Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

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What would you do if this was your daughter?

For several days now, I’ve been upset by a story my kids have told me and I want to get some other parents thoughts.

Here is what happened:

Last weekend, a bunch of kids were at a house party and were drinking. One girl named Emily got drunk and decided to go out on the crowded patio and give her ex-boyfriend oral sex on a lounge chair. Immediately, another teenager whipped out his cellphone and videoed it. He forwarded the video to friends, who forwarded the video to more friends.

It took only about two days for thousands of teens to have seen the video. It not only spread to students at the high school the girl attends but it also made its way to kids phones at two other nearby high schools. The video became so talked about that several of my daughter’s teachers knew about it and discussed it in class. One of my daughter’s teachers urged those who had it on their phones to delete it and told them they could get in trouble for disseminating child pornography.

My daughter was really upset about this whole incident and feels extremely sorry for the girl. My son’s take is different — he called the girl a slut, said she shouldn’t have been doing what she did in public, even if she was drinking. He pointed out that it’s almost an expectation today that anything stupid you do will be videoed by your peers.

A few days after the party, kids from a rival school showed up at a high school basketball game with a sign that said your school sucks and so does Emily. We all know that teens can be VERY mean.

Regardless how you look at this incident, I think it’s horribly sad.  Teens by nature are immature and make mistakes…but now their mistakes are soooo public. Could you imagine what it would have been like to have your teen mistakes caught on video?

I can’t imagine how this girl is going to  shake off the reputation she now has earned.  It’s likely it will  even follow her to college unless she leaves the state.

My daughter also was upset that no one has even mentioned the boy’s name or revealed his identity, only the girl.  I explained to her that unfortunately, that’s how it is and has always been in our society.

My kids have heard that the girl has been tweeting to urge her peers to back off. I really hope this girl is strong enough to withstand the taunting.

How would you handle this situation if you were the girl’s parent?

You might be inclined to preface your answer by saying your daughter would never do something like this but I’m sure Emily’s mom would have said the same thing.

If Emily were my daughter, I think I would get her into counseling pronto. For the rest of us, maybe it’s an opportunity to acknowledge that we live in the digital age and discuss actions and consequences with our kids.

 

 

What the snooze? Teens sleeping in class

 

My ego has been majorly deflated.

I’m a boring, old woman. That’s the only opinion I could possibly form of myself after speaking to a high school journalism class. I thought I was interesting. I had a jazzy Powerpoint presentation. I even had prizes to give out.

But mid-way into my presentation, I noticed a boy toward the back of the room who was sound asleep and snoring. Yikes! I had put him to sleep! I was horrified! Why was the teacher allowing this, I wondered?

That night, I told my kids what had happened. They informed me that kids sleep in every one of their classes every single day.  That shouldn’t have surprised me — but it did.

I immediately called my sister, a high school teacher, and asked her if students sleep in her class. Oh yes, she said. They sleep every day, in every class and teachers allow it because they get tired of fighting it, she explained.

Learning this, my ego has been slightly restored. But I now have a strong opinion about the need to make high school start later — 7:30 a.m. is just too early for teens whose body clocks keep them up late at night.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help launching into a lecture with my kids about how disrespectful snoozing in class is to teachers.

Parents, have your teens ever confessed to snoozing in school? Have you ever tried forcing them to go to bed earlier? If so, did it work?

Watchdog over Kids’ Cellphones?

My husband recently sent me this article on  software that will monitor your teen’s where about, calls, texts, etc. I found it fascinating and wanted to share it with all of you. I’m not sure what your teen would think of this, but I can tell you my daughter would think I am invading her privacy. However, like the parents in the article state, it’s our jobs as parents to protect our children. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Software keeps dogged watch over kids’ cellphone activity

By Nicole Brochu, Sun-Sentinel, Staff writer 4:25 p.m. EST, January 14, 2012

When Matthew and Angela Sima bought their middle-schooler her first cellphone, it came with a wake-up call. A stranger started sending their little girl unsolicited text messages.

So, the Jupiter couple took a proactive step: they turned to parent monitoring software to track their daughter’s cellphone activity. Just like computer monitoring software, which became all the rage once the personal computer proliferated in American homes, cellphone monitoring software for parents is growing in popularity in a world where the average teenager has a cellphone within reach 24/7.

Using My Mobile Watchdog in the three years since, the Simas can not only monitor the texts, emails and photos sent or received, the applications downloaded and Internet searches performed on their daughter’s phone, but they can block applications and control the times she uses the phone. Even better, the Simas said, they get instantaneous alerts whenever contact is made by or to a phone number not on a pre-approved list.

“There’s no such thing as privacy in our family,” Angela Sima told her daughter when she objected to the extra set of eyes. “Our job is to protect her.”

A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have cellphones — up from 45 percent in 2004. More of these devices are smart phones, the high-tech variety with Internet access, media players and the amplified cyber-dangers that come with them. “Kids didn’t used to have smart phones. Now, they want a smart phone more than a laptop [computer] or a bike,” said Robert Lotter, CEO of eAgency Mobile Security, the makers of My Mobile Watchdog. “The smart phone market has increased the threat [to children] dramatically, so there is definitely an uptrend” in parents’ buying monitoring control products.

In a July 2011 study, the Family Online Safety Institute found that 25 percent of the parents surveyed used parental controls to monitor their kids’ cellphone use; 44 percent restricted kids’ ability to download games and applications; and 70 percent checked their kids’ cellphone for sent and received text messages. “Our kids are vulnerable. That’s why we protect them,” said Greg Schiller, a Special Victims Unit prosecutor for the Palm Beach County Sexual Predator Enforcement Program. “This kind of software allows parents to be there and make sure no one is taking advantage of their child.”

The idea, too, is to protect kids from themselves. “You hear so many stories about kids going off with the wrong crowd, or sending inappropriate pictures back and forth,” said Mae Belgrave, 33, a Boca Raton software developer and mother of three. “You think you know your kids, but they’re like totally different people when they’re around their friends. So, you just worry about them, and the cellphone gives them so much freedom these days.” Her 12-year-old’s phone has Mobile Spy, which allows Belgrave to keep up with her texts, phone calls and — thanks to a GPS tracker — movements.

“That’s a wonderful feature, to be able to check to see she went where she said she was going to,” said Belgrave, who is even more confident in her daughter’s trustworthiness after a year of seeing nothing amiss via Mobile Spy. “She’s responsible. We just wanted to take that extra precaution.”

Detective Rich Wistocki handles Internet crimes against children for a suburban Chicago police department and, as a private consultant, travels the country speaking to parents about how to avoid cyber-dangers. Topping his list of recommendations is My Mobile Watchdog, which is used not just by parents but by law enforcement agencies that have found it vital in tracking down predators and drug dealers. Wistocki credits the product with helping his department capture about 15 sexual predators and 50 drug dealers in the past three years.

“My Mobile Watchdog allows parents to be in their child’s life,” he said. “Other companies say they do what [My Mobile Watchdog] does, but I haven’t seen it.”

But there are plenty of competitors, mostly spyware companies such as Mobile Spy. Whether one is better than the other is up for the consumer’s interpretation, but there’s no question they offer different products. One of the biggest differences is in the spying. Spyware can be installed on anyone’s phone — a child’s, a spouse’s, an employee’s — without their knowing. My Mobile Watchdog is only for parental monitoring of kids’ phones, and a periodic notification is sent to the kids’ devices telling them they’re being monitored. Lotter said the difference is intentional, because he has a moral objection to spying on anyone, even children.

While some people may think such extensive monitoring sounds intrusive, experts say it’s a responsible, and legally viable, means of keeping close watch over kids, whether parents tell them or not. “One hundred percent,” said David Seltzer, a former cyber-crimes prosecutor and now a cyber-crimes defense lawyer in Miami. “I recommend it to all my clients.”

Stealth monitoring of such activity may be a technical violation of Florida’s wiretapping statute, Seltzer said, but it’s not prosecuted in such instances. “Unless the child is an emancipated adult, you can monitor their activity” on the cellphone without their knowing, he said. Whether parents should tell the kids they’re being monitored, he added, “depends on the child.” Belgrave, though, said she and her husband opted to tell their daughter about the spyware: “If she wanted to have a phone, that was going to be how it goes.”

No matter what monitoring device they use, it’s critical in today’s hyper-connected age that parents stay plugged in, said Mary McLaughlin, a cyber-security analyst for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Computer Crime Center. “Parents need to make sure they are as involved as they can be in their child’s digital life,” she said. “They need to stay on top of what their child is doing.”

 

 

Is your teen’s messy bedroom killing you?

I can’t stand to look at my teenagers’ bedrooms. A mere glimpse in that direction puts me in a horrible mood and turns me into a nagging, screaming, nutcase!

I tell myself I’m going to punish my kids by leaving the piles of dirty clothes, used dishes and crumbled papers until they can’t stand to see them in their room anymore. But sometimes, I can’t stand it anymore…so I go in when they’re at school and straighten it up…just a little bit. I know, what you’re thinking…that I’m an enabler.

I’ve just stumbled onto an article in the Wall Street Journal that nails the dilemma I’ve been having: Bet you’ll love the title: When a Teen’s Bedroom Is Incorrigibly Messy, It’s Time for Extreme Parenting.

Here’s one tactic suggested by parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Institute. He recommends saying, “I’ll take care of it.” Then, get the job done in some way that satisfies you but “creates problems for the kid,” Mr. Fay says. “Maybe you hire a neighbor kid to clean up.”

In another scenario in the article, one parent picked up all the clothes on her daughter’s  floor, stuffed them in two garbage bags and hid them in the attic. When her daughter arrived home from school to a bare bedroom, there was screaming, and shouting, ‘How can I live without my clothes?’ ” The mom required her daughter to earn her clothes back by doing chores.

My mom had her own tactic when I was growing up: When she couldn’t take it anymore, she would wake me up an hour earlier for school to clean my room. That meant the light would go on abruptly at 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing worse for a teen than waking up an hour early in the morning to clean their room!

One family sought help from Douglas Riley, a clinical psychologist, in getting their 14-year-old daughter to clean up her bedroom. Riley, who has worked with families for 30 years, suggested that since she wasn’t bothered by the dirty clothes all over her floor, perhaps the whole family could start using her room as a laundry hamper. Her attitude changed after her parents and younger brother started tossing dirty laundry into her room, including a few soaked and smelly T-shirts and socks

So parents, what strategies have you used? Or do you think the battle isn’t worth it and do you just shut the door to your teen’s room and live with the mess?

Teens exchange Facebook passwords to show love

Apparently, the new equivalent to teen sex or showing love is sharing your Facebook password.

Why are teens sooooo trusting of each other?

The New York Times reported today that teenagers are sharing passwords for Facebook, Tumblr and/or other accounts in order to show their trust and affection for each other and to assure their boyfriend/girlfriend they have nothing to hide.

NYT reported Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco saying that sharing her password with her boyfriend is “a sign of trust.”  But it can backfire! Emily Cole, 16, a high school junior in Glastonbury, Conn., was a victim of vicious exploitation after her ex-boyfriend read an e-mail she sent to another student she had a crush on. He then spread the e-mail around the school, calling her a “pervert.”

Rosalind Wiseman, an author who studies how teenagers use technology, compares sharing passwords to sex – the pressure in teenage relationships to give up something important ultimately defines how much they love each other. “The response is the same: if we’re in a relationship, you have to give me anything,” Ms. Wiseman said to NYT.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a study back in Nov. 2011 that showed one in three teens online have shared their passwords with significant others or friends. That’s 30 percent of all teens with girls being more likely to share their information than boys.

We all know how quickly a boyfriend/girlfriend or just a friend can become a frenemy during the teen years…and how breakups can be ugly, especially when they play out on the Internet. I know my daughter has a few of her friends’ Facebook passwords and I can never understand WHY they give them to each other.

Bottom line: as a parent, you might want to caution your teen —  encourage him or her to make sure showing teen love (or friendship) by sharing a password is worth the price of sharing your privacy.

Readers, what do you think of this new precursor to teen sex? Is it just an innocent way for teens to show love? Do you think it can lead to disaster?

Would you call the cops on your teenager?

I just read a story that I could totally relate to and I love the commentary added by Lisa Belkin.

On the Huffington Post parenting blog Belkin writes: no one can get to us — worry us, provoke us, amaze us, infuriate us — like our own kids.

So true!

Here’s the latest example of kids who pushed mom to the brink:

In Salem, MA,  a mother called the police to report that her five children had been fighting all day, according to the local paper. The 15-year-old son punched his 8-year-old sister in the arm and their 16-year-old sister stepped in and was reportedly pushed to the ground.

When the arriving officers asked “what she felt we as a police department could do to help  assist her with the issues she’s having as a parent,” the incident report says, “the mother replied ‘I want them both out of here,’ ” referring to the oldest children. In the end, the state Department of Children and Families was called in, and the older son faces a court date where he’ll face charges for hitting his sister.

How many of you parents can relate to exactly what pushed this mother to the point where she responded this way? My hand is raised.

Have you ever been tempted to call the cops on your kids?

Teen Belly Buttons: To pierce or not to pierce?

Recently my 14-year-old daughter asked me if she could  get her belly button pierced.  As I stood there wanting to scream “HECK NO”!, I realized she needed to see that I was respecting her time to talk with me and that I owed it to her to at least listen.

Ok, I listened as she told me that “all her friends have done it,  she would not flaunt it, what is the big deal, it’s better than a tattoo”, etc.. etc..

As contemplated my response, I asked her why it was so important to her? She said that she always wanted to get one, but, she knew we (her dad and I), would never allow it because she was too young. So  I asked her,  “Don’t you think you are too young now?” She said “no.”  She told me most kids her age are getting them, especially the soccer players in her league.

I personally think she is too young, but I am also her mother and am biased when it comes to her. I don’t see her like everyone else. It’s my job to protect her and make decisions that I feel are best for her now and in the future.

I said I would discuss it with her dad and she responded,  “Oh, dad will say no, so you have to convince him to say yes.” WHAT? I told her I was not “convincing” anyone and all I could promise her was a conversation with her dad. If she did not like that response then the answer was “no.” She said “fine”, she would wait.

I think I am just pushing off a battle with her since I don’t want her to have it and I know her dad will most definitely not want her to have it either.

So, I ask you, what do I do?  Do I fight this battle till the end with a stern “No” or should I pick my battles and just compromise and take her and make sure it is a small, nice piercing? Am I making a bigger deal than it needs to be? No one will see it anyway right?

Would love your feedback and opinion.

Why I love MTV’s Awkward

If you haven’t seen an episode yet of MTV’s Awkward, you should.

Yes, it’s ANOTHER show about the high school years –complete with love triangles and mean girls. And, like most shows based on the high school years, you’ve got your popular jocks and your lonely geeks. But what I love about this teen series is that the star of the show, Jenna Hamilton,  doesn’t fit into any single social clique. She’s, well….awkward.

The Hollywood Reporter said the comedy premiered to 1.7 viewers and its pilot sets the tone for just how awkward life will get for Jenna when her high school pals believe an epic accident was really a suicide attempt.

Ashley Rickards, who plays Jenna, says: The “theme of the show is, you can’t change what happens to you, but you can change the way you feel about it.”

Here’s MTV’s description: Narrated in the first-person voice of Jenna’s blog posts, “Awkward.” captures the humor within the struggles and experiences everyone can relate to from their formative years. From a secret relationship with a popular guy, to being undermined by a mean girl, and parents who just don’t get it – Jenna’s misfortune will eventually serve as the catalyst for amazing change, but it’s not without some missteps and mishaps along the way.

I particularly like that Jenna is a teenager who moms can relate to…she’s constantly embarrassed by her mom’s behavior, yet she still wants to please her mom.

I may get grief for this, but I also like the story line about Jenna having sex with the popular guy, Matty. I realize I shouldn’t be endorsing a teenager having sex in high school. But, I do like the lesson Jenna’s mistakes might teach young girls: when Jenna has sex with popular Matty, she assumes he will want a relationship. She comes to realize, he wants a private sexual relationship, but he doesn’t want to be seen with her in public. The series is just beginning to reveal how she will deal with this situation – so far, she’s trying desperately (and awkwardly) to show him she’s girlfriend material.

I think it’s great for girls to learn at a young age that sex and love aren’t always the same thing…it’s a great conversation starter for a parent and teen.

Now, I must disclose a drawback of Awkward is its time slot. The half-hour show airs at 11 p.m. EST on Tuesday nights I know that’s late. But there’s always the DVR.

If you’ve seen Awkward, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, you can watch prior episodes by clicking here.

Using technolgoy to keep up with your teens

I realize I’m so last year. I’ve finally mastered this texting thing…OMG I’ve even got some of the text terms down… and now here comes all kinds of new Apps and technology to communicate with your teen.

From her law office, Eden Rose, a legal administrator at Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, uses her iPhone to access the iCam on her daughter’s laptop. “It helps me know she actually is studying when she says she is.” Rose also uses a smartphone to send her daughter afternoon reminders to take her medication or check email alerts from new websites her daughter has visited. She uses Google Latitude to track her daughter’s location. “It’s been a big help to me. If she’s supposed to go to a friend’s house, I know that’s where she is.”

Monica Vila, founder of TheOnlineMom.com, creates video messages for her teen daughter to watch on the family computer when she arrives home. “I might say, check Aunt Judy’s Facebook, she left a really funny post. Then I’ll blow a kiss. It’s simple and it’s a different quality communication than a text message.”

Myriad new smartphone apps are rolling out that use location-based technology. For example, the new app I’m OK, in the iTunes store, is kind of a private Foursquare for parents to ensure that their children are safe “without the nagging.” Family members check in from the library or Starbucks and let Mom or Dad know what they’re doing and that they are OK — then it rewards the child for doing so. They can even upload photos of the book they checked out.

Another cool tool: Honeywell’s Total Connect 2.0, is set up to take a short 10-second video of your child disarming the alarm and entering your home. It then sends the clip as an email. Honeywell also has created a smartphone App that will send the video to your cellphone. (You can also have a camera set on the liquor cabinent)

More parents also are using Global Positioning System tracking devices on kids’ cellphones and in their cars. My son’s friend recently showed me his cellphone and told me his mother had a locator on it. This was after an incident a few days earlier when he had turned off the ringer on his cellphone during the school day and forgot to turn it back on. After school, he came home with my son. I later learned his mother was frantic when hours went by and he hadn’t arrived home.

Sprint is just one of the wireless carriers that offer the Family Locator service (also available as an app). It shows the phone’s GPS position on an interactive map with street addresses and landmarks. The service is password-protected, so only authorized parents and guardians can locate children from their Web-enabled phone or a computer.A creative variation of the iPhone app uses the location features of the phone and a system of mutually agreed upon check-in times. When a check-in time comes, the app alerts your child on his phone that he needs to check in with you. The child has the option of calling and talking to you or sending a message that includes his coordinates.

Beyond monitoring whereabouts, parents are going online at work to check their kids’ grades, now posted in online grade books in most counties. And they’re looking over homework and giving feedback through document-sharing sites such as Google Docs.

Peggy Sapp, president of Informed Families, made a great point about technology to monitor kids. The key, she said, is knowing what to do with the information you learn. Her advice: Make the rules, post them and discuss the consequences of breaking them.

Readers, are you using any cool tech tools to communicate with or monitor your teens?

 

Using technolgoy to keep up with your teens

I realize I’m so last year. I’ve finally mastered this texting thing…OMG I’ve even got some of the text terms down… and now here comes all kinds of new Apps and technology to communicate with your teen.

From her law office, Eden Rose, a legal administrator at Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, uses her iPhone to access the iCam on her daughter’s laptop. “It helps me know she actually is studying when she says she is.” Rose also uses a smartphone to send her daughter afternoon reminders to take her medication or check email alerts from new websites her daughter has visited. She uses Google Latitude to track her daughter’s location. “It’s been a big help to me. If she’s supposed to go to a friend’s house, I know that’s where she is.”

Monica Vila, founder of TheOnlineMom.com, creates video messages for her teen daughter to watch on the family computer when she arrives home. “I might say, check Aunt Judy’s Facebook, she left a really funny post. Then I’ll blow a kiss. It’s simple and it’s a different quality communication than a text message.”

Myriad new smartphone apps are rolling out that use location-based technology. For example, the new app I’m OK, in the iTunes store, is kind of a private Foursquare for parents to ensure that their children are safe “without the nagging.” Family members check in from the library or Starbucks and let Mom or Dad know what they’re doing and that they are OK — then it rewards the child for doing so. They can even upload photos of the book they checked out.

Another cool tool: Honeywell’s Total Connect 2.0, is set up to take a short 10-second video of your child disarming the alarm and entering your home. It then sends the clip as an email. Honeywell also has created a smartphone App that will send the video to your cellphone. (You can also have a camera set on the liquor cabinent)

More parents also are using Global Positioning System tracking devices on kids’ cellphones and in their cars. My son’s friend recently showed me his cellphone and told me his mother had a locator on it. This was after an incident a few days earlier when he had turned off the ringer on his cellphone during the school day and forgot to turn it back on. After school, he came home with my son. I later learned his mother was frantic when hours went by and he hadn’t arrived home.

Sprint is just one of the wireless carriers that offer the Family Locator service (also available as an app). It shows the phone’s GPS position on an interactive map with street addresses and landmarks. The service is password-protected, so only authorized parents and guardians can locate children from their Web-enabled phone or a computer. A creative variation of the iPhone app uses the location features of the phone and a system of mutually agreed upon check-in times. When a check-in time comes, the app alerts your child on his phone that he needs to check in with you. The child has the option of calling and talking to you or sending a message that includes his coordinates.

Beyond monitoring whereabouts, parents are going online at work to check their kids’ grades, now posted in online grade books in most counties. And they’re looking over homework and giving feedback through document-sharing sites such as Google Docs.

Peggy Sapp, president of Informed Families, made a great point about technology to monitor kids. The key, she said, is knowing what to do with the information you learn. Her advice: Make the rules, post them and discuss the consequences of breaking them.

Readers, are you using any cool tech tools to communicate with or monitor your teens?

 

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