Friday, February 26, 2010

Sue Scheff: Should You Allow Your Teens to Talk to Strangers Online? Chatroulette, a new concern for parents

A 17 year-old boy in Moscow created a new chatroom website: Chatroulette.

"I created this project for fun," Andrey Ternovskiy wrote in an e-mail to the paper. "Everyone finds his own way of using the site. Some think it is a game, others think it is a whole unknown world, others think it is a dating service." - New York Times

What does this mean for parents? Another website to monitor and talk to your kids about. If you haven't heard of Chatroulette, you may think that talking about it will only create curiosity with your kids. It may, however knowing about it can help you to be educated about it and talk to your teens intelligently about Chatroulette.

Chatroulette gives a person an opportunity to communicate, converse with people they would otherwise never know. It is talking to strangers. Anonymity encourages all types of people with a variety of colorful stories (whether true or not). This site is not blocked for minors, so it is up to the parents to be sure they have their parental controls and filters in place.

However remember, no matter how many fire walls you install, blocks to websites, etc.... unless your child understands the dangers, they will always find a way to get to where they want to surf. It is as easy as going to a friend's computer, your local library or even an Internet café with their allowance.

Education is key. As a parent you should learn about this latest trend and talk to your kids about it.

While Promise of New Web Site Is to Connect Strangers, the Practice Can Be Something Creepier - Good Morning America

Watch video for more information on Chatroulette by

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sue Scheff: Talk to your teens about sex - 100,000 condoms distributed at the Olympics

Yes, it is true, a little fact that many are not aware of. The Vancouver Winter Olympics had 100,000 condoms handed out in the Olympic village.

The distribution of free condoms at the Olympics goes back at least to 1992 and Barcelona. In 2000, Sydney organizers thought that 70,000 would be enough. They were wrong and had to send out for 20,000 more. Beijing also ordered 100,000 condoms with an Olympic motto: Faster, higher, stronger.

The International Olympic Committee also gets credit for acting like a responsible parent: In addition to handing out condoms, they run HIV and AIDS information campaigns in the Olympic Village. And the U.S. Curling Association has gone a step further: In partnership with Kodiak Technology Group, they have introduced the Hurry Hard condom, named for a phrase curlers chant to get their teammates to sweep the ice faster. Proceeds from the prophylactics - which sport a happy cartoon curling stone on their label above the slogan "Be smart, stay safe" - are split between USA Curling and Monterey County AIDS prevention. - MSNBC

Whether people believe this is appropriate or not, or whether it is an appropriate spending of funds, at end of the day it is about being educated about having sex with strangers (or just having sex period). Famous or infamous, athletes or fans, you need to learn about safe sex.

This starts with parenting. Talk to your kids about sex education, sexually transmitted diseases, as well as answer any questions they may have. As difficult as this is for some parents, it will be much harder to have a daughter that is pregnant at 16 (or younger) or a child that contracts HPV or genital warts.

Talking doesn't seem so hard after all.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Learn more on Examiner.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sue Scheff: Fake Pot? What are teens smoking today?

As parents scramble to keep up with the challenges of raising teens today, they are now thrown another curve ball. Most know that smoking pot, although not legal and seems to becoming more addictive among youths, is a trend that some parents brush under the rug with the justification that "it is only pot."

Recently after speaking with a parent of an at risk teen, she said her therapist actually told her teen it was "okay" to smoke marijuana. Excuse me? This parent was horrified and this only empowered the teen. Obviously they are not returning to that therapist, but how many others feel this way?

Parenting is hard enough, and it is the parent that is the strongest tool in helping our teens to understand the dangers of drug abuse.

Now we have what is being called, K2 - or "Spice," Genie" and "Zohai" - that is commonly sold in head shops as incense and referred to as the "fake-pot". Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing. - AP

K2 costs between $20 and $50 for three grams, similar to the street price of marijuana, but with the key advantages of being legal and undetectable in drug tests. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has classified it a "drug or chemical of concern."

Kansas and Missouri already have bills to ban the mystery substance. What is your state doing about this latest trend?

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Read more on Examiner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sue Scheff: College Financial Aid - FRAG Deadline Approaching

Are you a Florida resident with a student in an eligible college for the FRAG scholarship? The deadline for FRAG (Florida Resident Access Grant) for 2010 spring semester is February 17th.

What is FRAG?

The William L. Boyd, IV, Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) Program provides tuition assistance to Florida undergraduate students attending an eligible private, non-profit Florida college or university. FRAG is a decentralized state of Florida program, which means that each participating institution determines application procedures, deadlines, and student eligibility.


Eligibility Requirements

  1. High School Graduate or GED
  2. One year bona fide resident of state of Florida, as of the first day of classes. ***A dependent student's residency is based on his/her parent(s) permanent state of residence.***
  3. Cannot already have a college degree.
  4. Be enrolled for a minimum of 12 hours per semester.
  5. Be making satisfactory academic progress(SAP)
NOTE: SAP includes maintaining a cumulative GPA of 2.0. There is a grace period allowed if student's CGPA falls below a 2.0.

For renewal, a student must earn 24 hours in the previous academic year. Summer school hours earned do not count.

Maximum eligibility is nine (9) semesters.

*NOTE: The FRAG is paid on a semester basis. Each semester's grant is subject to reduction by the state of Florida, depending on the availability of funds.

2009-10 Florida Resident Access Grant program eligible institutions, click here.

Apply here.

Read more on Examiner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sue Scheff: Can lack of sleep lead to teen depression?

Is your teen getting enough sleep?  A study performed by researchers at Stanford University found that teenagers require approximately one to two hours more sleep than 9- and 10-year-olds, who only require about eight hours of sleep.

Source: Connect with Kids

Sleep and Depression

“In order to feel rested, you have to achieve a certain percentage of deep sleep and dream sleep every day.”

– Francis Buda, M.D., Child Neurologist

Irritability, moodiness, problems at school, a drop in grades- all of these are the classic signs of a kid using drugs. But according to a new study by Columbia University there may be a more innocuous explanation- simply a lack of sleep.

And for many parents that means laying down the law on bedtime rules.

In the Gossett family, the ritual is the same: first, the boys brush their teeth, then a bath, and then maybe a story or two, but at 9:30 its lights out.

"A lot of the time I want to stay up, watch a little bit more TV," says 11-year-old Gregory, "but usually when my parents tell me to I go."

The routine rarely varies.

Gregory's mom, Mary, has a simple reason: "Because I think children function better with a set routine they they're familiar with."

In fact, according to a new study by Columbia University Medical Center, a lack of sleep can lead to depression, which in turn can cause kids to be impulsive, irritable, and aggressive.

According to the study, on average, American teens are getting less than eight hours sleep a night.

"In order to feel rested, you have to achieve a certain percentage of deep sleep and dream sleep every day," explains child neurologist, Dr. Francis Buda. "And that amount is dependent totally on your age and also somewhat on your genetic makeup."

Experts recommend 12 hours of sleep for a six-year-old, 10 hours for a 12-year-old and nine hours a night for a teenager.

And that can be a challenge in some families with busy schedules and odd hours.

Experts do say afternoon naps are risky: they can help sleep-deprived kids, but only if they're brief and part of a regular routine.

"Again, it's just a matter of what works for a given family. But again, [I] would just have to emphasize the consistency," says Dr. Buda.

A study performed by researchers at Stanford University found that teenagers require approximately one to two hours more sleep than 9- and 10-year-olds, who only require about eight hours of sleep. This goes against the school of thought that allows older kids to stay up later. Parents may want to be on the lookout for the following things, which could be caused from sleep deprivation:

■Difficulty waking in the morning
■Irritability in the afternoon
■Falling asleep during the day
■Oversleeping on the weekend
■Having difficulty remembering or concentrating
■Waking up often and having trouble going back to sleep
Sleep deprivation also can lead to extreme moodiness, poor performance in school and depression. Teens who aren't getting enough sleep also have a higher risk of having car accidents because of falling asleep behind the wheel.

Tips for Parents

As the lives of children seem to be getting busier, their sleeping habits may be one of the first things impacted. Sleep, though being something that often gets sacrificed, is actually one of the most important things in a child's life. Here are some suggestions about sleep:

■Sleep is as important as food and air. Quantity and quality are very important. Most people need between seven-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you want to press the snooze alarm in the morning you are not getting the sleep you need. This could be due to not enough time in bed, external disturbances or a sleep disorder.
■Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like the sun, when you get up will also help. Try to go to bed only when you are sleepy. Bright light in the morning at a regular time should help you feel sleepy at the same time every night.
■Stay away from stimulants like caffeine. This will help you get deep sleep, which is most refreshing. If you take any caffeine, take it in the morning. Avoid all stimulants in the evening, including chocolate, caffeinated sodas and caffeinated teas. They will delay sleep and increase awakenings during the night.
■Use the bed just for sleeping. Avoid watching television, using laptop computers or reading in bed. Bright light from these activities and subject matter may inhibit sleep. If it helps to read before sleeping, make sure you use a very small wattage bulb to read. A 15-watt bulb should be enough.
■Avoid bright light around the house before bed. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful. Dimmer switches can be set to maximum brightness for morning routines.
■Don't stress if you feel you are not getting enough sleep. It will just make matters worse. Know you will sleep eventually.
■Avoid exercise near bedtime. No exercise at least three hours before bed.
■Don't go to bed hungry. Have a light snack, but avoid a heavy meal before bed.
■Bedtime routines are helpful for good sleep.
■Avoid looking at the clock if you wake up in the middle of the night. It can cause anxiety.
■If you can't get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in dim light till you are sleepy.
■Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
■If you have problems with noise in your environment, you can use a white noise generator. A fan will work.

■National Sleep Foundation
■American Sleep Apnea Association

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teen Smoking - New Study Show Third Hand Smoke is Bad

Everyone knows that smoking is not good for you and many also know that second hand smoke has been said to be just as damaging to your health. Today's new study about third hand smoke is shocking and yet makes sense.

Now, some scientists say, there's evidence that "third-hand" smoke -- the residue that clings to furniture, carpets, walls and other surfaces -- puts toxins in the air as well. The Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences released a study on the subject with findings that "raise concerns about exposures." - NPR.

If you are a smoker, or know someone that is, there are more reasons to consider quitting. First and foremost would be your health, and as important is your family. Remember, young children are at risk.

Florida's Quitline: A helping hand when you need it the most.

Each year, thousands of Floridians quit using tobacco. Many more try, but fail. The Florida Quitline was established to help those with a desire to free themselves from cigarettes, smokeless and all other forms of tobacco to successfully reach their goal, and offers all of its services free of charge in both English and Spanish.

Here's how it works:

  • With a single, toll-free call to 1-877-U-CAN-NOW, you can schedule an appointment with one of the Quitline's trained counselors.
  • At an approximate time of your choosing, one of these skilled professionals will call you back to work with you one on one. Together, you'll develop a plan to finally rid yourself of tobacco for good.
  • Our tobacco specialists will be there for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support you, offer tips and provide any information you may need.
If you're ready to Be Free, call 1-877-U-CAN-NOW today and join other Floridians in living a happier, healthier life. If you know others who need help, click the link below to send them an email message encouraging them to call the Quitline today.

Be an educated parent, you will have a healthier family.

Watch video and read more.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sue Scheff: The Choking Game

G.A.S.P. - Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play is a very serious concern for parents everywhere.

The Choking Game is a misunderstood activity causing death and suffering for thousands of families worldwide. It often begins with high-achieving teens choking each other as a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. It ends with thousands of kids dying or suffering permanent brain damage each year.

Part of being an educated parent is learning about prevention of dangerous activities, such as the Choking Game.

Prevention within your own family begins with an honest discussion about the consequences of participating in The Choking Game. Remember - 75% of Middle School aged children already know about it - chances are, you are not telling them something they have not already been exposed to by their peers. The problem lies in what their peers have failed to mention- the dangers. Please also be aware that children as young as Kindergarten have been reportedly "choked out" emulating an episode or conversation displayed by an older sibling or neighbor.

Texting: Be on alert for these text symbols ;)/// ;})))

Computer / Cell Phone: Check your child's computer/cell phone for websites containing "Pass Out" or "Choking Game". Also look for videos created, viewed or uploaded by your child from video sharing sites like MySpace or YouTube. Popular tags are Fainting Game, Passing Out.

Be candid - be honest and be real! Show them the pictures of children who are no longer with their families. Share the "Life After" stories of children with permanent disabilities after playing and the words of parents now forever grieving the loss of their child. Stress to your child that the end result of the child participating was preventable.


Why are kids doing this?

Some do it for the high, which can become addictive. Others do it because it's "cool" and risky. Most kids who have died from this were active, intelligent, stable children who thought this was a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol. Most children have no concept of their own mortality-they truly believe nothing can hurt them.

Take the time to talk to your children. This is a trend that we don't want to continue. Learn more at Ed4Ed4All Blog.

Learn from from the video and read more on Examiner.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: Think Before You Speak

How many times have you said something you wish you could take back? How many times have your children repeated things you wish you never said? As many parents know, what goes in their little ears can come out of their mouth - when you least expect it or want to hear it!

How about when your teens repeat personal matters in your family? If you are sharing private information with your teenagers, you may want to be clear it is personal and especially not to share it online or in text.

What about when kids don't understand certain slang words and use them unknowingly in conversations that end up hurting others?

A very sensitive and difficult subject is sexuality. Today we are better educated and in tune with different ways of life for people and their own sexuality. What happens when a teen believes they are gay or a lesbian? Life can become extremely difficult for them.

Parents play a crucial role in teaching their children about the negative impact of bullying and harassment. Talk about these issues with your children and within your community. Learn about the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). No matter what your religious beliefs are, no one should condone bullying. We should not judge others, as we don't want them to judge us.

GLSEN Mission: The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Some parents may not be comfortable with this subject, however it is a topic that needs to be addressed. Ignoring it can lead to devastating results. Whether it is a child hurting or taking their own life (watch video below of grieving mother, Sirdeaner Walker), you need to be an educated parent. Teach respect for all people, all races and all walks of life.

Studies indicate that students who regularly experience verbal and non-verbal forms of harassment suffer from emotional turmoil, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, poor academic achievement and high rates of absenteeism. Research also shows that many of the bystanders to acts of harassment experience feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, and develop poor coping and problem-solving skills. Clearly, homophobic and all types of harassment-and the toxic effects they produce-are whole school problems that all educators must confront. -

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens. Teach your kids to "think" before they speak. As adults, we also need to think before we speak at times too. We need to be an example to our children.

Watch video and read more on Examiner.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teens Behind the Wheel

On Oprah's birthday (January 29th), she asked that everyone take the pledge not to text and drive. This is not just for teens, this is for adults too. Texting and driving is equal to having four drinks and driving. It is serious.

Part of parenting teens is the stress of when they become "of age to drive." Depending on your teenager, they are either counting down the days or could care less. Most are counting down the days. Driving a car is a serious consideration and parents need to do their homework, as well as the teenager before they get behind the wheel.

Safe Teen Driving Club is one of several organizations that are designed to help you get ready for this big step into adulthood. Crash Proof Your Kids, by Timothy C. Smith, is an excellent book to help prepare you.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System collected the following data about teenage drivers:

  • Crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 19-year-olds.
  • The majority of teenage passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving.
  • Two-thirds of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes are male.
  • Among teenage drivers, alcohol is a factor in 23 percent of fatal accidents involving males, 10 percent of fatal accidents involving females.
  • More than half of the teenage motor vehicle deaths occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Of those deaths, 41 percent occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
According to Safe Teen Driving Club, parents are concerned about issues like these:

  • Is my youngster ready to drive?
  • Driving safety - how to avoid accidents
  • Setting realistic and effective driving rules
  • How to pay for driver's ed
  • Is driver's ed enough?
  • Sharing the cost of driving with your teen
  • Risky driving behaviors
  • Laws in your state
  • Insurance costs and issues
  • Safety of the car she drives
  • Auto maintenance and repair
  • Legal issues in case of a crash
Safe Teen Driving Club is the source you can rely on to help you keep your youngster safe.

Be an educated and prepared parent, you will have safer teens!

Watch video on texting and driving. This is a major concern today. Take a pledge - don't text and drive! Oprah is promoting NO PHONE ZONE. Take the pledge and demand your kids don't use the phone while driving. Parents - lead by example! No texting and cell phone talking while driving.

Read more on Examiner.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sue Scheff: Apple's iPad - Does Your Teen Want One?

Apple's Steve Jobs recently launched the iPad, displaying the many capabilities that this latest gadget can perform. Reminiscent of an iPhone, only larger, the iPad has practical applications for the gadget loving teens. Even colleges students will fall in love with this latest tech system.

The iPad offers a wide variety of features that will delight and make life surfing and studying with more ease.

One benefit of the iPad it the ability for organized note taking, especially for those busy High School Juniors and Seniors that are crunching to get their college applications in and keeping their GPA up. It offers one compact place for notes to be organized and offers the ability to, with ease, to share these notes with a classmate through a simple email.

Another asset is the calendar feature. Does your teens need to keep track of when homework is due, exams are scheduled, college application deadlines, study dates, social events or even his/her job schedule? iPad offers a simple way to organize your dates, deadlines and keep up with your busy life through your touch pad.

Most all teens love their iTunes, YouTube and pictures. Buying music from the iTunes store is easy and viewing movies or videos should be more comfortable on the larger 9.5 by 7.5 inch screen.

Another cool feature is the iPad can be used as a digital photo frame when not in use and has many ways to import and export photos, including docking it with a computer or downloading via email.

Is the iPad right for you teenager? The prices range from $499.00 - $829.00 which may be a deciding factor. Although reasonable priced for the product and its' enhanced features, not all families are able to afford these extra luxuries for their teens. College students are another target market that may benefit from this new gadget. The book reader feature will help eliminate some of the bulky books they are carrying.

Don't think about the iPad as just a computer. Its true potential lies in its potential as a communications device. - Washington Post

Watch the into video and read more.