Monday, November 28, 2016

Teens, Drugs and the Internet

I’ve spent a lot of my life watching children — as a parent, and then working with parents of troubled teens. I’ve seen so many adolescents gravitate towards the wrong thing like moths to a flame. Even if they don’t dive into the fire, they almost can’t help but be drawn to it.
It’s nothing new that teens put peers’ input above that of their parents. But what has changed? The input comes not just from classmates and neighbors, but from complete strangers who enter our children’s lives through their virtual world — the Internet.
When it comes to teenagers, it’s no surprise that social media is their virtual playground with 93 percent of teens checking YouTube weekly

Why does this concern me?

Over the last year, we’ve gotten just a rough idea of how much bad stuff kids can find on YouTube. Last May, researchers from a non-profit consumer group, the Digital Citizens Alliance, searched YouTube for videos that came up after entering “buy drugs without prescription.” The organization’s researchers found 38,000 videos and these findings were featured in newspapers and network television newscasts.
This news coverage of Digital Citizens’ initial research forced YouTube to take downmany of the videos. However in February, less than a year later, Digital Citizens did a second review on the same search term and it still produced 17,000 videos! More disturbing was that it showed a sharp increase in videos for Percocet (up 37 percent), tramadol (up 42 percent), and Oxycontin (up 108 percent), with many pushing purchases of these painkillers without a prescription.
Teens, drugs, and the Internet: it sounds like the perfect storm.
Many question why Google, who owns YouTube, would allow this type of behavior to continue.
Follow the digital trail.
Digital Citizens showed that these videos come with advertisements running alongside them. That means Google makes money on them... a lot of money. Of course everyone is allowed to make money; however, when it puts people — especially children — at risk or in danger, shouldn’t there be guidelines or protections in place?
Google confronted.
When a reporter asked Google for a comment last June about Digital Citizens’ first report, the company’s response was:
“We take user safety seriously and have Community Guidelines that prohibit any content encouraging dangerous, illegal activities. This includes content promoting the sale of drugs. YouTube’s review teams respond to videos flagged for our attention around the clock, removing any content that violates our policies.”
Another reporter asked about the newest research for a story this month, a Google spokesperson responded with virtually the same scripted reply.
No new answers despite increasing concern about how Google does business. ADigital Citizens survey showed that 88 percent of Americans agree that Google has a responsibility to make the Internet safer. More than half (53 percent) say Google isn’t doing enough. When asked if Google should not be able to profit by using ads from illegal or illegitimate products or services, 57 percent agree that Google’s conduct is not okay. As a parent, I want to be hopeful that Google wants to do the right thing for our children; it should be their corporate responsibility.
A recent spate of stories following the Digital Citizens’ findings — including news that YouTube has 200 “trusted flaggers” screening the site for inappropriate videos and a new, sanitized, kid-friendly version of YouTube with content designed for the 10-and-under set — indicates that Google recognizes there is a problem, but they plan to address it on the company’s own terms.
But why can’t Google just promise to stop running ads next to videos promoting illegal or illegitimate products or services, especially when they know that the youngsters like to frequently visit YouTube?
Everyone from parents, to young children, to veteran CEOs is looking to Google to see how the company deals with its YouTube problem. We all want Google to do the right thing; let’s face it, everyone young and old turn to Google at some point during their week.
As parents we are forced to blindly trust the giant (Google) to protect our kids in the virtual world when we aren’t there to monitor their activity.
The Internet is the neighborhood where the children of the 21st century hang out. Cleaning up the Internet, making it safe for all who visit there, has to start at the top with the biggest and richest company. If Google acts responsibly, or we consumers begin to hold them accountable, it is much more likely that small companies and other entrepreneurs will follow suit. Google has a mantra, “don’t be evil,“ but someone has to show Google that “don’t be evil“ is not the same as doing the right thing.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Digital Parenting: Offline Chats Means Online Safety

Your Child's Online Behavior Is a Reflection of Offline Parenting

Raising children in a digital society can be challenging. Today kids are exposed to technology and are sometimes given their very own keypads in their first years of life.

Generations earlier, the big talk was about the birds and the bees. Maybe parents would discuss this with us only a few times. A handful at the most -- sometimes not even that much in our adolescent years. Sex was (and is) a topic that many parents want to talk about as briefly as possible and then walk away.

When it comes to the digital world, there is no walking away. The reality for today’s youth is that their online reputation will someday determine their college admission and very possibly their future employer. Every keystroke, post, and comment counts.

Your child's online social skills are as critical as their offline people skills.

Where do you begin?

In tech terms -- by chatting. The tech talk is not a conversation you have once or twice, it's an ongoing discussion since the web is changing (as are your children) on a daily basis.

Unlike the sex talk, talking to your child about their cyber-life has to be done on a regular basis. It should be as common as, "How was your day at school?"

Short chats are better than no chats.

Whether you are riding in the car or sharing a meal, be sure you take ten minutes or more to talk about their digital lives.

The Internet is evolving every day, not only for our children but for adults too, so this can be a two-way conversation. Encourage them to show you new apps or websites they’ve discovered, and you can show them what you have learned as well.  Are you frustrated with your computer, tablet, or mobile device? Who better to teach you easier ways to work with new technology than your teenager?

Keep in mind, cyberspace is the 21st Century playground for our youth and teens. Not everyone they meet on this playground has good intentions. Just as you would discuss their offline friends and social activities, chat with them about the friends they mingle with online and the websites they visit. Building that relationship of communication and trust at home will empower them in the cyber-world. Again, it’s why your offline parenting skills are critical to helping your child make better digital choices.

Think CHAT:

C - Communication is key. Offline parenting will help online safety. Never stop talking about your child's daily cyber life. It is just as important as how their day was at school.

H - Help is always a call/text away. Be sure your child knows you are available to them. Note that the number one reason children don't report cyberbullying to their parents is fear of losing their lifeline to their friends -- the Internet. They should never have to fear your judgement, especially if they fall victim to online harassment. Make sure they know their safety is always your priority and that you are on their side.

A - Action plans. Talk to your child about action plans for cyberbullying. You are your child's advocate and you will be there to help them implement steps to prevent online cruelty. Starting with the child knowing to tell a parent or adult, and continuing with learning how to block and report.

T - Treat others as you want to be treated. It is the most important rule in real life and on the Internet. Always treat people with kindness. Make it a top priority.

With short chats, you can learn how to better protect your children from cyberbullying in a way that works for them and for you. Through daily check-ins, you can empower them to make better digital decisions when you aren't around. Teach them the phrase “when in doubt, click out,” so they know what to do when they feel uncomfortable in a chatroom, on a website, or using an app.

It is imperative to understand that in today's society the online world is as important to our children’s lives as their daily offline world. We must also treat it that way. Talking to them on a daily basis about their virtual lives, even if it is only for a few minutes, is just as important as getting their homework done on time.  You don't have to be a tech-geek or social media super-star, just be a caring parent.






Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bullying Prevention Month: 10 Ways To Be An Upstander

Bullying and cyberbullying is an issue that everyone is concerned about.  From verbal abuse to online harassment, words can be used as lethal weapons.
On the same measure, words can be used to build people up too!
Your words matter, keystrokes count — how will you use them?
One of the most important ways your child can be proactive in helping others that are victims of cruel behavior such as bullying, is to become an upstander.
10 ways to become an upstander by School Climate:
  1. Learn more about mean, cruel, and bullying behavior. Educate yourself and your community with the resources on BullyBust.org. For example: Why do kids bully? Where does bullying take place most often in your school? What are the effects of bullying? How can we prevent it? Understanding this information will help you if you are bullied, and will help you to stand up to bullies if a friend or classmate is being bullied.
  2. Help others who are being bullied. Be a friend, even if this person is not yet your friend. Go over to them. Let them know how you think they are feeling. Walk with them. Help them to talk to an adult about what just happened. (Just think for a moment about how great this would be if someone did this for you when you were being picked on or hurt!)
  3. Stop untrue or harmful messages from spreading online or in person. If someone sends a message or tells you a rumor that you know is untrue, stand up and let the person know it is wrong. Think about how you would feel if someone spread an untrue rumor about you. Don’t laugh, send the message on to friends, or add to the story. Make it clear that you do not think that kind of behavior is cool or funny.
  4. Get friends involved. Share this site (and other related sites) with friends. Let people know that you are an upstander and encourage them to be one too. Sign the Stand Up Pledge, and make it an everyday commitment for you and your friends.
  5. Make friends outside of your circle. Eat lunch with someone who is alone. Show support for a person who is upset at school, by asking them what is wrong or bringing them to an adult who can help.
  6. Be aware of the bullying and upstander policies at your school and keep it in mind when you witness bullying. What are the school’s bully prevention policies? Are there also policies that “catch” kids “being good”? How can you support school rules and codes of conduct support students and adults doing the right thing? If there isn’t a policy, get involved or ask teachers or front office staff to speak about how you can reduce bullying.
  7. Welcome new students. If someone is new at your school, make an effort to introduce them around and make them comfortable. Imagine how you would feel leaving your friends and coming to a new school.
  8. Refuse to be a “bystander” and be a role model to others instead! If you see friends or classmates laughing along with the bully, tell them that they are contributing to the problem. Let them know that kind of behavior is not okay in your school.
  9. Respect others’ differences and help others to respect differences. It’s cool for people to be different—that’s what makes all of us unique. Join a diversity club at school to help promote tolerance in your school.
  10. Develop an Upstander/ Prevention program or project with a teacher or principal’s support that will help reduce bullying and promote socially responsible behavior in school. Bring together a team of students, parents and teachers who are committed to preventing bullying, and create a community-wide project to raise awareness, share stories and develop helpful supports. Learn more about how to start an Upstander Alliance at www.bullybust.org/upstander and access free support to sustain your team.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Suicide Prevention Month: Warning Signs

A parent’s worst nightmare is surviving a child’s suicide.
It’s not natural to outlive your child, especially to suicide.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month however this topic is one that needs attention 365 days a year.
Kids In The House offers a library of videos by experts to help educate parents on teen suicide prevention.  Today’s generation of online peer pressure in combination with offline only complicates our teen’s stress and anxiety. The world of cyberspace has created a new level of concern for many parents – and they must continue to be in touch with their teen’s emotional lives both offline and online.  It’s why your offline chats are so important – frequently.
American Foundation for Suicide offers the following warning signs for parents of teens and youth:
  1. Take it seriously, even if your friend brushes it off
    1. Suicidal ideation (continual suicidal thoughts) is not typical and reflects a larger problem
  2. An angry friend is better than a dead friend
  3. Ask, listen, tell, if the threat is immediate stay with the person
  4. Bring friend to a trusted adult. If they don’t know what to do or don’t take it seriously find another adult
  5. Be a good listener but remember suicidal ideation reflects a bigger underlying problem such as depression, substance problems, abuse, problem-solving difficulties. You can listen but they need to speak to a professional.
  6. 30% of attempters tell someone before, many don’t tell anyone after.
    1. When some talks to you, that is the moment for intervention
    2. With each suicide attempt, risk of suicide increases
  7. Warning Signs
    1. Change in mood- sadness, anxiety, irritability
    2. change in behavior- isolation
    3. Change in sleep
    4. Change in appetite
    5. Increase in aggression or impulsiveness
    6. Agitation
    7. Feeling hopeless, worthless
    8. Saying things like “No one will miss me” or “You’ll be better off” (feeling like a burden)
    9. Feeling ashamed or humiliated or desperation, as after a break up or test
    10. Collecting means
    11. Talking about wanting to kill themselves
    12. Drop in grades
    13. Risk taking
    14. Giving away prized possessions
Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Teens and Dating

What teens need to know before they start dating.

One day, your little one is skipping down the sidewalk with her hair in pigtails and a firm grip on a teddy bear. The next, it seems like, she’s bouncing down the stairs on her way to greet her first date. Watching kids grow and mature, especially during the teenage years, can be a bittersweet experience. It can also be the harbinger of the most difficult period of your parenting career. Preparing your child for the world of adult interactions, romantic entanglements and independence isn’t always easy, especially when you’d much rather they stayed small forever. Just as you can’t keep a child from growing into an adult, neither can you stem the tide of romantic attraction and the desire to date. All you can do is hope that you’ve instilled the values that you set out to, and that you’ve adequately prepared your teenager for the complicated and sometimes painful world of dating.
The Friendship Code
There are certain rules that come along with both dating and mature friendships, and they largely go unspoken until one of them is broken. One of the most pervasive and important rules for your teen to know before he starts dating is that the “friendship code” shouldn’t be broken. This code entails everything from dating a friend’s ex to trying to date a friend’s current girlfriend, and everything in between. While you’re trying to instill an inherent respect for the opposite gender, be sure that you also discuss the ways that dating and friendship can become messy, and how certain decisions can have far-reaching implications when it comes to both friendships and romantic relationships.
The Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
No parent wants to think about their child being the victim of dating violence, but the sobering statistics show that this is one conversation that parents simply must have with their teens before dating becomes an issue. A study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations shows that as many as one in three seventh grade students have experienced “psychological dating violence,” and that up to one in six have been the victim of physical dating violence. A different study, headed up by the Liz Claiborne corporation, also shows that less than 25% of teenagers have discussed the subject with their parents. Both teen boys and teen girls need to know that dating violence or emotional abuse is never acceptable and should be aware of the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Once a pattern of accepting abuse is established, it can be a difficult and painful cycle to break. Make sure that your teen starts off on the right foot by ensuring that he’s educated and aware of the issues surrounding teen dating violence and abuse.
The Importance of Boundaries and Respect
Parenting comes with its fair share of awkward conversations and embarrassing situations, but it’s far better to weather that momentary discomfort to educate your teen about boundaries and the importance of respecting them than to send them off into the world of dating with no clear understanding of them. Teens need to know that “no” means no, and that pressuring their significant other into anything they’d rather not do is completely unacceptable behavior. They need to know that anyone who subjects them to such pressure is not a good friend or someone that truly cares about their feelings, and that there’s nothing wrong with breaking off a relationship if their boundaries aren’t being respected.
Popularity is Not a Sound Reason for Dating
At no other time in life is the prospect of popularity or gaining entrance into the “cool crowd” more valued or desperately sought than during the teenage years. Teens may date someone that they have little in common with or little regard for simply to maintain or achieve a position of power in their social circle. Conversely, teens often choose not to date people that they are compatible with and attracted to due to a perceived social stigma attached to dating outside of their circle. Before dating even becomes an issue in your child’s life, be sure that she knows just how irrelevant popularity will be to her in five years, and how much she could potentially miss out on if she’s dating someone solely because they’re popular and capable of affecting her social standing.
Your Expectations and Their Responsibilities
While you may think that your expectations and your teen’s dating responsibilities go without saying, it’s important to realize that your teen only knows what you tell him. Don’t assume that your teenager knows what you expect of him as he starts dating, or what his responsibilities are to both you and his significant other. Communicate the rules and what you expect clearly and concisely, so that there’s no confusion or pleas of ignorance later.

Source: Babysitting.net

Sunday, July 24, 2016

ADHD Teens: 4 Tips to Help Them With Their Grades

Every parent wants their child to do well in school and succeed in life. It’s challenging to watch your teen’s grades slip, despite the time, attention and effort you put into helping them improve. This can be even more difficult for parents of children with ADHD. If your teen has ADHD and you’re looking for ways to help them improve their grades, we’ve gathered some tips below.
Unique tools
Kids with ADHD simply do not learn successfully under conventional methods. So it’s wise to try unconventional study methods.
Create a word puzzle to help your child with a specific subject which they are struggling in. Rather than simply reading a book and quizzing them on the information, this is a fun way to study that doesn’t feel like school work.
Have your teen review the information they studied for a few minutes just before they go to bed can also help them remember the information and process it while they sleep.
Break it up
According to PsychCentral.com, cramming for an exam simply doesn’t work. It can put added pressure and anxiety on your teen, which hinders them from understanding and remembering information. Experts suggest breaking up study time into increments for better success. For example, if your child has an exam in a week, ask them to study for 25 minutes each day leading up to it, rather than for hours the night before.
Don’t put the phone away
This one sounds counterproductive, but it actually isn’t. If your child is one of the millions of kids today with a smartphone, don’t ask him or her to put it down just yet. The apps and resources in smartphones can actually be helpful to your child.
For kids with ADHD, planning ahead is crucial. At the start of the school year or even a particular week, have your child note key due dates in the calendar of their phone. Also, have them set up reminders with the alert feature so they never miss something important. This article offers more insight — though geared toward college students, middle and high school students alike can benefit from the tips.
When studying, however, ask your child to put their phone in airplane mode or simply take the phone until they are finished to avoid distractions.
Physical activity
Physical activity is helpful in reducing stress, clearing the mind and getting blood flowing. But for kids with ADHD — and kids in general who may be dealing with the pressures that come with being a pre-teen or teenager — physical activity is even more important. Some experts even say that movement is medicine when it comes to ADHD, helping to increase attention and improve mood.
Even if your child is not interested in sports, make it a point to incorporate a brisk walk, bike ride or even a game of catch into family time. This can help with bonding and also bring forth the aforementioned benefits.
Above all, keep the lines of communication open with your child, assess what’s working on a regular basis and adjust your strategy as needed. It can be tough to help children with special needs help themselves. But with preparation and creativity, it will be easier for the two of you to achieve success together.
Contributor:  Joyce Wilson taught for decades. Now happily retired, she spends her days sharing her teaching knowledge with today’s teachers and hanging out with her grandchildren. She and a fellow retired teacher created TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Months Bring Higher Death Rate for Teen Drivers

If you had to choose for your teen to drive through an icy winter storm or an 80-degree “not-a-cloud-in-the-sky” day, which would you prefer? If you’re like most, you’ll probably put your trust in the warm summer day as opposed to the blistery winter one.
Now, ask yourself the same question after reading the following statistic:
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the summer months of June, July, and August consistently have higher teenage crash deaths than any other month.
It would take a rare parent to send their teenager off for a drive during a winter storm without a few words of warning (if you were to even let them behind the wheel at all!) But do you allow yourself the same pause for reflection before your son hops in the car after summer practice to go to the beach with friends? Or when your daughter pulls out of the driveway on a warm July night to catch a movie?
Here’s to making summer 2015 the safest one yet. Some tips to help ensure your teen always comes back to you in one piece:
1. Buckle Up. Did you know? Compared to other age groups, teens have thelowest rate of seat belt use and the majority of teens involved in fatal crashes are unbelted. Set an example by always buckling up yourself — whether they’re in the car or not!
2. Limit passengers. I know, I know. Carpooling is all the rage and I’m all for protecting the environment, but make sure your teen knows there is a LIMIT to how many friends he or she may have in the car at any one time. Distracted driving is a real and all too serious thing, and the more friends in the car the more likely a distraction.
3. Speaking of distracted driving . . .think of investing in a nifty little product I happened upon recently called the Drop Stop. Drop Stop has made it their mission not only to catch all your small belongings that INEVITABLY fall in the gap between your seats, but to eliminate distracted driving in doing so. Your teen drops their phone, their jewelry, their credit card etc., while they’re driving. It falls between the gap. They look down, and down, and down, and... crash. With Drop Stop, they won’t have to look down, ever. If anything ever falls, they’ll know right where to find it, and it’ll be there safe and sound once they park.
4. Help your teen maintain their vehicle! Do they tires have enough tread? When was the last time they had an oil change? Does every light work and at what percentage are the breaks? Keep your teen safe by seeing to it these maintenance issues are up-to-date all while teaching your teen very adult responsibilities.
Summer inevitably means more teen drivers on the roads, many who have had minimal experience behind the road. Their lack of experience can lead to dubious decision making which can lead to every parent’s worst nightmare: A car collision.
What are some of your best tips for teen drivers, and parents of teen drivers? Share with me in the comments below, and remember: Drive safe this summer!
Takeaway tips:
• Discuss safe driving with your teen before they get a license.
• Be a role model. Don’t text and drive, even with your years of experience.
• Educate your teen. Sign them up for drivers-ed or online classes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Teen Help Programs for Young Adults

Just because your teen has turned 18 doesn’t necessarily mean they are an adult.
As a matter of fact, I have spoken with many parents and explained that if they are having issues at 14, 15 and 16 — when 18 rolls around, it can seem like an earthquake. The problem is, teens believe they are an adult, yet their actions are still screaming child!
There are excellent young adult programs that can inspire, encourage and educate your son or daughter.
These programs offer structured support, typically education in accordance to what their needs are (whether they need to get their high school diploma or start college courses), life skills, enrichment and wellness programs to help them lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Some offer the therapeutic component as well as ongoing medical care if your child needs this.
The biggest hurdle can be convincing your son or daughter to attend.
Most parents are surprised that it can be easier than they thought. Whether they are facing jail time (usually for a minor offense, but since they are now being charged as an adult, they may have up to 30-days in jail) and would prefer to enter a young adult program in lieu of incarceration. Most judges are very agreeable to this, as we well know, the jails are full.
If you are at your wit’s end, your son or daughter may be left with no other options. They are done sofa-surfing with their friends and family. You can offer them this program as an alternative to you assisting them in the next phrase of their life. You are only asking for 90 days. Most kids can digest 90 days. What happens in these 90 days can be transforming as they start feeling good about themselves again.
These young adult programs range in tuition. If you have PPO insurance, it sometimes will cover a portion of it according to your policy. Most programs will help you with this.
We have helped many families from around the country area since 2001 with their struggling young adults.
Please contact us  for more information on young adult programs. The age for these programs are 17-22 years old.