Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Parents Learning How to Protect their Kids Online

Beware on the Web

Cyberbullying a Growing Concern for Parents, Schools


With recent high-profiled cases revolving around cyberbullying - sending or receiving threatening messages online or via text message - teens' online interactions are becoming a growing concern for parents and school districts alike. A 2005 study on cyberbullying by Florida Atlantic University's Sameer Hinduja revealed that approximately 34.4 percent of adolescents reported experiencing some sort of cyberbullying.

What's even more troubling is that more than 40 percent of respondents didn't tell anyone about their cyberbullying experience.

Three recent cases of cyberbullying have shed light on just what a serious impact this type of bullying can have. Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Mo.; 15-year-old Jeffrey Johnston of Cape Coral; and 12-year-old Ryan Halligan of Essex Junction, Vt., each committed suicide after encountering separate acts of what their families consider to be cyberbullying.

In 2007, Meier hung herself after she was "dumped" by a male friend on MySpace, when in actuality the male friend was really a neighborhood girl and her mother posing as a teen boy.

Johnson killed himself in 2005 after receiving a string of threatening e-mails and Internet posts, and Halligan committed suicide in 2003 after false rumors about his sexual orientation spread online.

Though these cases represent the extreme end of the spectrum and each of these children may have had other factors affecting their emotional state, cyberbullying is an increasing problem that students across the nation are experiencing.

Cristin Cotton, a senior at Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, recently deleted her personal MySpace page. Not because she was being bullied, but because she wanted to avoid getting pulled into online drama.

"MySpace and Facebook and sites like that used to be a place to talk and hang out and stuff, but now girls get in fights online and guys get involved and it's a bad situation," Cotton said, and advises younger kids to be wary of what to post online. "Definitely be careful of what you say. I feel like a fight between you and your friend is a fight between you and your friend, not you and everyone else on the Internet."

When it comes to guarding against cyberbullying - or bullying of any kind - Polk County School District employs Jim Maxwell, a school psychologist who specializes in handling student conflict, as well as developing training for teachers on how to identify and deal with bullies.


According to Maxwell, the cyberbully is a different kind of specimen than the average playground bully.

"The typical bully research indicates that kids that bully do so because it benefits them," he said. "It gives them a sense of control and power. ... Another characteristic of a bully is getting what he wants through intimidation, and that's the way it works at home. Often a bully at school is a child that's being bullied at home, generally by the dominant male in the house.

"The cyberbully who uses electronic media to repeatedly harass someone may be different. I suspect that the overall motives remain the same, but some cyberbully kids are simply bored. If you think of prank callers, they're just seeing if they can do it to do it. I think there's a wider variety of kids engaging in cyberbullying than in direct forms of bullying."

According to Maxwell, the school district does have the power to step in and punish those who engage in cyberbullying, even if the interactions do not occur on school property or on school-owned computers. If those online threats cause a disturbance at the school in the form of gossip, class disruption or a confrontation between the students, the school has the right to get involved, he said.


It is, however, difficult to define cyberbullying behavior. An administrator must look at the circumstances behind what is written. For example, was the student writing the message being sarcastic? Was the comment written in response to something the other person had written about them? Or are there specific threats involved?

"Typically, the way to distinguish between cyberbullying is that someone has to analyze what kind of threat is involved, how frequently it's being used, and the sort of nature of the threat. If it's a one-time thing, it's probably harassment," Maxwell said. "If it's in any way repeated or linked up with behaviors occurring in school, then you have a history of bullying."

Maxwell says the standard definition of bullying includes:

An intention to demean or embarrass or make someone feel powerless or actually hurt them.

Repetition over time, and

An imbalance of power between the bully and the victim.

"That's probably the hardest for law enforcement, parents and administrators to sort out," Maxwell said. "What if the victim has been annoying the kid that might be characterized as the bully and you have a kind of back-and-forth situation? I think that's more a feud or rivalry. In real bullying you have that repeated harassment and there's a real difference in the bully and victim."


According to Maxwell, the best defense against cyberbullying is to actively protect your child's identity online, meaning that children and teens should take caution in who they give their e-mail address and phone number to, as well as what chat rooms or Web sites they visit.

He also recommends children keep an anonymous profile online. That means using a made-up username, not one that indicates a first or last name. Also, refrain from giving out personal information, like addresses and even what school they go to. If a cyberbully finds them anyway, a parent's first step is to make a record of the interaction and then head to the police.

"If you have a son or daughter and they really are being harassed, do a 'print screen' and save it as evidence of what's going on. Then talk to one of the authorities if there are serious threats, threats that imply that someone's going to get hurt. ... If it's more a school-related issue, talk to the principal or guidance counselor."

A "print screen" is a simple way to take a digital snapshot of an e-mail, instant message or message board posting that appears on your computer screen. Simply find the key on your computer's keyboard that says "Print Screen" or "PrtSc" and hit it once. It will take a snapshot of your current computer screen. Then paste it somewhere.

Lastly, Maxwell advises that parents do not approach the bully's parents about their children's online behavior. Most likely, your complaint will fall on deaf ears and may cause even more problems for the victim.

"The fact that a lot of times children are bullied at home means that their father or significant male gets what he wants through intimidation and is teaching this strategy to his child in an indirect way.

"If you go to someone like that and confront them about something their child has done wrong, you're likely to get bullied yourself and the interaction may not go well."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teen Depression, Anxious Teens, At Risk Teens

By Connect with Kids
Leave Me Alone!

We all know teenagers can be moody, impulsive and irritable – but how can parents tell if the tears will go away or if they're a sign of something more? When your teen slams the door and shouts "Leave me alone!" – should you? Will your child be safe? Or are there signs of depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts?

Every parent needs to know the warning signs – when life feels too heavy or too scary for your son or daughter to handle alone. Every parent needs to know what treatments are available and what works with kids. Every parent needs to watch Leave Me Alone!

You'll hear actual teenagers talk about their struggles, giving you insight into what your own child may be feeling. You'll learn practical parenting advice from child experts about what you can do to help your teen face the fears and alleviate the pain. And you'll hear the inspiration and hope of families whose children are living happier, healthier lives.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sue Scheff: Invincibility Theory with Today's Teens

By Connect with Kids

“I just like to see how far I can go and what I can do and what I can accomplish out[side] of the everyday norm.”

– Allan, 17

It has been said a thousand times: the biggest reason kids drink and drive, take drugs and do all kinds of crazy, dangerous stunts is that they think they’re immortal, invincible and bullet-proof. But is this what teenagers really think?

“It’s a sense of freedom, I guess,” says Allan, 17.

Allan is a self-proclaimed risk-taker.

“I just like to see how far I can go and what I can do and what I can accomplish out[side] of the everyday norm,” says Allan.

Risky behaviors can include rock-climbing, skydiving, street racing and even unprotected sex. It’s often said that teenagers feel invincible – but do they really feel this way? Researchers at UC San Francisco say no. In fact, they found that teenagers actually overestimate the danger of certain activities. And, while they know there are risks, they think the benefits and the fun are worth it.

“[Teenagers] are -- compared to an adult -- relatively uninformed. And if they are a novice and inexperienced with alcohol, drugs or sex, or any of those things -- as everyone is in the beginning -- they don’t know what to expect. Very often they don’t fully understand the complete nature of the risks they’re taking,” says Jeffrey Rothweiler, Ph.D., clinical psychologist.

“It might be that because the frontal lobes are not yet fully developed during adolescence that they’re more likely to make decisions, that they don’t fully think through the consequences of their actions,” says Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D., neuroscientist. The prefrontal cortex matures the most between the ages of 12 and 20.

Allan knows there is a potential for injury with some of the risky actions he takes.

“I guess death is a factor, or getting paralyzed or … hitting the ground while you’re climbing. But you just try not to think about it, keep a positive attitude,” says Allan.

But in his mind, the benefits are worth it.

“Just being able to look back and see that you’ve done something. That you’ve accomplished ... a rapid or a rock or a trail or something like that,” says Allan.

Tips for Parents

Research shows that certain approaches to parenting can help prevent teens from engaging in all types of risky behaviors, from drug and alcohol use to dangerous driving to sexual activity. This includes having a warm, loving and close relationship with your teen; setting and consistently enforcing clear rules and consequences; closely monitoring your teen's activities and whereabouts; respecting your teen; and setting a good example, especially when it comes to illicit drug and alcohol use. (Office of National Drug Control Policy)

Encourage safe driving, healthy eating and good school performance; discourage drug use, teen sex and activities that may result in injury. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HHS)
Teach healthy habits. Teach your teenager how to maintain a high level of overall health through nutrition, physical fitness and healthy behaviors. Make sure your teen gets eight hours of sleep a night -- a good night’s sleep helps ensure maximum performance in academics and sports. Sleep is the body’s way of storing new information to memory and allowing muscles to heal. (HHS)

Promote safe driving habits. Make sure your teenager uses a seat belt every time he or she is in a car, and ask your child to ensure that all other passengers are wearing their seatbelts when he or she is driving. Encourage your young driver to drive responsibly by following speed limits and avoiding distractions while driving such as talking on a cell phone, focusing on the radio or even looking at fellow passengers instead of the road. (HHS)

Promotion of school success. Help your teen to become responsible for attendance, homework and course selection. Be sure to have conversations with your child about school and show your interest in his or her school activities. (HHS)

Prevent violence. Prevent bullying by encouraging peaceful resolutions and building positive relationships. Teach teens to respect others and encourage tolerance. Teach your teens that there is no place for verbal or physical violence by setting an example with your words and actions and by showing them respect as well. (HHS)

Know the 4“W’s”—who, what, when, where. Always know who your teen is hanging out with, what they will be doing, when and for how long they will be out, and where they will be. And check up on your child. Be aware of the dangers that can arise at teenage parties. Teen parties present an opportunity for your teen to experiment with alcohol or tobacco. One approach is to host the party so you have more control over ensuring that these parties stay safe and fun for everyone involved. (HHS)


Office of National Drug Control Policy
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) The Reality of Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy in the United States is a serious concern. The US has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births of any industrialized country.

1/3 of all US teenage girls will become pregnant. This equals to roughly 750,000 each year! Unmarried teenage mothers rarely finish high school; in fact, 2/3 do not.

Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer from low birth weight and other medical problems. They are also more likely to develop learning disabilities and mental disorders as they reach their teenage years.

The facts are real. Our sons and daughters live in a generation plagued by these statistics, and it is up to us as parents make a change.
Find out more about Teen Pregnancy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Troubled Teens, Struggling Teens, At Risk Teens, Problem Teens

Do any of these labels sound familiar?

•Truancy (Excessive Absences)
•Multiple Suspension/Detentions
•Academic Failure/Grades Dropping - Underachiever
•Social Withdrawal – Isolating themselves
•Poor Decision Making
•Peer Relationship Problems; Fights; Arguments
•Choosing the Wrong Peer Group
•Defiant/Anger/Violent/Rage/Rebellious – Conduct Disorder
•Confrontational Behavior/Acting Out
•Refusal to accept Accountability for their Actions
•Depression/Bipolar/Oppositional Defiance Disorder
•Involvement in Cult Activities – Gang Activity

Does any of the above sound familiar? If so it may be time to start searching for healthy and safe alternative schools or programs. Whether they are local or out of the area, after conferring with a school guidance counselor or therapist, you may determine that a different academic setting may benefit your child. Absences and Suspension Rates (or Incident reports) are useful indicators of student academic or behavioral problems. Most truancy and incident rates increase with grade levels. Another words, this will most likely escalate rather than go away if not addressed. We always recommend parents to seek local adolescent therapy* prior to residential placement.

Incidents rates are on the rise and school expulsion have increased, nearly doubled in the High Schools within the past three years. The zero tolerance rates may be attributed to this rise in numbers, however it is a clear indication that some teens are truly struggling and need outside help. This is has to do with many factors:

• Population Increase, which leads to overcrowding in the schools
• Lack of ACCEPTANCE of our Cultural Diversity
• Family Conflicts – Marital Issues (Divorce, Separation, etc.)
• Stress and Anger Management Problems
• Lack of Communication and the skills to communicate with Today's Teens.
• Ineffective or Inconsistence Parenting/Discipline Strategies
• Substance Abuse (Drugs and/or Alcohol)
• Undiagnosed Learning Disabilities – ADD/ADHD/LD
• Zero Tolerance Level at Schools

Do you have a struggling teen? At risk teens? Defiant Teen? Teen Depression? Problem Teen? Difficult Teen? Teen Rage? Teen Anger? Teen Drug Use? Teen Gangs? Teen Runaways? Bipolar? ADD/ADHD? Disrespectful Teen? Out of Control Teen? Peer Pressure?

Find about more about Boarding Schools, Military Schools, Christian Boarding Schools, Residential Treatment Centers, and Therapeutic Boarding Schools.

Contact us today.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff): What your children are doing shouldn't be a mystery

Who’s pressuring your kids? Who’s offering them alcohol or drugs? Who’s talking to them on the Internet? Whether we’re teachers, parents, counselors…sometimes we just don’t know what’s really going on in a child’s life.

If you want to talk to your kids about the challenges they face, but aren’t sure what to say, our programs will help…with real kids sharing their true stories, and advice from experts, educators and parents who have “been there.”

Click here for a fantastic educational resource to help you help your kids!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Parents' Universal Resource Experts Founder Sue Scheff Launches New Website Design for P.U.R.E.

My new website design for P.U.R.E. has recently been launched! It is not 100% completed yet but the new and updated design incorporates my new first book being released in July 2008. Over the past (almost 8 years!) my website has been re-designed only twice - this is the third time.

Change is hard, but necessary - and like today's teens - we need to stay up-to-date with today's times.

I have enhanced questions to ask schools and programs as well as helpful hints. Change is always happening and P.U.R.E. is proactive in keeping up with bringing you current information on schools and programs.

P.U.R.E. continues to help thousands of families yearly. We are very proud of our association with the Better Business Bureau for many years and our excellent relationship with many therapists, schools, guidance counselors, lawyers, and other professionals that refer to P.U.R.E. on a regular basis in an effort to help families.There are going to be more exciting changes coming this year. A second book in progress and meetings with my Florida Senator and Congresswoman to work towards a safer Cyberspace.