Your Teen

Head Injury Linked To Violent Behavior

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A new study says that children who have suffered a head injury are more likely to get into a fight or take part in other types of violent behavior. Every parent knows that childhood often comes with bumps, bruises, cuts and falls. Sometimes those accidents include head injuries. A new study says that children who have suffered a head injury are more likely to get into a fight or take part in other types of violent behavior.

The connection between head injury and violence was particularly strong if the head injury had occurred within the past year, the authors of the study note in the journal Pediatrics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 1.7 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury every year, due to bumps, blows, jolts, or any injury that disrupts the brain's normal functioning. The study author, Dr. Sarah Stoddard with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Reuters Health that- with this type of research- it is difficult to figure out if brain injury is really the root of the aggression or if some other factor is the reason. Stoddard also notes that activities like drinking, drug use ,and a history of violence didn’t seem to explain the findings. Stoddard and a colleague analyzed several years' worth of data from 850 kids in high school and followed them until five years after they left school. All of the participants had a grade point average of 3 or lower, putting them at risk for dropping out. In the fifth year of the study, 88 of the young adults said they had suffered a head injury. Of those individuals, 43 percent said they had gotten into a fight, hurt someone, or taken part in some type of violence over the following year. That compared to 34 percent of those who didn't report a head injury. The findings suggest that the more recent a head injury is, the more likely a young adult is to be aggressive. According to Stoddard, "The brain does recover over time." Stoddard also adds that researchers should investigate the long-term effects of head injuries in young people, as well as preventive measures such as protective gear for sports and interventions that help kids with head injuries manage their behaviors before they lead to violence. A different study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, of young athletes 15-to-24 years old, reveals that sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury to the brain. And concussions represent 10 percent of all high school athletic injuries. Previous studies have also shown that brain injuries can also cause changes in memory, reasoning, and emotions, including impulsivity and aggression. In studies with prisoners, researchers have found that those with a history of brain injuries are more likely to engage in violence. The study "does suggest there is a link between head injury and violence particularly early on," said Dr. Huw Williams, who has found the same relationship in prisoners, but was not involved in the new work. And if they believe their children experienced a brain injury in the past, they should also get expert advice on what to look for to make sure brain function doesn't deteriorate, he added. "It's important to monitor." Brain injury can range from mild to severe causing a short loss of consciousness and confusion to amnesia and coma. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that head injuries should be observed, and treatment should be sought if any of the following symptoms appear: •       A constant headache, particularly one that gets worse •       Slurred speech or confusion •       Dizziness that does not go away or happens repeatedly •       Extreme irritability or other abnormal behavior •       Vomiting more than 2 or 3 times •       Stumbling or difficulty walking •       Oozing blood or watery fluid from the nose or ears •       Difficulty waking up or excessive sleepiness •       Unequal size of the pupils (the dark center part of the eyes) •       Double vision or blurry vision •       Unusual paleness that lasts for more than an hour •       Convulsions (seizures) •       Difficulty recognizing familiar people •       Weakness of arms or legs •       Persistent ringing in the ears If your child does well through the observation period, there should be no long-lasting problems. Remember, most head injuries are mild. However, be sure to talk with your child's doctor about any concerns or questions you might have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, also contains a free online training course on preventing sports-related brain injuries in young athletes.

Your Teen

For Teens, A Friend Online is Usually a Friend Offline, Too

New research shows that most teens use the Internet to interact with people they already know rather than strangers who might turn out to be predators. The 2008 study by University of California researchers asked 251 teens about their face-to-face friends and those they communicate with via social networking and instant messaging. Both in-person questionnaires and online surveys were conducted among students in grades 9-12.

They included asking them to list the top 10 people they interact with face-to-face, through social networking sites and through instant messages. For 44 percent, using social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook had no effect on their relationship with their friends; 43 percent said it made them closer. A subset of children, 126, also answered online surveys. Of those, only five percent said they had friends known only from the Internet. Most teens in the study said they weren't looking to meet people but rather used the Internet to stay in touch with existing friends and make plans, says Stephanie Reich, assistant professor of education at the University of California-Irvine. "It's possible to have face-to-face friends and go online and talk to people who you don't hang out with in school," she says. "It's a chance to have relationships in a different way."

Your Teen

E-Cigarette Use Increasing With Teens

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They look like cigarettes but don’t have the toxic smoke and smell of real cigarettes. They are battery powered electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine that is vaporized when inhaled.  E-cigarette manufacturers say these products are safer than traditional cigarettes because they don’t contain cancer-causing chemicals. They include varying amounts of nicotine and some may not contain any nicotine at all. The ones that do have nicotine are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.

First touted as a way for cigarette smokers to quit the habit without having to go cold turkey, e-cigarettes are simply replacing traditional cigarette use when someone wants to smoke where smoking is not allowed.

Adults aren’t the only ones using electronic cigarettes; they are becoming extremely attractive to middle school and high school students as well. .

According to the latest data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the percentage of middle school and high school students who have tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012. There was a similar doubling of current e-cigarette smokers, defined as having smoked an e-cigarette in the last 30 days, from 1.1% to 2.1%.

That translates into about 1.78 million student smokers. The data also shows that e-cigarettes aren’t the first introduction to cigarettes for many of these kids, but are used in addition to regular cigarettes. 76.3% of teens said they also smoke regular cigarettes.  “The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” he said. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug.  Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

Kids who have not smoked before are being introduced to the addictive qualities of nicotine through electronic cigarettes. As the study shows, it’s really only a matter of time before they start switching back and forth.

The battery operated nicotine product is designed to look like regular cigarettes and even cigars and pipes. Are they actually safer than these traditional products? No one knows for sure. They are a relatively new product without years of studies to see the long-term effects of inhaling the vapors. Some studies have found that within minutes of inhalation breathing becomes more difficult. Other studies say they are a good way to help smokers quit.

Either way, nicotine is extremely addictive and a terribly hard habit to break. It’s much better to never start.

Adding to the draw to teenagers are clever marketing techniques as well as celebrity endorsements from folks like Jenny McCarthy, Stephen Dorff and Courtney Love. And of course, they come in flavors like chocolate and cherry crush.  Who wouldn’t like that?

These aren’t harmless gadgets and you can add them to the list of dangerous drugs to talk to your kids about. When you have the “don’t smoke” conversations – make sure and discuss this “alternative.” It’s not really an alternative to smoking – it’s just a newer way to get our kids addicted to nicotine.

The FDA is currently looking into the possibility of regulating e-cigarettes.  For now, only e-cigarettes that are prescribed for treating smoking are regulated by the FDA, other uses are not. But, based on the results, the agency reiterated its plans to extend its tobacco control jurisdiction to cover these products as well as the cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco that it already regulates.

Talk to any smoker who now wants to quit the habit and they’ll tell you never start – e-cigarette or regular cigarette – it’s all the same.  Kids may think that these products are chic or harmless – let them know that is just not the case.

Sources: Alexandra Sifferlin,

Wendy Koch,


Your Teen

Epidemic: Teenage Smokers

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Anybody who is over the age of 3 knows that smoking is bad for you.  It’s not only a smelly and offensive habit (ever have to inhale what others exhale in your face?), but is the cause of many serious health problems. You would think that over a couple of decades everyone would get the message, but according to a new report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, too many teens still seem to think that smoking is no big deal.

The U.S. Surgeon General has released the first report on youth smoking since 1994 and it shows that although smoking is down from previous decades, almost one in five high school students smoke. Because few high school smokers are able to quit, some 80 percent will continue to smoke as adults, according to the report released on Thursday.

Whether they can’t quit, or just don’t want to quit, is probably debatable. Adults have the same problem. It’s hard- but doable.

Nicotine is very addictive, and that’s one of the report’s main concerns.

"Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke. We don't want our children to start something now that they won't be able to change later in life," Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said in the report, which details the scope, health consequences and influences that lead to youth tobacco use.

An estimated 3,800 kids pick up their first cigarette every day and 9 in 10 current smokers started before the age of 18. Some 99 percent of all first-time tobacco use happens by the age of 26, exposing young people to the long-term health effects of smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The report also noted that smoking kills more than 1,200 people every day and every tobacco related death is replaced by two new smokers under the age of 25.

Education, intervention and early treatment are recommended as ways to help prevent or decrease the adolescent smoking habit. "This report highlights the urgent need to employ proven methods nationwide that prevent young people from smoking and encourage all smokers to quit, including passage of smoke-free laws, increases in tobacco excise taxes and fully funded tobacco prevention programs," John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.

The report criticized tobacco companies targeting teens in their advertising. The report states that the industry spends more than $1 million an hour -- over $27 million per day -- in marketing and promoting tobacco products.  Appealing smoking messages, aimed at adolescents, are displayed in retail stores, online and through various media outlets such as movies and music videos.

"Targeted marketing encourages more young people to take up this deadly addiction every day," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "This administration is committed to doing everything we can do to prevent our children from using tobacco."

Tobacco companies responded quickly and defended their practices. Altria Group, parent of companies Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco and John Middleton, said it markets to adults who use to tobacco through age-verified direct communications and in retail stores.

"The vast majority of our marketing expenditures come in the form of price promotions," the company said in a statement.

Altria said its tobacco companies worked to help enact the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, noting it was one of the few tobacco companies that did.

"We can and must continue to do more to accelerate the decline in youth tobacco use," Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at HHS said in a statement. "Until we end the tobacco epidemic, more young people will become addicted, more people will die and more families will be devastated by the suffering and loss of loved ones."

The report also recommended anti-smoking campaigns and increased restrictions under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's authority to regulate tobacco as other ways to prevent adolescents and young adults from using tobacco products.

Benjamin did not point fingers on why youth tobacco use continues in the U.S. Instead, she wants to see how the nation as a whole can best address the issue, she said.

"I don't want to focus on blame, I want to focus on prevention," she said. "I want to make sure we're doing everything that we can to prevent kids

More regulations and higher cigarette taxes may or may not help reduce teen smoking… that remains to be seen. But one anti-smoking effort that does have a positive effect on lessening teen smoking is growing up in a non-smoking home. Family discussions and good parenting examples leave a lasting impression on little ones who eventually become teens. Raising a child who feels secure in their environment helps them stand up to peer-pressure -which is really one of the main reasons kids start smoking.

When the teen years start producing an interest in the opposite sex, it doesn’t hurt to remind your teen that kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray. That leaves a lasting impression.


Your Teen

More Teens Texting While Driving

New study more teens are texting while driving.

One third of teens ages 16 and 17 say they have texted while driving a new study shows. That same study also shows that 48 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 say they have been in a car while the driver was texting.The study was conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart said she was surprised "to hear (from teens) about how it’s often parents or other adults who are doing the texting or talking and driving, and how for many teens, this is scary or worrisome behavior." For its Teens and Distracted Driving study, Pew surveyed 800 teens ages 12 to 17 between June and September. The non-partisan organization also conducted nine focus groups with 74 additional teens in the cities of Ann Arbor, Mich., Denver, Atlanta and New York between June and October, in conjunction with the University of Michigan. "Much of the public discussion around these behaviors has focused on teens as young, inexperienced drivers, but some of the adults in these young peoples' lives are clearly not setting the best example either," said Mary Madden, a Pew senior research specialist who also worked on the survey. "Teens spoke not only of adults texting at the wheel, but also fumbling with GPS devices and being distracted because they're talking on the phone constantly," she said. "And the reactions from the teens we spoke with ranged from being really scared by these behaviors to feeling as though it wasn't a big deal." Among other findings from the Pew survey:
  • 52 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who have cell phones say they have talked on their phones while driving.
  • 34 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who text say they have done so while driving.
  • 48 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
  • 40 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver "used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger."
  • 75 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have a cell phone, and 66 percent of them send or receive text messages.
Boys and girls are "equally likely to report texting behind the wheel," Pew said, and while a third say they do so, "texting at the wheel is less common than having a conversation on the phone while driving." Pew did not further ask whether that driving and talking on the phone was being done hands-free. The teens in the focus groups had various reasons for texting and driving at the same time, Pew said, including "the need to report their whereabouts to friends and parents, getting directions and flirting with significant others." Some teens "felt as though they could safely manage a quick exchange of texts while the car was stopped. One high-school-aged boy shared that he would text 'only at a stop sign or light, but if it's a call, they have to wait or I'll hand it to my brother or whoever is next to me.' "


Your Teen

Are Kids Safe With Cell Phones at Crosswalks?

Before you buy that cell phone for your child to keep them safe when they are away from you, parents need to be aware.

Before you buy that cell phone for your child to keep them safe when they are away from you, parents need to be aware. A new study shows that kids who talk on a cell phone may be more likely to step into traffic. The study says children should learn to end phone conversations before they step up to the curb and prepare to step into traffic. Research done at the University of Alabama at Birmingham also shows that older children and more experienced users also don't navigate streets as well while on a cell phone and younger children tended to find gadgets more distracting.

"Kids this age are just learning to cross the street on their own," says David Schwebel, an associate professor and vice chair in the department of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A third of the 20 million 8- to 12-year-olds in the United States already have a cell phone, with more than half of "tweens" expected to be carrying them by the end of next year, according to market researchers. In the study, which appears in the February 2009 issue of Pediatrics, researchers followed 77 pre-teens individually as they navigated a virtual reality street crossing. The children were first allowed to familiarize themselves with the street scene before actually starting the test. The children were then asked to run through the simulation 12 times, six while on the phone and six while undistracted. The researchers found that children speaking on a cell phone were 43 percent more likely to be hit or to have a close call in the simulated street crossings than kids who weren't on the phone. Researchers also kept track of how many times a child looked left and right before stepping into the street and found that number fell by 20 percent when a phone conversation was going on. There was no difference between boys or girls. "I don't think this means parents should taken phones away from their kids, " says Schwebel. "I encourage families to get cell phones for their children. They're more helpful than harmful, if they're used in a safe way."

Your Teen

Tanning Beds & Teens

Many teens want that sun-kissed glow before the prom, but it comes at a price. Tanning beds are far worse than the sun...Many teens want that sun-kissed glow before the prom, but it comes at a price. Tanning beds are far worse than the sun at causing skin cancer. Dermatologists say the major wavelength found in a tanning salon is the most carcinogenic (cancer-causing) wavelength in the ultraviolet spectrum. Indoor tanning will dramatically increase a child’s odds of getting melanoma, the worst type of skin cancer.

A growing number of states are now requiring teens to get their parent’s permission before they can switch on the tanning bed. Advice to parents? Many experts recommend keeping your children away from the tanning salons and don’t give in because “it’s a special occasion like the prom.” The American Cancer Society recommends applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every 2 hours. The American Cancer Society also recommends performing a skin check on your children to make sure birthmarks, moles or blemishes have not changed in appearance. Check with your pediatrician if you have any questions.

Your Teen

Saliva Test May Detect Depression in Teenage Boys

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It’s not unusual for teenagers to go through challenging times as they mature into adulthood. The years between 13 and 20 are bursting with uncertainty and hormones. Most parents of a teen will tell you that there are times when the term “teenage angst” is an appropriate assessment of their child’s mood.

But sometimes there’s more to a teen’s persistent sulking and troubles with school. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 50 American kids suffer from depression. And, 8.3 percent of teens suffer depression, for at least a year at a time, compared to about 5.3 percent of the general population. Many of these children will continue to experience depression later in life.

A new study says that a saliva test for teenage boys with mild symptoms of depression could help identify those who will later develop major depression.

Researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in teenage boys and discovered that the ones with high levels coupled with mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression as an adult, than those boys with low or normal cortisol levels.

While the test was tried on both teenage girls and boys, it was found to be more effective with the boys.

"This is the emergence of a new way of looking at mental illness," Joe Herbert of the University of Cambridge and one of the study authors said at a news conference on Monday. "You don't have to rely simply on what the patient tells you, but what you can measure inside the patient," he said.

Researchers observed more than 1,800 teenagers aged 12 to 19 and examined their cortisol levels with saliva tests. They also collected the teens' own reports of depression symptoms and tracked diagnoses of mental health disorders in them for up to three years later.

The boys who had high cortisol levels and mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression when compared to other teens with normal levels, while girls with similarly elevated cortisol levels were only up to four times more likely to develop the condition.

Statistically, girls report suffering from depression more than boys, so why the difference in effectiveness in the saliva tests of the boys and girls tested?

"All hormones, including sexual hormones, influence brain function and behavior," said Dr. Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. He was not linked to the study.

Pariante said the gender-specific hormones - androgen for males and estrogen and progesterone for females - might react differently to cortisol and could explain the difference in risk for teenage boys and girls.

The saliva test could prove beneficial in helping teenage boys who are at risk for developing clinical depression, by targeting those teens early and providing psychological help before their depression progresses.

"This gives us a biological model to understand mental health problems the way we understand other medical conditions," Pariante said, comparing it to how doctors might diagnose a broken leg based on an X-ray or identify heart disease patients based on high blood pressure or cholesterol readings. "It will help us identify patients at risk so we can try to help them as soon as possible."

Sometimes it’s difficult for parents or guardians to distinguish between the symptoms of mild depression and their teenager’s typical up and down mood swings. lists these symptoms of depression for teens. There is also more information on their website about depression and teens that you may find helpful.

▪       Sadness or hopelessness

▪       Irritability, anger, or hostility

▪       Tearfulness or frequent crying

▪       Withdrawal from friends and family

▪       Loss of interest in activities

▪       Changes in eating and sleeping habits

▪       Restlessness and agitation

▪       Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

▪       Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

▪       Fatigue or lack of energy

▪       Difficulty concentrating

▪       Thoughts of death or suicide

If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.

If you are concerned that your teen is experiencing depression, talk with your pediatrician or family doctor for a better understanding of what may be going on and references for mental health care.

The Cambridge study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Sources: Alexandra Sifferlin,

Your Teen

Obesity Study: Teen Diabetes and Heart Disease

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No parent likes to think that his or her child is skating on the edge of disaster. But if your teen is obese – 10 percent higher than what is recommended for their height and body type – they could be at a much higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that half of American overweight teens have unhealthy blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels.

The rise in Type 2 diabetes among today’s youth is a real concern. The study showed that the percentage of adolescents who were diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes rose dramatically from 9 percent in 1999, to 21 percent in 2008. Pre-diabetics have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to count as diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is a condition that until recently doctors almost never saw in kids. But that was before the childhood obesity epidemic.

"That's a shockingly high figure that has dire implications to the health of this entire generation of children. This report really sounds the alarm," says David S. Ludwig, a childhood obesity expert at Children's Hospital in Boston.

For the study, researchers from the CDC focused on 3,383 adolescents ages 12 through 19, who were part of an intensive National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that involves interviewing, weighing, measuring and performing medical tests on people across the country.

"It's one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It's a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10," Ludwig says. "Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity.”

Diabetic teens will someday be diabetic adults struggling to keep their blood sugar levels under control. They will also be saddled with the possible results of long-term diabetes such as blindness, nerve damage, heart attacks and strokes. The good news is that parents can help their children turn things around now. Young children and teens can avoid these lifetime health problems by losing the extra pounds and getting fit before type 2 diabetes and other health problems have a chance to develop. 

Are parents getting the message that there is an obesity epidemic among this nation’s children? Not as many as should be.  Recent studies have shown that many parents of obese children do not think their child is overweight, particularly if one or both of the parents is obese. If parents don’t take action because they don’t recognize that their child is not merely a few pounds overweight, but clinically obese, their child will pay the price. If you need help figuring out where to start making lifestyle changes, the CDC has a guide to family healthy living on their website at

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are not what parents want for their children. That’s why it’s so important that they pay attention to the health issues that obesity can cause. 

"The impact of the epidemic will continue to mount for many years as this generation of children carry these increased risk factors into adulthood and carry the burden of chronic disease for so many years longer than ever has been the case in history," Ludwig notes.



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