Friday, February 26, 2010

Sue Scheff: Spring Break is Around the Corner!

This can be the time of year that parents can cringe or actually take the time to help your teen plan a "safe" spring break.  This is a must read article about learning to keep your teens safe and helping them make good decisions!

Source: Connect with Kids

Spring Break

They end up being characters of themselves. [They] give up being the actual person that they are; they're 'The Kid on Spring Break.'”

– Robert Simmerman, Ph.D., Psychologist

With spring break just a few weeks away, hundreds of thousands of high school and college kids across the country are planning on a big trip to a warm destination to be with their friends.

If you're the parent of a junior or a senior in high school, do you let your child go?

The answer to that question gets even tougher when you listen to what spring break means to teenagers.

"Binge Drinking"

"People on balconies taking their clothes off; kids getting drunk on the beach"

"Yeah, you do get drunk; there is underage drinking and stuff."

But experts say that spring break can also be a final testing ground for a high school senior to show self-restraint and maturity.

"People expect you to go crazy on spring break and like to hear stories about what you've done ... but most people, I don't think so," 17-year-old Laura says.

"I think that if you use good judgment at home, you're probably going to use good judgment when you're out somewhere foreign to you," adds Maltby, 18.

Can your kids handle the risks involved?

Experts say that part of the answer depends on how much practice they've had when they were young.

Sleepovers, concerts and parties are all opportunities for children to learn to act responsibly among their peers.

"Where they have to use this judgment not for a four-day period, but for a four-hour period," says Dr. Robert Simmerman, a psychologist.

He says that if you let them take a trip for spring break, find out who's going and where they're staying. Then, make sure that you talk about limits.

"You know what I'd do? I'd bring all the peers together that were going to go and I'd have a group discussion, with the peers and the parents, that way the likelihood of somebody keeping their head and because what we know about adolescence is it's peers that have the most influence," Dr. Simmerman says.

Still, traveling teens will be put to the test facing risks like underage drinking, sex and accidents.

So parents do have another alternative: Say no.

"Adolescents depend upon us as parents to set the limits so that they don't have to. But yet, they can still complain about it – 'My dad's unreasonable; he's not going to let me go to Florida with a bunch of strangers and drink and swim and jump off balconies.' So be it," Dr. Simmerman says.

Spring break is a time-honored tradition for many high school and college students, one that involves wild parties, lots of flirting and, yes, even sex. But over the last several years, tales of alcohol poisoning, illegal drug use, injuries, rape and death during students' weeklong getaways have become common news headlines. A large proportion of these incidents actually occur in foreign cities.

While these stories are tragic, they are part of a harsh reality that grows worse as more students travel overseas for spring break. The situation, however, is not out of parents' control. Experts agree that first and foremost, parents need to establish an early habit of monitoring their children – waiting until the teen years will most likely result in a power struggle between parent and teen. The National Network for Child Care says that monitoring your teen involves being able to answer the following questions at all times:

■With whom is your teen spending time?
■Where is your teen?
■In what kinds of activities is your teen participating?
■When will your teen return and how will he or she get home?

As soon as this practice becomes habit, monitoring can serve as a foundation for an open and trusting relationship between you and your teen. All adolescents will try new experiences and even make some mistakes. That is why your job as a parent is to provide guidance and support so that your teen will make good decisions. The experts at Healthy Parenting Today suggest keeping these monitoring strategies in mind as a means of teaching your teen to be responsible for his or her actions:

■Talk with your teen. Monitoring means being involved in your teen's life, and it includes being an interested, active listener. Just by listening to the accounts of your adolescent's day, you can show him or her that you genuinely care about what happens to him or her.
■Manage your teen's freedom. Your adolescent should earn his or her right to more freedom. With freedom comes the responsibility to endure the consequences of choices. As your teen demonstrates responsibility at one level of freedom, you can help him or her move to the next level by giving a little more freedom.
■Set clear guidelines. Even though your teen can handle more responsibility than younger children, he or she still needs some boundaries and limits. It is important that your teen knows exactly what is expected of him or her. After discussing the rules, you may even want to write them down to avoid discrepancy over what was said.
■Stay in touch with your teen. If your teen is supposed to be home at a certain time, plan to be home at the same time. If you can't be there, call to check on him or her or have a trusted neighbor check. Unsupervised adolescents are less likely to get into trouble if parents keep in touch with them.
■Set a good example. When you go out, let your teen know where you are going, how long you'll be gone and a number where he or she may reach you. This provides an excellent role model of considerate behavior.
■Meet your teen's friends. Much of your teen's behavior will be influenced by his or her peer group. Studies have shown that adolescents who have a lot of unsupervised time on their hands are at risk for developing deviant peer groups. Under the influence of deviant peers, your teen could develop a variety of problem behaviors. Get to know your teen's friends; better yet, get to know the parents of your teen's friends. Both are a valuable source of information.

Tips for Parents

The key to more peace of mind is to stay informed. This involves establishing a habit of honest communication with your child, preferably before he or she enters the teen years. Experts say that young children turn to their parents first for advice and guidance, but once they reach adolescence, they tend to rely on friends or other outsiders and the media for information. That is why it is important that you talk to your child about serious issues first, before he or she can become confused from incorrect information. Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation offer the following tips for keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen:

■Start early by discussing tough issues, including sexuality, violence and drug use.
■Initiate conversations with your child.
■Create an open environment for conversation.
■Communicate your own values.
■Listen to your child.
■Try to be honest.
■Be patient.
■Use everyday opportunities to talk.
■Talk about issues again and again.
If you decide to allow your teen to take a trip with friends during spring break, consider sharing the following information and tips in order to prepare him or her for the tough issues that he or she may face:

Drinking: Binge drinking is the major culprit in alcohol poisoning. It also increases the risk of car accidents and arrests for violations, such as drunken driving, public intoxication and property destruction. The best advice to give your teen is not to drink. If your teen does decide to drink (and most will) or is of legal drinking age, Be Responsible About Drinking, Inc., recommends sharing the following advice:

■Drink only if YOU want to – don't let others dictate your choice.
■Decide in advance what and how much you will drink.
■Plan how you will refuse once you reach your limit.
■Know what will happen if you violate state or local laws.
■Use a designated driver or choose public transportation.
Sex and Violence: A University of Wisconsin study revealed that women with a higher alcohol consumption were more likely to have been the victim of a sexual assault. Regardless of gender, teach your teen to take the following precautions:

■Don't drink too much. Drinking makes it easier for a person to become either the victim or the perpetrator of a sexual assault.
■Don't allow yourself to be taken to an isolated location.
■Use the buddy system. Don't walk alone. Attend large parties with friends and leave with the same friends.
■Watch out for "rape" drugs. Don't leave a drink unattended. Don't accept open drinks from strangers. If you start feeling odd, put the buddy system into action.
Travel Scams: According to the American Society of Travel Agents and the College Parents of America, charter flight delays, hotel over-bookings and non-delivery of services are common problems. Prepare your teen by sharing these tips:

■Be skeptical about solicitations that sound too good to be true.
■Research the travel company and don't give out credit card numbers until you are sure the business is reputable.
■Get complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment.
Traveling Abroad: In the last several years, foreign tourism officials have been luring thousands of American students to Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean for spring break tours. Due to more lenient laws than those found in the United States, students 18 and older have the opportunity to drink and even take drugs overseas without breaking the law. It is important to know, however, that these foreign nations have laws and customs that could lead to a student waiting in jail for up to a year before trial for drug trafficking or other crimes. Before embarking on a vacation, have your teen research the following information:

■Contact the foreign country's consular office or visit the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
■Check the country's entry and exit requirements, and take extra copies of travel documents (driver's license, passport, birth certificate, etc.).
■Review U.S. State Department travel warnings, which detail crime and health risks.
References
■American Society of Travel Agents
■Be Responsible About Drinking, Inc.
■Children Now
■College Parents of America
■Healthy Parenting Today
■Kaiser Family Foundation
■National Network for Child Care
■University of Wisconsin
■USA Today

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sue Scheff: Learning to Eat Healthy for both Adults and Kids

Many parents that grew up a generation or two prior than today, will remember looking in the bread box and seeing those Hostess snacks. Whether you had Twinkies, Yodels, Coffee cakes, or those delicious Chocolate Cupcakes (with chocolate frosting), it was rare that our parents ever discussed healthy eating habits.

Today the headlines about overweight teens and children are screaming at us. If you turn the news on or even talk shows, they are discussing healthy eating habits - for both adults and kids. Today even Hostess snacks are promoting their new products: 100 calorie treats. They even offer "Twinkie Bites" for those of us who still love their Twinkies.

The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese.

Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today's busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people in the new millennium.

Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example.

Source: KidsHealth.org

Be an educated parent, you will have healthier children and teens.

Read more on Examiner and watch video.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sue Scheff: College Freshman Dangers

Is your teen starting his/her freshman year at college this fall? It can be stressful and cause some teens to be anxious about how they will fit in. What is more of a concern for parents is your teen not reaching out and experimenting in areas they know are not healthy or good for them.

Recent studies show that every year more than 1,400 college students die because of alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, dangerous pranks and other risky behaviors- all involving alcohol. And, almost half of those killed are freshman.

Source: Connect with Kids

Freshman Dangers

“There are things that are acceptable in college that aren’t acceptable anywhere else. If we had a 35-year-old man at a Christmas party funneling beers, we’d be appalled. But you go to a fraternity house and you’ve got kids funneling beer, and that’s sort of the norm.”

– Heather Hayes, LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor

Recent studies show that every year more than 1,400 college students die because of alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, dangerous pranks and other risky behaviors- all involving alcohol. And, almost half of those killed are freshman.

For some students, that first year in college is one long party.

“Sex, skipping class, not taking their education seriously,” observes 20-year-old Scott about freshman life.

“Club-hopping, bar-hopping,” adds 21-year-old Nicholas.

“Certain people that I know definitely have a lot of casual sex,” says 22-year-old Nikki, “like, two- three times a week with different people.”

Experts say some freshmen can’t handle their newfound freedom. They skip class, get into credit card debt, and binge drink.

“There are things that are acceptable in college that aren’t acceptable anywhere else,” says Heather Hayes, a licensed professional counselor. “If we had a 35-year-old man at a Christmas party funneling beers, we’d be appalled. But you go to a fraternity house and you’ve got kids funneling beer, and that’s sort of the norm.”

So how can parents prepare high school students to handle the freedom of college?

“One thing that you can do is, in their [high school] senior year or in the summer before they go off to school, give them a nice transition period,” says Dr. Ken Carter, an assistant professor of psychology at Emory University’s Oxford College. “If you’ve had some rules in the house, in terms of curfew, to sort of back-up on those a little bit.”

Dr. Carter says most schools offer courses to teach freshman how to be safe. “There is evidence that students who take those freshman seminar courses end up more well-adjusted, stay in school longer, and sometimes even have better grades.”

Finally, he says, there are no magic words, no single talk you can have, with your kids, before they leave for college.

“It’s all those years that you have been there, and helped them and instilled them with values- that’s what is going to be important,” says Dr. Carter. So rather than telling them what not to do, it’s probably better to remind them of what your hopes are for their behaviors.”

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among teens. Seventy-one percent of eighth graders and 95 percent of high school seniors say that it would be easy to get alcohol if they wanted some. Although many youngsters try alcohol (52 percent of eighth-graders and 80 percent of high school seniors), most don’t drink regularly and disapprove of heavy drinking.

Research shows that adolescents may be more vulnerable to brain damage from excessive drinking than older drinkers. Alcohol impairs brain activity in the receptors responsible for memory and learning, and young people who binge drink could be facing serious brain damage today and increased memory loss in years to come. If one begins drinking at an early age, he/she is more likely to face alcohol addiction. Consider the following …

  • Imaging studies have revealed a connection between heavy drinking and physical brain damage.
  • Neither chronic liver disease nor alcohol-induced dementia, the most common symptoms of severe alcoholism, need be present for alcohol-induced, physical brain damage to occur.
  • Alcohol-induced brain damage usually includes extensive shrinkage in the cortex of the frontal lobe, which is the site of higher intellectual functions.
  • Shrinkage has also been observed in deeper brain regions, including the cerebellum, which helps regulate coordination and balance, and brain structures associated with memory.
  • Alcohol abstinence has shown positive results. Even three to four weeks without alcohol can reverse effects on memory loss and problem-solving skills.
Tips for Parents

Adolescents have a better chance of recovery because they have greater powers of recuperation. If you suspect your child has alcohol-related brain damage, it is imperative to have him or her assessed by a medical doctor or psychologist. Treatment depends on the individual and the type of brain damage sustained. People with impaired brain function can be helped. Often it is necessary to reduce the demands placed on the patient. Also, a predictable routine covering all daily activities can help. Consider the following points when easing your child’s routine …

  • Simplify information. Present one idea at a time.
  • Tackle one problem at a time.
  • Allow your child to progress at his or her own pace.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Avoid stressful situations.
  • Structure a schedule with frequent breaks and rest periods.
  • Consider joining an alcoholism support group.

References
Alcoholism Home Page
Better Health Channel
National Youth Violence Prevention Center
Psychological Assessment Research and Treatment Services

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Dating - Is your teen ready?

Many parents will cringe when they even think about their precious "children" reaching the age of dating. Whether you believe it is 16 years-old or 26-years-old, there are worries and stress at all ages. As a parent, worrying is a built in feature that comes with parenting - especially teens.

Teen dating can be an exciting and fun time where self confidence is built up, and dating techniques are learned. Teens also learn how to be both assertive and compromising, how to be giving to another and how to expect the same in return. All of this is a sort of practice session in order to find that "right" person.

Unfortunately, too often teens start dating with no preparatory talks from their parents and then they can lead to trouble. According to Planned Parenthood, about 10 percent of teenage girls in the U.S. become pregnant before age 20. And the U.S. Attorney General reports that 38 percent of date rape victims are girls between the age of 14 and 17.

Talk to your children. Teach them how to date, how to have respect for one another and how to protect themselves from emotional and physical hurt.

Here are some more tips:

  1. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL.Your relationship with your partner is a model for how your teen will behave with others. Your relationship for your child speaks far louder than anyone's words. Show them how you compromise, stick up for yourself, give and expect respect and argue but love your spouse.
  2. TELL THEM TO LISTEN TO THEIR INNER VOICE. Help them pay attention to the voice inside that says, "I'm uncomfortable in this situation and don't want to do this." Teach them to trust their judgment. Tell them how to avoid unwanted sexual advances. Tell your sons that having sex does not make them a man and tell your daughters that having sex does not make them cool.
  3. WARN THEM ABOUT THE DANGER SIGNS. Being manipulated, verbally put down, pushed or slapped and kept isolated from other relationships are all signs of an abusive relationship. Make sure both your son and daughter understand that, and that they should come to you or another parent/teacher/counselor if they feel at all threatened or oppressed by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
  4. NO, MEANS NO. Tell them they need to be honest and clear in communications. "I'm not sure…" from a girl can mean "I just need to be pushed or pressured some more before I say yes" to her date. Tell girls to say "No" clearly and firmly. Tell boys if they hear "No" then proceeding anyway is rape.
  5. HAVE THE SEX TALK. Make them think seriously about what sexual intimacy really means to them. Tell boys they are not expected to try a million different ways to get sex. Tell girls that they do not need to have sex to keep a guy.

Tell them that oral sex and anal sex are sex. Many kids are having these forms of sex because they tell themselves it's not really sex.

First tell them they shouldn't be having sex yet. Then tell them about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. You hope they will wait to have sex, but if they don't, it's best that they protect themselves.

Let them talk privately with their doctor so they can get what they need to take care of themselves. Encourage them to come to you with any question or conflict. Try to be open to discussing it, rather than lecturing them. You want them to listen to your opinion, yet at the same time feel they are making up their own mind.

Source: Dr. Gail Saltz

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month as well as Teen Sexual Assault Awareness Week. It is a perfect time to sit down with your teens and talk to them about dating. This is one of the first big steps into adulthood, and a parent should be the one discussing these issues and concerns with their teenager.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sue Scheff: Parenting Teens After School

Although years ago having at least one parent at home when kids came home from school was common, today it is far from common.  With both parents usually working to make financial ends meet, or many more single parents, it has become almost impossible for some families to have a parent at home when their teen comes home from school.  As a teen, it is assumed that parental supervision isn't necessary, but this is not about babysitting, as much as it is about being a parent. 

Recently Connect with Kids posted a very timely and informational article on "Split Shift Parenting."  Take the time to learn more.

Source: Connect with Kids

Split Shift Parenting

“Maybe shoplift or go get high with their friends – there [are] a lot of different things [teens] could be doing after school.”

– Dwan, 18 years old

The after school hours are prime-time for kids of all ages to get into trouble if there is no parent around. But some families are experimenting with "split-shift" parenting that makes sure there is always one parent with the kids every day after school.

As a teenager, Dwan spent most of her time after school without her parents' supervision. Spending time alone, she found that trouble was her best after-school companion.

"I was smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol," says Dwan, 18. "Those were my big problems."

The After School Alliance finds that over 15 million kids have no supervision after school. And studies show that the highest levels of juvenile crime occur in the afternoon and early evening when there are no adults around.

"Maybe shoplift or go get high with their friends – there [are] a lot of different things they could be doing after school instead of going straight home."

But a new trend in parenting may help. It's called split-shift parenting: Both parents work, but it's a tag-team schedule.

"So it's different days ... I'll work Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and he'll work Tuesday and Thursday," says Kelly Barrows, a mother of two.

Kelly and Kevin Barrows made the switch to spend more time with younger children. Their 7-year-old daughter Christina appreciates the new schedule.

"I think [it's] important because you get to spend time with your family," Christina says.

Her father agrees: "We get to teach them as we want them to be taught. They can learn what we want them to learn without too many outside influences."

And the new research suggests split-shift parenting is a good alternative for parents rearing older children as well. It sends an important message to children young and old, experts say.

"[It says] that 'I'm important,'" says psychologist Dr. Allen Carter. "Here are the two most important people in the world to me, and they are saying, 'I'm important.'"

Statistics show that "split-shift parenting" is on the rise as America moves toward a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week economy. This recent trend affects American families in many ways, according to sociologist Harriet Presser. He says split-shift parenting schedules may have a positive effect, with one result being fathers who are more involved with their children. But there are long-term costs to marriages that may offset this benefit. Research shows that when men work nights and are married less than five years, the chance of separation or divorce five years later is six times that of men who work days. For women who work nights and who are married more than five years, the chance of separation or divorce is three times as high.

However, the Employee Worklife Center of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says split-shift parenting's rewards can outweigh the stresses if parents follow certain guidelines:

■Make sure it's your choice. The most important factor in split-shift parenting is that both partners want to do it.
■Keep talking. Be vigilant about sharing responsibilities and keeping the lines of communication open.
■Embrace your different lifestyle. Create your own family holidays and celebrations at dates and times convenient for you.
■Be organized. Keep a large family calendar with everything written on it.
■Get help if you need it, and make sure to sleep. Remember to ask for assistance from your spouse, or from a network of friends and family.
■Re-evaluate regularly. Remember, your child's needs will change over time, and what works today may not work in the future.

Tips for Parents

The Employee Worklife Center at NOAA offers six "strategies" that parents can use in order to balance work and family:

■Prioritize: Prioritizing allows you to take control of your life by deciding what is most important and what can be left undone.
■Organize: Being organized helps to save time and energy. Make to-do lists for both work and home.
■Communicate effectively: The busier we are, the harder it is to take the time to really connect with people. Establish eye contact, be honest, listen and ask questions.
■Set limits: Learning to say "no" is not an easy skill to acquire, but is important for your own well-being. If you are saying "yes" to everyone, you are saying "no" to yourself.
■Delegate: Involve your family as a team. Give clear instructions with a deadline. Be willing to let go of the way you do things and accept the way others do them.
■Establish support systems: Support systems will help you cope when the unexpected happens.

References
■Employee Worklife Center at NOAA
■University of Maryland

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sue Scheff: Fake pot? What is next for parents to be aware of?

As parents scramble to keep up with the challenges of raising teens today, they are now thrown another curve ball. Most know that smoking pot, although not legal and seems to becoming more addictive among youths, is a trend that some parents brush under the rug with the justification that "it is only pot."

Recently after speaking with a parent of an at risk teen, she said her therapist actually told her teen it was "okay" to smoke marijuana. Excuse me? This parent was horrified and this only empowered the teen. Obviously they are not returning to that therapist, but how many others feel this way?

Parenting is hard enough, and it is the parent that is the strongest tool in helping our teens to understand the dangers of drug abuse.

Now we have what is being called, K2 - or "Spice," Genie" and "Zohai" - that is commonly sold in head shops as incense and referred to as the "fake-pot". Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing. - AP

K2 costs between $20 and $50 for three grams, similar to the street price of marijuana, but with the key advantages of being legal and undetectable in drug tests. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has classified it a "drug or chemical of concern."

Kansas and Missouri already have bills to ban the mystery substance. What is your state doing about this latest trend?

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Read more on Examiner.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sue Scheff: SEXTING - Are You Aware of the Consequences?

Sexting is a word that years ago we would have not heard about. Today teens and tweens are not only familiar with this word, many have suffered the consequences from it.

A Thin Line debuted on MTV this month that educates and informs parents, teachers, kids and everyone about the dangers of the digital world.

What is Sexting?

Sending or forwarding nude, sexually suggestive, or explicit pics on your cell or online. For some people, it's no big deal. But real problems can emerge when the parties involved are under 18, when people get pressured into sexting, and when sexts go viral. - A Thin Line

What are the consequences of sending or receiving one? There are many, however the most common are the feelings of humiliation, embarrassment and much worse. The person that is in the photo can potentially suffer from extreme depression and even feelings of suicide.

For the person sending them to go viral, there could be potential criminal charges. You could get arrested. Taking, sending, and possessing naked images of a minor is a federal crime. Sex offenders' registry? Not the honor roll you were hoping for.

Parents need to take the time to sit down and talk to their kids about sexting and how it can potentially ruin lives for a long time. Review their phones or computers if you suspect that your child is participating in this activity. Remember, there comes a time when safety trumps privacy and this could be one of those times.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Watch A Thin Line on Sexting in America. Watch the four-part series with your children.

Read more on Examiner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sue Scheff: Women Sex Offenders - A Special Report by Oprah

Monday, February 15th, Oprah Winfrey stepped up her show with a sensitive and difficult subject of child molesters. Last week she spoke directly with men who sexually abused children and gave us an insight that was not only disturbing, but gave us information on how to further protect our children.

This week, going to places few, if any have, Oprah talks to women who sexually molested children. A Special Report: Raped by His Mother - A Victim Comes Forward. It's the side of child molestation that's rarely talked about. For years, he was raped by his own mother. What happens when women are the molesters?

Q and A with Sex Offender Therapist, Dawn Horwitz-Person works with victims of sexual abuse, as well as the men and woman who abuse. What has she learned from child molesters? Find out. The warning signs you should look out for and misconceptions about molesters. Plus, how potential abusers can get help.

Again, kudos to Oprah for going places that many are afraid to discuss to help benefit and educate people all over the world.

Being an educated parent can lead to having safer children.

Read more on Examiner.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sue Scheff: Social Media, Gifts and Valentine's Day

Reputation Defender, the leader in protecting your online profile and helping you maintain your honest image, has some great advice on sending and receiving social media Valentine’s gifts.

Source: Reputation Defender Blog

This Valentine’s Day, keeping things “personal” between you and your significant other may mean not using social media or other online tools to express your genuine feelings. In other words, NOT sending Facebook flowers/hugs/lingerie/other assorted virtual gifts to someone you truly care about; NOT using E-Cards as a replacement for the real thing; and NOT uploading a video of yourself lip syncing (or worse actually singing) Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” in your underwear to YouTube to share with your partner and the rest of the online community. More often than not, the real thing is much more effective.

With those thoughts in mind, we here at ReputationDefender have compiled some Valentine’s Day social media tips designed to keep the day special for just you and whoever you choose to share it with:

Keep your Tweets and Facebook status updates PG-13 rated
Nobody wants to read about your Valentine’s night plans, no matter how subtle you are. So instead of tweeting “At the grocery store buying strawberries and chocolate sauce, hint, hint” or updating with “Can’t wait for my night with (add name here),” just keep it to yourself. Your Facebook friends will thank you for keeping mushy, gushy stuff off their update streams and your partner won’t hate you for announcing plans for “Horizontal mambo time.”

Don’t text or e-mail that “special” Valentine’s Day picture to your partner.
You can never be too sure where it’s going to end up. It’s well know that data doesn’t just disappear into a World Wide Web black-hole, never to appear again. It goes somewhere. So unless you want that sexy, pouty lipped image of you dressed in leopard lingerie to pop up on Hot or Not or God knows where else, save the outfits (or lack of outfits) for personal time.

Avoid the myriad “Who’s your perfect match?”, “What type of lover are you?”, and “Are you meant to be together?” quizzes on Facebook and other websites.

While knowing whether or not you’re compatible with Jessica Alba is helpful information, basing a relationship off of or even bothering to take an online quiz is about as constructive as proposing via Twitter. Besides being time wasters, quizzes can be detrimental to a relationship depending on how much thought you give them (“What do you mean I’m not your perfect match!?!”) and often are managed by third-party developers (who are known to have security issues).

Being genuine often means going the extra mile.

Nobody wants to read “I love you” in a tweet, Facebook message, or e-mail, particularly on Valentine’s Day. A Valentine’s Day E-Card is just as impersonal with the added annoyance that it’s carrying possible malware. Your best bet is sticking to tradition, i.e. cards, candies, flowers, etc. Besides preventing images or text from being seen by the wrong people, the traditional approach to Valentine’s Day says you care enough to at least stop at the drug store or supermarket on your way over.

Photo: XKCD

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sue Scheff: The Anti-Drug - Parents!

Drug prevention with teens and kids today start with PARENTS. Parents need to take the initiative to talk about the dangers of drug abuse, inhalants, Choking Game, trunking, SNAP, Rainbow Game and many other disturbing issues surrounding teens today.

Peer pressure is a powerful tool, parents need to be stronger and more vocal than the peer groups.

Being an educated parent is the beginning of instilling prevention and having safer and healthier teens.

The Anti-Drug begins with parents. About The Anti-Drug:

TheAntiDrug.com was created by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to equip parents and other adult caregivers with the tools they need to raise drug-free kids. Working with the nation's leading experts in the fields of parenting and substance abuse prevention, TheAntiDrug.com serves as a drug prevention information center, and a supportive community for parents to interact and learn from each other.

The site provides parents and other adults caregivers access to:

  • Helpful articles and advice from experts in the fields of parenting and substance abuse prevention;
  • Science-based drug prevention information, news and studies;
  • Support from other parents striving to keep their children drug-free;
  • Perspectives of teens themselves.
Where are teens getting prescription drugs? The search starts at home. Teens say they are easily assessable in their own homes, at a relatives or friends house or even online pharmacies. What does this mean for parents? It means you need to learn to safeguard your prescriptions, but more important you need to educate your teens of the dangers of these drugs taken without being prescribed.

Learn much more at The Anti-Drug.com and read more on Examiner.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sue Scheff: Child Molesters Speak to Oprah Winfrey

Only Oprah can go to places that many can't or won't dare. On February 8th, she took the airwaves with: A Special Report: Oprah and a No-Holds-Barred Conversation with Child Molesters.

First, 90 percent of child molesters know their victims. Most are not strangers who lurk in the bushes, waiting to kidnap children. "We're talking about family friends, uncles, fathers, brothers and neighbors," Oprah says. "Less than 10 percent of molesters are the strangers who are abducting kids who you see on the news."

Although this is a very sensitive and difficult topic to speak about, Oprah explored areas of why these men molest children and offers advice to parents and children about how to protect themselves and things they need to know.

"I was raped at 9 and molested from the ages of 9 through 14, and because of that, I've always wanted to be able to sit down and talk to a group of child molesters and ask them why and how they do what they do," Oprah says. "It's the most honest conversation I've ever had with sex offenders."

Oprah does an exceptional interview with men that are child molesters that tell their graphic stories of molesting their victims. This is not an easy subject to talk about, and as a victim herself, Oprah rises above her own experiences and reaches out to help others learn about this most disturbing behavior.

Kudos to Oprah for helping educate many parents, teachers, counselors and others that would never have an opportunity to hear how these type of 'people' (child molesters) prey on their victims and why.

Watch Oprah's 2-hour conversation with these child molesters. Click here.

Be aware, be alert and be safe. The National Alert Registry offers a free report of registered sex offenders living near you. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is constantly updated on sexual offenders and predators. Through the Public Safety Information Act of 1997, Florida became the first state to list sexual predators and offenders on the Internet and to make the same information available through a 24-hour/day hotline.

Read more on Examiner.
Picture above from Oprah.com - admitted child molesters.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sue Scheff: The Choking Game - G.A.S.P.

G.A.S.P. - Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play is a very serious concern for parents everywhere.

The Choking Game is a misunderstood activity causing death and suffering for thousands of families worldwide. It often begins with high-achieving teens choking each other as a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. It ends with thousands of kids dying or suffering permanent brain damage each year.

Part of being an educated parent is learning about prevention of dangerous activities, such as the Choking Game.

Prevention within your own family begins with an honest discussion about the consequences of participating in The Choking Game. Remember - 75% of Middle School aged children already know about it - chances are, you are not telling them something they have not already been exposed to by their peers. The problem lies in what their peers have failed to mention- the dangers. Please also be aware that children as young as Kindergarten have been reportedly "choked out" emulating an episode or conversation displayed by an older sibling or neighbor.

Texting: Be on alert for these text symbols ;)/// ;})))

  • Computer / Cell Phone: Check your child's computer/cell phone for websites containing "Pass Out" or "Choking Game". Also look for videos created, viewed or uploaded by your child from video sharing sites like MySpace or YouTube. Popular tags are Fainting Game, Passing Out.

  • Be candid - be honest and be real! Show them the pictures of children who are no longer with their families. Share the "Life After" stories of children with permanent disabilities after playing and the words of parents now forever grieving the loss of their child. Stress to your child that the end result of the child participating was preventable.
Source: ChokingGame.net

Why are kids doing this?

Some do it for the high, which can become addictive. Others do it because it's "cool" and risky. Most kids who have died from this were active, intelligent, stable children who thought this was a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol. Most children have no concept of their own mortality-they truly believe nothing can hurt them.

Take the time to talk to your children. This is a trend that we don't want to continue. Learn more at Ed4Ed4All Blog.

Learn from from the video and read more on Examiner.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sue Scheff: Parenting and Admitting Your Teen has a Problem

After speaking with Dr. Drew last week in an insightful call on teens and cough syrup abuse, the conversation turned to the many parents that are in denial or constantly looking to blame others for their child’s behavior.

How many times have you blamed your child’s friend or a neighbor for negative behavior of your child? It is not your child, it is the friends he/she is hanging with. Your child would never do drugs, they are too smart for that. Are they? Yes, many are highly intelligent but that doesn’t mean they are immune to drug use.

The faster you remove yourself from the “it’s not my child” excuse, the sooner you can work on getting your child the help he/she may need.

According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, one in five teens reports having abused a prescription drug to get high.

Teens who learn a lot about the dangers of drugs from their parents are half as likely to abuse drugs. – StopMedicineAbuse.


Some red flags parents should be aware of, and not ignore are:

  • Change in friends/peer group
  • Withdrawn, secretive
  • Change in appearance, grooming
  • Decline in grades, skipping school
  • Dazed eyes, glassy eyes, bloodshot
  • Odor or smell to their hair or clothes of alcohol, pot, or nicotine (using body sprays and perfumes more frequently)
  • Lying about their whereabouts, defiance
  • Loss of interest in their usual interests such as sports, dance etc.
Parents need to understand that ignoring these signs or blaming it on others is not going to help your child. You need to seek treatment so it doesn’t escalate to much worse. A parent in denial is not helping the child, it is actually harming them. There isn’t any shame in having a child that is struggling, there is only shame if you don’t reach out and get help.

Resources:

Time to Talk, Five Moms, Stop Medicine Abuse, Inhalant Abuse, Drug Free America, The Anti-Drug

Read more on Examiner and watch video.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

This month is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Since 2006 Congress has officially recognized the first week in February as "National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week," and this year, for the first time, Congress has designated the entire month as a time to raise awareness of this important issue!

You can do your part to raise awareness of teen dating violence and abuse this month by encouraging people to join the MADE (Moms And Dads for Education To Stop Teen Dating Abuse) movement! ANYONE can join the MADE coalition by visiting: http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/made/petition.html

Parents need to open the lines of communication with their teens. Love is Not Abuse is an organization that provides information and tools that men, women, children, teens and corporate executives can use to learn more about the issue and find out how they can help end this epidemic of domestic violence.

Love is Not Abuse also offers a Parent's Guide to Teen Dating Violence. This can help you to start the conversation. Also visit Love is Respect for more valuable information.

During this month of February when love is in the air, take the time to show your love to your kids and sit down and talk about this serious subject. If you are a teacher, please take a few minutes to discuss this topic. You never know who is listening and what you may be preventing.

Happy Valentine's Day and remember, it is not about "being mine" as it is about "being kind."

Pass it on.  Watch video.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Sex and the Dictionary

In the same week we hear about the increase of teen pregnancies, we also learn about parents in California wanting "oral sex" removed from the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. As uncomfortable as some parents are with discussing oral sex, if we don't educate our children, someone else will! And it may not be exactly the way you would like them to learn it.

Recently two articles struck a nerve with many parents that were completely unaware of the teen or even tweens, sex games. Just when you think lipstick is a little spark of beauty and bracelets can be a fun accessory, we learn about the Rainbow and Snap games! You won't find these games in the dictionary - but both offer "oral sex" so you want to be sure YOU are the one talking to your teens about this.

"One of the nation's shining success stories of the past two decades is in danger of unraveling," said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Clearly, the nation's collective efforts to convince teens to postpone childbearing must be more creative and more intense, and they must begin today." - Washington Post January 26, 2009

As much as we talk to our kids about sex, offer sex education classes and continue to be there for them, this is a subject we need to continue to talk about. Whether it is a word/term in the dictionary or slang on a school bus, encourage your children to come to you to discuss it. If they are uncomfortable speaking with a parent, try to have a close relative or friend they can turn to. Someone you trust.

Remember, an educated parent is a prepared parent which equals safer and healthier teens.

Watch PSA and read more.

The Price is Your Life.

The term "oral sex" remains in the dictionary. For the parents in the California, Menifee Union School District, students will take permission slips home. They also offer alternative dictionaries.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teens Helping Hurting Teens - To Save a Life

TO SAVE A LIFE is now in over 400 screens in theaters nationwide. To Save A Life is a powerful Indie movie about the real-life challenges of teens and their choices. But it's more than just a movie-it's a feature-length film with follow-up opportunities like a youth group curriculum and a teen devotional centered around the biblical concept that we're never more like a Higher Power than when we are reaching out to the hurting and lonely. Watch trailer below.

At some point, every teen has to decide: "What's my life going to be about?" To Save A Life dares to bring that question into their world, encouraging them to answer it with boldness and honesty.

ABOUT TO SAVE A LIFE

An all-star athlete and his girlfriend find their lives spinning out of control when Jake loses a childhood friend. Help comes when he reaches out to others who are hurting, and he realizes some people are just dying to be heard.

The movie asks...

  • How far would you go?
  • How much would you risk?
  • How hard would you fight...TO SAVE A LIFE
To Save A Life has also created a website for resources for parents. Teen depression is very real. Parents need to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms.

There are several symptoms of teen depression. Among them are:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Losing interest in social and extracurricular activities
  • Displaying a lack of energy, Feeling tired most of the time
  • Anxiety, Irritability, Anger,Feelings of sadness for much of the time
  • Significant weight fluctuations
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Physical pains and aches, or sickness, even though there is nothing physically wrong
  • Indifference about the future
  • Uncharacteristic pessimism,Guilty feelings
  • Lowering self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
There are two main types of teen depression. These include:

  • Major depression: This type of teen depression is of short duration, although it is quite severe. It is possible to have a bout of severe depression, feel fine for a few months (or even years), and then have another bout. For teens, though, even one bout of severe depression can feel as though it will never end and prompt a suicide attempt.
  • Dysthymia: Dysthymia lasts much longer than major depression, and the feelings are not as severe. Some teens have this low level depression plague them for years without having it diagnosed. This type of depression can also lead to teen suicide if the teenager becomes discouraged with never feeling happy.
Another type of teen depression has to do with life changes. It is called adjustment disorder with depressed mood, and it can be the result of the death of a loved one, divorce, moving to a different town, or even changing schools. This, too, can lead to teen suicide if the teenager feels hopeless, and that the feeling will never end.

This film helps educate parents, teachers, and others that work with today's teenagers as well as will bring an awareness to teens and allowing them to know that we do care. Growing up today is not easy; Peer pressure, drug abuse, gangs, trends, sex and more is what many kids are facing on a daily basis.

Currently To Save a Life is playing at Regal Cypress Creek Station 16 in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information and theaters near you, visit http://www.tosavealifemovie.com/tickets/ .

Watch the trailer. Be an educated parent - you will have safer and healthier teens. Read more.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sue Scheff: Is the iPad for your teenager?

Apple's Steve Jobs recently launched the iPad, displaying the many capabilities that this latest gadget can perform. Reminiscent of an iPhone, only larger, the iPad has practical applications for the gadget loving teens. Even colleges students will fall in love with this latest tech system.

The iPad offers a wide variety of features that will delight and make life surfing and studying with more ease.

One benefit of the iPad it the ability for organized note taking, especially for those busy High School Juniors and Seniors that are crunching to get their college applications in and keeping their GPA up. It offers one compact place for notes to be organized and offers the ability to, with ease, to share these notes with a classmate through a simple email.

Another asset is the calendar feature. Does your teens need to keep track of when homework is due, exams are scheduled, college application deadlines, study dates, social events or even his/her job schedule? iPad offers a simple way to organize your dates, deadlines and keep up with your busy life through your touch pad.

Most all teens love their iTunes, YouTube and pictures. Buying music from the iTunes store is easy and viewing movies or videos should be more comfortable on the larger 9.5 by 7.5 inch screen.

Another cool feature is the iPad can be used as a digital photo frame when not in use and has many ways to import and export photos, including docking it with a computer or downloading via email.

Is the iPad right for you teenager? The prices range from $499.00 - $829.00 which may be a deciding factor. Although reasonable priced for the product and its' enhanced features, not all families are able to afford these extra luxuries for their teens. College students are another target market that may benefit from this new gadget. The book reader feature will help eliminate some of the bulky books they are carrying.

Don't think about the iPad as just a computer. Its true potential lies in its potential as a communications device. - Washington Post

Watch the intro video and read more.