I’m scared of my kids getting into marijuana. You should be too.

pic of Erick Lauber
By Erick Lauber

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of marijuana. If you are, then simply don’t read any further. You don’t need to get yourself upset. And I don’t need your angry posts and emails.

If you’re still here, there are a few points I want to make.

First, “yes” there is such a thing as marijuana addiction. If you’re above 30 yrs of age, perhaps you’ve known someone who’s become addicted to marijuana. They might have any of several symptoms. The two worst, I think, are occasional psychosis (losing touch with reality) and “amotivational” syndrome (not wanting to do anything). These effects have been documented extensively and are accepted by the medical community. A percentage of long-term marijuana (THC) users will get these, but not all users. At least not with the doses that have been researched. We simply don’t know yet what the more potent marijuana available today will do.  (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. CBD is another chemical in marijuana that supposedly doesn’t get you high.)

Regular users can also find it hard to sleep without taking a “hit”. Sometimes they can’t eat without marijuana (THC). In these cases, the body has simply adapted to the outside chemical and expects (requires) the drug in order to function normally.

If you don’t think there is anything such as “marijuana addiction”, I suggest you check out these sources (NIDA and The Atlantic), or just call any doctor. By the way, the chance for dependence or addiction is much, much higher if you start as a teenager.   

My second point is marijuana (THC) use is far more widespread than when I was a kid – and it was around a lot even back then. This is not the world you grew up in. Maybe you smoked marijuana back then. But things have changed drastically. Oh, and by “spread” I also mean “it is socially accepted”.  May kids today don’t think there’s anything wrong with marijuana. 

And what happens when teenagers do or do not think something is harmful?  Below are two charts from a real, national survey called Monitoring the Future conducted every year. The graph on the left shows that as “perception of harm” from smoking goes up, actual smoking goes down.

pic of 12th grade perception of harm and use patterns

The chart on the right shows that the same relationship exists for marijuana. When perception of harm goes up, smoking marijuana goes down. Except that, for some reason, around 1992, teens turned a corner and started perceiving marijuana as less harmful. Notice how marijuana use jumped up after that? (The two scales do not exactly match, by the way. Marijuana use is generally higher than cigarette smoking through all of these years!)

In my state (PA) we have a survey that students do every two years. Most schools participate. It’s called the Pennsylvania Youth Survey or PaYS.  When I looked at that data, here is what I found…

(You can see some of this data yourself at http://www.bach-harrison.com/payswebtool/Categories.aspx )

This graph shows the percentage of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders who self-reported using these substances sometime in their life. It shows, logically, that usage goes up from 6th to 12th grades. Marijuana use was relatively low, i.e. it was below cigarettes and about where smokeless tobacco was. However, I’m a little suspicious of this self-report data. Marijuana use might be under-reported because it is still illegal in PA, whereas the others are at least legal.

What surprised me about this graph was the height of the vaping bars. They are almost as tall as the alcohol lines. Recently I read that vaping has seen a 900% increase in teens in the last few years.

And then I recalled that my students have told me that you can vape THC. You can buy vape cartridges full of THC. They can be as much as 80%-90% THC. The marijuana you grew up, by the way, was between 1-10% THC.

They’ve also said you can put “dab” in a vaping device. Dab is a very pure form of marijuana (THC) that is in wax form. It will vaporize in the pen, I’m told. (Here is a bit more on dabbing.)

Now, I know the vape shops sell “flavored” juice in their vape cartridges. They also sell nicotine cartridges. (By the way, the amount of nicotine in vape cartridges can be scary high. But that’s for another day. I think we are making another generation addicted to nicotine.) My students tell me it is really easy to get cartridges with THC – even here in Pennsylvania where that is supposedly illegal.

And here’s another scary graph I found.  When do kids start trying illegal substances? 

graph of when kids try illicit drugs

This chart says by age 18 already 24% of students (nearly a quarter!) have already tried an illicit drug. Of course, that doesn’t jive with the PaYS data, where the numbers are even higher.

Ok. So, I don’t have a real answer for this. I think many kids are going to try this stuff and many are going to have a problem with it. My point is THC use is on the rise, and this may partly be because kids don’t see any harm in it.

Well, I can’t solve this, but at least I can sound the alarm. We’re not going to solve this overnight, parents. My message is simply “Stay vigilant! Do you want your teenager getting in to marijuana?”

(By the way, “marijuana” means “THC”. It’s the chemical that does the harm – even if your kid is no rolling a plant into a cigarette or smoking it in a bong.)

If you are a pro-marijuana or pro-vaping advocate, I know you’re all fired up to “set me straight”. But I’m simply trying to reach tween and teen parents. Maybe we need a more in-depth conversation about all this.

I don’t want my kids or ANY KIDS doing this stuff.

And that’s all I’m trying to say.

Other links:

Here’s a reaction to New York State’s push to legalize recreational marijuana  https://ncadd-ra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Marijuana-Separating-Fact-From-Fiction-in-NYS-SAM-NY.pdf

And for some quick fact sheets about marijuana try “Smart Approaches to Marijuana – preventing another big tobacco” at  https://learnaboutsam.org/toolkit/ 

NIDA

The Atlantic

Is a busy kid a happy kid? Studies say maybe not.

By Katie Mest

The world is moving faster and faster, and it has definitely changed since you were a kid.

As soon as children reach the teenage years, they go from all the leisure time in the world, with planned snack breaks and scheduled play dates, to no free time whatsoever. The moment they walk through the middle school doors, they are pushed to join clubs and activities that will help them on their journey to their dream college.

The only catch is that while they need to maintain their grades for their higher education ambitions, they also need: the right extracurriculars to complement their future majors (as if they would know what those might be as an incoming middle schooler); sports teams to stand out on college applications; teacher relationships for recommendations; and so on …

You get the point.

They need diversity in their interests, but consistency to show these interests are real and not just being used to build a resume. They have to do everything they can – but there is still only 24 hours in the day.

From Me to You

I‘m comparing myself to my peers constantly. I can’t help it.

Especially when I do particularly bad on an assignment. I can’t help but peak at my neighbor’s paper to see how they did. This isn’t exactly something I’ve just recently picked up.

I had a lot of overachievers in my high school. The kind that are now at Ivy League schools pursuing the many varieties of engineering degrees. It’s hard to be around that much success when you aren’t physically, mentally or intellectually capable of that same success.

So what am I supposed to do?

I overcompensate now by overworking myself. Can I join a new club? How about get another job? If I can’t get that summer internship I want, I can at least make some money.

But, I’m realizing, I need to be able to stand out with the talents I was given. But it never feels like enough. It always feels like I need to be doing more.

But there are still only 24 hours in a day.

I never consider it an option for me to drop one of my tasks, even in my most stressed out times.

And here’s my point. More likely than not, your kid is in the same boat.

The Facts

A UCLA survey of college freshmen found that incoming students at four-year colleges and universities spent half as much time socializing in their final year of high school as those who entered college in 1987 (that’s you, parents!) Kids today are spending more time keeping up with the busy day-to-day schedule they’ve created for themselves.

There are some negative effects to this, such as developing high amounts of stress. And maybe your kids are making decisions based on anxiety, rather than any real interest in the activity. Or, maybe you’re taking control of your kid’s after school activities. Are your decisions based on anxiety about their future? (For an article with a balanced view, try this: 2013 New York Times article.)

Importantly, I just had to do a little bit of research to turn up some surprising facts. Kids today are too busy to maintain even the basics of what you held down at 16, i.e. a job. About 60 percent of teens in 1979 were employed. About 34 percent of teens today have jobs, according to Business Insider. And that number is projected to go down even further.

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

Can’t teens even be motivated by money?

Well, maybe. But there is something more important. College.

Kids today are not only competing with the best and brightest in their school, many of whom are applying to the big Division I and Ivy League schools, but they’re also competing with just many, many more of their peers. More high school grads are going to college (and many, many fewer are taking STEM or trade jobs – which is a problem we’ll discuss another day.) Dr. Lauber has told us that when he went to college, only 50% of this high school peers in his small town went to college. Now, its more than 80%. Nationwide, college applications and college attendance has sky rocketed. In 1990 there were around 12 million undergrads. Today , there are 20.8 million (National education stats.)

Maybe this is all starting at too early of an age. I believe today kids want to know how they stack up in their classes. And with each new grade level, there is an even fiercer competition.

Quick question: have your “future plans” for your kid seeped into their “KID years?” Do they have to have perfect grades, two or more extracurriculars and a squeaky-clean record. If your kid thinks this, are they handling this pressure well?

How you can help

OK. I’m not a parent. So just ignore what I’m about to write if you want. But I want to be helpful if I can. So here is a quick summary (of what other people have written) about “what you can do about this.”

  1. Keep a family planner. Encourage your child to have their own planner to keep track of assignments and after-school activities. But also keep one at home in a place you and your child will see every day, such as a bulletin board in the kitchen.
  2. Talk through commitments with them before they decide to join. This saves a lot of stress in the long run. Are they joining because they want to? Or because they think they should? Is it worth taking that time away from homework and other obligations?
  3. Make goals for each new activity. For sports and clubs, the goal might be to “always enjoy the work they’re putting in.” If they stop enjoying the activity, it might be time to re-evaluate spending time on it.
  4. Prioritize with them. Add some perspective to which of their activities deserve the most attention when life gets busy. With school work, sports practice, a club meeting and an after-school job all in the same night, things can get hectic. which should they do first?
  5. Make sure they have time to themselves each week. Not time just with friends. Not just time with family. Time alone. Reflection periods are necessary to the recharging process for kids (and you too, parents!) Let them play music in their room, or veg out on the couch at least some time each week.
  6. And talk with them. How are they doing? A quick check on a car ride home, or maybe while gathering the laundry can make a real difference and alert you to things you want to respond to further.

To learn more about the inner struggles your child may be facing when it comes to Instagram, read our other blog post here.

Or check out this one on cyberbullying.

Some more links:

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

New York Times article on over-scheduled children

Rebooting Your Beliefs About Today’s Job Market

By Morgan Rihn

Have you updated your ideas about your kid’s careers? A lot has changed. Your child may not be old enough to be looking into colleges or jobs, but you need to know that the future is not necessarily like the past, and that includes the job market. Careers that were booming when you first started out are not the same careers your kids will choose. Some job opportunities have only recently been created. And the top majors at many universities and colleges are different than before.

College Statistics 

For example, CNN partnered with CareerBuilder and recently listed the top 10 college majors of 2019 (found at onlinecourses.net ):

  1. Biology
  2. Business Administration
  3. Communications
  4. Computer Science
  5. Criminal Justice
  6. Elementary Education
  7. Marketing
  8. Nursing
  9. Psychology
  10. Political Science

New Jobs

Other websites say healthcare and technology/business occupations are in high demand and that STEM careers are also booming. “STEM” means Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, by the way.

Another source listed 15 jobs that did not exist 30 years ago https://www.coloniallife.com/ .

You’ll find the list a bit amusing, probably. Zuma instructor? But the graph does provide their average salary.

Source
https://www.coloniallife.com/employer-resource-center/2016/july/15-jobs-that-didnt-exist-30-years-ago-infographic
  1. Zumba Instructor
  2. Virtual Assistant
  3. SEO Specialist
  4. Nutritionist
  5. Offshore Wind Farm Engineer
  6. App Developer
  7. Web Analyst
  8. Blogger
  9. Genetic Counselor
  10. Social Media Manager
  11. Chief Listening Officer
  12. Information Security Analyst
  13. User Experience Designer
  14. Sustainability Director
  15. Drone Operator

The Best Jobs for the Next Decade

According to thebestschools.org/ the following careers are expected to grow significantly in the next decade, perhaps when your child will be searching for a job.

  1. Solar Photovoltaic Installers
    1. Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 105.30%
    1. 2026 Projected Total Employment: 23,200
    1. Median Annual Wage 2016: $39,240
  2. Wind Turbine Service Technicians
    1. Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 96.10%
    1. 2026 Projected Total Employment: 11,300
    1. Median Annual Wage 2016: $52,260
  3. Home Health Aides        
    1. Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 46.7%
    1. 2026 Projected Total Employment: 1,337,000
    1. Median Annual Wage 2016: $22,600
  4. Personal Care Aides
    1. Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 37.4%
    1. 2026 Projected Total Employment: 2,770,100
    1. Median Annual Wage 2016: $21,920
  5. Physician Assistants
    1. Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 37.4%
    1. 2026 Projected Total Employment: 145,900
    1. Median Annual Wage 2016: $101,480

They have 20 other future careers listed, check out their website for more. M

What You Can Do

As you look at these lists, don’t get alarmed. Simply do some research. Maybe put your earlier expectations aside and consider how you can let your child explore some of these new opportunities as they grow.

For example, one concern many career counselors express is that some kids never seem to consider jobs far from the “family tree”. This can limit their options. Your child has several years to try out different skills and likes. See how many different careers you can expose them to.

Because, just as reporter Samuel Clemens once said:

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Mark Twain

Helpful Links:

http://www.onlinecourses.net/commonly-picked-majors.html

https://money.usnews.com/money/careers/slideshows/the-25-best-jobs?onepage

https://www.coloniallife.com/employer-resource-center/2016/july/15-jobs-that-didnt-exist-30-years-ago-infographic

http://thebestschools.org/careers/best-jobs-for-next-decade/

“8th Grade” Movie Review: Every Parent of a Tween Should Watch It

By Seth Woolcock

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an eighth grader in today’s world?
Let Bo Burnham show you. Usually known for his comedy and music, Burnham explores the crazy world of junior high in his 2018 film “Eighth Grade.”

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is just like any 13-year-old girl today. She’s self-conscious, lives on social media and strives to be a YouTube blogger – which means she gives kids her age her advice. But off camera, Kayla is crippled with anxiety. She can’t take any chances. The movie follows her through the ups and downs of her last week of classes in the eighth grade.

Kayla’s dad (Josh Hamilton) may be a lot like you. He’s a single parent who loves his kid and would do anything for her, but often finds himself out of touch with his daughter. He believes she lives in a world where people are more disconnected from each other than ever before. Throughout “Eighth Grade” Burnham paints a picture of eighth grade as it is TODAY for American teenagers.

So, I’m a guy in my early twenties – much closer to that age range than you, probably – and I can tell you the accuracy of the movie is unreal.  It has a lot of good messages for both parents and teens. But through conversations with others, I’ve been surprised by how many grown-ups don’t know half the stuff in this movie.  School-shooting drills, Instagram, “finstas”, and Steph Curry jerseys, a lot has changed since you’ve been in middle school. I think it has good information for any parent today, and it provides it wrapped in good story-telling.

The movie talks about (shows) themes like being yourself, putting yourself out there, discovering confidence and growing up – all things every teen/tween deals with, but they are a different challenge in today’s 24/7, hyper-connected world.

Fortunately, “Eighth Grade” also reminds us that things do get better. At a high school shadowing program, Kayla meets Olivia (Emily Robinson), who becomes the first person to really put her arms around Kayla. It foreshadows that high school might just be a bit better for Kayla.

Maybe ironically, I found the music in the movie really worked for me (you’ll hear what I mean when you watch it.) With a run time of only an hour and 24 minutes, and a 99 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie really is a must-watch, especially if you are a parent of a teen or tween today.

“Eighth Grade” is available to steam for free on Amazon Video if you are an Amazon Prime account holder. It’s also available for rental in the iTunes and Google Play store.

Links to other movie reviews of “8th Grade”:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/eighth_grade

“8th Grade” the movie by Bo Burnham

New York Times movie review of “8th Grade”

Today’s Pop Music: What’s it really saying?

By Seth Woolcock

Today, Americans spend an average of 32 hours per week listening to music. That means your kid listens to more than 69 days-worth of music per year.

Maybe they’re getting some benefits from music, like lowered stress, improved health, better rhythm. But every generation likes a new style of music – perhaps one (particularly one?) their parents don’t understand. 

So what are kids listening to today? 

Let me break it down for you.

A short while ago when I was in high school, every Friday morning I had more spring in my step because it was “New Music Friday”. I really looked forward to Friday because I love music and I couldn’t wait to hear new tracks.

You see, Friday is the day most artists release their new music.  It’s also the day Apple Music and Spotify, the two most popular music streaming services, update their top charts.

I was able to start my day with new tunes by Maroon 5, Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line and many other great artists and groups. The music was relatable, and I felt motivated listening to those new tracks.

Over the years, since I’ve come to college, I’ve found it a bit more difficult to get out of bed on Fridays. I still use music to motivate me throughout the day, but I find myself reverting to the same music I’ve been listening to since 2014. I’m not excited about today’s new music.

Why? Because the music has changed.

Yes, top charts are now completely flooded with rap and hip-hop music, but that’s not it. I’ve always liked some rap and hip-hop. But today it’s not the same rap and hip-hop. It’s “trap” music. “Trap” refers to places where people make drug deals. Maybe you’ve heard of “trap” houses? The lyrics in today’s hit songs would shock you. Go ahead. Google some. 

For example, Apple Music’s chart currently says number seven is “Drip Too Hard” by Lil Baby & Gunna. The second line in the song goes, “I gave ’em the drip, they sucked it up, I got ’em on it”. Only two lines later, Lil Baby says, “Takin’ these drugs, I’m gon’ be up until the mornin’.”

After a quick google search, “the drip” refers to the point where cocaine drips down your throat after snorting it.

Other songs in the Top 20 have drug references right in their name. Future’s “Crushed Up” and Lil Baby’s “Pure Cocaine”. 

Others songs objectify women.  Number 10 on the Apple music chart is Blueface’s “Thotiana”. Another quick google search… Well, let’s say any father of a girl would literally turn blue in the face.

 I’m not saying Apple wants people to listen to this music. These tracks are simply on the charts because they are the best-selling songs of the week. 

And while there are still some artists making good music about good things… it is getting harder and harder to find these songs. If your kid is listening to “just what’s popular today,” it may be time to introduce them to maybe some of your old music. Say from the 1990’s?  

Course, I recommend 2014.

Awww… the good old days.

Some Useful Links & Research: 

https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/how-does-music-affect-your-brain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004676/

Venmo: The Payment App of Today

By Morgan Rihn

Venmo is a money sharing app that your kids definitely know about (even if you don’t!)  With Venmo you can pay and request money from people you know. All they need is a Venmo account. Finding your friends’ accounts is super easy: you just sync your contact list from Facebook and it automatically finds them.

The app can be used for lots of things. It makes splitting the bill much simpler, for example. Or you can reimburse someone for buying you a drink. Your Venmo is account is funded by your Venmo balance (what other people have paid you), your credit or debit card, or a U.S. back account. When you connect with your bank account, you can transfer your Venmo balance to your bank account.

Right now Venmo is used by 66% of young Americans (according to expandedramblings.com). Its parent company is PayPal and it has 27 million users, and its growing.  Just in the second quarter of 2018 its payment volume was $14 billion! Venmo is really easy to use. You simply describe what the payment is for (or use emojis) and pick the amount and the person. Click! It’s done. (The names have been changed from the actual screen shot below.)

Purchasing with Venmo

There are companies that accept payment through Venmo. Companies like Uber, Grubhub, Forever 21, and more, use this service. Also, any store that has the PayPal button will take Venmo. And online companies are starting to display the Venmo logo on their payment pages.

Pricing: Is Venmo Actually Free?

Yes, it’s free. Most of the time. You can send money using your Venmo balance, bank account, or debit card, free of charge. There is a standard 3% fee applied to credit card transactions. Venmo’s transfer service (to your bank account) is also free to use, but a 1% fee is charged for each Instant Transfer. Venmo.com also has a Venmo Mastercard, check out https://venmo.com/about/fees/ for more information about it.

Safety Concerns

Like everything else connected to the Internet, safety is not 100% guaranteed, especially when your bank information is directly connected. Investopedia,com says “Venmo uses data encryption to protect users against unauthorized transactions, and stores user information on servers in secure locations. Venmo also allows users to set up a PIN code for mobile application use for additional security, though it does not compel users to set one up, by default.” Of course, there’s always the chance a hacker may break through Venmo’s security measures, but that’s true for your Visa card too.  What I can say is nearly all teens aren’t worried about. Venmo is growing in popularity.  

Oh, and what can you buy with it? Anything. You describe what to call it in the app. If you buy alcohol form a friend, or pot, you can call it a cookie or a soda. So even if your parents see the transaction, or later, someone investigates, there is no evidence of anything other a transfer of money. But we’ll talk about that more in a future blog.

Helpful links:

https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/221011388-What-is-Venmo-

https://venmo.com/about/fees/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032415/how-safe-venmo-and-why-it-free.asp

Today’s technology makes your child’s FOMO even worse!

By Katie Mest

What’s FOMO?

FOMO is the feeling that everyone else is a part of something you’re not. FOMO is the “Fear Of Missing Out”.

It’s all your friends hanging out without you, maybe because you declined to go in the first place or maybe you weren’t even invited.

Parents, does it feel like your child is spending more time at their friends’ house than at yours? Does it seem like they value the opinion of their friends more than your parental advice?

That’s natural. Kids pull away from their parents and look to their peers for acceptance.

FOMO is nothing new. Why are we bringing it up now?

Because your kids are more connected now.

They make plans with their friends in their group text and can see the progression of the plans before their very eyes. If they decline to attend the plans, they are now sitting on the sidelines as the rest of their friends excitedly chatter along, blowing up the phone of those who opted out.

“But they chose not to go”, you say.

Sometimes kids want to be responsible. (Yes, it does still happen.) They know studying for the big test will benefit them more than seeing the newest blockbuster.

Sometimes they can’t go without a choice. Family obligations, sports practices, after school jobs. Maybe you even grounded them from going out. Many times, plans with a big group of friends just don’t fit in the schedule or the budget.

The point is, even if your child isn’t there in person, they still see what’s going on. That little thing called social media that keeps your kids glued to their phones all day is the king at creating FOMO.

Snapchat stories. Instagram posts. The group text. They are all constant reminders of the event your kid diddn’t attend. The fun they’re missing out on. The inside jokes they won’t be a part of because “you had to be there to understand.”

Check out this link for a teenager’s perspective on FOMO.

FOMO can make people (of any age, not just teenagers) anxious. We get low self-esteem from constantly seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to sit at home while it seems like everyone else is doing something exciting and Instagram-worthy.

You’ve definitely experienced it, too.

Come on, parents. You’ve had your friends ask if you and your significant other want to join them for dinner. Maybe a sporting event. And you’ve had to remind them that being a parent means you can’t always go somewhere at the drop of a hat. So you politely decline because it’s easier than figuring out who’s going to watch the kids and the pet. Then you come across your friend’s pictures of the dinner or game on Facebook and you feel a twinge of jealousy because they found someone else to take your place.

F. O. M. O.

But it’s constant for your kid. Their friends post way more than your friends do. And, of course, their teenagers. So they’re not always as polite about it as grown ups are.

They said “no” to plans. How can you help relieve some of the FOMO?

These tips might help.

  1. Distract them. Keep them off their phones while the plans are going on. If they’re studying, encourage a snack break and use the time to catch up with them about what’s going on in their life.
  2. Sit down with them and reinforce the idea that they won’t always be able to drop everything to go have fun. Remind them of the reason they can’t go out, like maybe sports or homework. This reason will be more beneficial to them down the line than whatever their friends chose to do that night.
  3. In the same manner as #2, have a real adult conversation with them if the problem is finances. Finances is a tricky topic to talk about with kids and teenagers. They are most likely still depending on you for the money they use to go out. Maybe they’re too young to realize that you have actual expenses that don’t allow for you to give 50% of what you make to your kid’s entertainment fund. It will get easier as they get older. Start teaching them how to manage their own money, and they will quickly learn how easy it is to spend money on frivolous things when more important things need your attention and earnings – and yet they can’t do that.

More great information on FOMO can be found at:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-fomo-impacts-teens-and-young-adults-4174625

If you like this article on DecodingTodaysYouth.com, check out the harm Instagram is causing your teens.

In a world of perfectionism, Instagram proves large self-esteem crusher

By Katie Mest

Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.

What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?

The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).

For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.

The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.

Until your searches get the better of you.

Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.

The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.

I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.

I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.

And I’m not the only person who thinks like this.

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I don’t look like her, so I must be inadequate.”

And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:

“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”

Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!

But I digress.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.

Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.

You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:

1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.

2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.

3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.

4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)

5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.

The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.

For more information about Instagram and social media pressure, check out these links. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/instagram-can-lower-self-esteem-make-you-unproductive-heres-how-to-break-away/articleshow/66130212.cms

For more of our commentary on social media, check out http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/cyberbullying-or-cyberbullied/

Or

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/finsta-a-fake-instagram/

Finsta? A Fake Instagram

by Morgan Rihn

It is very unlikely that you as a parent know about finsta’s. What is a finsta? A “fake” Instagram account used for posting content that your children don’t want on their “real” Instagram page. From personal experience I can tell you that content usually includes random unedited pictures and captions of their life. Often pretty harmless stuff.

But might (and have) strayed to posting inappropriate pictures involving nudity and drugs/alcohol. Typically girls have finstas, although boys can have them too. They typically set them to “private” and give them an unusual name so only their closest friends can see what they post. Finstas have been around for a while.

Why do teens have finstas?

Recently, USATODAY.com talked about how older teens and college students have a finsta because of the fear that employers monitor what their employee does on social media. I think that probably does not apply that often. Maybe that’s why people with finstas from their high school life keep them. But most people I know that have a finsta have one because they don’t want boys or their parents to see what their posting.

Interestingly, finstas are kind of the opposite of people’s real Instagram account. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, “Everyone kind of knows that no one’s Instagram life is their real life… You’re really tailoring all the photos and editing them and making sure that they look perfect. On your Finstagram, it’s supposed to be like the complete opposite.”

This tendency to let your finsta be more raw and unedited may be the reason sometimes inappropriate content appears.

Should you as a parent be concerned?

One source, Blog.hubspot.com doesn’t think finstas are all bad. They recently wrote about how finstas might allow your child an opportunity to express the unedited side of their life with their trusted friends. Maybe its a good way from to practice expressing themselves. I think if your child is using their finsta for fun, instead of hiding inappropriate things, you may have nothing to worry about. But of course, how would you know, is the big question.

I CAN report that my friends seem to post random photos of themselves on their finstas with captions about boy troubles, stressing out about school, etc…. Most do not post anything inappropriate. It is more of a “spam account” where they can rant about daily struggles to close friends.

So the bottom line is, like any social media account your child has, you may want to keep on eye it. The trouble they can get in to is just too big to ignore. But hopefully, if things are within bounds, you’ll respect their privacy. In their eyes it might be like reading their diary. Want to raise that question with them?Maybe you can explain that, unlike a diary, people don’t usually post any inappropriate pictures in their diary. And a diary really is private. Unlike a finsta.

Check out these links for more on finstas:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/10/20/does-your-kid-have-finsta-account-why-its-big-deal/783424001/

https://www.ajc.com/news/national/what-finsta-teens-and-their-secret-instagram-accounts/2l2ZJwcVj0rLfxPzkApkTK/

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/finsta

Is Your Kid Vaping?

by Erick Lauber

Vaping: Part I

Ok. Here’s a startling statistic. Teen vaping increased 80% last year in high schools. Here’s another one. It increased 50% in middle schools. This is according to the U.S. FDA, so I’m going to believe those numbers.

Ironically, those two numbers don’t include my two boys (who are now in their twenties) who also started vaping in the last few years.

What’s going on here?  It’s quite simple. This is a new drug delivery system that has not yet been adequately regulated. By “drug” I don’t necessarily mean illegal drug. Some vaping devices put out something similar to vegetable oil. But that’s not what I’m hearing about. Most kids are not vaping vegetable oil. The ones I know are vaping nicotine and THC, the mood altering chemical from marijuana.

Is it legal to do this? No. Not if you’re under 18. And recreational THC is still illegal in many states.  But that hasn’t stopped anyone. Vaping has come on super-fast and its catching many parents off guard.

In fact, the FDA has gotten so frightened by the numbers that its recently imposed huge new restrictions on many e-cigarette/vaping manufacturers. But in my town, it’s too late. Vaping is everywhere. And though the chart below says 4.7% of teens vape, more recent data says 12% or higher. Oh, and what’s starting? Unlike smoking cigarettes, vaping is done more by the young!

What’s scary is young people are smoking these MORE than older people!

High school and middle school teachers and administrators are telling me they’re confiscating as many as a dozen vaping devices a day.  And they don’t know what’s in them! There is no testing device they can use to determine if their cigarette policy, their marijuana policy, or perhaps neither should apply!

And where are kids getting these devices? Well, until the FDA recently changed the law, they could be bought in gas stations, convenience stores, etc… They’re still available online. And at vape shops. It’s easy to get a vaping device. And also easy to get it with nicotine or THC.

Will you know if your kid is “smoking” one of these in their room? No. Probably not. The devices don’t have to give off a smell. One kid smoked a THC vape right in front of me and I had no idea. No smell whatsoever. And they don’t have to produce a big cloud of vapor either. Some kids can just blow the tiny vapor up their sleeve. In class! I know. I’ve seen it.

So, is it dangerous?

Yup. But I’ll get into that in another blog post. Look up “popcorn lung” while you’re waiting. And don’t get me started on addiction to nicotine or THC.

Hey parents. This was not around when you were growing up. Get informed. Get a household policy in place. Get with your kids.

Don’t let vaping get your kid.

Here’s some links if you want more information:

https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44295336