October 2012: Suicide and Your Teen – What You Need to Know!
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age. However, suicide is preventable. Teens who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in the school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority—and are empowered to take the correct actions—we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.
August 2012: Teen Prescription and Over-the-counter Drug Abuse
Teens are abusing some prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high. This includes painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), depressants (e.g., Zanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Dexedrine). Teens are also abusing over-the-counter drugs, such as cough and cold remedies.
Every day 2,500 youth age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice (2008 National Survey).
Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens that wouldn't otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs. Since many people are not aware that prescription drug use is on the rise, some parents may not think to discuss the issue with their kids. However, research shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not! That is why the YourTeen.org staff seeks to raise awareness of this issue and encourage parents to talk to their kids about it.
Why are teens abusing these drugs?
What types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are teens using?
What are the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse?
What can you do to prevent your teen from abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs?
For tips on how to explain to your teen why you don't want him/her using drugs, click here.
For an online article written for teens on prescription drug abuse from KidsHealth.org, click here.
July 2012: A New and Very Dangerous Drug for Teens – "Bath Salts"
"Bath Salts", the newest fad to hit the shelves (virtual and real), is the latest addition to a growing list of items that young people can obtain to get high. The synthetic powder is sold legally online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of names, such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Red Dove," "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Bloom," "Cloud Nine," "Ocean Snow," "Lunar Wave," "Vanilla Sky," "White Lightning," "Scarface," and "Hurricane Charlie."
These so-called bath salts, not to be confused with cleansing products, are an inexpensive, synthetic, super-charged form of speed. The drug consists of a potpourri of constantly changing chemicals, three of which -- mephedrone, MDPV and methylone -- were banned last year by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration was alerted to their presence in 2009 when they showed up in lab tests on substances seized by law enforcement officers in six states. Mephedrone and MDPV are stimulants that act much like Methamphetamine and Cocaine, but produce the added effect of hallucinations. They dramatically increase the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the human brain in two dangerous ways: by pouring more dopamine in as methamphetamine does, and at the same time, like cocaine, trapping both of these chemicals in the brain, so the user doesn't come down. It's a dangerous situation, leading to a high that some drug abuse experts describe as up to 13 times more potent than cocaine. The altered mental status it brings can lead to panic attacks, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations and violent behavior.
"Bath salts" have already been linked to an alarming number of ER visits across the country. Doctors and clinicians at U.S. poison centers have indicated that ingesting or snorting "bath salts" containing synthetic stimulants can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, and delusions. The number of calls to poison centers concerning "bath salts" rose 6,138 in 2011 from 304 in 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. More than 1,000 calls have been made so far in 2012.
Where are they sold?
Bath salts are not hard to find. They can be found on the Internet, in convenience stores, and in smoke shops. They are relatively inexpensive and sell for about $25 to $50 a packet. In Massachusetts, lawmakers are reviewing a bill that was passed by the Senate in February 2012 to ban the possession, manufacturing and sale of bath salts in Massachusetts. The bill will label bath salts as a Class C substance, or a hallucinogen, if passed and signed into law. The charge of possession of a Class C substance, first offense, in Massachusetts results in a one-year license suspension, a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison. Those charged with possession with the intent to distribute Class C face up to 5 years in prison and a minimum $500 fine for the first offense, and a minimum sentence of 2 and a half years for each offense thereafter.
Thus far, thirty-eight states have outlawed the sale and possession of bath salts.
At the federal level, bath salts are currently the subject of a federal bill that would outlaw synthetic marijuana (Spice or K2) and MDPV, mephedrone, and possibly methylone (the main compounds found in the drugs). The bill is sitting at the House for negotiation after passing the Senate in May 2012. Hopefully, there will be a national ban soon.
What Are the Side Effects?
Experts report that the psychotic side effects of these highly addictive bath salts can mirror those of LSD, Ecstasy, PCP, Cocaine, and Meth, and include the following: profuse sweating, dizziness, vomiting, disorientation, aggression, agitation, paranoia, insomnia, hallucinations, intense cravings, seizures, accelerated heart rate, chest pains, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, psychosis, and death.
How Can I Help My Teen?
To learn how to tell if your child is using drugs, click here. For more about adolescent drug use and how to prevent your teen from getting into drugs, visit the YourTeen.org drug page.
June 2012: The Effects of Social Media on Your Teen
Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today's teens. Any Web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life, and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs. Cell phone texting is also often considered "social media", and is a big part of teens' social lives today.
While some research shows that social media can actually help kids who struggle with social situations by enabling them to interact and relate appropriately with their peers when online, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics states, "Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media. Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviors, such as bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation, which have introduced problems such as cyberbullying, privacy issues, and 'sexting.' Other problems that merit awareness include Internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation." For a list of the pros and cons of social media, click here.
The most important action parents can take regarding social media is to stay involved, not only in how their kids are using the technology, but in the technology itself. Just peering over your teen's shoulder to check what is on the computer monitor is not enough. Parents need to understand how social media sites are designed to gather personal information, how to set the most stringent security settings, and how to navigate the sites themselves. For a list of the most common social media sites used by teens, click here.
Additionally, here are four things that parents can do to help ensure the healthy and safe use of social media (including texting on cell phones) by your teens.
- Make rules around social media use just as you have made rules around television viewing.
- What social media sites will you allow your teen to use? What ground rules apply to the use of these websites? For a list of 14 ground rules for Facebooking teens and parents, click here.
- When and where is your teen allowed to use social media? Only on the home computer? On their Smart phone? How are you going to limit their use?
- How can you ensure that your teen's use of social media does not interfere with his/her schoolwork? There is new research that shows that students who switch back and forth between homework and checking social media sites achieve lower grades.
- Talk to your kids about what is appropriate to say and share on social media sites. Online information and images can live forever. Tell your teen not to post any identifying information online. This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name, and anything else that a stranger could use to locate them. Click here for more information on this topic.
- Monitor your teen's safe use of social media. Treat your teen's online activities like you do their offline ones. Ask questions about what they do, who their friends are, and if they have made any new friends. Go online with them and have them show you their personal profiles. Make sure they have stringent privacy settings. Ensure that they make you or an adult family member you trust a "friend" on Facebook and other sites. As your teen gets older, you will likely want to allow him/her more privacy in terms of participating on blogs without having you see all of their posts. If you have spent the time with them upfront on the proper use and improper use of social media, this should not present a problem.
- Keep up on the research of the effects of social media on teens. New research is emerging that links the use of social media by teens to poor academic achievement and psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, a 2011 survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teens that spend time on social media sites are more likely to smoke, drink, and do drugs than teens that do not use social media.
March 2012: What the Increase in Teen Marijuana Use Means to You and Your Teen
Despite decreases in cigarette smoking and alcohol use, marijuana use is on the rise. In 2010, one in four Metrowest high school students (24%) were current marijuana users compared with 20% in 2006. Other points to note from the 2010 Metrowest Adolescent Health Survey include:
- Current marijuana use increases by grade from 11% in 9th grade to 35% in 12th grade.
- From 2006 to 2010, the proportion of Metrowest 7th and 8th graders who have tried marijuana in their lifetime remained steady at 4‐5%.
Equally troublesome is that the 2010 Metrowest survey results showed that 41% of 8th graders, 69% of 10th graders, and 82% of 12th graders reported marijuana as being fairly or very easy to get.
As a parent of a teen, you should take the time to learn the following:
- Teen marijuana use can result in damage to the brain. Click here to learn more.
- What marijuana is, its common street names, and how it is used. Click here.
- Tips for talking to your teen about marijuana and its potential harmful effects. Click here for a brochure for parents from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For a brief activity that you can do with your teen on the topic of marijuana, click here.
- Signs and symptoms of teen drinking and drug use. How can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol? Click here to find out.
November 2011: Your Teens and the Holidays: Are You Ready?
The holidays are stressful times for everyone. Our already busy lives become even busier with the added responsibilities of preparations for holiday festivities. Whether you are planning to have your college teen back for winter break or figuring out how to share kid time with your ex-spouse, take some time to think through the scenarios and plan some strategies for success. Below are links to articles that provide advice and guidance on these topics.
July 2011: Transitioning to College: A Big Step for You and Your Teen!
Leaving for college is a major transition for both the teenager and the entire family. The transition to college, no matter how exciting, can also bring up feelings of sadness, loss, and concern to parents and children. New York University's Child Study Center found that the number of first-year college students who report feeling "frequently overwhelmed" has doubled since 1985. Your teen needs your help and support to make a successful transition into the college environment. For tips on preparing your adolescent for college, click here.
For a comparison of the demands on teens in high school versus college, click here.
For information to facilitate conversations with your teen about
alcohol and drug use in college, click here.
June 2011: What to Do with Your Teen this Summer?
Summer is upon us and while we may be excited about the warm weather, swimming, and suntans, some of us may have an underlying anxiety about the fact that our teens will be home with us all day – every day! Making a summer plan for your teen is a great way to ensure that both of you stay happy and out of trouble. Think of summer as an opportunity to connect with your teen while they are still under your roof and to help your teen do something constructive to prepare for the next school year or college. A little planning will result in a more pleasant family dynamic. The National Institutes of Health recently put together a presentation for parents on this issue with ideas on what opportunities are available for teens over the summer. To view the PowerPoint presentation, click here. For information on how to apply for a teen work permit as well as other useful tips, view the MA Attorney General's Guide for Working Teens.
May 2011: Next Stop – Adulthood: Tips for Handling Your Teen’s Transition from Teen to Young Adult.
Becoming a young adult is exciting, difficult, and scary for both parents and teens. It is a time of increasing independence and change, no matter what the situation. Whether your teen is moving on to college, just moving out, or starting a job, these tips can help make your teen’s transition to adulthood as successful as possible.
Source: Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
April 2011: Teen Parties: Tips on what to Do whether You Are the Host or not!
As a parent, you know the importance of your teen's social life and that parties are a way to socialize and relax. But an unsupervised or poorly planned party can result in unwanted or even tragic consequences. Parental responsibility is the key to a fun and safe party. Parents who host teen parties should be aware of their liability should teens sneak in alcohol. Saying that you did not allow the alcohol is not enough to protect you, especially if you let these teens drive home and they cause an accident. Take the time to learn about your liabilities when hosting teen parties. For more information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Parents' Guide to Teen Parties.
Source: A Parent's Guide to Teen Parties (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
March 2011: Ways to Build Your Teenager’s Self-esteem.
Often without thinking about it, parents fortify their teens’ self-esteem every day, whether it’s by complimenting them on a job well done, kissing them good-bye (assuming they still allow it) or disciplining them for breaking a rule. But all of us have days when we inadvertently bruise children’s egos or simply miss an opening to make them feel good about themselves.
Here are some easy ways to help instill self-esteem.
Source: Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
Websites that offer parenting tips
For a list of local resources including adolescent medical services, mental health counseling, substance abuse, violence, grief, suicide, and after-school programs for teens, click here.