Cybersafety, Privacy Online and Teens: The Conversation

TeensonlinefriendsParents know the things to do keep their kids safe around home, like keeping an eye on them outside, teaching them stranger danger and to travel in groups. But what about in the virtual world? It’s shown to be just as dangerous, and if certain information gets in the wrong hands, your child, your family, and your identity could all be at risk.

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!

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Teens Using Drugs for Study Aids: Getting High For An A

The most highly abused prescription drugs among college students are:

Stimulants: Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta are used primarily to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). They speed up brain activity causing increased alertness, attention, and energy that come with elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and breathing

Getting High for an A: Stimulants as Studying Aids
Image compliments of Best Masters in Education

Reasons for Misusing or Abusing Prescription Drugs

– Improve their grades
– Concentrate more in class and maintain focus during late-night study sessions
– Diet
– Reduce stress
– Feel good/get high
– Ease nervousness in social scene / partying
– Enhance athletic performance
– Forget about problems
The Use of stimulants

– The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin(methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances – the same as cocaine and morphine – because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use.
– 1993-2003: the number of prescriptions given yearly for Adderall has more than tripled.
– FACT: Adderall is the most commonly abused prescription stimulant among college students.
– 15: Percentage of college students admitting to use of some form of psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical, academic uses.
– By students’ sophomore year in college, about half of their classmates will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug. Of undergraduates that are taking stimulant medication under the direction of their doctor, more than half (54%) have been asked to sell, trade or give away their medication in the past year
– Full time college students are twice as likely to use a stimulant for non-medical reasons compared to those who aren’t in college, or are only part-time students.
– 90: the percentage of college students who used Adderall for non medical reasons in the past year who were also binge drinkers.
Compared to the average student, students who use Adderall for nonmedical reasons were, in the last year:

– 3x more likely to have used Marijuana
– 8x more likely to have used Cocaine
– 8x more likely to have used prescription tranquilizers
– 5x more likely to have used prescription pain relievers for nonmedical reasons.
– 5X more likely to develop a drug abuse.
– ER visits whose listed reasons included an ADHD stimulant rose from 13,379 in 2005 to 31,244 just five years later.
Early signs of abuse include:

– Using the medication more frequently or at higher doses without a healthcare professional’s direction
– Using the medication compulsively
– Not being able to carry out normal daily activities because of drug misuse
– Hiding or lying about use
– Spending more time, energy and/or money maintaining access to the drugs
Abusing prescription medications can lead to:

– Increases in blood pressure or heart rate
– Organ damage
– Addiction
– Difficulty breathing
– Seizures
– Heart Attack
– Stroke
– Death
Keep in mind

– It is illegal to take a controlled substance if it is not prescribed for you.
– Get rid of old or unused medications properly. Visit the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website at http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm and
– RX Safe Disposal at http://www.smarxtdisposal.net

Parenting Teens: Connecting With Your Kids

FamilyDinner2In a world where there never seems to be enough time to get everything done, connecting with your kids and forming real, lasting relationships with them can seem more difficult than ever. There are ways to bolster your connection to your kids and find ways of fostering strong relationships, though, even when time is at a premium. These tips can help you make the most of your relationship with your children, laying the groundwork for an environment of love, close bonds and trust.

Turn Screen Time into Family Time

Instead of retiring to separate rooms at the end of the day to zone out in front of different screens, why not take the chance to turn screen time into family time? Arrange regular family movie nights, get invested in an age-appropriate show that everyone in the family can discuss and bring family game night into the 21st century with party-style video games that encourage group participation.

Have Dinner Together Regularly

When everyone has their own practices, school and work demands to attend to, it often seems easier to grab meals where you can and hope that everyone is having reasonably healthy dinners while they’re on their own. However, kids from families who regularly eat meals together at the family table tend to perform better in school, are less likely to be involved in teen pregnancies, are less likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and smoking and are more likely to finish high school than those who eat alone or in front of the television. Even if you struggle to carve out time for your family meals and rely on pre-packaged convenience food, make a point of having dinner together at the dinner table at least once each week.

Start Your Own Book Club

Books like the Harry Potter franchise and others of their ilk have mass appeal, drawing in and captivating readers of all ages. The next time you decide to pick up a book, why not choose one from your kids’ bookshelves or select a great read from the Young Adult section that your teenager is interested in reading at the same time? When you read the same books, you’ll be able to form your own family version of a book club and find plenty of fodder for conversation at the family table.

Look for Common Ground

If you and your teenager are both fans of classic rock, make a point of trading playlists with one another on a regular basis. Talk to your kids about areas in which you share common ground, and cultivate those interests. When you’re able to talk about hobbies or activities you both share, you’re able to connect on an entirely new level. It’s also a great way to show older kids that you aren’t quite as out of touch as they imagine.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

More than anything else, knowing that you’re always there to talk and that you truly will listen encourages a strong bond between you and your children. Make sure that your kids know there’s nothing you can’t or won’t talk about with them, and that you’re always available when they’re in need of advice, a sounding board or even just to discuss their day.

Establish a Judgment-Free Zone

Set aside one particular area in your home and call it the “judgment-free zone.” Let this be the area where your kids can come to you with any fears, questions or concerns and where they are able to talk freely, without fear of repercussions or judgmental treatment. Knowing that you’re not going to scold or judge makes it easier for your kids to come to you with difficult situations, which will make your bond that much stronger.

Make Time to Spend Time

Put down your phone, turn off the television and step away from the computer when your child talks to you. Make eye contact, and listen intently. Your kids need to know that they’re the most important part of your life, and that they’re not competing with work or the television for your attention. Make time to spend time with your kids, and leave room in your schedule for one-on-one time with each of your children individually.

Source:  Find a Nanny

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

Teen Drinking is Underage Drinking: Prom and Graduation Parties are No Exceptions

MADDPower

April is Alcohol Awareness Month at the same time teens are getting ready for many celebrations including school being over.

It is that time of the year and teens are excited about their proms and graduation.

With this usually comes celebration, but remember, drinking age is usually 21 years-old.

Parents need to encourage their teens to make smart choices.  There is the POWER of PARENTS!

Steps you can take at home:

Help your son or daughter steer clear of the dangers of underage drinking with these five steps:

Step 1: Think of yourself as a coach

Your role in preventing underage drinking is similar to coaching. You can help your teen by

  • Sharing information
  • Discussing choices and monitoring behavior
  • Helping your teen anticipate and handle challenging situations
  • Cheering your teen on to make smart, safe choices

Step 2: Get busy communicating

Begin a series of conversations with your son or daughter—proactively, before he or she gets caught drinking—about how:

  • Alcohol is a drug with serious sedative effects
  • Drinking has health dangers and other risks for young people
  • It is illegal to drink before the age of 21
  • You want your teen to be safe and respect the law
  • Your teen can plan ways to resist peer pressure to drink

Step 3: Keep track of your teen
You need to know what your teen does after school, at night, and on weekends—and with whom.

  • Agree on rules, limits, and consequences
  • Monitor all in-person and online activities
  • Know your teen’s schedule
  • Make sure he or she has your permission for activities
  • Talk to parents of kids with whom your teen spends time
  • Enforce consequences consistently

Step 4: Show respect and caring
Your teen will respond better when you

  • Listen respectfully to his or her ideas and concerns
  • Explain that rules, limits, and consequences are meant to protect them
  • Help your teen think logically and make smart choices
  • Remind your teen how much you love and care about them

Step 5: Be a positive role model
Your teen will be most receptive to your guidance if you lead by example and act responsibly.

Source:  MADD Power of Parents

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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10 Tips to Help Create a Parent and Teen Home Contract

TeenContractTeens can be a challenge, but they don’t have to be.

While teens may initially balk at the idea of agreeing to implement a contract with their parents, getting all of your mutual rights, responsibilities and expectations on paper can make a big difference in the way that you communicate with one another.

The effectiveness of a well-written contract is one of the many reasons why written agreements dictate so much in terms of professional behavior, a concept that can be applied directly to you and your teen.

These are 10 of the things that you should include in your own parent-teen contract, so that there are no disputes borne of misunderstanding or miscommunication.

  1. Driving Privileges – Driving is a rite of passage, an undeniable sign to both your teen and yourself that she’s starting to grow up. Handing over those keys doesn’t mean that you’re giving her free reign to do as she pleases, though. Making sure that your teen understands driving her car is a privilege that can be taken away, rather than an unassailable right, can motivate her to behave accordingly. Outlining things like curfew, safe driving responsibilities and the financial responsibilities of driving can help your teen understand just how big of a step driving really is.
  2. Cell Phone Use – Today’s cell phone plans are a bit more flexible than the exorbitant fee charges for any calls made during peak times a decade ago, but they can still be quite expensive. In an era that sees every teen with a cell phone, laying a strong foundation regarding the proper etiquette of cell phone use, the importance of never using a cell phone as a tool for bullying and the repercussions of texting and driving is important.
  3. Staying Home Alone – Your teen will inevitably decide that she’s too old for childcare or babysitters during the period between her return from school and your arrival from work. Covering what is and is not considered acceptable behavior when she’s home alone in a section of the parent-teen contract clearly communicates these things to her.
  4. Unsupervised Visits with Friends – No matter how much you’d like to be watching over your teen every moment of the day, the truth is that you just can’t. When it’s time to trust her with unsupervised outings with her friends, knowing that you’ve discussed the matter at length and covered it in your contract can help give you some peace of mind.
  5. Dating – Few things strike fear in the heart of a parent like the idea of their teen dating. Unfortunately, it’s also an unavoidable fact of life as a parent. Making sure that your child knows what’s expected of her when she’s dating in terms of curfew, supervision and the likes can make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved.
  6. Computer and Internet Usage – The Internet is a powerful learning and research tool for teens, but it can also be a very dangerous place for them. Making sure that your teen knows how to avoid online predators, bullies and other dangers is important, but so is limiting the amount of time she spends connected to a screen. Working out a reasonable Internet and computer usage policy can help to maintain peace in your home, as well as discourage constant connectivity.
  7. Television Use – Limiting screen time is as important for teens as it is for younger children, even if it is more challenging to enforce. Encouraging active pursuits and hobbies that get your teen moving will not only impact her physical wellbeing, but also help instill good habits in terms of television use as an adult.
  8. Earning and Spending – Teens have expensive taste, a fact that parents know all too well. Outlining how your teen will earn spending money, how much of her income should be set aside for expenses and different saving methods are all important parts of teaching financial responsibility.
  9. Chores – Making your teen responsible for helping with the daily running of the household can give her an idea of just how much work goes into keeping up a home and the importance of contributing fairly. Covering those chores in the parenting contract can also prevent arguments later, as it serves as a black-and-white reference when disputes arise.
  10. House Rules – Every household has its own rules to follow, and they should be spelled out clearly for your teen in her contract. When she knows exactly what’s expected of her and what isn’t allowed, she’ll be better able to navigate the area between them with confidence.

Working on the contract together will not only give your teens a sense of ownership over the agreement, but also the chance to make sure that their interests are protected. The most effective parent-teen contracts allow teens to have a voice in terms of their own rights and expectations. Try not to draw up a contract that gives your teen a laundry list of rules and no rights of her own. A contract that simply imposes rules and stifles your kids is one that they’re not likely to accept without rebellion, whereas one that outlines the needs of all involved parties is something they might be able to respect.

Source: Babysitting.net

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