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“A friend asked me for a nude photo,” my fifteen-year-old daughter told me one night.

“He what?!” I whispered struggling to grasp onto a rational thought.

I knew this friend.  In this case, it was a boy who had been in my home. The realization that my daughter had a friend that would make such a request of her was shocking to me! I had heard these stories from friends or read about them on the internet. I naively tucked myself into a false reality where these “friends” did not exist in our lives.  Yet they did.

A study done in 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that sexting behavior (both photo and text messages) was not uncommon among middle school youth.  According to the Law Enforcement Bulletin, juvenile sexting is increasing in frequency with 20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys) admitting to sending naked or seminude images of themselves or posting them online. A survey done amongst teens indicated that nearly one in six teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones has received naked or nearly nude pictures via text message from someone they know.

The impacts of sexting can be lasting and far-reaching.  Instances of sexting have ended in youth suicide, juvenile court charges, or harassment among peers. Sometimes charges or sex offender registration requirements will follow youth into their adult years.  Even employers and colleges have reversed decisions due to pictures posted by candidates.

To help youth understand the impacts of sexting parents and caregivers should discuss sexting with early adolescents.  This can be an uncomfortable topic to approach with your teens.  Let me be blunt in saying- get over it! This is a conversation that parents must have with their kids. Approach it honestly and openly with your youth.  Ask them what their experience or friends experiences have been with sexting.  We can learn so much from just listening to our kids, and as we listen, teaching opportunities present themselves. 

Remind your teens that not everyone is sexting! The pressure to send a flirty text may be increased if they feel like they are the only one not sending nude pictures.  The statistics say 20 percent of teens, while that statistic may be higher than we want as parents, it is not every teen.  Let your teen know that 80 percent of their peers are not engaging in this behavior, and they are not alone when they say no. 

Make your teens aware of the consequences of sending these types of photos. They could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law. If a picture is forwarded to someone underage, the original sender is responsible for the image.  The sender may face child pornography charges, jail time, or have to register as a sex offender. 

Help your teens understand that after they hit “send” they no longer have control over where their pictures end up. The boyfriend or girlfriend they share it with can easily share it with their friends, and their friends with their friends, and on and on. . .  Encourage your teens to not take images of themselves that they would not want everyone to see.

When teens receive or are shown a nude or inappropriate photo encourage them to tell a parent, teacher or a trusted adult.  Helping them to have a plan when they encounter these situations will help them know how to respond appropriately.

As a parent or caregiver if a teen approaches you with a nude photo they’ve sent themselves or received from someone else, take a deep breath.  It is important to keep lines of communication open. Reacting too harshly or overacting can hinder future communication with your teen about tough subjects.

Although I was concerned about the request my daughter had received after we talked I appreciated the opportunity it created to have a conversation about sexting. The conversation carried over into discussions with my other children, coworkers and friends.  She shared with me what she had done to respond to the request; saying no and blocking the friend from her social media.

For more tips on tackling tough technology conversations with your kids visit The American Academy of Pediatrics.

Sources:

Ohio House Updates “Sexting” Law Related To Minors: Majority Caucus: The Ohio House of Representatives. (2018) http://www.ohiohouse.gov/republicans/press/ohio-house-updates-sexting-law-related-to-minors

Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions. (2010). https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/sexting-risky-actions-and-overreactions

Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting -Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013)

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Talking-to-Kids-and-Teens-About-Social-Media-and-Sexting.aspx

Sexting and sexual behavior in at-risk adolescents.(2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904272/

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County

barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County

Dunfee.54@osu.edu

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teen and technology

If you have a teenager in your home, they are probably celebrating the start of their summer break.  This can mean they stay up later, sleep in longer and relax more.  Like other working parents, you may be dreading the extra-long gaming sessions and screen time that your kiddos may be planning over the summer.

Here are a few tips from media experts on how to tune down the technology and keep the peace in your house for the next 12 weeks and beyond:

  1. Dr. Jenny Radesky, the lead author of the most recent update of the Guidelines on Media and Children from the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a “no media on weekdays” rule. Dr. Radesky states “I try to help my older son be aware of the way he reacts to video games or how to interpret information we find online.” For example, she tries to explain how he is being manipulated by games that ask him to make purchases while playing.
  2. Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University in New York, suggests limiting the use of devices at least one hour before bedtime. This gives your brain time to “turn off” and relax, which will promote better sleep. According to Hale, “when kids watch or use screens at night, bedtime gets delayed.” Additionally, “when it takes longer to fall asleep, sleep quality is reduced and total sleep time is decreased.”
  3. Dr. Tom Warshawski, a pediatrician in Canada and founder of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, puts an emphasis on limiting technology by promoting the  5- 2- 1- 0 formula. That means each day includes: five servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, one hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.

Other screen time tips include:

  • Set firm limits on usage by making a technology schedule. Allow your teen to help with the details so everyone can agree.
  • Limit the number of devices available to your teen while you are working.
  • Limit the amount of free time that technology can eat up by signing them up for camps, volunteering, or even working.
  • Practice safe technology use by implementing rules such as remaining anonymous, using nicknames rather than your real name, reporting messaging or chats that make you feel uncomfortable to an adult, and protecting your passwords.
  • Turn off all screens during family meals
  • Turn off all screens at bedtime, keep devices with screens out of your teen’s bedroom after bedtime, and don’t allow a TV in your teen’s bedroom.
  • Research video and computer games before letting your teen get them. Check ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.  Ratings can run from EC (meaning “early childhood”) to AO (meaning “adults only”). Teens probably should be limited to games rated T (for “teens”) or younger.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Children and Media Tips. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx

Ben-Joseph, E.P. (2016). Screen Time Guidelines for Big Kids. Kids Health from Nemours. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/screentime-bigkids.html?ref=search

Common Sense Media. Screen Time. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time

Child Obesity Foundation. What Every Family Can Do: The 5-2-1-0 Formula. https://childhoodobesityfoundation.ca/families/simple-steps-families-can-take/#tab-id-2

Kamenetz, A. (2018). What Families Need to Know About Screen Time This Summer. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/07/09/625387830/what-families-need-to-know-about-screen-time-this-summer

Written by: Heather Reister, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Butler County

Reviewed by: Bridget Britton, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Carroll County

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Does that question cause you some anxiety? Even thinking about it may feel impossible!
Our phones are used for so much these days; banking, shopping, entertainment, keeping in touch, navigating and more. Even my kids share ways their teachers incorporate their phones into their school day with quizzes and classroom research. 

cell phone

As our use of our phones has grown, so has the research suggesting that our phones can impact our health: physically, mentally and emotionally. With this in mind, taking a break from your phone can be a powerful way to improve your health and well-being. The benefits of taking a break from screens are vast and impact many areas of our daily life. Improved mood, better sleep, a healthier work/life balance, being more present in everyday moments and even a more focused driver are all positive benefits from a break. 

Putting down your phone can be easier said than done.  It doesn’t have to be permanently. Just a few small changes in the way phones are used in your daily life can have a big impact. Here are a few to consider:

Remove phones for transitional moments in your day: walking, getting ready in the morning, driving etc.  Instead of allowing your phone to distract you focus on walking from your car into the grocery store.  Be present in the moment. Pay attention to your breathing, what you see, what you smell.

Consider other ways to fill down time: We haven’t always had our phones. What did you do with your downtime before?  Our phones often control or take over our downtime with checking on social media or playing a game.  Think about what you used that downtime for before you started crushing all that candy and try to implement some of those activities or hobbies.  

Put your phone away before bed: The blue light emitted from our phones can impact sleep, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Our mind needs time to unwind after technology use throughout the day.   Shutting off your phone 30 minutes before bed can help you achieve more restful sleep and help your brain produce the melatonin it needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Find opportunities to explore the real world: Get outside, spend some time in nature.  Focus on building real relationships.  Walk over and have a conversation with a neighbor face to face instead of texting.  Call a friend or make plans that don’t include screens or your phone. 

Put your phone away during conversations:  Studies show that people feel less connected to conversation partners, and found their partners less empathically attuned, when a cell phone was present during the conversation. Having a phone present can be a barrier to a deeper or meaningful conversation. These conversations require trust and undivided attention.   Putting your phone away shows your loved ones that you are listening and focused on them. 

Whether as a temporary breather or an opportunity to create enduring change, there is much to be gained from taking a break from your phone. Screen-Free Week is April 29- May 5. Take the online pledge and you’ll receive support and tips for going screen free.
There is no need to go it alone- consider getting close friends, family, and household members to join you in this effort.

 

Resources:

Commercial-Free Childhood. (2019). Rediscover the joys of life away from screens. Retrieved from https://www.screenfree.org/

Gomes, M. (2018, April). Five Reasons to Take a Break from Screens. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_reasons_to_take_a_break_from_screens

The National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Three ways gadgets are keeping you awake. Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/ways-technology-affects-sleep/

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County

 

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The term Nature Deficit Disorder was coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods” to describe the phenomena of children and youth becoming disconnected from nature. Adults can certainly suffer from nature deficit disorder, but chances are, most adults spent more time outside as children than our kids do today. Research is linking nature deficit with some disturbing child outcomes, such as increases in obesity, attention disorders and depression as well as diminished use of one’s senses.

Some of the reasons for this disconnect with nature in recent decades include urbanization and disappearing green spaces, spending more time indoors, and increased use of technology and electronic communications. These trends contribute to a devaluing of independent play and what health experts are calling the “epidemic of inactivity.” The time kids spend outdoors is increasingly spent in structured play or organized sports, instead of ‘playing in nature.’ Unstructured play in nature allows for developing problem-solving, creativity and emotional development, according Dr. Stephen Kellert of Yale University. In his book “Building for Life: Designing and Understanding Human-Nature Connection,” Kellert urges community leaders and urban designers to consider green space and creating opportunities for children to have positive interactions with nature on a daily basis.

nature unpluggedWe can reverse this nature deficit disorder for ourselves and our children. Connecting with nature can have physical, mental and social health benefits for adults and children alike. Research results found that spending time in nature can help prevent cancer cell development, strengthen the immune system and aid in stress reduction. The Children and Nature Network is dedicated to connecting children, families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources, and collaborative efforts. The Children and Nature Network’s Toolkits offer these ideas to get your family connected:

Nature is everywhere. You can find nature by planting seeds in a pot on the front porch or sketching a tree as well as by venturing into a wild preserve.
Be prepared. In order to get the most from your time outdoors, bring along snacks, water, sunscreen, and even a change of clothes in case your kids get wet or cold.
Embrace the elements. Dress for the weather, stomp in a puddle, enjoy a rainy or snowy walk in the park.
Model curiosity. If you see plants or animals or holes or nests you can’t identify, show your curiosity. Kids have a natural sense of wonder and this can lead to some awesome discoveries. You can look things up together when you get home.
Bring friends. Your family can bond in the company of other families; in fact, you might have even more fun!
Create stories. At the end of the day, have each family member talk about their favorite part of the time spent outdoors. These will become part of your family lore. You can revisit those places and support the wonderful connections you’ve built together outdoors in nature.

Make it a goal to spend an hour outside each week, connecting with nature and with others. See this PBS article for more ideas on how to help your kids get plugged into nature. You can also check out your local parks for nature education programs. Richard Louv offers a Resource Guide full of ideas for connecting with nature.

Get outside.   Get connected.   Get into nature.

WRITTEN BY: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

REVIEWED BY: Candace Heer, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County

PHOTO CREDITS:

  • Photo taken and edited by Shannon Carter; original idea for text on picture taken from popular press

SOURCES:

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