Posts made in October, 2013

“Screening” Takes on New Meaning

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on “Screening” Takes on New Meaning

“Screening” Takes on New Meaning

Responsible parental screening of their kids’ behavior has always been a good idea.  But in today’s age of increasingly advanced technology, parents face unique challenges.  While there certainly are advantages to instant access of virtually any kind of information, there are also formidable risks associated with our digital age that can be quite damaging to kids if parents don’t exercise appropriate levels of control.  Put another way, if parents don’t do their job. Remember the “good old days?”  We grew up chatting on the “house phone,” which is now almost extinct. Our parents knew who we were talking to, and natural limits were always in place. A common mantra was, “Get off the phone! Your father needs to make a call!” We talked about boys we liked and girls we didn’t like, how mean our parents were, and how we wanted to kill our siblings. If we heard a “click” when we were talking, that meant someone picked up the extension and was listening.  We quickly yelled in outrage, “Hang up the phone!” and talked only when we knew no one else was on the line.  We weren’t perfect kids, but the communication was one-on-one, and it seemed harmless.   Brave New World? Fast forward to today’s world of smartphones, iPads, laptops, YouTube, video games, cable, multiple social media channels, and whatever Next Big Thing is coming. For the most part, kids don’t talk; they text.  But while communication today routinely excludes their parents, it ironically includes a very public audience. Today, kids say they must have what “everyone else” has.  However, the latest in digital toys may not be the greatest. For instance, in three weeks since its release, the very violent Grand Theft Auto video game sold more copies than any other product in history! Who is driving these markets, and who knows everything about all the latest technological advances? Kids, not parents. Who is paying for it? Parents, not kids. The bigger questions are who is in control, and what is a parent’s responsibility?   Staggering Statistics Why is this so important?  The statistics tell part of the story. Almost 80% of 10-year-olds have cell phones, and almost half have smartphones, while 93% of teens have computers they actively use (Pew Research Center 2013).  And it goes even younger than teens:   Babies are playing with iPads—and not only on the commercial! Consider this:  22% of teen girls have sent nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves; 39% of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to be shared with people other than the intended recipient; 51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy was the reason they sent these images (The National Campaign). Further, it is common that when these kids “break up,” they send the pictures to buddies. More unsettling statistics:  Surveys show that 43% of teens aged 13-17 reported they had been cyber-bullied in the past year; 88% of teens say they have seen someone being mean or cruel to another person online.  Only one in ten kids who are bullied online tell their parents about it, only 7% of parents are worried about cyber-bulling, and 80% of kids think it is easier to hide cyber-bullying from parents than face-to-face bullying.  Meanwhile, the overall cyber-bullying trend is growing...

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The Under-Scheduled Child

Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on The Under-Scheduled Child

The Under-Scheduled Child

As parents, we all have heard of the “over-scheduled child” who goes from one structured activity to the next, with no time to relax.  While this can be problematic, as a child psychologist who specializes in working with anxious kids, I am more concerned about what I call the “under-scheduled child.” This is the child who doesn’t like sports, hates music lessons, would never join a club, and won’t do anything after school. The child who through the years “tried” all these things, quit, and then refused to go back. This is also the child who doesn’t like to get together with friends. The under-scheduled child says, “I have friends.” But the cell phone isn’t used, except for games, and the invitations never come.  Unfortunately, there is often one loyal “friend” in the under-scheduled child’s life that is a constant companion and fun to play with: the computer or TV. The rise of technology has brought with it an epidemic of children school aged, and sadly, beyond, who spend most of their waking hours not face to face with peers but in front of a screen.  Boys are often most attracted to video games and girls to reality shows and “social” media sites. Under-scheduled children come home from school and immediately turn on the screens, often pretty much until bedtime.  They rush through homework and dinner to get back to their best electronic friends.   Identifying Children at Risk Who are the children and young adults most at risk for this? Children who struggle with social difficulties, either because they have anxiety or are on the autism spectrum, or both. How can being a “homebody” be a sign of anxiety or social difficulties? Avoidance and denial are the biggest defenses against anxiety. When a social situation is avoided, the comfort zone is not threatened.  Anxiety comes when unpredictable social and performance expectations are presented. Under-scheduled children often avoid experiences that promote the development of new skills, strengthening of peer relationships, and opportunities to get much-needed physical exercise. They are missing out on learning the importance of taking risks and experiencing success. Perhaps even more important, they are not learning something we all need to know: how to cope with the sting of failure. Often, it is this fear of failure that keeps them home in their comfort zone. The under-scheduled child never says, “I don’t want to do that because it scares me, it makes me nervous.”  Or, “I’m afraid I’ll mess up, and other kids will laugh and make fun of me.”  Or, “If I invite someone over, I wouldn’t know what to do with them, and what if they have a really bad time?”  In this way, those uncomfortable feelings are avoided.  When asked to play a sport, the response is often, “I tried that, I hate sports.”  Study music?  “It’s too hard; I’m no good at music.” Join a club at school?  “Why would I want to do that? It’s stupid; nobody joins clubs.” Get together with a friend after school?  “I see my friends at school; that’s enough for me. I just like to be home after school.”   Working with Your Child As parents, what can you do to break this unhealthy pattern?  First, break through your own denial. A child who spends many...

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