Archive for the ‘You Can (Really!) Survive Your Teen’ Category

Texting and Driving: Ask Your Teens to Watch This Video

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Thanks to AT&T for producing this video showing the victims whose lives were changed in a horrible instant, and the next of kin of young people who died, after driving while texting.

Watch it. Then ask your teens and tweens to watch it. Heck, ask your kids’ friends to watch it. We can’t stop spreading the word on the dangers of texting and driving. Too many lives are at risk.

White House Employees’ Message to Gay Teens: “It Gets Better”

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

While this country is far from perfect, I am so grateful to live in a place where this video could be made. Watch as these While House employees, who are gay, talk about how they couldn’t imagine, back when they were 13 or 14 years old — or even younger — where they would be in their lives today, both personally and professionally. How they couldn’t imagine how much happier they would be.

I’m happy that President Obama appears in the video, too. We need that kind of support from our president for young people today. If you are a teen who is struggling with bullying or self-doubt, or if you are an adult who loves a young person who needs to see this video, please watch it and share it.

A Gift That Teaches Kids the Art of Giving

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Psst. Don’t tell my son, Matt, but I just ordered a Kiva card for him for Christmas.

Sure, he’ll get a favorite DVD, and some other stuff he’s been wanting. But it’s all just, you know, stuff.

With a Kiva card he can learn about other people in other parts of the world (or right here in the U.S.) and he can help them, in a small way, achieve their dreams by making a micro loan with his $50 card. Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending.

I learned about this organization through Craig Newmark of craigslist. He has worked with Kiva and recommends them highly, and has made loans himself.

Kiva was born of the following beliefs:

  • People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.
  • The poor are highly motivated and can be very successful when given an opportunity.
  • By connecting people we can create relationships beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.

Kiva promotes:

  • Dignity: Kiva encourages partnership relationships as opposed to benefactor relationships. Partnership relationships are characterized by mutual dignity and respect.
  • Accountability: Loans encourage more accountability than donations where repayment is not expected.
  • Transparency: The Kiva website is an open platform where communication can flow freely around the world.

So far, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans.

Looking for a great gift idea for a tween or teen? Consider Kiva.

Consumer Reports Wants to Ask Your High Schooler About Distracted Driving

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Consumer Reports is surveying high school students about their attitudes and practices regarding distracted driving. And they need your help.

If your child is in high school, please ask him or her to take this quick Survey Monkey survey. When the results are published this spring, I’ll link to them here. Thanks!

(Note: I’m the social-media reporter for Consumer Reports. Follow me on Twitter at @CReporter for all the latest consumer news! You can also follow me at @kathysena.) And be sure to check out the wonderful Consumer Reports blogs.

Do You Know the Class of 2014?

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Born when Ross Perot was warning about “a giant sucking sound,” and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of the college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students. It was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and 500 cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.

A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

So here it is: The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students who entered college for the first time in September — the Class of 2014 — were born in 1992.

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides

They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

“Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

“Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.

Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies

The Post Office has always been going broke.

One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid,” and always has been.

What to Expect When Your College Freshman Comes Home For The Holidays

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

I don’t normally share press-release information here. But as a journalist, I receive a lot of good information for parents and I thought this info, from Butler University, was well worth sharing.

If you have a freshman who’s away at college for the first time, you may be a bit nervous about how things will go when he or she comes home for the holidays. These tips will help. Thanks to Mr. Johnson and Butler for the good advice!

After three-plus months of living at school, your college freshman has gotten used to being on his or her own. And you’ve become accustomed to a quieter house. But now he/she’s coming home for the holidays, and your household routine is about to be disrupted.

Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Butler University, says parents need to be prepared to navigate those waters. “Their student is going to have a stronger desire for independence,” he said. “He or she has had several months to figure out how late they want to stay in bed, how long they want to stay up at night and how late they stay out. Parents are going to see a changed individual as it relates to those daily habits. They should also notice more maturity, and more introspection, perhaps.”

To keep order – and structure – Johnson recommends that parents maintain rules their student would be used to and expects to come back to. Like curfew.

“But you don’t want to go to an extreme – being too strict or saying I don’t care,” he said. “Loosen the rules, but don’t get rid of them. Even though they want more independence, there has to be a pragmatic approach. It’s only been a few months they’ve been away. They continue to need structure.”

Johnson said parents also should make the most of this time to ask a lot of questions about what’s happening in their student’s life in four broad areas: day to day living; finances; health; and the future.

Day to day: He recommends asking: How are classes going? Tell me about faculty members. Talk to me about your grades, your friends, your activities. “You want to make sure they’re engaged in the campus community,” he said. “Because that’s really what’s going to keep them there: How did they make a connection and have they found that niche in their first semester?”

Finances: Your student is also starting to develop life skills, so you should ask: How are you managing your money? What major expenses are you expecting when you return to school? Are you considering options for earning additional funds such as student work or an off-campus job to off-set college expenses?

Health: Are they taking care of themselves? Eating right? Exercising? Studying late in the residence hall or library? “Get into well-being issues to make sure they’re taking care of themselves,” Johnson suggested.

The future: Ask: What’s coming up? How are your grades? What are you doing next semester? What are your spring break plans? What are your summer plans? Work? Internship? Coming home? “They need to start working on that as soon as they get back to school in January,” he said.

“During their first semester, students do a lot of testing of the waters, and they have probably learned some valuable lessons,” Johnson said. “Whether they’ll tell parents that right away, probably not. That’s the reason for the probing questions. Through that reflection and those conversations, that’s where you’ll hear the maturity. If you’re just looking at physical changes, those won’t be as apparent. It’ll be in the conversations and the probing of their experiences.”

But, Johnson cautioned, don’t expect answers in the first 24 hours.

“They’re probably going to sleep,” he said. “Give them time to acclimate to the room they used for 18 years.”

She’s Size 12 — And That’s Just Fine

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

If you have a teen or tween daughter, you’ll want to check out a wonderful new essay on weight, weight loss and body image over on

Writer Stacy Lipson, who was a recent guest writer here for “I Was Bullied As a Kid,” tells it like it is when it comes to feeling fat in high school, doing restrictive dieting, gaining, feeling pressured from others…

And then she read a book that changed how she looked at her body: Size 12 is Not Fat, by Meg Cabot and started looking at herself in a new light.

I’m a Stacy Lipson fan. I love not only her writing but also her honesty and her willingness to put herself out there for her readers.

Check out this essay. Then share it with your daughter.

Suggestively Sucking Popsicles — in a Bubblebath With a Friend? Just Another Day in the Life of Some Teens on Facebook

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Wanted to share with you my guest post on about kids giving out too much info on FB…

Do you know what your kids post? I saw one FB profile pic today featuring two young teen girls together in a bubble bath, wearing flesh-colored tube tops and sucking suggestively on Popsicles. Their mothers would be so proud… if they knew.

Make sure you know what your kids are up to on social media — for their safety.

Is Your Kid Smoking?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Every time I drive by a group of high school kids and see one of them smoking, it breaks my heart. My mother-in-law, Pat, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a few years ago after smoking her entire adult life. She started smoking in college because she thought it was cool, and back then, no one knew of the dangers.

One of the many gifts she gave to her grandson (my son), Matthew, was to talk with him about the dangers of smoking, how addictive it is and how important it is to never start. Coming from his grandmother, those words made a big impression on Matt.

We really do have an impact on our kids when we talk with them from the heart. Are you concerned that your child (or grandchild) may be starting to smoke? Talk with her. Tell her about the dangers. Talk about peer pressure.

I still have vivid memories of high school and I remember the feeling of wanting to fit it. I’m betting you do, too. Let your child know that you understand those feelings but that it’s more important to be her own person and to do what’s right for her — regardless of what others do.

Get Your Free Cyber Security Guide for Parents

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Thanks to the folks at SafetyWeb for providing a wonderful, detailed, new guide for parents, “Cyber Security in the 21st Century.” You can download it as a free PDF here.

One of the most important things to talk about with your kids when it comes to being safe online is sharing personal information and photos over Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks to SafetyWeb for allowing me to share these tips for parents, which are also appropriate for kids:

• Don’t post the exact details of your whereabouts before the fact. Announcing the exact dates of a two-week vacation; reporting when and where a child goes to and leaves school; saying anything that tells strangers too much about your location or your kids’ locations should be avoided.

• If you choose to upload photos to a social networking site via a smart phone, turn off geotagging.

• Monitor kids’ networked friends. Be sure they understand that they should not accept invitations from people they don’t know.

• Do not include too many personal details. Birth month and day is adequate, for example, especially for information about children, but the same applies to adults, too.

• Use avatars or pet pictures for kids on social networking sites.

• Understand that Skype and other VoIP software can share too much information, too. Share information judiciously.

• Think before posting anything – pictures, facts or opinions. Privacy is a relative term on a social networking site, and things travel quickly on the Internet.

• Set and maintain your security settings. Do not assume that the site’s default settings are the best for you.