Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cell phone safety and your teens

One of my favorite parts of being a Parent Advocate is being asked to share great articles, tips and resources to help parents today.  When I was asked to share this one, I felt it would not only help parents of teenagers, but younger kids too. 
11 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe on their Cell Phones
Each new generation of parents face obstacles and menaces with which the previous generation never had to contend. The changing times have brought with them a new, more complicated world in which our children must learn to live, to thrive and, most importantly of all, to survive.
Contemporary problems arrive without guidelines on the best way to teach our children to stay safe and protect themselves or precedents to guide us in teaching them. It is our job as parents to define the method and provide clear guidelines our children can follow and live with. But when you are in uncharted waters whose depths and dangers frighten you, how are you supposed to steer your children towards safety when you aren’t certain that your directions won’t lead them into more treacherous areas or point them in the wrong direction.
With so much uncertainty, there is one point of which you can be sure. No directions or guidance is definitely more dangerous than any of the practical advice you can provide. Relying on the hands of fate to keep your child(ren) safe will not ensure their protection. Without your words of wisdom which were no doubt gained through experience, your child will have to count on their own to guide them through. Given a child’s lack of experience and maturity, wouldn’t you much prefer to arm them with your advice rather than leave them equipped only with their naïveté? The regret you would suffer if something were to happen to your child and you did not provide them with the guidance they needed while you still had the opportunity would haunt you for the remainder of your life.
Establish specific and clear rules for your child to follow. It is important that you do not leave room for interpretation or risk ambiguity. Your child needs to know what is expected of them and how to protect themselves. Common sense is still the prevailing premise when creating rules, regardless of whether it is for home, school, or technology. If you aren’t already comfortable with handling a cell phone, take the time to familiarize yourself with your child’s cell phone. Read the cell phone manual. Have your child demonstrate how to work the cell phone. View tutorials on the internet which explain how to work the cell phone. You can even go to the store for the cell phone provider and have them show you how to work the cell phone. Ignorance shouldn’t prevent you from monitoring and, when needed, restricting your child’s activity on the cell phone and creating basic rules for your child to follow. It is your responsibility, one without doubt you take very seriously, to ensure your child understands the risks posed by these innovative marvels.

1. Be Aware of Surroundings

Emphasize to your child the importance of being aware of his/her surroundings. The element of surprise is a powerful tool. All of this new technology, cell phones and iPods, has created a diversion of sorts for criminals who are intent on performing an illicit or unlawful act. Cell phones are a distraction which detracts from a person’s attentiveness to their surroundings. When you are preoccupied with a phone conversation, you may not hear footsteps behind you or notice a person who seems to be just a little to interest in what you are doing. It is easier to overpower a person who is unaware than it is to face one who is prepared. While your child is absorbed in what the friend on the other end of the line is saying, a predator could be sneaking up behind them.
It isn’t just criminals your child must be concerned about. Talking on a cell phone while walking, bicycling, skateboarding, rip sticking or driving can be a hazard. It is important to pay attention to traffic when performing any of these actions near a roadway. If your child becomes too wrapped up in a conversation on the cell phone, he/she may not notice the car coming down the road. Your child should know they cannot rely on the drivers to notice their presence. Drivers have to divide their attention among too many things while on the road. If your child isn’t paying attention and steps or rides in front of a vehicle, the results could be devastating.

2. Parental safety controls

Take time to carefully consider which cell phone to purchase for your child. Choose a cell phone with parental safety controls. Programmable cell phones allow you to decide who your child can receive phone calls from and who they are permitted to call. You can set the numbers in their cell phone and eliminate the opportunity for someone to whom your child should not be speaking to call or be called from the cell phone. No need to worry about a wrong number resulting in an undesirable friendship. Some experts recommend you don’t buy a cell phone with a camera. There really is no reason your child’s phone must have a camera on it. You won’t have to worry about inappropriate images (i.e. nude photos of your child) being sent.

3. Limit Internet Access

Purchase a cell phone that doesn’t provide access to the internet. In all likelihood, your child already has a computer at home or school with internet access. It isn’t necessary for them to have the internet on the cell phone also. Not only can accessing the internet on a cell phone be extremely costly without a data plan, but it also provides another window for predators to reach out to your child. Everything that can be done on a computer through the internet can also be done on a cell phone. Instant messaging, emails, blogging on MySpace or any of the other social sites are all available with internet access on a cell phone. The difference between a cell phone and the computer is the level of privacy afforded with a cell phone. A computer can be kept in a common area so that you can monitor what your child is doing on the internet and to whom they are talking. On a cell phone, these activities can be done with you none the wiser.

4. Never talk to strangers.

Though you probably already gave this advice to them when they were young, as your children grow older they lose some of their fear of the people they don’t know and often need to be reminded that this rule still stands. Developing new friendships is exciting for the younger generations. In their excitement over the prospect of earning a new friend and the ensuing efforts to impress the person, children often forget their basic training from their early years. Their growing confidence in their own ability to recognize danger often leaves them vulnerable. Children are generally not skilled in recognizing danger in unfamiliar people. They don’t realize that predators are skillfully adept at blending in and appearing harmless. These predators are truly the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, patiently developing friendships over time with the intent of eventually luring your child into a face-to-face meeting. A reminder of such facts could prevent a tragedy.

5. Discuss Sexting

Sexting, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of sending sexually graphic pictures or messages from one cell phone to another. The most common instances of sexting in the younger set involve sending pictures of themselves in provocative clothing or completely nude. It is important that you discuss this practice with your child and let them know in no uncertain terms that it is not allowed and will not be tolerated. If you are afraid to bring this subject to their attention in case your child doesn’t already know what it is, don’t. You can be assured that your child is already familiar with it. You will not be teaching them about something they don’t already know about. Don’t wait until you see evidence that your child is engaging in this practice before establishing this rule. If you avoid this discussion because of a fear that you will be informing your child about something of which they know nothing about, you run the risk of them facing serious consequences.
This trend has become so prevalent it has even caught the attention of legislators. Lawmakers have begun to draft and create legislation making the act a prosecutable offense. Some have gone as far as to label it a child pornography offense with an equal punishment. These new laws are not arbitrary legislation created for the purpose of appearances; individuals caught engaging in sexting have already been prosecuted for the crime of distributing child pornography. Distribution doesn’t even require that you take the picture in order for you to be prosecuted under such a law; it only requires that you send it. So if your child receives one of these graphic sexting messages and forwards it to a friend for a laugh, your child could face prosecution. Explaining all of this to your child could save both of you a lot of heartache.

6. Cell Phone Monitoring Software

Purchase a subscription to a cell phone monitoring program or software. My Mobile Watchdog is one such service. It monitors all of your child’s cell phone activity and allows you to view it online. It is not done secretly so you will have to let your child know you are monitoring them. The website allows you to preset which phone numbers are trusted or unapproved to contact your child. There is also an assigned setting for suspicious. Alerts are sent out to warn you when an unapproved, suspicious or unknown person attempts contact. You also have access to a transcript of every text message your child sends and receive. You can read the entire content and see the phone numbers associated with the messages. You also have the option of printing the reports if you needed. You can also view every picture sent or received from the cell phone. The website also offers practical tools such as appointment and task reminders.

7. Keep Tabs On Cell Phone Activity

Check your child’s cell phone and activity regularly. If a subscription to a cell phone monitoring website is not in your budget or just isn’t something you choose to do, then you should check your child’s cell phone and activity regularly. Do not warn your child in advance or check the cell phone at the same time every week as that will give them an opportunity to clean the contents. Random checks will allow you to read the text messages going out or coming in as well as to see what pictures are being sent and received. You can also check the phone number on the incoming and outgoing call lists to see who is calling and at what times. Most cell phone providers make this information available to their customers online. Though it may be perceived by your child as an invasion of their privacy, explain that is not your intent. It isn’t that you distrust your child; you are only trying to protect them. If this is always the rule from a young age and treated matter-of-factly, then privacy may never even become an issue.

8. Don’t Disclose Private Information

Advise your child to be careful about what information is discussed in public. A person who is looking to do someone harm will eavesdrop on public conversations to gather any information which might be useful. Private and personal information can be used at a later time to gain your child’s trust. Once again, predators are devious creatures practiced at developing illicit relationships. Having personal information about your child will assist these types of people in forging a friendship based on common interests. It can also reveal places where the predator can plan ‘chance’ meetings with your child. Discussions about the school they attend, activities they participate in, or places they frequent can supply a wealth of information to the wrong persons.
Identity theft is another concern. Your child may be too young to have need for credit lines, loans and/or credit cards, but there are plenty of dishonest people who are old enough to find them useful. Even with limited information, a motivated criminal can find a way to obtain the remainder of the information they would need to use it to their full advantage. Your child is too young to understand the deviousness and conniving of these types of individuals and just how damaging their actions can be, but they would learn quickly when they eventually get out on their own and discover their identity has been stolen. The process of repairing the damage is time consuming and often costly. Identity theft usually leaves residual stain which cannot be completely eliminated. Teach your child to limit public calls on their cell phones to general conversations and leave the private conversations for times when they are, well, in private.

9. Be Respectful In Public

Teach your child to try to be respectful of others when using your cell phone in public. Instances of violence relating to cell phone usage are becoming more commonplace. The latest news reports of violent acts being committed as a result of someone’s inconsiderate use of a cell phone are becoming more prevalent. The public is becoming less tolerant of the lack of courtesy which is evident in the way the public is responding to these reports. The individuals committing the violent acts are being commended by the public. And as cell phone courtesy is becoming more of a point of contention, these incidents have the potential to become more commonplace.
Protect your child from cell phone violence as you would from road rage. Explain that being courteous when using a cell phone is important. For example, tell your child that the cell phone ringer should not be turned on while in a movie theater and of course should not be answered either. If a call comes through which must be answered, they should leave the theater and answer it in a hallway. Though something so simple may not seem all that important to a self centered teen or preteen, as a parent you know that to some people it is worthy of violence in the same way that being cut off in traffic is for the same person. A courtesy reminder could help protect your child from senseless violence and will ensure they remember their manners.

10. Place a curfew on cell phone usage.

Children despise curfews, but they are in place for a reason. A telephone curfew is nothing new. Many of us had such curfews on our home phones when we were younger. Phone calls were not permitted during or after certain times. Just because the phones are now mobile doesn’t mean this practice is now irrelevant. The same reasons that a curfew was important when we were young still apply. Late night phone calls interfere with sleep, studying and can lead to trouble. Prank calls and texts are more likely to occur after bedtime. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it? Sexting is easier at night, also. Think of all the trouble which can be curtailed if you have possession of the cell phone after hours. A curfew is an effective method of preventing trouble. And it will provide an opportunity for a quick look at the content of your child’s cell phone.

11. Have a plan for unusual calls of text messages

Encourage your child to talk to you about any concerning phone calls or text messages they may receive. It is important that your child knows what to do in the event that he/she receives harassing phone calls on the cell phone. Any type of threatening or bullying phone calls or text messages should be reported to you so that you can help them decide how best to handle the situation. This includes sexually inappropriate pictures, messages, or requests. If something like this occurs there are a few options available to you and your child. You can contact your cell phone provider and ask to have the number changed. Most providers will do this at least once free of charge. You can also request that text messages be blocked from the cell phone. Though it will be an inconvenience since this action will block all text messages from coming through, this is an effective method of stopping offensive texts from being sent. After a couple of weeks of unsuccessful attempts, the person sending will grow tired of the constant rebuffs and quit trying. You can always have the service reactivated.
Technology is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so. You have to be prepared to adapt your rules accordingly. Remember that criminals are not intimidated by technology and are using it to find easier ways to find victims. They are just waiting for opportunity to present itself. And criminals are not the only danger from which your child needs protection. Your child depends on you to lead them away from trouble, even if they do not always appreciate your guidance. You do not need to be an expert in the use of technology to establish relevant, general rules. Don’t use inexperience as an excuse. A few basic steps and rules could help protect your child from danger and you from heartbreak.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cyberbullying Prevention and Awareness Round-Up

ParentTeen2We have constantly said that although October is Bullying Prevention Month, we also consider it Cyberbullying Prevention Month, we have to continuously discuss awareness and educate our communities on curbing this type of cruelty - both offline and online 365 days a year.

The fact is bullying is no longer limited to our playgrounds, school hallways, bathrooms or even the cafeterias - these bullies follow your kids home electronically through their devices.

This is why it is imperative to continue to learn as much as you can about online abuse as well as offline.

This past October we had some great experts, advocates and educators that contributed to helping parents, students and others learn more.

I want to share some of my favorites here, as well as some that I have written for this month... there are many others, be sure to continue to share them on Twitter with me at @SueScheff or on Facebook.

How Empathy, Kindness and Compassion Can Build Belongingness and Reduce Bullying - Cyberbullying Research Center

Want to Know About Cyberbullying? Ask A 6th Grader - by Diana Graber

10 Strategies for Stopping Cyberbullying - by Signe Whitson

10 Ways to Help Kids Deal With Digital Friction - by Toni Birdsong

31 Difference Makers for School Bullying Prevention Offline and Online - Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI Training)

Keep Your Child Cyber-Safe, There Is No Rewind Online - CPI Training

Cyberbullying Fact and Other Student Safety Concerns That Will Astound You - Gaggle

11 Possible Signs of Cyberbullying - Dr. Michele Borba

Practice What You Preach: Stop Bullying for Kids AND Adults - CPI Training

Bystander Revolution #MonthOfAction was extremely inspiring! Check out their site, and challenges. If you can instill some of their ideas in your life, you will be making a difference - both online and offline.

Your Daughter's Safety On YouTube - Bright Girls Company

Upstanders On the Rise -

Cyberbullying: It's Not Just for Kids - Connect Safely

#Kindness Wins Challenge - #SeeTheGood - by Galit Breen, These Little Waves (Galit is the author of Kindness Wins. In the month of October she shared the most amazing stories of people that gives you faith in humanity today. Take the time to read her website and her posts - they are so inspiring).

Your Child's Online Behavior Is A Reflection of Offline Parenting - Education Nation


Facing Reality: Cyberbullying Is Not A Fad, It's A Trend

What It's Like to Become A Halloween Costume - by Monica Lewinsky

As October came to a close, I read an article that Monica Lewinsky wrote.  She writes, "..there's a fine line between clever and cruel."

Isn't that what online harassment sums up to be in many situations? Sometimes people think they are being funny - it's only a joke, but do they forget that there is a human, breathing person connected to the other side of the screen. We all matter - and we all have feelings - it hurts.

Let's all try to curb cruelty with a touch of kindness. Cyberbullying is not going away, we can slow it down, we can take accountability for our own actions and most importantly, we can start off by becoming a cyber-advocate and/or cyber-mentor for someone you care about. A sibling, friend, family member - maybe even your grandparent. Be there for them not only offline - but be their extra eyes online too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Troubled Teens: Is It Time for a Therapeutic Boarding School?

As I share with parents, deciding on sending your child to a therapeutic boarding school is a major decision not to be taken lightly.  It’s not about teaching your child a lesson, it’s not about punishing your teen or scaring them straight — residential therapy is a huge financial and emotional decision that is made after you have exhausted all your local resources.
Residential therapy is a choice made out of love to give your child a second chance at a bright future.
Usually a parent has reached their wit’s end; they have been to local therapy, some have even tried having their teen stay with a relative.  Some have been through extensive out-patient programs but it isn’t until you remove (residential therapy) the teen from their environment that they will be able to heal and gain an objective view on what is the root of the issues.
In the majority of families that contact us, these are not bad kids, these are kids that come from good families – raised with morals and taught right from wrong, however making very bad decisions.  Whether they have fallen into a negative peer group or struggling with self-worth issues, they are definitely going down a dark path that needs to be addressed.
In many situations we see today’s teen as the spoiled rotten brat syndrome.  Don’t be ashamed of that – that is our culture today.  It’s not right, but that’s how parents of this generation have raised their kids — they get just about anything they want without earning it.  This leads to generation entitlement teenager.
When they feel they are being boxed in or suddenly things aren’t as easy as they used to be, as middle school and high school can tend to become more difficult to fit in, rebellion and defiance (in combination with puberty) can strike.
This behavior can escalate into not only a nasty attitude, but soon you watch their grades declining, maybe they quit (or asked to leave) their once-favorite sport, and suddenly you discover they are using illegal substances and drinking.  The spiral continues.
Their outbursts at home and anger towards the parents become unbearable.  Worse some teens will get into trouble with the law, maybe shoplifting things they can well-afford to purchase.
Parents soon feel hostage in their own home.  No one is immune to this.
How To Know When It’s Time to Try Residential Therapy
  • You have read most parenting books and behavioral strategy — removing privileges, instilling consequences that are being broken,  to behavioral contracts to one-on-one behavioral support in the home — and your teen still doesn’t get better.
  • Your child had been given numerous psychiatric diagnoses, none of which totally fit. He/she has been on different medications, but none result in long-term changes.
  • Your house is a war zone every day. Your child is routinely explosive and scares younger siblings and you. You are exhausted and the stress of managing daily crises is taking a toll on your marriage, your job, your personal life and you  have reached your wit’s end.
  • Your child has been expelled from school (or on the verge of  being expelled), is addicted to video games, using drugs or alcohol, and has had multiple run-ins with the law.
  • Your child engages in self-injury, threatens to hurt others or kill himself.
  • Your child has had a psychiatric hospitalization.
  • You have finally exhausted all your local resources.  This is not an easy decision and one that comes out of love.  It is time to give your son or daughter a second opportunity for a bright future – finding a residential therapy setting for 6-10 months out of their lifetime is a small price to pay considering the alternative road they are on.
How Residential Treatment (RTC) or Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS) Helps, When Nothing Else Does
  • RTC or TBS focus on helping the child take personal accountability. Through intensive individual, group and family therapy, residential staff work on shifting the child from blaming others for his problems to acknowledging that he is where he is because he made poor choices.
  • RTC or TBS remove your child from their negative environment.  Whether is a contentious home situation or a negative peer group, it is an opportunity to be in an objective placement to open up and speak freely to others that may have his/her same feelings.
  • RTC or TBS have level systems so children learn the consequences of their actions. If they make poor choices or don’t do their levels work, they don’t gain privileges. The levels system incentivizes children to change their behavior.
  • RTC or TBS provide structure and containment that is impossible to achieve at home. Most RTC or TBS are in remote areas where there is nowhere to run. Therapists, behavioral staff and a levels program provide intensive scaffolding to support the child as he learns coping skills that he can then use to regulate himself. When a child can utilize coping skills, he feels in control and begins to make better choices.
  • RTC or TBS are particularly skilled at helping parents recognize the ways they are unwittingly colluding with their child’s behavior, and learn tools to change their own behaviors. Parent workshops and family therapy (usually via phone and visits) are essential for the child to return home successfully.
  • When selecting an RTC or TBS, it is important for a parent to find one that has accredited academics, qualified therapists and enrichment programs.  This is part of doing your due diligence when researching for programs for your teenager.
To learn more contact Parent's Universal Resource Experts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Teen Drug Use: From Marijuana to Pills to Heroin

Parents can be naive when it comes to their teen using marijuana today.  The fact is, it's not the marijuana from generations earlier.  Yes, it is legalized today and there are valid reasons for this, however there are still studies and reasons that the drug use for minors can potentially cause them harm.

More importantly, it can lead to different types of drug experimentation which are more risky and even potentially deadly.

 It's no different with pills.

Share this video with your friends and family.

How is marijuana likely to affect you?

Learning: Marijuana’s effects on attention and memory make it difficult to learn something new or do complex tasks that require focus and concentration. 
Sports: Marijuana affects timing, movement, and coordination, which can harm athletic performance. 

Judgment: Marijuana, like most abused substances, can alter judgment. This can lead to risky behaviors that can expose the user to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teens and Dating: What They Need To Know

It's a right of passage, going on their first date.  Are they ready? Are you?

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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Teens and Drug Use: 10 Tips for Prevention and Awareness

As we are in the summer months it can lead to more time for experimentation of substances.  Maybe your teen wants to fit in with a different peer group or maybe they have been using drugs and want to try new ones.

It is important for parents not to be in denial.  The best of kids can make bad decisions.  Think of your own childhood - we all learn from mistakes.  Sadly today drugs are much more dangerous and deadly than they were generations earlier.

10 Tips for Prevention and Awareness of Drug Use:

1. Communication is the key to prevention. Whenever an opportunity to talk about the risks of drinking and driving or the dangers of using drugs presents itself, take it and start a conversation.
2. Have a conversation not a confrontation. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, talk to her. Don't judge her; instead, talk to her about facts behind the dangers of substance abuse. If your teen isn't opening up to you, be sure you find an adolescent therapist who can help. 
3. Addict in the family. Do you have an addict in your family? Sadly many families have been affected by someone who has allowed drugs to take over his or her life. With this, it is a reminder to your teen that you want him to have a bright future filled with happiness. The last thing you want for them is to end up like [name of addicted relative].
4. Don't be a parent in denial. There is no teenager who is immune to drug abuse. No matter how smart your teen is, or athletic she is, she’s at risk if she starts using. I firmly believe that keeping your teen constructively busy, whether through sports, music or other hobbies, will put her at less risk to want to experiment. However don't be in the dark thinking that because your teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA and is on the varsity football team that he couldn't be dragged down by peer pressure. Go back to my number one tip—talk, talk, talk. Remind your teen how proud you are of him, and let him know that you’re always available if he’s being pressured to do or try something he don't want to.
5. Do you even know what your teen is saying? Listen, or watch on text messages or emails, for code words for medicaiton being abused or specific drug activity: skittling; tussing; skittles; robo-tripping; red devils; velvet; triple C; C-C-C-; and robotard are just some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse. Weed; pot; ganja; mary jane; grass; chronic; buds; blunt; hootch; jive stick; ace; spliff; skunk; smoke; dubie; flower; and zig zag are all slang for marijuana.
6. Leftovers. Are there empty medicine bottles or wrappers in your teen’s room or car (if they own one)? Does she have burn marks on her clothes or her bedroom rug, and ashes or a general stench in her room or car? Be sure to check all pockets, garbage cans, cars, closets, and under beds, etc., for empty wrappers and other evidence of drug use. Where do you keep your prescription drugs?  Have you counted them lately? Teens and tweens often ingest several pills at once or smash them so that all of the drug’s affect is released at once.
7. Body language. Tune into changes in your teen’s behavior. Are his peer groups changing? Is he altering his physical appearance or suddenly lack hygiene? Are his eating and/or sleeping patterns changing? Does he display a hostile, uncooperative, or defiant attitude, and is he sneaking out of the house? Are you missing money or other valuables from your home?
8. Access to alcohol. Look around your home—are alcoholic beverages (liquor, beer, or wine) easily accessible? Teens typically admit that getting alcohol is easy, and that the easiest place to get it is in their own homes. Be aware of what you have in the house and if you suspect your teen is drinking, lock it up! Talk to them about the risks of drinking, especially if they are driving. 
9. Seal the deal. Have your teen sign a contract stating that she promises never to drink and drive. The organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving), provides a free online contract you can download. It may help her pause just the second she needs, to not get behind that wheel.
10. Set the example, be the example. What many parents don't realize is that they are the leading role model for their teen. If your teen sees you smoking or drinking frequently, what is the message you are sending? At the same time, many adults enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, and the teen needs to understand that they are adults and there’s a reason the legal drinking age is 21.

A very important piece of advice I share on a daily basis, which I learned the hard way, is that you have to be a parent first, even if it means your teen hates you. The hate is temporary. Your teen’s future, health, and safety depend on your parenting. Friendship will come later—and it does!

If you suspect your teen is using drugs, take immediate steps to get them help.  If they refuse local treatment, consider residential therapy.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Internet Safety and CyberParenting

June is Internet Safety Month and cyber-parenting is another aspect of parenting that we have to consider when raising teens today.

As if parenting wasn't challenging enough, now we have the added fun of technology and the digital world.

The Web offers a plethora of fun and educational things for kids to do, plus all the social networking that is huge for tweens and teens. But along with that comes plenty of places for danger. Just as parents need to talk to their kids about safety in the everyday real world, they also must discuss safety precautions related to the Internet, and make sure their kids get it.
What can parents do? How do they start the conversation? It is important to cover the dangers – all of them – in age-appropriate language to help kids understand the dangers of giving away information online.
Talk, Talk, Talk
The most important thing parents can do is talk to their kids, tweens, and teens. Make sure they know the dangers that are prevalent online, whether sexual predators, those that want to steal identities and financial information, and any other type of cybercriminal. Make sure to keep lines of communication open so kids feel comfortable talking about anything relating to the Internet that bothers them.
Set Clear Internet Rules
Depending on the kids’ ages, parents may have different rules. Young children should never even give out their name. Once kids get older and more into social media, reinforce the importance of careful posting and sharing – what goes on the Internet is there forever! Nothing personal should be posted or shared, like address, phone number, or credit card information.
Identity Theft
When it comes to personal information, it’s easier than most think to get other’s information. If a site looks fishy, it probably is. Parents need to make sure their kids understand to never give out personal information like credit card numbers, bank accounts, or social security numbers without parental permission, even if they are buying something.
If a child sees something like “accepts credit cards” or “enter information here,” he needs to let a parent know and stop what he’s doing. Once credit card information or other personal numbers are in the hands of others, it’s tough to reverse the damage. The best rule is never give it out.
How to Start This Conversation
Start talking about Internet safety when kids are young. Keep the computer in family areas so activity can be monitored. As kids get older, reinforce these topics. Let them know age-appropriate instances of what can happen if things like cyberbullying or credit card theft happen. Parents need to let children know that they are always available, even if mistakes are made, so they can solve things together.
The bottom line is: Don’t give out information! Whether it’s social, personal, or financial, kids need to keep this to themselves. Parents should stay tuned in to not only what goes in the world of online security, but also what their kids are doing online. Awareness is key. And, parents, keep reinforcing how important it is to your kids!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Jobs for Teenagers

Is your teen ready for a summer job?

Let's face it, not every family can afford the luxury of summer camps.  Some teens, no matter what financial background they come from, want to earn their own money.  This is fantastic!

There are many great summer opportunities for teen's today.  Here are a few to consider:

1.  Babysitter
2.  Server
3.  Busser or Dishwasher
4.  Camp Counselor
5.  Tutor
6.  Movie Attendant
7.  Lifeguard (must get certified - contact your local Red Cross)
8.  Pet Sitter (dog walker)
9.  Retail Work
10. Internships (specifically in a field your teen is interested in)