Teens and Internet Gossip

TeenCyberbullyingSocial media sites such as Ask.fm have been in the news lately and the headlines are not ones that parents would one to hear about their teens.  Gossip, whether online or off, can be cruel and harmful to others, especially when a person is already struggling with self-esteem issues.

“Sure enough, I had a parent come to my door and say, ‘Your daughter has been saying some rather nasty things about my daughter on this website.’”

– Patti, Mother

High school students have always spread gossip in the halls, on the walls and on the phone.  Now, it’s on the Internet, too.  On various message boards specific to communities around the country, kids write about whom they hate, whom they think is pregnant or has an STD and record other often hurtful rumors that may or may not be true.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica remembers once when some kids at her school wrote cruel things about her on the Web.

“They were just making fun of me,” she says.  “You know, she’s really ugly, she’s this, she’s that, ba-ba-ba.”

Jessica’s 11-year-old sister, Emma, admits she’s used the Web to write nasty things about another girl, though she regrets it now.

“After a while, you’re like, how could I have been so mean?  Like, why did I do that?” she says.

The other girl’s father eventually became so frustrated with what Emma had said that he came to her door and demanded her mother make her stop.

Experts say gossip on the Internet can be more harmful than the old-fashioned kind.  It’s often anonymous because kids use fake screen names.  It has the power of the written word, so it lasts longer and is taken more seriously.  And, unlikely ugly words on the bathroom wall, there’s no way to scratch it out.

“Online gossip is to hearsay gossip probably what nukes are to dynamite,” says Dr. Ramah Commanday, a school psychologist.  “It can get EXTREMELY raunchy.”

If your kids are victims of online gossip, Dr. Commanday suggests putting the gossip into perspective.

“Point out to them how what’s being said on the screen differs from what everyone knows about you as a person,” Dr. Commanday says.

You can also try what worked for Emma:  Keep your kids off the offensive website!

“When she was using it all the time, her name was on there all the time.  People were writing things about her,” explains Patti Thrift, Emma’s mother.  “Since she has no longer had access to that, she’s no longer a topic of conversation.”

Experts say that any time your child is on the Internet, you should know what he or she is doing there.  Online gossip is just another reason why.

Tips for Parents

Most of us remember passing notes during class or swapping stories over lunch with our friends in middle and high school.  But with more teens accessing the Internet these days, it appears that gossip has gone high-tech.  Teens are using message boards, instant messaging and even email to air out their frustrations – often in hurtful language – about their teachers and peers.

According to an Internet Report from the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, 97% of kids aged 12 to 18 access the Internet on a regular basis.  What they’re doing on the Internet, however, may be surprising.  The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately one in every 17 kids is threatened or harassed while using the Internet.  In fact, most don’t tell their parents or other adults, and if they do, the adults often don’t know how to stop the online teasing.

Gossiping, whether it’s in the halls or on a message board, more often than not leads to hurt feelings.  According to the Nemours Foundation, if teens spend enough time gossiping and passing on stories they don’t know are true, eventually no one will believe anything they say, even when it is the truth.  Teens who gossip shouldn’t expect to be trusted ever again.  Once friends learn that a peer can’t resist spreading secrets around, they won’t tell him or her anything personal.  And if a teen gossips about personal or important issues, he or she could even end up in trouble at school and at home.  Teachers don’t appreciate students who make it tough for other students to learn, and parents won’t be happy to hear that their child is causing trouble in school.

If you’ve heard your teen taking teasing and gossiping to a hurtful level, it’s time to remedy the situation.  The experts at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota offer the following advice for curbing your teen’s gossiping and teasing:

  • Cultivate your teen’s compassion.  Talk to him or her about feelings – how emotional blows can hurt as much as physical ones.  “You wouldn’t throw a rock at that boy, would you?  So you shouldn’t call him a ‘zit-face’ either.”
  • Give your teen a simple test he or she can use to judge if his or her teasing is playful or hurtful:  “How would I feel if someone said this about me?”
  • Talk to your teen about the when and where of playful teasing.  He or she shouldn’t always resort to sarcasm or jokes at someone else’s expense in order to get a laugh.
  • Examine your own behavior and that of other family members.  Do you rib your children at length, even after they plead with you to stop?  Do you tease inappropriately, that is, about the way people look or the habits they have?  Are you confusing razzing with teaching and discipline – for instance, do you communicate your frustration about your teen’s messy room by calling him “Mr. Slob”?  Make sure that your own teasing (and that of everyone else in your household) is good-natured, not aggressive or manipulative.

As a parent, it is also important to regulate how your teen uses the Internet.  If you know what your teen is doing while online, you can better prevent him or her from visiting message boards where the temptation to gossip exists.  The Media Awareness Network suggests considering the following questions concerning how your teen surfs the Net:

  • Are you involved in your teen’s online activities?  Do you know what he or she is doing and whom your teen is talking to when he or she is on the Internet?
  • Does your family have a set of rules or an agreement for appropriate Internet use?
  • Do you make Internet use a family activity by guiding your teen to good sites and teaching him or her how to do safe, effective searches?
  • Have you taught your teen not to believe everything he or she reads online and to check online information with an adult or with another source?
  • If your teen has her or his own website, have you checked to make sure it doesn’t contain harmful or hurtful information?
  • Have you talked to your teen about responsible online behavior?  Does he or she understand that making threats or harassing others online can be considered illegal activities?

References

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  • Media Awareness Network
  • Nemours Foundation
  • UCLA Center for Communication Policy
  • U.S. Department of Justice
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Teen Help: Good Kids Bad Choices

TeendefianceSummer is here and some parents will be considering summer camps while others are in the midst of hoping their teenager passed the school year, or had enough credits to graduate. If you are the parent of a teen who is struggling with school and acting out, it can drive you to your wit’s end.
Maybe your once fun-loving teenager who is good looking, intelligent, and has lots of good friends is now talking back to you, staying out late or sneaking out, defiant, and possibly sexually active? On the flip side, your once sweet child might be a teenage misfit who is acting out because of bullying, or is experimenting with sex, drugs, and/or alcohol in a desperate attempt to find acceptance.
What happens when you have a teenager that decides they don’t want to finish high school when they are more than capable? Perhaps they were consistently getting excellent grades and now they are just getting by or failing completely.  From an overachiever to an underachiever.  Or you have the teen that used to be a great athlete, was a popular kid in school–suddenly your child has become withdrawn and is hanging with a group of new peers that are less than desirable.
Is this typical teen behavior?
Possible, but how do you know when it is and when you need to intervene?
As the school year is coming to an end, it is a good time for parents to evaluate where their teen is at both emotionally and academically–especially if they are in High School. These are your final years to make a significant difference in their lives, and get them on a positive road towards their futures. When a child is crying out for help by using illegal substances,  running away, flunking in school, becoming secretive, possibly affiliating with a gang, or displaying other negative behavior it is a parent’s responsibility to get involved, as painful as that is, and seek treatment.
When adolescents reach the point of rebelliousness, many parents will try therapy, and this is a good place to start. But the success of local treatment will depend on the child and how far their behavior has escalated. Unfortunately many parents I have spoken to have reported that the one-hour session once a week–or even twice a week–rarely makes a difference in their teen’s behavior. For many parents there comes a time when residential therapy is taken under serious consideration–especially if drugs and/or alcohol are an issue. It is important to seek outside help, and removing a teen from their environment can be critical in getting them the help they need to heal. This is particularly true when a teen needs to be separated from undesirable peers that are instigating or perpetuating their negative behavior.
Though the majority of teens are unwilling to attend residential treatment, most of them are professionally transported by experts in the field. Parents spend a lot of time and stress about this part of the decision, but hiring a professional in this field can lessen the worries. They are trained to work with at-risk youth and will ask you all about your child before they arrive. In speaking with many parents and teens that have successfully used transports, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.
At the end of the day, your teen truly wants to feel good about themselves again, too. They want to be that happy child that you remember. Remember, they were once that a good kid, and they can become that good person again.  Being a teenager isn’t easy, and parenting that child when you have reached your wit’s end is a challenge. Knowing you are not alone helps!
Take away tips for parents:
When seeking residential treatment, I always encourage parents to look for three key components that I call the ACE factor:
·        Accredited Academics (Ask to see their accreditation): Education is important, some programs actually don’t offer it.
·        Clinical (Credentialed therapists on staff): Please note–on staff.
·        Enrichment Programs (Animal assisted programs, culinary, fine arts, sports etc): Enrichment Programs are crucial to your child’s program. They will help build self-esteem and stimulate them in a positive direction. Find a program with something your teen is passionate about or used to be passionate prior their path in a negative direction.
I also encourage parents to avoid three red flags:
·        Marketing arms and sales reps (All those toll-free numbers, be careful of who you are really speaking to and what is in the best interest of your child.)
·        Short term programs (Wilderness programs or otherwise, rarely is there a quick fix. Short term program are usually short term results. They usually will then convince you to go into a longer term program after you are there a few weeks–why not just start with one? Consistency is key in recovery. An average program is 6-9-12 months, depending on your child’s needs and the program.)
·        Statistics that show their success rate (I have yet to see any program or school have a third party–objective survey–perform a true statistical report on a program’s success. Success is an individual’s opinion. You have to do your own due diligence and call parent references.)
For more information about researching residential therapy and helpful tips, visit http://www.helpyourteens.com and don’t forget to review the list of questions for schools and programs so you can make an educated decision.

Teens and Sex: Encouraging Your Teens to Wait

SexEtcRaising teens in today’s world is not easy.

Whether your teenager’s health classes at school take an abstinence-only approach to sexual education or not, the responsibility of encouraging abstinence still falls largely upon your shoulders as a parent. Sexual activity at an early age could potentially lead to an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or both. Teenagers are beginning to experience adult urges, but still have an underdeveloped sense of the impulse control that governs most adult social interaction.

Approaching your teen about sexuality and abstinence doesn’t have to be awkward and uncomfortable, though, especially if you’ve established a foundation of open, honest communication.

Get to Know Your Teen

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

Avoid Moral Ambiguity

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

Encourage Him to Pursue Long-Term Goals

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

Limit Screen Time, But Don’t Be Afraid to Use Entertainment as a Talking Point

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

Consider the Effects of Substance Use

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

Have Frank Discussions About the Ramifications of Teen Pregnancy

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

While it’s important to talk to your teens about abstinence and maintaining sexual purity, it’s also important that you foster a sense of openness and trust in your relationship with them.

A teen that’s terrified of your reaction to an impulsive mistake or even an informed decision regarding his sexual activity isn’t likely to discuss the matter with you at all, leaving you firmly in the dark. Make sure that your child knows that you strongly encourage abstinence, but that you’re there to listen to him and to help him through difficult situations even if he doesn’t live up to those expectations.

Source: Babysitting Jobs

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Teen Defiance: Ways to Avoid Fighting with Your Teenager

TeendefianceWhen you’re raising a teenager, your house can feel like a war-zone that’s scattered with potential land mines masquerading as casual questions. Every interaction can feel like it has the potential to blow up in your respective faces, leaving parents wondering what the safest course of action is in terms of avoiding an argument. During the tumultuous teenage years, these are 10 of the most reliable ways to avoid fighting with your child.

  1. Establish Rational Boundaries – During adolescence, your teen is revisiting the same mindset of early toddlerhood that leaves her looking for ways to test boundaries as a means of asserting her independence from you. Making sure that she knows some boundaries cannot be challenged lays a foundation for calm, rational interaction. Just be sure before you make those rules that you understand your teen’s need for a reasonable amount of independence, and avoid overly harsh authoritarian rules that leave no room for such expression.
  2. Shift Your Perspective – As an adult parent of a teenager, it can be difficult to remember your own battles during the tender years leading up to adulthood. Before flying off of the proverbial handle, try to remember how you felt as a teen, so that you can see things from your own teenager’s perspective.
  3. Refuse to Escalate the Situation – When you’re standing face to face with a raging, screaming teen that pays no heed to the feelings of anyone around her as she expresses her frustration, it’s easy to fall into the trap of shouting right back at her. By maintaining your composure and refusing to let the situation escalate into a full-on altercation, you’re effectively maintaining control of the confrontation without adding fuel to the fire.
  4. Practice Good Listening Skills – Sometimes a teen feels as if he’s not being truly heard and in response will lash out with anger, when all he really wants is to know that his viewpoints and opinions are being listened to. Taking the time to ask your child how he feels and actually listening to the answer he gives can diffuse many arguments before they start.
  5. Create a “No Judgment” Zone for Tricky Discussions – Teenagers face a variety of difficult choices and situations, and those who feel as if they have nowhere to turn for advice due to a fear of parental judgment or punishment can internalize that stress, leading to nasty arguments borne of frustration. Making sure that your child knows she can safely approach you with difficult questions can eliminate that frustration, making for a more peaceful environment within your home.
  6. Know When to Compromise – As a parent, it’s often difficult to admit when you’re being unreasonable and concede an argument, or at least to make compromises when you’ve reached an impasse. Mastering the art of a sane compromise with your teen, however, is the key to keeping a tense discussion from escalating.
  7. Understand When to Walk Away – When you can’t hold on to your temper, it’s okay to walk away. If you ascribe to a philosophy of walking away to let your temper cool, though, it’s essential that you afford your teenager the same respect. Resist the temptation to follow her in order to continue a diatribe; it’ll only lead to an even nastier confrontation.
  8. Actively Avoid Triggers – There are some subjects that bring out a passionate reaction in everyone, and those triggers differ from one person to the next. Your teenager is no different, and you know the things that will upset her before you discuss them. Avoid the subjects you know will upset your child, especially if there’s no real reason for discussing them.
  9. Refuse to Reward the Silent Treatment – The silent treatment is infuriating for anyone, but it’s important that you not reward that behavior from your teen. Attempting to draw him out with false cheerfulness or prodding him to talk will only blow up in your face, so let him stew without interference for a while.
  10. Avoid Drawing Comparisons – Telling your teenager that you never acted the way he does, or illustrating just how much more tolerant of a parent you are because you don’t punish him the way you would have been punished for behaving in such a manner serves absolutely no productive purpose. Remember that your teen is trying to establish himself as a separate entity from you; drawing comparisons, even when you’re just looking for common ground, can ultimately be counterproductive. 

Making a concerted effort to foster an open, honest relationship with your teen can make it easier to avoid the worst arguments, but the occasional disagreement is pretty much par for the course. Rather than dwelling on an argument after it happens, try to think about how you could have handled it differently so that you can apply that knowledge the next time negotiations become tense.

Source:  Babysitting.net

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Teen Help: Helping Parents Find Help for their Struggling Teen

Don't be a parent in denial, be proactive.

Don’t be a parent in denial, be proactive.

With the tragedy of Newtown, CT we are faced with so many unanswered questions.

The grief of the loss of life is unimaginable – when you look at the age of the children and their protectors that died doing what they were trained to do, it is simply unconscionable that anyone could do such a heinous act.

We are hearing issues of gun control combined with mental health.  At the end of the day, like teenagers using illegal drugs (and adults for that matter) if someone is determined to find a gun and shoot people, they will.

The fact is we need to get people the help they need before they get to the point of wanting to seek out guns for killing – or drugs for getting high.

Though that is an extreme example, many parents are seeking help for their struggling teen.  They are at their wit’s end.  They feel like they are hostage in their own home.  After exhausting all their local resources they realize that residential treatment is their last resort – but how can they send their child away?

The real question is, how can you not?  How can you not get your teen the help they need?  In many cases your teen does need to be removed from their environment to be able to start recovery.  Being around their negative peer group and sometimes ever around their family (and this is not a personal reflection on you) but the state of mind your child is in, can bring contention that they are not able to move forward.

So what can you do?  You get online and the confusion is overwhelming with websites promising all sorts of things – marketing people scaring you into the urgency of placing asap or else….. Sticker shock of the price of getting help! Don’t get scammed – it did happen to me – I created my organization so it wouldn’t happen to other parents.

There is help for everyone.  If you don’t have insurance for mental help, and even with insurance, there are programs that can help.  You will have to dig harder to find them.

Obviously if you are able to go into a program you can finance there are more options, but in a time in our economy when things are not financially great, not everyone falls into this category.  This doesn’t mean you can’t find help.

I encourage you to visit my website – www.helpyourteens.com for more information on residential therapy.  Never give up – be proactive.  Now, more than ever, is a reality that parents need to get their troubled teens the help they need.

Tough Love – Tough Decisions That Save Lives

Toughlove

When you have reached your wit’s end, holidays seem to not matter.

When it comes to sending your child to residential therapy it is probably one of the hardest decisions a parent can make.  It just doesn’t seem normal to send your teenager to a behavioral modification program.  Let’s face it – we all know that sending them to college is part of the circle of life, but no one prepares us for the potholes that some families face – residential treatment centers.

As the holidays approach a teenager’s behavior can sometimes escalate and this can leave a parent with a decision that they don’t want to make.  How can they send their child into a teen help program during this time of the year?

As a Parent Advocate and Parent Consultant, I share with parents that you have many years ahead of you to have many wonderful holidays together – however in some cases, it can mean saving your child’s life by removing them from not-so-safe situations – especially if they are involved in drug use or hanging out with unsavory groups of what they consider friends.  With the extra time off from school -it sometimes can add up to more time for trouble.

Are you struggling with your teenager?  Confused about what school or program is best for their needs?  I founded Parent’s Universal Resource Experts, Inc over a decade ago for parents that are at their wit’s end – after I was duped and my daughter abused at a program that mislead us.  Our experiences are only to help educate parents – there are more good programs than there are not so good one.  It is up to you to do your due diligence.

Remember, family is a priority – your child’s welfare comes first.  There will always be more holidays – let’s be sure your child’s safety and security are first and foremost.

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Teens and Money Management

Today’s times are not the easiest when it comes to the economy for many families.

With these struggles it could also be an opportunity to teach our children to manage their money for their future.

Being able to handle money wisely is the greatest gift you can give your kids. Struggling with money is stressful and unnecessary if you create the foundation for smart spending and saving.

Here are 10 ways to teach kids how to manage their money and to help instill your money values in them.

  1. Pay yourself first. Decide with your child what percentage of the money he earns or receives that he will get to just spend however he wants. Be it on candy, bubble gum machines, or toys. It’s important that he have some money that he feels like he can spend however he chooses. You can set the rules as to how and when he can spend it, but make sure that he does have some money for fun stuff.
  2. Create jars and label where the money is to go. Take some mason jars or recycled jars and label them with the different places that the money is going to go. Have jars marked, “Fun Money”, “Long term Savings”, “Short term Savings” and “Charity”. Feel free to change the names around to fit your goals. Long-term savings could actually say, “College Fund” and the short-term savings could say, “Cell phone”. Things like this will allow you and your child to personalize your savings system. Once you hit a certain amount in your jar you can move it to a bank account.
  3. Help your child choose a charity in which to donate. Giving back to the world is an important lesson that kids need to learn from a young age. In your case maybe you would like your child to give money to your church in addition to or instead of a charity. Maybe your kids love animals and would like to donate money to the Humane Society.
  4. Set a savings goal for big ticket items. If your child is constantly asking for a large toy or electronic encourage him to start saving for it. Print out a small thermometer chart and help him fill in the thermometer as he puts money in the jar. It will increase the excitement if he feels like he is getting closer to his goal. You could offer up some extra chores where he could earn some extra money. You’ll be amazed at how ambitious kids can be if they have the proper motivation.
  5. Make sure they have long-term savings. Talk to your child about going to college or buying their first car. These items are very expensive and have to be saved for. Determine what you think the fair amount would be to put into the long term savings jar. Is it 10 or 20%?
  6. Open a savings account for your child. Take your child to the bank or credit union and help her open her first savings account. There are online options as well that will allow you to add money to her account electronically so the money is never actually in her hand. This option is available and you will have to decide whether it’s the right option for you and your child or not. When opening a savings account you can explain about interest. Let her know that the bank will pay her for letting them use her money.
  7. Help your children realize the difference between a need and a want. This is an important discussion to have with your kids. You will hear your kids tell you that they NEED to have the latest jeans or cell phone, but those are wants and not needs. Help your kids see the difference and then when they come to you and say that they have to have something you can ask if it’s a need or a want. Wants aren’t a bad thing, but needs should be taken care of first. For example, he ‘needs’ to put money into savings for his future more than he ‘wants’ to get the latest video game.
  8. Create a filing system to keep track of receipts. Getting your child used to tracking their money is an important habit to get them into. When they buy something with their money they need to come home and write down the purchase in their spending journal and then put the receipt into a file. Determine how many files or envelopes you will need. One way to do it is to create an envelope for each month and then have a big envelope to keep all of the smaller envelopes in. This method may work better if you have multiple children tracking their spending. Another way would be to keep the monthly envelopes in a file marked with their name.
  9. Demonstrate money saving techniques. Kids usually go to the grocery store with mom or dad and that is their first experience watching mom spend money. Show the kids how coupons work and in store discounts. Explain various tricks you use to save money while grocery shopping. You may think that your kids won’t need this information for years to come, but it’s important that kids are aware that mom saves money where she can too.
  10. Set a good example when it comes to money values. Keeping your own spending journal and receipt file will set a good example for your kids. Let your kids know that you are saving for a big item or vacation. Kids learn by example and it’s easier for them to learn when they know what you are doing. It’s not so important that your kids know every detail and concern that you have about money, but impress upon them the important stuff.

Source: Babysitting Jobs

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