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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Child Trends’

Teenage Internet Addiction

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Is Internet addiction the main cause of today’s at-risk crisis? It’s a topic most people shy away from, but it’s one that needs to be addressed. Everyday more and more teens are getting hooked on the Internet and the effect of surfing may be taking its toll on our youth.

 

The Internet has quickly become the number one media pre-occupation our children are busy with each day. Worse, not only are teens spending one to several hours a day surfing the web, the content they are viewing has become progressively more violent and contains more explicit material than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, a groundbreaking national survey of 1,500 youth aged 10 to 17 documented that:

 

*More than one-third of youth Internet users (34%) saw “inappropriate” material online they did not want to see.

 

*The increase in exposure to unwanted material occurred despite the use of filtering, blocking and monitoring software in households of youth Internet users.

 

*Online harassment of youth has increased by 9% over the last five years.

 

These statistics should sound an alarm for parents concerned about their children’s development. Here’s why: For many teens Internet use has become an addiction, and, like all other addictive substances and activities, Internet addiction requires a therapeutic approach to wean its adherents away from this self-destructive behavior.

 

I know it may take a slight leap of creativity to connect the Internet to drug abuse but here are the similarities: Like addiction to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine, Internet addiction is marked by symptoms of increasing tolerance, withdrawal, mood changes and interruption of social relationships. Children and adolescents who have become addicted to the Internet will require increasing amounts of time online in order to feel satisfied. When they do not have access they may have symptoms of withdrawal including anxiety, depression, irritability, trembling hands, restlessness and obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the Internet.

 

Independent of the depressing effects of excessive Internet use, the most devastating impact of Internet addiction may be the decreased amount of quality time teenagers have with their parents. Just like other addictions, the Internet addict probably suffers from feelings of emotional and physical isolation from his or her friends and family and spends little time involved in healthy relationships which are the basis for positive emotional development.

 

The lack of quality time spent with parents may also be the most significant factor leading to at-risk behavior. In fact, I once asked a group of high school juniors and seniors at a well-known Jewish day school what they felt were the most important issues teens face. These were the students’ answers according to their own ranking, starting with the most important:

 

Disappointment and anger with parents

Dislike of teachers

The intense desire to be accepted and fit in with friends

The desire to be adults and the fact that they were still under parents’ control

The internal pressures of trying to develop and act on personal values as opposed to those of parents and friends

The powerful forces of media encouraging experimentation with sex and alcohol

The enormous physical and psychological changes that occur at this time of life

 

Surprisingly, issues like physical changes, peer pressure and drug use were placed low on the students’ list, whereas poor relationships with their parents and teachers were ranked highest. In general, these teenagers seemed alienated from their parents and felt that their teachers had somehow let them down. Add to this a teenager’s sense of isolation from parents and family members and the connection between Internet use and the at-crisis becomes more and more apparent.

 

A comprehensive research brief published by Child Trends, entitled Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions Far More Positive Than Not, showed a direct correlation between the quality of the parent-teen relationship and the impact the relationship has on a teenager’s life.

 

In addition to the damage the Internet may cause to family relationships, excessive Internet usage can also be masking more difficult problems that teenagers are facing. It may therefore be necessary to seek outside help for a child with Internet addiction.

 

How much Internet use is too much? Parents can ask the following questions that can be answered in one of three possible ways: rarely, frequently or always:

 

-How often do they find that they stay online longer than they intended?

-How often do they form new relationships with unknown fellow online users?

-How often do their grades suffer because of the amount of time they spend online?

-How often do they find themselves anticipating when they will go online again?

-How often do they choose to spend more time on-line rather than going out with others?

 

If they answer “frequently” or “always” to at least four out of the five questions, then it may be a sign that they are hooked on the Internet and could use some help weaning themselves away from constant use.

 

How can I wean my teen off the Internet?

 

The first suggestion is for parents to end their child’s isolation and check up on them every 15 minutes to see what they are watching. They can also surf together with the child on various sites and turn “alone” time into “family” time. The trick is to come up with something fun and engaging that places both you and your child in the same environment.

 

While you sit together in front of the computer screen, you could casually discuss some of the dangers of the Internet and the sites that may be damaging to their emotional well being. A good place to start is to discuss the dangers of chat rooms and to speak openly about who may be online and what possible predators may be looking for.

 

Another helpful strategy is to gently wean your child away from the Internet. If, for example, your child surfs for two hours a night, you can make the first move by saying, “I think surfing every night for two hours is too much. You can keep on surfing, but from now on, you can pick three nights a week if you want to go online. Which night do you prefer? It’s your choice.” You don’t have to abruptly cut off all Internet use; rather you can start by limiting their constant exposure and empower them with a choice of when they want to be online.

 

Many parents seem apprehensive about butting in on their teen’s computer time. I have found, however, that when someone is hooked online and asked to cut back they may be initially reluctant, but in the end they will be thankful to you for reducing their dependence. Often teens get carried away and will appreciate having someone help them renew their sense of balance and proportion.

 

By far, the most effective tool against Internet addiction is to schedule quality time with your child away from the computer. That means parents and teens should schedule a “date night” each week.  Taking a walk together to the park, going out to eat, ice skating, volunteering, doing chesed, learning a hobby or just throwing a ball around are some of the activities that make life fun and bind families together.

 

When life gets hectic and time is limited, you can spend a few minutes alone just schmoozing in a quiet room of your house – without a computer or video screen. Most importantly, during your “dates,” try to talk about matters that they think are important. What matters most is to give your teenager a feeling that he or she is the most important person in the world. These moments of relationship building can give your child the proper amount of emotional nourishment needed to end their dependence and wean themselves off the addictive effects of the Internet.

 

As Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out in the introduction to my book, At Risk – Never Beyond Reach, “It has been shown that the single most effective intervention for the widest variety of teen and adolescent problems was also the easiest, speediest and least expensive: The implementation of family mealtimes.” This is because family mealtime fosters relationships. If your child is spending his or her entire evening surfing the web, then there’s no way he is gaining the positive benefits of quality time with his family.

 

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is a marriage and family therapist and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. He is the author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach”. To make an appointment call 646 428 4723, email: rabbbischonbuch@yahoo.com or visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com

 

 

Mentoring

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

When the parent-teen relationship is strained or just needs improvement parents can utilize outside help to bring about a change.  When necessary, one of the most effective ways of wielding indirect control is by having the teenager meet with a mentor. As a third person, uninvolved in family conflicts, a mentor is able to interact with a teenager and provide an informal means of solving problems at school, help the teen do homework or simply be a friend.

 

There are many possible people who can play the role of mentor.  A mentor can be an older student in your child’s school, someone you know in the community, a cousin or older sibling or a youth worker from your synagogue.  Often a good mentor for your teenager may be your best friend or someone that you know and admire at work.

 

Mentors can fill any number of functions in a teenager’s life. Yet all mentors have one thing in common: they care about helping young people achieve their potential and discover their strengths.  Their main purpose is to help young people define and achieve their own goals – and those goals will vary depending on the young person’s age. By sharing fun activities and exposing a teenager to new experiences, a mentor encourages positive choices, promotes self-esteem, supports academic achievement and introduces the child to new ideas.

 

Here are some of the roles a mentor does and does not play:

 

A mentor is

A friend

A coach

A motivator

A companion

A supporter

A advisor

A advocate

 

A mentor is not

An ATM

A social worker

A parent

A cool peer

A nag

A parole officer

A savior

 

The goal of the mentor may be to do homework with the teenager, to learn a new hobby or just to have a good time.  Most importantly, a mentor can provide quality time and instill important values, such as trust, friendship, community and responsibility, without impinging on a teen’s sense of freedom.

 

Unquestionably mentors make a lasting impression on the lives of children and teenagers.  Research confirms what previously we had known anecdotally or intuitively:  mentoring works. A recent research brief published by Child Trends found that “youth who participate in mentoring relationships experience a number of positive benefits.” In terms of educational achievement, mentored youth have better attendance, a better chance of going on to higher education and better attitudes towards school. In terms of health and safety, mentoring appears to help prevent substance abuse and reduce some other negative behaviors. In terms of social and emotional development, mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them. They also feel that they get more emotional support from their friends than do youth who are not mentored.

 

The most compelling evidence of the impact of mentoring was found by a private study that demonstrated that compared to young people not participating in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program teenagers that are mentored are

46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs

27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol

52 percent less likely to skip school

37 percent less likely to skip class

More confident in their schoolwork performance

Able to get along better with their families

 

With all this evidence taken into consideration Relationship Theory teaches that when parents have an unusual amount of difficulty relating to their teen, finding a mentor may be one of the best routes to take.

 

Sometimes other people are better at telling your children truths and ideas that you find difficult to express. For example, a friend of mine has always utilized mentors or other third parties to impress upon his children the importance of values such as honesty, integrity and religiosity.  To do this, he invites guests to his home who have a positive effect on his children’s moral development. He engages his guests in discussions about Torah learning, personal integrity or community involvement.  During these interchanges his children pick up important and lasting messages that they can easily absorb without feeling that their parents are forcing their values upon them.

 

In addition to having guests, this seasoned parent always strives to arrange learning sessions with mentors or well-known rabbis for his children during their vacations.  By effectively limiting his own direct control, he has more impact on his children’s lives.

 

In addition, mentoring reduces stress between parents and teenagers. Take Sarah for example, a forty-two-year-old mother of three daughters ages nine, twelve and sixteen. Sarah came to talk to me about her oldest daughter, Leah, who was having trouble in school.

 

This is how she described her problems:

 

“Every night we fight about her homework and I’m left with a throbbing headache. When my husband comes home sometimes at eight or nine o’clock, depending on his busy schedule, he tries to do homework with her, but most of the time they just end up fighting over silly things. She finds it impossible to sit down and concentrate on her schoolwork for more than five minutes. She was tested for ADHD and she doesn’t have it. My daughter and I are growing further apart. Imagine if all you did was fight with someone day and night without a break.”

 

I suggested to Sarah that trying to control her daughter wasn’t working. She needed to replace direct control with indirect control and to hire a mentor to help her daughter do her homework.

 

To implement indirect control, Sarah also needed to

Avoid confronting her daughter about homework.

Do some research with Leah’s teachers to find out exactly what her problems were in class.

Find opportunities for her husband and her to spend quality and enjoyable time with Leah.

Sarah decided to step back and stop trying to control her daughter and shift towards a relationship-oriented style of parenting. By arranging for a tutor, she let a third person help her daughter to do better in school.  She was able to move from direct control to indirect control and make a difference in Leah’s life.

 

After a few months of tutoring, the tension in Sarah and Leah’s relationship had been reduced.   Leah was getting the help she needed, which was something her mother couldn’t provide for her.  Now when she arrived home at night after a long day’s work, Sarah could focus her energy on relating better to her daughter and spending quality time with her.  By shifting from direct to indirect control, Sarah enabled herself and her daughter, to become closer and enjoy the benefits of a warmer and more intimate relationship.

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

The Magic Pill

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Life is full of stories about teenagers having difficulty making it through adolescence.  However, parenting teens – even teens who are at risk – doesn’t have to be such a daunting task when parents are willing to focus more on the relationship and less on getting immediate results.  Building the relationship is the key to reaching teens who are at risk.

I understand why most parents feel confused about how to deal with a teenager who veers “off the path.” It often comes as a shock when it’s your child who is swept into a counter culture that seems to affect more of our teenagers every day. The “at-risk” phenomenon seems to be everywhere.  Although the exact number of teens at risk is unknown, some estimate that the trend touches about one in four religious families.   I believe that the numbers are even greater. The problem likely digs much further into Jewish society than most rabbis, educators, and parents would like to admit.

But what or who is to blame for the at-risk phenomenon?  Some suggest that the problem originates in our schools; others maintain that dysfunctional homes are “ground zero” for risky behavior because kids miss out on key emotional ingredients such as love, caring, and parental stability.

Conventional wisdom points to the rapidly deteriorating standards in Western media.  Today’s television shows, movies, and Internet sites are filled with inappropriate and self-destructive images that are having a negative impact on teenagers and are fueling the at-risk crisis.

However, another possible way of viewing the at-risk phenomenon is that in actuality, it does not exist. Adolescents have always rebelled against the traditions of their parents.  The drop out rate among Orthodox Jews is similar to drop out rates in other religious groups that try to maintain higher social and religious standards than the societies they live within.

The theories go on and on, but the problem in our communities and homes continues unabated. David, age sixteen, for example, was a client I saw over a six-month period. Like most of my clients, David came from a traditional orthodox home and attended a yeshiva in the New York City area. School was always an emotional battleground for David, his teachers, and his parents.

According to David’s parents, in fourth grade David started having trouble sitting still in class.  He would speak out of turn, disrupt the class, and act in inappropriate ways.  He didn’t like Chumash and his mind would constantly wander. Instead of focusing on schoolwork, he would daydream about video games, movies, and his favorite sports teams.  Finding it difficult to concentrate in class was only the beginning of David’s problems. In fifth grade, he started getting into fights with his classmates and often received detention for bad behavior. Overall, David was an unhappy and slightly withdrawn child who was about to enter a five-year rollercoaster ride with his parents, principals and teachers.

Since David was doing poorly in the school he was in, his parents decided to send him to a school that specialized in working with teens in crisis. Although his behavior seemed better for a few months, most of David’s previous problems remained.  He still couldn’t sit still in class, he didn’t like his new friends, and began to act out.

David was in that school for two years, but he was still unhappy and acting inappropriately.  In fact, the situation got so bad that his principal asked David to leave.

At the same time, the situation at home had become a living nightmare for his parents.  The boy they had raised to be a well-behaved shomer Shabbos mentsch had turned out to be a loud, unappreciative, and angry teenager.  David was in trouble, and his parents were unable to deal with his emotional distress or figure out what to do next.

They consulted with friends and family, as well as with rabbis in the community, hoping they would have some insight into the problem.  The most common piece of advice they got was to send David away or put him in a remedial program.  However, David’s parents weren’t sure what they wanted to do and the tension in the house had become unbearable.

David needed help and his parents needed answers.  Most importantly, David’s parents needed to know that some glimmer of hope existed, a light at the end of the tunnel that would change their son’s life.

Desperate and impatient for a solution, David’s parents asked me what the “pill” was for at risk behavior. I suggested to them that the “pill,” in most cases, is for parents to start focusing on their relationship with their teenager. I call this novel yet remarkably simple idea “Relationship Theory,” which places priority on the power and impact that a good relationship can have upon children, both young and adolescent alike.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/the-magic-pill/2009/11/27/

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