Your Teen

Websites May Encourage Self-Injury

1.45 to read

The videos may be a focus for communities of youth in which self-injury is encouraged and viewed as normal and exciting, which could potentially increase the risk for self-injury.Some at-risk teens are finding new ways to hurt themselves thanks to a popular website with videos that glorify self-injury.

Young adults and teens may believe that hurting themselves is normal and acceptable after watching videos and other media on Web-sharing sites like YouTube, new research indicates. The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, warn professionals and parents to be aware of the availability and dangers of such material for at-risk teens and young adults. Deliberate self-injury without the intent of committing suicide is called “non-suicidal self-injury” or NSSI. An estimated 14% to 24% of youth and young adults engage in this destructive behavior, according to the study. NSSI can also include relationship challenges, mental health symptoms, and risk for suicide and death, the study noted. Common forms of self-injury include cutting, burning, picking and embedding objects to cause pain or harm. While other studies have looked at the availability of online information about self-injury, the authors focused on the scope of self-injury in videos uploaded on YouTube and watched by youth. They described their work as the first such study and noted that their findings could be relevant in risk, prevention and managing self-injury. The authors focused on YouTube because, according to the site, since its inception in 2005 “YouTube is the world's most popular online video community, allowing millions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos.” Using the site’s search function the researchers looked for the terms “self-harm” and “self-injury,” identifying the site’s top 50 viewed videos containing a live person, and the top 50 viewed videos with words and photos or visual elements. The top 100 items that the study focused on were viewed over 2 million times, according to the analysis, and most – 80% - were available to a general audience. The analysis of the self-injury content found that 53% was delivered in a factual or educational tone, while 51% was delivered in a melancholic tone. Pictures and videos commonly showed explicit demonstrations of the self-harming behavior. Cutting was the most common type of behavior; more than half of the videos did not contain warnings about the graphic nature of the behavior. The average age of uploaders of the self-injury material was 25.39 years, according to the findings, and 95% were female. The authors surmise that the actual average age is probably younger because many YouTube users say they are older in order to access more content. The study concludes that the findings about the volume and nature of self-injury content on YouTube show "an alarming new trend among youth and young adults and a significant issue for researchers and mental health workers." The videos may be a focus for communities of youth in which self-injury is encouraged and viewed as normal and exciting, which could potentially increase the  risk for self-injury. The study warns that health professionals need to be aware of this type and source of content, and to inquire about it when working with youth who practice self-injury because sites like YouTube can reach youth who may not openly discuss their  behavior. Self-harming is not typical behavior for otherwise untroubled teens and young adults, explained Dr. Charles Raison, an Emory University psychiatrist and's mental health expert. It’s an action that kids with psychiatric problems may try. “NSSI is a young person’s affliction…one in ten will kill themselves," he said.   "A lot of people will outgrow the behavior.” Raison said that it’s common for troubled young people to share information about hurting themselves. Treatments can include antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and psychotherapy.

Your Teen

Many Teens Wired, Caffeinated Well Past Bedtime

A new study shows that things like texting, surfing and gaming, combined with caffeine is affecting their alertness and ability to function during the day.We all know that teens like to text, surf and game for hours, but now a new study shows that things like texting, surfing and gaming, combined with caffeine is affecting their alertness and ability to function during the day. Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia found that the more multitasking a teen did, the more likely they were to be dozing off during the day and the kids who nodded off were also the heaviest caffeine consumers.

"They're up at night and they're doing a lot less homework than we thought and a lot more multitasking," said lead researchers Dr. Christina J. Calamaro. Calamaro and her team noted in their report that experts believe teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep every night but the average sleep time for American adolescents is seven hours. The researchers investigated whether teens' use of technology and caffeinated beverages might affect how much sleep they got at night and how tired they felt during the day by surveying 100 12- to 18-year olds. To gauge how heavily the study participants used technology at night, Calamaro and her colleagues developed a measure they dubbed the "multitasking index": the total number of hours a child spent doing each of nine different activities (watching TV, listening to MP3s, doing homework, and watching DVDs or videos, etc) divided by 9, which is the number of hours from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Kids' average multitasking index was about 6, meaning they were engaged in the equivalent of one of the nine activities for 5.3 hours or four activities for an average 80 minutes each. Just one in five of the study participants said they got 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, and these teens had an average multitasking index of 0.39. One third of the study participants said they fell asleep in school and these teens dozed off an average of twice a day, although some said they fell asleep as many as eight times a day. The higher a child's multitasking index, the more likely they were to fall asleep in school. The teens' average caffeine consumption was 215mg daily, or the equivalent of a couple of espressos. Nearly three-quarters of the study participants were drinking more than 100mg of caffeine a day, and there were few with very heavy consumption, the researchers found. The researcher said that while the current study was small, she expects the findings accurately reflect teen behavior. "I won't be surprised if and when we replicate this that we'll get similar results, because this is what adolescents are doing." Parents need to take steps to keep their children's nighttime technology use under control, Calamaro said. It's crucial to keep TVs, computers and especially cell phones out of kids' bedrooms, she said. "The texting is a huge issue. I think we'll find it to be a greater issue."

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

What Really Improves a Child’s Math Skills?

2.00 to read

Ask people to raise their hand if they like math and you most likely won’t see a lot of hands in the air. When asked why math isn’t particularly popular, many will answer that they just never have been very good at it. A new study suggests that for kids who are not mathematically inclined, studying harder and being strongly motivated to improve can be the key to making better grades.

While genetics may play a role in math comprehension, motivation and study habits can play a more important role during the all important high school years according to the study.  “It’s not how smart we are; it’s how motivated we are and how effectively we study that determines growth in math achievement over time,” says Kou Murayama, a post-doctoral psychology researcher at University of California  Los Angeles and lead author of the study published in the journal Child Development.

Murayama and his colleagues studied math achievement among roughly 3,500 public school students living in the German state of Bavariain. Students were followed from 5th grade through 10th grade and were given annual standard math tests in each grade. They were also given IQ tests and questioned about their attitude towards mathematics.

Researchers wanted to know if the kids believed that better math skills were achievable through hard work and if they were interested in math for its own sake. They also wanted to know if their approach to math included incorporating mathematical concepts into their every day life, or if they relied more on memorization to pass tests.

The psychologists said they were surprised that a higher IQ did not predict “new” learning ability. Intelligence measured by the IQ test did not indicate how likely students were to understand new concepts or to add new skills. Children with high IQs did have higher test scores but how much new material the kids learned throughout the years the study was conducted, was not related to how high their IQ registered.

“Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama says. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.

The greatest number of children who showed improvement in math skills during the study were the ones who agreed or strongly agreed with statements such as, “When doing math, the harder I try, the better I perform,” or “I invest a lot of effort in math, because I am interested in the subject.” These included students who were not high achievers when they started. And at the other end of the spectrum, kids who were motivated purely by the desire to get good grades saw no greater improvement over the average.

Kids who said they tried incorporating connections between mathematical ideas typically improved faster than those who used memorization techniques.

While not entirely surprising — it makes sense that more motivated students would do better and that those who put in more effort to learn would see better results — the findings provide reassuring confirmation that academic success is not governed by a student’s cognitive abilities alone. Instead, students who want to learn math and who work at it may find they make faster gains and learn better than students who are bright but less motivated. That’s encouraging not just for students, but for schools as well, says Murayama.

How well the German school results apply to other nations is not known. Murayama is intrigued enough to investigate different instructional styles that teachers and parents may use to inspire kids to learn. While certain intelligence traits seem to be based in genetics and therefore hard to change, previous research suggests that motivation is not innate, but largely learned. Even, it seems, when it comes to math.


Your Teen

More Teens Taking Ecstasy

2.15 to read

More than two-thirds of these ER patients were between 18 and 29 years old, but a sizable number, nearly 18 percent, were from 12 to 17, the report said, noting Ecstasy use is increasing among teens. More parents are receiving the phone call they dread the most- “this is (local hospital name here) your child is in our emergency room… please come quickly."

According to a new study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) medical emergencies relating to the illegal drug Ecstasy jumped 75% between 2004 and 2008. More than two-thirds of these ER patients were between 18 and 29 years old, but a sizable number, nearly 18 percent, were from 12 to 17, the report said, noting Ecstasy use is increasing among teens. The study said in 2008, hospital emergency rooms treated 17,865 patients for Ecstasy related medical problems. In 2004, the number was 10,200. The resurgence of Ecstasy use is cause for alarm that demands immediate attention and action, said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in an agency news release. Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is often used at parties and gatherings by teens that are unaware of its potential dangers. Its reputation as a "club" or party drug can give teens the false impression that casual use of the drug is harmless. Addiction, blurred vision, high blood pressure, heat stroke, muscle cramping and kidney failure are linked to Ecstasy use, the report said. "Amphetamine use continues to be a significant problem for adolescents and young adults. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality," said Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, chairman of emergency medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "It remains to be determined how severe the long-term neurotoxic effects may be on the brain," Goldfrank said. "There is no reason for anyone to believe that the use of this drug is safe at some dose -- the risk is consequential at any dose." 31 percent of the ER visits involved Ecstasy use with at least one other drug, while 17.5 percent of patients had combined Ecstasy with four or more other drugs. According to the study, 50 percent of patients 21 or older had used alcohol with Ecstasy compared with 20 percent of those 20 and younger. Cocaine use with Ecstasy was also more likely among people 21 and older (43 percent) compared with those 20 and under (nearly 15 percent), the researchers found. While Ecstasy use alone can present multiple psychiatric and physical problems, the combination of Ecstasy with other drugs can present seriously ill or life-threatening emergencies. Parents are often unaware of Ecstasy use by their child, since teens and young adults tend to use the drug at locations other than at home. There are many website resources dedicated to giving parents, and caregivers, information on the symptoms of Ecstasy use, as well short and long term psychological and physical effects. offers these signs of Ecstasy use and possible long-term medical problems. Signs of Ecstasy Use - Confusion - Panic attacks - Depression - Loss of memory - Headaches - Hallucinations - Sore jaw from involuntary jaw clenching - Grinding teeth - Paranoia - Anxiety - Acne and skin rash - General fatigue Ecstasy Paraphernalia - Pacifiers, Blo-Pop suckers and Popsicle sticks are used to counteract the teeth grinding. - Candy necklaces, Altoids tins, M&M's, Skittles, Tootsie Rolls are used to conceal   Ecstasy tablets. - Glo-Sticks are used for stimulation. - Vick's Vapo Rub is smeared on the inside of a surgical mask and then worn to enhance the dilated bronchi. - Vick's Vapo Inhalers is used to blow into a partners face and eyes to enhance the effects. - Bottles of water are a common sight at parties, used to treat overheating, sweating and dehydration. - Ecstasy is used at all-night dance parties or Rave parties with techno music and laser lights, concerts and in small groups. - Users of Ecstasy have suppressed appetites, thirst and the need to sleep. EEcstasy use can result in effects similar to Alzheimer's. Research suggests Ecstasy use increase the risk of developing Parkinsonism, a disease similar to Parkinson, later in life. In these cases Ecstasy is shown to destroy dopamine neurons, the chemical messenger that is involved in controlling movement, emotional and cognitive responses and the ability to feel pleasure. Ecstasy users risk significant brain damage; damage that is evident through brain scans showing actual holes in the brain. The brain of a young person having used Ecstasy is similar to that of a 60 to 70-year old who has had a number of strokes. If you think your son or daughter is using Ecstasy, or any illegal drug, watch for the warning signs and discuss your concerns with your child. Avoid making direct accusations; instead stay calm and rational during the discussion. Ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. Remember, the warning signs of drug use could be connected to emotional problems or physical illnesses not related to drug use. You may want to discuss the possibilities with your Pediatrician or family doctor, and consider taking your son or daughter in for a physical exam to see if a medical condition exists.

Your Teen

Sports Drinks May Damage Teeth

Those sports drinks that your young athlete sips on may be eroding their teeth a new study suggests.040509healthlines1 Those sports drinks that your young athlete loves to sip on may provide an energy boost, but they could also be eroding their teeth a new study suggests. Findings by New York University dental researchers show many popular energy drinks contain levels of acid that can cause tooth erosion, hypersensitivity and staining. The beverages can also cause excessive tooth wear and may damage underlying bone-like material, causing teeth to soften and weaken the researchers say. They also say the drinks may possibly trigger conditions leading to severe tooth damage and loss. "This is the first time that the citric acid in sports drinks has been linked to erosive tooth wear," says Mark Wolff, DDS, professor and chairman of the department of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry. He says people who use sports energy drinks for energy should brush their teeth immediately after drinking the beverages. Softened enamel, he says, is highly susceptible to the abrasive properties of toothpaste. The five sports drinks tested were Vitamin water, Life Water, Gatorade, Powerade and Propel Fit Water. The study involved cows' teeth that were cut in half. Half of the specimens were immersed in a sports drink, the other half in water. Cows' teeth were used because of their close resemblance to human teeth. All the teeth immersed in a sports drink softened, but Gatorade and Powerade caused "significant" staining, according to an abstract of the study. Craig Stevens, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, says such studies are unfair and do not present "an accurate or actual picture of the way sports drinks are consumed." "The testing procedures they used are outside the realm of what happens in real life," he says. "Beverages pass right through the mouth, and these beverages have a purpose, and are proven to enhance physical performance. To use them like this is simply providing unhelpful information to consumers." He adds: "To suggest that sports drinks are a unique cause of dental caries or tooth erosion is overly simplistic. Oral health is determined by a variety of factors, including types of food consumed and the length of time foods are kept in the mouth."

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence


The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo,

Your Teen

Is Your Teen’s Aching Knee More Than “Growing Pains”?

2.00 to read

Many kids experience what is commonly referred to as “growing pains” as they get older.  Children may experience aches and pains as young as 3 to 4 years old, then again around 8 to 12 years of age.

When a teen’s legs and knees hurt, he or she may also be told that they are probably suffering from growing pains and that they will grow out of it. 

There are times when a youngster or teen has simply overdone it by running and / or jumping too much. Like anyone else, if they haven’t used those muscles enough – they’ll be sore.

However, consistent knee pain is something else.

A Danish study says that if a teen’s knee pain persists, it could become a chronic condition affecting their quality of life.

"We can see from the study that one in three young people between the ages of 12 and 19 experience problems with pain in their knees," said Michael Skovdal Rathleff, a physiotherapist from Aarhus University. "Seven percent of the adolescents experience daily knee pain in the front of the knee. More than half still have problems after two years, so it is not something they necessarily grow out of."

The study involving 3,000 teens revealed knee pain is a more significant problem than previously thought.

"If knee pain is not treated there is a high risk of the pain becoming chronic. And this clearly has a big consequence for the individual's everyday life and opportunities," Rathleff noted in a university news release. "Our findings show that these adolescents have as much pain symptoms and reduced quality of life as adolescents on a waiting list for a cruciate knee ligament reconstruction, or as a 75-year-old six months after receiving a new knee."

Other studies have shown that about 25 percent of patients who've undergone a knee replacement because of osteoarthritis of the kneecap also had knee pain since they were teenagers. Osteoarthritis of the kneecap, the researchers concluded, may sometimes begin early in life. They added, however, that earlier treatment and proper training could help.

According to a study published in BMC Pediatrics, pain resolves in about half of the young people with knee pain when they get the right physical therapy. Unfortunately, many kids may not get the therapy they need soon enough.

"It is worrying that the pain only disappears in the case of half of the young people who actually do the training," said Rathleff. "The indications are that we should start the treatment somewhat earlier where it is easier to cure the pain."

Do all teens with a bad knee need physical therapy? Not necessarily, it all depends on the child's circumstances, Rathleff noted.

If your child has knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away or consistently comes and goes, you might want to talk with your family doctor or pediatrician about physical therapy and see if he or she recommends it. The benefits could be life changing for your active teen. 

Source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas,

Your Teen

Studies: Smoking and Students

1.45 to read

Everyone knows that smoking is really bad for you. But, how do you help kids keep from starting the expensive and nasty habit in the first place? Peer pressure seems to help. And for young adults who are already smokers, what will it take to break the habit? Perhaps being able to breathe better is a key motivator.

Kids as young as 10 admit to sneaking a smoke every once in a while, while 17 percent of high-school students and 5.2 percent of middle-school students admit to being daily cigarette smokers. Many college students bring their habit with them when they enroll.

What helps kids keep from starting to smoke? A new study suggests that kids who are involved in team sports with teammates, who do not smoke, are less likely to start. 

Interestingly, the study showed that girls involved in sports with teammates who do smoke, are more likely to give it a try. Peer pressure seems to have more of an impact among girls.

"This result suggests that peers on athletic teams influence the smoking behavior of others even though there might be a protective effect overall of increased participation in athletics on smoking," study leader Kayo Fujimoto, who conducted the research while at the University of Southern California, said in a journal news release.

Researchers questioned 1,260 sixth through eighth graders about their smoking behavior. The children were middle class, lived in urban areas and ethnically diverse. The study, appearing Feb. 8 in Child Development, found that the more sports the kids played, the less likely they were to smoke.

The authors of the study believe that these findings may be helpful in improving anti-smoking campaigns aimed at children.

"Current guidelines recommend the use of peer leaders selected within the class to implement such programs," said Fujimoto. "The findings of this study suggest that peer-led interactive programs should be expanded to include sports teams as well."

Another recent study focused on college students who smoke.

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, studied 327 college students- ages 18 to 24 years old- who participated in a program to help motivate them to quit smoking. More than half the students smoked five to 10 cigarettes a day and had smoked for one to five years.

Participants who quit smoking for two weeks or more reported substantially fewer respiratory symptoms, especially coughing, than those who failed to kick the habit.

"That the benefit of stopping smoking starts in days to weeks -- not years or decades -- is important. Now health care providers can counsel young smokers that their breathing can feel better soon after they stop. This can help to motivate young adults to stop smoking before the severe damage is done," journal editor Dr. Harold Farber, an associate professor of pediatrics in the pulmonology section at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a journal news release.

Smoking has continued to decrease on college campuses, perhaps due to stricter smoking policies. Many colleges prohibit smoking anywhere on campus, and others do not allow smoking within a certain amount of feet from doorways. Cigarettes are expensive as well. Many college students are barely getting by with the increase costs in tuition. Something has to give, and cutting out cigarettes can save a pretty tidy sum. Also, smoking has lost a lot of its “cool” factor. Many students just find it annoying. 

Health professionals are always looking for ways to impress upon young people that smoking isn’t only a social nuisance, it can also become a serious long-term health problem.

Perhaps these studies can offer counselors, parents and friends, new discussion points in the battle to help kids avoid smoking or to help them quit. 

Sources: /


Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.