Archive | April, 2011

Teens and Safe Driving

10 Apr

My brother was your typical 19 year old kid.  He thought he was the best driver, so confident in fact that he considered himself a talented texter-and-driver (although he’d always deny it to your face).  One evening he was heading home from a get together and ran a red light at a busy intersection while texting and t-boned two other cars.  Luckily the light must have just turned red because there were no pedistrians or other cars in the accident and everyone walked away unharmed (the cars where a whole other story).

There are a lot of reasons why teens are nerve-wrecking on the road.  My brother is a prime example of one of the most common reason–texting and driving.  One website stated that more than half of teens admitted to texting and driving.  Not only is texting and driving incredibly dangerous, but especially for teens who generally have relatively little driving experience and are more easily distracted.

The New York Times did a story about using in-car cameras to help teens be more responsible for their driving.  The article state that “If the driver gets into a wreck, or suddenly swerves, stops or accelerates, a video clip is sent wirelessly to a Web site where parents can watch it. The footage is only saved when the driver has a ‘safety event.'”  This helps teens assume responsibility because there is little room for rationalizing and they are forced to see things the way they really are.

 

Respond:

  • Do you think in-car cameras could help reduce unsafe driving practices?   Why are why not?
  • What do you think can be done to increase safe driving practices among teens?
  • Do you think there should be more laws in regards to texting and driving (or any other unsafe driving practice)?

 

 

 

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Depression Among Teens

9 Apr

There are a lot of times during the teenage years when teens become moody, overwhelmed, or really sad.  While these feelings are not necessarily depression, they can certainly lead to it.  Depression is a very serious problem for teens, affecting all aspects of their life and can lead to other very serious problems.

Untreated depression in teens can lead to problems at school, running away, substance abuse, low self-esteem, eating disorders, internet addiction, self-injury, reckless behavior, violence, and suicide.   It is important for adults to be involved in their teens lives and to recognize the signs and symptoms of teen depression so that they can help them get help.  To find out more about teen depression visit Helpguide.org.  These are some signs and symptoms their website lists for depression:

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION IN TEENS
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Probably the most heartbreaking effect of teen depression is suicide.  It is very important to address issues of depression that teens may be feeling (no matter how mild they may seem) to avert this tragedy.   To learn more about suicide prevention and warning signs visit here.

For parents:

If you think your teen is suffering from depression it is important to take action immediately and share your genuine concern for them.  Four things to keep in mind while talking to your teen are: (1) offer support, (2) be gentle and persistent, (3) listen without lecture, and (4) validate their feelings. After talking to your teen you next step should be to set up an appoint with a doctor and consider treatment options.  While medication is valid and sometimes needed, it is important to consider all options and to avoid relying on medication alone.  Especially with teens, antidepressant medication can be very dangers.  While your teen is in treatment for their depression it is very important to be understanding and help them also understand their own depression.  Encourage your teen to participate in physical and social activities, these can help your teens find something to focus their energy on.

Stop Cyberbullying

9 Apr

With the promise of anonymity, the internet can empower teens (or anyone for that matter) to harass or bully another person without feeling the seriousness of their actions.  One website reported that 43% of teens say that they have experienced online bullying.  This is way too high a number.  Online bullying is a very serious phenomena that should be stopped.  Each of us have a responsibility to fight to stop cyberbullying.

If you are the one being bullied, it is suggested here that you:

  • Act quickly
  • Don’t erase any electronic evidence (email, blog or Facebook posts, chat room dialogs, etc)
  • File a complaint with the Internet Service Provider, social network site, or cell phone company
  • Contact the school if the cyberbullying may be school related
  • If a threat is made, contact law enforcment
Teens in general are encouraged here to:
  • Not to put yourself at risk online.  Be careful who your online “friends” are and don’t hang around online places where people could treat you badly.
  • Say “No” to bullying.
  • Report bullying. If you watch and do nothing, it is the same as condoning the bully’s actions. Tell an adult.
  • Treat others with respect. Be careful how you communicate online so you are not insulting others.
  • Good Friends Don’t Keep Deadly Secrets! If someone you know is thinking about suicide, tell an adult.
  • Spread the word. Tell your friends that bullying is not cool, it’s cruel. Get involved in your school or community to make others aware of the consequences of bullying.
The same website suggests that parents:
  • Know the signs of suicide. Pay attention to sudden changes in your child’s behavior. Treat all clues seriously and seek professional help immediately if your child exhibits signs of suicide.
  • Teach your children to treat others with respect and kindness.
  • Get involved. Tell your friends and neighbors about the risks of bullying/cyberbullying and its connection to teen suicide.

Educators have a unique responsibility to be the first line of defense when they see a student who they suspect is being bullied.  Educators are responsible for:

  • Respond to ALL instances of bullying. Just responding with “that is not acceptable” will go along way toward ending bullying. Ignoring bullying is the same as condoning it.
  • Know the signs of suicide. Watch students for abrupt changes in behavior. If you think a student is considering suicide, he/she probably is thinking about it. Report all concerns to the school counselor, administrator and parent immediately.

Cyberbullying is all too common in schools today and can lead to serious health problems for teens including depression and suicide.

Tell me what you think. Respond:

  • Why do you think teens participate in cyberbullying?  Is there someone or something to blame?
  • Do you think cyberbullying is a bigger issue than regular bullying?  Should it receive more attention, or are we missing the point?
  • What do you think schools/parents/teens could be doing more to help prevent and stop cyberbullying

Sudden Cardiac Deaths in Student Athletes

7 Apr

I have noticed in the news lately accounts of student athletes who have suddenly died during sporting events.

Wes Leonard was the most recent of these tragedies.  After hitting the game winning shot, the 16 year-old collapsed on the court and later died.

Not only is this terribly tragic but also incredibly concerning.  My initial reaction was why?!  What is causeing this?  Why now? I found this really informative article in the New York Times Health section yesterday that addressed a research study regarding sudden cardiace deaths in student athletes.

The article said that while it has been more common in the new lately, that the rates have not actually increased.  The number they gave for the typical number of student athletes who die during sporting events was still a lot higher than I expected.  They said that 1 in every 43,770 National Collegiate Athletic Association student-athletes (ages ranging from 17 to 23) experience sudden cardiac death per year.

It also said that black athletes and Division I basketball players were at the highest risk.  They reported that the number of black athletes that die as a result of sudden cardiac failure are 1 in 18,000!  They said the reason for this could be an increased incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is when parts of the heart muscle become think, making the heart have to work harder to get blood to pump.

Something that the article suggested in reducing the prevalence of this is having all athletes screened for cardiac abnormalities prior to participation in any sports.

Eating Disorders

7 Apr

With spring break in the rear-view mirror and summer fast approaching, the pressure to get in tip-top swimsuit shape is at it’s highest.  Unfortunately this often leads to the development of eating disorders, especially among young women.

It is hard to determine exactly how many young people develop eating disorders each year because most of them go undetected, but it is estimated that 10 million women and 1 million men are battling with an eating disorder right now.  An eating disorder is different from going on a diet and is usually about much more than just food.  A lot of young people use eating disorders as a way to cope with pain or as a mode of feeling in control of some aspect of their life.

The two main types of eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia.  The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines these to disorders as:

Bulimia–an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating

Anorexia–an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss

Eating disorders are very serious medical conditions and should be treated as such.  There are very serious, life-threatening, and long-lasting effects that can include osteoporosis, heart failure, kidney failure, and even death.

I found some incredibly startling statistics on NEDA’s website in regards to eating disorders.  They reported that more than one half of teenage girls participate in some type of harmful weight control behavior (vomiting, skipping meals, using laxatives, etc).   More than half!  The next one was even more disturbing to me, “42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.”  We’re talking 6 to 9 year olds that feel that they’re not thin enough!  NEDA’s website had a lot more statistics and good information, if it’s something you’re interested in I would definitely encourage you to check it out.

It is important to recognize the warning signs of an eating disorder.  This website suggested that some one with an eating disorder may:

  • Become very thin, frail, or emaciated
  • Be obsessed with food and weight control
  • Weigh herself/himself repeatedly
  • Avoid certain foods (dairy, meat, wheat, etc)
  • Exercise excessively
  • Withdraw from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food
  • Have a lack of energy
  • Intense dissatisfaction with body size, shape, and weight
  • Excuses to use the restroom immediately after meals

If you suspect that someone you might know has an eating disorder or is on the road to developing one, the best thing you can do is be supportive of healthy activities.  If you are close enough to the person, having a one-on-one conversation where you address your concern can often be a very helpful first step.  It is essential to remember that what they’re suffering from is a disease and it should be treated as such.  Some other things that might help someone who is suffering from an eating disorder is inviting them to eat with you.  Many times stress is a common trigger for an eating disorder, so helping your friend find a healthy, stress-reliving activity that you two can participate in is a good idea as well (e.g. yoga, meditation, going for walks, volunteering, playing music, etc.).

Probably the most important thing some one with an eating disorder can do is get professional help.  Unfortunately the number who receive mental health care for their disorder is very, very low (33% for anorexia, and 6% for bulimia).

Tell me what you think!

What do you think could be done to increase the number of people suffering from eating disorders who get mental health treatment?

What other suggestions do you have for dealing with friends or family who suffer from eating disorders?

What do you think cases so many young girls (and boys) to develop eating disorders?

How can we raise awareness about the severity of these diseases and the treatment options?