Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cyber-Gossip and Cyberbullying: Peer Cruelty Is Wrong

October is Bullying Prevention Month.

Gossip can be mean. Bullies can build on gossip and create stories and ugliness about a student that can go viral in seconds.

In today’s internet age, gossip can be spread at lightning speed to hundreds, thousands or millions of people. The new “party line” is cyberspace where millions of people can all access the same information instantaneously. Just get on your computer, iPhone, iPad or Smartphone  and let the rumors fly.

Here are 10 ways people (including kids) can us new technology to rapidly spread gossip (in no particular order).
  1. Email – One way to spread a rumor quickly is to send an email to all the contacts in your account, except the one the rumor is about, of course. Then they can forward it to all their contacts and on it goes from there. You better hope they delete your name when they forward it, or you might get blamed for starting it.
  2. Facebook – Post your gossip on facebook and all your friends will know about it instantly. If they “like” it, comment on it or repost it, all their friends will see it too. Pretty soon you’ve got the rumor spreading quickly.
  3. Instagram – Another social networking sight great for gossiping is Instagram. Post that picture and watch the rumors spread like wildfire.
  4. Twitter – You can tweet a rumor and all your Twitter followers will know your juicy gossip in 140 characters or less. They can re-tweet it to all their followers and in no time the gossip is flying through cyberspace.
  5. Blogs – Some people love to spread gossip through their blogs. Even unintentional rumors are sometimes started by bloggers.
  6. Website – You won’t believe some of the stuff you find posted on websites, and you shouldn’t either. There are whole websites put on the web just for the purpose of spreading misinformation. Always remember to check their sources.
  7. YouTube – If you have a registered YouTube account you can upload an unlimited number of videos. If you have a video of someone doing something dubious, this is the best way to spread that rumor to millions of viewers.
  8. Comments – A great way to anonymously spread gossip is to post a comment on a website, blog or YouTube video. You can log in under an assumed username and say all kinds of outrageous things without revealing your identity.
  9. Chat rooms – Another anonymous way to spread rumors are internet chat rooms. You can start with an offhand comment and embellish it as you go.
  10. Texting – If you see or hear something juicy to gossip about, you can send a text message to all your friends. That will get the thumbs flying as the rumor gets spread.
The new social media available has taken gossiping to a whole new level. Unfortunately this can lead to cyber bullying and be very traumatizing to vulnerable people. Celebrities and politicians are easy targets for internet gossip and careers are ruined by unintended tweets. 

Everyone should use the new technology responsibly, but many abuse their new found privileges. Be careful what you put out into cyberspace or it may come back to haunt you and always check the sources of what you see or read. Chances are it’s just more cyber-gossip.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sexual Education and Teens: The Peer Pressure to Have Sex

School is back in session and the peer pressure is back in full swing.  Raising teens in today’s world is not easy.  The pressure to fit-in is always going to be complicated.

Whether your teenager’s health classes at school take an abstinence-only approach to sexual education or not, the responsibility of encouraging abstinence still falls largely upon your shoulders as a parent. Sexual activity at an early age could potentially lead to an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or both. Teenagers are beginning to experience adult urges, but still have an underdeveloped sense of the impulse control that governs most adult social interaction.
Approaching your teen about sexuality and abstinence doesn’t have to be awkward and uncomfortable, though, especially if you’ve established a foundation of open, honest communication.

Get to Know Your Teen
It’s not easy to talk to someone that you don’t really know, especially if your lack of mutual familiarity makes a frank conversation about sex painfully awkward. In order to effectively teach your teenager why he should avoid sexual activity until he’s older and more mature, you’ll have to be able to speak comfortably about other things, too. It’s also important that you know who his friends are, what he’s interested in and who he’s dating. The peer group around your teenager will have a certain amount of influence over his decisions, especially if he’s involved in a romantic relationship. You’ll need to tailor your conversations regarding sexuality to meet his individual situation, something you simply can’t do if you don’t know these basic bits of information.

Avoid Moral Ambiguity
If abstinence from premarital sex is important to your family because of your religious beliefs, you have concrete reasons aside from teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases for encouraging such behavior. Teenagers tend to think that the worst-case scenario doesn’t apply to them, and while these situations happen to other people, they’ll never happen to them. Heads of secular households will need to avoid attaching an ambiguous moral stigma to the idea of teen sex, especially if it’s not something you actually believe. If religion isn’t a driving force behind your hopes for abstinence, it’s best to stick to the facts.

Encourage Him to Pursue Long-Term Goals
A teenager that’s focused on a long-term goal, like finishing college or excelling in an area in which he’s particularly talented, may be more determined to avoid potential stumbling blocks along the road to the success he dreams of. Making sure that you encourage your teenager’s ambitions and that you explain how easily they could be derailed by an unplanned pregnancy or an incurable sexually transmitted disease can put a spin on abstinence that he understands.

Limit Screen Time, But Don’t Be Afraid to Use Entertainment as a Talking Point
Sex sells, a fact that’s readily apparent any time you switch on the television. While limiting screen time is a wise choice for a variety of reasons, you should realize that you simply can’t shield your teenager from allusions to sexual activity on television, in music or on the Internet. Rather than trying to block all references to sexuality, you should use them as talking points. Remember that talking about abstinence is an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time discussion. Topical conversations about the things that your teen sees on television are another effective way of applying these important principals to his real life in a way that makes sense to him.

Consider the Effects of Substance Use
Teenagers aren’t renowned for their impulse control and drinking or drug use can cause their inhibitions to drop even further. Understanding the causal link between substance use and sexual activity is essential for parents because your teenager will almost certainly find himself in the position of being offered drugs or alcohol at some point in his high school career. Making sure that your stance on experimentation with controlled substances is clear and that your teenager understands just how quickly a single mistake can ruin a promising life is important.

Have Frank Discussions About the Ramifications of Teen Pregnancy
The abstract notion of being saddled with an infant before graduation is a scary one to teenagers, but it’s still not a concept that fully sinks in most of the time. Teenagers may understand that sex can lead to pregnancy, but they still tend to believe that it will never happen to them. Girls may even believe that teen pregnancy isn’t so devastating, and they may believe that they have the necessary tools to parent. Making sure that your children absolutely understand how devastating an unexpected pregnancy would be is essential, as it may be the one lesson they hold on to when they’re confronted with temptation.

While it’s important to talk to your teens about abstinence and maintaining sexual purity, it’s also important that you foster a sense of openness and trust in your relationship with them.
A teen that’s terrified of your reaction to an impulsive mistake or even an informed decision regarding his sexual activity isn’t likely to discuss the matter with you at all, leaving you firmly in the dark. Make sure that your child knows that you strongly encourage abstinence, but that you’re there to listen to him and to help him through difficult situations even if he doesn’t live up to those expectations.

Source: Babysitting Jobs

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Consequences of Teens and Sexting

To sext or not to sext?
For the reported one out of every six kids who have received a “friend’s” naked picture online and been asked to return the favor, there is pressure to participate. No longer categorized as a trend, sexting is an epidemic – an epidemic that now has a smart answer. The newly launched Send This Instead app gives a novel and witty way to say “No!” to the request for an intimate image.

The Send This Instead app meets kids where they’re at without taking a demeaning or authoritative approach. We’ve tried the scare tactics, embarrassment, and even punishment and now it’s time to step back and give them tools. When kids feel pressured to send intimate photos or share inappropriate content they can open their Send This Instead app and, well, send something else instead!

Humor can diffuse difficult situations, especially online. Staring at that blank conversation box can seem daunting when you don’t know how to respond or feel obligated to do something that you’re not comfortable with.

Sexting is dangerous, socially, emotionally and legally. The Send This Instead app gives young persons an alternative, accessible, and effective method to say no.

Created by members of the Ontario Provincial Police, Child Sexual Exploitation Unit in Ontario, Canada, the free app gives an edgy and funny alternative to sexting. Understanding the social pressures to sext, Inspector Scott Naylor, manager of unit, says, “Until now, anti-sexting campaigns have focused on warning kids about the dangers of sending explicit pictures of themselves, but it isn’t working, we need a new strategy.”

Taking the idea to comedians, graphic artists and musicians who could bring the novelty of the app to a broader audience, the members dug in. As a result, the Send This Instead app contains digital posters of humorous and sarcastic retorts that users can send instead of nude photos. Combined with entertaining graphics, funny and pointed messages include, “Sorry, just in the middle of something…Can I reject you later?” and “Save the bandwidth….Download a life,” among many others.

The free Send This Instead app also offers teen education called “Life Bytes” on how to deal with issues surrounding sexting. The app provides links to organizations like, a website and program maintained by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection which helps kids get nude sexting photos off of the Internet. It also links to abuse pages for social media and IM platforms as well as to country-specific agencies to report people asking for nude images.
The Send This Instead website offers free media and presentation pieces for anyone reaching out to teens in a live setting, such as classrooms and community groups. The app can be used in tandem with the presentations.

The Send This Instead app is available in the Apple App Store as well as Google Play Store. To download click on the following links:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Online Gaming and Safety Measures to Keep Teens Safe

Summertime is more screen time.

When you look in your living room, are your teens and tweens immersed in a video game on a console, computer, or cellphone? Chances are, the games they’re playing have online connectivity. Gartner reports that a large portion of the $111 billion video game market consists of online games. 38 percent of minors enjoy video gaming as a hobby, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and there’s plenty of benefits to encouraging them to play online enabled games. They provide your kids with entertainment, socialization, computer skill development, and brain stimulating activities. Unfortunately, these socialization elements also open your tweens and teens up to certain risks and dangers, such as becoming a victim of hacking or social engineering. Knowing how to protect your tweens and teens and developing their own risk- aware skills is an essential part of safe online gaming.

Checking Appropriate Content

Online games span many genres, from a hidden object game by iWin to MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. Pay close attention to the rating and types of content and concepts presented in the game your teens and pre-teens are playing. Consider playing along with your children to see exactly what information your kids are picking up, as well as steering them to age appropriate games if the content is not suitable for them. The Entertainment Software Rating Board handles video game ratings, starting at EC for early childhood and going up to AO for adults only.

Checking for Chat Rooms

Many online games have chat rooms or messaging functions to provide social interaction with other gamers. Online games with parental controls allow you to filter out bad language, block private messages, and control whether your child gets chat room capability or not. This is another way of ensuring your kids aren’t exposed to inappropriate content. Some games also allow you to mute specific players if a particular individual is harassing your child.

Time Monitoring

The allure of online gaming makes it easy for your children to spend many hours playing all of the games at their disposal. Track the amount of time that they play through parental monitoring software. Some games, such as World of Warcraft, allow you to prevent an account from being played past a daily or weekly amount, or restricting the time of day that the child can log in. This helps you keep your kids happy with their favorite activities while not allowing it to take up all of their free time.

Avoiding Hackers

Online gaming portals provide hundreds of games through a single website. Some of these games play directly in the browser, while others are downloaded and installed on your computer. Keep the computer anti-virus running to avoid downloads and browser plugins with viruses and trojans attached. Read through gaming portal reviews to find legitimate sites, or check gaming magazines and blogs for this information. Check for https encryption when your child logs into the site, and handle downloadable game installations yourself to stop companion software, such as toolbars, from getting installed.

Check Game Emails

Some online game services send out emails informing players of new developments, specials, and updates. Phishers take advantage of this by posing as official game representatives and tricking users into providing account information. Monitor the email address your child used to sign up with a service, and screen any emails for phishing attempts.

Contributor: James Stewart

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Texting and Teens

OMG, did you know that kids are now thinking in acronyms? 

Do our kids even know what an acronym is? Kids today are so busy tweeting with limited characters or texting little bursts of information that they don’t want to use big words. Seriously, if you don’t use the words you learn they will never become a part of your vocabulary. The schools are trying to teach vocabulary, but kids just aren’t using it.

Check out 10 ways texting is ruining the vocabulary of our kids.
  1. Takes too long to text big words: Even if your kid knows big words there is a chance that his friends won’t and frankly it just takes too long to type in a big word when a smaller one will communicate the same thing.
  2. Many acronyms already exist that are easier: When something is funny do they text, that is hilarious! Nope, they text… lol or if it’s really funny they text, rofl. These have become standard acronyms on texting so everyone uses them so that they will be understood by their friends.
  3. Adults don’t understand the acronyms: If you actually text using real words then your folks could go back and read your texts. What if you texted something you don’t want your parents to know. Like WTPT, where’s the party tonight? If they stick to these acronyms most adults won’t know what they are saying and they can avoid getting into trouble.
  4. Short and sweet: Many times the kids will misspell words so that they can save characters. Spelling and vocabulary go hand in hand. ( If U no wat I mean) Really kids would just write KWIM? (Know what I mean), but they will shorten other sentences and drop punctuation and everything else.
  5. Dictionaries are changing: In their defense, Dictionaries are there to tell us what a word means and when certain “words” are used enough then they end up in the Dictionary. Some of us purists think that only words should be in the dictionary and not abbreviations or acronyms. When a child goes to look up a word in a dictionary the words we grew up with will have changed. Like Rachael Ray made up EVOO for Extra Virgin Olive Oil and it’s made it into the dictionary. Although, anymore most people don’t even own a dictionary, they look it up online.
  6. Some teachers are bowing under the pressure: Teachers are even allowing kids to write their term papers in text speak. Now where is the common sense in that? If you don’t even have to know your words or how to spell them when writing a school paper then what is this world coming to? Don’t do it teachers, don’t cave!
  7. Face to face communication is the exception and not the rule: You might think that kids only use text-speak while texting and that when they are talking to each other they use their vocabulary. Well, if you think that you would be wrong. Not only are teens starting to speak their text speak abbreviations, but texting is making face-to-face communication more difficult for kids. They would rather hide behind their phones than to speak to someone in person.
  8. Texting and e-mails have done away with letter writing: Another time when we use our vocabularies is when we write letters to each other. We would write out our thoughts in long hand. When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? People just don’t do it anymore. It’s all about the e-mails and texting now and social media. Social media sources may keep us in touch with people we went to high school with, but do we really care?
  9. Creating a new language: Instead of working on developing their own language they are busy learning and using another language. Or I guess you could call it a different dialect of the same language. Because those of us who speak English can figure out text-speak if we really try. Most of it is intuitive; kids continue to strive to create new abbreviations instead of learning how to converse with words in the English language.
  10. Spending more time on texting their friends than doing their homework: This final reason is one that is more an effect of time management than the actual use of texting. Kids spend so much time texting to their friends that they aren’t spending enough time on their homework. This may affect their vocabulary because they need to do the work. Make sure kids know how to use the English language before allowing them to text.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Internet Addiction and Teens

Summer time can mean more screen-time.

One of the most common concerns from parents of teens, behind drug use, is Internet addiction.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a college campus or schools that don’t have Internet.

College students and teens use the Internet for research, communication, and other educational activities.

Of course, students also use the Internet for social media, news, and even online gambling, activities that can be fun and even enriching, but when overused, become a real problem.

Some college students suffer from Internet addiction, unable to step away from the computer or put down mobile devices even for a day. Eighty-four percent of college counselors agree that Internet Addiction Disorder is legitimate, but at the same time, 93% of them have not been fully trained to diagnose Internet addiction, and 94% have insufficient training for Internet addiction treatment. The result? Falling grades, physical problems, and even clinical addiction.

Internet addiction is a real problem for college students and teens today, and here are several trends that are worrisome.

1. Students have feelings similar to drug and alcohol addiction: Two hundred students were asked to abstain from all media for 24 hours, and were then asked to blog about their experiences. The words the students used to describe their feelings during the restriction period were typically the same words associated with a substance abuse addiction: “withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy.” It seems that these students are addicted to media, particularly in its online form. This is disturbing, but not surprising, as studies have already shown that Google can actually change your brain.

2. College students are especially susceptible to Internet Behavior Dependence:A college student case study revealed that college students are a “population of special concern” when it comes to Internet addiction, and they are disproportionately vulnerable due to psychological and environmental factors in their lives. When faced with an Internet addiction, college students have a hard time forming their identity and building intimate relationships. Online, students can “develop relationships devoid of the anxiety found in face-to-face relationships,” and they “can take on any persona they desire, without fear of judgment on appearance or personal mannerism, and can avoid racial and gender prejudice.” This type of adaptive behavior tends to diminish the social capacity of college students, leaving them unprepared for the development of real world relationships.

3. Online poker is prevalent on college campusesOnline poker joins two addictions together: gambling and online interaction, so its use on college campuses is especially worrisome. The University of Pennsylvania predicts that over 20% of college students play online poker at least once a month, and you can typically see lots of students playing online poker on a college campus. Although it can be a fun game, and many students may be able to maintain healthy lives while enjoying playing online poker, some simply can’t. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers noted that among college gamblers that played weekly, over half of them had a serious problem with the habit. In some cases, students fail out of classes or gamble their tuition away, even turning to crime to pay debts created by online poker.

4. Students can’t go 24 hours without the Internet:When 1,000 college students took part in an international study on electronic media, they were asked to go without media for 24 hours. But many students in the study were not up to the challenge. A majority of students did not actually go without media for 24 hours, giving in and checking in with their phones or email. Students confessed, “I sat in my bed and stared blankly. I had nothing to do,” and “Media is my drug; without it I was lost. How could I survive 24 hours without it?” The study revealed a physical dependency on media, especially Facebook and mobile phones. Students recognized that typing the address for their favorite sites had become muscle memory: “It was amazing to me though how easily programmed my fingers were to instantly start typing “f-a-c-e” in the search bar. It’s now muscle memory, or instinctual, to log into Facebook as the first step of Internet browsing.” Other students recognized physical signs of withdrawal, sharing that “I would feel irritable, tense, restless and anxious when I could not use my mobile phone. When I couldn’t communicate with my friends, I felt so lonely, as if I was in a small cage in a solitary island.”

5. Students are surfing, not studying: Students who spend a lot of time online are likely to neglect their studies. In many cases, students who performed well in school before developing an Internet addiction allowed their grades to crash, only then realizing the impact of Internet dependency. Counselors across the US have identified the problems of excessive Internet use, including: lack of sleep and excess fatigue, declining grades, less investment in relationships with a boyfriend or girlfriend, withdrawal from all campus social activities and events, general apathy, edginess, or irritability when off-line, and rationalizing that what they learn on the Internet is superior to their classes. Students may not realize the problem until serious trouble happens: “They flunk out of college. Their real-life girlfriend breaks up with them because all they ever want to do is play on the Net. Their parents explode when they find out their huge investment in their child’s college education is going to support all-night Internet sessions.” By then, it may be too late to recover the damage.

6. The Internet is everywhere: Ninety-eight percent of students own a digital device. This prevalence throws gasoline on a spark: students who are already susceptible to Internet addiction have access online in computer labs, their dorm, and other places around campus, and on top of that, they have the Internet in their pocket at all times. Knowing this, it’s not surprising to find out that 38% of students say they can’t go more than 10 minutes without using a digital device, contributing to an ever-present existence of the Internet on campus.

7. Internet use can physically change your brain: In a study of Chinese college students who were online for 10 hours a day, six days a week, morphological changes in the structure of their brains were noted. Scientists found reductions in the size of the “dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum as high as 10-20%.” Although at the same time, there was an increase in the “density of the right parahippocampal gyrus and a spot called the left posterior limb of the internal capsule.” These changes happen to the detriment of short term memory and decision-making abilities.

8. Many students need intervention and treatment for their addiction, and it can lead to depression: We might joke about “Crackberries,” but for some, the Internet is truly a significant concern. A study published in BMC Medicine indicated that 4% of the students who participated in their survey met the criteria for having a problem with online addiction. But perhaps the more disturbing fact from this study is that there is a “significant association between pathological Internet use and depression in college students,” putting a population that is already at risk for mental instability in a precarious position.

9. Cyberbullies go to college, too:Although most of the news on cyberbullying focuses on adolescents, the fact is that cyberbullies exist on the college campus as well. It’s not surprising, considering how much time students spend online, and how much impact a college student’s online presence can have. In fact, a University of New Hampshire study reported that one in 10 students was abused online. College students have been the target of sexually violent rants, and one professor at BU had to persuade Facebook to remove his page, which he did not set up himself. Researchers believe that students are especially vulnerable to cyberstalking because “they live in a relatively closed community where class schedules, phones, and e-mails are easy to find.” And sites like Rate My Professors may be helpful for students choosing classes, but some comments may be hurtful for faculty members. Thierry Guedj, adjunct professor of psychology at Metropolitan College reports, “It really hurts faculty members badly when they read these things about themselves online. People have become quite depressed about it.”

10. Tech conditions can be dangerous to your health: College Candy’s list of tech conditions that can be dangerous to your health seems to be written as a joke, citing “Blackberry Neck,” and “Glazey Dazey Lazy Eye,” but these conditions really can be a problem. Using the Internet too much can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, a decline in physical fitness, and as a result, weight gain. Heavy users report carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and headaches. Sleep disturbances can also stem from Internet addiction, as Internet use may lead to later bedtimes and less restful sleep. Additionally, researchers believe that the light from computer screens may affect circadian rhythms, creating a risk factor for insomnia.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Parenting Teens: Instilling Responsibility

Raising teenagers is not easy.

It’s not uncommon to hear parents of teenagers bemoaning the lack of responsibility and maturity that their children exhibit. As kids get older and enter into the teenage years, it becomes more apparent that they’re actually approaching adulthood, whether they’re prepared for it or not.
Instilling a sense of responsibility in a teenager can be a very challenging prospect, but it can also help them to avoid succumbing to peer pressure or failing to learn important life skills as they grow into productive, capable adults.

Let Them Experience Natural Consequences
It’s normal to want to limit your teen’s exposure to disappointment, failure and hurt as she grows into an adult. However, shielding her from the natural consequences of her more irresponsible behavior will only make it more difficult for her to connect her choices to those consequences. While you certainly shouldn’t allow your child to behave recklessly or take dangerous risks without intervening, you also should think twice before stepping in to protect her from the inconvenience or even disappointment of making an irresponsible choice. For instance, nagging and cajoling your teen to collect her laundry or pay her cell phone bill will probably only make her more likely to resist in an attempt to test boundaries and assert her independence. Allowing her phone to be shut off or her clothes to go unwashed as a result of her choice not to manage those tasks, however, can help her to understand the importance of managing her responsibilities.

Model Responsible Behavior
While a teenager may not show many signs of listening to what you say, you can be certain that she’s watching the things that you do. Demanding her to behave responsibly while allowing her to see you making decidedly irresponsible choices is not only ineffective, it can also be downright offensive to kids. Taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to parenting doesn’t usually help your children gain the skills or learn the lessons that they need to learn, so be sure that you’re practicing what you preach when it comes to accepting responsibility and behaving accordingly.

Minimize Large, No-Strings-Attached Purchases
It’s become something of a rite of passage for teenagers to receive vehicles and other pricey objects as they come of age, but simply presenting them with such items without requiring that they take ownership for care and maintenance of them, or make any financial investment of their own, can cause your teen to feel as if she’s entitled to such grand gestures. Helping your teen to purchase a car but insisting that she make part of the payments, purchasing a car outright but requiring her to pay for the insurance, and making sure that she alone is responsible for the care and upkeep of her things can help her learn more about how to be responsible and that she has to earn the things she wants rather than them just being given to her.

Maintain an Open Line of Communication
When your teen knows that she can approach you with her problems, concerns or questions, she may be more likely to do just that. Part of being responsible is learning how to admit when you need help, and learning from the experiences she has along the way. Make sure that your child knows she can come to you when she’s feeling pressured or anxious so that she’ll be more likely to address her problems than to seek an irresponsible, escapist solution that could have far-reaching implications.

Make a Chore List
If your teen wasn’t responsible for keeping track of and completing a list of chores as a child, instituting a policy of doing just that after she reaches adolescence can be a struggle. Still, she needs to understand that there are tasks in life that must be completed, even if they’re distasteful or less than thrilling. Giving your teen a list of chores and some real-life, practical consequences that accompany her failure to complete them are two ways of helping her to gain responsibility through experience and consequences.

Eat Dinner as a Family
In today’s busy world, sitting down to family dinners can seem like a major inconvenience. Studies at Emory University, The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and a white paper study by Dr. William J. Dougherty all show, however, that kids and teens that regularly share meals with their families have lower rates of obesity, higher academic performance, are less likely to develop or struggle with eating disorders, have higher self-esteem, and have lowered risks of depression, substance abuse and teen pregnancy than their peers whose families don’t share meals together. Preparing and sharing dinner as a family unit can help your child make more responsible choices and be more capable, productive and successful in adulthood.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Teens and Financial Literacy

Did your teenager decide to get a summer job?

What are they doing with the money they are earning?

One of the most important skills for an adult to have in order to successfully manage her life and achieve independence is a strong grasp of how to effectively save and manage money. Unfortunately, this is also a skill that many parents find difficult to pass along. In the interest of helping your children grow into financially independent adults that know how to spend money responsibly, it’s essential that you begin instilling these skills at a young age.

These hints can help you build the foundation for money saving habits, helping to ensure that your kids gain the skills they need to see them into the future.

Set Savings Goals
It’s tempting to give in to kids’ requests for big-ticket items, but you’re running the risk of instilling a sense of entitlement and passing up a valuable opportunity to foster strong money management skills by giving in to their whims. Instead of rushing out to make a pricey purchase, talk to your child about ways that he can save the money himself and then help him to reach that goal. Many kids operate best when they have a tangible end goal, rather than a vague idea of saving money “for a rainy day.” This also helps kids to understand the importance of not buying things they can’t afford, which can lead to dangerous credit over-extension later in life.

Give Kids a Structured Allowance
Giving kids an allowance is a time-honored tradition, but you can help your kids learn valuable money saving skills by insisting that a certain portion of their allowance be saved, while the rest is available for spending. When the habit of automatically setting some money aside is established early, the concept of saving as an adult isn’t so difficult to wrestle with. This also simulates the experience of paying bills and managing expenses, making that experience a less traumatic one than it would be if those lessons were learned in young adulthood.

Use Cash When Kids are Small
Older kids may love watching the numbers in a bank statement climb, but little ones will respond better to concrete representations of their amassed wealth. Use transparent jars as banks, and actively try to generate excitement as those jars are filled with cash. Depositing the lump sum into a savings account later will help to teach account management, but watching their stash physically grow will be more exciting when your children are too young to adequately grasp the concept of a bank balance.

Take Advantage of Everyday Teaching Opportunities
From talking about big sales to discussing unit price, there are a plethora of opportunities in everyday life that present themselves for the teaching of savings skills. Talking to kids about living frugally and setting money aside is easier when you’re discussing the concept you’re demonstrating. Remember, kids learn more about the world from observing their parents and other trusted adults than most people realize. Discussing how much things cost can also give kids a more realistic view of money as a tangible object in finite supply.

Open Savings Accounts With Older Kids
While younger children will respond best to watching their money physically grow, older kids need to learn the essential skills that are required to successfully maintain a balance in their bank account. Take your child to the bank and discuss the options for savings accounts while he’s there to listen. Walk him through the basics, and make sure that he understands that you’re there to help him. You may be surprised at the insightful questions he asks about account management.

Give Kids Independence Over Their Spending Decisions
In order to truly learn about financial responsibility, kids need to have some measure of independence over their savings. This means that you’ll have to allow him to make a mistake or two in order to learn from them. Don’t berate him for mistakes or jump to bail him out of the mess. Instead, take the time to talk about what went wrong and how to fix the situation responsibly. Remember that every mistake is a learning experience for your child, especially when it comes to money management.

Source: Go Nannies

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Teen Drug Addiction

Addiction is an evil affliction. 

It is a disease -- one that has taken many lives way too young, not only celebrities, but many others.

This is why parents need to understand the importance of continuing to talk with your children about the risks of substance abuse.  This is not your average marijuana -- in some cases -- that is being sold to kids, as reported on 20/20 about a year ago.

Dealers are getting savvy and hoping to "hook" your teen.

Yes, marijuana is legal in some states, however this is with good cause for medical reasons, not for the reasons teens are looking for.  This is where parenting needs to take over to explain the division.

So what is the difference between substance abuse and addiction?  When will it cross over?

The diagnostic criteria for Substance Abuse is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
  • Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (i.e. repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).
  • Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (i.e. driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use).
  • Recurrent substance-related legal problems (i.e. arrests for substance -related disorderly conduct).
  • Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (i.e. arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights).
  • Absence of dependence has been established.
The diagnostic criteria for Addiction or Substance Dependence is defined as a pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
  • Tolerance as defined by either of the following: (1) The need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect; or (2) A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (1) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or (2) The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance or recover from its effects.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use.
  • The use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the use (i.e. continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).
Source: Caron Foundation

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sports and Your Teenager

Encouraging your teen to get involved in activities is important.

During the winter months it can be difficult, however there are many sports that still are available.

Being a part of a team or simply being involved helps build character and self-esteem.

Today, athletes often feel they have a right to break the rules as long as they win the game.

Teaching children sportsmanship is one way to help them build character. To be good sports, children need the ability to:
  • Win without gloating.
  • Lose without complaining.
  • Treat the opponent and the officials with respect.
Those are good qualities for children to display in the classroom and in the family room as well as on the playing field.
If you want to help your child become a better sport, ask her if she:
  • Always abides by the rules of the game.
  • Tries to avoid arguments.
  • Shares in the responsibilities of the team.
  • Gives everyone a chance to play according to the rules.
  • Always plays fair.
  • Follows the directions of the coach.
  • Respects the other team’s effort.
  • Offers encouragement to teammates.
  • Accepts the judgment calls of the game officials.
  • Ends the game smoothly.
How many of these things does she do? What things does she need to work on?

Copyright © 2014 Parent Institute