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

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Planning a Summer Family Vacation? Read This First!

family vacation

Family Vacation Tips

How to De-stress and Have Family Fun While Traveling with Children and Teens

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Family fun or family bummed? “I’m dreading our drive out to Orlando this year,” said Jane, mother of 14-year-old Katie Ann, 8-year-old Kayla and 5-year-old Kevin, at our monthly parenting coaching group.  “We haven’t even left yet and I can already hear the cacophony of ‘Are we there yet?’ ringing in my head. The last time we did this, Kayla threw her shoes out the window and Kevin told me I was the worst mommy ever because he was so bored. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves!”

Many families will be making the trek somewhere fun for summer vacation this year.  Perhaps it’ll just be you and the kids– perhaps you’ll be bringing the grandparents along as well. While the trip can be exciting, it can also be potentially stressful.  After all, you’re leaving the comforts of home and throwing your typical routine out the window.  That, coupled with the cramped quarters of the long car ride or the hustle and bustle of a chaotic airport can be a source of uneasiness. While you may not be able to forecast every need in advance or ensure everyone’s happy mood at all times, you can take steps to reduce the hassles.  However, you must be prepared:

(1) Pack for what may go awry: Nobody wants their children getting sunburned, bruised or sick while on vacation.  A little forethought and smart packing can go a long way.  What does your child need when he or she feels tired or sick? What does your daughter need if she gets her period? Ensuring that you have aloe for burns, Band-Aids® for cuts and a special pillow for someone who may get carsick is essential for everyone’s sanity and comfort.

(2) Brainstorm travel games before leaving: There are infinite travel games for planes or long car ride, but we can’t always think of them on the spot.  Brainstorm and research them before you leave.  Games like I Spy, Padiddle (spotting a car with one headlight) and Alphabet can eat up time and don’t require props.  Activities like crosswords, MadLibs™ and “Where’s Waldo” take more preparation and a trip to the bookstore before you leave.  Making sure you have what you need to entertain the troops is vital for a relaxing trip.

(3) Plan stops along the way: While you may just want to get to your destination as quickly as possible, planning scheduled stops during a long drive can reduce stress and provide excitement.  It doesn’t have to break the budget— just give everyone a break! Are you passing an old friend’s town? A national monument? A well-reviewed children’s restaurant? These are great places to get out, stretch your legs, and break up the trip. Some parents who don’t want to take too much time for lunch program a phone number for a kid-friendly deli into their phone and call from the road.  When they reach the restaurant, their food is waiting.  Now that’s fast food.

(4) Create a bonding experience: Many kids have trouble opening up to their parents during face-to-face talks.  In the car, sitting side by side, conversation comes more easily.  Communication games can get things started.  Games like “Share One Thing,” in which someone picks a topic and everyone shares a response to it, can lead to  wonderful stories.  For example, “share one thing that made you laugh this week” can kick things off.  You can also use Sentence Stems like “if I won the lottery I would…”.When conversation is a “side bar” rather than a main event, it feels easier and breezier for everyone.

(5) Get innovative but remember the classics: Classic toys and activities like cards and crayons can provide great entertainment on a long trip.  Try Legos® or dolls to dress up. Handheld games work wonders as well. You can also think outside the box.  Wrap small presents before leaving and let your children open one per hour.  Give your children dry erase markers (which wipe off easily) to decorate the windows.  If all else fails, a portable DVD player will go a long way. Just remember to provide earphones so you can get some peace and quiet during the movie!

(6) Bring snacks: Hungry family members make any trip unpleasant.  Be sure to bring orange segments, carrot sticks, granola bars, and raisins.  And yes, you should probably have some “fun snacks” as well such as a few of your children’s favorite cookies or miniature chocolate bars.  Juice boxes and small bottles of water are easy to pack and carry in small bags.  To keep the sugar factor down, bring a sippy cup or thermos and mix water and juice together to dilute the potency. 

(7) Think Clean and Comfortable: We want our children to be clean and comfortable, but things like food, juice, markers and crayons can lead to big messes. Bring an extra change of clothes for those who are bound to get dirty, and don’t forget wipes and tissues. Make sure your children wear comfortable shoes and take an extra pair in case the ones they are wearing are giving them blisters.   Ask everyone to bring an extra light jacket or sweater in case they get chilly in the car or on the plane. 

We all know what they say about “an ounce of prevention.”  When we ensure that our family is organized and prepared, we can focus on the best parts of the trip—having a great time, enjoying each other’s company and making wonderful memories!  Whether you’re going away or staying close to home, we hope your next family vacation is filled with family fun.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Diet Doping: The Scary Link Between Body Image and Drugs

scaleDiet Doping: Getting Thin at any Cost

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For many girls and women, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life.  Dieting has become normal.  Complaining about weight is a social expectation.  And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, acceptable.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that a whopping 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight even though 67% were in the healthy weight range. What does that tell us?  The healthy weight range is not perceived as thin enough.  Hollywood hard bodies and Vogue model legs and abs are what we’re striving for.  No, it’s not often linked to health, it’s linked to looks.

Often, when attempting to lose weight, young girls subscribe to unhealthy practices such as quick fad diets or acts of purging including vomiting and laxative abuse instead of using a healthy regiment of exercise and maintenance of a balances diet.  Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– what’s going to make them thin NOW- not what’s going to make them healthiest in the long run.  In doing so, they turn to what IS NOT healthy.  In fact, in the poll, 10% of respondents to the poll owned up to taking stimulants like cocaine and speed, 26% said they were abusing diet pills or laxatives and one in 5 admitted to suffering form eating disorders. What’s healthy about that? It’s a practice I like to call “diet doping” and I’ll be talking about it in my upcoming book coming out in 2010.

Think it’s only the caucasian girls?  Nope.  The intense pressure to diet has amazing cross over affects.  Studies over the last 25 years have shown that rate of these subclinical eating practices, dieting and purging, and diet doping are increasing among all social and ethnic classes.

It’s very important that we begin conversations with our girls early about what it truly means to be healthy.  In doing so, we must also commit to being healthy ourselves and refrain from criticizing ourselves, using destructive methods to lose weight, or applauding others who lose weight at all costs as being “disciplined” and “healthy.”  Let’s get back to basics. I mean, remember when healthy meant having good balanced nutrition, energy, good support and well managed stress?  Let’s go back to that. Who’s with me?

Be healthy together– I know many of you already are. All you Powerful Parents out there whose families are engaging in being healthy by attending your Powerful Words Member School are showing your kids YOUR definition of healthy. Doing fun extracurriculars, being around positive people, talking about the link between your character and your physical health– you should all be applauded for taking these positive steps. Keep it going!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

10 Things You Must Know When Traveling with Children

Children and traveling

Traveling with Kids? Be Prepared!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

NOTE: Would you please vote for Dr. Robyn’s Blog for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

Getting ready to go to Grandma’s for the holidays?  Heading out for a long car ride? Plane ride? Don’t stress. Just be prepared.

It’s amazing that our parents were able to take us on trips without a zillion electronic gadgets.  No Ipods, DVD players, hand held games, or cell phones. Well, it’s a new world.  We need to make sure that everyone is occupied if it’s going to be a pleasant trip.

Whether you’re taking a GrandVacation with the grandparents or simply going on a long car ride to visit Aunt Patti in Mobile, be prepared with:

(1) Location games to play: I-spy, Padiddle (pointing out a car with one headlight), counting games, the alphabet game (saying destinations by going through the alphabet, A my name is Alice…), looking for specific letters on license plates, locating one car from every states.  The number of games is endless.  Brainstorm these games in advance so you’re not trying to remember them while on the road.

(2) Communication games to play: The car is one of the best places to talk to your children and teens.  The side by side nature of travel makes talking less uncomfortable.  You can simply tell stories and ask questions but you can also play games that inspire communication like  Finish the sentence (If I had a million dollars I would…) and Everyone answers (Name one thing that made you laugh today, name one thing you’re worried about).

(3) Sleepy, bored campers must be comfortable: Have someone who gets sick in the car? Tired on planes? Make sure they have a comfy blanket, pillow, and their favorite stuffed toy, if they need it.  Go over exactly what needs to be packed and make sure the children check everything off before they leave. This is a great time for children to learn how to pack their own suitcase (even if you look everything over) for the trip. We want them to have what they need! Fussy, crabby, sleep-deprived teens or children are not fun to be around!  Even if it’s something extra for them to carry (get portable sizes), be sure they have what they need to sleep it off. Other things to pack in your carry on bag here.

(4) Songs to Sing: Many children love to sing in the car. You might think that you can go with the old standbys like 99 bottles but after you get about 4 measures in you’ll see that it wasn’t the best choice.  Be prepared with short songs that your children like to sing like “wheels on the bus,” “It’s a hard knock life,” “The Circle Game,” or “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  You can even print out the words so that one of the adults can lead the singing and actually know the words that are supposed to be sung.

(5) Mechanical back-up: If you’re going to be in the car, trailer, or plane for over8-10 hours, you may want to have a portable DVD player available as a reward for children who’ve been sitting still all day.  Get a movie that all your children can enjoy.  You can give them earphones so that they can listen while you get some moments of peace and quiet.  You can also bring along Ipods, hand held games, and leap frog systems.  Make sure that you don’t bring loud games.  They’ll drive you crazy.

(6) Snacks! Troops get hungry: Make sure you have healthy snacks like carrot sticks, celery sticks, orange segments, and raisins ready to go.  You can also bring along other snacks like crackers, cookies, and fruit roll-ups.  Also ensure that you have juice boxes and water. No trip is fun when people are hungry or thirsty.

(7) Wipes! People get messy: Children who eat in the car or on the plane get messy.  Bring along wipes. tissues, and a sense of humor.

(8) Maps to know where you’re heading: Make sure your children know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing so that they get excited and mentally prepared. You also need maps to ensure that you know where you’re going, the locations of favorite kid friendly restaurants, sites you might want to see, and places where you can meet friends who you haven’t seen in a long time.  Stops give the children and teens time to stretch their legs and break up the day if you’re driving int he car.  If you’re flying, maps are fun ways to learn about the places where you’re going as well as the places you’re flying over!

(9) Labels so things don’t get lost: Make sure that you label your suitcases well.  Everyone has a black suitcase, so if you have the option, get another color.  Label special toys and blankets so that if they get lost there is a chance they’ll come back to you.

(10) Stranger danger and ground rules: We don’t want our children and teens to be frightened when we go away but we do want them to be smart.  Go over what you expect and talk to them about staying safe while in an airport, rest stop, or other place away from home.  Call a family meeting and talk about the different rules we need to follow, buddy systems you need to have, and things to expect.  Getting it all out in the open before you leave with ease the way for everyone.

In the end, it’s just important to have a good time– so leave the stress at home and enjoy! It’s time to make memories!

Happy Holidays everyone!

NOTE: Would you please vote for Dr. Robyn’s Blog for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Health Risk! Kids Watching Lots of TV and Playing with the Computer?

children-and-tv

Just a few more reasons to turn off (or at least limit) the TV

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A study has been released that shows that children who watch a lot of TV, play a lot of video games, and spend a lot of time surfing the web are more likely to be in for lots of health problems and compromising behaviors. Namely, obesity, smoking, and early sexual activity.

Who studied it? Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Yale University and the California Pacific Medical Center worked together on this large-scale study.

What did they study? Sifting through 173 studies since 1980, these researchers analyzed how exposure to different media sources impacts the physical health of children and adolescents. This was one of the largest assessments in this area done to date.

What did they look at? These (mainly U.S.) studies, typically largely on TV. However, some also looked at the impact of video games, films, music, and computer and Internet use. Of these, 75% found that increased media viewing was correlated with negative health outcomes for children.

What was the major finding? Young people who are exposed to more media are more likely to become obese, start smoking and begin earlier sexual activity than their peers who spend less time in front of a screen. They also found statistical correlations with high media exposure and low academic achievement, drug use, and alcohol use.

“The fact that it was probably more a matter of quantity than actual content is also a concern. We have a media-saturated life right now in the 21st century. And reducing the number of hours of exposure is going to be a big issue.” — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, NIH bioethicist

What’s this about early sexual activity and media exposure? In the study, a whopping 13 of 14 studies that evaluated sexual behavior in young people found an association between media exposure and earlier initiation of sexual behavior.

You may remember the recent RAND study that showed that teens who watch more sexually themed TV are more likely to have a higher risk of teen pregnancy.

What’s this about obesity and media exposure? There have been connections between obesity and media previously—we’ve heard explanations such as children tending to mindlessly eat (and eat high calorie food) in front of the TV. We’ve heard that children who are watching a lot of TV also are not outside running around or participating in some kind of physical activity. One study cited in this report found that children who spent more than eight hours watching TV per week at age 3 were more likely to be obese at 7 than their peers who watched less than 8 hours of TV per week. Research also shows that many U.S. children, even those at toddler age, watch far more than children elsewhere and far more than is recommended.

Let’s also not forget, that a lot of the hyper-sexualized (ultra-thin) media exposure has been linked to poor body image and pressure to grow up too fast in children and teens as well.

“The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age,” –Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, financer of the study.

SO, what do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Steyer? Is there another problem here? Speak your mind!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

picture: Jupiter

Letters about My Helicopter Parents: Part 2

helicopter parentDr. Robyn Silverman

We’re continuing our discussion about helicopter parents, overprotective parents who won’t let go and hover over the heads of their children, heading off potential challenge/risk or taking over their responsibilities even as they enter their teens and adult years. This is part 2– part 1 is here.

The questions for today are, how can we help parents to take a step back and allow children in their 20s to grow up and be self-reliant?  Should we? Are adult children in their 20s too young to “go it alone” in today’s world? Do you think parents are having a problem “backing off” these days and allowing children to make mistakes and take risks?  As a parent, how have you approached the “letting go” process? Are you helpful or a helicopter?

________________________________________________________________________

Letter from 20-something, T.O

Hello I know the feeling and everything you say about these helicopter parents. I have two. But why is my mom…an Extremely Over Protective Parent, does she have the right to control my life? I thought we are all consider adults at 18 years old? I am now in my late 20’s.! I don’t know what to do anymore!!! She treats me and my older sister (who is in her early 30’s) like we’re 10 years old…!!
PLEASE HELP Its DRIVING ME UP THE WALL!!!! (T.O.)

Dr. Robyn responds:

Hello T.O.

I can tell that you’re very frustrated with your parents right now. They clearly care about you. Have you talked to them, in a very adult manner, about your concerns, wants, and needs As an adult? Do you live very close by? Do you have healthy boundaries with you parents?

As an adult, it’s very important that you talk to your parents and tell them how you feel and what you’d think would be healthier in your parent-adult child relationship. Be specific. Sometimes, when people don’t move away from home (for college or otherwise), there is a lack of shift in the relationship from between childhood and adulthood.

It’s past time. It may be a difficult conversation, but after all, you’re an adult, and you can handle it!

Certainly, be kind to your parents. The more adult, grateful, and kind you can be, the more they will see you as the independent adult you long to be.

Best regards,
Dr. Robyn

______________________________________________________________

Please provide with your comments and feedback for T.O and whomever else might be wondering what to do in similar circumstances.  Do you have helicopter parents?  Have you been able to overcome their over-protectiveness?  How?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Letters to their Helicopter Parents from their Kids: 1st of Series

child writing to his helicopter parents

Dear Dr. Robyn: Letters about My Helicopter Parents

Dr. Robyn Silverman

This week, we’re concentrating on Helicopter Parents because of the number of questions and letters I’ve received on the topic lately from our readers. The letters in this series are all taken from the comments section of one of my most popular articles; “Overprotective Parents: Helpful of Harmful?”

Again, Helicopter Parents are mothers and fathers who hover closely over their children and swoop down to do things for their children (whether their sons and daughters want the help or not) to make things easier for their children, take away pain, or alleviate stress (even when it’s part of normal development and the experience of growing up).

It’s clear that we only want the best for our daughters and sons—at any age. Of course we do! However, it’s vital that as parents we don’t alienate our children or frustrate them into a frenzy because we want to love and protect them. There is a letting go process that we must allow so that children can stand on their own two feet and grow up to be responsible adults.

In the letters this week, you will see that these young adults and teen don’t know what to do but they are certainly fed up with being treated like children. Are you feeling the same way? Or are you the parent of a teen or young adult who you are scared to let go? Either way, please read below and comment. We need to talk about this if we’re going to get anywhere.

Featured Letter #1

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Reading this article (and others like it) has led me to believe that I am actually a child of so-called “helicopter parents”.

Honestly, debilitating is a good word for it. Annoying too. I mean, I’ve actually BEGGED my parents to let me do my own laundry, but was denied because “you cant cuz everyone’s laundry is done at once” blah blah blah. I could just do the whole load was my answer and to that I get “e-eh–nawww, thats not a good Idea!” ….

As you’ll see from my site, I’m an artist, and I actually think the reason I AM is because I gained a sense of freedom from it. How I found this site was cuz I NOW feel like my parents have took THAT away from me cuz for some reason they have a giant wall devoted to my artwork now….so it feels like its something they ENCOURAGED me to do….GAHH! I wan out of this house!!!

so yeah, I agree, debilitating is a good word for it

Dr. Robyn’s answer to Rob:

Hello Rob-

First, I’ve checked out your site and can see you are a very talented person! Congrats on your great work and finding your passion.

It can be frustrating when parents want to do so much. I can hear from what you’re saying, that they clearly love you and care for you– but you are feeling smothered.

Sometimes, we just throw up our hands and say “forget it” and cave in. However, other times, we need to take more action. Remember- The only person’s behavior you are in control of is your own.

You may want to call a meeting with you and your parents and express your feelings there. NICELY. Talk about how appreciative you are of their interest and their love, but you would like to do some things that make you feel more like a responsible man rather than a child….and here are a few things you would like to do– and then discuss them. They may not fully understand why you feel you want to do the laundry– or why you want to do other things similar to that. If you clearly and nicely tell them how you’re feeling and what you would like to do, they may just open their minds.

Because we aren’t in control of other people’s behaviors, you could make some changes on your own– for example, if your parents won’t let you do your laundry in your house, take it to a laundry facility and do it there. However, I would take the “talking approach” first– sitting down with your parents and having a responsible, clear conversation– before doing this type of thing because it could come off as passive aggressive otherwise.

Hmmm. As far as the art goes– I don’t know that you’ll win that debate. The reason why? They’re proud of you. They may do it in an over-the-top way but many parents don’t acknowledge their children talents at all so at least in that sense, if you step back for a minute, you’ll see that you’re lucky. I hear you that it’s annoying– but I probably wouldn’t fight for less “pride” when it comes to your art work, and instead, focus on the other things that are bothering you when you speak to your parents. It seems that the “art wall” is really just adding fuel to the fire– but not what’s causing the fire itself. Make sense?

Let us know when you do it. Remember, these are people who love you– so be gentle but firm. Tell them what you would like to do to help you grow up into the responsible man you want to be– be clear about what you want– and appreciative and grateful for how they’ve helped you.

Good luck-
Dr. Robyn

Any other advice for Rob? Please comment below with your own questions, stories, or 2 cents.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

–clipart from Jupiter images