Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Teenage males and men hate to go to therapy. Therefore, let’s address this issue. Here is a link for a movie, “The Mask You Live In” https://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo. The above trailer contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you will have a very good idea why.

In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, and can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that.” You don’t have to, but it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the school staff picks him up and tell him shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. A boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You have even saw examples of it on Dancing with The Stars. A couple of times some of the men have started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.

Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Also boys are getting into fights and having a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does cry he is called a “sissy, or a fag” just to list a few.

If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy. Also they know physicians and therapists have treated other men and they are afraid how they might be compared to other males. If they are not as tall or as strong or don’t measure up to the other men they are not a man. They feel like a failure.

Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men and teenagers who cry in my office. They all get really embarrassed and beg me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry have ever cried in my office. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the male stereotype.

We need teenage boys to focus on their emotions. The best way for us to help boys and men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype. Challenge Day is an excellent organization which tries to help teenage males face their feelings. Also monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This is a problem in our society which leads to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks and strokes. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.

While teenage boys resist therapy for these reasons, you need to remember you are the parent. If you notice your teenage boy is depressed and talking about suicide, therapy is not a choice. Yes you want to give choices about their lives, but remember they still are kids and cognitively not able to reason as an adult. Therefore, at times you must say there is no choice. Would you give them a choice of having surgery, if they had appendicitis?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a local psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teens. He had over 20 years experience working with teenagers. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up in a couple weeks. Since the San Francisco 49ers are playing, there will be a large number of Super Bowl parties and events in the San Francisco Bay Area. As I stated in my previous article for many people it is a day to party and have fun, but it is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States. This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

First, remember that it is just a day and just a football game. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treat domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The purpose of this day is to honor the memory of Dr. King and his message of acceptance and tolerance. However, are we honoring his memory and message? An argument could be made that no we are not honoring him or his message. In fact, you can say we have forgotten his message. Hate crimes have been increasing and antisemitic acts have increased significantly. Some people are trying to find out why, but the Executive Branch appears to be ignoring these changes.

In addition to an increase in hate crimes, we have had mass shootings targeting people who were homosexual or Jewish. This does not honor Dr. King and his message of love and acceptance.

If we are not honoring his message, what are we teaching children born after the year 2000? These children never had a chance to be exposed to Dr. King’s message nor have they seen the discrimination that has occurred in the past. Many teenagers are wearing shirts or getting tattoos with racist symbols. Many of these teens have no idea what these symbols really mean. For many people we have felt we made a great deal of progress in our country regarding race relations. In fact, we had an African-America President. Therefore, some people have feel we qdo not need to teach children about past discrimination.

However, discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexuality and physical ability is very much alive in the United States. We do need to teach children about Hitler and the Holocaust. We need to teach children about the White Supremest. We need to educate our children about their message and their symbols they use. We also need to educate children about how easily these people can come back and that discrimination still exist in the United States.

Dr. King’s message was to accept everyone and respect their human dignity. We have no right to judge someone based on race, color, creed, sexuality or physical ability. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated respectfully. He did point out that there are people who will decide to judge and hate others based on differences. Dr. King, like Ghandi before him, pointed out that we accept these people too. They are still people even though they are choosing to be cruel to others.

While he told people to acknowledge these people as human beings, he did not say to accept their hate. His message, like Ghandi, was nonviolence. You can accept the person without being cruel to them because of their message. Dr. King believed the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. Finding away to accept and love those who judge you is the strongest way of fighting the hate in their hearts.

If we look around, this message is still be taught to children. As adults we need to reinforce it. The Disney movie Frozen is an example. In the movie it teaches children how if someone does not feel love they will act out and make poor decisions. It also teaches that “love will thaw.” In other words, love is a stronger force than hate and can eliminate hate. This movie also looks at judging people based on differences. So here is a modern day example of Dr. King’s message. Love and acceptance will triumph over hate. As adults we need to reinforce this message to our children.

The High School Musical movies, by Disney, teach kids to accept people for who they are, not based on stereotypes. Therefore, a very smart girl can be pretty and a great dancer. A boy who is great at basketball can also enjoy baking and be a great baker too. These are great examples of accepting people for who they are and who they were meant to be. This is Dr. Martin Luther King’s message.

It is very important that we do so at this time in our country. We have people killing people due to the color of the skin, their religion or sexuality. This is not what Dr. King was teaching us. We have people in our government who want to treat people differently because of their color, religion or sexuality. Again this is not Dr. King’s message. Dr. King did not want us to hate these people either. He encouraged all of us to accept and love each other. Love can triumph over hate. It has in the past and it can again.

Therefore, in order to honor Dr. King and his message sit down with your children and teenagers and educate them about Dr. King’s message. Love is stronger than hate. I have included one of his quotes at the top of this blog that you can use.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Texting an Issue for Teens and Adults

Texting an Issue for Teens and Adults

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other. If I go to a baseball game or the theater, I see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We now have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. While it is becoming very common with adults, it is even more common with teenagers. The teenagers I see for psychotherapy text all the time. It appears that texting is now the preferred way that teenagers communicate with each other. If you remove their cellphones and they cannot text, many teens become very upset and I have seen many become violent.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue due to texting and they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

First, it is important to note that any time you post something, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Most teens worry about their grades and after school activities because they do not want to wreck their chance of getting into the University of their choice. However, many teenagers are not aware that many colleges check social media sites and the internet when they apply. The schools search for the applicant’s sites but also search to see if the applicant is on friend’s sites. They look at your pictures and opinions and decide do they feel they want you representing their school to the world.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they could be violating child pornography laws by sending the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

While I just reviewed how texting impacts teenagers, what about adults texting? As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have gone to baseball games, the theater, Disneyland or just crossing the street and there are a lot of adults texting. How can we tell teenagers to limit texting when adults do it on a regular basis. People use to get injured in car accidents, now in places such as San Francisco, adults are getting hurt by texting accidents. No one is watching where they are going and walk into each other or worse, they walk in front of a car.

Additionally, we see adults getting into trouble due to texts they have sent, what makes us think that teenagers can’t get into trouble too? Remember they are not grown adults yet, so their ability to think logically as an adult is not fully developed. Even if it was, technology is moving so fast that adults are getting into trouble due to the rapid change in our lives due to technology. Therefore, we cannot expect teenagers to be able to sort all of this out on their own. Talk to your teen about texting, you may need to monitor their texting. There are apps that can help teenagers identify texts that may be inappropriate. Bottom line teenagers need to support and guidance from their parents regarding the ever evolving technology that we are facing. If we cannot keep up with the ethical issues, how can a teenager?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. 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.

Grieving During the Holiday Season

Grieving During the Holiday Season

It’s the Holiday Season a time to spend time with family and friends. However, many people have lost a loved one this year or they are still grieving the lost of a loved from from last year or the year before. Grief has no time limits on how long it will last. I have had many patients ask me how to respond to a family member or friend who is grieving especially during this time of year. People ask me questions about grief because our society has a very difficult time with death and grief. We try not to discuss it and avoid the topic. With a mass shooting happening every 1.2 days (CDC). It becoming very difficult to avoid this topic.

While doing research regarding grief for patients who have asked me what to say to grieving people, I found this information from the grief center. I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Therefore, I will present the information in three sections.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us a great deal of insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.

You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you

9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

6. You can have another child still

7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him

8. I know how you feel

9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

When in the position of wanting to help a friend or loved one in grief, often times our first desire is to try to “fix” the situation, when in all actuality our good intentions can lead to nothing but more grief. Knowing the right thing to say is only half of the responsibility of being a supportive emotional caregiver. We have comprised two lists which examine both the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD traits of people just trying to help.

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

The above information is meant to be used as a guideline. Everyone goes through the grieving process in their own way. It is very important to understand that point. It is also important to remember while the above is a guideline, the most important thing is your intent. So if you say a worse thing but you said it out of love the person will understand. The guideline will hopefully make you more comfortable to offer support to your grieving loved one or friend. Because someone who is grieving need people to talk to without people feeling awkward.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Mass shootings have become a daily occurrence in our country. Just the other day there was another shooting at the Naval Base in Pensacola, Florida. Closer to home there was a threat of a possible shooting at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek. The police determined in was not a valid threat and it was a kid trying to scare people. However, I did receive calls from parents asking me, how do I talk to my child about this threat? Many parents said to me before it was easier because the shootings were far away. Now it was in our backyards and parents were not sure what to do.

It is not surprising that parents are feeling overwhelmed. According to the CDC, as of November 15th which was the 319th day of the year, there have been 336 shootings as in November 15th for the year 2019. Also there have been 250 deaths and 979 injuries in 2019. According to the CDC, there have been a total of 1347 deaths and 1684 injuries in mass shootings many of them occurred at schools. With the recent shootings at Santa Clarita and the Naval Base, the numbers will increase. When you look at these numbers and you look at there are 1.2 shootings, this is very overwhelming. It is difficult for adults to comprehend how do you discuss with a 10 year old child.

Many people think they can ignore discussing it with their children because they do not watch the news. They may not watch the news, but the hear people talking and see things on the internet. Also most schools have intruder shooting drills now. So children are very aware of mass shootings. In fact, over the last 2 years, I have seen a significant increase of children for anxiety, depression and not wanting to go to school. The kids tell me they are afraid of getting killed if they go to school. Therefore, parents need to discuss mass shootings with their children.

When you speak to your children you need to do so in an age appropriate manner. Reassure them everyone is doing everything they can to keep them safe. Do not deny that there have been shootings at schools because they know there have been shootings. If you lie about the shootings, they will not trust what you have to say. The main point children are looking for is that people are there to keep them safe and everyone is doing everything possible to keep them safe. Children look towards adults to keep them safe so it is very important as parents you say and do whatever you can to reassure your child, you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

This is a very difficult topic for children and parents. As a parent you want to reassure your child, but you do not want to lie. I have included a link to a very good video. It goes over different age groups and explains to parents how to approach your child regarding this issue. I encourage every parent to watch it and to talk to your child. Remember, if you do so in a loving way, you will help your child a great deal. The most important thing to them is that you love them and they know you are trying to keep them safe. https://youtu.be/Ddk0RUKbAMk.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also certified to treat trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first cellphone or Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 11. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their phone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 10XR or 11.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school student will be asking to upgrade their phones. They need the latest version otherwise they cannot function at school or contact their friends. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone XR or 11. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and teenagers is many teens tell their parents if they cared, they would by them a smartphone. Being a parent is not a popularity contest determined by how much money you spend. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhoneXR? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they remember their own appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Setting limits where they use them is important too. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are 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.

As I stated above, 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. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone 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, 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. As I stated, 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 to use, 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.

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, 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 cellphones 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.

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 website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.