Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Top Three Stressors According To Teens

Results from a new Pew Research Center poll that surveyed over 900 teens from across the country show these as the top three issues that stress teens out:

 1. "About 70 percent of U.S. teens reported anxiety and depression as a "major problem" among people their age." 

2. "Bullying was the second-highest concern, with about 90 percent of U.S teens aged 13 to 17 saying it was at least a minor problem in their lives." 

3. "Stress about academic performance, concerns about "looking good" physically and trying to fit in socially topped the list of pressures teens said they face each day." 
If you are a parent of a teen, this is not new news!! This is what you see and hear every day in different ways with both your teen and their friends. But it does reinforce just how hard life feels for teens today, and I think that is the new news here. How many of you, looking back on your own teen years would say you were depressed, and anxious on a regular basis, or felt bullied on a regular basis? I certainly had bad days, and had even lost my dad suddenly as a 13 year old, but I think if someone had asked me if I felt depressed or anxious regularly, I have would have looked at them like they were crazy!!!
Maybe we just didn't have the feeling language that kids have now, which by the way is good thing. And maybe some of us were just in denial.  We also lived in a culture that was free from technology, which meant we didn't look in a virtual mirror 24/7. Sure we were self-conscious about they way we looked, but we didn't have to expose ourselves for public consumption and for a wide audience!
So yes, teens do have it harder these days. How about sharing this study/article with your kids and see what else they might add to that list. It might give you some new insight into what makes them tick. When you know what's making them feeling bad, then you have a head start into what might help you make them feel better! https://www.newsweek.com/mental-health-american-teens-anxiety-depression-suicide-bullying-drug-1337772

I just watched this very moving TEDX talk by a dad who recently lost his son to suicide. He honestly shares what he missed. This is a must watch for you and your partner.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Vacation Week Movies To Watch With Your Teen

I love a week with no plans. I love a day with no plans. Today is Presidents day and I find myself wrapped in a blanket watching a riveting documentary about boys growing up in inner city Baltimore being given the opportunity to go to a  boarding school in Kenya, getting them out of an environment that offers failing schools so overcrowded to notice learning challenges and serious mental health issues, and a community that too often, offers little in employment opportunities except gangs and drug dealers. A year in the bush with caring adults and teachers does wonders, until unrest in Africa forces the school to close, and back they must go to their dysfunctional homes/communities and school having had just a small taste of success. The film is called The Boys Of Baracka.  I love being reminded of how little, kids need to flourish. Really, their needs are so simple; love, attachment, structure, security, caring adults, safe streets and safe schools, healthy food and exercise and time to be a child. How lucky most of us and and our children are to have these things.

So that's my idea of a fun afternoon, a little heavy, but unstructured time on a winter's day can become an impromptu hang day with your teen. Make some popcorn, a fire in the fireplace, and turn on that dusty old big screen TV hanging idly on the wall while your teen usually watches tv and movies in their room on their devices, and invite them to a home movie party.

Go old school and watch some of the wonderful 80's movies you grew up with: Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Can't But Me Love, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off to name a few. If you want to watch recent movies. 8th Grade is just spectacular!!!! Your Kids will love it. Also The Way Way Back, Without A Trace, Hearts Beat Loud, and if they are fans of superhero movies, Black Panther, All Iron Man movies, etc. What does your teen like, what kind of movie might get him/her out of their room and onto your couch. Bribe them with food and treats and just relax together doing nothing!! Happy Vacation Week!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Do You Know About The App VPN...YOU SHOULD!!!!

Staying ahead of social networking is certainly a challenge. You think you've got it under your belt and then WHAM you get hit with some new ingenious way that kids are outsmarting their parents.  VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In its most basic terms it allows teens to get around all the Parental Controls I have been suggesting you use, making them able to use the apps you don't want them to use, and use them during the times you have blocked them from using if you've put time restrictions on through the parental controls. It allows them to access to Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites no password needed anytime anywhere!. Damn those kids for being so smart!!!!Truthfully, it's pretty genius from a techie point of view, and certainly from a teen's point of view, but for parents it's an arch enemy!!!

How do you know if you teen is using a VPN. Here are a few ways to find out. On an iPhone if you look on your teen's phone you will see the VPN initials in upper left corner of their phone next to the cell signal thingy! On a droid swipe down on the home screen and there will be a notification that VPN is running. 

Also you can go the app store on your teen's iphone or google play on android.  In the app search engine put in VPN. Many options will be listed. If any of the apps say OPEN your teen has VPN up and running. If it says GET you're good, then it has not been downloaded! 

Funny story, last year I was at a school to do my presentation on Social Networking. Just before I got there they had discovered a big problem. This school had distributed Chrome Books to all their students, and had dutifully thought they had done a good job of blocking social networking sites and streaming sites, so that students would be using their chrome books at school solely for school related projects. Well don'tcha know those smart kids had VPN's running and were enjoying Netflix during lunch and study periods! I know this now, but last year, it seemed a mystery to everyone just how these kids were accessing these supposedly blocked sites. Thank you VPN.

Why is this important? Because as I have talked about many times too much time spent on technology is NOT a good thing for young developing brains. Parental controls are the only real way of controlling time and opportunity, the two things you as parents really have control over. VPN challenges that power. You still need to protect the very vulnerable mental health of your teen as they navigate this new stage of life.  

You have got to stay smarter than your teen!!! For more specific tech knowledge on VPNs go to protectyoungeyes.com and put VPN in their search engine.

Happy sleuthing!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Not Porn Again!!!!

Read and then we'll talk!

I know this is not a fun topic. But it is a topic that must be discussed. In the olden days (when I was a teen) boys coveted their Playboys, and Penthouses, usually retrieved from their dad's trash. In today's world, those magazines seem so sweet; nude, beautiful, airbrushed, large breasted women..perfection personified. Ah, the days of yore.

Today's porn is live and in-person. As you will see on the video below, 25% of Internet searches are for porn, and I'm sure many of those searches are conducted by teenage boys. Unfortunately, the porn they are watching is not sweet. It is full of women being taunted by men,  and the sex is violent and disrespectful. These video images can shape a young boy into thinking that this is the way girls like sex, demeaning, humiliating and forceful. The number of calls I get from parents of girls who are being harassed sexually by boys is scary. And even scarier is the world we now live in with daily accusations of sexual assault and harassment about the people in our lives who are supposed to be our role models!!Because of teen's easy access to porn on smartphones, IPADs, and laptops, parents are very much out of the loop. It used to be parents could check the history on their teen's laptop and see what they were up to, at least giving them the opportunity to have a discussion with their teen about the dangers of porn. Masturbation is not one of them. Thinking that women liked to be controlled is one of them. And in the link I have included, porn addiction is another.

Let's not leave girls out of this. A new favorite pass time at sleepovers is to go on sites like chatroullette and the app Monkey to watch live, men masturbating. I know, icky!  This is a video social networking site in which you live chat with someone you do not know. Many men are on this site trolling for girls to have video sex with. I have had a number of calls from parents who go down to the basement to bring the girls some food, and lo and behold there is some guy on the computer screen moaning and groaning, and a gaggle of girls egging him on.

If there was ever a time for a sex talk, this is the time. Teens need to hear another side! It is not OK to be exploited, it is not OK to expect a girl to do whatever you want her to do, or for a girl to think she has to do whatever a boy wants. College campus's, high schools AND middle schools are now awash in sexual harrassment cases and date rape. The research is showing that this onslaught of easily accessed porn, unsupervised by parents is behind some of this behavior. This is an uncomfortable topic. But in our current culture we are now learning that respect for women is not something that is a given. It needs to start being taught at a young age, and never stop. It is modeling what goes on your own home, and with your friends, and it is using the daily barrage of news stories as teaching lessons. It is talking and talking and talking until maybe you are blue in the face.

The Boston Globe article above is authored by Gail Dines who developed a program called Culture Reframed. This website should be a must bookmark for you. There is a parent toolkit (free) to help you understand and talk to your kids about porn. It is an amazing resource for parents!

Watch this video with your boys. Talk with them again and again and again.