5 Unsafe Habits Social Media Is Teaching Kids

SocialMedia25The Internet is here to stay and only expanding by the day!

The social media heyday shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, and likely will just continue to gain speed and momentum as it appeals to younger and younger audiences; however it can’t go unnoticed that the values it’s teaching our children are less than ideal, especially in regards to unsafe internet habits. As social media becomes more prevalent, so do our kids apparent lack of regard to what is considered over-sharing and what isn’t. Social media has made it completely acceptable to engage in the following less-than-safe behaviors:

1.     Checking into places – It’s become commonplace to check into places once you get there; whether it’s the gym, a restaurant, or even a different city or state from the one you reside in, you’re now able to post onto your social media sites where you are, and are even rewarded with badges for checking into places regularly. However while the badges and upgrades to “mayor of the city” may make kids feel cool, it’s also alerting anyone and everyone that they’re not at home and where you can find them, something that seems less than stellar from a safety standpoint.

2.     Posting provocative and risqué photos – Scantily clad pictures, pictures showing drug and alcohol use, and pictures of people in risqué circumstances routinely grace Facebook walls, get uploaded to Instagram, and find their way onto Twitter. All this does, however, is encourage risky behavior, prompting teens to engage in it and even challenging them to outdo their friends,as well as appealing to predators with questionable motives, making it easy for them to identify easy targets.

3.     Putting your address, phone number, and email address online – While this type of information may be posted innocently for friends and family to easily find, kids tend to forget that the internet is not a private forum, it’s very public. Posting this information makes it easy for scammers, spammers, and predators to prey on unsuspecting victims, which is why this information should never be made publicon the various social media websites.

4.     Demeaning others – Bullying others online has become the new social norm. This kind of cyber-bullying has had an overwhelming effect on kids, leaving them feeling depressed and hopeless. When kids are unable to achieve any respite from the constant demeaning of their peers the effects can be monumental, with self-mutilation, uncontrollable anger or depression, and even suicide or harming their peers being the fallout.

5.     Encouraging hazardous games – Remember the choking game that encouraged kids to hang themselves to get high? These types of dangerous games are a result of social media allowing them to spread like wildfire, and the results are often tragic because kids don’t realize how dangerous they really are until it’s too late.

Social media, while it is many wonderful things, has its drawbacks as well. The younger the audience allowed to interact on it, the more unsafe it becomes, especially because they don’t yet understand that for every action there can also be a tragic reaction. This is why it’s imperative for parents to be vigilant in teaching their kids safe internet habits and to monitor what their kids are doing online.

Internet Addiction of the Young and Not so Young

AddictionParents today have no shortage of things to worry about when it comes to the online world in which their kids are growing up. From online predators, to scam artists and explicit pages, the web houses many threats to today’s youth. However, in addition to these known digital dangers, parents should also be wary of the long-term damage their children are doing to themselves every time they place themselves in front of their laptop, tablet, or other mobile device.

With the average U.S. internet user spending 32 hours online per month, it’s evident that the digital revolution shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, and sadly, our children’s minds and bodies could eventually pay the price for it. Read on for an overview of just some of the effects our children—from toddlers to teens—may have to deal with in the future.

Impaired Vision

Sure bad vision and corrective eyewear are by no means new concepts, but unlike past generations who only had to worry about genetics or age sabotaging their sight, adolescents now have to consider how their extended periods of screen time might affect their eyes. Bright, beaming screens reflecting onto our faces for the majority of the day is far from healthy. Recent studies suggest that approximately 17% of all eye exams performed in a year were initiated due to indicators such as light sensitivity, double or blurred vision, eye strain and even dry eye—symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. Sure, the majority of us are all exposed to inordinate amounts of digital screens daily, but today’s youth have never known a world without it. Cell phones, tablets and laptops have always been a part of their life, and most likely always will be, leaving them with an entire lifetime of eyestrain and exhaustion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Another physical impairment the children of today have to look forward to in the future is the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Characterized as a nerve dysfunction, symptoms include numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the hand, wrist and fingers. Hours of typing away on keyboards, phones and other gadgets is one of the main causes of the wear and tear. Numerous people already show signs of the disorder and as time goes on it’s likely only to get worse—as time spent online increases. Before, it was bad enough that someone was subjected to this from 9-5 while they were at work, but now everything from classes to games and even meetings are conducted via virtual means and require us to subject our and bodies to this overuse.

This is especially hard on children who have been dealing with this since these advancing methods since they could read and write. Time will only tell how soon they will start to feel the effects of this excessive action.

Inactivity

There’s no denying that the more time we spend sedentarily staring into a screen, the less time we are allowing ourselves to exercise and be fit. Sure some people are still disciplined enough to unplug, get up and DO SOMETHING active, but, obviously this isn’t always the case. And children will follow your lead, so if they see you coming home from work and planting yourself behind a sea of screens rather than enjoying the day, odds are they’ll do the same. This can be detrimental to your child in the long run—not only will they increase their chances of gaining weight, they will also risk weakening their bones—which can prove problematic the older they get.

Overview

Now, this is not to say that all online activity or screen time is a bad thing; it can actually be quite helpful and efficient. The digital revolution has streamlined many activities and practices, we just have to maintain a healthy balance and not abuse our gadgets and technology. As our children and teens age, their bodies will and minds will face obstacles with which we never had to deal—which may cause issues in terms of insurance coverage and health care in their adult lives.

As more and more schools and businesses move online and embrace the digital age—it’s important to give yourself time to unwind, or risk becoming a liability.

Contributor: Carol Wilson

Digital Parenting and Your Teen’s Social Media Profiles

SocialMedia25It’s eight o’clock on a school night; do you know where your kids are? In our constantly wired world, you not only need to know whose house your kids are visiting, but also where they’re hanging out on the internet. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube are great ways for kids to keep in touch and connect with the world around them, but they can also be ideal settings for inappropriate content, bullies, and even sexual predators.

Many parents are friends and followers on their children’s social media sites, but should you go a step further and have direct access to their accounts? 

Pros:

Having the login information for your kids’ social media profiles grants you access to their friends, their conversations, and their pictures. It allows you to see who your children are communicating with and what they’re saying, which can help hold them accountable. Even more importantly, you can control the privacy settings on your kids’ profile and block certain users from contacting them. This enables you to censor questionable subject matter and have meaningful conversations with your children about Internet safety. In the long run, paying more attention to your kids’ friends and interests could help you form a stronger bond with them. 

Cons:

On the other hand, being able to log in to your children’s Internet accounts can undermine any sense of trust that you’ve worked to establish with them. If your kids know that you can sign on to their social media sites, it might lead them to create alternate profiles (and engage in risky online behavior). Additionally, when you have unlimited access to your children’s information, it’s tempting to overstep your boundaries by posting embarrassing content or telling other parents what their kids are doing online. This can strain your parent-child relationship and alienate your children from their friends. Also, when you take total control of your kids’ accounts, it doesn’t help them learn how to responsibly manage social media.

Whether or not you choose to have access to your kids’ profiles, you should still be aware of their Internet activity. If possible, keep the family computer in a central location (not kids’ rooms), and check in on your children frequently when they’re on the Internet. Visit the websites that they’re talking about with their friends, and be on the lookout for increased Internet use or changes in mood, which could indicate that they’re getting into trouble online.

Before you allow your children to set up social media profiles, make sure you sit down to have a conversation about appropriate use, and set up rules for sharing information on the Internet. Remind them that it’s hard to control (and remove) content once it’s posted online and that there can be real world repercussions for their online behavior. Keep the line of communication open so that your children feel comfortable coming to you when they need advice or if they encounter a problem on social media websites.

Special Contributor: Stephanie Marbukh

Cyberbullying and Your Teen: What Parents Can Do To Help

CyberbullyingRealLivesIt may seem harmless to see your child engaged in the latest social media application. She may be snapping pictures to her friends on Snapchat or posting funny status updates on Facebook to stay in touch with her classmates and friends. However, when social media posts and tweets take a turn for the worse, your child may experience the devastating effects of cyberbullying, ultimately damaging her self confidence, self esteem and mental well being.

Defining Cyberbullying

According to Dr. Kate Roberts, Boston-based psychologist and cyberbullying expert, cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate or intimidate another person. “Targets are the same students who are bullied in person,” says Roberts. “They are vulnerable, have difficulty reading social cues and they are often alone and socially isolated.”

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is able to occur 24/7 with the help of cell phones, instant messaging, mobile devices and social networking websites. “According to recent studies, almost half of middle and high school students have experienced or witnessed cyberbullying,” says Roberts.

Kids respond differently to abuse from others, says Jennifer Hancock, author of “The Bully Vaccine.”

“Parents need to understand that cyberbullying isn’t happening in isolation,” says Hancock. “It is a part of a larger pattern of harassment, that in the adult world would be considered stalking – and it is as emotionally damaging as stalking – so take it seriously.”

Knowledge is Power

Today’s parents consist of the first generation that has had to contend with this level of cyber harassment, says Roberts. Parents, however, can arm themselves and their children with knowledge when protecting their children against cyber bullies.

  • Have the ‘Cyberbullying’ Conversation: Children don’t like to talk about bullying, but according to Roberts, “the reason for this is they have likely bullied themselves, been bullied or been a bullying bystander and the talk brings up these memories and feelings of shame.” Parents need to have an open conversation and respond without judgment as their children open up about what they know.
  • Explain How What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You: Some kids minimize or justify cyberbullying by saying that the target didn’t even know what was said. Roberts suggests explaining to your kids that it still hurts. “Use their life experiences to illustrate how badly they feel when people talk about them negatively,” she says.
  • Set Cyber Safety Rules: Whenever your children interact online, remind them that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. With that in mind, Roberts recommends enforcing the guideline of “don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person.”
  • Monitor Online Use: Know what your children are doing online to help them prevent cyberbullying and cope with it. Limit time spent on technology to naturally minimize access to and involvement with cyberbullying, suggests Roberts.

Helping Your Child Cope with Cyberbullying

Your child’s school may be the best advocate for prevention of cyber bullying and, more importantly, enforcement of cyber bullying school policies, especially if your child is a victim. If you fear that your child is a target of cyberbullying, Roberts suggests getting to know the school administrator in charge of overseeing bullying.

“If you discover that your child is being cyber bullied, save the URLs of the location where the bullying occurred and document it by printing the e-mails or web pages,” says Roberts.

Many school districts enforce a “no tolerance” bully policy that now includes cyber bullying. In addition, school officers and law enforcement officials often monitor the social media accounts of middle and high school students to prevent cyber bullying.

The best thing you can do, as a parent, is engage your child over time to develop a strategy with them and make reporting a central part of that strategy, says Jennifer Hancock, author of “The Bully Vaccine.”

“Whatever strategy you develop has to be comprehensive and your child has to take the lead on it with your support and assistance to report any incidents,” says Hancock. “They probably won’t be willing to disconnect entirely, but perhaps you can convince them to ban certain individuals from their Facebook stream so that they don’t see the content anymore.”

Unfortunately, many kids do not tell their parents about cyberbullying because they fear the parent’s first response is to get rid of the child’s access to the Internet. Be more creative, says Hancock. “Help them keep their access to the Internet but eliminate the people harassing them,” she says. “That works to instill trust and helps your child come to you for help in the future.”

Seek help from outside resources, too, such as your child’s peers, friends and neighbors, and ask them to inform you of any cyber bullying that may be occurring and affecting your child. In many cases, children who have been bullied – either online or offline – may benefit from sessions with a family therapist to discuss coping methods.

Bullying: What Can You Do?

Bullying and cyberbullying are topics that we have to address and learn about.  From kids to teens to even adults, bullying is a growing issue that our country needs continually learn more about.  The lasting affects of words can be devastating – not only to youth, but to adults.

Being bullied is painful, but it is important to remember that you are not alone! Below are some tips on what you can do if you are being bullied.

  • Don’t ignore the whole situation: When you are being bullied, you naturally just want to make it all go away. As a result, some of us just keep everything inside or even avoid going to school! Sometimes the bully does stop and moves on to someone else, but this doesn’t always happen.
  • Always tell an adult you trust: Tell your parent, trusted teacher, school counselor or other trusted adult about what’s happening. Share all of the details, and let them know how this made you feel. Ask them what to do next.
  • Keep in mind that no one deserves to be bullied. Bullies are not bad people, but they are doing bad things. Sometimes kids become bullies because they are bullied at home by their parents and are determined not to be bullied at school—so they bully others instead. Knowing this will help you understand that the bullying doesn’t have to do with you, but with the bully.
  • Never fight back, but let the bully know you are not an easy target. Stay calm, and tell the bully with confidence and determination to “Stop it,” and to “Leave me alone.” Walk off with confidence.
  • Stand up to the bully if you feel ‘safe enough’: This is sometimes easy to say and much harder to do! If you do feel safe enough, confront the bully by telling him or her how you feel, why you feel the way you do, and what you want the bully to do. For example, “I feel angry when you call me names because I have a real name. I want you to start calling me by my real name.”
  • Be an Upstander even when you’re not being bullied. Read the Ways to Be an Upstander to learn about how you can actively fight bullying in your school.
  • Do not respond directly to the bully’s teasing: Sometimes we just feel too scared to respond. Not responding is actually another good strategy that we can use when we are being bullied. To the best of your ability, just walk away! This also an important tip to remember when dealing with bullying online. Keep harmful messages from spreading by not responding, adding comments, or sending them on to friends. (Again, it is important to let an adult know about this. When you are bullied online, print out a copy of the text or picture and show it to a grownup).
  • Don’t blame yourself! It is common for students to feel that they have somehow “caused” the bullying. Remind yourself that it’s not your fault and talk to a friend, adult in school, or parent about the way you feel! Write down your good qualities and discuss them with your family, and use this list as a reminder if you start to blame yourself or feel down.

Source:  School Climate

Cyberbullying Doesn’t Recognize Holidays: Tips to Prevent Online Harassment

CyberbullyingRealLivesLearning that your teenager has been the target of bullies is both heartbreaking and infuriating. The discovery that your child is party to the torment and agony of a classmate, however, can be even worse. No parent wants to believe that a child they’ve raised could be so cruel, but the truth is that bullying is a very real problem. More kids than you might think can be involved in the bullying of their peers, and the practice is not constrained to only the “bad” kids. Even good kids can find themselves swept up in the mob mentality that leads to bullying and harassment. The most effective weapon in a parent’s arsenal is simple prevention. Stopping such behavior before it begins is imperative, especially online.

The Internet has changed not only the way that kids learn and interact with the world, but also the way that they bully their less popular classmates. It wasn’t all that long ago when kids who were bullied could at least enjoy something of a respite when they were away from school grounds. In today’s always-connected world, a group of committed bullies can make sure that the torment is incessant. Cyber bullying is insidious and overwhelming, leaving young victims feeling as if they have no way to escape their tormentors. Making sure that your child is not part of this growing group of cyber bullying teens will require a bit of work and dedication, but it’s far from an impossible task.

Monitor Your Teen’s Web Presence

There is a fine line between respecting your teen’s privacy and willfully turning a blind eye to their online antics. It’s important to provide your child with some semblance of privacy and independence, but it’s equally important to make sure that you’re aware of their habits. Friend or follow your child on their social media sites or have them accept a friend request from a trusted adult. Remember that your teenagers’ brains are not fully developed, regardless of how mature they may seem at times. Your kids need guidance, and they need you to keep an eye on their online behavior. This will not only prevent them from becoming either the target or the perpetrator of cyber bullying, but also ensures that they’re not engaging in unsafe activities that could make them the target of online predators.

Be Conscious of Cell Phone Usage

It seems like modern teens always have a smartphone in their hands. These mobile devices make it easy for kids to stay connected with their peers and explore social interactions, but they also present an almost constant opportunity for cyber bullying. Talk to your teens about how some messages and actions can be construed as bullying, but also make a point of establishing an “open phone” policy. Make sure your kids know that you will monitor their phone use and that any indications of bullying will be met with a zero-tolerance policy.

Talk About Bullying

All too often, parents assume that their teens know what bullying is and know better than to engage in such behavior. The truth is that bullying is a complex problem, stemming largely from the fact that some teens don’t realize that what they’re doing is bullying. Make sure that your teens understand that there’s much more to bullying than simply taunting someone at school or being physically violent. Establish an open line of communication about bullying, making sure that your teens are well informed on the issue. Encourage kids to not only abstain from bullying, but to take an active stance against bullying behavior from their friends and peers.

Consider Your Own Behavior

Just as teens can have a skewed perception of bullying, so can their parents. Think about the language you use during discussions about harassing or bullying behavior. If you’ve held a stance asserting that bullying is the result of “kids being kids,” you’re sending a message of tacit approval to your children. Realize that bullying is more than roughing someone up for their lunch money, and that it’s a very serious issue for today’s teenagers. Online harassment and bullying can have tragic results, and is never just “kids being kids.” Consider the attitudes you’re modeling for your teens and whether or not you’ve been inadvertently sending the message that online bullying isn’t all that serious. Even when your kids become teenagers and seem to disregard your actions and opinions, they’re still looking to you for cues as to how they should react in a given situation. Make sure the message you’re sending is one that openly disdains bullying it all its forms.

Resources:
http://www.stopbullying.gov/kids/what-you-can-do/
http://stopcyberbullying.org/teens/because_i_can.html

Contributors:  WhiteFence.com

ADHD: Mental Disorders and the Forgotten Children

When it comes to mental disorders, 10% of our children are falling through the cracks.

There are roughly 315 million people in the US with 1/4th of the population under the age of 18 (About 78 million children). 1/5th of those have a mental disorder (about 15 million) and 1/2 of children with mental disorders will never receive help (about 7.5 million) – that’s 10% of children and 2.5% of the population.

Forgotten Children
Source: TopMastersinEducation.com

Childhood mental disorders can include:

Major Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia
Bipolar Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Social Phobia
Specific Phobia

These disorders in children can lead in adulthood to:

Substance use, abuse, or dependence
Sexual risk-taking behavior
Criminal behavior
Poor coping and social skills
Suicide

Percent of children ages 3-17 who currently have a mental disorder:

AD/HD
6.8% 4,188,000
Behavioral or conduct problems
3.5% 2,156,000
Anxiety
3.0% 1,848,000
Depression
2.1% 1,293,000
Autism spectrum disorders
1.1% 678,000
Tourette syndrome
0.2% 99,000
Illicit drug use disorder
4.7% 1,155,000
Alcohol use disorder
4.2% 1,028,000
Cigarette dependence
2.8% 691,000

An estimated 40% of children with mental disorders have more than one.

Mental disorders are among the most costly conditions to treat in children. The cost of mental disorders among persons under aged 24 in the U.S. is $247 billion. (including health care, use of services such as special education and juvenile justice, and decreased productivity)

ADHD

4-6%: percentage of the U.S. population with ADHD.
2-5% adults
3-7% children estimated to have ADHD / 8-10% for school aged children
There is a 25-35% chance of having ADHD if a family member has it, compared to 4-6% without a family history.

Overlooked Adults

• 1/2 – 2/3 of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
• 50% of the doctors said they do not feel confident in diagnosing ADHD in adults, here’s why…
• Adults consider their problems to be the result of character flaws.
• Patients who live with AD/HD or ODD tend to assume that it is normal.
• Many people presume that ADHD is a male disorder in childhood.
• Everyone exhibits some of these symptoms some of the time.

Overlooked Girls

• Boys are 3x more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
• Men are 2x more likely to be diagnosed than women.
• Females are more likely to go undiagnosed because…
• ADD is still presumed to be a male disorder
• Girls are more likely than boys to suffer from inattentive ADHD, which includes poor attention to
detail, limited attention span, forgetfulness, distractibility, and failure to finish assigned activities.
• Boys are more likely to have Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD
• Girls exhibit hyperactivity differently than boys: a boy might shout, tap his feet or bang things
while a girl might just talk a lot.
• Thus, disruptive boys are noticed for evaluation before ‘chatty’ or inattentive girls.

Overlooked Children

• Symptoms of ADHD are often mistaken for other behavioral disorders.
• 50% of children with ADHD also exhibit negative, hostile and defiant behavior
• 40% of children with ADHD also exhibit destructiveness and aggression towards people and animals.
• 25% of children with ADHD also experience anxiety, depression, and some type of communication/learning disability.

Debunking myths about child mental health is key:

MYTH: A child with a psychiatric disorder is damaged for life.
Truth: A psychiatric disorder is by no means an indication of a child’s potential for future happiness and fulfillment. Early intervention can help.

MYTH: Psychiatric problems result from personal weakness.
Truth: It can be difficult to separate the symptoms of a child’s psychiatric disorder from a child’s character. A psychiatric disorder is an illness not a personal flaw, just like diabetes or leukemia.

MYTH: Psychiatric disorders result from bad parenting.
Truth: Parenting isn’t to blame. Anxiety, depression, and learning disorders often have biological causes.

MYTH: A child can manage a psychiatric disorder through willpower.
Truth: A disorder is not mild anxiety or a change in mood. Some parents resist mental health services for their children because they fear the stigma attached to diagnoses, or they don’t want their kids dependent on psychiatric drugs.

MYTH: Therapy for kids is a waste of time.
Truth: Research has shown that treatment interventions have the best results during the first few years when symptoms of psychiatric disorders appear.

MYTH: Children are over-medicated.
Truth: Skilled psychiatrists use great caution when deciding on a treatment plan that includes medication, which usually involves behavioral therapy. Medication is not the norm. Only 5% of children with psychiatric issues take medication.

MYTH: Children grow out of mental health problems.
Truth: Children are less likely to “grow out” of psychiatric disorders than they are to “grow in” to more disability.