MASK Magazine Articles
Anyone who has children knows that life with kids can be challenging. From extra laundry, to bathing ad cooking and shopping and driving and school and chores and sports and dance and toys and tantrums, there is no shortage of complications.
Head spinning in confusion, feet pounding against concrete, Steven Henderson* ran. The cold air bit against his face as screams of hatred followed behind him.
“Queer! Faggot!,” his seventh grade peers screamed.
It can be downright overt, like a fist in the face when you don’t hand over the answers to yesterday’s math homework.
Or sneaky, like when you’re left wondering if someone was “trash talking” or really means harm.
Imagine the following scenario: You and the ids are at your mother’s house for the family’s weekly Sunday dinner. Your brother-in-law brings a bottle of Merlot from his recent vacation to Napa Valley. He pours you a glass to have with your dinner.
On the way home in the car, your daughter asks you why you had wine tonight. You’ve discussed (on those sacred, 125-minute rides to and from soccer practice) that even a little alcohol can impair one’s ability to drive, and that she should never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Understandably, she’s confused.
As parents, we can help or hinder our kids’ awareness of the enormous risks of drinking and driving, and especially of underage drinking and driving. When our actions don’t follow our words – or we’re unclear about our own personal policy – the result can be confusion, loss of credibility, erosion of our children’s trust and perhaps, someday down the road, tragedy.
The psychological reasons why we use labels in social settings.
It’s an average Monday at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, Ariz. Students shuffle through the halls, making a game of ducking and dodging through hordes of people. Crammed with students, the halls become a place of overheard conversations. With labels and slurs being causally thrown about between friends and yelled from jealous peers, outsiders may find the typical teenage chatter offensive. Regardless, nearly all students take part in this verbal exchange because this kind of categorization is easier to process when dealing with such a large population of people.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) kids are prime targets for bullying. Eight out of 10 reported being verbally or physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to the 2011 National School Climate survey of 6th to 12th grade students.
"Eighteen percent of kids said they had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation – literally being punched, kicked or injured with a weapon." says Robert McGarry, Ed.D., director of education for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend an average of 54.6 hours per week on their electronic devices. Compared to another study by the A.C. Nielsen international polling firm, however, they only spend about 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversations with their parents.
Judgment. Anonymity. Cruelty. These three words define cyberbullying as Pinnacle High School (PHS) students perceive it today. The virtual world of blogs, text messages, e-mails and social networking has opened the door to a new generation of cyberbullying. What was once ridicule in the physical world through slam books and wedgies, has transformed into pixelated letters on an LCD screen.
The issue reaches not only PHS students, or even just high school students, but children, teenagers and adults from every region of the world. Ranging from catty gossip to malicious insults, cyberbullying occurs constantly.
To the untrained eye, most high school students appear to be quite happy. On school campuses all across the country, sound pollution rises up, caused by the laughter, jokes and banter of the kids. The underlying truth is that some of these seemingly jubilant teens may actually be suffering from emotional and psychological distress. The pressures of an average teen’s social life are enough to cause him or her to turn to alternative forms of coping. One of the most prominent and common coping mechanisms for teens in middle and high school is “cutting.”
Because it's legal, available and difficult to drug test, Spice is continuing to grow in popularity among young people. Made from a mixture of herbals and synthetics, the drug is a legal alternative to marijuana. And while there is a common misconception about Spice being natural instead of harmful, the drug differs from marijuana because the chemicals in it are unknown.
Think you know your kid's hiding places? Thank again. from soda cans and water bottles, to lipstick tubes and markers, kids and teens are hiding drugs in the most unexpected places.
These containers primary use is to hide your most valuable items.
What's the right age for kids to get a cell phone?
Once your kids are old enough to get around by themselves -- taking the bus, walking home from school, going to friends' houses -- having a cell phone makes sense. Younger kids may clamor for one, but these are expensive devices, not toys, and they require some maturity and a sense of responsibility to ensure they don't get dropped from out of a backpack, put through the rinse cycle in the washing machine (we know, we've been there) or become the instrument of inappropriate text messages or images. Before you get your kids a phone, check out our Cell Phone Contract.
Cell phones have become a must-have for kids, and the ways kids use them are not always obvious to parents. If you answer "yes" to most of the following questions, it may be time to get a cell phone for your children.
Once a teen enters high school and college, the risk of alcohol abuse is at its peak. An alarming trend among people in this age group is binge drinking, which, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days. The risks, consequences and behaviors of binge drinkers are alarming. Compared to nondrinkers, teen binge drinkers are more likely to participate in risky behaviors. They are 11 times more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, 19 times more likely to be smokers and four times more likely to be in a physical fight. They are also four times more likely to have ever been raped or subjected to dating violence and four times more likely to have attempted suicide.
And while binge drinking is common in high school, teens are also going so far as to get intoxicated by using vodka-soaked tampons, mixing alcohol with prescription pills and/or marijuana, and experimenting with pocket shots (alcohol in a bag) alcopops (flavored alcoholic drinks) and candy soaked in alcohol.
Junior high is a critical time in a child’s life, especially when it comes to underage drinking and alcohol abuse. When children reach this stage in their lives, they are more susceptible to giving in to peer pressure and experimenting with risky behaviors. Research shows that most children who go on to drink start in middle school. In fact, one out of two 8th graders has tried alcohol. The most common types of alcohol among junior high school-age children is beer. However, it’s been reported that children have also filled water bottles with vodka and other clear spirits, and have experimented with pocket shots (alcohol in a bag) alcopops (flavored alcoholic drinks) and alcohol-soaked candy, such as Gummi Bears. Approximately 40 percent of children will have tried alcohol by the time they reach 8th grade, making it a dangerous introduction to other drugs and dangerous substances. Statistics show that children who drink are 7 times more likely to go on to use an illicit drug, 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine compared to children who never drink.
When it comes to preventing underage drinking, research shows that early education is the best defense. Which is why if your child is in elementary school, this is the best time to start the conversation — and start it early.
Research shows that children are beginning to drink at a younger age. In fact, a Partnership Attitude Tracking study reports that about 10 percent of 9-year-olds have consumed more than a sip of alcohol, while a report by the
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) shows that one third of children ages 12 to 17 had their first drink before 13. Very young drinkers are becoming a major concern. Unfortunately, this trend will have serious consequences in the future. Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that children who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to have drinking problems than those who start drinking at age 21 or later.
For high school students and older teens, the Internet isn’t only a place to do research for homework assignments or class projects. It is a world all its own, filled with forums to interact with friends, sites to download music and videos, and outlets to share their deepest thoughts and feelings. For many teens, the online world is just as real as their physical world. The most prominent — and active — part of a teen’s online presence is social networking. Posts, status updates, comments, instant messages, video uploads, tweets and texts have become a regular part of our teens’ lives. In today’s 24/7 digital world, teens are logging on to such social media sites as Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr and Formspring from everywhere, including smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and laptops. Studies show that social media has surpassed e-mail as the preferred method of communication among teens. And while there are many positives to social media, the danger comes when teens not only share their private thoughts, photos, videos and personal information, but also engage in behavior that could affect their credibility and reputation. A recent study at the University of Washington found that 54 percent of teens have demonstrated risky behavior online, including posting sexually suggestive or nude photos of themselves. Experts attribute this inability to self-censor to the anonymous nature of the Internet, which may also lead them to engage in other behaviors such as bullying or creating a false identity online.
The transition from elementary school to junior high is an exciting time for most children. Gone are the days of one-room classes and small circles of friends. Junior high opens the door to a whole new world of freedoms, experiences and social interactions. But in the online world, junior high is also a time when more and more children increase their online activity, thereby potentially opening them up to becoming a victim of cyber-bullying. According to recent studies, most bullying begins in junior high. And with more children going online, cyber-bullying is quickly becoming a real danger to the safety and well-being of our children. Through e-mails, texts and social networking profiles, cyber-bullies are threatening other children, making them the target of false and hurtful words and accusations. The impact of cyber-bullying can be devastating. Victims suffer from embarrassment, ridicule, depression and a sense of worthlessness. They become unknowing targets in a war of words and social acceptance. In severe cases, cyber-bullying can lead to drug or alcohol abuse and even suicide. In a recent study of 2000 junior high students, almost 1 in 2 students (grades 6 to 8) reported being the target of cyber-bullying at least once in their lives, and 1 in 5 had received an e-mail or text message with violent, humiliating or inappropriate content. In addition, 1 in 10 were warned not to tell others about the cyber-bullying episodes or they (or a friend or family member) would be harmed.
While the Internet is a valuable source of information, social networking and entertainment for most people, its anonymous nature can create opportunities for online dangers, especially for young children. One of the most common threats to children are online predators. It’s estimated there are more than 5 million predators actively online. They typically seek out their victims in chat rooms, where they can find out a child’s name, where she lives and goes to school, and what activities she likes in a matter of minutes. If your child is in a chat room designated for children under 18, there is a 50 percent chance that the person he or she is communicating with is a sexual predator logged in under a false identity. Even more alarming is the statistic that shows 75 percent of children are willing to share their personal information with a stranger online, which is exactly what the sexual predator is looking for. Once the predator befriends the child, they may ask her if they can be added to the child’s instant messenger or buddy list. This way they can tell each time the child is online. Over time, the predator will develop a relationship with the child and build their trust. They will ask the child to keep their relationship a secret, especially from their parents and family members. At some point, the predator will try to move the relationship to the next phase: a face-to-face meeting, often for a sexual encounter. While most parents believe their child would never set up a meeting with someone they’ve met online, the facts show otherwise. Thirty percent of teens have considered meeting someone they’ve chatted with, while 14 percent have actually had such an encounter.
Moms Helping Moms
They say the third time’s a charm. For Susan Merrill, director of iMOM, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. With a Bachelor of Science degree in finance, Merrill began her career as a corporate lender for a major financial institution: Career No. 1. She then moved into the company’s marketing department as a regional marketing manager: Career No. 2. Then, in 1991, Merrill’s husband Mark founded Family First, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the family and so began Career No. 3. “After my husband and I had our first child, we wanted to become involved in our community as a couple,” Merrill says. “Mark was an attorney and the Florida Family Council asked him to do pro bono work for a local nonprofit. Eventually, the nonprofit asked him to interview for the director position and that’s when he started Family First.” Based in Tampa, Fla., Family First shares resources and offers encouragement to parents through three core programs: “Family Minute with Mark Merrill,” a daily radio program that offers practical advice on marriage, parenting and family relationships. All Pro Dad, the fatherhood program of Family First; and iMOM, the organization’s newest program that launched in 2007. “I love learning from other moms, researching needs, praying for inspiration and creating solutions to help them—and me—become the mother we all dream about,” says Merrill, the mother of five children ages 15 to 21, two of whom were adopted from Russia.
DIAGNOSIS FOR CHANGE//
I’ve never felt safe. Middle school was a living nightmare; every day was one step closer into a pit of darkness. Getting tripped in the hallways, cussed out, pointed at, laughed at—who deserved such cruelty? Many young people battle their weight every day. What people on the outside may not completely appreciate is why young people are overweight. Until seventh grade, I never knew weight was such an issue. All of a sudden, though, people started caring more about their looks. Perfectly curled hair, name brand shoes, Abercrombie clothes; these were the kids that ruled the school. All I wanted was to fit in and buying the latest trends just didn’t help. I needed to change physically and mentally.I already accepted the fact that I was heavy and different, but I finally had enough. It was time for a change. Daily jogs and workouts filled my free time, while healthy foods filled my pantry. Almost immediately, my confidence soared. This routine, however, didn’t work. If anything, I was gaining more weight. My parents became worried and took me to see the doctor. Several blood tests later, it was determined that I had hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which controls metabolism. As tears streamed down my face,
Simple tips for quick, nutritious meals.
It’s an age-old dilemma: preparing a healthy meal or making your next appointment on time. Unfortunately, the convenience of fast food and unhealthy snacks often wins out in the battle that most time-starved families are faced with every day. According to registered dietician Elaine Magee, MPH, healthy meals can be a reality with just a little planning and forethought. In an article she wrote for WebMD, she emphasizes that when meals and snacks are prepared at home, parents can provide nutrient-rich, whole foods and de-emphasize packaged and processed foods high in saturated fat and sodium and low in fiber.
By the time your child reaches high school, the “don’t do drugs” message is one they’ve heard for years. Not only can they make the distinction between the different types of drugs and their effects, they also may be able to differentiate between a casual user and an addict. They’ve seen many of their friends and fellow students use drugs, some without negative or fatal consequences, others whose drug use is completely out of control, hovering on the brink of devastating addiction or, sadly, resulting in death. Most high school students have been faced with making a choice about drugs, at least once in their educational years. In fact, a 2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 22 percent of public high school students were offered, sold or given drugs at school. And while most parents may think that alcohol and marijuana are the drugs they need to worry about, in actuality, it’s prescription drugs that have grown in popularity among high school and college students in recent years. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control found that 20.2 percent of high school students said they had taken a drug such as Ritalin, Xanax or OxyContin without a doctor’s prescription. The ease with which teens can get prescription drugs is one reason for the increase. Kids are getting them from friends who are legitimately prescribed the drug, from online pharmacies that don’t require a prescription and from their own medicine cabinets.
Your child’s transition from elementary school to junior high is a critical time, especially when it comes to drug use. The likelihood that kids will try drugs increases dramatically in the first year of junior high, where they will be exposed to older kids who have experimented with or are regular users of drugs. Your child may think these kids are cool and be tempted to try drugs to fit in. One of the most widely used drugs that kids begin experimenting with in junior high is inhalants, ordinary household products that are inhaled or sniffed to get high. A recent study showed that 20 percent of sixth graders had tried inhalants. Perhaps even more concerning, another study revealed that fewer students believe that sniffing or “huffing” can have fatal consequences. Inhaling such items can cause serious brain damage, as well as damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Junior high is also prime time for kids to begin experimenting with tobacco and alcohol. Although, in recent years, substance abuse experts have been reporting children as young as the fourth grade trying their first drink. According to Joseph Califano, founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children’s attitudes toward alcohol shifts dramatically. Where once they thought drinking alcohol was wrong, the presence of older children can be very influential. And as prescription drug use begins to rise at alarming rates, this pattern can hold true for such drugs as OxyContin, Ritalin and Adderall, among others.
For many parents, addressing the issue of drugs with their elementary school age child may seem too early. However, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, one of the keys to preventing childhood drug use is addressing the topic during a child’s elementary school years. Research shows that the earlier a child starts to use alcohol and/or drugs, the greater his or her chances are of becoming a substance abuser. Studies also show that programs aimed at keeping kids off drugs are most effective when started in this age group. The U.S. Department of Education suggests that for children in kindergarten through third grade, prevention efforts should focus on good health practices; differences between foods, poisons, medicines and drugs; and rules regarding drug use. For children in fourth through sixth grades, prevention efforts should teach how to identify different drugs; the effects of drugs; what addiction is; why some substances are dangerous; and peer, media, family and community influences on substance abuse. Parents of elementary school-age children should take notice of new behaviors such as crushing candies that resemble pills (like Smarties), sniffing school items such as permanent markers and correction fluid, or inhaling household products like antibacterial lotion and dryer sheets. These types of behaviors may be an indication that your child has seen this done at school or in the media. The earlier a child starts to use alcohol and/or drugs, the greater his or her chances are of becoming a substance abuser.
Victim of social media attack still questions why In the spring of 2010, a group of Pinnacle High School students created a group on Facebook about junior Aubrey Stecher*. She discovered it a week after its creation and found it filled with cruel comments that insulted her physical appearance and made violent threats against her.“I found out about the group because my supposed ‘best friend’ told me about it and acted as if she had nothing to do with it,” Stecher says. Stecher told the vice principal because the group was still on the site days later. Once notified of the situation, he and Stecher immediately called her parents and, because threats were made, the police. Shortly after, the school administration questioned several students to find out where the page originated.“To this day, I have no clue why the group was created. I question it a lot and wonder about it. Looking back, the kids who were involved must have been very insecure to have done something like that,” Stecher says. Stecher thinks that the best thing to do in a situation like hers is to tell a trusted adult. She advises other victims to be strong and use kindness to diffuse the situation rather than escalating it by fighting back.
The most recognized form of bullying in elementary school is physical violence—such as hitting, punching, pushing or taking another student’s belongings. However, as prevalent as physical violence is, verbal bullying is more common and can be even more damaging as its physical counterpart. Verbal bullying comes in many forms, including taunting, threatening or making fun of a student’s gender, religion, appearance, socioeconomic status or mannerisms. This type of bullying tends to spread quickly among students, who “follow” without thinking of the harm or consequences of what they’re doing. Verbal bullying can also lead to social alienation, which happens when a student is excluded from the group or rest of the class and made to feel inferior or different from everyone else. The bully’s unspoken message is that for others to avoid becoming his/her next target, the bystander should ignore their conscience and join in the isolate-the-victim game. According to recent studies, elementary school bullying is most commonly perpetrated by boys, who look for opportunities to take part in physical bullying when teachers and adults aren’t present or paying close enough attention, such as on the playground, in bathrooms, or in crowded hallways. They’re also most likely to pick on younger children. Bullying that occurs among girls deals mostly with social exclusion. Girls gang up against a victim as way of exerting control. Verbal bullying can also lead to social alienation, which happens when a student is excluded from the group or rest of the class and made to feel inferior or different from everyone else.
Synthetic Evolution‘Designer’ drugs quickly becoming the new norm for high school students.
Story // Preslie Hirsch and Sarah Dinell
An epidemic permeating high schools is sweeping the nation:synthetic drug use. Made chemically, synthetic drugs include Spice, K2, methamphetamine, amphetamine, Ecstasy, LSD, synthetic marijuana, synthetic cocaine, synthetic heroin and most prescription drugs. These types of drugs are growing in popularity because—unlike natural substances like marijuana, cocaine and heroin—the production of synthetic drugs isn’t limited to various agricultural and geographical regions.
There Yet? Story // Michelle Jacoby
In the fast-paced world of cell phones, laptops and iPods, finding family time can be a challenge. The family dinner hour has turned into gobbling up sandwiches on the way to soccer practice or heating up frozen meals late into the evening. Fortunately, a road trip is where a burned-out family can benefit. The car makes a great place for family conversation: everyone’s seated, confined to a small area and leaving the room, well,
isn’t an option. It’s the ideal time and place to talk about the topics and issues that will help your children navigate their world. According to Robyn Warner, an expert in specialized behavioral health treatment programs for adolescents, open and honest communication is essential for “surviving and thriving” during the adolescent and teen years. She offers these tips for improving communication with your child:
Cyberbullying: A Victim Tells His Story // by Alex Clearwater
Final Exam is dedicated to teens whom have gone through a real experience related to issues facing teens today. Through these true stories we hope to inspire awareness to parents and children, but also to use as a communication opener.
Meals that Matter: The Magic of Mealtime
Let’s face it, being a parent isn’t easy. Most days, just getting your family all together at the same time can seem like mission impossible. Between after school sports, study groups, work and errands, it’s not surprising that many parents say they feel a growing distance between themselves and their children. So how, in the midst of all this chaos, do you find time to talk to your kids and more importantly, have them talk back to you? The answer is easy: Dinnertime. It’s true: While the simple act of eating dinner together can bring families closer together, studies have shown it can also help in preventing drug abuse and achieving better grades. Here are a few simple tips that will give you more than your fill at dinnertime:
Media The New Virtual Bathroom Wall
by// Alyssa Coughenour and Cattarina Lovins
Judgment. Anonymity. Cruelty. These three words define cyberbullying as Pinnacle High School (PHS) students perceive it today. The virtualworld of blogs, text messages, e-mails and social networking has opened the door to a new generation of cyberbullying. What was once ridicule in the physical world through slam books and wedgies, has transformed into pixilated letters on an LCD screen.The issue reaches not only PHS students, or even just high school students, but children, teenagers and adults from every region of the world. Ranging from catty gossip to malicious insults, cyber bullying
occurs constantly. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a teen devotes an average of at least 95 minutes each day to texting, while Facebook reports that users spend 7 billion minutes on the site