We all know the importance of keeping our kids safe online, and a new study suggests that a significant proportion of teenage girls, particularly those who have already suffered some form of abuse or neglect, are at risk of abuse at the hands of people they first befriended on the Internet.
Published in the journal Pediatrics, the survey found that 30% of teenagers reported having ‘offline’ meetings with people they had initially met on the Internet and whose identity had not been fully confirmed prior to the meeting.
Abused or neglected teenage girls were more likely to present themselves online in a sexually provocative way, thus drawing attention to themselves.
Research shows that high-risk online profiles are more likely to lead to offline meetings.
“If someone is looking for a vulnerable teen to start an online sexual discourse, they will more likely target someone who presents herself provocatively,” said Dr Jennie Noll PhD, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Maltreatment poses a unique risk for online behaviour that may set the stage for harm.”
The study of some 251 adolescent girls aged between 14 and 17, of which about half were victims of abuse or neglect, found that having Internet filtering software at home made no difference in the association between maltreatment and high-risk behaviours.
Such behaviours include intentionally seeking adult content online, provocative self-presentation on social networking sites, and receiving sexual advances online.
On the other hand, “high quality parenting” and parental monitoring helped reduce the association between adolescent risk factors and these online behaviours.
As you might expect, during the research Dr Noll uncovered some chilling stories about the real dangers of meeting up with people first engaged with online.
The Pediatrics study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Continuing work is funded by a five-year, $3.7 million (about £2.3m) federal grant to gain deeper data about high risk Internet behaviours.
This is a guest post by Alyssa Jacobs.
Teenage years are a transitional period in a young man or woman’s life that can be extremely confusing. Most teenagers are looking to latch on to something and find some common ground. Our youth are easily influenced and motivated to do things from peers, parents, coaches and society. Some of these things may not always be right so it is important not only to give good choices to our children, but also establish confidence.
The first step to building your teen’s confidence is to reassess your confidence. Teens sponge in everything that you do. If you are to contradict yourself, they are going to remember it. Instead of being stubborn, maybe now is the time to grow some confidence in yourself and aim for self improvement. This can be anything: the way you walk, talk, workout, or treat your professional life. Aim for success and your teen will latch on to that as well.
Heal your past and use that to become a better parent. In some cases, it is more important to be a teacher than a parent. Fill them in with work, your goals, and help them to accomplish them. Another thing you might try is showing your teen something you are good at. If you are a guitar player, play the latest hit! You teens will love this, and it will show them they can do great things as well.
The next step to building confidence in your teen is being realistic. Let your teen grow naturally and don’t force things upon them that they might not want to do. Not every kid is going to graduate from Harvard. Even if they do exactly what you say, they lack self confidence and are only doing things to please you.
Let your teens have dreams. Keep in mind that a lot can change in a year. If your teen aspires to be a professional skateboarder, let them do so. However, let them know that school comes first. If they are going to be a professional skateboarder, they are going to be the smartest one out there. So then, if skateboarding is a phase, or no longer an option, they have other alternatives. Backing your teen’s decisions, as long as they are morally good, develops self confidence and trust between parent and child.
Maybe the most important step to enabling confidence in your teen is setting them up to succeed. Although this may seem like a difficult, daunting task, the rewards for your teen and your family are immeasurable. Be involved in their schools and programmes. This builds a sense of community and accomplishment with each new school year, as different goals are completed. Knowledge is contagious. The more your teen knows, or is involved with, the more confidence they will gain. This is ultimately accomplished by you being involved with all of your teen’s extracurricular activities.
The only thing you want to enable in your teenager is confidence. The teenage years are some of the most confusing times for individuals. Things like peer pressure, drugs, sex, hormones, acne, and tough choices all come in at a time when we are most vulnerable. The most important thing parents can do is give their teens the confidence to make the right choices, and treat them as young adults.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found, unsurprisingly, that parents are role models for their kids — whether they accept that or not — and their actions speak volumes to a child’s development, Made for Mums reports.
Certain sections of the press will publish sensationalist headlines along the lines of “kids become alcoholics when parents drink.” In reality, this is complete nonsense.
Parents have a crucial and active role in teaching their children what’s acceptable, and much of this comes from their actions rather than simply their words. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it with kids, and rightly so (in my opinion).
Mums and dads who get blind drunk in front of their kids, or when they are responsible for them, on a regular basis are asking for trouble. Forget the role model issue for a moment; parents with a responsibility particularly for young children should not be getting drunk at all.
The research goes on to suggest that if a child tastes alcohol at age six it will have a negative effect on their future drinking habits. In other words, drinking from an early age leads to binge drinking later on.
I’m not wholly convinced by this argument. My parents brought me up to have a healthy attitude to alcohol. I remember being allowed to take a sip from my dad’s glass of lager at the weekend from quite a young age. I didn’t drink alone, and I wasn’t allowed to have glasses of wine or beer at home until mid-teens. I’m certainly not dependent on alcohol now, and I don’t binge drink. I know of plenty of other people who have had similar experiences.
Programme manager for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Claire Turner, said that, “parents can have more influence on their teenagers’ behaviour than perhaps many assumed. Both what parents say, and how they behave, have a strong impact on their teenagers’ drinking, drinking regularly, and drinking to excess. Being introduced to alcohol at a very young age – for example, under 10 years old – makes it more likely that they will drink and drink to excess as teenagers.”
I’m not going to be so bold as to suggest that there’s no causal link, because I’m certain there is.
The key to a child developing a healthy attitude to alcohol is for parents to educate as well as model good behaviour. Peer pressure will always have some effect but not all teenagers are going to sneak off in order to get drunk on a regular basis.
It’s also important to ensure that alcohol consumption in the home is monitored. Alcohol shouldn’t be accessible by children or consumed unattended.
What do you think? Is the survey causing an overreaction? How do you educate your kids about alcohol?
By the time children have reached secondary school, aged around 12, one in two have been given a mobile phone by their parents. That’s according to a new survey by The Trust for Study of Adolescence.
By the time they reach the age of 15, four out of five teenagers will have a mobile phone.
Mobile-owning kids will make an average of eight calls per week and send 25 texts, though they probably won’t pay the bill.
What we appear to have here are two separate reasons for kids and teenagers having a phone.
On the one hand, parents want the reassurance of being able to contact their children either by call or text.
On the other, kids see the latest smart phones on the market and they want one. Unfortunately, it can lead to oneupmanship and peer pressure.
Both points of view tend to lead to many kids getting hold of their own phone.
If you’re a parent concerned about whether your child should have their own phone, you might find some of the following resources useful:
- Full control of kids’ mobile phones now available to British parents
- Parents believe their kids’ mobile phone use is “out of control”
- Teens and pre-teens increase cell phone use during the summer
- Gadget Watch: Firefly glowPhone
- Orange launches mobile and broadband advice site for families
- Pupils air their views in new BBC News school report survey
Cyber-bullying — using technology such as computers and mobile phones to inflict some kind of hurt or embarrassment to a victim — is a fairly new phenomenon but one that’s set to increase.
“Sexting” is the process of sending sexually suggestive or explicit text messages and pictures via mobile phone. Some may argue it’s not bullying if it occurs between two (supposedly) consenting kids or teens such as a boyfriend and girlfriend, but it’s still illegal.
Even a minor caught sending pornographic images of either themselves or another child or teen could be hauled up on child pornography or sexual predation charges. Most of the time, that isn’t the intended desire of the offender. That’s why New York policymakers want to reform the law to create an “educational reform programme” for those who get into trouble for sexing, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“There are too many kids who are getting themselves into serious trouble for adolescent behavior,” said Alan Maisel, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn and a co-sponsor of the bill. “I don’t know if they should be tainted with this evil brush for the rest of their lives.”
Such an education programme would let teens know the long-term repercussions of their actions. Despite being tech-savvy, many teens don’t understand that what they do online can stick around for a very long time. A five-minute moment of madness could hurt their future careers and relationships.
Of course, education also needs to begin at home and be reinforced in schools. Simply banning the technology in itself won’t help. Teaching kids how to use that tech responsibly is what’s really needed. More importantly, youngsters must be taught a holistic respect for other people and their privacy, and having the self-respect not to need to share lewd pictures with other people.
What do you think? Should ‘sexting’ involving only minors be considered a crime or are education programmes enough, particularly for initial offences?
The Evolution of Sex Education
I’m no expert on how sex and relationships education in schools has changed over the years, but stereotypically things have become more liberal of late, with a focus much more on the process and physical repercussions of sex than on moral and societal issues surrounding the subject.
I can’t say that this is absolutely true, because schools can teach things in different ways, with more or less emphasis placed on issues beyond “how sex works”.
However, thanks in part to the way society has changed, particularly over the last decade or so, in its attitudes to sex and its portrayal in the media, the UK government on both sides is now looking at promoting familial and stable relationships.
Yesterday, the standard curriculum for sex education in English schools was updated to place more value on the moral and relational aspects of sex.
In an age-appropriate way, children will now be taught that it’s OK to delay having sex, and that they shouldn’t feel pressured by friends or the media into becoming sexually active as the “normal” thing to do.
Marriage and other stable relationships will be heralded as the “bedrock of family life”, with education on “the challenges and responsibilities of parenthood”.
Bullying and Pressure
Sexually-motivated bullying is sadly becoming more common. Mobile phone technology can be used to send compromising photographs which, apart from being illegal in the eyes of the law, could cause great distress to those victims caught on camera.
Other advice will warn about overtly sexualised imagery now prevalent in most types of media, including television, magazines, advertising and the Internet.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said, “Young people today grow up in a very different world to the one their parents knew as children.
“New technologies and a 24-hour media mean that young people are increasingly exposed to images and content that can make them feel pressure to be sexually active before they are ready and can give them misleading information about relationships and growing up.
“We also want young people to understand the importance of marriage and other stable relationships – these are the bedrock of family life, the best way to bring up children and the kind of relationships we want young people to develop as they get older.”
What do you think of the changes?
Photo credit: Made Underground
Size is a big issue for 21st Century boys
Female body shapes have long been the subject of analysis and debate, with women from all corners of the world comparing their figures to a pear, apple or string bean. Now, for the first time a boys clothing specialist aims to uncover the truth about the male physique.
Online retailer Joe Bloggs Clothing, is launching a pioneering study, that will delve into the unchartered territory of boys figures, the results of which promise to revolutionise sizing for boys aged 7-16 years old.
The iconic brand will survey 5,000 boys to discover the average height, waist and inside leg measurements for each age group, in a bid to reveal the shape of the 21st Century boys.
Joe Bloggs’ PR and Marketing Director Bushra Ahmed commented, “Joe Bloggs has been a successful boys brand for over 20 years, during that time fashion has changed as boys aged 7-16 years old have become more style conscious than ever before.
“We also know that body shapes have changed dramatically, there’s no such thing as the average Joe Bloggs anymore! As our campaign photograph demonstrates, 15 year-old boys come in all shapes and sizes, so therefore the way we size our clothes must reflect that.
“We will be the first clothing experts to survey this age group and get to the bottom of the sizing issue, making it easier for boys to buy clothes and look good.”
From left to right: Otis (6ft 2inches), Tim (5ft 7inches), Jordan (4ft 11inches) These three boys prove that there’s no such thing as the average Joe Bloggs, all aged 15-16, but very different in size!
If you’re a boy aged 7-16 years old, or your son is, then you can take part in this national survey simply by logging onto joebloggsclothing.co.uk. Every boy that takes part will be entered into a free prize draw and could win one of the hundreds of Joe Bloggs prizes on offer.
A selection of the latest children’s toys and games to catch our eye.
For your teenager (aged 14+) these colourful little robot insects could provide some amusement. They scuttle around, detecting and avoiding obstacles and shying away from loud noises.
Available in five colours for £9.99 each from I Want One of Those.
Let’s Cook 3-in-1 Fruit Factory
With the Let’s Cook Fruit Factory there are 3 ways to get your 5-a-day portions of fruit! Safe to use, the blender allows you to turn fruit into delicious juice and smoothies or you can pour into the special lolly cases, pop into the freezer and enjoy healthy, yummy lolly pops!
Try an apple lolly or a banana smoothie! What ever your choice you’ll have fun making them with the Lets Cook Fruit Factory
Suitable for ages 5+. £19.98. Available from Kiddimax
Roary the Racing Car Light ‘em up Roary Torch
It’s time to shine with Roary’s Light ‘em up Torch!
In the daytime you can play with Roary as a car and at night you can switch him on, pull up the handle and you will be able to see in the dark. His cap and eyes glow too.
Suitable for ages 3+. £9.89. Available from Kiddimax
Lazy Town Talking & Singing Stephanie Stylin Moves
Clip on the backpack to hear phrases & on the go music, You can also dress Stephanie for a sleepover party!
- 2 Outfits
- Sleeping bag
- Pom poms
- Charm for you to wear!
Suitable for ages 3+. £19.89. Available from Kiddimax
With all the busyness of the New Year, I almost let this announcement slip through the net, but there’s still time to take part and watch the show How to Tackle Tough Topics With Teenagers
Judging how to talk with your teenager about risky subjects like sex, drugs and alcohol can be hard. Our webchat with parenting expert Suzie Hayman makes it easier
Chat date: Tuesday 20th January
Chat time: 12.30pm (GMT)
Talking to your child about sex, drugs and drinking can be hard, but it is crucial if you are to give them the confidence to navigate through the minefield of the teenage years. As a parent or teacher, we must accept that the increasing desire to experiment is part of growing up – but not all kids are able to work easily through the risks and situations they face. While we cannot always be there to guide our children, we can make sure we prepare them in the best way possible by talking openly, discussing key issues and offering guidance on how to stay safe.
Knowing how to help your teen without seeming judgmental or out-of-touch is no simple task. That’s why renowned author and parenting expert Suzie Hayman is hosting an exclusive webchat that will make communicating with your kids on tricky subjects much easier and more successful. Suzie has established herself as an authority on teenage behaviour over a career spanning more than 20 years. As well as dispensing invaluable advice she’ll be taking your questions live online and telling you about a new website for parents of teens. Log on to the chat for the full story.
You still have time to submit a question for Suzie to answer, and the whole web chat can be viewed at this WebChats.tv page.
Teenagers get a pretty rough time of it these days, it seems. There are so many negative stories in the news involving teenagers that it’s not surprising that the unhelpful stereotyping persists.
One label that many teenagers are keen to shake off is that of being lazy. A national survey of 3,500 16-19 year-olds found that nearly three-quarters wanted to be involved in positive activities including sports, other active pursuits, and music, as well as participating in youth groups and volunteering in the community.
Part of the problem seems to be a lack of opportunities – perceived or real – with nine out of ten teens saying that they spent a lot of their time hanging around with friends. Four in five said that there wasn’t enough to do where they lived, and they’d like to see more activities made available to them.
Nearly one in ten teens have part-time jobs, with another one in six keen to get them.
The survey was run by Teen Talk on behalf of the Department for Children Schools and Families, which has a ten-year strategy called “Aiming High for Young People” that seeks to increase young people’s participation in positive leisure time activities, and is investing Ã‚Â£679m to create those opportunities.
DCSF minister for children, young people and families, Beverley Hughes, said, “It’s extremely important that we listen to what teenagers themselves are saying. The Teen Talk survey did just that, and showed that the vast majority of young people want to use their free time constructively. This puts paid to the all-too-familiar portrayal of them as only being interested in hanging around on the streets or playing computer games.”
By Andy Merrett
Aug 8, 2008
EasySite.com, a subscription-based family-friendly social networking site, has called out the likes of Facebook and MySpace for putting revenue and profit before taking responsibility for the privacy and safety of their users.
They cite the usual horror stories of paedophiles stalking teenagers, false profiles, and compromising photographs.
“Sites like MySpace and Facebook choose popularity over responsibility. Popularity means more traffic, which means more ads served and ultimately more money,” saidSteve Sivulka, CEO of Easysite.com. “Easysite has chosen a different path. From day one we created Easysite as a family-friendly website builder with safety and security in mind.”
EasySite prides itself as being ad-free, instead being supported by users paying for the service itself.
Sivulka says that people don’t realise how expensive “free” really is, suggesting that most services are advertising based and place ads on pages the individual user may believe to be theirs.
“A friend of mine found this out the hard way,” he says. “After sending out a link to his newly created personal website, friends and family complained that pop-up ads with strippers on them were appearing on his site. Some ‘free’ services will even send out junk email (spam), sell your personal information to other companies, or track your movements online to better target ads to you.”
I’m all for the concept of more family-friendly sites like EasySite, but I’m a little concerned that they seem to suggest that they’re the solution, when in fact people placing reliance upon their services could still face problems elsewhere.
Firstly, EasySite can do nothing to stop someone else publishing false information about you on another social networking site, blog, or forum.
Neither can it stop other people from publishing compromising photographs of you, if in fact you got yourself into an embarrassing situation in the first place.
While it’s true that some sites like Facebook do target adverts based on what a user does, this isn’t much different to what supermarkets do based on your purchase history, or what companies who conduct consumer surveys do. While some adverts may be questionable, responsible sites don’t show porn. Neither should users be under any illusion that a profile page (such as that which would be set up on Facebook, Bebo, or MySpace) belongs to them.
Finally, while some users might be content to stay in “safe” sites like EasySite.com (and I personally don’t believe a 100% safe web site exists) there’s a whole Internet out there which many people want to explore. That’s the time children and adults need to know how to keep themselves safe.
Social networking sites should take more responsibility for protecting minors, particularly as preteens are using these sites even though they shouldn’t be.
I’m all for sites like EasySite.com, but they’re only a part of the solution to a safer Internet experience.
By Andy Merrett
Aug 6, 2008
Magazines aimed at young men, often featuring pictures of scantily-clad women and light articles about sex and sexual encounters, are contributing to irresponsible behaviour and the breakdown of family and society, according to the Shadow Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
Suggesting that they simply offer “instant-hit hedonism” during a speech on family, marriage, and education, he said, “Titles such as Nuts and Zoo paint a picture of women as permanently, lasciviously, uncomplicatedly available.
“We should ask those who make profits out of revelling in, or encouraging, selfish irresponsibility among young men what they think they’re doing.
“They celebrate thrill-seeking and instant gratification without ever allowing any thought of responsibility towards others, or commitment, to intrude.”
A spokesman for the Periodical Publishers Association said that the issues that Mr Gove raised were “deep and complex social issues which reach far wider than simply reading a magazine.”
Mr Gove continued his speech by saying that young men needed to face up to their responsibilities, which in turn could reduce social problems such as teenage pregnancies. He also reiterated the Conservative Party’s commitment to supporting marriage and family, including through financial help.
What do you think? Do “lads mags” contribute to problems in society, and if so how much?
(Via BBC News)