Friday, October 31, 2008

Sue Scheff: Gay Harassment

“People would push me into lockers or trip me in the hallways or throw rocks at me inside the school or throw trash at me.”

– Josh, 15 years old

Fifteen-year-old Josh is gay. He’s so afraid of bullies that he’s asked us not to show his face or reveal his full name.

“People would push me into lockers or trip me in the hallways or throw rocks at me inside the school or throw trash at me,” he recalls.

Josh is not alone. According to a report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nine out of 10 gay teenagers are harassed at school.

Josh was and that’s why he decided to tell his parents the truth.

“I’m gay,” he told them. “I’m getting harassed. I’m very scared in school right now—please make it stop.”

Marnie Lynch, Josh’s mom, says, “I don’t know that I can even describe the pain that I felt.”

Josh’s parents felt hurt, angry and scared.

“What my worst fear was, is that yes, he could be brutally beaten or killed because of his sexual orientation,” Lynch says.

But experts say there are ways to prevent violence against gay and lesbian students.

“It’s very important that all youth who are being harassed let the (school) administration know about it somehow, whether it’s through their parents or going directly to the administrator, or telling a teacher about it,” says Steve Epstein, a counselor who works with gay teens.

Epstein says that Josh’s parents did the right thing. They demanded action from the school’s principal and soon afterwards, the bullying ended.

“You should be able to do and be whomever you want to be,” Josh says, “and not have to endure harassment and pain and struggles from other people.”

Tips for Parents

Sexual orientation in adolescents has previously been linked to increased rate of victimization. Previous studies have found that those students who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual had a disproportionate risk for problem behaviors, including suicide and victimization. A study by Penn State found that risk is even greater when those kids feel rejected at school.

The recent survey showed that homosexual adolescents were nearly twice as likely as straight adolescents to report a history of violent attacks and witnessing violence. In addition, gay and lesbian youth were reported to be 2.5 times more likely to report that they had taken part in violence themselves. Bisexual adolescents reported no increased levels of perpetrating violence, but were more likely than heterosexual adolescents to report witnessing violence or being victimized.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) cautions parents that “gay and lesbian teens can become depressed, socially isolated, withdrawn from activities and friends, have trouble concentrating, and develop low self-esteem. They may also develop depression.” It is important for parents of gay and lesbian teens to understand their teen’s sexual orientation and provide support. The AACAP encourages parents and family members to seek understanding and support from organizations such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The American Psychological Association provides these tips for teens who fear they may be a target of violence:

Above all, be safe. Don’t spend time alone with people who show warning signs of violence, such as those with a history of frequent physical fights, and those who have announced threats or plans for hurting others.

Tell someone you trust and respect about your concerns and ask for help ( a family member, guidance counselor, teacher, school physiologist, coach, clergy, or friend).

Get someone to protect you. Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychological Association
American Public Health Association
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Penn State University

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sue Scheff: ADHD School Behavior

How teachers and parents can inspire better ADHD school behavior with help from these impulse-controlling exercises for children with attention-deficit.

The problem: The student with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) interrupts the teacher and classmates by calling out answers or commenting while others are speaking.

The reason: Children with ADHD have difficulty controlling their impulses. Scientists believe that a problem with dopamine, a brain chemical, causes them to respond immediately and reflexively to their environment — whether the stimulus is a question, an idea, or a treat. That’s why they often seem to act or talk before thinking, and ADHD school behavior suffers as a result.
The obstacles: Children with ADHD may not be aware that they are interrupting.

Even if they are, they have difficulty understanding that their behavior is disturbing or disruptive to others.Simply telling them their behavior is wrong doesn’t help. Even though they know this, their impulsivity overrides their self-control. Many ADHD children can’t understand nonverbal reprimands, like frowning, either.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sue Scheff: Connect with Kids - Parenting DVD's

At Connect with Kids, our single aim is to help parents and educators help children. Each week we gather the freshest information from experts at universities, research organizations, hospitals, child advocacy groups and parents and kids themselves. We present that information in video news and feature stories that are understandable, compelling and useful.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sue Scheff: Safe Teen Driving Club

Are you a parent of a new teenage driver or is your teen about to take the wheel? Be an educated parent - learn more here on this valuable website promoting Safe Teen Driving!

Our mission is to educate parents and provide them services they can use to keep their teen safe and alive while driving. It's pretty well known that driving crashes are the #1 cause of teen injury and death, taking a back seat to suicide, homocide, drugs, alcohol and all other causes.Feel free to visit our site at, or our blog at

You'll find safety tips, information on our Crash Free America educational program for parents and services and products that are proven to reduce the chances of a crash with your teen.
You can also see a short video about the Club and other media coverage at

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sue Scheff - Cyberbullying

“I’d block them, but then they’d have another screen name and they’d be like ‘you’re a whore, you can’t get away from this’… It would just bring me to tears and I would cry because I couldn’t get away from it as much as I tried.”

– Erica Bryant, 18 years old

Everyday at school, Erica Bryant was harassed. “They’d call me a slut, call me a whore.”

The bullying became too much, so her parents decided to have her home schooled.

“So, sure, a huge part of the problem was resolved in that she didn’t have to face that trauma everyday, she didn’t have to sit in the lunchroom by herself,” explains her mom, Linda Perloff, “but what we didn’t expect was the power of the Internet …we didn’t expect the instant messaging.”

Erica explains her frustration: “I’d block them, but then they’d have another screen name and they’d be like ‘you’re a whore, you can’t get away from this. It would just bring me to tears and I would cry because I couldn’t get away from it, as much as I tried.”

Experts say cyber bullying can be even more painful and pervasive than face-to-face harassment.

“You can never really get away from it,” explains pediatrician Dr. Ken Haller, “because even if you’re not on the Internet checking out what people are saying about you, other people are.”

But, experts say, there are ways to minimize attacks online.

First, make sure your child doesn’t post anything revealing.

“If they’re thinking, I’m just putting this out there for my friends to read, they don’t realize that anyone can pick this up and someone who might be a potential bully would say, ‘Ah! I’m going to use this. This is great’,” says Haller.

Experts say if the cyber bullying doesn’t stop- print the messages out and show them to the bully’s parents. If the messages are threatening, go to the police.

“I always encourage parents to talk to your local law enforcement agency and run it by them,” says Judy Freeman, a school social worker. “Many times they say, ‘well, we really can’t do anything,’ but if it’s - if it borders onto harassment or if there’s some threat involved, they will become involved.”

Erica is now in a new school. The harassment has stopped- at least for her.

“If I see it happen to other girls I’m not going to sit by and watch,” she says. “I’m going to get involved and put an end to it.”

Tips for Parents

Bullying in America has become an epidemic. In fact, with the advent of the Internet, bullies don’t even have to have physical contact with your child to torment him/her. Thus, parents are faced with the monumental task of monitoring the activities of children in a world of virtually unlimited sources of information. Although many parents attempt to regulate the access of their children to the Internet, that access is, in fact, nearly ubiquitous. Consider these facts regarding children, technology and the Internet:

Children are increasingly using new technologies in school, at the library, at home and in after-school activities.

A recent study estimated that nearly 10 million children are online.

Over one quarter of U.S. classrooms have Internet access, and 78 percent of schools have some kind of access to the Internet.

Two out of three public libraries provide computers and Internet access for public use.
Because bullying – including online bullying – can be such an emotional issue, experts say it is extremely important to open the lines of communication with your kids. This can include …

Starting to talk with them early.
Initiating conversations.
Creating an open environment.
Communicating your values.
Listening to your child.
Trying to be honest.
Being patient.
Sharing your experiences.

Also, watch for behavioral changes. Children who are suffering from teasing and bullying may try to hide the hurt. They become withdrawn from family and friends, lose interest in hobbies, and may turn to destructive habits like alcohol, drugs, and acts of violence.

While bullying, harassment and teasing are unfortunate aspects of childhood, you can help minimize these occurrences by raising non-violent children. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites the following tips for curbing hurtful behavior in your child:

Give your child consistent love and attention. Every child needs a strong, loving relationship with a parent or other adult to feel safe and secure and to develop a sense of trust. Without a steady bond to a caring adult, a child is at risk for becoming hostile, difficult and hard to manage.

Make sure your child is supervised. A child depends on his or her parents and family members for encouragement, protection and support as he or she learns to think for him or herself.
Without proper supervision, your child will not receive the guidance he or she needs. Studies report that unsupervised children often have behavior problems.

Monitor your child’s Internet use. If your child knows you are watching, he/she is less likely to take part in cyber-bullying. Also, encourage him/her to avoid using chat rooms with violent or derogatory conversations.

Show your child appropriate behaviors by the way you act. Children often learn by example. The behavior, values and attitudes of parents and siblings have a strong influence on them. Be firm with your child about the possible dangers of violent behavior and language. Also, remember to praise your child when he or she solves problems constructively without violence.

Be consistent about rules and discipline. When you make a rule, stick to it. Your child needs structure with clear expectations for his or her behavior. Setting rules and then not enforcing them is confusing and sets up your child to “see what he or she can get away with.”

Try to keep your child from seeing violence in the home or community. Violence in the home can be frightening and harmful to children. A child who has seen violence at home does not always become violent, but he or she may be more likely to try to resolve conflicts with violence.

Try to keep your child from seeing too much violence in the media. Watching a lot of violence on television, in the movies and in video games can lead children to behave aggressively. As a parent, you can control the amount of violence your child sees in the media by limiting television viewing and previewing games, movies, etc., before allowing access to them by your child.

Help your child stand up against violence. Support your child in standing up against violence. Teach him or her to respond with calm but firm words when others insult or threaten another person. Help your child understand that it takes more courage and leadership to resist violence than to go along with it.

Kaiser Family Foundation
Talking With Your Kids
British Medical Journal
American Academy of Pediatrics
University of California- Los Angeles

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sue Scheff: Parenting ADHD Kids

Help Socially Immature Kids Make Friends and Succeed at School

How to help children with ADHD improve behavior and social skills to make friends and do well at school.

The problem: The social maturity of children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) may be a few years behind that of their peers. In addition, they have difficulty reading verbal and physical social cues, misinterpreting remarks, or not getting jokes or games. Thus, their responses and reactions are often inappropriate, and it may be difficult to make friends their own age.

The reason: ADHD is a developmental disorder in which brain maturation is delayed. The student’s development may also be uneven. Students may behave appropriately in some situations but not in others, leading some unenlightened adults to believe “they can behave when they want to.”

The obstacles: ADHD children are usually not aware of how immature or off-base they may seem to peers and adults. They cannot adequately read other people’s responses to their behavior. Desperate for positive attention, they may try behavior that is outrageous, funny, or negative, mistakenly believing it will gain them friends and respect. They may be ostracized by their peers and singled out by teachers, which hurts their self-esteem.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Identity Theft and Teens

Source: Connect with Kids

“If they’ve managed to get a hold of your Social Security number and take out credit card applications in your name, that may go on for months before you realize it and it may actually take you years to resolve the problem.”

– Suzanne Boas, president, Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Identity theft is an ever-increasing threat for all consumers -- one that could damage your credit ratings and cost you thousands of dollars. And teenagers are among the most vulnerable.

Suzanne Boas, president, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, has seen the damage first-hand. “It is frightening to think what can happen to you when someone gets a hold of your identity,” she says.

Hailey Lowe, 18, has heard of one way thieves can steal identities. “I guess they could … get online – I’ve heard of people doing that – get online, take your identity and buy stuff,” she says.

And that’s just the beginning. Boas says, “If they’ve managed to get a hold of your Social Security number and take out credit card applications in your name, that may go on for months before you realize it and it may actually take you years to resolve the problem.”

The far-reaching effects of identity-theft create countless hurdles to overcome. “You may have difficulty getting a job where a credit report is required. You may have trouble renting an apartment. You may have trouble leasing a car. You may have all sorts of difficulties that you can’t even imagine now,” says Boas.

While everyone is at risk, why are teenagers being singled out?

Boas says, “A teenager is a perfect target; just by virtue of their age, they’ve got an unblemished credit record to begin with.”

That’s why, experts say, parents need to help kids protect themselves.

“Number one would be leave your Social Security card at home,” says Boas. “Secondly, make sure you protect your credit cards all the time, and your checkbook. Don’t take them when you’re going out partying.”

And third, remember that your identity can be stolen online.

“So if you’re going to use a credit card on the Internet,” says Boas, “make sure that you’re going into a secure website.”

Knowing the risks of theft is the first step in protecting your identity and your financial future. And Hailey Lowe is now more aware.

“I think I’ll try harder definitely, knowing that it’s a bigger risk than I thought before,” she says.

Tips for Parents

In recent years, identity theft has become a very serious threat, due in part to the Internet and the availability of online activities, such as banking, shopping, and gaming. Consider the following statistics:

The average cost to an identity-theft victim is more than $1,000 to remedy damages. Sometimes it takes years to set things straight.
Consumer groups estimate that as many as 750,000 people a year are victims of identity theft.
Identity theft is the most popular form of consumer fraud, in part because it is the most profitable. Identity thieves stole nearly $100 million from financial institutions last year, or an average of $6,767 per victim.
One of the first question parents ask is, “How do thieves steal my information, or my child’s information?” According to the Identity Theft Resources Center, thieves work in a number of ways. They can:

Go through your trash, looking for straight cut or un-shredded papers and records.
Steal your mail, wallet or purse.

Listen in on conversations you or your child have in public.

Trick you or your child into giving them information over the telephone or by email.
Buy the information via the Internet or from someone else who might have stolen it.

Steal it from a loan or credit card application you or your child may have filled out, or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business that you deal with. Thieves may obtain these records from trash dumpsters outside of such companies.

Get it from your computer, especially those without firewalls.

Be someone you know – even a friend or relative -- who has access to your information.
If you or your child becomes a victim of identity theft, experts at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offer the following suggestions:

Contact the fraud department of any of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.

As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to also place fraud alerts. Each bureau will send you credit reports free of charge.

Close any of your accounts that you suspect have been tampered with, as well as any new accounts that have been opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.

File a police report, and get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

File your complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems victims have.

Identity Theft Resource Center
Federal Trade Commission
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

(Sue Scheff) Teens, Sex and Depression

“It hurts, because I care so much about him.”

– Teagan, 15 years old

Fifteen-year-old Teagan says her new boyfriend is wonderful. “I never thought anyone like Preston could come along,” Teagan says. “He’s the greatest guy I’ve ever known.”

But is she as lucky as she thinks?

Studies show that romantic involvement brings adolescents down, rather than up. What’s more, researchers at the University of North Carolina find that teen girls who are sexually active are twice as likely to be depressed compared to girls not having sex.

But, even among abstinent teens who date, one of the problems is trust.

“Say your boyfriend went off to work and never called you that day,” Teagan says. “And you talked every single day on the phone. I mean you’d be kind of concerned and kind of wondering why. And then someone comes along and says ‘well maybe he’s cheating on you…’”

Combine adolescent insecurity with imagination and the result is a lot of questions: Where is he? Why doesn’t she call? Does he really like me? Why is she talking to that other boy?

That’s where most of the stress comes in,” Teagan says. “Getting thoughts in your head about what might be going on, when it probably isn’t going on at all.”

Experts say parents can help ease their child’s pain by listening and taking them seriously. It’s not puppy love to them, it’s real. “It hurts,” Teagan says, “because I care so much about him.”

Experts also advise teaching your child that early relationships may hurt, but they’re indispensable. “They will have many relationships before they finally settle on a life mate,” says Cheryl Benefield, a school counselor. “Let them know that when things happen, it’s maybe just preparing them for a better relationship in the future.”

Tips for Parents

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, boys and girls seem to be equally at risk for depressive disorders during childhood, but during adolescence, girls are twice as likely as boys to develop depression. Family history and stress are listed as factors, but another factor that often causes depression in girls is the break-up of a romantic relationship.

The authors of a study conducted at Cornell University titled “You Don’t Bring Me Anything but Down: Adolescent Romance and Depression,” found that females become “more depressed than males in adolescence partly as a consequence of their involvement in romantic relationships.” The reason? According to the study, “females’ greater vulnerability to romantic involvement explains a large part of the emerging sex difference in depression during adolescence.”

At any given time, five percent of children suffer from depression. Children under stress, who have experienced a loss, or who suffer from other disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Here are some signs of depression from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (if one or more of these signs of depression persist, parents should seek help):

Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
Decreased interest in activities, or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
Persistent boredom; low energy
Social isolation, poor communication
Low self-esteem and guilt
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Increased irritability, anger or hostility
Difficulty with relationships
Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
Poor concentration
A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Talk of or efforts to run away from home
Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior
Getting an early diagnosis and medical treatment are critical for depressed children.

Depression is a serious condition, which, if left untreated, can even become life threatening. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, leading to nearly 4,000 deaths a year. The rate has tripled since 1960. Therapy can help teenagers understand why they are depressed and learn how to handle stressful situations. Treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications prescribed by a psychiatrist may be needed to help teens feel better.

Ways of treating depression include:

Psychotherapy: to explore events and feelings that are painful and troubling. Psychotherapy also teaches coping skills.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy: to help teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
Interpersonal therapy: to focus on ways of developing healthier relationships at home and school.
Medication: to relieve some symptoms of depression (often prescribed along with therapy).
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
National Institute of Mental Health
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
National Mental Health Association
University of North Carolina

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sue Scheff: Stop Interrupting! Better ADHD School Behavior

How teachers and parents can inspire better ADHD school behavior with help from these impulse-controlling exercises for children with attention-deficit.
by ADDitude Editors

The problem: The student with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) interrupts the teacher and classmates by calling out answers or commenting while others are speaking.The reason: Children with ADHD have difficulty controlling their impulses. Scientists believe that a problem with dopamine, a brain chemical, causes them to respond immediately and reflexively to their environment — whether the stimulus is a question, an idea, or a treat.

That’s why they often seem to act or talk before thinking, and ADHD school behavior suffers as a result.The obstacles: Children with ADHD may not be aware that they are interrupting. Even if they are, they have difficulty understanding that their behavior is disturbing or disruptive to others.Simply telling them their behavior is wrong doesn’t help. Even though they know this, their impulsivity overrides their self-control. Many ADHD children can’t understand nonverbal reprimands, like frowning, either.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sue Scheff: Do you know what your kids are typing online about you?

I read this very interesting Blog today on today's kids and what they can put online about not only themselves, but about their parents! Not excluding other family members.

By Eve Tahmincioglu

Are your Internet-crazed kids sabotaging your job search/career?

Who knows things about you that you’d rather not share with the general public? That you drink two or three martinis every night. Maybe you like to call in sick when you’re really not sick to play basketball with the kids. Or maybe you’re prone to punching in walls when you fight with your spouse.

I’ve written a lot about digital dirt lately. You know, the negative information about you on the Internet you don’t want your boss or prospective employers to see.

Well, here’s a minefield you better keep an eye on — Your own digitally savvy kids that seem to spend every waking moment of their lives sending weird things to eachother on Facebook, or MySpace.

The owner of, Michael Fertick, recently told me of a new phenomenon he’s discovered in his quest to help people everywhere protect their online reputations. The company helps individuals by searching the Internet for bad stuff about their customers and then finding ways to get rid of it. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling a blogger and asking that something negative be removed, and in other cases it requires writing lots of good stuff about a client so it drowns out the bad stuff.

The bad stuff usually comes from disgruntled girlfriends or boyfriends; people criticizing something you wrote or a project you worked on; or maybe you got rowdy at a football game and the local paper wrote about you.

But Fertik was surprised when he discovered a new source for the bad stuff — his customers’ own kids.

Turns out some tweens, teens and even 20 somethings out there are writing about private family matters on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, and also sharing their pain on blogs. And they’re naming names.“We’ve seen discussions by kids of parents’ incomes,” he says. For example, ‘Dad makes $75,000 per year’. They also write about their parents’ relationships, “‘Mom and Dad are fighting pretty hard tonight’, of career news ‘Mom didn’t get the promotion she wanted’; and even social habits or qualities, ‘Dad is such a d–k,’ or ‘Dad is a friggin’ alcoholic.’”

Parents shouldn’t be too surprised that their children are sharing this stuff on the Web. Kids have always had to vent about family issues to their friends, but before the Internet, conversations were kept out of the public forum, for the most part.

Fertik’s advice: Talk to your kids and check out their FaceBook accounts now. “Let them know whatever they write is a tattoo that can stain them and you (the parent), possibly forever,” he adds.

We’ve all been so worried lately that our kids may end up writing something about themselves, or sharing suggestive photos of themselves on social networking sites that could end up hurting them when they go out into the job market. None of us thought about what they may be writing about us.

Is there something your kids know that could come back to haunt you?

Friday, October 10, 2008

(Sue Scheff) Boundaries with Teens - When to Say Yes/How to Say No

In this exciting new book, Dr. Townsend gives important keys for establishing healthy boundaries—the bedrock of good relationships, maturity, safety, and growth for teens and the adults in their lives. The book offers help in raising your teens to take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and emotions.
Type the book title in the Amazon Box and get more information.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sue Scheff - Featured in Sun-Sentinel

'Wit's End' book offers advice to help out-of-control teens

By Liz Doup South Florida Sun-SentinelOctober 8, 2008

A decade ago, when her 14-year-old daughter spiraled out of control, Sue Scheff didn't know where to turn.

As a result, the Weston mom sent Ashlyn to a residential program that harmed rather than helped, she says. It was a drastic move after her daughter had temporarily run away and threatened violence.

In hindsight, Scheff wishes she had looked more closely at schools and asked more questions. To help parents avoid her mistakes, she started researching programs that offer professional treatment in a residential setting. She put what she learned in the recently published book, Wit's End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (Health Communications Inc.; $14.95). She also created Parents' Universal Resource Experts Inc. (

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teen Truancy

Truancy is a term used to describe any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling. Children in America today lose over five million days of their education each year through truancy. Often times they do this without the knowledge of their parents or school officials. In common usage the term typically refers to absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate "excused" absences, such as ones related to a medical condition. It may also refer to students who attend school but do not go to classes. Because of this confusion many schools have their own definitions, and as such the exact meaning of the term itself will differ from school to school and district to district. In order to avoid or diminish confusion, many schools explicitly define the term and their particular usage thereof in the school's handbook of policies and procedures. In many instances truancy is the term referring to an absence associated with the most brazen student irresponsibility and results in the greatest consequences.

Many educators view truancy as something much more far reaching than the immediate consequence that missed schooling has on a student's education. Truancy may indicate more deeply embedded problems with the student, the education they are receiving, or both. Because of its traditional association with juvenile delinquency, truancy in some schools may result in an ineligibility to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school. This can be especially troubling for a child, as failing school can lead to social impairment if the child is held back, economic impact if the child drops out or cannot continue his or her education, and emotional impact as the cycle of failure diminishes the adolescent's self-esteem.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sue Scheff - Teen Internet Safety

In today's society, the Internet has made its way into almost every American home. It is a well-known fact that the web is a valuable asset for research and learning. Unfortunately, it can also be a very dangerous place for teens. With social networking sites like Myspace and Friendster, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online role-playing video games, our children are at access to almost anyone. Sue Scheff, along with Parent's Universal Resource Experts™, is tackling the dangers of the web.

Keeping tabs on our teens' online habits doesn't just keep them safe from online predators. More and more parents are becoming wary of the excessive hours their teens spend surfing the web, withdrawing from family, friends and activities they used to enjoy. Internet Addiction is a devastating problem facing far too many teens and their families. While medical professionals have done limited research on the topic, more and more are recognizing this destructive behavior and even more, the potential mental effects it can have.

Though the web is a great place for learning and can be safe for keeping in touch, it is important that families understand the potential risks and dangers to find a healthy balance between real and virtual life.

The Basics: The Dangers of Teen Internet Addiction
It’s clear that, for teenagers, spending too much time online can really deter social and educational development. The Internet world is such that there is always something new to do and to distract one from one’s responsibilities. We all do it- take ten minutes here or there to explore our favorite gossip or sports site. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet as a tool for research, news, and even entertainment. After all, the World Wide Web is the world’s most accurate, up to date resource for almost any type of information.

But as the Internet evolves and becomes more tailored to the individual, it grows increasingly easier to develop a dependency on it. This is especially true for teens- a group that tends to be susceptible to flashy graphics and easily enticed by the popularity of social networks. In a sense, the Internet is the new video game or TV show. It used to be that adolescents would sit in front of the TV for hours on end operating a remote, shooting people and racing cars. Now they surf the web. Teens are impressionable and can at times be improperly equipped to handle certain situations with a degree of reason and rationality. And although they may have good intentions, they might be at risk of coming across something inappropriate and even dangerous.

Sexual Predators
We’ve all heard the stories about children entering chat rooms who end up talking to someone older than them who may be looking for something more than merely a chat. These tales may sound far-fetched, or to some, even mundane, because of the publicity they’ve received, but as a parent it would be rather foolish to dismiss them as hearsay or as something that could never actually happen to your child. The fact is, these accounts of sexual predation are all too true and have caused some families a great deal of strain and fear. Even pre-adolescents have been known to join chat rooms. The reality is that there is no real way of knowing who might be in one at any given time. An even scarier thought is that these forums are often sexual predators’ main source of contact with young children. In fact, the popular TV show, [To Catch a Predator (], employs someone to pose as a teen and entice these sex offenders. The show profiles the interactions between them all the way up until the actual meeting. Some of the situations portrayed are horrifying. If you’re the parent of a teen or pre-teen, make sure to monitor Internet activity with regards to chat rooms and educate your child on the potential dangers they present.

Sensitive Subject Matter
Human curiosity is perhaps at its peak during one’s teenage years. That curiosity is what aids teens in the growth and development process. It’s necessary for survival as an adolescent and can provide for some great discoveries and maturation. However, teen curiosity can also potentially lead a person into some questionable situations, and the Internet is a prime medium through which to quell one’s inquisitiveness. Let’s face it- teenagers are anxious to be knowledgeable about topics such as sex, drugs, and other dangerous subject matter.

Talking to your teen about these sensitive subjects before he or she has a chance to search online can be a great way to allay his or her need to surf the web for more information. The Internet might be an excellent tool for presenting interesting data, but it can also grossly misrepresent certain issues. If a teenager wants to learn about sex or drugs via the web, he or she might decide to do a search containing the words “sex” or, perhaps “marijuana.” The results your child might find may not necessarily be the type of educational, instructive material you’d hope they would receive. The Internet may be savvy, but one thing it’s not capable of doing is knowing who is using it at any given time and how to customize its settings. Talk to your children about subjects you feel are important before they have the chance to find out themselves. You never know what they might come across.

Limited Social Growth
There is no better time to experience new things and meet new people than during one’s teenage years. Getting outside, going to social gatherings, and just having a good time with friends are among some of the most productive and satisfying activities in which teenagers can engage. While the Internet can provide a degree of social interaction, online networks and connections cannot replace the benefits of in-person contact. Teen Internet Addiction is dangerous because it limits a person’s options when it comes to communication. Much of learning and growing as a teen comes from the lessons one learns through friendships, fights, disagreements, trends, popularity, etc.

The Internet has made it all too easy for teens to recoil from the pressures of adolescence and remain indoors. The lure of the web can often make it seem as though social networks and online gaming are acceptable substitutes for real life. Teens can find acceptance in chat rooms and message boards, while at school they might be complete outcasts. It’s easy for teenagers to rebuff the idea of interacting with their peers and risking rejection when the Internet can provide for a seemingly relaxed environment. Children need to know that Internet addiction and reliance on online forums will only stunt social growth and make life much more difficult in the future.

Sedentary Lifestyle
Internet dependency also inherently promotes a lifestyle that is not conducive to exercise and physical activity. Many teens tend to become so enthralled in games or chats that peeling them away from the computer can prove to be an ominous task. The entertainment the Internet can provide often trumps the option to leave the house and get exercise. Parents should encourage their teens to use the Internet for school projects and some degree of entertainment, but they should also limit the time that they are allowed to spend on the computer. Begin supporting your child’s involvement in sports teams at an early age and make outside activities fun and interesting. The earlier a child is introduced to the mental and physical benefits of outside activity, the more likely he or she is to avoid inside amusements such as the Internet, TV, and video games.

Nowadays it seems our whole lives can be conducted via the Internet. We can order, purchase, and have groceries delivered all with the click of a few buttons. We can play games, talk to people, find dates, and even attend AA meetings online. The Internet may have made our lives and their day-to-day processes exponentially easier to accomplish, but by the same token it has also increased our dependence on the advantages it can provide. The convenience it creates has been known to cause some people to recoil from outside situations, opting to conduct as much business as possible from home. We must be careful of this trend, especially with teenagers, for whom positive (and negative) social interaction help to form valuable personality and wisdom.

Learn more - click here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sue Scheff - Teens and Substance Abuse

Defining "Gateway Drugs"

Kids today have much more societal pressure put upon them than their parents generation did, and the widespread availability of drugs like methamphetamines and the "huffing" trend (which uses common household chemicals as drugs) can turn recreational use of a relatively harmless gateway drug into a severe or fatal addiction without warning.

The danger of gateway drugs increases in combination with many prescription medications taken by teens today. These dangerous side effects may not be addressed by your child's pediatrician if your child is legally too young to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Drugs like Ritalin, Prozac, Adderrall, Strattera, Zoloft and Concerta can be very dangerous when mixed with recreational drugs and alcohol. Combining some prescription medications with other drugs can often negate the prescription drug's effectiveness, or severely increase the side effects of the drug being abused.

For example, a 2004 study by Stanford University found that the active chemical in marijuana, THC, frequently acted as a mental depressant as well as a physical depressant. If your child is currently on an anti-depressant medication like Prozac or Zoloft, marijuana use can counterbalance their antidepressant effects.

Other prescription anti depressants and anti psychotics can also become severely dangerous when mixed with alcohol. This is why is imperative that you as a parent must familiarize yourself with any prescription medications your child is taking and educate your child of the dangers of mixing their prescription drugs with other harmful drugs- even if you don't believe your child abuses drugs or alcohol.

Marijuana - Why It is More Dangerous Than You Think

Parents who smoked marijuana as teenagers may see their child's drug use as a harmless rite of passage, but with so many new and dangerous designer drugs making their way into communities across the country, the potential for marijuana to become a gateway to more dangerous drugs for your child should not be taken lightly.

Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug by both teens and adults. The drug is more commonly smoked, but can also be added to baked goods like cookies or brownies. Marijuana which is ingested orally can be far more potent than marijuana that is smoked, but like smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana can cause lung cancer, emphysema, asthma and other chronic conditions of the lungs. Just because it is "all natural" does not make it any safer for your lungs.
Marijuana is also a depressant. This means the drug slows down the body's functions and the messages the body sends to the brain. This is why many people who are under the influence of marijuana (or "stoned") they are often sluggish or unmotivated.

Marijuana can also have psychological side effects, both temporary and permanent. Some common psychological side effects of marijuana are paranoia, confusion, restlessness, hallucinations, panic, anxiety, detachment from reality, and nausea. While these symptoms alone do not sound all that harmful, put in the wrong situation, a teen experiencing any of these feelings may act irrationally or dangerously and can potentially harm themselves or others. In more severe cases, patients who abuse marijuana can develop severe long-term mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Tobacco - Just Because It Is Legal Doesn't Mean It Is Safe

While cigarettes and tobacco are considered "legal", they are not legal for teens to posses or smoke until they are 18. Still, no matter the age of your child, smoking is a habit you should encourage them to avoid, whether they can smoke legally or not.

One of the main problems with cigarettes is their addictive properties. Chemicals like nicotine are added to tobacco to keep the smoker's body craving more, thus insuring customer loyalty. This is extremely dangerous to the smoker, however, as smoking has repeatedly proven to cause a host of ailments, including lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or bronchial infection, asthma and mouth cancer- just to name a few.

In addition to nicotine, cigarettes contain over 4000 other chemicals, including formaldehyde (a poisonous compound used in some nail polishes and to preserve corpses), acetone (used in nail polish remover to dissolve paint) carbon monoxide (responsible for between 5000 to 6000 deaths annually in its "pure" form), arsenic (found in rat poison), tar (found on paved highways and roads), and hydrogen cyanide (used to kill prisoners sentenced to death in "gas chambers").
Cigarettes can also prematurely age you, causing wrinkles and dull skin, and can severely decay and stain teeth.

A new trend in cigarette smoke among young people are "bidi's", Indian cigarettes that are flavored to taste like chocolate, strawberry, mango and other sweets. Bidi's are extremely popular with teens as young as 12 and 13. Their sweet flavors and packaging may lead parents to believe that they aren't "real" cigarettes or as dangerous as brand-name cigarettes, but in many cases bidi's can be worse than brand name cigarettes, because teens become so enamored with the flavor they ingest more smoke than they might with a name brand cigarette.

Another tobacco trend is "hookah's" or hookah bars. A hookah is an ornate silver or glass water pipe with a fabric hoses or hoses used to ingest smoke. Hookahs are popular because many smokers can share one hookah at the same time. However, despite this indirect method of ingesting tobacco smoke through a hose, hookah smoking is just as dangerous as cigarette smoke.

The Sobering Effects of Alcohol on Your Teen

Alcohol is another substance many parents don't think they need to worry about. Many believe that because they don't have alcohol at home or kept their alcohol locked up, their teens have no access to it, and stores or bars will not sell to minors. Unfortunately, this is not true. A recent study showed that approximately two-thirds of all teens who admitted to drinking alcohol said they were able to purchase alcohol themselves. Teens can also get alcohol from friends with parents who do not keep alcohol locked up or who may even provide alcohol to their children.
Alcohol is a substance that many parents also may feel conflicted about. Because purchasing and consuming alcohol is legal for most parents, some parents may not deem it harmful. Some parents believe that allowing their teen to drink while supervised by an adult is a safer alternative than "forcing" their teen to obtain alcohol illegally and drinking it unsupervised. In theory, this does sound logical, but even under adult supervision alcohol consumption is extremely dangerous for growing teens. Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association recently testified that even light alcohol consumption in late childhood and adolescence can cause permanent brain damage in teens. Alcohol use in teens is also linked with increased depression, ADD, reduced memory and poor academic performance.

In combination with some common anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, the effects of just one 4 oz glass of wine can be akin to that of multiple glasses, causing the user to become intoxicated much faster than someone not on anti depressants. Furthermore, because of the depressant nature of alcohol, alcohol consumption by patients treated with anti-depressants can actually counteract the anti-depressant effect and cause the patient sudden overwhelming depression while the alcohol is in their bloodstream. This low can continue to plague the patient long after the alcohol has left their system.

Because there are so many different types of alcoholic beverage with varying alcohol concentration, it is often difficult for even of-age drinkers to gauge how much is "too much". For an inexperienced teen, the consequences can be deadly. Binge drinking has made headlines recently due to cases of alcohol poisoning leading to the death of several college students across the nation. But binge drinking isn't restricted to college students. Recent studies have shown teens as young as 13 have begun binge drinking, which can cause both irreparable brain and liver damage.

It is a fact that most teenage deaths are associated with alcohol, and approximately 6000 teens die each year in alcohol related automobile accidents. Indirectly, alcohol consumption can severely alter teens' judgment, leaving them vulnerable to try riskier behaviors like reckless stunts, drugs, or violent behavior. Alcohol and other drugs also slow response time, leaving teenage girls especially in danger of sexual assault.

The temporary feeling of being uninhibited can also have damaging future consequences. With the popularity of internet sites like MySpace and Facebook, teens around the country are finding embarrassing and indecent photos of themselves surfacing online. Many of these pictures were taken while the subjects were just joking around, but some were taken while the subjects were drunk or under the influence of drugs. These photos are often incredibly difficult to remove, and can have life altering consequences. Many employers and colleges are now checking networking sites for any reference to potential employees and students, and using them as a basis to accept or decline applicants!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teen Shoplifting

As a parent advocate, I hear from parents on a weekly basis and one subject matter that is always discussed at least once a week, is their child shoplifting aka - stealing! Why? The teens usually don’t have to do this, however it becomes a “cool” thing that others are doing - and peer pressure to fit in can cause your child to participate in an act they know is not right.

There have been reports that most kids don’t steal because they need to, or financial issues or need - it is simply peer pressure to fit in with a poplular (in their eyes) group of kids.

Learn More from the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention - Being an educated parent can help prevent your teen from making bad choices.

Prevent Consumer Shoplifting by Raising Awareness!80% of shoplifting offenders believe that people shoplift because they don’t fully understand the crime’s harmful effect on themselves, the victims and the community.

Help Stop Your Kids From Shoplifting - visit