Monday, 16 May 2011

Teaching Our Kids To Be Good Digital Citizens.

The good news is that we may be far too worried about the dangers posed to our kids using Facebook, cell phones, smart phones and the Web in general. Perhaps media coverage and the recent film called ‘Trust’ has made us very wary of what is going on and what dangers our kids are exposed to. In this film, a teenage age is raped by a paedophile who she had met on the Internet.

But none of statistics show that online dangers are more insidious or even more frequent than the offline risks. That does not mean that we should be blasé but just teach our kids to be good digital citizens.

Let me give you some examples. Some research done at The Florida Atlantic University suggests that up to 20% of teenagers may have experienced cyberbullying.  But this figure is about the same as that of the more traditional bullying which happens offline. The interesting part of this research shows that the majority of the cyberbullies are not anonymous and the majority of victims actually know who the bullies are.

As regards soliciting for sex online, it is fascinating to read ‘The Culture of Fear’ which was updated last year.  Studies from The University of New Hampshire show that one in seven teenagers have been approached online but actually only about 10% of these were between adults and teenagers. That figure puts the situation into  perspective.  About 50% of  all cases anyway were between teens themselves which is just as risky as if they were doing it offline.

Lots of parents are worried about the so called ‘Facebook Depression’. Look at the figures released by the Digital Youth Project which surveyed about 800 kids while they were social networking online for a total of 5,000 hours over three years.  

Figures reveal that although there is some time wasted, more than 50% of teens are actually using it for charity purposes by supporting a cause.  There is also the fact that many teenagers benefit socially, are more aware of social injustice, are more in touch with the world and even can become very computer savvy as well.  About 33% had actually volunteered for an online charity and for connecting with the world for perfectly valid and worthy causes.  

Many teenagers were actively involved in the ‘It Gets Better Project’ which helps to establish the rights of gays and lesbians to feel secure and happy in their learning and social environments.

So, what is the best  approach to take with teenage behaviour which relies far to much on electronic media?  The best way is prevention and education by raising awareness of the e risks rather than draconian grounding, confiscation and other punitive measures which will be circumvented anyway.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Smoking Pregnant Mothers More Likely To Have Problem Kids!

Did you know that there are over four thousand toxins in cigarette smoke? Now imagine a pregnant mother who smokes. Well, the chances are that quite a few of these chemicals will affect the fetus and will certainly have a negative impact on the child’s developing brain.  

Research at 3 Universities, Illinois (USA) and Hull and York in the UK, shows that problem kids are much more likely to be born to these smoking mothers. The problems could arise even as early as three years of age!

The survey was quite a large one as it involved about 14,000 mothers on both sides of the Atlantic.
They were all asked to fill in  questionnaires whereby they gave an assessment on their children’s behaviors.   

Mothers were divided into light and heavy smokers. The results were quite shocking.

The mothers who were merely smoking a few cigarettes a day were still more than 44% likely to have boys who had behavioral or conduct disorders.

For the heavy smokers, that figure almost doubled to 80%!

The number of boys with ADHD and hyperactivity disorders were much more likely overall to have had mothers who smoked during their pregnancy. Who would have thought that this was a cause of ADHD!

The girls who were diagnosed as having conduct disorders were hardly affected by ADHD or hyperactivity. This seems to follow the patterns whereby girls are much more likely to have the inattentive type of ADHD anyway.

Apart from the general health issues, it seems that smoking mothers are laying up trouble for themselves and their families if they smoke during pregnancy.

This post is a brief summary of a report  first published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health