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Inappropriate Teen Cell Phone Use

It can be difficult to control what your teen is doing with their cell phone. Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It can be difficult to control what your teen is doing with their cell phone.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I never cease to be surprised in my job.  You would think after enough years of sitting across the counseling room with teenagers that I’d have heard it all.  For the most part, I have.  However, their ingenuity with technology continues to boggle my mind.  It’s all I can do to keep up with them, and they’re freely admitting to me how they misuse technology to do sneaky things.  I can’t imagine how challenging it is for parents to try and figure out which app is being used for what, how to track what kind of pictures your child is posting and viewing online, and who in the world they’re talking to.

 

I will share what I know based on what I hear in the counseling room:

Firstly, most teenagers are using their cell phones appropriately.  The majority of kids are not sneaking.  They use their phones to call home, and to text their friends.  They keep up with their friends on Snapchat and Instagram.  They post things you’d be entirely fine with their grandma seeing, and a lot of them even “unfollow” people they know who post things they shouldn’t be.  This is their social hub.  This is how they are informed when someone is having a party, a group of people are going to the beach, or getting together to see a movie.  They text one another questions about homework.  They send encouragement if they’re having a bad day.  They tell mom and dad if they change locations when they’re out with friends.

 

There are also a significant number of adolescents who are misusing the privilege of having a phone.  Really, it’s the unrestricted internet access that’s the problem.  Just texting and making phone calls is rarely the issue for a teenager.  Even if you have the most sophisticated parental blocking system on your teenager’s cell phone, there is always a work-around.  For example, most programs don’t block things on Facebook and Instagram.  If you type in the right search terms, you can find pages dedicated to uploading pornographic images.  Your teenager might also be trying out “Kik.”  This is an app that allows chats with strangers, and the conversation history can be deleted.  I have worked with more than one kid who met someone they thought was nice on Kik, but I was left wondering if they were a masquerading child sexual predator.  In both cases these “girls” sent inappropriate photos to the adolescent boys I was working with.  They tried to get information about the boys and asked for photos in return.

 

Here’s the main point: Be extremely careful when your child has a smart phone.  You have to know how to check through their phone from time to time to see what they’re up to.  More innocently, sometimes teenagers sign up for sites and input their home addresses and phone numbers.  They don’t mean anything by it, but it still gives out information you might prefer be kept private.

 

The data plan on a phone definitely is a privilege.  It seems like most teenagers now consider it a requirement for their survival, much like food, clothes and shelter.  Do everything you can to teach them responsibility with their phone.  A lot of teens are getting into things simply because they don’t have supervision on their phones, and don’t yet have the brain development required to really recognize the danger they might be in (that comes in late adolescence, which is the early 20s).  I’ve noticed this most frequently with apps like Tinder.  I wish I could promise you your teen is smart enough not to meet strangers from apps like Tinder, but enough of them do it that I can’t make you that promise.  It’s really tough on parents to keep up these days, but it’s essential to your teenager developing healthy habits.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

 

More On Avoiding Parental Alienation After Divorce

Divorce is extremely hard on everyone.  Your teenagers are suffering too, even if they don’t tell you about it.  One thing I see happen often is one parent ends up in a situation where their teenager isn’t speaking to them anymore.  It’s heartbreaking for both the parent and the teen.  Here are a couple thoughts on why everyone in the family should work to avoid this problem if they can.

 

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Eating Disorders in Adolescents

Eating disorders are very challenging for adolescents. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Eating disorders are very challenging for adolescents.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Eating disorders are fairly common.  We’ve all heard of anorexia and bulimia nervosa.  Recently a new diagnosis for eating disorders has been added to the list.  The new disorder is called Binge Eating Disorder.  Essentially it has many of the symptoms of bulimia, but does not include compensatory behaviors.

 

Here is a description of the three types of eating disorders (Actually there are two others, but they are more of a catch-all term for someone who doesn’t quite fit the criteria of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder).

 

To be diagnosed as anorexic, a person must completely refuse to maintain a healthy weight.  They must be clinically underweight (just how underweight determines what severity of anorexia they have), must have a fear of gaining weight, and must have a distorted view of their body size.  It used to be that they had to lose their period as well, but this has since been removed from the criteria; there is a greater number of males who have anorexia now as well as females.

 

Bulimia nervosa is also marked by a fear of gaining weight and a distorted view of body size.  However, someone with bulimia is often an appropriate weight and quite possibly even a little bit overweight.  This person gets caught in a frustrating cycle of trying various methods to lose weight.  When the person becomes hungry or upset though, they will binge on an extraordinary amount of food.  Feelings of shame, guilt and disgust creep in and the person then feels a strong compulsion to make up for the over-eating.  This is called purging.  Purging takes on many forms including vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, over-exercising and fasting.

 

Binge eating disorder is diagnosed by a person who is triggered to eat excessive quantities of food.  This is almost always in conjunction with an emotional trigger.  This isn’t just a person who consistently overeats a little bit too much at each meal.  The person with binge eating disorder then feels shame and guilt along with disgust.  However, they don’t try and compensate for the binge with some form of purging.

 

Eating disorders are common in teenagers.  They are often very dangerous, and need to be addressed right away.  Someone with anorexia is quite literally starving her/himself to death.  There is a high death rate among people with anorexia because their nutrition can get so out of whack that their body can no longer handle it.  People who have bulimia are also at risk of life-threatening electrolyte imbalance.  In fact, the therapist who supervised me through my interning years was helping a teenage girl with her grief because she lost her best friend to cardiac arrest; her best friend died after purging by vomiting.

 

If you are concerned about your daughter or son, please ask for help as quickly as you can get it.  Go talk with their pediatrician about whether they are healthy.  Call a counselor to ask for a plan on how to help your child.  Take action.  Please understand that if you feel incompetent as a parent in this situation, so does every other parent who faces it.  Eating disorders are stubborn.  However, they are not your child.  Your wonderful child is still underneath all this and you can find help.  Also please know that this is not your fault.  The newer research is showing the majority of eating disorders are caused by genetics, not bad parenting.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Breakup with with your toxic significant other!!!

Why are you continuing to date someone who makes you miserable?  More than half the time you’re trying to figure out how to deal with yet another problem in your relationship.  It’s on your mind all the time.  The days where everything is copacetic are few and far between.  News flash: It shouldn’t be this hard!!!  A good relationship leaves you feeling peaceful and calm, not anxious, angry and sad.

 

Break up with the toxic significant other! You’ll be glad you did!

A post shared by Teen Therapy OC (@laurengoodmanmft) on

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Controlling your tongue when you’re angry

Teens really know how to push a parents' buttons, but there are ways to "fight nicely." Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teens really know how to push a parents’ buttons, but there are ways to “fight nicely.”
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know we’ve all heard this before, but it is really important to be careful when you’re angry.  Twice this week I’ve sat with teenage clients who have cried over things someone in their family said out of anger.  In both situations the teens had completely exasperated their families, but the teenagers still took the resulting comments to heart.

 

We’ve all gone through this.  In a fight with our spouse they might say some awful thing that cuts to the core, or you might throw out a phrase that you know you’ll be sorry about later.  With our kids though, it is essential to stay a bit calmer and be more mature.  I sat in my office with one girl who had said truly horrid things to her father during an argument, but when he finally was pushed far enough to call her a curse word, she fell apart.  She sat and wondered for a few weeks whether he really thought that of her.

 

As a parent you have to be intentional.  You have to keep the end goal in mind, which is to raise your child into a well-adjusted adult.  You have to keep in mind that each year brings new phases, and new ways your child will learn to mature.  Sometimes in that learning process they will resist you.  If you get caught up in these instances where your child is resistant, you will forever be struggling with them.  You will find yourself acting at their maturity level, or will find they have more power in the relationship than you.  Know ahead of time what character traits you’re aiming for.  It’s a lot easier to arrive at a destination if you know where you’re going than if you meander.  This in turn will help you to be calmer.  It will prevent you from saying useless, blaming things like, “You’re the reason this family fights all the time!”  How do you think a kid/teen will feel after that?

 

So, it is extremely important to control your tongue.  You are the example to your children.  If you’re rude to them, you’ll get it right back.  Do not let their vision of how they want to conduct their life, or what they think is the most important thing cloud your judgment as a parent.  A teenager will tell you that what college they are accepted to is the most important thing that will ever happen to their career.  As a parent, you have the wisdom to know that where they go to school is a small piece of the puzzle.  The bigger pieces are work-ethic, networking ability, work experience, drive and motivation, integrity, and fiscal responsibility.  If you buy into your teen’s vision then you will be overly focused on SAT scores, and not spend enough time helping them develop the rest of the necessary character qualities to succeed.

 

How do we best sum this up?  Watch what you say out loud to your child.  Make sure it is congruent with the person you are trying to help them become.  Remember that extremely rude comments made in the heat of the moment are not easily forgotten by children.  Know how to have grace, and know when to say you’re sorry.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT