pressure may fuel this desire to be thin, particularly among young girls.

Learn the symptoms and risk factors of eating disorders.

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier teens!

Learn about teen body image.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting Wrap-Up 2009


Last January 2009 I posted some quick tips for parenting in the New Year. As we head into 2010, let's be reminded of 2009. Many of these tips never stop helping you being a better parent. Being an educated parent should always be your priority.

1. Communication: Keeping the lines of communication of your child should be a priority with all parents. It is important to let your kids know you are always there for them no matter what the subject is. If there is a subject you are not comfortable with, please be sure your child has someone they can open up to. I believe that when kids keep things bottled up, it can be when negative behaviors can start to grow.

2. Knowing your Children's Friends: This is critical, in my opinion. Who are your kids hanging out with? Doing their homework with? If they are spending a lot of time at a friends house, go out of your way to call the parent introduce yourself. Especially if they are spending the night at a friends house, it important to take time to call the parents or meet them. This can give you a feeling of security knowing where your child is and who they are with.

3. Know your Child's Teachers - Keep track of their attendance at school: Take time to meet each teacher and be sure they have your contact information and you have theirs if there are any concerns regarding your child. In the same respect, take time to meet your child's Guidance Counselor.

4. Keep your Child Involved: Whether it is sports, music, drama, dance, and school clubs such as chess, government, school newspaper or different committees such as prom, dances and other school activities. Keeping your child busy can keep them out of trouble. If you can find your child's passion - whether it is football, soccer, gymnastics, dance, music - that can help keep them focused and hopefully keep them on track in school.

5. Learn about Internet Social Networking: In today's Cyber generation this has to be a priority. Parents need to help educate their kids on Cyber Safety - think before they post, help them to understand what they put up today, may haunt them tomorrow. Don't get involved with strangers and especially don't talk about sex with strangers. Avoid meeting in person the people you meet online without you being there. On the same note - cell phone and texting - don't allow your child to freely give out their cell numbers and never post them online. Parents should consider ReputationDefender/MyChild to further help protect their children online.


Learn more tips from 2009 >>>>>

Parenting 2010 - Five Part Series that will help you become more computer savvy to further protect your kids while they surf online.

Do you have an at-risk teen? Visit www.helpyourteens.com

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen Girls and Body Image


With the recent untimely death of Brittany Murphy, many are mourning the loss of a young, sparklingly actress. There have been reports that Brittany Murphy was concerned about her body image.

When negative events happen, it can be an opportunity to open doors to an awareness of important topics that need to be discussed with our teens.

There are a vast amount of resources to help parents talk to their teens about body image, eating disorders and other issues many teens struggle with today. Peer pressure can be a driving force and it is critical parents keep their lines of communication open with their teens, especially if they are becoming withdrawn and secretive.

Dara Chadwick, author of You'd Be So Pretty If...., offers a wealth of information on girls suffering with body image issues as well as helping parents recognize although they are not perfect, they can help their daughters through their own faults.

Today Dara Chadwick added to her educational blog about Tips for the Holiday Food Truce:

•The only person you can control is you. If mom's pushing pie on you and you'd rather not partake, don't. It's that simple. On the flip side, mom, if you offer a treat and your daughter says, "No, thanks," try not to see it as a judgment of you, your cooking or your mothering. It's just pie.
•You don't have to voice every thought you have. If your daughter has, in fact, put on weight since the last time you saw her, trust me, she already knows. Telling her will just create bad feelings. On the flip side, daughter, if you've become a vegetarian since your last visit home, now is not the time to launch into a judgmental critique of your parents' meat-eating habits. Save it for another day.
•Watch the "helpful" suggestions that really aren't. Mom, if you're concerned about your daughter's weight, please don't say, "Wouldn't you rather have some nice salad?" when she reaches for the candied yams. If you don't want her to eat candied yams, just don't make them. No food should be off-limits to just one person at the table.
•Build the right kind of holiday memories. Alcohol, stress and fatigue can make many of us short-tempered and quick to speak. Remember that your words and actions are building memories -- do you really want your daughter to remember holiday dinners as events where she felt judged and not good enough? Trust her to make her own decisions about food and honor the person she is -- not just the outer package she comes in.

Learn more about Dara Chadwick at http://www.darachadwick.com/. She has written for many publications including Psychology Today, Family Circle, Washington Post and many more.

Follow Dara Chadwick on Twitter at @DaraChadwick

Learn more about eating disorders.


Most important, be an educated parent - you will have healthier teens!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sue Scheff: Cyber safety now available for parents and kids - Order your free copies!


Just released:

FTC, Department of Education, Federal Communications Commission Officials Present Free Booklet at D.C. Middle School

A new booklet released today by the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies helps parents and teachers steer kids safely through the online and mobile phone worlds.

Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online was unveiled this morning at Jefferson Middle School in Washington, D.C. by FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. At the middle school, which is known for its emphasis on science and technology, the officials met with students and teachers to discuss online safety.

"The conversations that make kids good digital citizens aren't about the technology; they're about communicating your values as a parent," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "Teaching kids to treat others as they'd like to be treated online is key. Net Cetera tells you how to start those conversations - even if you think your kids are more tech-savvy than you are."

Net Cetera tells parents and teachers what they need to know to talk to kids about issues like cyberbullying, sexting, mobile phone safety, and protecting the family computer. Talking to kids about these topics can help them avoid behaving rudely online; steer clear of inappropriate content like pornography, violence, or hate speech; and protect themselves from contact with bullies, predators, hackers, and scammers.

The booklet is available at OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government's online safety Web site. OnGuardOnline.gov is a partnership of more than a dozen federal agencies and the technology industry. Like all the consumer education resources at the site, Net Cetera is free and available for public use. At OnGuardOnline, parents can download sections of the booklet, link to it, or post it on their own site. At bulkorder.ftc.gov parents can order the printed version of the booklet in bulk.

Be an educated parent, take the time to learn - you will have safer kids in cyberspace!

Don't forget to read about Parenting 2010 - Getting ahead of your kids technically through T.A.L.K.

Official Press Release - click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sue Schefff: What Teens Need to Know About STD's


Parenting teens today is challenging and although many of our concerns today are focused on technology and online safety, we need to go back to basics – a trend that a parent of any generation needs to be concerned about. Teens having sex. Years ago it was a fear of pregnancy, today it is so much more. Sexually transmitted diseases are not going away and kids/teens needs to understand the consequences which can not only lead to infertility, but in extreme cases, the end of life.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that there is one sexually transmitted disease that affects more teenage girls than any other age group. Last year, 1.2 million cases of Chlamydia were reported among teens. That’s 100,000 more than the year before.

Source: Connect with Kids

Chlamydia on the Rise

“I don’t really know anything about it.”

– Berit, Age 16, when asked about Chlamydia.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that there is one sexually transmitted disease that affects more teenage girls than any other age group. Last year, 1.2 million cases of Chlamydia were reported among teens. That’s 100,000 more than the year before.

What is Chlamydia?

If you ask many teenage girls, you’re likely to get a blank stare. “I really don’t know much about it at all,” says 14-year-old Tavia.

Or you’ll get a wrong answer. “Um, it’s one of the female body parts,” says 14-year-old Jade.

Most kids don’t know it, but Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that infects 1.2 million teenage girls every year.

Kids often don’t know what it is and they don’t know they have it, because the symptoms may not show up for years when it’s too late.

“Chlamydia infections have been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and lead to infertility,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Kimberly Workowski.

According to the CDC, nearly half of all new Chlamydia cases are among teenager girls for two reasons: first, teens are less likely than adults to use condoms; second, the immature cells in a teenage girl’s cervix are more vulnerable to infection.

Still, it’s a “very curable disease,” says Dr. Workowski. Curable, if it detected. Many teens, however, don’t suspect they have the disease, and they’re afraid to go to a doctor to get checked.

“I don’t think they’re really educated about that stuff yet, they don’t even listen, they don’t care,” says Jade.

Experts say parents should take the lead, and talk with their child about getting tested.

“You can get a non-invasive test, like a urine sample, to see if there is any evidence of chlamydia,” says Dr. Workowski. The experts say, if parents think to themselves, “there is no way my child has chlamydia!” they need to consider the consequences if they’re wrong.

“You’re daughter…can be infertile,” Dr. Workowski warns, “because of this infection.”


Tips for Parents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chlamydia (”kla-mid-ee-uh”) is the “most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the US today. It is estimated that 4,000,000 new cases occur each year. The highest rates of Chlamydia infections are among 15-to19-year-olds, regardless of demographics or location.

Chlamydia is transmitted through sexual contact (primarily vaginal and anal) with an infected person. According to the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception International (AVSC), about 75% of infected women and half of infected males have no symptoms of chlamydia. In other words, most people infected with the disease don’t even know they have it.

Symptoms

In women, symptoms of chlamydia may include:

an unusual vaginal discharge
bleeding after intercourse
bleeding between menstrual periods
abdominal or pelvic pain
In men, symptoms of chlamydia may include:

discharge from the penis
burning with urination
swollen and/or painful testicles
(Keep in mind, most people with chlamydia have no symptoms at all.)

Treating Chlamydia

The best way to prevent sexually transmitted disease (STDs) is to not have sexual relations. The CDC recommends that people who are sexually active use a condom, and get regular checkups for STDs. Though condoms are good at protecting against some STDs, others such as herpes and HPV may still be passed on through sexual contact.

Most STDs are readily treated, and the earlier treatment is sought and sex partners are warned, the less likely the disease will do irreparable damage such as the formation of scar tissue in the woman which can lead to infertility or an increased likelihood of a tubal pregnancy which can be life threatening.

Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. It is also important that sexual partners receive treatment in order to prevent getting infected again. Doctors also recommend avoiding sex while being treated to reduce the chances of getting the infection again or giving it to someone else.


References
AVSC International
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Academy of Pediatrics

Learn more about teen pregnancy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sue Scheff: College Visits with Teens


Do you have a teen that is considering what college they want to apply to? Many will apply to several colleges and hopefully are accepted at their first choice. Are you visiting these schools with your teen? What about the overnight visits – what happens if you go to the hotel as your teen “experiments” a night on campus? Connect with Kids just posted an interesting article. Some points I honestly never considered. I didn’t realize how many teens do spend the night on campus prior making a decision. But what are they really doing in the dorms/on campus?

Source: Connect with Kids

Overnight College Visits

“As soon as their parents leave to go to the hotel or something and it’s just the students left behind, they go crazy. They go wild and they really don’t make good decisions.”

– Jordan, 17 years old

High school seniors everywhere are in the process of deciding where to do to school next year. And a big part of that decision hinges on their visits to college campuses.

But what goes on during those visits may surprise their parents.

Jordan, 17, has visited eight college campuses this fall. She and her friends have seen the campuses, spent the night in dorms and eaten in dining halls. But, she says, many high school seniors she knows have done even more. “If their parents are with them, they’re doing the responsible things, but as soon as their parents leave to go to the hotel or something and it’s just the students left behind, they go crazy. They go wild and they really don’t make good decisions,” she says.

In fact, surveys have shown that 40 percent of teenagers who stay overnight for a college visit will drink, use drugs or have sex.

Jordan isn’t surprised at those numbers, especially after some of the wild stories her friends have brought back home. “My friend who went to freshman orientation, he ended up getting drunk, falling down a flight of stairs. A few other friends ended up losing their virginity just because they were drinking,” she says.

Experts say part of the problem is that ‘college visit’ means different things to different kids. Joy Gray Prince, a director of college counseling at a high school explains, “I have kids all the time come into my office. I’ll say, ‘well, did you visit X university?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did you have an official tour?’ ‘No, I went to visit my buddy, so-and-so.’ That is not a visit.”

A responsible visit, she says, and a safer one, has a specific agenda that parents should know ahead of time. “What are you going to get out of this visit? Are you going to take a tour? Are you going to have an information session at the admission office? Will you make an appointment with a professor?” says Prince.

She says parents should make sure their kids don’t visit over a weekend and should always contact the admissions office in advance, “because you want that college or university to know that you’ve been on that campus. Because for some, demonstrated interest is important. They want to know to know you’ve been on campus.”

College road trips, portrayed in many sources as being fun and exiting, can often leave the participants regretting they went, especially when they involve sex. Nearly two-thirds of teens that have had sexual intercourse say they regret it and wish they had waited, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The campaign also found that when it comes to making a decision about sex, teens say parents matter more than they might think.

Results of the poll of 501 teenagers:

Most have regrets. Sixty-three percent of teens surveyed who have had sexual intercourse wish they had waited longer. Fifty-five percent of boys and 72 percent of girls said they wish they had waited longer to have sex.
Parents are influential. When asked who influenced their decisions about sex the most, more teens cited their parents than any other influence (37 percent). Thirty percent of teens said that friends influenced their decision-making the most. An equal percentage (11 percent) of teens identified the media and their religious communities as most influential.

Tips for Parents
A great way to prevent damaging and regretful actions by your teenagers while on road trips is to discuss the pitfalls and dangers of having sex. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says talking to your children about love, intimacy and sex is an important part of parenting. Parents need to create a comfortable atmosphere in which to talk to their kids about these issues. Children and adolescents need input and guidance from their parents to help them make healthy and appropriate decisions about sex. The AACAP says, “Open communication and accurate information from parents increases the chance that teens will postpone sex and will use appropriate methods of birth control once they begin.”

In talking with your child, it is helpful to:

Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
Try to determine your child’s level of knowledge and understanding.
Keep your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to talk about your own discomfort.
Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring and respect for oneself and one’s partner.
Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.

References
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
American Social Health Association
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
College application tips for parents and teens.

College application tips for parents and teens.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teaching Your Kids to be Safe Consumer Online


Keeping our kids safe in cyberspace has become one of the top priorities for parents. Net Cetera was launched by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for parents. Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online, OnGuard Online gives adults practical tips to help kids navigate the online world.

Recently YouAreHere: Where Kids Learn to be Smarter Consumers was created for kids as a compliment to Net Cetera in continuing to help you keep your kids safe online. This FTC website teaches your kids about privacy and fraud.

The site takes visitors to a virtual mall, where they can play games, watch short animated films, and interact with customers and store owners. As they explore areas of the mall, visitors learn how advertising affects them, how to protect their privacy and avoid identity theft, how to spot and avoid frauds and scams, and how they benefit when businesses compete. For parents and teachers , the site has detailed fact sheets with ideas for related activities.

The activities and resources on this site are free to use. The site is intended for students in 5th-8th grade.

Take the time to be an educated parent. You will have safer and smarter kids!

Also on Examiner.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sue Scheff: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving


What an important message for this time of the year, and truly, all year round. Take the time to be an educated parent, have safer teens and potentially save a life.


Did you know that in 2008, nearly 12,000 drivers or motorcycle riders died in alcohol-related crashes? That’s one person every 40 minutes. Many people are under the misconception that you would have to be “falling down drunk” to be too impaired to drive safely. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Last year alone, during the winter holiday season, 420 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. You can’t help but wonder if those lives could have been saved if people thought twice before getting behind the wheel.

With the holidays approaching, it’s important that drivers be reminded about the dangers of buzzed driving. Who knows, it could save a life.

The National Highway Safety and Traffic Association (NHTSA) and the Ad Council are continuing their efforts with their PSA campaign called “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.” The buzzed driver is one who drinks and drives, but does not consider himself a hazard on the roadway because “only a few” drinks are consumed. The campaign hopes to educate people that consuming even a few drinks can impair driving and that “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”

During the holiday season help keep “buzzed” drivers off the road. Learn about the dangers of buzzed driving, share a story or experience you might have had with buzzed driving and follow them on Twitter @BuzzedDriving and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/buzzeddrivingisdrunkdriving ) to get the latest updates and news from NHTSA.

You can also visit the website (http://buzzeddriving.adcouncil.org/ ) where readers can sign a pledge not to drive buzzed, play an interactive game to help them understand how drinking can impair driving, and hear personal stories from people who have driven buzzed.

WATCH 30 SECOND PSA VIDEO – CLICK HERE.

Be an educated parent – have a safer teen and holiday season.

Also on Examiner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Cell Phone Safety and Teens

Recently I was contacted by WebSafety to share some valuable and priceless information to help you keep your teens safe while driving.

WebSafety has developed a software that alerts parents before danger happens (if children are contacted by someone they don’t know [they say 700,000 predators are online everyday grooming kids, trying to find their next victims] and if your child receives ‘LMIRL’ = let’s meet in real life, you’ll get alerted in real time, if they’re being cyber bullied, stalked, or being asked to send nude pics [AKA ‘sexting’ which becomes child pornography once trafficked from friend to friend.]

With the news of the recent 13 year old suicide of Hope Witsell in Florida, which is releated to sexting and bullying, it is imperative parents keep 10 steps ahead of their kids and teens technically.
Zig Ziglar Agrees to Market Blindspot Alert`s Two Products, WebSafetyPC and CellSafety

DALLAS–(Business Wire)–Blindspot Alert, Inc. (the “Company”) (OTCBB:BSAL), a developer and marketer of software that makes cell phone usage and the Internet safer for families, today announced the association of Zig Ziglar and Ziglar, Inc. to support and promote the marketing of the Company`s two products: WebSafetyPC and CellSafety.

“My life and career have been spent in service to family values,” Zig Ziglar said from his home in Dallas, Texas, “and like many parents and grandparents, I’ve wondered how we can better protect our children from predator invasions over the Internet. Likewise, texting while driving has become a major risk for teenage drivers, increasing the likelihood of having an accident by as much as 23 times. When our family reviewed the WebSafetyPC and CellSafety products, we knew we wanted it; and we want everyone we care about to have it, too.”

President of Ziglar, Inc., Tom Ziglar says, “This really is a remarkable technology, and one that every family with a computer in their home or a person who drives while using a cell phone should have.”

The Company`s President Clifton Jolley says, “Having Zig as a proponent of the WebSafetyPC and CellSafety products is gratifying. Together we are committed to protecting children from Internet predators and from the risks associated with cell phones and driving. Like many of us, the Ziglar family has worried over the risks posed by these technologies; but until we developed the technology, Internet and cell phone usage has been a frustrating task for most parents. WebSafetyPC and CellSafety create a safety net to keep kids and adults from falling into bad habits such as texting while driving and from being contacted by cyberbullies and predators.

The Company`s two main products are:

CellSafety all but eliminates the risk of texting while driving by turning offthe texting feature at a predetermined speed. Parents also have the ability tocreate “test-free zones,” such as schools, where cheating by texting is anincreasing problem. “Another great feature,” Tom Ziglar says, “is the FindMefeature that lets me find my cell-phone-enabled children.”
WebSafetyPC provides many of the features available on CellSafety phones such as alerts for cyber bullying, sexting, and predator alerts. The president of Mothers Against Predators says of her experience, “The predator who attacked my daughter didn`t come in through a window…he came in through my computer.”

WebSafetyPC and CellSafety provide the following features as demonstrated by these two charts:



For more info, please see:http://www.MyWebSafety.com/ChildSafety

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sue Scheff: Ten Common Myths About Eating Disorders


During this time of year when eating and food seems to be more abundant, especially those sweets, as parents we need to be aware of our kids and teens and their eating habits. Eating Disorders can be common in many teens that are trying to fit into a clique or other emotional reason.
Carolyn Friedman, is working on her Masters and recently wrote an excellent article on “10 Common Myths Eating Disorders.” She asked me to share it with my readers. Take the time to read and learn more. You never know when you may need this knowledge. A short time ago, she also gave us the “10 Common Myths About Suicide.”

10 Common Myths About Eating Disorders

Like many mental illnesses and conditions, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa come prepackaged with a disconcerting number of misconceptions. Allowing these unfounded stereotypes to continuously creep through the public’s consciousness is a dangerous game with potentially lethal consequences. General confusion and ignorance regarding eating disorders further isolates and shames sufferers who already feel misunderstood, escalating their anxiety levels and increasing the risk of serious injury. These myths also prevent possible treatment for those who may have an eating disorder, but believe that their exclusion from one or more of the myths means they do not. Only by working tirelessly to dispel them can the eating disordered begin traveling down a relatively more positive road to recovery.


1. The media is to blame. : One of the most pervasive myths regarding eating disorders involves pointing fingers at movies, television shows, and magazines touting thinness (or, for men, lean and/or muscular as the only attractive body shape. With so many of the female eating disordered considering emaciated actresses, dancers, and models as “thinspiration,” it is easy to see how this misconception came into existence. However, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are far more complex and complicated than merely a construct of warped societal perceptions of attractiveness. While bombardment of supposedly glamorous waifs and taut bodybuilders negatively impacts the severity of eating disorders, in no way can it be considered the root cause, either. At their core, anorexia, bulimia, and their kin are mental illnesses related to brutal levels of anxiety and depression, which manifest themselves in erratic eating patterns and, in the most extreme cases, starvation. Psychologists and scientists are still trying to unlock any potential biological or behavioral origins that would better explain the nuances of eating disorders, but blame does not exclusively lay with the media. It does not help, but it also does not initiate.

2. Only women have eating disorders. : An estimated 5-15% of anorexia and bulimia cases are actually male, as are up to 35% of the binge eating disordered. While the staggering majority of sufferers are statistically female, the illnesses are not their exclusive domain by any means. Both men and women struggling with an eating disorder tend to display a distorted body image, though the former focuses more on musculature while the latter tends to zero in on becoming thinner. This myth is especially disconcerting, since stereotyping eating disorders as absolutely female prevents men and boys with the diseases from receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment. Even though the psychological profiles of male and female eating disordered carry the exact same behavioral, social, physical, and emotional symptoms, males who feel they may be suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder may end up denying themselves necessary medical care if they believe that only women can be diagnosed as such.

3. Only upper-class Caucasians have eating disorders. : Eating disorders do not discriminate based on race or socioeconomic bracket any more than they do on gender. Psychologists have diagnosed eating disorders on all continents, with the obvious exception of Antarctica, and at every income level. The University of California at Santa Barbara reports mostly equal instances of eating disorders amongst its Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic students. Like the myth that only women can be diagnosed with an eating disorder, the opinion that they also occur exclusively amongst Caucasians with upper-class backgrounds carries with it some bothersome implications. By adhering to the myth, sufferers of a comparatively lower socioeconomic bracket and/or different ethnicity may potentially reject the idea of seeking professional help altogether. Likewise, they also run the risk of ending up with a misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

4. The eating disordered are easy to spot because they are so thin. : Those suffering from an eating disorder cannot be spotted in a crowd any more than those with clinical depression, anxiety issues, and other common mental illnesses. The disease does not seek out specific body types any more than it does anything else. Many individuals are genetically predisposed to sport a skinny frame, and their appearance does not inherently indicate the presence of an eating disorder. Nor does someone with a comparatively larger frame clearly represent the absence of one. Women and men of all shapes and sizes can fall victim to eating disorders if they fit the psychological profile – there are absolutely no physical signs or symptoms associated with this mental illness. Disturbing images of skeletal bodies ravaged by anorexia or bulimia come only from the most extreme and prolonged cases. They serve as a sign of what the eating disordered can eventually become without attentive, supportive, and healthy medical and psychological treatment, but they are not to be considered illustrative of the majority of sufferers.

5. The eating disordered don’t eat. : If voluntary starvation was indicative of an eating disorder, many individuals with religious or sociopolitical reasons for abstaining from food who don’t otherwise display any signs of psychologically struggling with one would incur an incorrect diagnosis. The truth is, most eating disordered do actually eat as a means of veiling their illness from potentially concerned family and friends. Some choose to create a feeling of fullness by eating calorie–neutral foods such as celery, though some very rare and extreme cases have gone so far as to actually eat cotton balls. Others eat, but purge the contents of their digestive tract by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives later on. One of the most common eating disorders, eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS, is characterized by obsessively calculating and analyzing food intake. Binge eating disorder involves an almost uncontrollable compulsion to consume food, but without purging afterwards. Only the most severe, often un- or insufficiently treated, instances resort to outright starvation, but given their sensationalist nature they receive the brunt of the attention. This serves only to perpetuate the myth and drive it further into the public’s consciousness – family and friends worried that a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder could potentially dismiss the idea once the individual in question eats in front of them.

6. Having an eating disorder is a lifestyle choice. : As with all mental illnesses, those suffering from an eating disorder do not elect to live life shackled with the associated stresses. Factors such as poor self-esteem, poor impulse control, depression, and anxiety all play a part in diagnosing an individual with an eating disorder. The label of “lifestyle choice” implies some level of control, as if the sufferer can phase in and out of their symptoms voluntarily. Adhering to a healthy diet and exercise regimen are both lifestyle choices, but when they are carried out to excessive, compulsive extremes they cease to be considered as such and instead end up as indicators of something far more serious. This lack of control and overall sense of being trapped separates the eating disordered from those simply desiring to lose weight for health reasons. Eating disordered individuals display a complex network of emotional, mental, and physical issues that completely negate any perceptions that they have simply made the choice to hurt themselves.

7. Nobody dies from an eating disorder. : If left untreated or undiagnosed, an eating disorder is one of the few common mental illnesses that can actually kill the host. As a result of unhealthy and inadequate eating habits, sufferers can fall victim to permanent liver, heart, brain, and kidney damage. Inefficient and injured organs potentially lead to a coma, even death. 5-10% of anorexics die within the first ten years of diagnosis, 18-20% after twenty, and 20% will eventually die due to physical complications or suicide. Because of prevailing stigmas and misconceptions, only one in ten eating disordered individuals are estimated to enter into a treatment plan. By driving stakes into these horrifying myths, the psychological community and active, concerned members of society can hopefully save many more lives from ending as a result of a treatable medical condition.

8. The eating disordered only care about looking pretty. : One of the nastiest, most degrading stigmas associated with eating disorders involves taunts and callous dismissals of its victims as shallow, petty bubbleheads concerned only with the pursuit of the insanely specific and unrealistic Hollywood ideal of what constitutes beauty. This blasts a giant and entirely unnecessary rift between the eating disordered and mainstream society, furthering miring them in misunderstood isolation and precluding attempts to seek solace and treatment before it becomes too late. Faced with adversity and scorn from external sources, many choose to simply soldier forth and accept their cruel, anxious fate, believing that even extensive psychotherapy cannot cure them. At their very core, eating disorders are not inherently about food or appearance or beauty. They are about depression, poor self-esteem and self-image, and anxiety. While media blitzes of PhotoShopped celebrities do, in fact, actively help reinforce the issue, they also do not stand as the primary reason why men and women alike succumb to eating disorders.

9. Eating disorders are not illnesses. : The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision officially recognizes four eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, rumination syndrome, and EDNOS. Many professionals in the psychological community also recognize binge eating disorders, which are under consideration for inclusion in future publications of the DSM. Because of their inclusion in a an official diagnostic manual used by the psychological and medical communities, eating disorders ought to be regarded as serious illnesses and handled as such.

10. An individual cannot have more than one eating disorder. : A logical assumption, but it is actually incorrect. Because anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, and rumination syndrome all share common symptoms and underlying issues, some sufferers have been known to drift from one to another in order to try and satiate the depression and anxiety. It is not uncommon for a bulimic to quit a system of binging and purging and resort to eating inadequately, and the same is true in reverse. Professionals as well as concerned family and friends must pay close attention in order to detect subtle shifts in behavior that may signify the presence of multiple eating disorders.

By making an earnest effort to promote an awareness and understanding of eating disorders, millions of lives all over the world can be improved, if not outright saved. Unfortunately, numerous presumptions, misconceptions, and absolute lies prevent many men and women from realizing they suffer from an eating disorder, therefore precluding them from seeking the therapy that could very well mean the difference between life and death. Spreading the truth and destroying these dangerous falsehoods stands as the best method of preventing the suffering of more individuals who do not realize that they are not beyond health, happiness, and hope.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sue Scheff: Does your teen cheat? Do they lie?


Do kids and teens cheat and lie? Does this carry into their adulthood? Check out this excellent article and parenting tips you should take the time to read and discuss with your kids.

The latest survey from the Josephson Institute on Ethics finds that kids who cheat in high school are more likely to continue cheating and lying through life: to their spouse, their boss, their clients. What can parents do to stop the deceit?

Source: Connect with Kids

Kids Cheat and Lie

“If you try one big lie, you’re going to keep doing it, over and over.”

– Crystal, 13 years old

“If you try one big lie, you’re going to keep doing it, over and over.”
-Crystal, 13 years old

The latest survey from the Josephson Institute on Ethics finds that kids who cheat in high school are more likely to continue cheating and lying through life: to their spouse, their boss, their clients. What can parents do to stop the deceit?

Talk to any group of kids, and it’s easy to find someone who has told a lie, or cheated. “Almost everybody has,” says 14-year-old Kachun.

According to the Josephson Institute on Ethics, 64 percent of high schoolers admitted to cheating on an exam last year.

“[A friend] showed me her report card, it had a lot of D’s and C’s and no A’s and she took a pencil and erased her grades!” exclaims 13-year-old Crystal.

And 42 percent of teens have told a lie to save money. “As far as telling the truth all the time I don’t think that can be done by anybody,” says Ross, 16.

“Societal standards are becoming lax and it’s up to parents to counteract that,” explains child psychologist Dr. Spencer Gelernter.

He says parents have to set firm standards of right and wrong. And often, for parents, that means telling the truth about a time when you may have told a lie. “It’s perfectly acceptable to tell your child you messed up when you were a child and that you made some mistakes. And that you want your child to do better than you did,” says Gelernter.

And even kids who do lie or cheat can learn not to, especially if they understand the consequences.

“If you try one big lie you’re gonna keep doing it over and over, it’s like –addicted!—and you will keep lying more,” says Crystal.

A recent edition of the “Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth,” a comprehensive national survey on the ethics of young people administered by The Josephson Institute of Ethics showed the following concerning high school students:

Nearly two-thirds (71 percent) admit they cheated on an exam at least once in the past 12 months (45 percent said they did so two or more times)
Almost all (92 percent) lied to their parents in the past 12 months (79 percent said they did so two or more times)

Over two-thirds (78 percent) lied to a teacher (58 percent two or more times)
Over one-quarter (27 percent) said they would lie to get a job

Forty percent of males and 30 percent of females say they stole something from a store in the past 12 months

These statistics seem to be indicative of a drift away from the morals and values that parents traditionally associate with society in the United States. In the press release accompanying the preliminary result of the survey, Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and CHARACTER COUNTS!, called on politicians to recognize the vital importance of dealing with “shocking levels of moral illiteracy” as part of any educational reform package. Saying the survey data reveals “a hole in the moral ozone,” Josephson added: “Being sure children can read is certainly essential, but it is no less important that we deal with the alarming rate of cheating, lying and violence that threatens the very fabric of our society.”


Tips for Parents
When discussing issues of morality and values, how can a parent illustrate what it means to be a person of character? The Center for the 4th and 5th R’s provides the following examples of characteristics of an individual with a positive character. For example, a person of character …

Is trustworthy:

Honesty – Tell the truth. Be sincere. Don’t deceive, mislead or be devious or tricky. Don’t betray a trust. Don’t withhold important information in relationships of trust. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat.
Integrity – Stand up for your beliefs about right and wrong. Be your best self. Resist social pressures to do things you think are wrong. Walk your talk. Show commitment, courage and self-discipline.
Promise-keeping – Keep your word. Honor your commitments. Pay your debts. Return what you borrow.
Loyalty – Stand by, support, and protect your family, friends, employers, community and country. Don’t talk behind people’s backs, spread rumors, or engage in harmful gossip. Don’t violate other ethical principles to keep or win a friendship or gain approval. Don’t ask a friend to do something wrong.
Treats all people with respect:

Respect – Be courteous and polite. Judge all people on their merits. Be tolerant, appreciative and accepting of individual differences. Don’t abuse, demean or mistreat anyone. Don’t use, manipulate, exploit or take advantage of others. Respect the right of individuals to make decisions about their own lives.
Acts responsibly:

Accountability – Think before you act. Consider the possible consequences on all people affected by actions. Think for the long-term. Be reliable. Be accountable. Accept responsibility for the consequences of your choices. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame others for your mistakes or take credit for others’ achievements. Set a good example for those who look up to you.
Pursue excellence – Do your best with what you have. Keep trying. Don’t quit or give up easily. Be diligent and industrious.
Self-control – Exercise self-control. Be disciplined.
Is fair and just:

Fairness – Treat all people fairly. Be open-minded. Listen to others and try to understand what they are saying and feeling. Make decisions which affect others only on appropriate considerations. Don’t take unfair advantage of others’ mistakes. Don’t take more than your fair share.
Is caring:

Caring and kindness – Show you care about others through kindness, caring, sharing and compassion. Live by the Golden Rule. Help others. Don’t be selfish. Don’t be mean, cruel or insensitive to other’s feelings. Be charitable.
Is a good citizen:

Citizenship – Play by the rules. Obey laws. Do your share. Respect authority. Stay informed. Vote. Protect your neighbors and community. Pay your taxes. Be charitable and altruistic. Help your community or school by volunteering service. Protect the environment. Conserve natural resources.

According to experts at CHARACTER COUNTS!, character building is most effective when you regularly see and seize opportunities to …

Strengthen awareness of moral obligations and the moral significance of choices (ethical consciousness).

Enhance the desire to do the right thing (ethical commitment).
Improve the ability to foresee potential consequences, devise options and implement principled choices (ethical competency).
When trying to instill morals and values to your child, experts at CHARACTER COUNTS! say it is important to …

Be consistent – The moral messages you send must be clear, consistent and repetitive. Children will judge your values not by what you say but by what you do and what you permit them to do. They will judge you not by your best moments but by your last worst act. Thus, everything you say and do, and all that you allow to be said and done in your presence, either reinforces or undermines the credibility of your messages about the importance of good character. Over and over, use the specific language of the core virtues – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – and be as firm and consistent as you can be about teaching, advocating, modeling and enforcing these “Six Pillars of Character.” When you are tired, rushed or under pressure you are most tempted to rationalize. It may help to remember that the most powerful and lasting lessons about character are taught by making tough choices when the cost of doing the right thing is high.

Be concrete – Messages about good attitudes, character traits and conduct should be explicit, direct and specific. Building character and teaching ethics is not an academic undertaking; it must be relevant to the lives and experiences of your children. Talk about character and choices in situations that your children have been in. Comment on and discuss things their friends and teachers have done in terms of the “Six Pillars of Character.”

Be creative – Effective character development should be creative. It should be active and involve the child in real decision-making that has real consequences (such as teaching responsibility through allocating money from an allowance or taking care of a pet). Games and role-playing are also effective. Look for “teaching moments,” using good and bad examples from television, movies and the news.

References
The Josephson Institute of Ethics
CHARACTER COUNTS!
Center for the 4th and 5th R’s
“Turn It In” Plagiarism Prevention Program
National Education Association

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sue Scheff: Survey Shows Parents Still Less Concerned About Cyberbullying Than Other Online Threats


ReputationDefender/MyChild is an excellent resource to help keep your kids safe online. Recently they posted on their Blog about a new survey that suggests parents not as concerned about cyberbullying as they are with other online threats. Read more and learn how you can be proactive in keeping your kids safe in cyberspace.


Although cyberbullying poses a far more realistic threat to children and teens online than sexual predators, a recent study from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s

Health shows that parents continue to downplay concern over this fast growing problem.
According to Dr. Matthew Davis, who organized the study,

“Parents are quite aware of some online safety risks but seem less aware about others. We know from other studies that about one in seven children between the ages of 10 and 17 have received sexual solicitation over the Internet, and about one in three children have been exposed to sexually explicit material. So it’s not a surprise that most parents whose kids are online unsupervised are concerned about issues related to sexual predators and pornography. On the other hand, cyberbullying is a very worrisome problem for kids, yet the majority of parents say they are not concerned about it.”

Dr. Davis’ research also found that “81 percent of parents surveyed said their children aged 9 to 17 use the Internet without being supervised by an adult.”

It is distressing to see that there is still a lack of awareness regarding the dangers of cyberbullying, particularly when four out of five children are surfing the web without any supervision. Unfortunately, it is also somewhat expected.

Rarely are we able to identity the severity of a problem as it’s occurring. For instance, five or six years ago when MySpace and other social networking websites were beginning to gain traction, there were a rash of news stories about sexual predators trolling the internet looking for victims. From 2004 to 2008, the Dateline NBC show To Catch a Predator put a face to these stories, trapping would-be sex offenders in a hidden camera reality TV show.

Despite the continuing danger that sexual predators play, however, our exposure and awareness of the problem has helped us mitigate the threat somewhat. It is 2009. Teens are no longer inexperienced web surfers. They text, they tweet, they have multiple social networking accounts. As with all things on the web, the problems kids and teens face now have evolved.
Because kids and teens are so tuned in online, there is little disconnect from their time at school to their time at home. In some ways, this is good. Studies have shown that social networking websites help maintain stronger peripheral relationships over long periods of time, allowing for a more robust and useful social circle.

In other ways, however, being plugged in all the time is a bad thing. If a child is facing taunting or bullying at school, there is no respite from the abuse at home. Often, in the digital age, schoolyard abuse carries over to the web in ways that are far more destructive and emotionally scarring. The fact that parents are not supervising their kids online allows for the bullying to go virtually uninterrupted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As demonstrated in the case of Megan Meier, the results of prolonged cyberbullying can be tragic.

In order to protect your kids online effectively, you must understand all of the threats, not just the ones that make the headlines. In the next two or three years, cyberbullying will become one of the most talked about issues on the web. Don’t wait until then to talk about it with your kids. For more information on how to identify and prevent cyberbullying, check out this guide from ReputationDefender. Also, if you don’t already, follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sue Scheff: Driving Tips That May Save Your Teen’s Life Over the Holidays


After just finishing a 10-part series inside Dr. Michele Borba’s BIG Book of Parenting Solutions, I can officially say it is one of the most comprehensive parenting books I have ever reviewed and fortunately own. My daughter (a mother herself) will be receiving a copy under the tree this holiday season! I cannot express enough what a magnificient gift this is for anyone that works with children, moms-to-be, daycare providers, coaches and more.


This week Michele Borba posted a timely Blog as many are traveling and I especially think of our kids/teens traveling home from school for the holidays. Take the time to be an educated parent and learn how to prepare yourself and your teen before they get behind the wheel!
Happy Thanksgiving and make it a safe one!


REALITY CHECK: Nearly 10,000 youths have died as passengers in car crashes. Of those crashes, 54% were riding with a teen driver. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for tweens and teens.

Michele Borba: Driving Tips That May Save Your Teen’s Life Over the Holidays
This week yet there were more sobering headlines in our local papers: two more horrific car crashes involved teens from our local high schools. Both crashes happened within a few days of one another. Three teens lives were cut short. Others are in critical condition. And once again I shutter, and then I cry.

I’ve had five close friends over the last ten years lose their beautiful teen sons in driving fatalities. All were the most loving of parents, all the boys were wonderful, glorious, and good, and each parent would have read this prior to the worst day of their life, and said, “Not my kid.”
But the stark reality is such a tragedy could happen to your child. So please read this carefully and take this very seriously — especially as these holiday approach and teens have more driving time. Knowing the risks just may save your child or their friend.
Here are study highlights found by Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealing the most dangerous driving circumstances for youth:
Driving with inexperienced (less than a year driver) on high-speed roads (more than three-quarters of the fatal crashes occurred on roads with speed limits higher than 45 mph)
Driving without a seatbelt: nearly two-thirds of youth passengers were not wearing seat belts
Driving with a male teen driver who had been drinking and on weekends: 72% of crashes happened between 6 am to 10 pm.

Here are a few essential Dos and Don’ts parenting solutions based on research findings that just may keep your teen safer. I know some of these are “easier said than done,” but that’s where talking, talking and talking to your teen over and over and over come in — as well as monitoring, monitoring, and more monitoring.

Do NOT let your teen drive with a teen with less than a year’s driving experience. The risk is too great. I know this is going to be inconvenient. But please review those research studies carefully. Please!

Do NOT let your inexperienced teen drive over 40 mph. This one is tough to uphold but monitor. There are new devices that parents are installing in their cars so they can watch their teen’s driving habits.

Do NOT let your child get into a car without wearing a seat belt. Make sure you mandate wearing them in your own car. And talk, talk, talk about the life-saving feature of wearing those belts.

DO NOT let your kid use that darn cell phone when driving. Figure out a way that he doesn’t have to go switching channels on his Ipod when driving.

DO teach your teen how to bulk peer pressure. A study by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America of over 46,000 teens revealed that peer pressure is one of the biggest issues they face and that “Just say no stuff”does not work. Teens want you to teach them specific things they can do and say to counter that peer pressure.

DO give your teen (and each of his friends) a card with phone numbers of taxicab services to call. Put emergency cab fare money (like fifty dollars) in a drawer and tell your teen it is “Just in case you ever need a taxi cab.”Make sure your kid has a safe way home in case of drinking or sleep deprivation. Driving home late and sleepy killed two of my friends’ sons. They were not drinking.
DO tell your teen that if he ever abuses your car rules those keys will be removed. One of my girlfriend’s sons lost the car privilege for a year (and learned his lesson); another hid her son’s car in another friend’s garage to ensure her child could access it. Yes MOM!!!
DO have your teen sign a contract specifying that passengers must wear seat belts, which roads he may drive on, speed limits he must adhere to and of course never drink. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD – and founded as Students Against Driving Drunk) is an organization you may want to connect with. If also provides a free online contract you can download.

DO get on board with other parents. Introduce yourself. Exchange phone numbers. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a great organization that mobilizes parents.


DO set up a secret code in your family. In our house if one of my sons ever called any time and said, “Mom, I think I’m getting the flu” it was my signal to drop everything and go pick up my child. It meant he was in a tough situation and needed a “rescue.” Turns out he was at a party that was supposed to be supervised by parents who decided to be “cool” and supply kegs while they left the kids. Those parents should have been arrested, but I was so glad we had that secret code. I also have a pack with my girlfriend that if she’s not available I will pick up her kids, and she mine.
We’ve only had to do so once and we still are so grateful we had that pact. Also set up a secret text code such as 111 or 333–something so simple and memorable that your child could instantly text you that code and you would know to drive and pick up your teen, ASAP.

DO carefully think through if your teen really is ready to drive at age sixteen. Every study shows that most kids that age are not mature enough to get behind that wheel. Remember this isn’t about your convenience, but your child’s life.
Keep your teen safe! Please! This is life and death stuff. Nothing is more precious than our children. Please pass this information on to another parent. Let’s save our kids together!

For more information and specific tips on how to reduce risky behaviors refer to The Book of Book of Parenting Solutions especially the chapters on drinking, steroids, peer pressure and sex. Research shows that while there is no silver bullet that protects our kids, moms and dads who are “hands-on” in their parenting approach (adhere to a curfew, know their kids friends, voice their concerns about drinking and drugs, monitor their teens’ comings and goings and are not afraid to SAY NO) greatly reduce their teens’ risky behaviors. When it comes to drinking and driving, please tune up your “hands-on parenting.” This is a matter of life and death.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sue Scheff: Fathers at School


Today more than ever we are seeing more dads attending school functions with their kids. Personally, I think this is fantastic and also helps your child to feel important and know they matter. Whether it is because there are more single parent households or a father is out of work, it will benefit your child and that is the most important element.
Fathers at School
“When I first started (going to my son's school) years ago it was very, very, scary. You know, I would go in and go places, and there were just moms there. I always felt like I was the odd man out.”

– Danny Montalvo, Father

The Obama Administration is holding a series of forums this fall about fatherhood and the roll that dad can play within the school. Studies show that moms outnumber dads 12 to one in the PTA and yet when dads get involved their child's grades go up.

Andrew's dad goes to school often. And when Andrew gets home, his dad helps with homework.

Andrew, who's now 11, says, "He's like, the best Dad in the world."

But visiting his son's school hasn't always been easy for Danny Montalvo. Danny says, "When I first started doing this years ago it was very, very, scary. You know, I would go in and go places, and there were just moms there. I always felt like I was the odd man out."

Research from the U.S. Department of Education shows when fathers visit the classroom and attend school events...their children get higher grades and are more likely to graduate.

Allan Kennedy, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta says, "I think it also helps the teacher's perception of the student, when the dad is involved."

The research shows having dad at school even helps kids who don't live with their fathers. Kennedy says, "Particularly in a situation where mom and dad can still communicate effectively, his involvement in the school, even though he's not at home at night maybe to do all the homework with the child, research shows real clearly that the number of young men getting A's in a class is almost double, then when just the single mother does it by herself."

He says, at first, it's normal for dads to feel uncomfortable at school. "However, the more you get involved and push through that discomfort, the more comfortable you will feel, obviously, and the more that your son will see that comfort level growing, and the more he'll believe in the importance of having you there," says Kennedy.

Studies show that the risk of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, sexual abuse, early pregnancy and dropping out of high school is six times higher for children whose biological fathers are not part of their lives. Other research indicates fathers who are interested in their children's activities increase the chances that they will stay involved with those activities. Consider the following:

■Girls who grow up without a biological father are likely to physically mature faster, reach puberty at a younger age than their peers and have earlier pregnancies.
■The most significant influences on children's choices of how they spent their free time were their own personalities and their parents' interest in their activities.

Tips for Parents
Taking an active role in school activities, such as PTA meetings, is just one way fathers can get more involved in their children's lives. Most children yearn for two parents. And most parents would agree that parenting is one job that requires more than one adult. New research supports these ideas.

Seventy percent of men between the ages of 21 and 39 say they are willing to give up some pay for time with their families. A recent poll indicates that the majority of men today are more involved in childrearing and maintaining their households than their fathers ever were.

Fathers may find the time when their children reach puberty to be difficult or uncomfortable. But their continued interest and support is essential for their children's healthy development. Children gain positive reinforcement from fathers who express interest in their various activities. A father's presence is especially significant during adolescence. Consider the following:

■Young children may take the absence of their father as a personal rejection. They begin to think their dad is not around because there's something wrong with them.
■It's more important for a dad to be at home and around for his kid's extracurricular activities than putting in inordinate hours at the office. Dad's presence is more desirable to a child than life's luxuries.
■Parents, and especially fathers, influence their children throughout middle adolescence.
■Parental participation transcends gender and relates to a mutual respect and admiration between the parent and child.
■It is necessary for all parents and children to participate in enjoyable experiences together.
References
■HealthDay
■Psychology Today
■Time Magazine
■USA Today

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting Teens Today can be Challenging


Parenting teens today has become one of the most challenging jobs with a new generation of technology, peer pressure, substance abuse, and much more.

As a Parent Advocate, I continuously help parents with today's teen issues. Many call my organization, Parents' Universal Resource Experts, at their wits end.

Here are some article that I encourage parents of teens and tweens to take the time to read. An educated parent is a prepared parent. A prepared parent can lead to a safer teenager.


Click here to learn more about the author.
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