Why parents must watch “16 and Recovering”

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By: Megan Donny

When I hear MTV television shows, I usually think of reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.”  

What I don’t think of, and what I don’t think many people think of, are honest and serious shows with an in-depth look into real life.  

MTV’s new four-part show, “16 and Recovering,” details the struggles and hardships of teenage addiction, and how parents and caretakers can effectively help teens with addiction. 

I think that parents and teens should all sit down and watch this mini-series, whether its together or separately. 

The show takes place at Northshore Recovery High School in Massachusetts, where the MTV film crew, including award-winning director Steve Liss, was given an inside look into the lives of teens with addiction, their families and their teachers. 

The founder of Northshore, Michelle Lipinski, is not only the school principal but a confidant, friend and even loved one to all of the students. The students not only trust Lipinski but all of the staff at Northshore. They share their struggles, secrets and hardships with the staff members, as they would close friends. 

The teachers and caretakers at Northshore don’t punish students when they relapse or make a mistake. They just express their support and love for their students and encourage them back onto the right path. 

I think that the way the Northshore staff handles teen addiction is a perfect model for how parents and caretakers everywhere should handle their own teens who may be struggling. By showing only love and support, with no anger or strong discipline, the kids feel like they can always be honest with them, rather than fear them and hide their wrongdoings. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, Lipinski spoke about how she did not wish for the camera crew to record the students using any drugs. She said that the show is about teenage recovery, not the drug use.

The show also shows how mental illness and addiction go hand in hand. In one scene, a student named Alba says how depression and addiction go together like “cheese and crackers.” Many of the students struggle with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, on top of the addictions. 

While the series shows how the support and love of family and caretakers can help struggling youth addicts, it doesn’t hide the fact that some teens end up giving in to their addiction and are unable to survive because of it. 

MTV hopes to lead the change in the entertainment industry when it comes to depicting mental illness on screen. 

The show has four parts, each airing Tuesday evenings at 9 pm on MTV. The first episode aired on September 1. 

For more information:

http://www.mtv.com/shows/16-and-recovering

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2020/09/09/mtv-mental-health-16-and-recovering/

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/01/entertainment/16-and-recovering/index.html

Is this new Tiktok dance appropriate for kids?

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By Megan Donny

If your kids are like me and many others, their addiction to the social media video app, TikTok, has tremendously grown since the beginning of quarantine. 

TikTok has been all over the news lately, due to the fact that President Trump plans to ban the app because of its connection to China and its government. More recently he has asked that its U.S. assets be sold to a U.S. company. In the past few days, news has been announced that TikTok is now planning to sue the Trump administration because of all this. 

TikTok is an app filled with different kinds of short videos including content such as dancing, baking, crafting, pranking, etc. Many kids are very fond of the dancing videos, following popular Tiktokers like Addison Rae, and, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio. 

While dance videos aren’t necessarily inappropriate content, some of the Tiktokers and the dances they come up with are provocative and can send the wrong message to kids. 

After these TikTok influencers come up with a new dance, it has the possibility to go viral and be recreated by millions. Kids and teens love to recreate the dance videos made by their favorite TikTok dancers. They post these recreation videos and tag their favorite dance TikToker to try to also become as popular as them. 

An example of a new TikTok dance challenge that is not exactly appropriate is the “WAP” dance. This dance became a viral sensation on TikTok after the release of the song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan the Stallion. I’m not comfortable telling you what “WAP” means in this blog. You’ll have to Google it.

The lyrics of the song are very raunchy, overly sexual and the context of the song is not something that parents might want their kids listening to. The dance involves lots of twerking, simulated sex acts, high kicks and a split. 

The dance is not exactly safe either. One person ended up in the hospital after attempting the dance. This Tiktoker landed on her knee while attempting the dance and had to have her knee popped back into place. 

An article in Vice, by Rachel Miller, details how to talk to your children about what the song stands for. She consults Erin Harper, a nationally certified school psychologist, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M and author of Dear Mom, You Don’t Get to Have Nice Things. 

In the article Miller and Harper discuss how with adolescents and older kids, the song can actually spark a conversation between parent and child about sexuality and having the freedom to express yourself and to be proud of your body. 

Overall, it’s up to the parents to decide what is appropriate or not for their kids’ ears. Even though the song can be a gateway to an open and honest conversation, some parents might not want their kids hearing the lyrics in general. 

For younger children, they say that they might be too young to discuss the sexual language and content in the song. Instead, they say parents should tell their kids that the song is “about women who are feeling strong and happy.”

Overall, it’s up to the parents to decide what is appropriate or not for their kids’ ears. Even though the song can be a gateway to an open and honest conversation, some parents might not want their kids hearing the lyrics in general. 

For more information:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpmdy/are-the-wap-lyrics-cardi-b-megan-thee-stallion-too-explicit-for-children

https://au.news.yahoo.com/tik-tok-user-imitating-music-video-challenge-ends-up-in-hospital-070120725.html

https://www.popbuzz.com/internet/viral/wap-dance-tiktok-challenge/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53877956

How the Pandemic has Affected Opioid Usage

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By: Megan Donny

While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is the top story on most news channels, we need to remember that our nation is facing another crisis: the opioid epidemic. 

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths.  

The AMA said that during this pandemic, more than 35 states have reported increased numbers in opioid-related deaths as well as continuing concerns about substance use disorder. 

Reversing the Trend

The Coronavirus has begun to reverse the strides made in recent years to reduce the effects of the opioid epidemic in the United States. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January showed there was a slight decline in overdose deaths. This was the first reported decline in 28 years. 

But the pandemic is reversing those trends. This is due to the isolation, quarantine and economic devastation many have experienced during this pandemic. 

“When the pandemic hit, some authorities hoped it might lead to a decrease in overdoses by disrupting drug traffic as boarders and cities shut down,” said William Wan and Heather Long from The Washington Post.

But the pandemic brought anxiety and depression, both of which can drive someone to drug use. Because of the pandemic and quarantine, people have been seeking out new dealers, many of whom are desperate for money due to lack of work because of the pandemic. 

Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, many recovery programs and treatment centers had to close to enforce the quarantine and social distancing. Locally, some 12-step programs had to temporarily close because the non-profit facilities they were using were closed to all group meetings. 

Drug Use and Your Child

If you’re worried that your child may be affected by the pandemic and may turn toward drug use, there are signs to look for. These signs include lack of motivation, lack of communication, hostile or angry behavior, secretive behavior, lack of focus, sudden loss of inhibitions, and periods of sleeplessness or high extended periods of energy, followed by a crash and then more sleep. 

Checking their social media is another way to know if they partake in drug use. Their social media posts or their closer friends may point to drug use. 

We’re deeply concerned about both the pandemic and the opioid crisis. Please take the necessary steps to keep your kids, and yourself, safe.

Links

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/01/coronavirus-drug-overdose/

https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2020-07/issue-brief-increases-in-opioid-related-overdose.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/09/coronavirus-pandemic-us-opioids-crisis

About spotting drug use: https://drugfree.org/article/spotting-drug-use/

Helping your kids cope with quarantine emotions

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By Megan Donny

Now that America is beginning to open back up, I find myself feeling upset about everything I missed out on because of the pandemic and anxious about the future. 

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one feeling this way. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has created a lot of anxiety in not only adults but children and teenagers as well. 

This can be a confusing and stressful time, especially for children and teenagers. 

All of the stress and memories of the things they are missing out on can cause them to feel depressed or more aggravated than they usually are. 

As a parent of a child or teenager, you’ve probably experienced some of the backlashes from your kids these emotions are creating. When children are angry or upset, many times they express that anger by yelling, being rude or acting out physically by slamming doors. 

According to clinical psychologist Sherry Kelly, many teenagers who are usually mild-mannered are acting out because they are feeling unusually trapped with no control over their lives anymore. 

While nobody can change what is currently happening with the pandemic, there are ways to help your kids process and control their emotions during this time. 

Four Strategies for Coping During These Times

One way, according to Kelly, is to encourage them to focus on the things they can control, rather than the things they can’t control. She recommends helping kids come up with two lists; one of the things they have control over and one for the things they don’t. You can then help your kids focus on the things on one list, and avoid thoughts about the other. 

Many kids are feeling especially isolated from their friends and other family members they may not live with. I know I personally have felt very lonely during the stay at home order and quarantine. It’s not a surprise that kids are feeling this way. To keep your children engaged with their family and friends, encourage them to Skype or play online games with them as a way to connect. 

Keeping an everyday routine for your kids is another way to help prevent negative emotions associated with the pandemic. By creating a new routine for your kids, it will help them feel less anxious about all of the uncertainty they may be experiencing.  

Make sure you also acknowledge your children’s feelings. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and to express any of their worries they may have. Children are likely to feel secure during times like this if they know their parent has acknowledged their feelings and is there to support them.

We know you’re going through a tough time, parents. Hang in there. And remember what Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

Resources:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-ways-kids-happy-home-self-quarantine.html

https://www.today.com/health/quarantine-tips-help-your-kids-stay-physically-mentally-fit-t180028

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/04/23/even-mellowest-teens-are-raging-against-quarantine-heres-how-help-them-cope/

Great things for your kids to watch during quarantine

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By Megan Donny

As much as I hate to admit it, my daily screen usage has gone up significantly during quarantine. 

Since we are all stuck inside most days, it’s likely that both you and your kids have also been on your devices more than usual. While this is completely understandable, most of what your kids may be viewing on their devices is probably not educational or brain-stimulating.  

Instead of letting your kids stream TikTok videos, here are my top five things for your kids to watch: 

Educational and fun YouTube series: 

YouTube isn’t just cute and funny animal videos anymore; it now actually contains channels and show series that can be both fun and educational for your kids. One of my recent favorites is “Some Good News.” Started by actor and dad, John Krasinski, SGN is solely focused on providing happy, fun and good news to its viewers. John Krasinski brings some of his celebrity friends on each episode as well. Other shows I’d recommend on YouTube include The Brain Scoop, SoulPancake and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. 

Aquarium and zoo live streams: 

Many zoos and aquariums all around the country have begun to live stream their animals to show everyone at home how they are doing during this quarantine. The Houston Zoo is one of the most popular with its live streams of giraffes, elephants and more. They also have a Facebook Live series that includes videos of their animals, fun facts and even activities for you to complete at home with your kids. If your kids love sea creatures, the Monterey Bay Aquarium also has live streams as well as narrated feedings during the week. 

Kennedy Center’s Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: 

A great way to get your kids to use their hands for things other than scrolling through social media or clicking on their tablets is to get them to be creative. Mo Willems is the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence. Since the quarantine, he has begun to make videos of himself drawing and exploring different ways to make art. He provides printable worksheets for each of his “Lunch Doodles” on the Kennedy Center website.

Documentaries for kids: 

Netflix, Hulu and all of the other streaming platforms provide a wide variety of different types of documentaries. Many of these can be super educational and kid-friendly. March of the Penguins was the first documentary I watched as a kid and it really opened my eyes and taught me so much about nature and penguins. Disney’s animal documentaries like “Born in China” and “Monkey Kingdom” are super educational and interesting to watch. Some other family-friendly documentaries include “Kindness is Contagious,” “Pick of the Litter” and “The Imagineering Story.” 

Live stream concerts: 

Since artists can no longer perform on stage in front of audiences, they are bringing the concert to you by live-streaming their performances online. Live Nation has a whole page on their site dedicated to telling you when these live stream concerts are taking place. Some family-friendly artists who have begun live streaming are Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kathrine McPhee with David Foster. They have sung songs from your kids’ favorite Disney movies as well as popular musicals. To find out more about who is live streaming, check out Live Nation’s website or your kids’ favorite artist’s social media pages.  

For more information:

https://www.kennedy-center.org/mowillems

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-documentaries

https://www.livenation.com/livefromhome

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org

https://www.houstonzoo.org/explore/webcams/

TikTok’s Relaxed Terms Could Be Unsafe for Kids

By Megan Donny

TikTok, one of the most popular content-creating apps children and teens use today, is full of security concerns that parents may not be aware of. 

According to Australian ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean, the app has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts, even after complaints and warnings have been filed against them. 

These accounts could be run by possible stalkers and child predators. And the minimum age to create an account is 13 years old. This is a low age compared to other popular content-sharing apps. 

TikTok’s whole premise is video creating and sharing. Unlike Snapchat, these videos do not disappear after 24 hours. And TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users. 

The app relies on content from children and teens, who make up a majority of the users and content creators. 

While adults understand that we need to look out for our online safety, children as young as 13 might not comprehend the idea that there could be people on TikTok watching their singing and dancing videos inappropriately. 

For example, an investigation by BBC News in the UK found that children were receiving inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and that the platform was full of bullying. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK is now investigating the video sharing app, according to The Guardian. 

“Like any social media platform that has a direct message or commenting feature, there’s always the possibility that your child could be chatting with anyone, including strangers,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.

According to BBC News, even though most of the sexually explicit comments disappear within 24 hours after being reported, most of the users who posted the comments are not removed from the app. 

“Even if you set your own account to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed,” Jordan said. “Ranging from overtly sexual TikToks to physically dangerous stunts that kids may want to recreate, to overtly racist and discriminatory commentary, there is a wide range of concerning content on the platform.”

The app recently launched a new set of parental controls settings in the UK, following the investigations into their app. The new setting, called “Family Safety Mode,” allows parents to be able to manage their child’s screen time, limit viewable content and limit or even shut off the messaging feature on the app. 

If you can’t access the new “Family Safety Mode”, I at a minimum advise that you make your child’s TikTok account private. Common Sense Media advises parents to make sure to turn on all privacy settings for accounts kids are using, so only people you know can interact with their videos or messages on the app. Parents should also teach their children about the possible effects that posting their personal information can have in the long run. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47813350

https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/tiktok-is-a-pedophile-magnet-and-unsafe-for-kids-warns-cyber-security/?utm_source=JERF&fbclid=IwAR23txVdFF13qaNqVEEmjWf5WnDs2VEaPoYk-HGE0kuIUAK4zTHxxX2E7lc

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-tiktok

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/05/why-tiktok-is-facing-greater-scrutiny-video-sharing-app-child-safety

https://www.parents.com/kids/safety/internet/is-tiktok-safe-for-kids/

How to monitor your kids online while preserving their privacy

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By Megan Donny

When I was growing up, there were not many online safety practices available to my parents to help protect me online. 

Today, we have many more options to help protect children who use mobile devices and computers. 

Bark is a proactive dashboard that monitors your children’s text messages as well as 24 different social media websites like Youtube. 

Many parents don’t have the time or ability to search through their child’s texts, social media accounts and emails for alarming content. 

Bark watches what your children are doing online and reports back to you if it happens to find alarming signs such as cyberbullying, depression, sexting, online predators, adult content and more. 

Not knowing who your children are interacting with online and how they are interacting can be a scary thought. With Bark, your child’s activity is monitored without you having to go through their phones to find information. 

The program even sends alerts to your phone about your child’s online activity along with suggestions on how to help from psychologists. 

The dashboard has prevented 16 school shootings and has detected 20,000 severe self-harm situations since it was developed by a father of two in 2015.

Bark also extends its services to all K-12 public and private schools in the U.S. for no cost and has helped protect children in 1,700 school districts. 

 A lot of children, especially older ones, try to keep their parents out of their business as much as possible. I think that children would prefer this method of monitoring compared to their parents scrolling through all of their messages and content themselves. Bark will protect your children’s privacy by only alerting parents to information that may be concerning. 

I would suggest that parents take advantage of this new technology. I think that it can help you keep up with your kids, without having to sneakily snoop through your child’s phone.

Links:

https://www.bark.us

Are food advertisements targeting your kids?

By: Megan Donny

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Every day, children access a wide variety of media platforms that are filled with advertisements through their phones, tablets and laptops. 

Food and beverage advertisements have been found to be the most viewed on apps such as YouTube and Snapchat. 

A Canadian study found that children view over 100 advertisements for food each week on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. 

These advertisements are specifically targeting younger viewers who have low impulse control and low healthy dieting behaviors. 

Social media has made it so much easier for marketers to target consumers. They can use digital tools like location settings, preferences and past purchasing data to more accurately grab the consumer’s attention. 

According to a study done at the University of Michigan, when children view these frequent, and sometimes persistent food advertisements, it makes them desire the reward of food. 

In the study, it shows that when adolescents see unhealthy food commercials, it activates the reward centers of the brain. This then causes the child to want to seek out any type of food related to what they saw in the advertisement. 

How you can limit your child’s advertisement exposure: 

While it’s practically impossible to completely remove all types of advertisements from your child’s life, there are ways to prevent food advertisements from appearing on their screens. 

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t rely on advertisements for revenue and your kids will not be exposed to any type of advertisements on these apps. 

Also through the settings section in apps like Instagram, you can see the advertisements that have been shown to your children as well as learn about what to do if you see an ad you wish to hide. Many of these also have parental control options.

Websites like Common Sense Media can help parents learn about the different apps and streaming services their children use as well. 

Helpful Links:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-kids-see-thousands-of-ads-for-unhealthy-foods-on-social-media-study-1.4154607

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fast-food-marketing_l_5c890150e4b038892f493653

Does your daughter access birth control online?

By Megan Donny

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“Easy” and “affordable.” 

Those are the two words you see when you open any of the multiple websites that offer online birth control prescriptions. 

While this method of obtaining birth control may be helpful for women trying to renew their previous prescriptions, it’s also an easy way for young tweens to bypass a doctor’s trip to obtain a prescription. 

Websites like “The Pill Club” and “Nurx” offer first-time birth control prescriptions to women as young as 13 years old. Girls under 18 do not need parental approval to get a birth control prescription.  

These websites offer birth control options such as the pill, the ring and the patch. They also offer emergency contraception pills and at home HIV and HPV screening tests. 

The process for obtaining a prescription is simple: you provide information about yourself, select the kind of medication you want, a doctor reviews your request, fills the prescription, and your new medication gets mailed right to you. 

It is very easy to bypass questions in the process that are important, like if you’ve had your blood pressure measured in the last 6 months and the current medications you may be on. However, if you don’t answer the questions as accurately as possible, you may be prescribed a medication that negativily affects your health.  

Insurance information is not required to obtain a prescription from these websites. Nurx, one of the most popular online contraceptive websites, says that you will pay as little as $15 without insurance. 

Many young women dread telling their parents when they have become sexually active. The process can be awkward for both the child and parent. But it is necessary for the child to know the dangers that come with sexual activity. 

Online birth control websites give young women the opportunity to skip the awkward talk and get a prescription without their parent’s knowledge. 

The problem with getting birth control online for a first-time prescription is that many young women do not get informed about different methods of birth control and the side effects that may occur. 

Some medications can affect young women suffering from mental and physical health problems. It is very important for anyone considering filling an online prescription for birth control to get well-informed. 

Useful Links:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/birth-control-for-teens

How to Talk to Your Daughter about her Clothes

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by Megan Donny

“Go back upstairs and change.” 

My father said those words to me about 5 minutes before I had to leave for my first high school dance. 

Despite my anger, I retreated to my bedroom where I changed into a less revealing dress for the dance. 

Hearing your own father chastise your fashion choices as a teenage girl with a fragile self-esteem was a devastating experience for me. 

Parents tend to restrict what their young daughters wear in order to avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves and their children. While parents almost always have their children’s well-being in mind, at times they can step over the line. 

How parents can cross the line 

For the last year, I’ve worked at a popular girls clothing store and have watched parents tell their children what they can and cannot try on.

While it is understandable that a parent doesn’t want their children wearing items they don’t deem to be appropriate, some parents don’t understand why their daughters are dressing the way they do. 

Most middle school and even high school girls aren’t dressing scantily because they are seeking male attention. They dress in the clothing marketed to them by every clothing store with a teenage demographic. 

When parents don’t have an open and honest discussion with their children about why they do not want them dressing a certain way, the children usually end up feeling angry or insecure about themselves or their bodies.  

When I was told I could not wear the dress I had picked out for the school dance, I felt as if my father did it just to spite me. He never explained to me why he believed I shouldn’t wear it to the dance. If he had told me he was worried about what other people might think of me and my family, we could’ve had a discussion that ended with me going to the dance feeling better because I would have known he had my best interests in mind.

By limiting what their children wear, parents are restricting their children’s self-expression and potentially leading their child to instead sneak around their parents when they don’t approve of their clothing.  

How social media affects children and parents

Today, everyone’s lives are exposed like tabloids on social media. What a lot of young teenagers don’t understand is what they are seen wearing in pictures on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook can affect how people think about them as well as their family. 

When a teenager posts an OOTD (outfit of the day) picture of herself in a bikini, more people see the picture than she probably knows. One of her friends may see the photograph and then show it to her own mother, who will then make assumptions about how the mother of the girl in the bikini chooses to parent her daughter. 

Parents try their best to avoid being perceived as having a careless or relaxed parenting style. Which is why social media has become every parent’s worst nightmare. Now that children can share as many photos of their clothing choices as they want, more parents are being criticized for letting their children wear what many stores are selling today. 

By talking to your children about how social media can impact how people view them and their family today as well as in the future, hopefully they will choose to be more cautious about what they post online. 

How to talk to your daughter about her clothing choices 

Approaching the subject on what you believe your daughter should or should not wear can be tricky, especially since most teenage girls are stubborn and have a very sensitive self-esteem. You don’t want to accidentally offend them by saying that they shouldn’t be wearing a certain article of clothing to school. 

Parents.com author Kara Corridan discusses different ways to speak to your tween daughter on what she wears. She suggests speaking to your child about her clothing choices when she is “feeling relaxed and not in the spotlight.” This means the best time to talk isn’t when she is trying to pick out an outfit before school or when you are shopping. Instead, Corridan says to speak to your daughter when you are both spending some down-time at home. 

Corridan also suggests having an open discussion with your child where you ask them questions about their style in a non-judgmental tone.  Instead of shutting the conversation down with a few words like “go change,” ask them “why did you choose that outfit?” By understanding why your daughter chooses to dress in clothing you may object to, it will be easier to explain your concerns to her. 

Author/educator Michelle Icard says that honesty is the best policy when it comes to talking about this subject with your daughter. She proposes telling your daughter that she is old enough to make her own choices and that she should know when her clothes may draw unwanted attention. 

While this approach may not be best for every parent, some need to know when to let their daughter make her own choices and when to intervene. Sometimes it’s best to let your children make their own mistakes and learn from them. Teenage girls express themselves through fashion and they need to be able to experiment with new styles. How you choose to handle what they wear is up to you. 

Useful Links:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/heidi-stevens/ct-life-stevens-wednesday-how-daughter-dresses-0814-story.html

https://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/parents-perspective/how-to-talk-to-your-daughter-about-what-shes-wearing/