Teens in Survey Paint Positive Picture of Social Media’s Effect On Their Lives

Teens in survey paint positive picture of social media’s effect on their lives

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP – Two-thirds of teen respondents in a survey released Tuesday said they text every day.

 

By , Published: June 26The Washington Post

For the vast majority of teens, using social-media sites and texting have become a part of daily life — but they still prefer communicating face to face, according to a survey released Tuesday.Overall, the teens who participated in the study painted a positive picture of the influence of social media on their relationships and self-image.

 
Media use by teens.

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Media use by teens.

 

More than half of these “digital natives” — the first generation to have grown up with Facebook — said these technologies have helped them keep in touch with friends, get to know other students at their schoolbetter or connect with those who share a common interest.One in five said using social-networking sites makes them feel more confident, popular and sympathetic to others.

The national study of more than 1,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media generally debunks the popular perception that using social-media sites is inherently harmful because of the dangers of isolation, bullying from peers, the release of private or personal information, or online predators.

However, the report did contain hints of what it called “Facebook fatigue,” with a significant number of teens saying they are “addicted” to devices (41 percent for cellphones), would like to unplug sometimes (43 percent) or would like go back to a time before Facebook was invented (36 percent).

“Many teens express an almost adult-like weariness with the pressures of the constant texting and posting involved in their modern lives,” the report stated.

The mixed feelings that teens have about digital communication shed new light on a population growing up immersed in online technology.

Research is scant on the behavioral and developmental effects of technology on youths.

Text messaging is still the favored application of teens for communicating. Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day, and half said they visit social-networking sites daily.

One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.

Facebook, which is considering lowering the minimum age of its users, is the favored service among teens, with seven out of 10 people surveyed saying they have an account, compared with 6 percent for Twitter and 1 percent for Google+ and Myspace.

Half of teens said they think social networks have helped their friendships, while only 4 percent said the platforms have hurt their relationships.

Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared with 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.

Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships.

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Should Parents Monitor the Internet Activity of Children?

‘Big Brother’? No, It’s Parents

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

Jill Ross and Stephan Reckie have three children. Ms. Ross has subscribed to updates on her daughter’s online video channel.

By
Published: June 25, 2012
 

When her children were ready to have laptops of their own, Jill Ross bought software that would keep an eye on where they went online. One day it offered her a real surprise. She discovered that her 16-year-old daughter had set up her own video channel.  Using the camera on her laptop, sometimes in her bedroom, she and a friend were recording mundane teenage banter and broadcasting it on YouTube for the whole world to see.

For Ms. Ross, who lives outside Denver, it was a window into her daughter’s mind and an emblem of the strange new hurdles of modern-day parenting. She did not mention it to her daughter; she just subscribed to the channel’s updates. The daughter said nothing either; she just let Mom keep watching.

“It’s a matter of knowing your kids,” Ms. Ross said of her discovery.

Parents can now use an array of tools to keep up with the digital lives of their children, raising new quandaries. Is surveillance the best way to protect children? Or should parents trust them to share if they are scared or bewildered by something online?

The answers are as varied as parents themselves. Still, the anxieties of parenting in the digital age have spawned a mini-industry, as start-ups and established companies market new tools to track where children go online, who they meet there and what they do. Because children are glued to smartphones, the technology can allow parents to track their physical whereabouts and even monitor their driving speed.

If, a few years ago, the emphasis was on blocking children from going to inappropriate sites on the family computer, today’s technologies promise to embed Mom and Dad — and occasionally Grandma — inside every device that children are using, and gather intelligence on them wherever they go.

A smartphone application alerts Dad if his son is texting while driving. An online service helps parents keep tabs on every chat, post and photo that floats across their children’s Facebook pages. And another scans the Web in case a child decides to try a new social network that the grown-ups have not even heard of yet.

The spread of cellphones and tablets in the hands of children has complicated matters, giving rise to applications that attract the young and worry parents. Earlier this month, for instance, came revelations that an app designed for flirting, called Skout, had led to three sexual assault cases involving children across the country. Even on Facebook, studies have repeatedly shown, there are plenty of children younger than 13, the minimum age for members, and many of them join with help and supervision from their parents.

The average American family uses five Internet-enabled devices at home, including smartphones, a recent survey by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found, while barely one in five parents uses parental controls on those devices.

In Richmond, Va., Mary Cofield, 62, is one of the careful ones. She struck a deal with her 15-year-old granddaughter last year. The girl was offered an Android phone with full Internet privileges, so long as Grandma could monitor her every move.

“My theory is, you’ve got to be in the game to help them know what’s wrong and what’s right,” she said. “Keeping them from it is not going to work. You can either be out there with them in the game — or they’ll be out there without you.”

Ms. Cofield, a retired government tax agent who runs an online travel business, chose a tool called uKnowKids.com, which combs the granddaughter’s Facebook page and text messages. UKnowKids sends her alerts about inappropriate language. It also offers Ms. Cofield a dashboard of the child’s digital activities, including what she says on Twitter, whom she texts and what photos she is tagged in on Facebook. It translates teenage slang into plain English she can understand: “WUD” is shorthand for “What are you doing?” Ms. Cofield checks it daily.

Often, she says, she gleans when the girl is having trouble with a boy, or when there is conflict among friends. Most often, Ms. Cofield knows to keep her mouth shut. “Being privy to that information and not using it is also difficult,” she confessed. “If I did that, she would definitely go underground. I would be hopping on her every day.”

Surveys, including by the Pew Research Center, have found that two-thirds of parents check their children’s digital footprints and nearly 40 percent follow them on Facebook and Twitter. But the Pew study suggests that this monitoring is also likely to lead to arguments between parent and child.

What’s more, technology is at least as nimble as adolescents, and neither parents nor the technology they buy can always read a teenager’s mind. Sometimes children deactivate their Facebook accounts except at night, when they know their parents are not likely to be logging on. They roll over to new sites, often using pseudonyms. Very often they speak in code designed to stump parents.

Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research who studies American youth online, offered the example of a teenage girl who was growing increasingly frustrated with her mother’s leaving comments on everything she posted on Facebook. Once, when she was feeling particularly low, she posted the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

Her mother took it literally, which is what the girl had wanted. Her friends, however, read it for what it was: The girl was sad, and her post was meant to be ironic.

Technology companies now market tools for parents of children at every age group. The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system will offer a single-app mode so a parent can lock a toddler into one activity on an iPad.

Security companies like Symantec and Trend Micro offer computer software that detects when a child tries to visit a blocked Web site or creates a new social network account. Infoglide, based in Austin, Tex., whose bread and butter is making antifraud software, recently introduced a tool called MinorMonitor, which like UKnowKids mines children’s Facebook pages for signs of trouble.

Independent measurements of the market for family safety tools are hard to come by, and most companies do not release sales information. But that the market is large — and growing — is evident in two things: every security company and cellphone carrier is pitching such products, and start-ups in this field are popping up every month.

Symantec says it added a million new subscribers to its Norton Online Family service last year.

A text message application for the iPhone called textPlus allows Kyle Reed of Golden, Colo., to be copied on every text message his teenage son sends his girlfriend. “I feel torn a little bit. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy,” he said. “But he’s 13. I want to protect him.”

Dan Sherman of Jackson, N.J., is what you might call the alpha monitor of his children’s digital lives, which is not surprising considering that he works in computer security.

At home, he has installed a filter that blocks pornographic sites and software that tracks Web visits. He has set parental controls on the iPhones of his 8- and 13-year-old daughters so they cannot download applications. Access to the app store on the 8-year-old’s Kindle Fire is protected with a password. And the older daughter’s Facebook account is tracked by MinorMonitor, which alerts Mr. Sherman if there are references to bullying or alcohol.

Does he worry that his daughters think he does not trust them? Mr. Sherman says they should learn that they will be monitored throughout their lives: “It’s not any different from any employer.”

The older daughter, Alexis, said that for now, at least, she does not mind the monitoring. She feels safer for it, she says, “like I’m being watched over.”

She also knows that it affects what she posts for public consumption. Recently, for example, she was tempted to rail on Facebook against a friend who had spread rumors about her, but she checked herself when she thought about what her mother might say. “Having your parents monitor makes you think twice about what you put,” Alexis said.

Ms. Ross, of Colorado, once had a tool that disabled Internet access in the house after a certain number of hours. But her children kept turning it off. Now another program helps her keep an eye on how much time they spend online, so if one of her three girls complains that she does not have time for homework, Ms. Ross need only say: “Want me to tell you how much time you spent on Facebook this week?”

Last Christmas, one of Ms. Ross’s friends, Lynn Schofield Clark, gave her 11-year-old daughter a disabled iPhone on which to listen to music. The child brightly said that a friend at school had showed her how to download an app that let her send text messages and make calls — which is not what her parents had in mind.

Ms. Clark, who has written a book about parenting styles and technology called “The Parent App,” says she was relieved her child had confided in her. She hopes she will continue to confide, so she does not have to track everything her daughter does online. “It’s too easy to get involved in surveillance,” Ms. Clark said. “That undermines our influence as parents. Kids interpret that as a lack of trust.”

Original article

Parents’ Guide to Kids and Cell Phones

Parents’ Guide to Kids and Cell Phones

Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy Your Kid a Cell Phone.
 

These tips can help you:

  • Decide whether your kid is ready for a cell phone
  • Teach basic cell-phone safety
  • Explain responsible cell phone rules
  • Set limits

Advice & Answers

 

At some point, most of us decide that our kids are ready for a phone — so they can call when they get off the bus, need a ride, or just check in. That’s when you discover that it’s nearly impossible to find a phone with only the features you need — namely, the ability to receive and make phone calls.

Most phones — even basic models — are tiny handheld computers, with features that put a lot of power in little hands. Kids can take photos, text, access the Internet, watch YouTube, play games, download music … and even make calls.

Cell phones give kids access to the world in ways that you can’t predict. A little advanced preparation, including rules, guidance, and expectations, can go a long way toward protecting your kids.

What’s the right age to get my kid a cell phone?

Age isn’t as important as responsibility and maturity. If your kid can demonstrate both — by checking in with you at appointed times, following your rules, adhering to school guidelines, and handling the phone sensibly — then he or she may be ready. Here are a few questions to help you decide:

  • Do your children need to be in touch for safety reasons?
  • Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
  • Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Will they use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

Can I “just say no” to cell phones?

It’s not a tragedy to be the only kid at school without a phone. But there are very few public phones anymore. If there’s an emergency and you need to reach your kid, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having gotten him one. Maybe you just don’t want to buy into a tech-obsessed, always-connected culture. You can still pass along your values by modeling the tech habits you want your kids to pick up — without missing that emergency call.

What are the basic safety rules for cell phones?

Basic safety skills are essential for kids’ safety and privacy. Here are the areas kids will need to be responsible for, plus some best practices.

  • Texting
  • Calling
    • Verify the caller or texter. Don’t respond to numbers you don’t know.
    • Answer the phone when it’s Mom or Dad. Make sure your kid knows to answer when it’s YOU calling!
  • Cameras
    • Ask permission. Before you snap someone’s picture, take a video, or forward something, ask if it’s OK.
    • Don’t publicly embarrass people. Don’t post someone’s photo — especially unflattering ones — from your cell phone without permission.
  • Apps and downloads
    • Manage costs. Make sure your kids understand that they’re spending real money when they download apps, games, and music.
    • Use filters. Check your phone for parental controls that let you filter out age-inappropriate content, restrict downloads, and prevent in-app purchases.
  • Posting
    • Be selective — not impulsive. Make sure kids know to be very selective about what they post from their cell phone.
    • Be safe. Explain why they shouldn’t use location services.

What should I do if someone “sexts” my kid?

This can happen — even accidentally! Tell your kid to delete the photo and block the number. And if someone asks your kids to send them a “sext,” make sure your kids say no and tells you if they’re being pressured.

My kid’s friend texted an embarrassing photo of her to friends. What should I do?

She learned the hard way that kids can use cell phones to humiliate others by forwarding texts, photos, and other things that were thought to be private. First, explain that this is a form of cyberbullying. Next, talk to the other kid’s parents — and show them the evidence. Don’t accuse — but do make sure that you’re all on the same page about what’s appropriate behavior. Make sure your kids don’t retaliate, but do make sure they’re standing up for themselves and have supportive friends who will also stand up to bullies. Also consider discussing the matter with your kid’s school — the bully may actually be acting out due to other problems.

Is there anything I can do about the spam my kid’s phone gets?

Cell phone spam (unsolicited bulk messages) is a growing problem — and if kids click on these ads, they may be unwittingly giving away information or opting into a service. Call your cell phone company to report the problem; they may ask you to forward the spam to a specific number. Then, block the caller, either by using your phone’s settings or going through your carrier.

Should I buy parental controls from my wireless carrier?

There are pros and cons to purchasing these services, which let you do everything from filtering inappropriate content to blocking phone purchases to locating your kid on a map. The main “con” is cost. Some of these features can be expensive, and you may be able to find cheaper alternatives through the phone’s built-in settings or through third-party apps. But on the “pro” side is need. While we like to think our kids will be completely responsible, some kids will resist your rules. If your kid is risking safety, privacy, and money, it might be worth looking into these services.

Are smartphones OK for kids?

Kids love smartphones. And why not? They can play games, access the Internet, video chat — and do lots of other advanced activities. If you’re going to spring for a smartphone, get one that allows you to turn off features you don’t want your kids using (like the ability to purchase apps) and keep the ones that you’re OK with (like texting).

How do I keep tabs on my kids’ cell phone use without seeming intrusive?

Some parents say, “If I’m paying for it, I’m entitled to read my kids’ texts, check their call log, and know who their buddies are.” That’s valid, but kids consider these devices to be as personal as diaries, so tread cautiously. Spot checks are a good idea. You know your kid best. If you sense something isn’t right, spot check more often. Explain that your rules are for their safety and protection and that you need to be able to make sure they’re using their devices appropriately.

My kid seems addicted to her phone. What do I do?

Experts have compared cell-phone dependency to gambling. Every text, email, and update is like a “hit” you begin to crave. Hopefully, you’re just dealing with a compulsive habit that you can manage by structuring your kids’ time. Schedule time for the phone to be on and off, schedule activities where the cell phone can’t be used, and look into programs that block the phone from being used. If you suspect the problem is true addiction, talk to your pediatrician.

 

Original article

Many Dads Struggle to Find Balance

Many dads struggle to ‘have it all,’ balancing work, family

Brett Deering for msnbc.com

Dustin Baylor closes his eyes while playing with his sons Paxton, 6, left, and Garrison, 4, after work at their home Friday, June 8, 2012 in Enid, Okla.

By Allison Linn

Dustin Baylor knew from the time he was in elementary school that he wanted to be a doctor.

All his life, he also wanted to be a dad.

What he wasn’t able to appreciate until adulthood was how challenging it might be to be awakened by his pager going off with a medical emergency just as often as by one of his three children having a bad dream, needing to go to the bathroom or just falling out of bed.

Baylor was one of dozens of dads who wrote to TODAY.com about doing it all: Excelling at work, raising kids, taking care of household chores and finding some time to spend with their spouse or partner.

Almost every dad we heard from said they wouldn’t want it any other way, although many conceded they sometimes struggle to make it through the day — and night.

“I often feel overwhelmed trying to do it all,” Baylor wrote. “I love my wife, my job and my family. But whereas men in past generations emphasized being a provider first and foremost, I think modern fathers take on many more roles.”

The juggle between work and home life has long been a hot topic for women, many of whom have known from early on that they would work and raise children – and may even have watched their own moms do the same thing.

But many young dads are choosing to take a role in their home life that is more active than seen in any generation before, said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family. That means they can be both less prepared for, and less adept at, juggling both roles.

“I think they are working really without a script,” Harrington said.

Related: Dad’s survey shows fathers just want a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

What’s clear is that more dads want to figure it out. Harrington and other researchers have noticed a clear and pervasive shift toward more dads choosing to do everything from change diapers to chaperone field trips.

“The expectation on the part of most fathers is they’re going to be much more engaged than their father was,” Harrington said.

 

And as more women work, and bring in a bigger chunk of the family’s earnings, Harrington notes that men also are finding that their spouses expect them to pitch in more on chores including laundry, dishes and grocery shopping.

“The expectation is, ‘I can’t do it all and you’re going to have to share,’” Harrington said.

Yet employers have not necessarily caught up with the evolving roles men are playing at home, leaving many feeling caught in the middle. A landmark study by the Families and Work Institute, released in 2009, found that dads actually feel more conflict between home and work life than moms do.

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, said the research showed that even as home lives become more egalitarian, men continue to feel pressure to fill the traditional provider role by putting in long, hard hours at work.

Galinsky says the weak economy and high jobless rate likely have exacerbated the financial pressures.

“We expect that it will either maintain or increase the conflict that men experience,” she said.

Brett Deering for msnbc.com

Dustin Baylor and his family on in Enid, Okla. Baylor is among a new generation of dads trying to ‘do it all.’

Tending to patients, and kids
Baylor, 34, and his wife, a physical therapist pursuing her doctorate, have three kids ages 6, 4 and 1. On a typical day, that means the couple has to get kids to daycare, a pre-K program and kindergarten before heading out for their own work days.

In the afternoon, Baylor’s wife picks up their oldest son from school and drops him off at Baylor’s medical practice, then goes back to finish up her workday. That means Baylor and his nurse, who also has a child to watch in the afternoons, have their children in the office as they finish up their work day.

Baylor admits it can be a challenge when the kids want to run down the halls while he has patients to attend to. But he describes fondly the way his son stands on the back of his chair, chatting about the school day, while he does office work.

He recently brought more toys into his home office so his kids can be nearby when he’s on call or dealing with paperwork.

“I’m actually used to working with kids orbiting,” he said.

The desire to be an active parent is one of the reasons Baylor opted to have a family practice in Enid, Okla., rather than join a hospital staff. The decision has meant less money but more flexibility to have a child at work or take off on a family vacation.

That’s one of many ways in which Baylor is different from his own dad, who worked as a mail carrier while his mom mostly stayed home while he was younger.

But it still can be hard to juggle. Baylor and his wife decided to have kids while he was a chief medical resident, and he says he wishes he had been able to help his wife out more in those early days. Another struggle came when his middle son started having seizures because of a rare health problem. He is doing fine now.

“I wish I could say that I have no regrets at all, but that really wouldn’t be true. I wish I could have taken more time to just be a dad when my first son was born. I wish I could have been around constantly to shelter my second son when all those seizures were happening instead of meeting him in the emergency room. I already wish I had even more time with my daughter individually, which is not a unique problem for the youngest child of any family,” he wrote in his response to TODAY.com.

Like a lot of dads, Baylor rarely gets time for date nights or other quality time alone with his wife.

While many face the same struggle, few have to go to the lengths John Martin does to be both a father and a spouse.

‘You just get a little exhausted’
Martin, 45, received an e-mail from his high school sweetheart, whom he hadn’t heard from in 27 years, soon after his marriage ended. When they finally met up nearly a year later, a whirlwind weekend together was all it took for them to realize they still had the feelings they’d had at age 16, and within a month they were engaged.

But there was one big problem: Martin and his kids live in Denver, while his new wife and her kids live in the Seattle area.

Even as he made plans to remarry, Martin said he didn’t want to give up his major role as a parent to his two young girls. (He shares custody with their mother.)

“I was always changing diapers and putting them to bed and doing all the things that I think dads do these days,” he said. “It would be inconceivable for me not to have them at least half the time.”

To maintain his relationship with his kids and build a relationship with his new wife and teenage stepchildren, either Martin or his new wife fly back and forth to be with their spouse nearly every week. They’ve maintained that routine for close to two years, and Martin has cut his employment to 80 percent of full-time to balance it all.

“The way it worked was to leave the kids alone and to kind of rotate around them,” he said.

Martin savors watching his girls play softball and going out for family pizza night and says that while he loves his job as a lawyer, his wife and kids come first.

Still, the challenge of maintaining two households and commuting across several states can be disorienting, and tiring.

“You run low on energy in a way that your children can’t possibly understand,” he said. “Then you are a little less patient, a little less this, a little less that. You just get a little exhausted.”

The ‘all-encompassing man’
Anthony Noriega, 33, also sometimes finds himself struggling to keep up with the hectic schedule of raising four kids with his wife, who takes care of the kids and goes to school.

Like many parents, Noriega describes a life that can be a dizzying whirlwind of cooking, paying bills and getting everyone to bed after a long day at work as a web marketing specialist in Boise, Idaho.

Writing to TODAY.com, he described “the mystique of this elusive, all-encompassing man: The bread winner, the great father who engages in every aspect of their child’s lives, the super husband who can whip out a dinner with no trouble and still pay attention to his hard-working wife.”

He admits it doesn’t always go perfectly smoothly. But Noriega said his own parents struggled with addiction, and he knew from the time he was a teenager that he wanted to get married and raise his own family in a very different way. He may pine for a quiet moment, but he has no regrets about how things have turned out.

“My priorities are providing a stable foundation for my kids growing up (and) not having to worry about whether or not they’re going to have school clothes, food on the table – the things that I had to deal with as a kid,” he said in an interview.

Some dads wrote to TODAY.com to remind us that not all of them have that struggle. Scott Bouma, 35, and his wife have four kids and his wife stays home full-time.

The fact that his wife is a stay-at-home mom means that Bouma, a software engineer who lives in Helena, Mont., feels he can spend time with his family at night or on the weekends instead of dealing with a list of chores and errands he imagines dads with working spouses face.

“I feel like I’m definitely the other side,” he said in an interview. “I’m a dad who doesn’t feel pressure to do all that stuff.”

Original article

Prescription Pills Abused for Better Grades

Image: Dodi Sklar and her ninth-grade son, Jonathan

Lisa Wiltse for The New York Times

“Now I have to worry about this, too? Really? This shouldn’t be what they need to do to get where they want to,” said Dodi Sklar, after listening to her ninth-grade son, Jonathan, describe how some classmates abuse stimulants.
By ALAN SCHWARZ

 

He steered into the high school parking lot, clicked off the ignition and scanned the scraps of his recent weeks. Crinkled chip bags on the dashboard. Soda cups at his feet. And on the passenger seat, a rumpled SAT practice book whose owner had been told since fourth grade he was headed to the Ivy League. Pencils up in 20 minutes.

The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.

Throughout the parking lot, he said, eight of his friends did the same thing.

The drug was not cocaine or heroin, but Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that the boy said he and his friends routinely shared to study late into the night, focus during tests and ultimately get the grades worthy of their prestigious high school in an affluent suburb of New York City. The drug did more than just jolt them awake for the 8 a.m. SAT; it gave them a tunnel focus tailor-made for the marathon of tests long known to make or break college applications.

“Everyone in school either has a prescription or has a friend who does,” the boy said.

At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many academically competitive high schools, where teenagers say they get them from friends, buy them from student dealers or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors to get prescriptions.

Of the more than 200 students, school officials, parents and others contacted for this article, about 40 agreed to share their experiences. Most students spoke on the condition that they be identified by only a first or middle name, or not at all, out of concern for their college prospects or their school systems’ reputations — and their own.

“It’s throughout all the private schools here,” said DeAnsin Parker, a New York psychologist who treats many adolescents from affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side. “It’s not as if there is one school where this is the culture. This is the culture.”

Observed Gary Boggs, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, “We’re seeing it all across the United States.”

The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances — the same as cocaine and morphine — because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use. (By comparison, the long-abused anti-anxiety drug Valium is in the lower Class 4.) So they carry high legal risks, too, as few teenagers appreciate that merely giving a friend an Adderall or Vyvanse pill is the same as selling it and can be prosecuted as a felony.

While these medicines tend to calm people with A.D.H.D., those without the disorder find that just one pill can jolt them with the energy and focus to push through all-night homework binges and stay awake during exams afterward. “It’s like it does your work for you,” said William, a recent graduate of the Birch Wathen Lenox School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

But abuse of prescription stimulants can lead to depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal, doctors say. Little is known about the long-term effects of abuse of stimulants among the young. Drug counselors say that for some teenagers, the pills eventually become an entry to the abuse of painkillers and sleep aids.

“Once you break the seal on using pills, or any of that stuff, it’s not scary anymore — especially when you’re getting A’s,” said the boy who snorted Adderall in the parking lot. He spoke from the couch of his drug counselor, detailing how he later became addicted to the painkiller Percocet and eventually heroin.

Paul L. Hokemeyer, a family therapist at Caron Treatment Centers in Manhattan, said: “Children have prefrontal cortexes that are not fully developed, and we’re changing the chemistry of the brain. That’s what these drugs do. It’s one thing if you have a real deficiency — the medicine is really important to those people — but not if your deficiency is not getting into Brown.”

The number of prescriptions for A.D.H.D. medications dispensed for young people ages 10 to 19 has risen 26 percent since 2007, to almost 21 million yearly, according to IMS Health, a health care information company — a number that experts estimate corresponds to more than two million individuals. But there is no reliable research on how many high school students take stimulants as a study aid. Doctors and teenagers from more than 15 schools across the nation with high academic standards estimated that the portion of students who do so ranges from 15 percent to 40 percent.

“They’re the A students, sometimes the B students, who are trying to get good grades,” said one senior at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, a Philadelphia suburb, who said he makes hundreds of dollars a week selling prescription drugs, usually priced at $5 to $20 per pill, to classmates as young as freshmen. “They’re the quote-unquote good kids, basically.”

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Should Cell Phones Go to Camp?

Should Cell Phones Go to Camp?

by Regan McMahon | May. 30, 2012 |

When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it’s not so easy to break the habit.

A couple of summers ago, we sent our daughter to a two-week sleep-away surf camp in San Diego with a group of girls from her school. A few weeks before departure, the girls’ parents got together and someone brought up the camp’s no-cell-phone policy. One mom told how the previous year she snuck one into her daughter’s duffel bag anyway and the girl got busted and had her phone confiscated. But the woman bragged that she was going to do it again this year.

Apart from sending a dubious message that it’s OK to break the rules, the mom didn’t seem to understand the reasoning behind the rule.

As explained on the camp website, experience has shown that phone calls from home intensify homesickness: “One of the valued outcomes of camp is learning independence. Calls home would detract from that important goal. In rare circumstances, due to behavior or severe homesickness, our staff will contact you.” The statement adds that “cell phones cannot be with campers for security and privacy reasons.”

The camp also forbids bringing other electronics, such as MP3 players and electronic games, explaining, “Camp provides children a chance to live without electronic devices.”

But if the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.

  • Remind yourself why your kid is going to camp. You’ve sent your son or daughter off for a new experience, and for a reason. Having your kids spend time with their fellow campers rather than texting friends back home will ensure a more valuable camp experience.
  • Dear Mom, connect the old fashioned way. You may miss hearing your kid’s voice, but nothing beats a letter from your sleep-away camper telling you about new friends and new experiences at camp. And for your kid, nothing beats a letter from home with news of familiar places and people, filled with expressions of love and “We miss you.” For parents of day campers, you can hear all about your kid’s exciting day when you’re together again — on the ride home or at the family dinner.
  • Seeing is believing. If you mainly want assurance that your kid’s having a good time, you may be able to see for yourself if your camp posts camper photos daily online. Our camp did, through a service called Bunk1.com. Ask if your camp offers a similar service, or suggest that they do.
  • If you’re on the fence, check the rule book. You’ll usually find cell phones on the “What Not to Bring” list. Abide by the rules, and if your kid has a problem and needs to get in touch, the camp will facilitate a phone call. You can always call the camp office or ask to speak to your kid’s counselor to ease your mind.

Original article