What is Swatting?

What is Swatting?

On line gaming is no longer just a game. On line gaming has now become violent and deadly. Another deadly fact is that many teenagers and parents are not aware of how dangerous on line gaming has become. Most teenagers that I work with view on line gaming as just away to have fun and as away to socialize with people. Many teens see no problems with gaming. Many parents are concerned about on line predators. Unfortunately, most parents do not have many other safety concerns about on line gaming. However, there are reasons why parents should be concerned about their teenagers safety when they are involved with on line gaming.

Some parents may have heard about on line gaming and “swatting.” In fact, a teenager, who was 19, was convicted of murder this week for Swatting. Many people may be wondering what is “swatting”? Wikipedia states “Swatting is the harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or other alleged incident.” In other words, if someone you are gaming with on line gets angry with you, they make a phony call to 911 trying to get the police or Swat team to show up at your house.

Remember, with on line gaming you can be gaming with people in different cities, states or even other countries. You know nothing about the person expect for what they posted on their on line gaming profile or what they say to you on line. Therefore, you really know nothing about these people. They may have an anger issue, a violent past and there is no way that you can find out. Most teenagers assume they are playing with someone who is interested in the same game and wants to play the game.

However, these people are into on line gaming. Therefore, many of them are very interested in computers and know about coding and hacking. Therefore, while your teenager does not post their address or tell the people they are playing with their address, one of their players can hack into the game system and get their address. They now have the information needed to call 911 and report your teen for a false crime.

Swatting has been occurring for years, however, it has not been widely reported in the news until recently. A few weeks ago, a man from Los Angeles called 911 to report someone he was gaming with in Nebraska. Unfortunately, he had the wrong address. The man made several allegations such as he was holding his mother and brother in a closet and was going to shoot them. He also said that he had poured gasoline all over the house and was getting ready to light a match. Now with the increase in shootings and violent attacks in the United States, the police are on high alert. These people making the fake “swat call,” also can make it look like the call is coming from the address they are giving. Now with the Nebraska situation, the prank caller had the wrong address. The man who answered the door had no idea what the police where doing at his house. He made a move towards his waistband, probably to get his wallet, but the police thought he was reaching for a gun. The man was killed. He was 25 years old and a father to a 3 year old child. His family is mourning and his child will grow up without a father because an on line gamer was mad at someone he was gaming with and decided to get payback with a Swat Prank. There is no other way to say this, but this prank is stupid and totally irresponsible. The person doing the prank is putting another family, police officers and their families at risk for a similar tragedy because they got mad about a play on an on line game. If this is where these games are going then they need to be regulated and teenagers should not be playing on line games.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I hear many teens talk about these games. They like they idea they can connect with other people in other states and countries, but they are not aware of the dangerous. They are still teenagers and assume nothing bad will happen to them. They believe these things may occur but they happen to other people. This is how teenagers think, therefore, parents you must step in. You need to educate your teenagers and possibly prohibit your teenagers from playing these games. This may not be a popular decision, but remember, being a parent is not a popularity contest. Please look into Swatting and other risks associated with on line gaming and do what you feel is in the best interest of your teenager and family.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

The Truth about Sexual Activity in Middle School

The Truth about Sexual Activity in Middle School

Would you give a boy in the 6th grade a condom? San Francisco Unified School District and other school districts now provide 6th graders with condoms. If a student wants a condom, all they need to do is talk to a school counselor or school nurse and a 6th grader can get a condom. The talk is less the 30 minutes.

Why are schools considering this option? They are considering this option because research is showing that teens are becoming sexually active at younger and younger ages. It is not uncommon for kids in the 6th grade to be sexually active. Research studies show 5% of 6th graders are already having sexual intercourse. This is not taking into account oral sex. Most 6th graders consider oral sex “messing around.” It is not sex. Therefore, when I conduct a clinical interview with a middle school or high school student before I start seeing them for psychotherapy, when I get to the part of the interview which deals with sexual activity, I need to ask if they are having intercourse or oral sex? Many middle school kids equate oral sex with kissing. This is scary.

I understand that the San Francisco Schools are trying to protect their students, but I don’t think this is the best way to do it. From my experience working with teens, they usually start thinking about birth control after they are already sexually active. Also how much information can be provided in one 30 minute talk. The kids can be told how to use a condom but no one will be discussing the emotional issues and responsibility involved with sex. How much information about STDs and safer sex practices can be covered in the same 30 minute session. Also no one will be asking the child if they are ready for this step and are they prepared if the girl gets pregnant?

If we want to keep our children safe then we need to stop making sex such a forbidden subject. The kids need classes in 4th and 5th grade which explain in detail about different sexual acts and the risk they are taking even if they use a condom. For 6th graders to think oral sex is the same as kissing is crazy. It is also crazy why we are saying to them don’t have sex, when society is telling boys if you want to be a “man” you can’t be a virgin and girls are told if you want a boyfriend you have to give him sex.

Also we need parents not to be embarrassed or shy about talking to their kids about sex. Parents cannot wait until their child starts High School anymore. By the time many kids start high school, it’s too late to be discussing sex. Sexual activity should be something you discuss with your child from preschool on. Of course not going into specific details, but talking at an age appropriate manner. Start educating them about their bodies. If a child sees you are not embarrassed or ashamed they will be more likely to ask you questions before they do something. If parents act like sex is something to be ashamed about a child won’t ask their parents questions.

Also parents you must start the conversation. Many parents tell me they will discuss sex with their child when s/he asks questions until then they will wait. I have teens telling me they won’t ask their parents because it’s too odd talking to their parents about sex. If they don’t ask an adult they are going to learn by trail and error. I have had to become comfortable discussing the subject because many parents tell their teen to ask me. Yes they are getting the information, but they really prefer talking to their parents. I often encourage teens to try talking to their parents explaining that their parents feel just as awkward as they do, but the embarrassment will pass.

The main problems I see with the school handing a 6th grader a condom is no one is really discussing with the child are they really ready to be sexually active? There is a great amount of responsibility that goes along with being sexually active. You can still catch an STD using a condom so the 6th grader needs to tell their primary care doctor they are sexually active. A girl can still get pregnant using a condom. Are the boy and girl prepared for this situation if it occurs. Also when I ask middle school students about condoms, they know very little about condoms. Some middle school students think you have to be 18 in order to buy condoms. Many middle school students think they come in different sizes. These facts tell me we are placing middle school students into sexual situations, they are not emotionally prepared to handle.

To become sexually active is is a huge decision to make and I don’t think a 6th grader is mature enough to make it. Also 6th graders are not always paying attention so they may not know how to use a condom appropriately.

Yes it is shocking that 6th graders are having sex. I think a better way to handle the issue is to look at what we are teaching them in the movies, television shows and video games they are watching and playing. Sex is not a game and we are treating it like a game. This doesn’t help kids in 6th grade. We need real sex education in school and at home.

In therapy often boys will tell me they think they are ready for sex. I ask them are you sure this is the girl you want to have your first time with? I also remind them they only have one first time. I also ask are they ready for the emotions that go along with sex? The biggest one I ask is are you prepared to handle if she gets pregnant? Condoms are not a 100% guarantee. The question that always gets me is when they ask how they can get a condom? I tell them you can buy them at any drug store. I often hear I would be too embarrassed to go buy condoms. My response is if you are too embarrassed to by them then in my opinion you are not emotionally ready for sex. In my opinion handing 6th graders condoms will result in more teens being sexually active who are not emotionally ready to be sexually active. We need to think about that point.

Parents you also need to let your child know they can discuss sex with you. May be you may not agree with them about their opinions, but they need to know they can talk with you and don’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble. The main reason I hear from teens about why they don’t talk to their parents is they are afraid their parents will get mad, they will get a lecture and get into trouble.

I don’t think anyone feels a 6th grader is ready for sex, but it is happening every day. If we are going to do what is best for kids, we need to help them feel safe to discuss sex with us. If we don’t the consequences can be severe for everyone involved.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teens in middle and high school and is considered an expert in this area. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Coco Loco A Drug Not A New Candy

Coco Loco A Drug Not A New Candy

Coco Loco is one of the newer drugs teenagers are using to get high. This product recently entered the United States. It is not being labeled as a drug so the FDA has no authority over it. It is being marketed as a vitamin and work out suppliment. Therefore, just like many other supplements at stores such as GNC, teens can buy it legally because the FDA has no control over supplements. Teenagers also assume it is safe because it is being marketed as chocolate and natural.

Since this substance is new, I have included a link that you can look at so you are more familiar with this substance. https://youtu.be/MV6QIsqA_f4

While chocolate is one ingredient it also includes ingredients common in energy drinks so the person feels a burst of energy. What is the problem? Since this is not regulated, there is no way to determine the amount of caffeine or other substances are being used to increase your heart rate. Therefore, if a teen has been drinking a number of energy drinks and then snorts Coco Loco, they won’t know if they have had too much until it is too late. A very fast heart rate can cause some very serious physical problems.

Increasing your heart rate can be dangerous. Most people who do cardio exercises take their heart rate to make sure their heart rate is in a safe zone and not too fast. When a person’s heart rate is too fast, they can have a heart attack or a stroke just to mention some of the physical dangers. Also if a person ingest too much caffeine they can cause themselves to have a psychotic episode.

The problem with Coco Loco is since it is marketed as “natural” it does not have to comply with the labeling or health codes that substances considered as “medical substances” have to follow. If you go to a store such as GNC which tends to sell such products to help people lose weight or improve their energy level, you will find many of the items do not list ingredients or health warnings. By law they do not have to.

So the problem is that many teenagers may assume this product is totally safe when it is not. The problem is that they may discover this when their hear is beating 200 beats a minute and their health is at risk or they have had too much caffeine and find themselves waking up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital because they had a psychotic episode.

So parents, take a few minutes and discuss Coco Loco with your teenagers. In fact, discuss it with any of your children who are going to school. There is no age restriction on who can buy it and children may not hesitate to try it because it is chocolate. Explain the difference and the risks so they can make a good choice.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years working as a psychotherapist treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Marijuana is not as safe as teenagers think

Marijuana is not as safe as teenagers think

Most teenagers think marijuana is safe especially now that you can buy it. However, this is not the truth. The U.S. Surgeon General issued the following statement regarding teenagers and marijuana.

U.S. Surgeon General’s Warning on Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain

On August 29, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a new advisory on marijuana use and the developing brain. The advisory focuses on the dangers of marijuana for adolescents and for pregnant women.

The statement from Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams emphasized “the importance of protecting our Nation from the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. Recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.”

marijuana plant-unsplash.jpgTwo major changes in recent years are contributing to increased use of marijuana and greater risks from its use. Marijuana is more available and acceptable as a growing number of states legalize its use by adults for medicinal or recreational purposes. The Surgeon General notes that the marijuana available today is much more potent than in the past. Typical concentration of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, increased three-fold between 1995 and 2014. Higher doses of THC increase the risks of physical dependence and addiction and are more likely to lead to anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis.

Marijuana is commonly used by youth and young adults—in 2018 an estimated one in eight (12.5%) youth 12 to 17 years old and more than one in three (34.8%) young adults aged 18 to 25 had used marijuana. (SAMHSA 2019) Frequent marijuana use during adolescence can impair learning and is associated with changes in the areas of the brain involved in attention, memory, decision-making and motivation. It is also associated with a risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Adolescents are at particular risk for cannabis use disorder and can experience significant withdrawal symptoms. An estimated one in six daily users become dependent on cannabis. (APA Resource Document)

A 2019 APA position statement notes similar concerns: “There is no current scientific evidence that cannabis is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development . . . There is great variability of in the form, dose and potency of cannabis. Furthermore, there are numerous other compounds in products marketed as cannabidiol or cannabis with unknown health effects.”

Use of marijuana by pregnant women has increased in recent years. Marijuana use during pregnancy can affect the developing fetus and is associated with adverse outcomes, including lower birth weight. Both the American College and Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against marijuana use by pregnant women. Harmful effects of marijuana use can also be passed on to a newborn through breast milk. It can affect the newborn’s brain development and contribute to hyperactivity, poor cognitive function or other problems.

Middle School in the Year 2019

Middle School in the Year 2019

The school year is beginning and many parents are focused on their children’s transition into High School, College or Kindergarten. However, there is another important transition for children, Middle School. This is a major transition for pre-adolescents. As a psychotherapist who works with adolescents, I am very familiar with what is happening on High School and Middle School campuses and how big the transition is into Middle School these days. However, some parents are not aware of what happens in Middle School today. One example, when I mention to parents who have a child going into middle school or a child in middle school, if they have spoken to their child about drugs and alcohol, I am told no.

I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most middle school campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends. They see other kids at school using and they want to be part of the popular group so they think about and often try drinking or vaping.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are not sexual active. Most 6th graders tell me oral sex doesn’t count as being sexually active. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves from contracting STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are disrupting condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. As many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing occurring at school. I wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other.

Another issue with teasing, is that a number of middle school students have been arrested for photos they text and for harassment. Besides teasing, texting a nude photo of a student in middle school means the middle school student violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that a child can be charged with violating child pornography laws. When a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested. The law is violated because the child in the photo is under 18 years old.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp.” Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and safety at school. The number of mass shootings at schools and the mass shooting drills they do at school exacerbate this fear. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus, they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to mass shootings, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older and as a result the issues in their lives are becoming more difficult. Therefore, when you talk to your pre-teen mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it and they can talk about it anytime they need to. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Life Talk | PSA: This could be your child (Teen drinking, alcohol,partying,peer pressure)

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 20 years experience treating adolescents. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Teenagers Need Their Parents to be Parents Not Friends

Teenagers Need Their Parents to be Parents Not Friends

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. This subject is one I hear daily in my office. Parents are concerned that if their teen is spending too much time with friends, then if their teen is involved with drugs or other issues, they will find out too late. Unfortunately, many parents tell me they have decided that, “”I am going to be my teenager’s best friend” as a way prevent these problems. Unfortunately, many of these parents that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.

The solution that you are going to spend more time with your teen is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also email him from this website, if you have questions.

Helping Parents with IEP terms

Helping Parents with IEP terms

The school year is starting and so are IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org.