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.

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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

Helping Teenagers Cope with the End of the School Year

Helping Teenagers Cope with the End of the School Year

The end of the school year is around the corner and it is that time of year again – it’s Finals time.

Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot of things going on right now, Junior Prom, Senior Ball, acceptance letters for colleges are arriving so are letters of denial arriving too. There are also other end of the year activities. For some seniors, their acceptance into a university may be conditional on their final grades. Therefore, they will be very worried about finals.

As I stated besides finals, there are the Prom and Ball to worry about. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, what to wear and how much will it cost? Also then there are the after parties. They worry about which one to go to and there is the issue of drinking that night, using drugs and having sex that night. Parents remember when you were in high school and all the issues associated with the Prom or Ball.

If that was not enough, there are final projects due, research papers and many high schools require community service hours too. In addition to this there is the normal homework and finding time to study for finals.

In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges Juniors can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. Also as I mentioned above for some Seniors, colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA in order to be accepted to the college.

As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships have increased so has the stress on high school students.

Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis, heart rates to race and even death.

Most teens want to do things on there own so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using and they think they have the substances under control. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future. Also they do not have the reasoning skills adults do. Therefore, teenagers have a tendency to be impulsive.

If your teenager is getting anger very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign.

What do you do if you notice anything that is making you worry, you sit down and talk to them. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad or they are in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.

Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything and you feel they are using some type of substance, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Good luck.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teens and has over 20 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/Drrubino3.

We Often Expect Children to Act Older than They Are

We Often Expect Children to Act Older than They Are

We often expect children to be able to do things they are not emotionally ready for yet. One example I see quite often are teachers or parents expecting little kids to be able to control their emotions like an adult. They expect the child to be able to rationally analyze a problem. This also occurs with teenagers. Teenagers look like adults so we expect them to act like adults. The problem is they are not adults.

The common issue in both these situations is the brain development of the child or teenager. We see children and teens doing things that we expect from someone older so we assume they can do other things too such as control their emotions. However, typically a child’s brain is not totally developed until the age of 18. This is why if a child experiences a trauma to the brain or spinal cord their chances for a full recovery are better than a grown adults. A child’s brain and central nervous system is still developing and can over come the injury. However, this also means they do not have the analytical or reasoning skills that adults do. Therefore, they may have difficulties with their emotions at times.

This is an issue that comes up very often with the children I see for psychotherapy. At times teachers or parents are expecting to much from a child in the second grade. I have also written articles about this fact to. While reviewing recent research studies I came across an article by Dr. Mona Delahooke. I felt she explained the issue in a very easy way for parents and teachers to understand. I felt it was so well written that I am including her blog below for you to read.

Five-year-old Nathan was excited about a family outing to the zoo, but his mother worried he would not be able to control his behavior. So she explained her carefully devised plan. She had ten gummy bear candies with her. If Nathan behaved well, she would give him all ten at the end of the visit. Each time he misbehaved, though, he would lose one.

After just half an hour, Nathan was down to five gummy bears. Then he tossed French fries at his brother at lunchtime, and his mother told him he was down to three. Upset, Nathan leaned back in his chair so far it toppled over, much to his mother’s chagrin.

Unfortunately, her plan was doomed from the start. Why? It was based on a false assumption: that Nathan was capable of controlling his behavior. Amidst the popular focus on “self-regulation” among professionals, educators and parents, too often we miss a significant point: we cannot really teach a child to self-regulate. Self-regulation is a developmental process that we can nurture and encourage in one way: through the experience of emotional co-regulation with caring and attuned adults.

So how do children develop the capacity for self-regulation? Over time, as a child experiences what it feels like to have his or her emotional and physical needs met, she develops a robust brain-body connection, which, in turn enables the child to exercise “top-down” control of behaviors and emotions. Children start acquiring this capacity at age three or four, and continue to develop it throughout childhood.

But the ability to self-regulate requires the brain development that help kids carry it out. When we expect children to control their behaviors when they lack the foundation in their brain-body connection, we are asking for the impossible.  And unfortunately, we expect the impossible from too many children who don’t yet have the neurodevelopment in place to self-regulate.

Too often what we expect from children makes a false assumption: that children possess “top-down” control that allows them to think about their bodies and minds and control their behaviors. The truth is that may behaviorally challenged children don’t yet have this ability.

Parents tend to believe that if a child sometimes displays control, then the child always has the ability to do so. That mistaken belief reveals an expectation gap—a disparity between adults’ assumptions and a child’s abilities.

When children lack top-down control, we need to start with emotional co-regulation—when caring, attentive adults notice and attend to a child’s physical and emotional needs. We do this through relationships. In my subspecialty, infant mental health, we call this approach “the therapeutic use of self.”

In other words, we help build a child’s brain from the bottom-up. If a child has chronic difficulties controlling emotions or behaviors, it’s a sign that her top-down foundation is weak. She needs loving, attuned and non-judgmental adults who “see” her suffering. It’s these relationships that support a child’s ability to gain emotional and behavioral self-control.

Too many educational and social-service programs overlook the crucial importance of relationships, instead focusing on behavior management.  That’s why I spend so much of my time teaching providers and parents about social and emotional development. A basic grasp of neuroscience and social-emotional development can help us understand how to avoid asking too much, too soon of children. It also helps us avoid inadvertently causing shame or embarrassment to children who can’t understand why they can’t behave or meet adult expectations, even though they want to. We must be especially mindful of this need in our populations of children exposed to ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and toxic stress. Reward and punishment paradigms, in wide use today on these populations are not advised. I explain the reasons why in my new book on challenging behaviors.

When we ask too much of children too soon, we can inadvertently provoke self-criticism and shame. Kristin Neff, the world’s primary researcher on self-compassion, offers a solution: we can show children early on how to have compassion for themselves and accept their own vulnerability. In other words, when behaviors are a problem, we can help children have compassion for themselves and look towards adults for help.

When we are present with children, and compassionately aware of our own emotions, we preserve the most precious factor in a child’s process of developing self-regulation: human connection.

I hope this helps you understand that we need to allow children’s brains time to develop and we can help them during this time to help avoid arguments and temper tantrums.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Is My Child Suicidal?

Is My Child Suicidal?

Many parents ask me about what to do if their child is suicidal. The concern is worrying more parents with the recent suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The idea is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. However, suicide rates are at an epidemic level for children ages 10 to 18 years old. In fact it is the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 18 years old.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live the entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the main three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers forget that guns have a kick when they are fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Is My Child Suicidal?

Is My Child Suicidal?

Many parents ask me about what to do if their child is suicidal. The concern is worrying more parents with the recent suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The idea is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. However, suicide rates are at an epidemic level for children ages 10 to 18 years old. In fact it is the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 18 years old.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live the entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the main three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers forget that guns have a kick when they are fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.