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Teen Help Blog

Teen Stress: Ways to Promote Healthy Mindset

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 25, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Reduce Stress and Promote Healthy Mindsets: 3 Self-Care Tips for Your Teen

Stress does not discriminate, and it certainly knows no age limits. In fact, data collected by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that stress is significantly common among teenagers and actually “rivals that of adults.”

Teenagers are confronted with demands or expectations to perform well in school and make important decisions about their future, all while combating peer pressure and even cyberbullying, which is a frequent occurrence in the age of social media in which they grew up.

To have some degree of stress in life is normal, but if stress intensifies for extended periods of time, it can cause both emotional and physical ramifications that can affect teenagers’ mental health. The APA also reported that many teens (30%) who suffer from stress reported feeling depressed. Among other things, chronic stress can also cause anxiety and other negative thoughts and behaviors.

“To break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health-care professionals,” says APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D.

Parents can play a significant role as support systems by acquainting their teenagers with self-care strategies that will help them manage stress and address possible mental health conditions. These three self-care ideas can help teenagers deal with life’s everyday demands in a more enlightening and  productive way:

  1. Start the conversation. Begin showing your teen support by addressing one of the most concerning aspects of stress: the development of a possible mental health disorder. Mental illness is so often poorly understood, which can add to the challenge of living with such a condition and actually affects how one handles stress. It can be difficult for many teenagers to talk to their parents, let alone about mental health. But the reality is that there are variations of mental health resources like podcasts, comics, blog posts and discussion guides that provide a great understanding of conditions in a relatable and intriguing manner, making the subject of mental health much more comfortable.
  1. Be prepared with “on-the-go” techniques. During high-stress situations, the body may respond physically through increased heart rate, quickened breathing, muscle tightening, and elevated blood pressure. To regulate the nervous system and bring calmness to the forefront of focus, it can be particularly helpful to know a few calming or grounding techniques. Be that as it may, it might not always be possible to remove oneself from an environment when physical symptoms arise, especially teenagers who may be in in the middle of a class, for instance. Thus, it’s even more important to find exercises for your teen that can be done anywhere. Breathing exercises are beneficial for achieving quick and discrete relaxation from stress and anxiety.
  1. Hobbies can be an overlooked tool. It’s no shocking revelation that teenagers are busy, but it seems as though any and all of their free time is placed in front of a screen these days. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, or texting, so much of their extra time to unwind is occupied by mindlessly looking at a screen. Instead, introduce your teen to a new hobby or even engage in one together. Hobbies can still be relaxing and are great for the body’s overall well-being, particularly in developing teenagers. Regularly participating in a hobby can provide structure that in turn can translate into good time management skills, ultimately decreasing stress. Personal connections and improved social skills can also be an added bonus of taking up a hobby because you never know who your teenager might have something in common with. Whether it’s a sports league, book club, rock band, or an art club, your teenager will be actively engaged in a mindful activity (and off their phones) which is important for both their physical and mental well-being.

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Public and Permanent: Creating a Mindset That Our Digital Actions are Public and Permanent

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 20, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Online Repuation, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Creating a Mindset That Our Digital Actions are Public and Permanent®

By Richard Guerry

This information will help to protect you and your family from making life and legacy altering mistakes online or with any digital technology.

Students, Parents and Teachers across the Globe are using this book to learn and reinforce a powerful and effective method for reducing:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Sexting
  • Sextortion
  • Sextcasting
  • Poor Social Media behavior
  • and many other cyber issues many are not yet aware of!

Public and Permanent® is a life changing philosophical guide providing the knowledge that all users of digital technology must know as citizens of a rapidly evolving digital village.

In today’s world where teen’s are quick to post and think later, they could be risking a college scholarship or being passed over by a potential employer – never doubt your online reputation will dictate your future.

More and more college admissions are using social media to review their applicants prior accepting them and a recent CareerBuilders survey revealed that 70 percent of employers will not interview a candidate if they find unflattering social feeds. Today you are considered an extension of their brand – both online and off.

What goes online — stays online. It is Public and Permanent®. This is must have book for parents, teens, educators and a perfect gift!

Visit www.iroc2.com for more information on the author’s extensive speaking engagements – he may be coming to a school near you! If you don’t see your school listed, contact them and schedule him soon! It’s an excellent and educational conference that both adults and students are raving about!

Order on Amazon today.

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Internet Addiction: The Teen Generation

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 09, 2018  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Addiction, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help

Internet Addiction: Is Your Teen Attached to their Smartphone?

According to scholars and psychologist, the smartphone devices are causing a heist of the apparent preoccupation, not only in adults but also in the kids. Especially when the matter of the availability of the internet over the smartphones is concerned, the hike certainly makes it clear that the extensive users of this technology are addicted to it.

A comparison between the addicting drugs and the smartphone was drawn by a psychologist analyzing that alcohol makes a person addict of it as the consumption of the first sip makes it more enchanting in the next. Similarly, the smartphone usage has been analyzed with the study of over 1,500 users, majorly including teens, that the initial usage raises the urge for the next usage.

Extensible Teens:

Common Sense Media (CSM) surveyed more than 1,200 people including parents and teens which resulted that 50% of the teens accept that they are addicted to the smartphones; while around 60% parents say that their children are addicted to their devices.

The smartphones sale comparison could definitely tell that 50% of the sale of smartphones has grown up in the present year since 2013.

Availability of internet, social media networks, attractive games, handy apps and vast data storage capability has raised the bar of the smartphone usage and so it the mercury of the smartphone obsession rising.

Smartphone Addiction:

Presently in the world, some states argue that extensive smartphone usage is a disorder and is an addiction but some of the developed states including United States have no view over the smartphone addiction. They take it as just an extensive use, not an addiction as they don’t have any solid base to determine it as a disorder.

Going through some general examples, the roads and streets are the best examples in telling that how much the teens are addicted of the smartphones. A number of accidents happen every day in routine, caused by the teens, as they were busy in using their smartphone and smashed their car into the others or a pole or a pedestrian.

Consequences of Smartphone Addiction:

Almost 80% teens are surveyed who at least check their phone every hour, amid 70 – 72% of teens is found responding to the SMS and the instant feeds instantly. Parents stay worried for their children and the smartphone distraction has increased the ratio of worry in parents. Parents find their children:

  • Distracted from studies because of the excessive smartphone use
  • Getting physically and biologically weak because of lack of outdoor sports
  • Becoming irritating and itchy because of lack of actual social life with friends
  • Paying less attention to the family sit downs for the night meal

These situations are particularly an alarm for the parents that ring the bell of danger that their child is getting to a highly distracted venture by paying much heed to their corky device instead of the actual requirements of living.

Preliminary Measures:

Some essential preliminary steps are required on the part of the parents to ensure safety and prosperity of their children. It’s initially quite hard for the parents to properly analyze in what ways and how much time is their child giving to his or her smartphone.

Precisely the direct questionnaire would certainly sound like a direct assault to the children which could bring up any of the unexpected results upon parents. Or if the parents inspect the smartphones of their children or restrict them directly to use it, could create a wave of defiance in the homes.

The most preferable and highly recommended solution, and one of handpicks of the experts, are the spy apps. They help the parents to be with their children when they are using their smartphones, virtually.

Contributor:  Angela Smith fills in as tech and digital parenting expert. She is managing technical content at cell phone spy software, listen live phone calls, and monitor social instant messaging logs.

(Please note, apps should never replace offline parenting. Your communication with your child is crucial in helping them make better online decisions when you’re not there. Experts have also agreed that your child should know if you have installed these apps. Breaking down a trust factor with your child is never a good idea unless there is a good reason or you fear your child is in danger).

 

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Sexting Scandals, Slut Pages, Nudes: What Teens Face Today

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 10, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Sexting Scandals, Sluts Pages, Nudes: What Teens Face Today

Does your teen know the risks of sending or receiving sexual content?

There’s no denying it, sex is no longer limited to physical contact thanks to technology, sexting has become a new normal for many.

Sexting might be considered the new form of flirting, but that doesn’t mean a sext isn’t going to get you in trouble if your recipient decides to use it for unsavory purposes.

In a recent report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, sexting is becoming more common among young people. According to this study, nearly 15 percent of teens have sent a sext message while 27 percent have received one.

This research also shared that older teens are more likely to engage in sexting and about 8 percent had their private sexual content forwarded without their consent.

Nudes and slut pages

Everything is permanent online. If someone asks you for a nude, no matter what age you are, be prepared for the potential consequences.

Just because it’s frequently done doesn’t mean it won’t land you in serious digital consequences. Slut pages aren’t only a child’s playground. In 2017, it was exposed that some U.S. Marines were involved in creating social media pages full of non-consensual shared nudes of their colleagues.

Sexting isn’t just common among swinging singles and digital natives. One study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that 12 percent of married couples admitted to sending nude or nearly nude photos to each other. However, with the divorce rate of first marriages at forty percent and of second marriages at sixty percent, the impulse to get even with your spouse has taken a new, evil turn.

Another study found that 4 percent of online Americans, or 10 million men and women, reported either being threatened with revenge porn or actually victimized. If you’re considering taking or sending a nude, make sure you are aware of the risks and ready to deal with the potential consequences. What could the impact be on your future relationships? Employment? Career?

If adults are behaving this way and they’re supposed to be the role-models, what example does this give our children?

Sexting scandals

Statistics show that 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults have posted or sent nude or semi-nude photos, which can be a pathway to an embarrassing ending—witness the sexting scandals that have popped up in small towns across America, from Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Cañon City, Colorado.

Risks and consequences

There are sexting laws across the country depending on what state you reside in. It’s important not only for you to understand these laws, but to have frequent discussions with your children about them. Start these chats early, in the JAMA report it points to sexting starting in the tween years.

Revenge porn  and sextortion is no joke. What may have started out as sending flirtatious messages, could end in malicious e-venge. With sextortion, you may not even know the person. To date, 38 states plus D.C.have revenge porn laws. If you become a victim, tell someone immediately. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative offers a free Online Removal Guide.

Everyone does it

Most young people are naive to believe that sending sexual content is the norm, maybe it will land them a friend — everyone is doing it — and bad things won’t happen to them.

Know that everything you put out there has the possibility of becoming “Public and Permanent®,” an expression perfectly coined by Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication. “Far too many people with technology are not stopping to think about the long-term repercussions of their actions,” he says. Guerry advocates for digital consciousness—always posting with the awareness that anything you’ve documented could be disseminated.

“There is no way to control what is going to happen, none,” he says. “Digital tools were never designed for privacy. We’re going against the grain for what these tools were intended. By no means is everything going to be Public and Permanent®, but you have to be prepared. Think about your legacy. It’s not just imagining [that] your ninety-year-old grandma will see your naughty text—but [that] your own grandkids will too.”

Even with the strictest privacy settings, we don’t have control over human behavior, technology glitches, or cyber-criminals. Maybe your teen leaves their phone behind on the bus or it gets picked up in the locker room. Their best friend today (and usually teens will share passwords) can be their foe tomorrow.

Being proactive

Your teen may always be an app ahead of you or more cyber-savvy than you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom. Never allow technology to get in the way of conversations offline about online life.

The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:

  1. Talk about it.Frequently and start early.  Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
  2. Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
  3. Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
  4. Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
  5. If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
  6. Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.

Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:

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Struggling Teens: Are you at your wit’s end?

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 04, 2018  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Drug Use, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Are you struggling with your teen?

Defiance, underachieving, disrespectful, entitlement issues, internet addiction, changing peer groups….

Or difficulties with:

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD), ADD-ADHD, depression – are they a good teen making bad choices?

Have you exhausted all your local resources, therapy not working?

Are you considering residential treatment but confused by all the choices?

-Is my teen a candidate?

-What’s the best for my family?

-Will my insurance pay?

-Will my teen hate me?

-Will short term programs work?

-What are transport services?

-Are there financial options?

-How do we know if a program is successful?

-And more.

Let Parents Universal Resource Experts answer your questions.

We educate families as they are faced with the challenges of choosing residential therapy.

Contact us today.

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Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 30, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Book, Mental Health, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

By David Sheff

For every parent out there that believes, not my child, this is a must read.

Beautiful Boy is an eye-opener for parents that continues to hope, pray and believe that it will get better. It’s a phase. It’s their friends. It’s this or that — without realizing maybe there really is an issue and you need to confront it – NOW – before it escalates when they turn 18 and go off to college and things quickly fall apart.

Bad things can happen to good people

Don’t be fooled that just because you live in a good area, offer your teen the best of schools (yet they are underachieving academically), they may even be a top athlete (before they lost interest) — or they have all the luxuries a teen could want (smartphone, trendy clothes, maybe a car and more) — that they aren’t silently suffering emotionally.

Be an educated parent. Learn from those before you.

Inside Beautiful Boy

What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets. David Sheff traces the first warning signs: the denial, the three a.m. phone calls—is it Nic? the police? the hospital? His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every treatment that might save his son. And he refused to give up on Nic.

Order today! 

 

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Is Your Teenager A Screenager?

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 19, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Addiction, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Is your teenager constantly glaring at their screen? Are they part of the screenager generation?

Did you know that according to new studies teens are frustrated by their own obsession with their smartphones?

How can parents help them find their digital balance?

Smartphone addiction has become an increasing concern for many parents, especially with the start of school just around the corner, and many students getting smartphones. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media  found that half of teenagers felt addicted to their devices, and 78 percent checked their devices at least hourly.

Seventy-two percent of teens felt pressured to respond immediately to texts, notifications and social media messaging. A Pew Research report found that 73 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds had their own smartphones or had access to one, and 24 percent said they were online “almost constantly.”

So what can parents do to help prevent their teenagers from becoming screenagers? AT&T offers these tips:

  1. Start with a contract. The first step is to set boundaries, and what better way to do this than to put the rules in writing. Draw up a Cell Phone Contract, or a Family Agreement, with your young user. Family agreements can include rules about when and how the phone may be used, and detail consequences for breaking the rules. You can find numerous examples of cell phone contracts or family agreements online. Almost all of them focus on the same key items, such as sharing passwords with parents, limiting use of the device to certain times of the day and in certain places, promising not to use the device for inappropriate photos or bullying, and so on.
  2. Set limits and monitor use. Consider creating “no phone zones” in your home, like the dining room table, and making sure your teen is putting the phone away at certain points of the day. Also, take advantage of parental controls to set limits on your child’s smartphone use, and monitor it. For example, AT&T Smart Limits allows parents to block unwanted calls and texts from up to 30 numbers; set monthly limits on texts and mobile purchases; and restrict texting, data usage and outbound calling during specified times of the day. There are also monitoring services that let you view your child’s texts, call logs, phone location and more.
    And if you have a teen driver, use an app that curbs your teen’s temptation to use their phone behind the wheel. The free AT&T DriveMode app silences incoming alerts and automatically replies to text messages, letting the send know you are driving. DriveMode also sends a text message to a parent if the app is turned off.
  3. Create daily and weekly offline time. Most teens admit to having FOMO, or fear of missing out, on something, and the need to respond quickly when they receive messages and notifications. That constant potential feedback loop can lead to obsessive behaviors that disturb the course of daily activities. Researchers say creating daily and weekly offline time as part of the family routine can be helpful.
  4. Be cyber aware. Being constantly connected brings increased risk of theft, fraud and abuse. Educate your young user on internet safety tips. Stress the importance of never sharing their personal or family information online and never engaging with strangers online. The AT&T Cyber Aware website at www.att.com/cyberaware provides tips to help you and your child avoid falling victim to scammers.
  5. Be a role model. As parents, we should consider our smartphone habits as well. The 2015 Pew survey found that 46 percent of American adults  believed they could not live without their smartphones. If we expect our kids to limit their time on their smartphones, then we too need to practice what we preach.


Courtesy of AT&T. Contract by The Exhausted Mom.
Disclosure: P.U.R.E. is not compensated by AT&T and doesn’t endorse products or services. We provide informational and educational resources for parents of young people today.

If you believe your teen is struggling with addiction that is now interfering with their life, Internet or otherwise, and have exhausted your local resources, please contact us.

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Is Your Teen Sexting?

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 27, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Sexting, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Would you know if your teen was sexting?

Are they aware of the risks and consequences of sending or receiving a sexual message?

In a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics the sending of sexually explicit videos, images or messages via cell phone texts also known as sexting — has become more common among adolescents. It also revealed that as the teen gets older, engaging in sext messages increases.

As we have witnessed with medicine abuse and other substance use, many parents live in denial that their teen would participate in this activity. Today sexting is considered the new flirting and some youth are not aware of the risks or consequences (potentially legal ones) they can fall into.

Across the globe we have seen sexting scandals in schools, from Duxbury, Massachusetts to Canon City, Colorado to Nova Scotia, Canada – it can happen anywhere. In North Carolina a high school quarterback faced felony charges and a sex offender status when he and his girlfriend were exchanging nude photos.

The consequences of sexting also extend offline. When something that was intended to be a private communication ends up in public, the shame and humiliation can drive our kids to the point of self-destruction. Another consequence of sexting: Experts have found children and teens that sext are more likely to engage in real-world sexual activity  than students who don’t sext.

For generations, many parents have cringed at the thought of having the “birds and the bees” conversation. Today we have to open the door for the “sext talk” without hesitation as children are digitally connected for an average of 9 hours a day. The parents of  Jessica LoganHope WitsellAudrie Pott and Amanda Todd are sadly linked together by the aftermath of sexting and cyberbullying with the loss of their teens to bullycide.

It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their children and teens with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. It’s their offline skills that will help them make better online decisions. Your teen may always be an app ahead of you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom echoing in their ear when you’re not there – while making their digital choices.

The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:

  1. Talk about it.Frequently and start early.  Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
  2. Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
  3. Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
  4. Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
  5. If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
  6. Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.

Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:

Contributor: Sue Scheff is the founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc and has published three books. Her latest is Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017).

 

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10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 25, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Book, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

Author Kari Kampakis has written two timely and amazing books for parents of both tween and teenage girls and boys in today’s world of peer pressure  – both online and offline.

Here is one of her recent post’s – and be sure to order her books on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

Click on book to order from Amazon.

10 Things Parents of Middle Schoolers Should Know

It’s rare to hear anyone say they loved middle school. Even people with positive memories never tout it as the best years of their life.

Simply put, it’s an awkward season. It’s a time of constant changes, social shake-ups, swinging emotions, and intense pressures. If I’ve learned anything from working with adolescent girls, it’s how hungry this age group is for comfort and reassurance. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes whenever I speak to a group, a look of searching and a longing to hear something – anything – to help them make sense of things.

Please tell me it gets better, their faces silently plead. Tell me this isn’t it.

Well, middle school kids, I assure you that life picks up. There’s a bigger, more promising world beyond this rite of passage. In the meantime, I have 10 truths to center you. I hope they bring you peace and a little friendly guidance.

Truth #10: Today’s most awkward moments will be tomorrow’s funniest memories. Keep a sense of humor whenever possible.

Those braces on your teeth that collect food? That acne on your face that miracle creams can’t cure? That giddy rush you get when your crush walks by, and you can’t think, talk, or see straight? One day these things will be really funny! They’ll be the memories you rehash again and again with your siblings and oldest friends.

It takes time, but as you gain confidence, your awkward moments become fun to share. You’ll readily admit yours and laugh at the comedy and conversation that result.

Eventually you’ll have a dazzling smile, clear skin, and someone to love. Your current problems will have closure. So stay mindful of the big picture, and remember that even your worst experiences will pass.

Truth #9: You don’t want to peak in middle school (or high school or college, for that matter). The worst goal you can have is popularity. Because what often makes adolescents popular – running with the fast crowd, dominating your peers, living a superficial lifestyle – eventually leads to problems.

A truly successful person gets better with time. You go from being version 1.0 of yourself to version 2.0, 4.0, 6.0 and so on. But when you chase popularity, you peak early. You stop growing and improving because you’re stuck in instant gratification mode, looking for quick fixes to satisfy your needs.

Make it your goal to peak later in life. Make good choices that set you up for a bright future. If you’re not a superstar now, that’s okay. This simply means there are better things ahead as you continue to evolve and learn.

Click on book to order from Amazon.

Truth #8: Technology makes it easier than ever to ruin relationships and reputations. We live in an age where people post everything online – feelings, emotions, and pictures. I love technology when it’s used wisely, but too often, it’s used impulsively. We let our fingers jump ahead of our brains, and within seconds, we can trigger hurt, misunderstandings, and serious issues.

So please, think twice before texting, emailing, or posting on social media. Cool off before giving someone a piece of your mind, venting, jumping to conclusions, reacting out of jealousy or anger, embarrassing someone, or sending an inappropriate photo. Use the Internet for good, not as a dumping ground.

And when you have an issue with a friend, call instead of sending texts. It’s easy to put in writing what you’d never say in person, or to interpret a message the wrong way, and the tension this adds to a relationship is hard to recover from.  

Truth #7: Surrounding yourself with good company is imperative. There’s an old saying that’s particularly relevant to your age group: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

Yes, you’re called to love everyone, but not everyone deserves a place in your innermost circle. Some people you love up close and personal, and others you love at arm’s length because inviting them into your life invites disaster.

Sooner or later, a bad influence will rub off. You’ll either make choices against your better judgment or wind up in a predicament. As a mom I know told her daughter, she once went out with a guy who was very sweet to her but also wild. She didn’t see the issue until they had their first date – and he took her to a drug dealer’s house.

She told her daughter, “Even though I was innocent, I would have gone to jail if the police had come. I was guilty by association just by being there.”

Good friends lift you up. They don’t put you in risky or compromising situations. To become the best version of yourself, you need friends who hold themselves to high standards and want you to reach your full potential, too.

Truth #6: What makes you different is what makes you great. Middle school is largely about conformity. I see this firsthand because I live near a middle school, and over time I’ve noticed how all the kids dress alike, walk alike, and act alike.

Meanwhile, at my children’s elementary school I see authenticity and diverse personalities because the kids don’t know yet how to be anything but themselves. It saddens me to know that they, too, will eventually feel pressured to hide what makes them unique.

You’ll never influence the world by trying to be like it. You’ll never find your calling by following the crowd. God made you different for a reason, and what sets you apart plays into His plan for you. So listen to that quiet voice inside you and remember yourself as a child. Cling to the passions you had in your early years, because they hold more answers than you know.

Truth #5: It’s okay to not to have your life planned out. It’s okay if you haven’t discovered your “thing.” Chances are, you know kids with immense talent and drive. They’ve trained for years in their area of expertise, and they know exactly what they want in life.

Deep down you may be envious and uncomfortable, because you fear you’re getting left behind. You wonder why they have their act together – and you don’t.

But even the best laid plans will face curveballs. Even the most driven kids will wind up on different paths than they originally envisioned. So if your future isn’t mapped out by 9th grade, take heart! You’re still young and have plenty of time to discover what you were born to do. Just set goals for yourself, use your gifts, and head in a good direction. Set a positive trajectory so that when you do discover your thing, you’re ready to soar.

Truth #4: Your uniform is not your identity. Labels are big in middle school, and there’s a confidence that comes from wearing a football jersey, cheerleader uniform, or other team attire.

But remember that having a uniform – or even designer clothes – doesn’t increase your worth. You’re special because of who you are, not what you put on your body or what you achieve.

Overnight you can lose your place on a team. You can lose your talents, your wardrobe, your relationships, even your Instagram account. But if you base your identity on the one thing you’ll never lose – God’s love– your foundation is unshakable. You’ll still be standing even if you lose every earthly trapping this world says is important.

Truth #3: Applause can be misleading. You can make a huge mistake and still get cheered on wildly.Through social media, popularity is now quantifiable. You can gauge your performance by how many “likes”, comments, and shares you get.

But remember, numbers alone can be misleading. To get the full picture, you need to measure numbers against the truth. After all, Jesus Christ had 12 followers. Adolf Hitler had millions. These numbers speak for themselves.

The best applause to live for is the quiet peace inside you. What makes you feel good about yourself? What helps you rest easy at night? Criticizing someone to bring them down or make people laugh won’t bring you peace. Neither will watching someone else beat up on a kid as the crowd cheers him on.

You know the truth by how you feel deep down. And when you seek your applause from within, you don’t need the applause of public approval.

Truth #2: There’s a difference between helpful advice and criticism that holds you back. Be careful who you listen to. Some people want you to succeed. Others don’t. Develop a strong filter for whose words you take to heart – and whose words you ignore.

Some questions to ask yourself are: Do I trust this person? Are they respectable? Do they practice what they preach? Are they the kind of person I hope to become? Do they recognize my talent and potential and encourage me, or do they drag me down by harping on where I fall short?

How others talk to you influences how you talk to yourself. And since that voice in your head impacts your confidence, determination, and willingness to take risks, you want people in your life who speak the truth in love and always with your best interest in mind.

Truth #1: You’re AWESOME. Truly, you are. All these crazy changes are leading to something amazing. In the grand scheme of life middle school is only a blip, so keep it in check. Have fun, dream big, and make good choices. One day you’ll look back and laugh at the absurdities of this stage, and if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a lot of humor now.

As a writer, Kari Kampakis hears countless stories about the struggles people face. Over time, one theme has emerged: the hidden pain inside relationships. Kari will share why we need an empathy comeback and how practicing empathy can lead to kindness, understanding, and better life stories.

Kari Kampakis is a mom of four girls who lives in Mountain Brook. She is a blogger, speaker, and author of two books for teen girls. Kari’s work has been featured on national outlets like The Huffington Post and The TODAY Show. When she’s not writing or carpooling kids, she enjoys reading, exercising, and enjoying downtime with her family.

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Teens Travelling Abroad and Social Media

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 19, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Summer Camps

School’s Out: Students Travelling Abroad & Social Media

While parents understand that teenagers may gravitate to spending their summers with old friends doing activities in their hometown, summertime provides a great opportunity for teens to step outside of their comfort zone. Arguably, one of the most effective approaches to providing a fun-filled summer which stretches teens’ cultural, intellectual and social horizons is participation in a study abroad program. Besides the opportunity to pursue current interests or develop new ones, study abroad programs offer teens the excitement of travel and the chance to participate in and learn about different traditions. Depending on the program that your child chooses to travel with, he or she will have the chance to build new friendships with a group of students who come from a wide variety of states and countries.

Per a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have a smartphone and 45% of them are consistently online.  Of course, students studying abroad will most likely document their travels on social media. Recognizing that one’s social media profile can provide their first impression to the outside world, especially for high school students who are building their academic resume for colleges and potential employers, most study abroad programs provide a set of specific guidelines for teens regarding their use of social media. Abbey Road Programs has a particularly constructive approach to this issue, encouraging students to use social media for telling stories about their unique experiences abroad in an educational and appropriate manner.

“We encourage our students to maintain a strong yet respectful presence on Instagram and our company blog during their summer travels abroad”, says Arthur Kian, founder and director of Abbey Road Programs. “The members of our Student Ambassador program stay in touch with their friends and loved ones back home by uploading weekly pictures of architecture, cuisine, or landmarks in Western Europe and Quebec. Social media is a great opportunity for students to show colleges and potential employers their experiences immersing with cultures while studying in international universities”.

Student Ambassadors at Abbey Road publish their study abroad activities on Abbey Road’s website, as well as onto their personal Instagram accounts. While the organization encourages student ambassadors to actively publish their happenings on social media, Abbey Road also emphasizes that students should structure their content appropriately for a variety of audiences – not just peers. Blog and Instagram typically submissions occur a few times per week, allowing students to document new discoveries, friends and adventures.

For those of you who are about to send your child to another part of the globe, how can you make sure that your child is making their online presence interesting yet appropriate? Sue Scheff, founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc, argues that a teen should create his or her social media profile as their ‘Professional Brand’. “As your young adult starts to navigate the professional world, it’s more important than ever to start refining their online reputation”, says Sue. “For some young people, this might mean redefining themselves online. While you can’t redefine your young adult’s online presence for them, you can encourage them, and even take a moment to polish your own social media while you’re at it.”

Social media and blogging are the primary means of connecting with your friends and family when international calling and texting is limited and expensive. How can parents make sure that their child’s content is meaningful and doesn’t harm their reputation for years to come? Never be afraid to discuss with your son or daughter the consequences that can come from posting text or pictures that can convey a negative impression to colleges or employers.  However, while there’s a need to emphasize the importance of safety in online behavior, parents should also acknowledge the positive impressions conveyed by documenting new experiences while, for example, studying abroad.

Evan O’Connor is the Outreach Coordinator for Abbey Road Programs and leader of the company’s Student Ambassador Program.

 

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