How Much Time Should A Teen Spend Online?

How Much Time Should A Teen Spend Online?

A common argument I hear daily in my office is how much time should an adolescent be spending on their laptop or their smart phone. Parents typically believe that their adolescents are spending too much time on their cellphones and laptops. Of course adolescents feel that their parents are being unfair and not allowing them enough time on their cellphones or laptops. Adolescents typically say they need their laptops and cellphones for homework and to communicate with their friends. They feel that their parents don’t understand how the world works today.

In fact 20/20 the ABC News Show, just did a story about how the internet is affecting teenager’s brains. We now have MRI evidence which demonstrates too much screen time has a negative effect on teenage brains and adult brains. They also discussed the issue of Internet addiction. While the American Psychological Association feels more research is needed before it can be labeled a formal diagnosis, think about it? If you can be addicted to porn, gambling or exercise, why not the Internet? I have included a link to a video discussing how the internet is impacting teenagers’ brains https://youtu.be/6Ggz9h7S4b4.

The major problem is that today’s adolescents have grown up with the internet, laptops and smart phones their entire lives. Texting is a very common method of communication for teenagers too. I have teens telling texting is their primary way of communicating with friends. However, most parents grew up when laptops could not do as much and cellphones were typically only used for making a telephone calls not texting. Therefore, there is a difference of opinion regarding how teenagers should use technology and how their parents have used technology over the years. Especially, because when most parents were teenagers themselves technology was not so prevalent.

Besides parents and teens having different views about technology. Parents are worried that their teenager is becoming addicted to the Internet and their cellphones. Having seen how some teens react to having their cellphones or the Internet taken away, I can understand why some parents feel their teenager is addicted to the Internet.

However, parents have additional concerns too. Parents are concerned that with all the texting teens do and all the time they spend on the Internet that their teens are becoming anti-social. Other concerns are the amount of bullying that occurs online, the sexual perpetrators that are online and how easy it is for teens to obtain drugs online. Another concern is that their teen may be involved in sexting or sending naked photos of themselves while on line. Sexting is a relatively new phenomenon so we don’t have a great deal of information regarding it.

However, we do have evidence to support parents’ concerns. There are numerous examples of cyberbullying and examples of teens commuting suicide due to cyberbullying. There is evidence of child predators using the internet to prey on teenagers. There is also evidence of teenagers being able to access drugs easier and engaging in sexting and sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves via the Internet and texting.

Therefore, there are reasons for parents to be concerned. While there are research studies which indicate that there are reasons to be concerned about how much teenagers use cellphones and go online, there is also research showing there is reason to be concerned about what teenagers are exposed to online and can access online. Some studies do conclude that teenagers spend to much time daily online and on their cellphones. Some studies indicate that teenagers should be limited to one to two hours per day online. As I stated above, the American Psychological Association is considering including a diagnosis of internet addiction in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual. However, because the amount of people using cellphones and the internet in numerous ways, there is no agreement about what defines an addiction and what is normal usage. Therefore, parents are encouraged to monitor their teens and use their own judgement regarding rules involving cellphones and the internet.

While, there is research indicating that the internet can pose a danger to teenagers, there is also research showing that there are benefits to the internet and cellphones. The research has shown that teenagers who are depressed, anxious or questioning their sexuality that they can find cites online where they can talk with other teens feeling the same way. Texting has been shown as a way friends have of identifying friends who are suicidal. Because of the Internet, they were able to get their friend help. In fact, just this week, Facebook has added additional ways that people can get help for someone especially if they feel their friend might be suicidal. Many teens I work with find it easier to open up to friends or parents via texting or emailing at times. Therefore, while research shows there are reasons to be concerned, there are also studies indicating that cellphones and the internet can provide positive benefits to teenagers.

So, what do parents do? At this point there are no firm answers because this technology is so new. Therefore, parents need to pay attention to the news and research studies that are being reported. Furthermore, parents need to have conversations with their teenagers and educate their teens about the risk associated with texting and the internet. Also parents need to use their judgement and set rules regarding cellphones, texting and using the internet that they feel are appropriate. Currently, the accepted amount of time for a teen to be online recreationally so for fun and this doesn’t include homework is one to two hours a day.

Another issue is that Internet addiction may also affect adults. Therefore parents, you need to monitor your internet use and set an example for your teenagers. Such as no cellphones during dinner or no cellphones or Internet use after 9pm during the week. These are a couple of examples.

As for treatment of Internet addiction. The Utah Wilderness Camps they showed on 20/20, I do not recommend. These camps typically costs thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance. Also so far, I have not seen a teenager benefit from attending one. In my opinion, individual psychotherapy is appropriate. Because just like any other addictions/compulsion, there are always underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. A camp seldom addresses the underlying emotional issues.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino does treat teens and adults who feel they are addicted to texting or the internet. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Children Are Not Mail Boxes

Children Are Not Mail Boxes

As a child psychotherapist, I hear from many parents about their concerns for their child when there is a divorce. A divorce is a stressful event on the entire family including the children. However, there are ways parents can reduce the stress, but they do not. The most common mistake I see is using the child as a messenger.

Many divorces are hostile and neither parent wants to speak to the other one. However, when you have children, you must speak to each other. You need to co-parent which means communicating with the other parent. You do not have to talk about your lives or even be friends. However, you must communicate with the other parent about issues involving your children. You need to provide each other with information about school, your child’s health, if they have an activity coming up, etc. Basically, anything that involves your child.

However, I see many parents choose to use the child as the message carrier. They tell the child do not forget to tell your father to look at your homework or tell your mother to look at the note regarding your school conference. Many of these children are 10 years old so they forget or get the message wrong and then there is a big fight. The child blames themselves because if they did not forget, there would be no fight.

This is a great deal of responsibility to put on any child at any age. When parents use their child as a messenger, at times children feel they have to take sides or protect a parent. They know mom and dad do not get along and they will do anything to decrease the fighting. So if they have a message that might upset dad, they will worry about it and try to solve the issue so they do not have to give dad the message. The children I see in this situation are very anxious and resentful. They are mad that mom and dad got a divorce and now they feel they have to keep the peace between their parents.

When children are older such as 12 or 13 years old, they may start to act out. They may start using marijuana or alcohol as a way to escape. They also may start to make parenting decisions on their own. They feel if I have to carry the information back and forth, I might as well decide for myself. This can really hurt the relationship that a child has with one parent or both.

What is the solution? Parents, you need to communicate with each other directly and not use your child. The two of you divorced not your child. No one asked them and they should not have to take responsibility for any divorce issues. Also you really cannot get mad at the child for make parenting decisions, if you are putting them in the middle. You can go to co-parenting classes or co-parenting therapy to help the two of you with communication issues. You can also use email. Many Court systems have an email service you can subscribe to so you know messages are delivered. In Contra Costa County they call it the family wizard.

The main point is you can stop being married but you cannot stop being parents. It is important to remember this fact and set up a co-parenting plan during the divorce process not after. Trust me your children will thank you for it.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers and in high conflict divorces. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook/drrubino3.

Helping Parents Cope with Cyber Bullying

Helping Parents Cope with Cyber Bullying

‪Cyber bullying is a major problem. However, research indicates parents do not know how to cope with cyber bullying. We need more programs to educate parents about this deadly issue. Digital Age Parenting: Dealing with Cyberbullying | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shame-nation/201904/digital-age-parenting-dealing-cyberbullying‬

Allowing Teenagers to Learn from their Mistakes

Allowing Teenagers to Learn from their Mistakes

Working with teenagers, I hear very often from parents that they feel their teenager is not responsible and they have concerns about trusting their teenagers. I also hear from teenagers how they are upset with their parents for not trusting them and not allowing them to make decisions. I understand the parents’ concerns, but at times they are being unfair and unrealistic about their ability to control their teenagers’ decisions.

We routinely tell teenagers that they need to be responsible for their choices and actions. However, we seldom allow teenagers the ability to make their own decisions. It is not uncommon that parents have set rules and curfews for their teenagers. Also with the advancement in technology many parents have software installed on their teenagers’ cellphones so they can read their teenagers’ emails or texts. Also they have GPS programs so they can determine where there teenager is and try to figure out what they are doing.

Teenagers are aware that their parents have software programs on their cellphones so they can read their emails or texts or use a GPS program to determine where they are and what they are doing. This usually makes teenagers upset that their parents do not trust them. Teenagers’ tell me if they want me to be responsible how can I be responsible if they do not give me a chance? Also most teenagers have found ways to bypass these programs or they have developed a Texting code so parents will not know what they are texting about to their friends.

Teens there are some facts you need to be realistic about too. You cannot demand that your parents treat you like adults, but if you get into trouble, you want mom and dad to fix it. If you want people to respect your choices and opinions, then you must be prepared to accept the consequences and reactions from other people regarding your choices and opinions. You cannot have it both ways.

The other fact that parents need to accept is you cannot control everything your teenager is doing. You can monitor your teen all you want, but if a teenager wants to do something they will figure out away to do it. Also if you want your teen to be responsible you have to learn to accept their decisions and the consequences that may result from their choices. Additionally, your teenager needs to learn their decisions have consequences and teenagers need to learn to accept the consequences for their actions.

What parents need to do is have a calm conversation with their teenager. During this conversation you discuss issues that your teenager will be facing such as alcohol, drugs, sex and their futures. Explain what you expect and what you are willing to do or not to do. Therefore, they may begin to understand what consequences they will face depending on the decisions they make. They also may start to understand that you will not always be able to solve their problems. If they want to be treated as adults, they need to be able to deal with the consequences of their actions.

This is an important lesson for teenagers to learn. They need to understand that their actions have consequences and they are responsible for dealing with these consequences. One consequence may be that as parents you may be upset with their decision. This is a consequence that they need to be able to accept. Not everyone is going to always accept or approve of your choices. Teenagers need to learn this fact. It is important that they understand that their choices have consequences and they are responsible for their choices.

It is important that parents learn to accept the fact that they cannot control their teenager’s choices. Allowing them to learn from their choices is the best way for them to learn responsibility. It is also away for parents to learn to allow their teenagers to grow up and be responsible adults. Yes at times this may be difficult, but parents need to be realistic that they cannot control their teenager. Also it is better if they make mistakes before they are 18 years old. Typically these mistakes can be resolved easier if they are under 18 years old. When they are over 18 years old, they face the same consequences as a grown adult. Parents it is important to remember that part of your teenager becoming an adult is allowing them to make choices and to learn from those choices. Also the time to start educating them about choices and right and wrong is when your child is in elementary school. If you wait until they are teenagers, they think they know more than they do and they are less likely to listen to you.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. He is considered an expert working with teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drubino3.

Issues related to Smartphones as Graduation Gifts

Issues related to Smartphones as Graduation Gifts

In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact.

In a few weeks many 8th grade students will be graduating from Middle School and moving on to High School. Many of those 8th grade students, who do not have cellphone already, will be asking for cellphones as graduation gifts. For those 8th grade students who have cellphones, they most likely will be asking for better cellphones as graduation gifts. The cellphone or smartphones are very popular graduation gifts.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and children is how much and where the cell phone is being used. Teens basically accuse parents of child abuse if they say no to a phone or if the parent set limits. You are not being abusive, you are being a responsible parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You need to do what you feel is best for your child. Also there are now enough research studies showing teens are spending too much time on smartphones and it is not good for them.

This is an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

There is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone as a graduation gift. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone as a graduation gift or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone as a graduation gift, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. Many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone as a gift, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need. I will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table. I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges. I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition. I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings. I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus. I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone. I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Cell Phone Contract: Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly. I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes. I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents) Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his websites at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Your Divorce Is Not Part of Your Teen’s Graduation

Your Divorce Is Not Part of Your Teen’s Graduation

Since Spring Break is over and everyone is returning to school, this means the Junior and Senior Balls are around the corner and so is High School Graduation. In a family where there has been a divorce this can complicate graduation. This article address the issues associated with divorce and High School Graduation.

Divorce brings a lot of new situations in to a people’s lives especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation. Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.

This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays too. Parents argue about pick up times and drop off times, how long they have the children for holidays and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.

The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress the children are dealing with after a divorce.

The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments about she is not my child’s mother or he is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life start. Also a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.

In short in a high conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused. This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children and I cannot cover all the issues in this blog. I would need a book to cover all the issues. Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.

Graduation is one of those issues. Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now your father wants to come.” Or “if your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.” What is a teenager to do?

They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about who can attend graduation and how graduation day will go because of the divorce.

Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents and adults. This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else, at some point during High School. Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice. Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teenager’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse need to sit down together or email each other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold for one day so your teenager can have what they deserve, a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents too and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil to each other. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. If you can allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight there will be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.

The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teenager celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember the divorce ended your marriage not your relationship together as parents. Do not allow your divorce to deprive you from enjoying your child’s High School graduation day with them. They only graduate from high school once.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teenagers and families coping with divorce. He is an expert in providing psychotherapy treatment for children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.