Teen Help: Hard Decision for Better Futures for your Teenagers

Yes, your teen is making bad choices.

Yes, your teen is failing.

Yes, your teen is experimenting with drugs.

Yes, your teen is hanging out with less than desirable kids.

Yes, your teen may be having sex.

Yes, your teen is disrespectful.

Yes, your teen needs help!  They don’t need to be harmed!

If you feel you are at your wit’s end and have exhausted all your local resources – therapy isn’t working or your teen simply refuses to go, it may be time to start thinking about residential therapy.

This doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, quite the contrary, you are giving your teen a second opportunity at a bright future.

Need more information? Visit www.HelpYourTeens.com.

Time to Change Passwords and Create Strong Ones

Spring cleaning.  Whether it is cleaning your house or your closet, today spring cleaning should also include cleaning out your emails, cookies and other digital data you no longer need or use.  Part of your virtual cleansing should be changing your passwords.

Recently Reputation.com posted an excellent article:

How to Pick a Strong Password and Protect Your Privacy.”

In the digital age, people place their whole lives online. We check our news at CNN.com, shop for movies at Amazon, and connect with old friends on Facebook. We access our bank accounts and our medical information online too. Despite the amount of time we spend online, however, few Internet users put the proper effort into developing the most basic protection against identity theft there is: their passwords.

When it comes to protecting your identity online, having strong passwords is your first line of defense against cyber-criminals. Everyday, decent, hard-working men and women around the world have valuable personal information stolen or compromised because of weak passwords. Here are nine Reputation.com-approved tips to make sure you don’t become one of them.

Number no-no’s:  Using numbers in your password is good. Using only numbers in your password is bad (especially if those numbers are 123456.) If you think it’s unlikely that someone would actually use 123456 as their password, think again. In a recent international phishing attack, more than 10,000 Hotmail e-mail accounts were compromised. Research showed that the most popular password used on those account was, you guessed it, 123456.

Close the dictionary:  Using a word or phrase in your password might seem like a good idea, since they are easier to remember, but passwords with words in them are notoriously easy to crack. By using “dictionary attacks” – programs that can scan through the dictionary and attempt endless log-ins on your account – hackers can access your account information without having to lift a finger.

Be “symbolic”:  Using special characters and other symbols as part of your password is a great way to strengthen it against attack. Try mixing a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make the strongest password possible. Do not, however, use symbols to represent letters (such as “pa$$word”) because word replacement programs can identify them Something like “!7hr2$RD” is a better example of a strong mixed password.

New website, new password:  Everyone knows that it’s a bad idea to use the same passwords for multiple accounts, but we all do it anyway. With countless new social media applications and websites coming out everyday, the reality of remembering dozens of separate passwords can seem daunting. Unfortunately, if you use one password for all of your web applications, it only takes one account to be breached for them all to be compromised. So, what can you do to have unique, memorable passwords for each account? Check out our next tip.

Nifty mnemonics:  You probably learned about mnemonics when you were in elementary school, but here’s a refresher. Mnemonic phrases are designed to help you remember something by associating the first letters of whatever you are remembering with a unique phrase. By turning this process around, you can make a password that is nearly impossible to crack. Here’s an example. Using a mnemonic, the phrase “Barack Obama was elected president in 2008!” becomes the password “BOwepi2008!” Better yet, you can use similar mnemonics for all of your accounts, cutting down on the difficulty of remembering multiple passwords.

Login manually every time:  Many websites offer the option of saving your password so that you can automatically login the next time you visit the website. As tempting as this is, you should take the extra 10 seconds to login manually. There’s no telling who might access your computer while you are away. Do you really want your e-mail exposed to anyone who uses your computer?

Change it up:  Think of your password like you think of your food. The longer it sits out, the more likely it is to make you sick. We recommend that you change your passwords at least twice a year, though changing them more frequently is the best way to ensure maximum security.

No names: Don’t use names in your password. Oh, and I mean don’t use any names. If you use the name of your spouse, your sister, or even your pet as your password, and then list that information elsewhere on the web, it won’t take long for someone to find it and test it out. Your best bet is to leave all personally identifiable information out of your password.

Don’t take the bait:  Phishing is a fraud that affects millions of innocent people every year. The way phishers operate is by posing as a trusted contact (usually a bank or other financial institution) and then asking users to verify their account information.

Rather than going to the actual website of the institution, however, users are transferred to a phony website that captures their login and password. You should always be suspicious of an e-mail asking you to confirm or authenticate your account information. If you sense something is wrong, call the institution and speak to someone. They will be able to verify the situation.

If someone does crack into one of your accounts, it could mean big trouble for your online reputation. Stay on top of your identity online with MyReputation from Reputation.com. With MyReputation, you can see where your name is mentioned on the web and take control over your personal brand.

For more up-to-date information on the ever-changing digital world, follow Reputation.com on Twitter.  Don’t forget to also join them on Facebook.


TIME TO ACT! Keeping Your Teens Off Drugs

School is opening and many teens will be starting high school for their first year.  9th grade can be a difficult transition for many teenagers.  Just when you finally felt comfortable at your middle school, familiar with the guidance counselors and even chipper with the school nurse, life is making a major shift.

According to a survey of 6,500 teens by the Partnership for a Drug Free America, 73 percent said the number one reason they turn to drugs and alcohol is to relieve stress at school. As the new school year begins, how can you help your teen adjust especially if they are starting a new school.

The last thing we want to have happen is our teen turning to substance abuse to relieve their anxiety and stress about fitting into their new school and surroundings.  Peer pressure can be overwhelming and the desire to be part of a group.

Fear of not fitting in could fuel your teenager to engage in harmful activity such as drinking and using drugs to be part of a clique.

TIME TO ACT! is a first-of-its kind online help resource for parents and caregivers who suspect or know their child is experimenting, using or has a problem with alcohol or drugs.

Many teens feel like an outsider and long to feel included and liked by their teenage peers. This need can be so strong that they engage in teenage drinking or drug use to help them make friends, fit in or be accepted.

What can parents do?

  • Get to know your kid’s friends and the friends’ parents
  • Encourage your teen’s friends to hang out at your house: give them a private space if possible, feed them and leave them alone.
  • Know the cell phone and house phone numbers of your child’s closest friends
  • Pay close attention when kids mention new names and find out who those kids are
  • Tell stories (either from your own life or from history, books, movies, etc.) of people who chose not to go along with the crowd — and achieved great things because of it.
  • Encourage and help your teen to sign up for a team, club, youth group, art class, or volunteer organization
  • Explain to your child that real friends don’t make you do things you aren’t comfortable with

Click here for more tips and resources.

Being an educated parent will help you have safer and healthier teens. As this new school year begins, take the time to talk to your teens.  Communication is key to prevention of drug and alcohol use.

Sue Scheff: Parenting Daughters is Unique – Learn about The Girls’ Bill of Rights

What a fantastic educational article written by one of my favorite educators, Jane Balvanz.  She gave me permission to share it.  Especially if you have a daughter, it is a great read!

The Girls’ Bill of Rights

By Jane Balvanz

At one time girls were considered “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  It was proper they were seen and not heard, ate like a bird, portrayed themselves as unintelligent, and sought to reach the pinnacle of catching a husband.

Times have changed, and there are new unwritten rules.  As girls strive to fit in, they worry about doing it all: getting good grades, looking perfect, performing well in extra-curricular activities, and having the right friends.  The result is stress laced with insecurity, often resulting in eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Will they ever be enough?

As everyday stressors mount, it’s time to let our girls know they are enough.  They do not have to do or be anything to be valued.  Their sheer existence is enough.  Let’s help them grow to become strong, self-actualized women by guaranteeing them The Girls’ Bill of Rights.  They are what girls need to get through relational aggression, solve friendship problems, build self-esteem, and become self-assured.

1. The Right to Love Yourself Unconditionally 

To love yourself unconditionally means to love yourself just the way you are.  You do not have to do more, have more, or be more.  Your size and shape do not matter nor do the clothes you wear, the amount of money your family has, your talents, or how smart you are.  Be proud of your culture and your background. All of these things make you unique.  There is no guarantee others will love you unconditionally.  You will have to love and respect yourself.  Through loving yourself, you will be able to give and receive more love.

Do you love your child as she is?  She has a unique temperament, personality, strengths, deficits, and ways of being which define her.  Do not devalue these gifts by wishing her to be different – especially within her earshot.  The girl who is loved unconditionally learns to accept herself and others.  When you love a girl unconditionally, you allow her to be herself.

2. The Right to Speak Up

You have the right to express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings. 

Do you allow girls to speak up?  Everyone has the right to her own opinions and thoughts. Help girls express themselves through the filter of civility rather than censorship.  A girl who is allowed to speak up learns to speak her mind rather than swallow her feelings or disregard her thoughts.

3. The Right to Explore Your World   

You have the right to be curious, ask questions, explore, get dirty, have fun, and learn.

Do you allow girls to explore?  Foster curiosity.  A girl who is allowed to satisfy her curiosity learns to make discoveries, decisions, and widen her horizons.

4. The Right to Question Authority

You have the right to wonder if adults are right.  No one is right all of the time and this includes adults.  It’s OK to speak up and express your opinion when you disagree with an adult.  Not all adults will like this, but if you approach them respectfully, you will have a better chance of being heard.

Do you allow girls to question authority? There is rarely one right way to do or think about anything. We all learn from each others’ differences.  Children need adult guidance, but listening to kids’ viewpoints enlightens us.  A girl who can question authority learns to develop a backbone, think independently, and value herself.

5. The Right to Make Mistakes

You have the right to mess up.  No one is perfect; we all make mistakes.  That’s how we learn.  Don’t get stuck thinking you need to be perfect or you’re stupid if you make mistakes.  A wise girl takes a lesson away from each mistake.

Do you allow girls to make their own mistakes?  There is an instinct to protect our kids from making big mistakes.  They do need our guidance; however, mistakes create opportunities to learn. A girl who is allowed to make mistakes is less inclined toward fear and perfectionism and more inclined toward self-efficacy.

6. The Right to Experience the Natural Consequences of Your Actions

You have the right to know that almost everything you do causes something else to happen.  When you practice something, you usually get better at what you are trying to do.  If you don’t practice, you don’t improve.  If you work on making friends, you will probably get friends.  If you treat others unkindly, you may not have any friends.

When was the last time you allowed a girl to experience natural consequences? Sheltering a girl from the world creates fear and dependency.  When allowed to experience natural consequences of their actions, girls learn resiliency and responsibility. 

7. The Right to Have and Express Your Own Feelings

Your feelings are your own, and no one has the right to tell you not to feel a certain way or to tell you what you’re feeling is wrong.  Feelings are feelings.  You can’t turn them on or off just because someone tells you to.  Your feelings are guides that give you information.  They help you know things like when to stop something or when to keep on doing what you’re doing.

Do you ever tell a girl what she should or shouldn’t feel?  Denying a girl the opportunity to own and express her feelings creates confusion and self-doubt.  Adults unwittingly create this situation with good intentions.  We often tell girls not to be sad, mad, or scared to protect them from hurt.  A girl who learns to have and express her own feelings learns to become strong and trust her own intuitions.

8. The Right to Make Choices

You have the right to make choices in many areas.  Parents or other adults may guide you, and you won’t always get your way.  The older you get, the more choices you will have.  Especially with friendships, you have the right to choose ones that feel good.  You can choose to let go of friendships that make you feel sad or miserable.

Do you allow girls opportunities to make choices? Many choices are already made for them as they enter the world.  The hospital provides the pink hat while friends give the “I’m a Princess” tee shirt.  Grandparents scour toy stores for “girl toys.”  Allow girls early on to make choices unencumbered by the media or others’ definitions of what a girl should be.  Let girls follow their natural instincts.  A girl who is allowed to make choices learns to value herself as an individual without worrying about what others think.

 9. The Right to Be Yourself 

You have the right to be exactly who you are and express yourself in ways that say, “This is me!”  What you like and dislike makes you who you are.  Some girls like to hang out indoors while some like to play soccer outdoors.  Some like playing soccer indoors.  Whether you are artsy, sporty, geeky, musical, natural, girly, noisy, quiet, or anything else, YOU are YOU!  You are a wonder.

Do you allow your girl to be herself?  Is it OK with you if she dresses in plaids and stripes together?  Will you let her sing songs off key at the top of her lungs?  Is she allowed to dig in the dirt, conduct experiments, and engage in what she enjoys?  Kids like to be like their parents or other adults they respect.  They will try out many ways of being just to see how it fits them.  Respect these choices, for it’s through trying out different roles that girls learn who they are.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC

Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

Sue Scheff: Teen Obesity and Life Expectancy

Last week I wrote about Food Revolution, and what exactly is in our school’s cafeteria.  It was one of the most read articles.  It is shocking to actually read in detail what we put into our bodies, and especially what our kids are eating.  I applaud Jamie Oliver who is just about single handedly trying to make healthy changes, one school at a time.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the problem of teenage obesity is now at its highest level in U.S. history. About 15% of teens are obese today, compared to just 5% in the 1960s. Last week, Connect With Kids posted another exceptional article about this timely subject.

Source: Connect with Kids

Obesity and Life Expectancy

“I remember dreading going to the doctors because they just told me how overweight I was.”

– Catherine, 16

<!–a href=”#” target=”_blank”></a–>Sixteen-year-old Catherine attends a Jazzercise class five times a week. She’s trying to dance her way out of a problem she’s had since she was a little girl: obesity.

“I never knew what portion sizes were, or when I was full, because I just ate to the max,” she says.

In the third grade, Catherine needed special clothing tailored to fit. In the sixth grade, she weighed more than 200 pounds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the problem of teenage obesity is now at its highest level in U.S. history. About 15% of teens are obese today, compared to just 5% in the 1960s.

“And I don’t want to live like that. I want to be active, I want to do a lot of things, I want to meet people, I want to travel,” Catherine says. “Just like everyone else, I have dreams.”

But those dreams may be cut short if she doesn’t lose some weight.

But those dreams are at risk.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have been following almost 5000 children in Arizona for over 40 years. The studies show that the heaviest kids are twice as likely to die young… from cancer, infection, heart disease… diabetes…

“[The formulas] very, very effectively show that the younger you are, and the more obese you are, the more years of life you lose at the end,” says Dr. Ranveig Elvebakk, a bariatric physician. “It is anywhere from three to 20 years on the person who is 20 years of age and overweight.”

The health effects of obesity are well known: heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other chronic problems that cause premature death. The earlier you catch a weight problem, the easier it will be for your child to change and the less damage the weight will cause on his or her body.

Elvebakk says it is important to remember that the epidemic of obesity is NOT a problem of genetics.

“It is our culture that makes us fat; it’s not genes,” she says. “Our gene pool has remained unchanged over the past 59,000 years. There is no change in genes over the last 10 years. What makes us overweight is our lifestyle and the way we think about food.”

She says parents should insist on exercise and nutrition from an early age. But in Catherine’s family, it’s the kids who are now asking for better nutrition.

“When I go to the store, I used to buy all this kind of junk food and keep it in the cabinet for them, and now they tell me no, you’re not supposed to bring that home,” explains Lorraine Allen, Catherine’s mother.

With nutrition and exercise, Catherine is slowly shedding the pounds. She’s trading them in for more years on the end of her life – and more time to fulfill her dreams.

Healthy Lifestyle Begins with Exercise, Balanced Diet

People who are severely obese as adolescents or in their early 20s can expect to have significantly shorter lives, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers focused on subjects whose body mass index (BMI) was more than 24, the reference for adults aged 18 to 85. BMI is calculated based on weight and height. People who have a BMI over 30 are considered obese. The study, based on years of federal health survey data of thousands of people, examined the extent to which obesity could affect years of life lost. For every degree of being overweight, younger adults generally had greater years of life lost than older adults. Specifically, it was discovered that severely obese (BMI over 45) young females could lose four to eight years from their life expectancy. The results for males were even more astounding. They could have 12 to 20 years cut off of their lives!

Why is obesity such a problem for today’s children and adolescents? The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites the following causes for childhood obesity:

  • Overweight in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child’s weight.
  • Society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children’s inactive lifestyles.
  • Forty-three percent of adolescents watch more than two hours of television each day.
  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.

Because diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related chronic diseases are now more common in adolescents, the recent study results highlight the importance of weight control in the nation’s youth through more physical activity and better dietary habits. Several organizations have found that today’s youth are considered the most inactive generation in history. In fact, the National Association for Sports & Physical Education reports that only 25% of all kids in the United States are physically active. And since daily physical education has been eliminated from schools in all but one state (Illinois), the burden now rests on the shoulders of parents to encourage their children to be more active.

Tips for Parents

With the CDC reporting that almost a third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight, it is now more important than ever to encourage your child to maintain a high level of physical activity. The American Council on Exercise offers the following tips for incorporating exercise into your child’s daily activities:

  • Set an example for your child and treat exercise as something to be done on a regular basis, like brushing your teeth or cleaning your room.
  • Invite your child to participate in vigorous household tasks, such as gardening, washing the car or raking leaves.
  • Go biking, rock climbing or inline skating with your child.
  • Jump rope or shoot baskets with your child.
  • Plan outings and activities that involve some walking, like a trip to the zoo, a nature hike or even a trip to the mall.

The other component of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is practicing proper eating habits. Instead of high-calorie foods and snacks, provide your child with fruits and low- or non-fat foods. The American Obesity Association (AOA) does not recommend dieting for teens because it can prevent them from growing to their full height. Instead, it suggests that your teen “eat lean” and try some of these healthy snack options to get the nutrition he or she needs:

  • Dried fruit mixed with sunflower seeds
  • Bagels with peanut butter
  • Low-fat cheese and crackers
  • Baby carrots dipped in low-fat salad dressing
  • Baked chips, low-fat cheese and salsa
  • Fat-free popcorn with parmesan cheese
  • Yogurt smoothie
  • Frozen bananas
  • Fresh fruit

Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, but without your support, your adolescent will have a tough time maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office offers the following strategies for helping your teen stay fit physically and emotionally:

  • Let your child know that he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem. Overweight children need support, acceptance and encouragement from their parents.
  • Focus on your child’s health and positive qualities, not your child’s weight.
  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family’s physical activity and eating habits.
  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.
  • Realize that an appropriate goal for many overweight children is to maintain their current weight while growing normally in height.


  • American Council on Exercise
  • American Obesity Association
  • Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
  • Journal of the American Medical Association
  • National Association for Sports & Physical Education
  • U.S. Surgeon General’s Office

Sue Scheff: Raising Daughters Towards Success

Raising teens today is a challenge.  In many cases, raising teen girls today are more challenging.  Struggling with peer pressure, appearances, hair, clothes and cliques – it never seems to end.

Parenting expert, and renown author, Dr. Michele Borba (BIG Book of Parenting Solutions) recently discussed this growing concern in teen culture. 

The American Psychological Association’s study confirms what many parents feared: All those raunchy, sexy girl messages do indeed have an negative impact on our daughters and are correlated eating disorders, lower self-esteem, and depression. The Today Show asked Michele Borba to address what parents can do to counter those negative messages.

Here are a few solutions she offered to help us raise strong, healthy, emotionally secure young girls who can buck those raunchy images and come out on top.

Get savvy about our new culture. Remove those blinders and take a realistic look at the new X-Rated world. Sexy, raunchy images of girls are everywhere. TV shows push the limits, magazines flaunt photos young party-going girl celebrities, the Internet has no rules, and CD lyrics are darn-right scandalous. But watch out: these days marketers are targeting even our youngest girls. The new “Hooker Look” (I can’t think of a better term) is the hot new fashion. (Did you know that last year seven-to twelve year- old girls spent $1.3 million on thong undies????) Toy makers are designing new long-legged, doey-eyed looking female dolls in slinky outfits ready for the hot-tub for our preschoolers. You do control the purse strings and that remote!

Find healthier outlooks. Discover your daughter’s natural passion and talent whether it be surfing, basketball, art, yoga, soccer, and then support her involvement. Those positive activities will help you focus more on her talents and interests, and show her that you value her for her strengths, not appearance. It will also help her develop a stronger identify based on her passions instead of ones borrowed from young, rich celebrities on magazine covers.

Tune into your daughter’s world. From television shows, video games, movies, music and Internet sites, stay involved in your daughter’s lifestyle choices. Monitor what she watches and listens to, and who she seems to admire. Doing so will help you understand her values at that moment, as well as help guide your next discussions about your family values. If you don’t like a TV show, movie, CD, video or an outfit explain “Why” instead of just saying, “No.” Your daughter needs to learn how to make wise choices and needs someone (that’s you!) to be her sounding board as well as perspective maker.

Downplay popularity and appearance. Girls need to hear messages that convey: “Who you are is far more important than how you look.” So zip your tongue and halt those comments likes: “She’s lost so-o-o-o much weight!”, “I love her hair!”, “I wonder what moisturizer she uses?” “Did you get invited to the birthday party?” Also, watch your gossip and how you talk about other women-especially in front of your daughter. Your kids are scrutinizing your behavior, and they do copy what they see and hear. Always be the example you want your daughter to copy.

To read the complete article from Michele Borba, visit her Blog – click here.  Visit the slideshow below for more resources on parenting teen girls including books by Rosalind Wiseman, Dara Chadwick and Rachel Simmons.

Purchase Michele Borba’s latest book, BIG Book of Parenting Solutions today! It is a perfect gift for all parents of girls and boys, as well as makes a perfect holiday gift for anyone that works with children today.

Don’t forget to see my sneak peek series inside this valuable parenting book.

To subscribe to my latest articles, click here.

Also on Examiner.com

Sue Scheff: TV Inhibits Reading

This topic is not new.  With the expansion of cable networks, Internet and video games, our kids/teens are spending more time in front of “screens.”  Whether it is a television – computer – or cell phone – more and more kids, starting younger in age, are spending more time “watching” rather than reading.  What can we do to promote reading?  Learn more in this article from Connect with Kids and some great parenting tips.

Source: Connect with Kids

TV Inhibits Reading

“Television just presents material. It doesn’t question it. It’s the questioning and the understanding that the kids really need.”

– Suzanne Starkey, M.D., Psychiatrist

<!–a href="#" target="_blank">Sprint</a–>According to the latest Neilsen survey, the average 11-year-old watches more than 28 hours of television a week; the average five-year-old- 32 hours a week. And new research suggests that all those hours have an impact on their vocabulary.

Like most children, Zachary and his little sister, Brooklyn, like to watch television.

“Usually I watch Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Animal Planet,” says Zachary. Brooklyn’s favorite show: “Sponge Bob.”

The children’s parents try to set limits – usually an hour of television a day, sometimes more on the weekends.

“I do think too much is not good because you are just kind of brain dead when you are watching TV. A little of the right thing can actually be okay,” says Lisa Busman, Zachary and Brooklyn’s mother.

A University of Washington study finds that the more TV that a baby watches, the smaller their vocabulary. In fact, for every hour of TV, a child learns six to eight fewer words compared to babies who never watch TV at all.

Psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Starkey explains, “Television just presents material. It doesn’t question it. It’s the questioning and the understanding that the kids really need.”

She says the same rules apply to videos that claim to be educational. To learn, babies require face to face interaction. “When we’re learning about language, the back and forth interaction between mother and child is very important. That’s where the child will learn sounds, and that’s where the child will learn some degree of inflection.”

Experts say instead of passive activities, children of all ages are better served by being active – playing, learning an instrument, spending time with family, and of course reading, which is exactly what Brooklyn and Zachary love to do.

Nearly 40 years ago, a critic dubbed television a “vast wasteland.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is weighing in with its own opinion. AAP officials released statements that say television can have negative long-term effects, such as weight problems and lack of creativity, on children.

Nancy Beyer has pulled the cable at home and bans all television on weekends for her 12-year-old daughter.

“It makes me use my imagination more than lots of kids do,” says Beyer’s daughter, Jessica.

Although Jessica’s mother hopes that the television ban will nudge her daughter to become more sociable, Jessica admits at times the opposite is true. She says she feels excluded at school when other kids are discussing what shows were on and she has to remind them that “we don’t have cable.”

Some experts say that by dismissing television, parents may miss some key teaching opportunities with their kids. Dr. Vincent Ho, a psychiatrist, says that parents should not let the television become a passive experience but should use it to stimulate discussion. He suggests that even bad television can be a good learning tool and that many opportunities to discuss what is going on exist.

Tips for Parents

A study completed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 57% of parents with preschool children believe that television has done more good than harm. However, the opinions were different among parents with children aged 6 to 11. Their opinions were primarily based on the belief that a lack of quality programs for older children exists.

Based on its study, the AAP makes three major recommendations for children and television viewing:

  • Children under 2 years old should not watch television. Children under 2 need to receive stimuli from interaction with older people for proper brain development.
  • Older children should not have television sets in their bedrooms. By keeping televisions in common areas of the house, you are better able to monitor your child’s viewing.
  • Pediatricians should have parents fill out “media history” forms along with medical history information. Spending too much time in front of the television (video games, computers, etc.), can lead to physical health issues, such as obesity. And in younger kids, it may contribute to the lack of development in cognitive skills.

While watching television can jumpstart discussions with your child, it is important that you encourage your child in other active and educational endeavors. The Medical College of Wisconsin offers the following advice for limiting your child’s television and other media intake:

  • Ask your child to tell you what his or her favorite shows are and together predetermine which ones he or she will watch on a regular basis.
  • Set limits to time spent on the computer when not engaged in schoolwork. More than one to two hours per day is excessive.
  • Help your child to structure the rest of his or her time by looking for opportunities in the community, such as after-school sports, school-based clubs, scouting and school or community artistic endeavors (band, orchestra, etc.).
  • Make frequent trips to the library and help your child choose age-appropriate books to read.
  • Play games or sports with your child.
  • Last but not least, set a good example by limiting your own television time.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Annenberg Public Policy Center
  • Extreme Learning Center
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Neilsen Survey