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Author Archives Sue Scheff

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 07, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens
Renowned neurologist Dr. Frances E. Jensen offers a revolutionary look at the brains of teenagers, dispelling myths and offering practical advice for teens, parents and teachers.

The Teenage Brain demystifies the teen brain by presenting new findings, dispelling widespread myths and providing practical advice for negotiating this difficult and dynamic life stage for both adults and teens.

Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain. In The Teenage Brain, Dr. Jensen brings to readers the astonishing findings that previously remained buried in academic journals.

The root myth scientists believed for years was that the adolescent brain was essentially an adult one, only with fewer miles on it. Over the last decade, however, the scientific community has learned that the teen years encompass vitally important stages of brain development.  Samples of some of the most recent findings include:

  • Teens are better learners than adults because their brain cells more readily “build” memories. But this heightened adaptability can be hijacked by addiction, and the adolescent brain can become addicted more strongly and for a longer duration than the adult brain.
  • Studies show that girls’ brains are a full two years more mature than boys’ brains in the mid-teens, possibly explaining differences seen in the classroom and in social behavior.
  • Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we thought. Recent experimental and human studies show that the occasional use of marijuana, for instance, can cause lingering memory problems even days after smoking, and that long-term use of pot impacts later adulthood IQ.
  • Multi-tasking causes divided attention and has been shown to reduce learning ability in the teenage brain. Multi-tasking also has some addictive qualities, which may result in habitual short attention in teenagers.
  • Emotionally stressful situations may impact the adolescent more than it would affect the adult: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

Dr. Jensen gathers what we’ve discovered about adolescent brain function, wiring, and capacity and explains the science in the contexts of everyday learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making.  In this groundbreaking yet accessible book, these findings also yield practical suggestions that will help adults and teenagers negotiate the mysterious world of adolescent development.

Read an except of The Teenage Brain here.

Order your copy on Amazon today.

Visit our P.U.R.E. Library for more parenting book suggestions.

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What Parents Need To Know About Juuling

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 07, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Keeping up with teens today, it’s not easy.

From vaping to juuling, we’re here to educate you.

Photo credit: YourTeenMag.

By Sandra Gorden, contributor for Your Teen Magazine

While searching for my iPhone earbuds in my 16-year-old daughter’s bedside table, I came across a coin purse with tiny cartridges that look like a computer thumb drive. When Jane got home from school, I asked her what they were. “They’re Penelope’s,” Jane said. “I’m holding them for her.”

That seemed plausible. Penelope is a friend whose mom is very strict. But I still didn’t know what they were, and I thought: This can’t be good.

“What do you do with them?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Jane said.

Slowly, we got to the bottom of it. They were Juul pods, nicotine cartridges for the latest, trendy version of an e-cigarette.

“The whole school does it,” Jane said. “It’s not a big deal.”

In fact, more than 3 million middle school and high school students in the U.S. use e-cigarettes—also known as “vaping.” And the numbers continue to grow every year. Suddenly, I realized that Jane and her friends were among them.

What is Juuling?

E-cigarettes are typically battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (“juice”) that turns into an aerosol that teens inhale into their lungs. Until this point, I thought vaping involved using a vaping pen, a small round device with a mouth piece on the end. But Juuling, as it’s popularly known, is much easier to hide. Juul is a sleek, rectangular vaporizing device that delivers a concentrated form of nicotine. It looks like a USB flash drive, and can even be plugged into a laptop to charge.

According to the Juul website, each cartridge contains 0.7 mL with 5 percent nicotine by weight. One Juul pod is equivalent to smoking one pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs. But the biggest draw for teens is that the pods come in fun flavors, such as cucumber, mango, and mint, says Koorosh Rassekh, an addiction therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness, an outpatient addiction treatment program in Venice, California.

What are the Risks of Vapor Smoking?

While teens may believe that vaping is relatively safe, there are numerous health risks. “You can get addicted to e-cigarettes,” says Bill Blatt, director of Tobacco Programs for the American Lung Association. Like smoking a regular cigarette, the nicotine from Juul or other e-cigarettes gets into teens’ lungs and bloodstream and keeps them coming back for more.

And because the smoke isn’t as noticeable as regular cigarettes, teens can take a draw from their Juul and put it in their pocket without the teacher seeing it. Forget about running to the restroom: “They can smoke in class,” Blatt says.

The FDA has banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, so Juul pods and other vaping devices can’t legally be sold to them. But teens still find ways to get them, so parents need to address this trend.

How to Talk to Your Teens about Juuling:

To talk to your teen about Juuling, vaping, or any other substance use, Rassekh offers four helpful tips for having productive conversations.

1. Don’t lecture.

Just saying, Don’t Juul (or vape) because it’s bad for you, doesn’t help. (Guilty!) Lecturing about its harmfulness will only compel your teen to keep it a secret from you, Rassekh says.

2. Be open to the conversation.

Not every teen will be tempted to Juul or vape. But it’s worth having the conversation if you suspect they may be. In my daughter Jane’s case, she may truly be holding the cartridges for Penelope. But I suspect that she too is Juuling because her friends are—and like many teens, Jane lives for her friends. “The risk of being ostracized and the social benefit can motivate teens to Juul and try other substances,” Rassekh says.

3. Try to understand why your teen is Juuling.

Teens can be tempted to Juul for many reasons, including not wanting to be bullied, peer pressure, or getting a break from the rigors of the school day. “To get to the bottom of any substance use, ask yourself, What is impacting my teen’s self-esteem negatively?” Rassekh says.

Once you understand why your teen might be drawn to Juuling or vaping, then you can begin to address your teen’s vulnerabilities and build the resilience to counterbalance it.

4. Get outside help.

If your teen has developed a nicotine habit in any form, it may be time to have a pediatrician or therapist talk with them. You can also call the Center for Disease Control’s national tobacco quit line, 800-784-8669, for more guidance from their professional counselors.

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Sign-up for the parent workshop for more information on vaping.

If you suspect your teen is juuling or their behavior is escalating and you have exhausted your local resources, contact us to discuss if residential therapy might be an option.

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Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 24, 2019  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Book, Mental Health, Residential Therapy, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Teen Suicide Prevention, Troubled Teens

Teen Suicide Rates Are Rising

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows over the last 20 years, 1.6 million kids ages 10 to 24 called poison control centers after attempting suicide; using prescription pills, street drugs and other household poisons.

By Jane Mersky Leder

My brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday. My life has never been the same.

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more.

Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame–yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression–suicide.

Leder’s own journey of discovery after her brother’s suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults.

The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever. “Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking.”

Order Dead Serious on Amazon today.

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Are you concerned about your teen? Have they been struggling with depression? Becoming withdrawn? Have you exhausted your local resources — local therapy isn’t working? Contact us if you want to learn more about residential therapy.

 

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Teen Suicide Prevention, What Parents Need to Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 01, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Teen Suicide Prevention, Troubled Teens

Teen Suicide: Know the Warning Signs

By Mary Helen Berg, Your Teen Magazine

When Clark Flatt’s 16-year-old son killed himself with a .38 caliber pistol nearly two decades ago, no one in his community, school, or church was talking about suicide.

“We talked about drugs; we talked about bullying. No one ever mentioned teen suicide as a threat to my son,“ recalls Flatt, who today is president of the non-profit Jason Foundation, a suicide education and prevention organization. “If I had gone through and learned about the warning signs, I might not have thought ‘suicide,’ but I would have said, ‘I need to get some professional help for him.’”

Parents often think suicide can’t happen in their family and avoid talking about it. But teen suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only accidents, including car crashes and overdoses, kill more people ages 10 to 24.

“Suicide doesn’t just happen to other people,” Flatt says. “It happens to the football captain, the head of the chess team, and the student body government leader.”

Preventing Teen Suicide

Talk about Suicide

It’s important to be direct when talking about teen suicide. If you have concerns, ask your teen outright if she ever thinks about hurting herself. Don’t worry that you’re “putting ideas in their heads,” advises Dr. David Miller, president of the Association of American Suicidology.

“If an adolescent is already suicidal, talking about it, your words, are not going to make them more suicidal than they already are,” Miller says. “If they are not currently suicidal, then talking about it won’t magically make them so.”

Risk Factors for Suicide

Although we sometimes think of teens as impulsive risk-takers, this trait doesn’t necessarily contribute to more teen suicide attempts, according to Miller.

“In the research I’ve seen, people who are suicidal have often thought about this a great deal,” he notes.

Risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide and mental health disorders, substance abuse, illness, feelings of isolation, and easy access to guns, medications, or other lethal means, according to the CDC.

A “trigger event” such as bullying, a bad grade, or a breakup can also prompt a vulnerable teen to attempt suicide, explains Flatt, who formed the Jason Foundation in his son’s memory. The Tennessee-based organization now has 92 affiliates across the country, serving an estimated four million people.

Know the Teen Suicide Warning Signs

Most adolescents who attempt suicide—four out of five, according to the Jason Foundation—give some type of warning, including:

  • Suicidal ideation or preoccupation with suicide, ranging from fleeting thoughts to detailed plans
  • Statements such as, “I wish I were dead,” or, “No one would miss me if I were gone”
  • Persistent feelings of depression or hopelessness
  • Behavior that is out of character, such as dramatic changes in grades, hygiene, or mood
  • Giving away prized possessions

Have a Plan to Prevent Teen Suicide

Parents know they should take their kids to the emergency room if they have appendicitis, but they often don’t know what to do if their child is depressed. Here’s what experts recommend:

1. Research mental health resources. “Don’t wait until the critical point,” Flatt warns. “If you wait until there’s actually suicidal ideation, you’ve really reached a very dangerous edge.”

2. Maintain an open dialogue with your teen.

3. If your teen seems depressed, don’t ignore it or assume it’s typical teen moodiness.

4. Store guns, prescription medications, and alcohol in safe locations.

5. Encourage your teen to seek adult help if they notice a friend exhibiting suicidal behaviors. “This is not about being a snitch. This is about helping someone and potentially saving someone’s life,” stresses Miller.

Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, Scary Mommy, and many other publications.

Reprinted with permission by Your Teen Magazine.

Are you struggling with a teen and have exhausted your local resources? Are you concerned that they may be at-risk and considering residential therapy? Contact us today. Since 2001 we’ve been educating parents on the teen help industry and visiting many schools and programs throughout our country.

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iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 25, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Mental Health, Sexting, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Cell phone are here to stay. The smartphone generation.

By Cathie Ericson of Your Teen Magazine

Many of us parents, given the option, would snap our fingers and make smartphones—and all their complications—go away forever. But smartphones are here to stay, and your teen is now part of the smartphone generation. As you may already be discovering, there’s an inevitability about teens and phones, so we might as well face that reality head-on.

What do we worry about? Too much screen time, too little face-to-face socializing, and the potential pitfalls of social media. As smartphones become ubiquitous, teens have all the pressure associated with always being “on”—but potentially without the maturity to handle it. And that’s troubling.

Smartphone Generation

As reported in Jean Twenge’s new book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, rates of teen depression have skyrocketed—a phenomenon the author links to smartphones. Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent. Research supports a connection between this shift and smartphone usage, finding that teens who report more screen time are more likely to be unhappy, compared to teens who spend less time than average with their screen.

Given these findings, why do we even allow our teens to have phones? In many cases, it’s almost as though we have no choice. Pew Research reports that three-quarters of teens have a smartphone, and a whopping 92 percent of them say they go online every day.

Your teens are likely to be among these connected teens—so, rather than “just say no,” how can parents set wise limits?

Easy to Love, Hard to Put Down: Setting Limits on Phone Use

Does it seem like your teen is constantly clicking and scrolling? To be fair, we might be, too. A survey from Common Sense Media found that 78 percent of teens reported checking their phone at least hourly, but 69 percent of parents said the same.

“I like to remind parents that they are the models,” says Dodgen-Magee. “If you don’t think they should use their device at night, then you shouldn’t bring yours to bed either.”

Which brings up one of the most important limits that should be set: Encourage good evening habits so the phone doesn’t interrupt their sleep. “If you only do one thing, keep the phone out of their room at night,” says one expert.

Of course, you know they are going to say it’s their alarm clock. Remind them of this novel invention—an actual clock, which you can find for about $10, says Twenge. “Even if the phone is off, it’s still too tempting to have it at the ready while they’re trying to wind down, or if they wake up in the middle of the night.”

Beyond that, the key is to make sure they are balancing their screen time with other activities. Twenge has found a direct correlation between negative teen mental health and the number of hours they spend on their devices, particularly on social media. While more research needs to be done on phones and mental health to determine exactly why these things are correlated, Twenge recommends parents err on the side of caution and look into one of the numerous apps like Freedom or Kidslox that allow you to set daily limits.

However, you probably shouldn’t outright take the phone as a punishment, as they often need it for homework or updates (like when the next soccer practice is). “It’s more productive to have a conversation about when they should unplug and help them develop a healthy balance.”

Order iGen by Jean Twenge today on Amazon.

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Teens and Marijuana: Communicating the Risks

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 09, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

The legalization of marijuana has made parenting teens more challenging.

On a weekly basis, parents contact our office concerned about their teenager that is now smoking marijuana (some regularly) with no intention of giving it up. They fail to see the risks or dangers of it — especially since it’s considered legal in many states.

This is causing stress and frustration among parents across the country. As an adult, we know that there is a difference between medical marijuana and how it can impact a young person’s brain.

How can we start talking to them about this?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a vast amount of information for parents.

Why do young people use marijuana?

Young people start using marijuana for many reasons. Curiosity, peer pressure, and the desire to fit in with friends are common ones. Those who have already begun to smoke cigarettes or use alcohol, or who have untreated mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD), or who have experienced trauma are at increased risk for marijuana use.

For some, drug use begins as a means of coping with anxiety, anger, depression, or boredom. But, in fact, being high can be a way of simply avoiding the problems and challenges of growing up. Parents, grandparents, and older siblings are models that children follow, and research suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs plays a strong role in whether a young person starts using drugs. Indeed, all aspects of a teen’s environment—home, school, and community—can influence if he or she will try drugs.

How can I prevent my child from using marijuana?

There is no quick or simple solution for preventing teen drug use. But research shows parents have a big influence on their teens, even when it doesn’t seem that way. Talk openly with your children and stay actively engaged in their lives.

To help you get started, the next section provides some key points about marijuana research findings that you can share with your kids to help them sort out fact from myth and help them make the best decisions they can. These key points address the types of questions and comments that we receive from teens every day on our NIDA for Teens website and Drugs and Health blog. Following that brief section, the FAQs and additional resources will equip you with even more information.

Did you know?

Marijuana can be addictive.Despite common belief, repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction, which means that people can have trouble quitting, even if it is having a negative impact on their lives. Research suggests that about 30 percent of people who use marijuana have some level of marijuana use disorder even if they are not yet addicted.1People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.2 Among youth receiving substance use disorder treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions—almost 50 percent among those 12 to 17 years old.3

Marijuana is unsafe if you’re behind the wheel. Marijuana impairs judgment and many other skills needed for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illegal drug in deadly crashes, sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs. By itself, marijuana is thought to roughly double a driver’s chances of being in a crash, and the combination of marijuana and even small amounts of alcohol is even more dangerous4,5—more so than either substance alone.6

Marijuana is linked to school failure, lower income, and poorer quality of life. Marijuana has negative effects on attention, motivation, memory, and learning that can persist after the drug’s immediate effects wear off—especially in people who use regularly. Someone who uses marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of high school.7 People who use marijuana regularly for a long time report decreased overall life satisfaction, including poorer mental and physical health, memory and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success.8

Marijuana is linked to some mental illnesses. Although scientists don’t yet fully understand how the use of marijuana might impact the development of mental illness, high doses can bring on a panic attack or even acute psychosis—thinking that is detached from reality, sometimes including hallucinations. In people who already have the severe mental illness schizophrenia (involving symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking), marijuana use can worsen its symptoms. Also, evidence suggests that early marijuana use may increase the risk of psychotic disorders among those at higher genetic risk for these disorders.

Want to know more? Visit NIDA.

Source: NIDA

Have you exhausted your local resources with your teenager? Is local therapy not working?

Have they changed friends, are their grades slipping, maybe they are dropping out of their favorite activities?

Contact us if you are at your wit’s end and considering residential therapy. This is a great opportunity to give your child a second chance at a bright future.

 

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Hidden Apps Used By Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 20, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Hidden Apps Used By Teens

“Our teens may always be an app ahead of us, they may always be more cyber-savvy than us — but they will always need our offline wisdom when facing difficult online choices and challenges.” – Sue Scheff, founder of P.U.R.E.

By Hannah Ball, Tri-County Times, MI

Hidden apps, also known as “ghost” apps, are resources kids use to hide conversations and photos from parents and adults.

As technology improves, the methods of cyberbullying and child pornography have become more high-tech. Online predators will often monitor minors’ social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, start a conversation with them, and become friends with them.

These predators will “catfish” these kids, meaning they’ll use photos of a young boy, to trick the kids into thinking they’re talking to someone they’re not. They will invite these children to join online chat rooms or talk via ghost apps, where they oftentimes ask the child to send them a nude or sexy photo.

Child pornography is illegal to have on a device, even if the owner of the device is the one in the photo.

Ghost apps

Det. Sgt. Lizabeth Rich with the Michigan State Police is on the Cyber Computer Crimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“The most popular app we see is the calculator app,” she said. “We see it mostly with teenage kids, high-school age children.”

Rich recommends looking through your child’s phone settings to the storage page. If there’s an app, which is seemingly innocuous like a calculator, that uses a couple gigabytes of data, “that is generally the very first red flag that it is an app being used to disguise whatever activity.”

It’s also smart to open every app on the phone.

“If you open one and you have to use a pass code, that’s your first indicator that something is hidden there,” she said.

Spy Calc looks like a calculator and works as one, but if you put in a certain code, you can unlock hidden photos and videos. Another app, Hide It Pro, can hide other troubling apps your child doesn’t want you to see. These are called camouflage apps.

Look for apps like Keepsafe, Line, Whisper, Kik Messenger, and Smart Hide Calculator. They are hidden apps, or apps used to secretly send messages, photos and videos.

Be wary of Snapchat because those photos, videos and messages disappear after the receiver looks at them. Snapchat and Instagram are the most popular apps among children right now, Rich said.

“We see it (Instagram) being abused all the time. You can do secret chats on Instagram as well,” she said.

How to see if your child’s phone has hidden apps

Check their phones for duplicate apps, such as two calculators.

Go to the Google Play or Apple Store on their phone and search for apps using keywords “hidden apps,” “vault apps” or “private photos.” If the word “get” or “install” appears next to it, the app is not on their phone. If the word “open” or “uninstall” appears next to the app, the app is on their phone and they could be using it.

Recent sex trafficking operation found

Recently, seven men were charged with running a child pornography ring that took place in Michigan from 2015 to 2018, according to the FBI. This group would pretend to be teenagers on social media, such as Instagram, and invite female minors to visit chat rooms on a specific website.

The group would dare the girls to do various sexual acts on camera. Some people recorded the videos and distributed it to others.

Source: learningliftoff.comcirca.com

Being an educated digital parent is imperative in today’s world of technology. Raising Humans In A Digital World is one tool (book) that can help you stay a step ahead of your tween and teenager.

Diana Graber, co-founder of Cyberwise and Digital Literacy Middle School teacher,  uses a friendly approach to parenting that helps us offline as well as online better understand how young people are living their cyber-lives.

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Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 20, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

By Lisa Damour

Though anxiety has risen among young people overall, studies confirm that it has skyrocketed in girls. Research finds that the number of girls who said that they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped 55 percent from 2009 to 2014, while the comparable number for adolescent boys has remained unchanged. As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with girls, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., has witnessed this rising tide of stress and anxiety in her own research, in private practice, and in the all-girls’ school where she consults. She knew this had to be the topic of her new book.

In the engaging, anecdotal style and reassuring tone that won over thousands of readers of her first book, Untangled, Damour starts by addressing the facts about psychological pressure. She explains the surprising and underappreciated value of stress and anxiety: that stress can helpfully stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and anxiety can play a key role in keeping girls safe. When we emphasize the benefits of stress and anxiety, we can help our daughters take them in stride.

But no parents want their daughter to suffer from emotional overload, so Damour then turns to the many facets of girls’ lives where tension takes hold: their interactions at home, pressures at school, social anxiety among other girls and among boys, and their lives online. As readers move through the layers of girls’ lives, they’ll learn about the critical steps that adults can take to shield their daughters from the toxic pressures to which our culture—including we, as parents—subjects girls.

Readers who know Damour from Untangled or the New York Times, or from her regular appearances on CBS News, will be drawn to this important new contribution to understanding and supporting today’s girls.

Order this bestselling book, Under Pressure on Amazon today.

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Teens: Online Safety and Security

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 21, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

What teens need to know about cyber-security.

As parents and guardians, we’re all too familiar with the fact that this generation of teenagers are very adept at exploring the many uses of their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. 

In a study by Pew Research that we reported on, 45% of 13 to 17-year-olds self-reported that they were “constantly online,” and 95% either had their own smartphones or had access to one.

This is the reality of today’s screenagers. But as much as the web empowers teens, it also puts them at risk of being targeted by hackers intent on grabbing their private, personal, and financial information for profit. This prompts an important question that we should all be asking about our children – do teens know enough about cyber security and how to protect themselves? As evident by the growing incidents of hacking around the globe, the short answer is no.

Remember last year’s Facebook data breach? The incident, which The New York Times calls the largest cyber security breach in the company’s 14-year history, exposed the personal data of nearly 50 million users. This was, and is, especially dangerous considering how Facebook – the world’s most popular social media site and app – give users the option of connecting to other popular apps like Instagram and Spotify.

This means that the hackers who got into Facebook also got into whichever other apps the accounts were connected to, giving them access to a large variety of personal user information, including banking details for in-app purchases. And while Facebook’s reputation has plummeted since, its popularity hasn’t dwindled in any significant way.

More and more teens are still using it on a daily basis, either unconcerned or unaware of the security risks attached to voluntarily entrusting the company with their personal information. 

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, there are teens who are so well-versed with cyber security that they’re able to play the other side of the game. Teens as young as 14 are reportedly making thousands of dollars per week by hacking into private accounts on the popular first-person shooter game Fortnite and then selling them online. The BBC got in touch with 20 of these hackers who are part of a burgeoning global black market based around the popular game.

While Fortnite is free to play, it allows players to use their online accounts to purchase avatar skins as well as other add-ons with real money. Based on what the former owners of the accounts have already purchased, the stolen accounts can be sold for as low as 25 pence (30 cents) or as high as hundreds of dollars apiece.

One of the hackers interviewed said that he first got into “Fortnite cracking” when his own account, already worth £50 ($64.47) in in-game purchases, was hacked into and stolen. Devastated, he got back into the game by purchasing a “new” account for just 25 pence (30 cents) even if it was clearly worth a lot more.

Although illegal, purchasing and using cracked accounts has become surprisingly common within the game, which itself is estimated to be worth around $1.23 billion. In short, there are teens who certainly know enough about cyber security to become profitable hackers – enough to create a small industry within just one online game. This also reveals the fact that most Fortnite players don’t know nearly enough about protecting themselves online.

All of these incidents have led to an increased demand for experts in the field of cyber security. This is reflected through the growing number of courses at universities aimed at producing professionals who can actually address the world’s growing cyber security concerns. In an overview of Maryville University’s Cyber Security Master’s degree, it notes how today’s students are taught about mobile device hacking and forensics.

This is a direct reflection of how common and dangerous attacks on smartphones and tablets have become. Designed to streamline access to information, the latest touchscreen devices store private user data.

This of course doesn’t mean that teens should be completely cut off from using the Internet. Instead, parents and guardians should do their best to teach teens (as well as themselves) about simple and manageable ways to keep their personal data safe while online.

Sanjay Goel who is the director for cyber security programs at the University at Albany’s School of Business, shares how his first task as a teacher and researcher is always to describe potential threats to students that he works with. This is followed by teaching them simple cyber security protocols and behaviors that anyone can (and should) adopt.

This includes using strong, 10-character long passwords that include numbers, letters, and symbols to make them harder to crack – and using a secure password manager instead of just writing them down. In terms of mobile safety, Goel advises not just assigning a password for your smartphone, but also disabling Bluetooth in public places to prevent hacking, and avoiding using public Wi-Fi networks.

On your laptop’s browser, you should never click on any unknown links or open any e-mails from unknown people. When playing online games, avoid using and sharing personal information, and only download official content that’s verified to be safe.

These are just some of the most important points worth remembering if you want to use the Internet in a safe manner. The more you and your teen know about how to protect yourselves online, the less you’ll be at the mercy of hackers who will go to great lengths to steal your data.

Article contributed by Eloise Martin

Exclusively for helpyourteens.com

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Raising Humans In A Digital World

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 10, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

Helping Teens Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.

Sexting, cyberbullying, revenge porn, online predators… all of these potential threats can tempt parents to snatch the smartphone or tablet right out of their children’s hands. While avoidance might eliminate the dangers, that approach also means your child misses out on technology’s many benefits and opportunities.

Raising Humans in a Digital World (Harper Collins 2019) is a must read for all parents of connected tweens and teens.

Cybercivics teacher and author, Diana Graber, brilliantly shares with her readers how digital kids (tweens and teens) must learn to navigate through today’s online environment:

  • developing social-emotional skills
  • balancing virtual and real life
  • building safe and healthy relationships
  • avoiding cyberbullies and online predators
  • protecting personal information
  • identifying and avoiding fake news and questionable content
  • becoming positive role models and leaders.

This book is packed with at-home discussion topics and enjoyable activities that any busy family can slip into their daily routine. Full of practical tips grounded in academic research and hands-on experience, today’s parents finally have what they’ve been waiting for—a guide to raising digital kids who will become the positive and successful leaders our world desperately needs.

Order your copy today wherever books are sold.

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