Sexting: Think Your Teens are Innocently Texting a Friend?

internet_girls

Sex and Tech: The Surprising Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Ugh. I love technology but sometimes…I hate it! We all know that teens like to be online—in fact, just about 90% of teens are! The question is…what are they DOING online? What are they doing on their phone? Some of course are using it for fun, research, or connection—but others might be taking it to another level—a disturbing one.

Do you know about it? Chuck Norris is talking about it. Our Shaping Youth friends are talking about it. And here’s my colleague, Rosalind Wiseman talking about it:

It’s sexting…and sending sexually explicit messages across the internet. bThink it’s not happening too often? Yikes. Here’s the real info:

Results from a survey commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, found that just over 1/5 of girls (21%) and just under 1/5 of boys (18%) have sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves. Around 40% of teens, both girls and boys, admit to sending sexually suggestive messages to others using technology. The trend increases to just under 2/3 when those teens become adults.

Who was surveyed? Participants were between the ages of 13 and 26 years of age. There were a total of 1280 respondents, 653 teens and 627 young adults, who answered the survey questions in the Fall of 2008.

How was it conducted? Online—of course!

Some disturbing findings:

  • Over 20% of girls and just under 40% of boys send these messages to people they WANT to hook up with or date.
  • About 15% of teens sent or posted pictures to someone they ONLY KNEW ONLINE

Don’t they know this is harmful?

  • While ¾ of teens say that sending sexually suggestive content using technology can hav e serious negative consequences, 39% of teens have sent such suggestive emails of text messages and 20% of teens have posted or sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.
  • About 44% of both teens boys and teen girls say it’s common place to share sexually explicit messages with other people once they are received.  They get forwarded and reposted.
  • 36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it’s common place for nude photos to be reposted or shared with others once they are received.

Why do it???

  • To flirt, as a sexy gift to someone, to be funny or make a joke, or because they received them from someone else.
  • 51% of teen girls say they feel pressured by a guy and that’s why they send these messages and photos.
  • Almost a quarter of teen girls and teen boys say they are pressured by friends.

What does this mean for parents and teachers?

  • Be aware– know what your teens are up to on the internet
  • Talk about it– the consequences and the benefits of different actions on the internet.
  • Discuss the rules– the internet is a tool that has power. What rules are set in place to protect your children?
  • Underscore character: It takes responsibility, respect and trust to use the internet. Make sure your children and teens are using their Powerful Words both on and offline.
  • Know who your child is communicating with: Who are your child’s friends on and offline? Don’t know? Find out.
  • Listen: Your children and teens want to talk but they don’t want to be judged.  Listen to their words but also listen to the messages they are saying behind the words.  They may be asking for help or advice.
  • Set your expectations: What are your family values?  What do you expect of your children and teens? Make sure your teens know what you and your family believe is OK on the internet and what isn’t OK. The internet should not be a free for all.
  • Get your teens involved with the 3 dimensional world! Make sure your teens are still doing the things they love with people in the area– drama, martial arts, sports, gymnastics. When teens are busy they are less likely to get into trouble and when they are doing things that make them feel good and worthwhile they are less likely to seek out alternative ways to get attention.
  • Use limitations: If you need to, limit internet access or internet time if your children and teens are abusing their time on the internet. The internet is a privilege that needs to be respected.

Want more information on sexting? Please see my colleague, Vanessa Van Petten’s blog posts on the topic:

To Sext or Not to Sext

Sexting 101 for Parents

Yes, your kid does it too

Happy interneting!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Teens feel Rihanna is at fault for getting beaten by boyfriend, Chris Brown

rihanna allegedly assaulted by boyfriend Chris Brown

Our values and our character have clearly been screwed up.  We’ve got work to do folks, and it may be an uphill battle.  As Powerful Words Member Schools are talking about confidence this month, we have to look at all contributors for their lack of self worth, low self esteem, and lack of regard for women’s bodies on all sides.

Singer Rihanna has been in the news lately because her boyfriend, Chris Brown, (allegedly) assaulted her in February.  Rihanna reported him and admitted to past assaults only to grant him continuance and refrain from issuing a restraint order.  What does this say to our children and teens about relationships? About values? About the importance of body safety?

Well, here it is folks.  In the Boston paper today, the results of a survey tells us that almost half of the Boston teenagers interviewed in a poll by Boston Public Health Commission said pop star Rihanna was responsible for her own beating. Yuck.   Celebrities have to watch what they say and do when it comes to kids. They have influence!

Who? Teens ages 12-19

What?

  • Almost 50% of the 200 teens interviewed felt Rihanna was responsible for the assault
  • 71% claimed that arguing was a normal part of a relationship;
  • 44% claimed that fighting was a routine occurrence in relationships.

The issue? Teens have somehow gotten used to or desensitized to domestic violence.  Perhaps they’ve seen too much “reality” on TV.  Perhaps they’ve been exposed to too much arguing and physical arguing. Perhaps our teen’s values need an overhaul.  Oh boy, more work.

Please give your feedback– it’s time to start some important conversations here.  Don’t wait.  Do it today.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Is Your Teen On the Path to Early Pregnancy? What Research Tells Parents

Parent Alert: What a Recent Study About Teen Pregnancy Reveals


By Dr. Robyn Silverman

It’s not hard to believe. We saw it with Jamie Lynn Spears in the news. We saw it with American Pie (among many others) in the movies. And yes, we see it on TV. A study, published today, found that those teens and preteens who watch a lot of TV programs that feature flirting, necking, obvious sex scenes, and sex talk are much more likely than their peers who do not watch such programs to get pregnant or to get their partner pregnant.

There has been a recent surge of concern over teen pregnancy because after a steady decline over the last few decades, the number is creeping up again. Why is this happening? As we’ve discussed, girls have admitted that they’re feeling pressure to grow up too soon. Sexual messages abound. While TV and sexual content in teen programs can’t entirely be blamed, it seems to be playing a significant role. Parents beware.

The National Institutes of Health reported in July that teen pregnancies rose in the United States from 2005 to 2006 for the first time since 1991.

What was the study? This was the first study to link programs featuring TV sex scenes and TV sex talk to teen pregnancy. Those teens and preteens who watched the most TV featuring sexual content were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy than their peers who watched the least amount of such TV programs.

“Sexual content on television has doubled in the last few years, especially during the period of our research,” (Anita Chandra, lead researcher, Rand Corp)

Who was involved in the study? The researchers surveyed more than 2000 teens between 2001 and 2004 to gather information on their behavior, demographics, and TV viewing habits. Over 700 sexually active preteens and teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old were tracked for 3 years.

“Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy. We found a strong association.” (Anita Chandra, lead researcher)

What were they looking for? They were analyzing how often the teens saw TV characters engaging in sexual conduct or discussing sexual conduct on 23 shows in the 2000-2001 TV watching season.

Where and when was it published? The study is being published today in the well regarded journal of Pediatrics which is the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What were some of the shows watched? Shows fell into the genres of dramas, comedies, reality shows and even animated programs. Among the shows the preteens and teens admitted watching were “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” and “That ’70s Show.” Chandra would not identify the others but stressed that they included

The stats:

Ø About 25 percent of those preteens or teens who watched the most sexually explicit shows were involved in a pregnancy, compared with about 12 percent of those who watched the least.

Ø In the study, 58 of girls reported getting pregnant and 33 boys reported getting a girl pregnant. The risk of pregnancy increased whether or not the teens and preteens watched only 1 or 2 sexually explicit shows or channel surfed many chows that had occasional sexual content

What can parents do?

Ø Educate yourself: Learn about the shows your children and teens are watching.

Ø Limit exposure: Media is everywhere. If you can limit your children’s exposure to sexually explicit media, you’re likely being a help to your children and teens.

Ø Discuss Consequences: Many TV shows don’t do a good job of detailing the consequences of sexual activity. Talk about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other consequences with your kids so they fully understand.

Ø Allow them to ask questions: If you aren’t around to answer, they may get their answers from somewhere else—and they might just be the wrong answers.

What people are saying:

Ø Abstinence Programming: According to Valerie Huber, a representative of the National Abstinence Education Association, “we need to encourage schools to make abstinence-centered programs a priority.” After all, “We have a highly sexualized culture that glamorizes sex.”

Ø More Sex Ed: According to James Wagoner of Advocates for Youth, “This finding underscores the importance of evidence-based sex education that helps young people delay sex and use prevention when they become sexually active. The absolutely last thing we should do in response is bury our heads in the sand and promote failed abstinence-only programs.”

Ø Connection may not be real: According to Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute, “It may be the kids who have an interest in sex watch shows with sexual content. I’m concerned this makes it seem like if we just shut off the TV we’d dramatically reduce the teen pregnancy rate.”

With whom do you agree? What do you think is the answer? Teaching abstinence to teens and preteens? More sex ed in the schools? Shutting off the TV? More conversations at home after watching such shows together? More character education?

Please offer your solutions, concerns, comments, and question below. We want to hear what you have to say!

Parents! Rise in Kiddie Kidney Stones Due to Salty Foods

Attention Parents!

A Rise in Kidney Stones in Children Due to Salty Processed Foods?

Dr. Robyn Silverman


As if we needed another reason not to feed our children processed foods.

We’ve talked about the rise in cholesterol, weight, and now…kidney stones in children.

“I thought older men get kidney stones, not kids,” Mother of 11 year-old Tessa Cesario, aspiring ballerina, who was diagnosed with kidney stones last February

Why kidney stones when you thought that it was a middle-age problem? No surprise here. The high salt content in processed and fast foods is contributing to kidney stones in children as young as 5 or 6 years old. As parents, how can we be responsible?  Are we responsible?

What’s going on? Though much of the research is on adult patients, experts believe that kidney stones in children are due to dietary factors. Kidney stones are crystallizations of several different substances in urine. When these substances become increasingly concentrated, kidney stones form.

Major factors? High salt intake and low fluid intake. These risk factors increase the amount of calcium and oxalate in the urine, the culprits in the formation of 40-65 percent of kidney stones.

Where’s all the salt coming from? Salty foods like chips and French fries as well as common lunchbox stuffers; processed sandwich meats, canned soups, pre-packed meals, and energy drinks like Gatorade.

“What we’ve really seen is an increase in the salt load in children’s diet,” –Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of the pediatric kidney stone clinic and the pediatric urology at the University of Wisconsin

Remember our discussion from Fast Food Flops For Tots? Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids’ meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in SODIUM. And what the salt in these common lunchbox stuffers?

  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Deluxe Turkey and Ham with Swiss and Cheddar, 1 package= 1940 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Pizza Deep Dish Extra Cheesy, 1 package= 1240 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Deep Dish Pepperoni, 1 package= 1250 mg of sodium

*Recommended salt intake for children? Everyone needs some salt– but not a lot!

  • Less than 1g per day from 0-6 month;
  • 1g per day from 7-12 months;
  • 2g per day from 1-3 years;
  • 3g per day from 4-6 years;
  • 5g per day from 7-10 years.

* These are maximum levels– aim for less.

Why the problem with fluid intake? Children aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day—especially not in school. They only drink when thirsty and by that time it may be too little water too late.

    “They don’t want to go to the bathroom at school; they don’t have time, so they drink less,” said Dr. Alicia Neu, medical director of pediatric nephrology and the pediatric stone clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

Any other contributors? Soda. Evidence shows that sucrose, found in sodas, can also increase risk of kidney stones in children. In addition, high-protein weight-loss diets, popular with teens, can also contribute to a higher incidence of kidney stones.

Median Age for Kidney Stones in Children: 10 years old

Possible description? While some have mentioned “obesity” as a possible factor, most doctors admit that children with healthy weights can suffer from kidney stones as well.

    “Of the school-age and adolescent kids we’ve seen, most of them appear to be reasonably fit, active kids,” Dr. Nelson said. “We’re not seeing a parade of overweight Nintendo players.”

    “There’s no question in my mind that it is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic,” Dr. Pope, Nashville

Family History Connection? Yes, 60% of the time. If a child has a family history of kidney stones, it’s very important to recognize their risk, curb high salt consumption, and increase hydration.

How will I know? Children with kidney stones may complain of stomach aches, severe pain in their side or stomachs, feeling sick to their stomach, or even have blood in their urine.

What can I do now? Encourage your children to drink more water both at home and in school. Stay away from processed foods, read the labels on canned soups and look for low sodium varieties or make your own and freeze them in small amounts. Switch soda for more healthful options—some of which are listed here. Get your children on board and teach them the components of a healthful lunch and how to take care of their bodies so that they stay healthy for a long, long time.

What do you think? Do you believe our children are eating too much salt? Is this just the beginning? Are our children’s diets getting worse? Do you have any tips or ideas? Changes you’ve made? Share your story below.


Is the White House Letting Your Kids Get Sick?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

DrRobynsBlog.com

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Perhaps you’re searching your mind—wondering how the American Government is failing it’s people—and you just can’t come up with a thing….so here you go!

Are you drinking contaminated tap water? Probably.

Water with a twist of pechlorate

Water with a twist of perchlorate?

We’ve all heard that doctors take the oath, “First Do No Harm.” The government should be asked to take the same oath. That is, unless you like high levels of perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns, and young children, in your drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been under great pressure from the White House and the Pentagon to refrain from setting a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate. In fact, the document they originally put out by the EPA was heavily edited by government officials who oppose it.

Here’s the truth: “The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at 20 million to 40 million.” —Washington Post (oh goodie, I always loved a little rocket fuel with my tea and honey—the missing ingredient in my cold remedy ?)

Here’s how it happens: Some perchlorate occurs naturally. However, perchlorate contamination in U.S. drinking water isn’t a result of that—it’s a result of poor disposal by rocket test sites, military bases and chemical plants. Unfortunately, it’s also in breast milk and veggies (Can anyone say Erin Brockovitch? We need you!)

Here’s the “problem:” No, not that lots of innocent children, babies, and pregnant women can have lifelong health issues, silly! No, no, no—the problem is that a nationwide clean-up WOULD TAKE MONEY—lots of money! It could cost millions, or BILLIONS, and it’s been rumored that several defense contractors have threatened to sue the defense department to help pay if we need such a clean-up  . (Perhaps you’ve noticed, but the U.S. is already in debt up to our eyeballs and things are getting worse—we need to bail out the thieves on Wall Street–so a little perchlorate is definitely not making the priority list.)

Here’s the REAL problem: The scientific studies suggest that even a small reduction in thyroid function is infants can result in a LOSS OF IQ and increase in BEHAVIORAL and PERCEPTION PROBLEMS. (That’s right—a great way to deal with keeping up with the Chinese– lower American IQ and decrease our ability to focus)

What the experts are saying:

“They have distorted the science to such an extent that they can justify not regulating the chemical…Infants and children will continue to be damaged, and that damage is significant.” “It’s absolutely irreversible,” he said. “Even small changes in thyroid functions early on have impacts on functioning through high school and even into people’s 20s.” –Robert Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts professor, expert in thyroid hormone and brain development. He has a copy of the EPA proposal and has read it thoroughly.

Why it’s really a problem:

The newest EPA proposal suggests that the maximum allowable contamination level is 15X what the EPA suggested in 2002 (very fishy already) was actually heavily edited by…the White House Office of Management and Budget (no doubt serious science experts who have only the health of Americans in mind). “Surprisingly,” they eliminated several KEY PASSAGES and asked the EPA to use a new computer modeling approach to calculate the chemical risks. They also erased references to studies which highlight the danger of the chemical for our children and pregnant women.

This is only the latest example of the Bush Administration EPA being accused of bowing to political and economic concerns, as opposed to taking the advice of its own scientists, when it comes to decisions about environmental — or in this case, human — health. Dan Shapley, The Daily Green

The EPA says: “Science, not the politics of fear in an election year, will drive our final decision.” –Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water

(However, people expect the EPA to shirk responsibility due to governmental pressure.)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says: “Perchlorate has been a serious, persistent and widespread problem which threatens the health of our families, especially our children. For the Bush EPA to walk away from this problem and shrug off this danger is, in my view, unforgivable and immoral.” –Barbara Boxer

My take: The health of Americans– especially our children (future leaders) needs to be made a top priority. Children’s health shouldn’t be factored into a budget like the Wall Street disaster. This is an issue of health and respect for the wellbeing of the American people. Going to the White House Office of Management and Budget for public health advice is as useful as asking a bunch of kindergartners to redecorate your kitchen. Anything that’s done simply causes a bigger mess and a higher cost to fix it.

WHAT DO YOU SAY? Disgusted? Frustrated? Horrified?  Spill it.

Grow up! 5 Ways We’re Treating Our Children Like Adults

Growing up too soon?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silvermen

I’m sensing a very frustrating trend here. Children just can’t seem to be children much anymore. We tell them that we don’t want them to grow up too soon and yet, we’re treating them like little adults! I mean, are we serious? Why not just give them a briefcase and send them off to work too?

Let me take you on a short, but disturbing trip…

Inside, like adults: Remember when our parents would tell us to go outside and play?  As you probably remember, a recent study found that children were being banned from the playground and made to stay inside during the school day due to wearing the wrong shoes, too much messy mulch near the playground, no coat, or talkative or texting teachers who can’t be bothered to supervise. Children need outside play for physical, social, and cognitive development as well as to get in touch with nature (which is vital to help them have a sensitivity and connection to mother earth). So much for imagination…sometimes children just need to get away from plastic, electronics and rubber, don’t you think?

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” says Elena Bodrova at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning

Gym-goers, like adults: On that same topic, the Washington Post just covered a story yesterday that shows that children are now hitting the gym instead of playing outside. Come on. Hitting the gym? What happened to monkey bars, swimming, martial arts and hopscotch? Can you imagine how bored they’ll be by the time they have to make “going to the gym” a habit as an adults? Yawn Yawn. Think it’s not happening all that much? According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, last year, 1.3 million children between the ages of 6 to 11 were members of a health club. Sad.  Just sad.

“It may sound like a grown up routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-sized equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.”

Medicated, like adults: Many of us have been very upset by the news featured in my article “Tots Popping Pills”  that the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommended the adult drug “statins” to “at-risk” children as young as 8 years old in order to lower high cholesterol levels. Besides the fact that this option provides another push-button solution in a fast-paced, sedentary world, there are no long term studies done on the effects of these drugs on children. These children could be on these drugs for the rest of their life…should they be?

“Children’s bodies are very different in how they metabolize or handle drugs…Their livers are different, their kidneys are different. In many cases it’s about the same if they’re taking Tylenol or asthma medication. But for other drugs like statins that might have some impact on their endocrine system, we just really don’t know. I, for one, feel unsafe simply saying children are little adults in this case.” Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine

Waxed, plucked, and primped, like adults: Many Mommies bond with their daughters over a little sparkly pink nail polish. We’re now dealing with a whole new ball of wax…literally. Among some of the most disturbing “grow-up” tactics, is the waxing, plucking, and primping of little girls. The New York Post told us just a month ago that “the newest trend in pre-tween preening is a wax job, with girls as young as 6 years old removing whatever hair they have – or don’t have – from their legs and armpits.’ Squirming in your chairs? Yes, me too.

“In 10 years,” predicts Stawczyk, “waxing children will be like taking them to the dentist or putting braces on their teeth.”

Fed, like adults: Who do these restaurant chains think they’re kidding? They call them “kids meals” but are serving enough for a full grown man. We talked recently about how Fast Food Flops for Tots and the recent study which shows 90% of children’s “kid’s meals” at 13 major fast-food and restaurant chains are too high in calories for kids. We know that fast food can be a lifesaver– especially for families who have a lot of kids— but what are we feeding them? Men’s Health put out a surprisingly good article this month (my husband gets the magazine and showed it to me), written by it’s editor and author of Eat This Not That, about what kids are really being served at their favorite restaurant chains. Just as an example, according to the article, while an active 8 year old boy should eat about 1,600 calories per day, a single kid’s meal of “Chili’s Pepper Pals Country Fried Chicken Crispers with Ranch Dressing and Homestyle Fries” will pack over 70% of his daily calories into one, seemingly innocent kid’s meal (1,110 calories, 82 grams of fat- 15 grams saturated, 56 grams of carbs, and HolyMoly 1,980 mg of sodium). Yum yum.

“An Oscar Mayar Lunchable can have more sugar than four peanut butter cups.

SO…is it really better to be “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son?”

Please weigh in. I’m going to go bang my head against the wall.

Note: This article featured on radio show, Bigg Success 10/10/08 here

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving Up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

In 7th grade, one of my best friends complained that she needed a nose job. “It’s too big!” I thought she was beautiful. But I’ll never forget what she told me; “Every time I look in the mirror, all I see is this nose. Beautiful people have little noses. Have you ever seen a model with a nose like mine?”

Seventh grade was my real induction into the world of “beauty.” Or shall I say, “manufacturing beauty” from natural beauty. Make-up, hair, tanning, shaving (thank goodness we didn’t know much about waxing during the preteen years), clothes and plastic surgery—it became apparent that scuffed up jeans, a t-shirt, and a little dirt on my face was no longer going to cut it. I had been a bit of a tomboy—having 2 older brothers who I wanted desperately to be like—and a tomboy wasn’t the best thing to be once you entered middle school.

We got a bit ridiculous. We’d put on our mother’s make-up and dress up like Madonna. We actually thought we looked good. We’d spend hours looking in the mirror brushing our teeth, pinching non-existent fat and searching for flaws to complain about. We bought trinkets and bobbles and fluorescent purses (mine was pink).

I remember saving up to buy at least 50 of those rubber bracelets—yes, I realize they were simply car parts and vacuum cleaner components now—but we all wanted them. I even remember my friends and myself slathering ourselves with tanning oil and literally lying down on tin foil to get that “natural glow.” Years later I realized that I could use the same procedure to cook shrimp.

As bad as we were, it’s worse these days. How much do girls and women spend on all those products that promises “more beauty than our creator could ever provide?”

It turns out, probably more than we care to know. The YMCA released a report on the Consequences of America’s Beauty Obsession on Women and Girls to illustrate that we’ve been buying into a “Beauty at Any Cost philosophy.

Economic Costs:

  1. 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure in 2007
  2. A survey of young people showed that 69% of responders, 18 or older, are in favor of cosmetic surgery.
  3. ¼ of cosmetic surgery was performed on women of color, up 13% from the previous year.
  4. Workers with “below average looks tended to earn about 9% less money than those with “above average” looks

Beauty or brains?

One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. Five years of beauty products costs $6,423

Health Costs:

  1. 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight
  2. 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight
  3. 37% of women are concerned about what they’re eating
  4. 13% of women actually smoke in order to lose weight!
  5. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in the US
  6. 40% of newly-diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls only 15-19 years old. Symptoms can start as early as kindergarten.
  7. Over ½ of teen girls engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, smoking, and taking laxative

What’s the real cost of all that make-up?

Several ingredients found in US cosmetics have been linked to damage to the liver and reproductive system in animals. Europe has banned these ingredients. The US has not. In fact, in Europe, substances that can be used currently in the US have been called “carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction and should be prohibited from use in cosmetic products.” –European Union Cosmetics Directive, 2003

Happiness Cost

  1. Studies have found that girls who watch TV commercials with underweight models in them lost self confidence and were dissatisfied with their own bodies.
  2. Sexualization of girls have been linked with eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
  3. Aggressive bullying between girls has been on the rise since the 1990s.
  4. Relational aggression, a form of bullying, is related to their roles in culture. Women want to be attractive and men want to have attractive partners.

In a study of women, 80% of interviewed participants said that they competed with other women over physical appearance. These women are driven by an unhealthy belief that winning the looks competition will somehow gain them a husband, “the” career, or the self they desire.

So, should we dare to think about it? How much are we paying for beauty? How much are our children—many of whom are going back to school—going to spend on clothes, make-up, hair, weight loss and skin to ensure that they look “their best?” And how is it that we’ve all been fooled to believe that “our best” means slathering ourselves with manufactured, unnatural products that are made in a factory?

So much for telling children and teens to just be themselves.

Please comment below. We’re really interested in what you have to say.

Fast Food Flops for Tots: Too Many Calories in Kid’s Meals, Study Says

Kids’ Meals are too high in calories, fat, and sodium, study says

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

You probably knew it wasn’t the healthiest option on the block. But when you go into a fast-food restaurant (can we really call them that?), you’re getting a lot more than you bargained for when you order a kid’s meal for little Johnny and Josephine. Way more.

Only one or 2 restaurants coming to mind as the culprits? You’d be surprised…or perhaps the word is…disgusted. In fact, a recent study by the Center for Science and Public Interest suggests that 90% of children’s “kid’s meals” at 13 major fast-food and restaurant chains are too high—way too high—in calories for our little tykes.

Here’s the scoop:

Who did the study? Center for Science and Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit organization.

What were they looking for? The report aimed to investigate the nutritional quality in 13 major restaurant chains.

What did they find?

  • 90% of 13 restaurant chains were too high in calories for our children. The recommended number of calories per meal for children between the ages of 4 and 8 (the majority of kid’s meal eaters) is 430.
  • Half of the children’s meals exceeded the National Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for saturated and trans fat. These fats can raise cholesterol levels in the children (an issue that’s been given a lot of attention lately) and increase heart disease.
  • 86% of kid’s meals are too high in sodium. Again, this is startling because, according to CSPI and recent studies, a quarter of children between the ages of 5 and 10 show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure.
  • Eating out now accounts for 1/3 of children’s DAILY caloric intake—twice the amount consumed away from home only 30 years ago.

In a nut shell… Many kids’ meal combos are too high in calories, fat, and sodium: CSPI found that nearly every possible combination of children’s meals at popular stops such as Chick-fil-A, Sonic, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and KFC are too high in calories. Most of the kids’meals (93 percent) at McDonald’s and Wendy’s are too high in calories, as are the possibilities at Burger King (92 percent), Dairy Queen (89 percent), Arby’s (69 percent), and Denny’s (60 percent—though its kids’ meals don’t include drinks).

Give me some examples, Dr. Robyn:

  • Chili’s Bar and Grill: This popular chain has 700 possible combinations of kids’ meals. Out of those 700, 658 (94%) are too high in calories for the children they aim to serve. One such meal combo, consisting of “country fried chicken crispers,” cinnamon apples and chocolate milk might look harmless but packs a whopping 1020 calories (nearly 2 ½ times the number of calories a child should eat at any one meal)! Another Chili’s combo, made up of cheese pizza, homestyle fries, and lemonade contained 1,000 calories (over 2 times the recommended amount).
  • Burger King: The “Big Kid’s Meal” (How big? An adult?), comprised of a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milk came out to 910 calories. (Since CSPI’s study was completed, Burger King has introduced a calorie-friendly kid’s meal with macaroni and cheese, apple “fries,” and 1 percent milk at 420 calories).
  • Sonic: This chain’s “Wacky Pack” make up of a grilled cheese sandwich, fries, and a slushie (definitely NOT nutritious) packed almost double the recommended number of calories at 830.

Christi Woodworth, a spokeswoman for Sonic, said the chain is looking into adding a variety of healthy side items, and plans to introduce string cheese at 90 calories each in September.

Did anyone come out fairing well? Subway came out on top for it’s kid’s meal combinations. Only 1/3 of their 18 “Fresh Fit for Kids” Meals exceeded the 430 calorie recommendation. These meals consist of a mini-sub, juice box, and one side item like apple slices, raisins, or yogurt, much healthier options than “would you like fries with that?”

The Blame Game:

  • The restaurants say…“exercising parental responsibility is key to childhood nutrition.” [The report] “fails to acknowledge the essential role of nutrition education, physical activity and parental responsibility in childhood nutrition — good eating habits and healthy living must be established in the home.” — The National Restaurant Association, a business group of about 945,000 restaurants and food outlets. They voiced that the said trend in the industry is to provide “more detailed nutritional information and choice in menu options for consumers.”
  • Center for Science and Public Interest says: “Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail. McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner. — CSPI nutrition policy director, Margo G. Wootan, said in a statement.
  • KFC says… [we’re] “proud to offer a variety of kids meals for those looking for lower calorie, lower fat options.” The statement noted that the report’s calculations include baked Cheetos and a biscuit, sides that are no longer offered.
  • Jack in the Box says…that parents do indeed have several healthy options that can select for their children including applesauce and reduced fat milk.

Interesting Fun (Frustrating?) Fact: You may have noticed that six leading restaurant chains — Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGIFriday’s, Outback Steakhouse, and IHOP (International House of Pancakes) — weren’t included in the report. Why not? They don’t disclose nutritional information about their meals, kid’s or otherwise, even when asked, according to CSPI.

CSPI recommends that restaurants…

(1) Revise their menus: How about including options that are lower in calories, trans fat, and salt? CSPI asks that they add more healthy items like fruit, veggies, and whole grains.

(2) Shake up the default: Instead of fries being the “default” items for side dishes, make fruit, veggies take their place. Instead of making “soda” the default drink, replacing it with water and low-fat milk.

(3) Nutrition info front and center: Provide nutrition information on menus and menu boards like New York and San Francisco have already done.

There’s no doubt. It’s certainly frustrating for people to call this stuff “kid’s meals” when they are fit for children. So many fast food and convenient items are just as they say they are—fast and convenient but not often healthy. For the health of our children, if they’re not going to make the change, we have to do it for them.

What are your thoughts on the issue? We’d love to hear from you.

Girls Feel Pressure to Grow Up Too Fast, Study Says

Girls Feel Anxiety about Pressure to Fast-Track Their Development

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Between the magazine articles telling girls to lose weight, glossies telling her that she’ll never measure up , young celebrities withering away along with their clothes, models getting thinner and thinner, and the massive pressures in school and among friends to look the best, a generation of girls are being affected. Poor body image, poor body esteem, mental health issues, and low self worth abound.

Negative messages are everywhere. Even our daughter’s clothes and favorite dolls and toys are getting a boost, a lift, a pout, and a “push” to grow up sooner and sexier than ever before. Some, you just have to wonder, are the retailers kidding?

So who could be surprised that girls are showing some wear and tear from today’s sexualized, body-bashing culture? A recent study out of the UK reveals that the pressure to grow up too soon is one the greatest influences on girls’ well being, according to the girls themselves! The pressure to wear clothes that make them look older, entertain sexual advances from boys, lose weight according to the directions in the media, and even consider plastic surgery to “improve looks” were identified as pressures that were particularly damaging.

One participant explained: “When I was eleven I read a teenage magazine for the first time and that is when it kind of clicked, ‘I should be like this.’”

Here’s the scoop:

Who was studied? Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. Qualitative (descriptive) information was collected through focus groups consisting of 54 girls, divided by age. Quantitative (the numbers and percents) data were collected through polls online, in which 350 girls participated.

By Whom: Girlguiding UK, the Mental Health Foundation, and leading researchers Opinion Leader.

What was studied? The report considers a new generation of potential triggers for mental health problems in girls – premature sexualization, commercialization and alcohol misuse – and also some of the more longstanding issues like bullying and family breakdown. It examines the impact of such factors on girls’ feelings and behavior at home and in their communities, and asks young women themselves what might be done to help.

What did they find?

§ Mental Health Issues: Many girls reported that they had direct experience with friends and people who they knew who were suffering from some kind of mental health problem.

o Two-fifths know someone who has self-harmed

o One third of the girls have a friend who has suffered from an eating disorder

o Half new girls who were suffering from depression

o Almost two in five had friends who had experienced panic attacks.

o Many girls felt strongly that self-harm was within the spectrum of normal teenage behavior – as long as it happened infrequently– and was not necessarily an indication of a mental health issue.

o A sixth of those surveyed often feel angry

o Half admit they find anger hard to manage.

o Around a quarter often worry (28%) and feel like no-one understands them (25%) while around half find both emotions hard to handle.

§ Gotta Have It! Increased pressure to have money for the latest electronics and clothes means pressure for the girls.

o One-in-five girls report feeling anger and sadness

o A quarter of the girls feel worried or bad about themselves.

§ Fodder for Bullies? Girls felt that the growing check-list of “ideals” for young girls was giving bullies additional excuses to single them out – leading to stress, unhappiness and anxiety.

As one girl admitted: “If I get bored then I start becoming really aggressive.”

§ Is my body OK? Media is a major culprit.

o Looking at pictures of models, pop-stars and actresses makes a fifth feel sad, two-fifths feel bad about themselves and 12 per cent feel angry.

o Media stories that portray young people in a bad light make half the girls who took part angry (50 per cent), a quarter worried (23 per cent) and almost two-fifths sad.

· Read the full study: A Generation Under Stress

Study after study is showing that girls are under stress…and duress in their normal, everyday lives. Yet, our culture continues to churn out manufactured, thinned-out celebrities, sexualized play-things, inappropriate clothes, and media to deliver the 1-2 punch.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we provide our girls with positive role models, positive body messages, and positive activities and powerful environments that show them they are so much more than a 2-dimensional object there to be critiqued, criticized, and put-down.

What are your thoughts on this recent study? Any ideas with regard to what to do next? Yes, we need these girls to have a pivotal moment when they know they’re worthwhile—but even more than that—we need to promote positive development in these girls from the start so that this problem is markedly reduced in the first place. Otherwise, we are simply averting our eyes…aren’t we? I mean, how bad does it have to get before we pay attention?

Here’s to Making Our Girls Feel and Become Powerful–

Children’s Physical Activity Level Drops Dramatically in Teen Years, Study Shows

Children’s Activity Level Drops Sharply in Teen Years, Study Shows

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

All you Powerful Parents out there whose older children and teens have the benefit of a great physical curriculum at their Powerful Words Member School, you just might be beating the odds. A long term study, out this week, has shown a sharp decline in children’s activity level between the ages of 9 and 15 years old. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children at age 9 years old averaged about 3 hours of vigorous physical activity (MVPA) while teens, by the time they reached 15 years old, only averaged about 40 minutes of MVPA per weekday and 35 minutes per weekend!

“Lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and its attendant health problems later in life,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Helping American children maintain appropriate activity levels is a major public health goal requiring immediate action.”

Lack of physical activity coupled with poor diet (lots of sugar in food and in drinks, etc.) is a dangerous recipe for poor health!

The Study:

  • Who was studied? More than 1,000 children from ethnically and economically diverse backgrounds. The researchers started to collect information on the activity levels of 9 year olds for four to seven days several years ago. Then they conducted follow up studies on the children when at age 11, 12, and 15 years of age.
  • How? The children’s activity was recorded with an accelerometer, a device that records movement, which the children wore on a belt.
  • When/where will it be published? Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Authors: Philip Nader, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego, along with colleagues.
  • Why is so important? It’s recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines that children and teens engage in at least 60 minutes of MVPA on most or all days.
  • What might be going on? While the study didn’t measure the reasons for the sharp decline, the researchers suggested that schools do, indeed, tend to limit physical activity as children grow into their teens. Recess is not typically part of the school day at that time and many schools do not require physical education either. Further, as sports become more elite and exclusive in school as the children become teens, the average athletes drop out and only the best athletes continue.
  • Interesting Facts:
    • Ages 9-11 years old: More than 90% of the children evaluated met the recommended level of 60 minutes of more of MVPA per day.
    • Age 15: Only 31% met the recommended level of MVPA per weekday and only 17% met the recommended activity level on weekends.
    • Plummeting levels: The researchers suggested that MVPA declined by about 40 minutes per day each year until the age of 15 years when the majority of kids failed to meet the daily recommended level of activity.
    • Gender issues: Researchers found that on average, boys remained more active than girls. Boys tended to spend 18 more minutes per weekday in MVPA than did girls and 13 more minutes per weekend day. Girls dropped below the recommended level of MVPA (at least 60 minutes per weekday) by age 13.1 years in comparison for boys, who did not drop below that level until age 14.7 years. For weekend days, girls dropped below the recommended level of activity at age 12.6 years while boys dropped below the recommended activity level for weekends at 13.4 years.

“When you are younger, it’s much easier to go out and do things spontaneously,” said James A. Griffin, deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the national institutes’ Center for Research for Mothers and Children. “But when you get older, kids tend to play a video game or watch television with their friends. Parents need to be aware to help them balance that out a little better.”

It’s vital that we keep our children and teens active. As schools are not providing or requiring consistent and reliable physical activity, as powerful parents, we must ensure that our children are indeed getting the recommended physical activity they need each day. Children in martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, cheer, dance and other sports can work on their muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density as well as gain self confidence and strength of character through their Powerful Words Member Schools and Activity Centers.

Congratulations, Powerful Parents, for keeping your children committed to their health and beating the averages! Your child’s determination to stay healthy and fit during his or her teen years is more important than ever!