Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pros and Cons of Teen Partying by Vanessa Van Petten

Parties are a regular occurrence during the course of a teenager’s high school career. They typically involve bad DJing, a lot of red plastic cups, and plenty of people. They can be a lot of fun, but they can also have unfavorable endings if you don’t act responsibly.

It’s a great way to meet new people

There is usually a good mix of classmates, familiar and unknown, and students from other school. Attending a party can provide you with the opportunity to encounter a new group of characters outside your usual circle of friends. It’s always fun to make new acquaintances and create new ties.

Fun way to de-stress after the school week

Who doesn’t want to kick back and unwind after a long week of tests and homework? Parties are entertaining, adult-free social gatherings where we can just relax and be ourselves. There’s no pressure from parents to be serious and mature. Instead, we can be silly and giggly, far away from the demands of the scholastic atmosphere.

The “high school experience”

Fun, carefree, and sometimes secret house parties have a short lifespan. Once you’re out of high school and onto college, your schedule becomes increasingly busy. Your mind is no longer solely occupied with the latest drama in the locker room and what you plan on doing over the weekend. Suddenly you have a nightly paper to write and career choices to make. Once responsibility has taken over, you’ll become less available for late-night-partying and more focused on what you want to do with your life when school’s over. So enjoy your worry-free time and make the most of it.



I’ve found that the negative side of partying tends to be centered around the underage drinking part. Even though it is illegal to purchase alcohol until you are at the ripe old age of 21, teens don’t usually have a problem getting their hands on it. Besides the easy access at home, there are a lot of places that either don’t card or don’t pay much attention to fake IDs.

Unpleasant Side Effects

It doesn’t take very much alcohol for teenagers to get “the buzz”, and the consumption generally doesn’t stop at that point. In addition using alcohol as party refreshments, drinking games like Quarters and Beerpong are both common and popular. The ingestion of large amounts of alcohol at a time can lead to all kinds of undesirable side effects. They include: dizziness, memory loss, slurred speech, nausea, intense headaches, sensitivity to noise, poor judgment, impaired coordination and dexterity, and vomiting.


When you’ve opted not to drink, and EVERYONE else is drinking, a party can become very dull, very fast. “Drunkards” or drunken teens usually find anything and everything around them to be hilarious and amusing. Their speech is slurred and their thought process has been altered, making it difficult to hold a conversation with them. When you are sober, this scene may not seem quite so comical. Instead, all you’ll see is a bunch of teenagers, falling all over themselves laughing and doing things that are totally out of character. And you’re the one who ends up sitting on the couch for the rest of the night, watching all your drunken friends enjoy themselves.

My advice: Have a good time but be cautious. It’s fine to get together and hang out with friends but it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of the consequences of your actions.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pot in the Summer by Connect with Kids

“During the summer, I went out more. And during the school year, I was focused on my homework and stuff, and the summer was mostly just a time for me to relax and just chill out and go party.”

– Angelique, 18

For most teens, the summer brings sun, swimming and maybe some extra time spent on the skateboard. But for others, the season marks the time when they first try pot.

“Beginning of summer, first day of summer, in fact,” says Sarah, who’s 19.

“It was during the summer because then we could stay out later and a lot of other kids were out of school, too,” 18-year-old Angelique adds.

In fact, studies show 40 percent of teens who smoke marijuana first tried the drug during the summer.

“They have a lot of free time. A lot of kids are bored during the summer. They’ve got nothing to do. So the fact that a lot of kids are starting to get into things they shouldn’t and experiment isn’t surprising at all,” says addiction counselor Dr. Robert Margolis, who serves as executive director of Solutions Counseling in Atlanta.

Experts say for that reason, parents should keep their children busy during the summer break.

“I think they ought to ask themselves do they have any plan going into the summer for their kids. What are their kids going to do? Are they going to get a job? Are they going to maybe go study someplace … are they going to have something that’s structured to do?” Dr. Margolis says.

He says that regardless of their own personal experiences when they were young, parents should explain the dangers of marijuana, especially at the beginning of the summer.

“What parents need to understand is that this is a very harmful, addictive drug that ruins people’s lives. And they better be prepared with facts to discuss this with their kids,” Dr. Margolis says.

Talks with her parents, and her doctor, finally convinced Angelique to stop smoking marijuana.

“Like they’re more dangerous than cigarettes and all that stuff. I didn’t know that,” she says.

Tips for Parents

The summer months often bring more freedom to teens. But many of them abuse this freedom, as evidenced by data released by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse that shows 40% of teens first try marijuana during the summer. In fact, about 5,800 teens try marijuana for the first time each day in June and July.

According to the C-D-Cs annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report more than 38% of teens report having use marijuana in their life. Nearly 20% admitted to smoking pot within the past 30 days. 8% of kids tried marijuana prior to turning 13 years of age.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the prevalence of drug use can, in part, be attributed to the overall perceptions and attitudes that drug use – particularly that of marijuana – is not harmful and is insignificant. Yet, those who choose to use this substance do risk developing serious health problems. The NIDA says that marijuana is responsible for the following physical effects in a user:

THC – the main chemical in marijuana – changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is acted on by particular systems in the brain. The system most affected is the limbic system, which is crucial for learning, memory and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations. Investigations have shown that THC suppresses neurons in the information-processing system of the brain.

A person who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers develop. The individual may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke.

Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers. This may be due to marijuana users inhaling more deeply and holding the smoke in the lungs.

In order for parents to help curb the growing problem of marijuana use among teens, they must first understand the dangers involved in using the drug. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign cautions parents to be aware of the following points about marijuana use:

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug among youth today.
More teens enter treatment for marijuana abuse each year than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Marijuana is addictive.
Marijuana use can lead to a host of significant health, social, learning and behavioral problems at a crucial time in a young person’s development.

Adolescent marijuana users show lower academic achievement compared to non-users.

Even short-term marijuana use has been linked to memory loss and difficulty with problem-solving.

Time and again, kids say that their parents are the single most important influence when it comes to using drugs.

As a parent, how can you determine if your teen is using marijuana? According to the NIDA, you should look for the following symptoms associated with marijuana use:

Appears dizzy and has trouble walking
Seems silly and giggly for no reason
Has very red or blood shot eyes
Has trouble remembering events that have just occurred

Although these symptoms will fade within a few hours of use, other significant behavioral changes – including withdrawl, depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends – may signal that your teen is in trouble. If your teen is using drugs, he or she may also experience changes in academic performance, have increased absenteeism, lose interest in sports or other favorite activities and develop different eating or sleeping habits.

Whether or not you suspect your child is using marijuana, it is crucial that you discuss the issue at an early age. The experts at DrugHelp suggest following these steps when discussing tough issues, like drug abuse, with your child:

Create a climate in which your child feels comfortable approaching you and expressing his or her feelings.

Don't shut off communication by responding judgmentally, saying, "You're wrong" or "That's bad."

Give your child an opportunity to talk.
Show your interest by asking appropriate questions.
Listen to what your child has to say before formulating a response.
Focus on what your child has to say, not on language or grammar.
Use probing questions to encourage a shy child to talk.
Identify areas of common experience and agreement.
Leave the door open for future conversations

National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Teen Suicide - An Introduction

Suicide is the third most common cause of death amongst adolescents between 15-24 years of age, and the sixth most common cause of death amongst 5-14 year olds. It is estimated that over half of all teens suffering from depression will attempt suicide at least once, and of those teens, roughly seven percent will succeed on the first try. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to the threat of suicide, because in addition to increased stress from school, work and peers, teens are also dealing with hormonal fluctuations that can complicate even the most normal situations.

Because of these social and personal changes, teens are also at higher risk for depression, which can also increase feelings of despair and the desire to commit suicide. In fact, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) almost all people who commit suicide suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder or substance abuse disorder. Often, teens feel as though they have no other way out of their problems, and may not realize that suicidal thoughts and feelings can be treated. Unfortunately, due to the often volatile relationship between teens and their parents, teens may not be as forthcoming about suicidal feelings as parents would hope. The good news is there are many signs parents can watch for in their teen without necessarily needing their teen to open up to them.

At some point in most teens’ lives, they will experience periods of sadness, worry and/or despair. While it is completely normal for a healthy person to have these types of responses to pain resulting from loss, dismissal, or disillusionment, those with serious (often undiagnosed) mental illnesses often experience much more drastic reactions. Many times these severe reactions will leave the teen in despair, and they may feel that there is no end in sight to their suffering. It is at this point that the teen may lose hope, and with the absence of hope comes more depression and the feeling that suicide is the only solution. It isn’t.

Teen girls are statistically twice as likely as their male counterparts to attempt suicide. They tend to turn to drugs (overdosing) or to cut themselves, while boys are traditionally more successful in their suicide attempts because they utilize more lethal methods such as guns and hanging. This method preference makes boys almost four times more successful in committing suicide.

Studies have borne out that suicide rates rise considerably when teens can access firearms in their home. In fact, nearly 60% of suicides committed in the United States that result in immediate death are accomplished with a gun. This is one crucial reason that any gun kept in a home with teens, even if that teen does not display any outward signs of depression, be stored in a locked compartment away from any ammunition. In fact, the ammunition should be stored in a locked compartment as well, and the keys to both the gun and ammunition compartments should be kept in a different area from where normal, everyday keys are kept. Remember to always keep firearms, ammunition, and the keys to the locks containing them, away from kids.

Unfortunately, teen suicide is not a rare event. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. This disturbing trend is affecting younger children as well, with suicide rates experiencing dramatic increases in the under-15 age group from 1980 to 1996. Suicide attempts are even more prevalent, though it is difficult to track the exact rates.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Teens - National Crime Prevention Council

Growing up in the 21st century provides young people with amazing opportunities. We have access to incredible technology that allows us to communicate instantaneously through email and cell phones. We are the healthiest, best-educated generation in history. We volunteer at an even higher rate than adults do. The level of crime that we face is lower than it has been in 30 years. However, crime rates are still too high. The good news is that there are real things we can do about the problems that plague our communities.

Community Works offers us a way to do something about crime and violence. When we participate in the Community Works curriculum, we can work with our friends, other young people, and adult leaders to learn the facts about crime and violence, how we can help prevent crimes, and how we can become involved in service-learning projects that benefit our community.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Grade School Bullying

“A new phrase has entered our vocabulary: “Barbie Brats.” The name applies to an overlooked group of kids- young children, only 6 or 8 or 10 years old, who bully other kids in real life or on the Internet.”

– Louise Myslik, LCSW

Sherrod is only seven, but already, he says, he’s the victim of bullies. Sometimes it’s verbal, at other times, physical.

“They tell me to do stuff and then they push me into a wall.”

“They don’t like him,” says Sherrod’s mother, Sherry Thornton. “They won’t share with him. They do things and just blame it on him.”

Bullying among younger kids is happening more often. In fact, studies show three-quarters of children aged 8 to 11 say they’ve been bullied.

Experts say as kids learn to socialize, sometimes they’re nice and sometimes mean. It’s the mean behavior parents should focus on.

“We can’t assume that kids will be kids [and] at some point, they will grow out of this,” says Louise Myslik, a licensed clinical social worker. “We need to really pay attention to it and help them understand what it means to be mean, what it looks like, how it feels and why it’s not appropriate.”

Experts say parents should first talk to their children about bullying. Also, ask detailed questions.

For instance, says Myslik, “’Do you think your school has bullies? Do you have bullies in your class? What do they do? What do they say? Whom do they hurt? Have you ever been hurt?’”

She says if your child is a bully, don’t ignore the behavior. If your child is the victim, like Sherrod, teach them to speak up – tell an adult, stand up to the bully.

Sherrod’s mother offers him these words, “’Stop. Don’t do that to me. I don’t like that. You’re hurting me or you hurt my feelings,’ she says, “To me, communication is key.”

Tips for Parents

It may seem like innocent child’s play, but physical and verbal taunting can weigh heavily on kids. According to a report, teasing and bullying top the list of children’s school troubles. In a survey called “Talking with Kids About Tough Issues,” authors polled 823 kids ranging in age from 8 to 15. The majority reported teasing and bullying are “big problems” that rank higher than racism, smoking, drinking, drugs or sex.

Australian researchers also found that teenagers who are the targets of repeated taunts, threats and/or physical violence are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression. Girls appear to be particularly vulnerable.

“Bullying, teasing and harassment are psychological and psychiatric traumas,” says Dr. William S. Pollack, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School. Those traumas can lead to “anxiety, depression, dysfunction, nightmares, and later, incapacity to function actively and healthfully as an adult.”

Experts say it is extremely important to open the lines of communication with your kids.
Consider the following tips:

Start early
Initiate conversations
Create an open environment
Communicate your values
Listen to your child
Try to be honest
Be patient
Share your experiences
Also, watch for behavioral changes. Children who are suffering from teasing and bullying may try to hide the hurt. They become withdrawn from family and friends, lose interest in hobbies, and may turn to destructive habits like alcohol, drugs, and acts of violence.

It is the ultimate responsibility of your child’s school to make the school safe for him/her. Share the following tips with your child, and tell him/her to only do the things recommended below if he/she is comfortable doing them. If your child is not comfortable, encourage him/her to get help from a teacher or counselor. And even when he/she takes the actions below, it is always a good idea for him/her to let parents and teachers know.

Be assertive
Write the harasser a letter
Document incidents
Check with other students
File a formal complaint
Kaiser Family Foundation
Children Now
British Medical Journal
U.S. Department of Education
LaMarsh Research Centre

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Inhalant Abuse

In 2004, the Alliance for Consumer Education launched ITS Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit at a national press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The kit was successfully tested in 6 pilot states across the country. Currently, ACE’s Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit is in all 50 states. Furthermore, the Kit is in its third printing due to high demands.

The Kit is intended for presentations to adult audiences. Specifically parents of elementary and middle school children, so they can talk to their children about the dangers and risks associated with Inhalants. We base the program on data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Statistics show that parents talking to their kids about drugs decrease the risk of the kids trying a drug.

The Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit contains 4 components: the Facilitator’s Guide, a FAQ sheet, an interactive PowerPoint presentation, and a “What Every Parent Needs to Know about Inhalant Abuse” brochure. Additionally, there are 4 printable posters for classroom use, presentations, etc.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sue Scheff: Home Alone

By Connect with Kids

“99 Percent of the time we would follow the rules but you know, every time every now and then you want to just stray from the circle and do what you want instead of the rules.”

– Jamal, 16 years old

We know them as latch key kids. Most afternoons they come home alone and unlock the door to a world free from adult supervision.

Once inside, they often encounter boredom … and temptation.

Because both of his parents work, sixteen-year-old Jamal Inegbedion spends many afternoons home alone with his sister. He says it’s hard to be good all the time, “99 Percent of the time we would follow the rules but you know, every time every now and then you want to just stray from the circle and do what you want instead of the rules.”

Whether young or old, kids alone are prime targets for trouble.

“When there’s no parent around or anyone involved in supervising them they have idle time,” explains Judge Greg Adams, “and what is the old adage idle time is the devil’s workshop. And as a result of that, they get with other young people and they are experimenting with drugs. That’s when a lot of it takes place right after school before the parents get home.”

So, how do parents decide when to leave kids alone? How to keep them safe? And how to keep them out of trouble?

Experts say leaving kids alone before age twelve is a big risk.

After that, “Try very short periods of time and see how the child reacts and how fearful they are,” advises David Hellwig from Child Protective Services. “A parent really knows their child best about their maturity level. [And] Certainly, having emergency phone numbers being immediately available; whether there’s a supportive neighbor relative close by.”

Give them specific instructions, chores to keep them busy, rules to follow and make sure kids know there are consequences for bad behavior.

Jamal’s mom says her kids know the rules … and what will happen if they don’t follow them. “I would let them know that if they didn’t follow instruction I would punish them but most of all worse things could happen to them.”

Tips for Parents

Every day in America, nearly 8 million children go home to an empty house. Experts say, the after school hours are the peak time for juvenile crime and risky behaviors. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that teens are at the highest risk of being a victim of violence between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the peak hour for juvenile crime is from 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., just after school is dismissed. Studies also show that students who don’t take part in after-school activities, such as sports or after-school programs are 49 percent more likely to have used drugs and 37 percent more likely to become teen parents.

The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center defines after-school programs as safe, structured activities that convene regularly in the hours after school and offer activities to help children learn new skills and develop into responsible adults. Activities may cover such topics as technology, reading, math, science and the arts. And the programs may also offer new experiences for children, such as community service, internships or tutoring and mentoring opportunities.

As a parent, why should you consider an after-school program for your child? Without structured, supervised activities in the after-school hours, youth are at greater risk of being victims of crime or participating in antisocial behaviors.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in an after-school program, you have several different types from which to choose. The Educational Resources Information Center says that a good after-school program should offer children the chance to have fun and feel comforted, as well as motivate them to learn. The best programs offer a comprehensive set of activities that do the following for your child:

Foster his or her self-worth and develop his or her self-care skills
Develop his or her personal and interpersonal social skills and promote respect for cultural diversity.
Provide help with homework, tutoring and other learning activities
Provide time and space for quiet study
Provide new, developmentally appropriate enrichment activities to add to his or her learning at school, help him or her develop thinking and problem-solving skills and spark curiosity and love of learning
Provide recreational and physical activities to develop physical skills and constructively channel his or her energy pent up after a day sitting in a classroom
Encourage participation in individual sports activities to help develop self-esteem by striving for a personal best, and participation in group sports to provide lessons about cooperation and conflict resolution
Provide age-appropriate job readiness training
Provide information about career and career-training options, preferably through firsthand experiences with community business leaders and tours of local businesses
Some programs may be excellent while others may be lacking in resources and staff, and therefore, less attractive to parents. It is important when choosing an after-school program to ask questions, visit the facility and get to know the staff.

21st Century Community Learning Centers
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Educational Resources Information Center
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teens and Theft

Too Young to Start

There are almost as many reasons teens steal as there are things for teens to steal. One of the biggest reasons teens steal is peer pressure. Often, teens will steal items as a means of proving’ that they are “cool enough” to hang out with a certain group. This is especially dangerous because if your teen can be convinced to break the law for petty theft, there is a strong possibility he or she can be convinced to try other, more dangerous behaviors, like drinking or drugs. It is because of this that it is imperative you correct this behavior before it escalates to something beyond your control.

Another common reason teens steal is because they want an item their peers have but they cannot afford to purchase. Teens are very peer influenced, and may feel that if they don’t have the ‘it’ sneakers or mp3 player, they’ll be considered less cool than the kids who do. If your teen cannot afford these items, they may be so desperate to fit in that they simply steal the item. They may also steal money from you or a sibling to buy such an item. If you notice your teen has new electronics or accessories that you know you did not buy them, and your teen does not have a job or source of money, you may want to address whereabouts they came up with these items.

Teens may also steal simply for a thrill. Teens who steal for the ‘rush’ or the adrenaline boost are often simply bored and/ or testing the limits of authority. They may not even need or want the item they’re stealing! In cases like these, teens can act alone or as part of a group. Often, friends accompanying teens who shoplift will act as a ‘lookout’ for their friend who is committing the theft. Unfortunately, even if the lookout doesn’t actually steal anything, the can be prosecuted right along with the actual teen committing the crime, so its important that you make sure your teen is not aiding his or her friends who are shoplifting.

Yet another reason teens steal is for attention. If your teen feels neglected at home, or is jealous of the attention a sibling is getting, he or she may steal in the hopes that he or she is caught and the focus of your attention is diverted to them. If you suspect your teen is stealing or acting out to gain your attention, it is important that you address the problem before it garners more than just your attention, and becomes part of their criminal record. Though unconventional, this is your teen’s way of asking for your help- don’t let them down!

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