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Parents In Control

Are smartphones causing more teen suicides?

Increases in depression and suicide appeared among teens in 2012 – the same time smartphone ownership became the norm

Jean Twenge, for The Conversation

Thu 24 May 2018 06.00 EDTLast modified on Thu 24 May 2018 12.05

‘All of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’ Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33% in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23%. Even more troubling, the number of 13 to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%.

In a paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden rise of the smartphone.

All signs point to the screen

Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: this gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50% threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73% of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71% more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).

Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A thirdrandomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

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Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens who spent more time than average online and less time with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.


But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

Talk with your teens about the risks of synthetic drugs

Updated May 09, 2018 10:24 AM

As the parent of any teen will know, young adults are highly attuned to trends — be it a clothing brand, the latest Youtuber, or an app — especially if they think their peers are involved. However, in the last few years, these fast-emerging trends have included novel drugs.

“Synthetic” versions of prohibited drugs are ones that have been chemically altered to evade laws banning their sale and use. As law enforcement and legislation race to keep up with the labs involved in the drug trade, new drugs are constantly being developed to feed the demand from people struggling with addiction — or kids wanting to be part of the next big thing.

Synthetic marijuana, first known as “Spice” or “K2”, is created by spraying various chemicals — some known as “cannabinoids” — on to incense or other dried plant materials. The product is then smoked. Packets are purchased online and at some convenience stores, even though synthetic marijuana is banned in Florida.

Wendy Stephan, MPH, CHES and doctoral candidate PhD., is a health education coordinator for the Florida Poison Information Center at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Recently, poison centers in the Midwest sounded the alarm about three deaths associated with synthetic marijuana. The deaths in Illinois were associated with the contamination of these drugs with brodifacoum — a chemical commonly used as rat poison. This poison caused serious bleeding disorders (bruising, bleeding gums, blood in the urine or vomit) that led to over 100 hospitalizations and the need for prolonged treatment. Florida’s Poison Centers recently treated the first Florida case of exposure to brodifacoum, and there may be more before the source of the product is identified.

It is not clear why the poison was added to the drug, although researchers believe it was done intentionally. Even though the rat poison epidemic has most recently dominated the news, synthetic marijuana can have unpleasant effects on its own. In the past few years, the Florida Poison Information Center at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital has treated cases of people exposed to “fake weed.” These patients’ symptoms have ranged from agitation and rapid heart rate to vomiting and seizures.

The chemical in regular marijuana that causes a “high,” tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has weak bonds to receptors in the brain whereas the synthetic versions can be hundreds of times more potent. Synthetic marijuana products have been found to contain a wide range of active chemicals and concentrations. These drugs have not been well studied in humans, so researchers do not yet know their long- or short-term effects on regular users. People who use these drugs are essentially experimenting on themselves. This is particularly concerning for young adults, whose brains continue to develop well into their 20s.

The good news is that the popularity of synthetic marijuana with Florida youth has declined sharply in recent years. According to the 2017 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, only 3.5 percent of high school students report using it, compared with 13 percent back in 2012 right after it first appeared. E-cigarettes remain in fashion with about 31 percent of surveyed high school students reporting vaping in some form. Recent research indicates that teens may not know if the e-juice they are buying contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Some teens use e-cigs to vape THC or other illicit substances.

The current crisis highlights the need to talk to teens, and even tweens, about the dangers of novel drugs, both due to the risk of contamination but also the use of untried chemicals. As with any illegal drug, there is no going back for a refund and no suing the manufacturer for a bad experience or catastrophic medical expenses. Talk to children about the risks of novel drugs and encourage them to be smart consumers in general. Urge them to ask question and do some research.

As parents, you can also do some digging. Ask questions when you hear your kids talking about a substance you have never heard of. Ask what drugs your teen is hearing about online or in the hallways at school. Keep the door open to discussions about drugs to demystify the subject. After all, if parents know about it, it isn’t cool anymore!

The poison control center at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions about any type of drug, supplement or chemical. Calls to 1-800-222-1222 are confidential and free. Poison specialists are among the first to hear about the new drugs on the market and their effects. Make use of this important resource to help keep your family safe from this epidemic — and the next.

Don't Give Your Teens Alcohol

You may have heard of moms and dads giving their teenagers alcohol as a parenting tactic—rationales include 1) it’s safer to buy it, serve it, and monitor it in a controlled environment than to have them sneak off with their friends to swig forties in some sketchy parking lot, and 2) it normalizes alcohol so they won’t see it as something taboo and therefore something they must ingest in mass amounts as quickly as possible. Some say their own parents did this for them while growing up, and they’re glad. “It actually gave me a sense of responsibility to take the trust my folks had in me and not act like a total dipshit,” wrote one redditor in a thread on the topic. Another added, “I knew my tolerance when I got to college. I met some kids who ... didn’t.”

But a new study published in The Lancet suggests that anecdotes aside, this is not an effective strategy for protecting teenagers from the risks of alcohol abuse. In fact, it seems to be associated with some dangerous outcomes.

Australian researchers followed 1,927 teens for six years, and found that those whose parents supplied them with alcohol one year were twice as likely to find alcohol from other sources the following year. Also, by the end of the study, 81% of the teenagers who received alcohol from their parents and other sources reported binge drinking (defined as four or more standard drinks in a single occasion), compared with 62% of teens who received alcohol from non-parent sources only. And teens who received alcohol from their parents were more likely to have symptoms of alcohol use disorder than those who received no alcohol from any source.

There are limitations to the study—it’s observational, and teens from low socioeconomic status backgrounds were underrepresented. And, perhaps more importantly, the research does not indicate the amount of alcohol supplied by parents, or the context in which it is given. (Was it a flute of champagne to celebrate Mom’s promotion or was it five Jägerbombs? Were the teens given a talk about safe drinking habits or just a key to the liquor cabinet?) Also, the study is from Australia, and we don’t know how well the findings translate in other countries. They do, however, align with previous research on parents who let their kids take sips of alcoholic drinks—studies suggest that practice is related to binge drinking, drug use and other problem behaviors.

The big recommendation from researchers: Don’t give your kids alcohol before they’re legally allowed to drink. All they’ll gain is, well, more alcohol. There’s no scientific evidence that it will teach them how to drink responsibly, and it may put them at risk.

Convince Teens to Stay Sober at Parties by Explaining What's in It for Them

You may remember being a teenager in driver’s ed class, watching a VHS tape that showed the very, very bad and gruesome things that can happen when you drive too fast on highways. To raise safe drivers, it seemed to be believed, you needed to give them nightmares for months. Growing up in the ‘80s, my childhood was filled with such scare tactics—car accident remnants displayed on the school lawn, D.A.R.E. program police officers giving lectures about jail time, and that damn fried egg commercial that aired in between all my afternoon cartoons.

Was any of it very effective at helping us make better choices? Not at all, according to research-based observations by Jess Shatkin, the author of the new book Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks and How We Can Keep Them Safe. “It’s absolutely clear that our efforts at teaching adolescents how to think about risk have generally had little impact upon their risk-taking behavior and have often made things worse.” (D.A.R.E., in particular, showed evidence of having a boomerang effect—telling a certain type of kid not to do something may have resulted in him doing it out of spite.)

It has a lot to do with how teenage brains are wired. In the bestselling book Thinking, Fast and Slow, author Daniel Kahneman describes the two types of thought processes important for decision making: the fast System 1 (intuitive, automatic, emotion-based, reward-driven) and the slow System 2 (effortful, analytical, conscious). When teaching teens about risky behavior in the past, adults have tried to appeal to System 2, but that thought process can only be built through maturity and experience, things that teenagers have not yet developed. Instead, Shatkin explains that parents should instead try to appeal to the part of teenage brains that is working just fine—the ventral striatum, or “their big neuronal reward center.”

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“Threatening adolescents with death is not terribly effective in most cases,” he writes. Teens want to know the benefits will be for making good choices. Shatkin gives some examples of how parents can change their language. These are called “positive opposites”:

  • Do say: “Study hard in school so that you can apply to any college you like,” but don’t say: “If you don’t study hard, you won’t get into a good college.”
  • Do say: “Drive safely tonight, so you can use the car next week,” but don’t say: “If you don’t drive safely, you might get hurt.”
  • Do say: “Take your allergy medicine so you can play baseball tomorrow,” but don’t say: “If you don’t take your allergy medicine, your allergies will only get worse.”

A positive opposite, as Shatkin notes, tells a child what to do, instead of what not to do. “By focusing on shared values that parents and their adolescents both embrace, like being a good friend, positive opposites can encourage safe behavior,” he writes. “If your teen is going out with a group of friends or attending a party, for example, encouraging restraint and sobriety is not likely to be very effective. In other words, ‘don’t drink’ is likely to fall on deaf ears. But you may motivate your daughter to keep from drinking (or limit her drinking) by tapping into the values of friendship and loyalty. By staying sober, she can help and protect her friend, for example, who often drinks to excess and gets in trouble.”

It’s important to anticipate the dangers and be ready for them, Shatkin explains. He writes parents should “take Wayne Gretzky’s advice and skate to where the puck will be.”

You knew it would happen, but you never thought it would happen this fast: Your child has become a teen. And now, suddenly, everything about you is annoying or embarrassing—the shirt you’re wearing, the way you walk, the questions you ask, the gifts you buy, the pace at which you spread cream cheese on your bagel. The kid can’t stand being around you. Yes, this kid. The same darling child who once jumped into your arms whenever you picked him up from preschool, the one you called your shadow because he would never leave your side. What happened?

Adolescence happened, and as frustrating and painful as it can be for you as a parent, the fact that your kid is “allergic” to you is healthy. Really. Asher Brauner, a family therapist in Santa Cruz, California who has worked with adolescents for years, tells me that teenagers have an “inner mandate to individuate”—or as Kelly Clarkson might say, break away. This, of course, is a massive feat. The kid has relied on you for so many years (you’ve wiped their bottoms and peeled their grapes, for goodness sake). When they suddenly try to assert independence, things are bound to get messy.

Brauner’s advice for parents: Don’t make it worse.

In his practice, he has seen parents make it worse. “We know how it can go,” he says. “The kid yells a little bit. The parent yells a lot. The kid says, ‘I don’t like this.’ The parent says, ‘Well, you’re grounded.’ And then the kid says ‘Fuck you.’ And now where are we?”

Teenagers, he adds, “aren’t dropped in from space.” They’re still themselves—just more emotional, dramatic, and sometimes really cranky versions of themselves. “They’re human beings,” he says. “They want respect and need to be heard. They are no different from you and me or anyone else in wanting to be understood.”

He shared some ways parents can support their teen through this difficult phase and come out alive on the other side.

Start Way, Way Before They Become Teens

Brauner believes that parents who start teaching basics like “Don’t be rude” when their kid is a teen have already lost half the battle. That work must start earlier, he says, way earlier. You’ve got to lay the groundwork at around age three, and reinforce it often.“Young people go through a a major struggle to identify their power at two times: when they’re toddlers and when they’re teenagers,” he says. “When they’re toddlers, it’s a good idea to make it clear that you mean what you say and you say what you mean, in a loving and firm way, so that trust is built.” If you do this, he says, when the kids grow up, they’ll have a baseline understanding of your expectations.

He gives this example: “You might say, ‘You may not drink alcohol. I’m not angry at you. I’m not upset about the possibility that you would think about doing such a thing, but it’s just not okay.’ When you say ‘not okay’ to a 14-year-old and you’ve been saying it for 10 years and they’re used to it, they might chafe at it a little bit, but they assume at this point, ‘My parents mean me well.’”

Don’t Take It Personally

Parents are often the problem more than their teenagers, Brauner says. They overreact when their teens huff or roll their eyes. They take it personally, thinking I didn’t raise you to act this way. “Parents who take every minor provocation personally are signaling to their teenagers that they are so very powerful that their every move can destroy their parents’ day,” Brauner says. “That’s a foolish message.” When a teenager’s world becomes uncertain, they seek security by testing their parents. When they lash out, they are implicitly asking you, “Can I still trust you to be strong?” The way to say “yes,” Brauner says, is to not let them rile you up.

And yes, that is hard. Brauner says you must gather all the tools you’ve ever used to calm yourself during fight or flight situations. Do correct any behavior that is intolerable (you might tell them “You are free to be frustrated but you may not speak rudely”), and enforce the rules you have set. But don’t engage if you yourself are fuming. Tell your kid you need a minute. Go take a walk. Splash water on your face. Make yourself some tea. “Your internal monologue has to be, ‘I’m going to be the calm one because it looks like my kid can’t do that right now,’” Brauner says.

Ramp Up Your Support System

It’s far from perfect, but there has become a sort-of built-in tribe for parents of babies and young kids. If you’re looking for it (and even if you’re not), everyone is ready to give you advice. There’s unlimited support out there if you’re wondering how to help calm a teething infant or help a toddler with night terrors. When your kids become teens, however, the tribe “kind of dissipates,” Brauner says. It is up to you to ramp up your support system during what can be a uniquely isolating time. Brauner explains, “In every community I’ve been in, there are teenage parenting classes that nobody goes to. ‘How to support your teen.’ ‘How to be a positive parent to your teen.’ Schools often provide them. But parents feel like, ‘I’ve exited this 10-year difficult era. Can I have a break? Do I really have to go to more workshops?’” The answer is no, you don’t, but you might consider it. Just sitting in a room with others who are going through the same thing, and being able to say, “This is really hard” can be therapeutic. It may just be the outlet you need.

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You’ll also want to spend a lot of time with your partner and friends and anyone who can assure you that yes, your shirt looks amazing even if your teen swears it’s the ugliest thing she’s ever seen. Try to see this phase in your teen’s life as good for the both of you—the separation allows you to become your own person again and find passions and interests far beyond your role as a parent.

Continue to Physically Be There

It’s important to be a non-anxious presence around your teenager, even if you’re just sitting there in silence. Every day, Brauner would tell his two teens, “I’m wondering how school was today. I’m available to talk if you’d like to.” They’d usually respond with an “Eh” or “Not now”—and that would be completely fine. He’d say, “Okay, well, I’ll work on my crossword” and would then just sit there in the living room with them.

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“The idea is, ‘I’m not pushing you to share about your life. But I’m also not giving up on you.’” Studies show that spending time with their parents is important for teens’ well-being, even if that time isn’t always filled with deep connection. Brauner knew that hanging out with his kids on a regular basis “in a calm and trustworthy manner” would eventually lead to one of them saying, “Guess what? I got a great grade today” or “My friend broke up with me.”

“They will share their lives if they feel comfortable at home,” he says.

Take advantage of other fleeting opportunities to connect—for instance, talking to your teens in parallel position when there’s no pressure to make eye contact can help dissolve any anxiety. “Making friends with teenagers a little like making friends with a Bengal tiger,” Brauner says. “You approach slowly and you know where the exits are.”

Yes, This Phase Shall Pass

After teenagers feel they’ve established themselves more as individuals (a process that has no definitive timeline, unfortunately), they warm up to their parents again. Their brains evolve and they learn to regulate their emotions better. Everything starts to feel a little less intense. And Mark Twain’s famed quote on adolescence rings true: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Brauner says, “Some of the wonderful and most intimate times I’ve had were with teenagers. They’re human beings. They have love. They are caring. They are not hostile entities to be feared. They’re lovely and they have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for a world.” All of this can be hard to see, but keep looking. One day, if they have teenagers of their own, they will call you to ask, “Oh my God, was I ever like this?”

THE LATEST VIRAL TEEN challenge is leaving kids with burns so severe some require hospitalization.

The "Deodorant Challenge" dares kids to spray aerosol deodorant onto their bare skin or onto someone else's bare skin for as long as they can stand it, with the aerosol rapidly cooling the skin and causing a frostbite condition similar to a burn. A 15-year-old in South Gloucestershire, England is still recovering after taking part three weeks ago. The burns are so severe on her arm she may need a skin graft, the teen's mom Jamie Prescott, said on Facebook.

Her post included photos of her daughter's severe burns weeks after she participated in the challenge on April 18. She urged parents to talk to their children about the "damaging results of something known as 'The Deodorant Challenge.'"

"For any parents who have children, please, please sit them down and show them these pictures. These are the damaging results of something known as 'The Deodorant Challenge,' which is currently doing the rounds," Prescott's post said.

Her daughter, Ellie, said the second-degree burn is "really painful," Fox News reported.

"It's a hole in my arm and there's all this yellow stuff coming out. My friend did it a year ago and has a scar but said it wasn't as painful as mine. When I show people my injury they lift up their sleeves and show that they've all had it done too," Fox quoted the teen as saying.

Prescott told Somerset Live her daughter was with friends when the incident occurred, and "when they asked her to put out her arm she did it but she had no idea of the consequences."

Ellie said that when she put her arm out, a deodorant was sprayed onto it. Now, when others ask her what's wrong with her arm and she tells them, they show Ellie their scars from participating in the challenge, the teen told Somerset Live.

"Even if we can prevent just one more child from going through this, it will be worth it," Prescott told Somerset Live. "I absolutely hate being in the limelight and writing public posts and having attention, but in this particular instance, this challenge really needs to be made as public as possible. It's just horrendous and needs stopping."

To the Graduating Class of 2018:

Our son Brian Hoeflinger died in a tragic car accident four months before graduating high school at the young age of 18. He was a kid just like you who had hopes and aspirations of going to college and having a full happy life.

On the night he died, he was at a party with friends drinking vodka and ended up driving intoxicated. I remember the phone call we received late that night when we learned Brian had been in a car accident. The sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach and the frantic racing of your heart when you don’t know if your child has been hurt or if he is even still alive. Your entire body trembles uncontrollably with fear as you anticipate what you will be told on the phone. We were told to come to the hospital immediately.

I remember the drive to the hospital. It was cold and snowing that night. We were so scared of what we were about to find out. How badly was our son Brian injured? When my wife and I arrived at the hospital, we were told Brian was dead. Our bodies were numb. We immediately felt empty and completely alone inside. “How can this nightmare be real?” is all you can think to yourself.

We were walked back to the room where Brian was. That image of our son lying there on a cold gurney dead at age 18 will never leave our minds for as long as we live. His pale lifeless body lying there almost as though he were asleep, wishing he were only asleep but knowing all to well that he was dead and never coming back home with us ever again. It is the worst singular feeling we have ever experienced in our lives.

The second worst feeling was telling our other three children at home about an hour later that their older brother Brian was dead and gone forever. The pain we inflicted upon them at that moment in the middle of the night was unthinkable. There are no words to give justice to what took place. At our children’s request, we took them to the hospital to see Brian. It would be the last time that they would ever get to see him so close to being alive. It was heartbreaking to watch Kevin, Julie and Christie say goodbye to their big brother forever that night. The lasting image of him lying there dead on a gurney in the emergency department permanently seared into their minds. That life we had with Brian is over now and an unwelcome new life without Brian has taken its place.

We tell you this story because Brian could be any one of you, if you choose to drink. And we say choose, because it is your choice and nobody else’s. Once you take your first drink of alcohol, you are not making the decisions, the alcohol is. You are putting yourself and others at risk for injury or, even worse, dying like Brian.

Now you may say that Brian was stupid and not a responsible person. You would never be that dumb or make that mistake and it could never happen to you. Well, Brian used to say that too and look how it turned out for him. Let us tell you, Brian was not a stupid person. He had a 4.5 GPA, 32 ACT score, was a 4 handicap golfer, and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was his first choice in colleges. Brian always made good decisions until alcohol was involved. You see, you can’t make good decisions when you drink alcohol. No matter how much you think you can, you can’t. Brian proved that.

He is now frozen in time at the age 18 with no chance to move forward or to make a difference in the lives of others. As for you, you are very much alive and able to make your destiny what you want. This is a very defining time in your life because at this moment you are able to choose the path in life you wish to follow. At this moment, you have the chance to help change the future by taking a stand against drinking, especially drinking and driving. You are able to define who you are and to make a difference now. It is your time to be a leader that others will want to follow.

It is a privilege to be alive and to be able to make a difference in the lives of others. Brian lost that chance with a bad decision and we’re sure he wouldn’t make that same mistake twice. But for Brian, there is no second chance. No chance to redo things. As for you, you still have the chance to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. If we could ask you to remember just one thing from this letter, it would be to have fun without drinking. Be a leader and make it cool not to drink. You can do it. We know you can.

And lastly, but most importantly, don’t Drink and Drive or ride with someone who has been drinking. If you could feel for only a brief moment the extreme anguish and pain that we as a family feel over Brian’s death every moment of every day, then you would understand what drinking can cost you and your family. Please think about it.

Think about what Brian lost, all his hopes, dreams and ultimately his life, as a result of alcohol. Please don't make the same mistake. Stay safe and make it to graduation. Don't put your family through what we are going through.

The Hoeflinger family

Brian would have graduated June 6, 2013 from Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo, Ohio. He would be 23 years old now. As you are going through the fun and excitement of these final days, preparing for prom, graduation ceremonies and all the parties of your friends, think of us. There are no memories of senior prom for us or pictures of his graduation that we have. During graduation, we sat in the audience, not the proud parents of a wonderful son accepting his diploma with his classmates, but the parents choking back tears of grief and regret that he was not there. We are the parents who were never able to visit their son at college or who will never meet the wife and grandchildren that could have been. We are the siblings mourning the death of the brother that we all looked up to but will never see again. For us, this is the harsh reality of teenage drinking.

The above letter is part of a book that we wrote shortly after Brian's death. The book is titled, "The Night He Died: The Harsh Reality of Teenage Drinking." The book is real life. Have your kids read it. Their perspective on drinking alcohol will change. I promise.

Most Importantly, Please Share this Post with all your Facebook friends in hopes that we can save at least one graduating senior and their family from an unnecessary tragedy due to alcohol this prom and graduation season. Every senior should make it to graduation day!

The US Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on electronic cigarette use among teens. The agency announced a new, five-point initiative this week that it says should stop vape companies from marketing to teens and prevent retailers from selling to underage kids. It’s also investigating Juul, the company that’s become synonymous with the cool teens vaping image.

As part of its crackdown, the FDA has been carrying out an undercover operation to identify retailers selling e-cigarettes to young people. So far, it’s issued 40 warning letters to stores around the country, including several 7-Elevens and Shell locations. eBay took down listings of the Juul that apparently could have been sold to kids.

The agency has also asked for information from Juul to help it understand the company’s youth demographic. It’s requested marketing documents, as well as research on the effects of its products. The FDA also admits that it has no idea why teens love the Juul, and it’s hoping the company can help it figure that out through its gathered data. The agency seems to suggest that Juul is well aware that teens use its products and that it might know how to cater to them.

Juul has issued a statement on its website about the investigation and has also launched a “comprehensive strategy to combat underage use.” CEO Kevin Burns writes, “I’m not only a Juul employee, but more importantly I am a parent of teenagers. I never want my 18-year-old-son or 15-year-old daughter to try Juul. The product was designed with adult smokers in mind and their need to break the grip of cigarette dependency.”

Finally, the FDA promises to plan “additional enforcement actions” for companies who market to kids and to continue to educate kids about tobacco products.

The FDA seems especially concerned over the use of nicotine in these products, which makes them addicting, regardless of the age of the user. All Juul pods include nicotine, although the company says on its FAQ page that it’s “constantly working on new developments.” Studies have found that teens who vape are more likely to continue smoking. As of 2016, more than 2 million middle and high school students vaped.

Teens who vape: Will a new craze invite a health crisis?

E-cigarettes appear on display at Vape store in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)

Who knew that in today’s classroom, students in middle school or high school could sneak a hit of nicotine from something that looks like a flash drive, or a pen, or lipstick.

They can, and they do.

Nearly a quarter of high school seniors say they vape daily, and more than 1 in 10 eighth-graders say they they’ve vaped in the past year, according to the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the University of Michigan. “Vaping” is done with electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, that heat nicotine-infused liquid into a vapor, which is then inhaled by the user. There’s no smoke, just flavored vapor that can smell like strawberry, cotton candy or creme brulee.

Why so much adult hand-wringing about this adolescent craze? Vaping’s sort of like smoking cigarettes, but without the lung-clogging, cancer-causing tar, right?

Not exactly. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term health effects of vaping, one reason why parents and school officials should be more hands-on about reversing vaping’s popularity among teens.

Along with nicotine, vaping liquids contain a mix of additives, including propylene glycol and glycerol. When heated, those chemicals can form carcinogenic compounds. Then there’s the nicotine itself. A recent New York Times article about vaping among teens reported that school administrators increasingly see signs of nicotine addiction among students who vape. One student cited in the story asked her teacher for permission to stand in the back of the classroom and shake her foot when she felt the urge to vape.

“I’m afraid that we’re going to be hooking a new generation of kids on nicotine, with potentially unknown risks,” Dr. Mark Rubenstein, a pediatrics professor at the University of California, San Francisco, told the reporter. “We just don’t know what the risks of inhaling all these flavorings and dyes are, and what we do know is already pretty scary.”

Especially worrisome: growing evidence that vaping among teens leads to smoking cigarettes.

America has made massive strides in turning the tide against smoking among teens. In the late 1990s, a quarter of high school seniors smoked, according to University of Michigan researchers. Today, that number’s been whittled to 5 percent. Right now, teens who start to vape are, for the most part, not current or former cigarette smokers. But the 2016 Monitoring the Future study found that, a year after nonsmoking high school seniors began vaping, they were four times as likely to have smoked a cigarette than someone who wasn’t vaping.

The disturbing paradox: Among grown-ups, vaping is a means to break away from cigarettes. Among teens, vaping’s becoming a gateway to tobacco smoking.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Today’s vaping by the 3-D printer is yesterday’s smoking in the bathroom. But it’s a problem that could steamroll into a full-blown health crisis if parents, schools and public health officials don’t intervene. Vaping may prove to have, or not have, long-term health consequences. But we do know about nicotine and the harm it can do. That alone should be enough to make vaping among teens a trend that vanishes like a puff of creme brulee.

-cigarettes might help adults quit smoking, but don't ignore that 'juuling' is going viral in high schools: Our view

The jury is still out on whether e-cigarettes will be a savior to smokers who want to quit, the gateway to addiction for a new generation, or both. But teenagers are not waiting for the answer. E-cigarettes — especially sleek new products that look nothing like traditional smokes, are easily concealed, and produce less noticeable plumes — have taken off in high schools from Maine to California.

In Sutton, Mass., where Sophia Diana was a high school senior last year, vaping is banned but it was common “in the library and on the bus,” and students would exhale into “their shirt or sleeves to hide it,” she says. In Milwaukee and Placerville, Calif., vaping in the bathrooms is the latest fad.

In suburban Detroit, Lynn Gillon, the mother of a high school junior, says she was blindsided when she found vaping paraphernalia in her son’s backpacks. He’s now attending a peer counseling group to kick his habit. And in Maine, according to The New York Times, a student caught vaping three times at Cape Elizabeth High School told the vice principal, “I can’t stop.”

And that’s the heart of the problem: Teenagers becoming nicotine addicts.

The good news about e-cigarettes — essentially battery-operated nicotine inhalers — is that they do not produce cancer-causing tobacco smoke and might help the nation’s nearly 38 million smokers quit.

The bad news? Just about everything else.

Nicotine, contained in varying amounts in e-cigarettes, can rival the addictiveness of heroin and cocaine. For young people, whose brains are not fully developed, it can be particularly dangerous, leading to reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders.

There’s “substantial evidence” that e-cigarette use among youth and young adults increases the risk of smoking traditional cigarettes in the future, according to a report in January by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. And just as smoking has dropped to historic lows among teenagers, teens are turning to vaping. About 11% of high school seniors vaped nicotine in 2017; about a quarter of those seniors say they vape 20 or more times a month.

There are also many troubling unknowns about e-cigarettes. It took decades for the devastating effects of cigarettes to emerge, and e-cigarettes have only been on the market since 2006. The National Academies report concluded that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to burning tobacco, but “there is conclusive evidence that … most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances.”

Meanwhile, teenagers, who ignored warnings about cigarettes for decades, are now ignoring warnings about e-cigarettes. The products come in a wide variety of flavors, appearance and potency. Many are sold in sweet, fruity flavors, reminiscent of candy. Juul, which resembles a USB drive and came on the market in 2015, contains nicotine approximately equivalent to a “pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs,” according to the company’s website.

Juul's popularity has soared, capturing more than 50% of e-cigarette retail sales during the first quarter of this year. (Sales are banned to anyone younger than 18, but underage students say they have little trouble getting the devices.)

A Juul spokesman says the nicotine content, like everything else about Juul, is specifically intended to help adult smokers quit, adding that the company has made “myriad efforts to combat underage use of Juul.”

That hasn't stopped the product from becoming so popular that some students have turned it into a verb and talk about “juuling.”

So where is the federal government in all this? Not where it needs to be.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration delayed until 2022 a requirement that makers of most e-cigarettes go through a rigorous government approval process. Once before, the government let an addictive product get by with little regulation. It shouldn't repeat that mistake.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.

To read more editorials, go to the Opinion front page or sign up for the daily Opinion email newsletter. To respond to this editorial, submit a comment to

ITTLETON, Colo. -- Kids and teens love their phones and apps, but they are not always fun and games.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office’s Cheezo Unit, 15 child sex predators have been arrested after trying to lure children using social media sites.

“Those are the ones we have caught because I have a very small unit here and half the time we’re doing education,” Sgt. Mike Harris said.

Cheezo focuses heavily on education for children and parents to try and prevent kids from falling victims to predators.

It compiled a list of the 10 apps teens are using that parents need to know”.

It includes:

  • Calculator% -- It looks like a calculator but functions like a secret photo vault.
  • Omegle -- A free online chat website that promotes chatting anonymously to strangers.
  • Yellow -- It's designed to allow teens to flirt with each other in a Tinder-like atmosphere.
  • Whisper -- An anonymous app where the creators promote sharing secrets and meeting new people.
  • -- Ask an anonymous question and get an answer. This app has been linked to the most severe forms of bullying
  • Instagram -- Many kids are creating fake accounts to hide content from parents. Kids also like to text using Instagram because messages are deleted once a user leaves a conversation.
  • Kik -- The messaging app has built-in apps and web content that would be filtered on home computers.
  • Wishbone -- An app that allows users to compare kids against each other and rate them on a scale.
  • Burn Book -- Post anonymous rumors about people through audio messages, tests, and photos.
  • Hot or Not -- Strangers rate your profile. Goal is to lead to a hook up.

While these are considered by Cheezo to be the most important apps for parents to know about, investigators warn they need to research every app on a child’s phone since they are constantly changing.

“Every time I think I’ve seen it all, we are blown away,” Harris said. “If you give out personal information, you’re talking to people you don’t know, any app or social networking site can be dangerous.”

He also recommends turning the location services off on any app a child is using so predators can’t use geo-data to determine their location.

The most popular product in the booming e-cigarette market doesn’t look like a cigarette at all.

The Juul, a trendy vape that resembles a flash drive and can be charged in a laptop’s USB port, accounted for 33% of the e-cigarette market as of late 2017, according to Wells Fargo data. The product is made for and legally available only to adults 18 and older, and its “growth appears to be due to growth with the 18 to 24 year old age group,” according to a Wells Fargo report.

But in many cases, media reports suggest, these devices are being used by kids and teenagers even younger than that — which has some parents, educators and medical professionals concerned. Each Juul cartridge—which lasts about 200 puffs—has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Here’s what to know about “Juuling,” the trend sweeping schools nationwide.

What do parents need to know about Juuling?

Although Juul products, like most e-cigarettes, are made and marketed as smoking alternatives, the device is increasingly popping up on high school and college campuses. The term “Juuling” usually refers to this recreational use.

Because of their sleek design and resemblance to USB drives, Juul products are easy for students to conceal and use in school — sometimes even in the middle of class. (Juuls also produce less smoke than many similar devices, making them even more discreet.) The problem has grown widespread enough that school districts in states including Kentucky, Wisconsin, California and Massachusetts have voiced their concerns and, in some cases, begun amending school policy to address the issue. Some college publications, including those at New York University and the University of Illinois, have also reported on the trend.

Ashley Gould, chief administrative officer at Juul Labs, says that the product was created by two former smokers specifically and solely to help adult smokers quit, and that the company has numerous anti-youth-use initiatives in place because “we really don’t want kids using our product.” Gould also notes that Juul uses age authentication systems to sell only to adults 21 and older online, though most of its sales take place in retail stores, where state laws may allow anyone 18 and older to purchase the devices.

The design, she adds, was not meant to make the device easier to hide.

“It was absolutely not made to look like a USB port. It was absolutely not made to look discreet, for kids to hide them in school,” Gould says. “It was made to not look like a cigarette, because when smokers stop they don’t want to be reminded of cigarettes.”

Are e-cigs safe?

While e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic substances than traditional cigarettes, the CDC warns that vaping may still expose people to cancer-causing chemicals. (Different brands use different formulations, and the CDC’s warning did not mention Juul specifically.)

It’s not clear exactly how e-cigarettes affect health because there’s little long-term data on the topic, says Dr. Michael Ong, an associate professor of general internal medicine and health services at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles. “We just don’t have a lot of information as to what the harms potentially are going to be,” he says. “There likely would be health risks associated with it, though they’re not going to be the same as a traditional cigarette.”

Doctors do know, however, that each Juul pod contains nicotine equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. That’s troubling, because nicotine is “one of the most addicting substances that we know of,” Ong says. “Having access to that is certainly problematic,” Ong adds, because it may get kids hooked, which could potentially lead them to later take up cigarettes.

Juul’s products come in flavors including mango, fruit medley and creme brûlée — and the chemicals used to flavor vaping liquid may also be dangerous, Ong adds. “Even if the manufacturer doesn’t intend it to be something that’s kid-friendly, it’s kid-friendly,” he says. A 2016 study suggested that these flavoring agents may also cause popcorn lung, a respiratory condition first seen in people working in factories that make microwave popcorn.

Does Juuling help you quit smoking?

It’s not yet clear. Gould acknowledges that Juul doesn’t have great end-user data since its products are mostly sold in retail stores, but she says the company is actively researching the effectiveness of its devices.

Research about the efficacy of nicotine replacement therapy using tools such as e-cigarettes and nicotine gum is relatively inconclusive. A new study published in theAnnals of Internal Medicine even found that smokers trying to quit may actually have less success if they use e-cigarettes.

“The literature has suggested that when you have nicotine replacement therapies, they work best if [people are] being advised by a professional,” Ong says. “When we provide things over the counter, we don’t see the benefits of cessation that we would have expected by making it widely available, and that’s probably the reason why: because people aren’t actually getting professional help.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the legal purchasing age for Juul. It is 18 in some states, not 21. The original version of this story also misstated Juul’s marketing strategy. The product is marketed as a smoking alternative, not a smoking cessation tool.

E-cigarettes: Teens 'should not be using them at all'

Published Wednesday 7 March 2018

By Maria Cohut

Fact checked by Jasmin Collier

A new study confirms that e-cigarettes are harmful to teenagers and urges adolescents to stop putting their health at risk.

Many teenagers are attracted to 'vaping,' but at what cost to their own health?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices regularly used as a more healthful alternative to regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes sometimes contain nicotine, and sometimes they use nicotine-free solutions.

They offer users a similar sensation to smoking, but they do not produce smoke. Instead, they heat up the e-liquid they contain and create vapor, which is why using these devices is sometimes referred to as "vaping."

However, while many adult users opt for e-cigarettes to ease themselves out of their smoking habit, some researchers have raised concerns that teenagers may be using them as a gateway into this very habit.

E-cigarette usage seems to be popular among many teenagers, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have banned the sale of such devices to people under 18.

But recent research from the University of California, San Francisco now reveals that we may have more to worry about when it comes to teenage use of e-cigarettes — beyond addiction and the possibility of transitioning to traditional cigarettes.

Lead study author Dr. Mark L. Rubinstein and his team have found that teenagers who "vape" may be exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Their findingswere published in the journal Pediatrics.

Such toxic substances, the researchers add, are found both in e-cigarettes and in traditional ones, and teenagers need to be aware that even by opting for nicotine-free devices, they may still put themselves in harm's way.

"Teenagers need to be warned that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but actually contains some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes. Teenagers should be inhaling air, not products with toxins in them."

Dr. Mark L. Rubinstein

Carcinogens threaten teenagers' health

In order to reach their conclusions, Dr. Rubinstein and team collected and analyzed urine samples from 104 adolescents, aged 16.4 years, on average.

Of these, 67 were e-cigarette users, 17 used e-cigarettes as well as traditional ones, and 20 did not smoke or vape (the controls).

Their analysis revealed that the teenagers who vaped had a three times higher concentration of toxic compounds in their bodies than their non-vaping peers. In the case of teenagers who used both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes, the concentration of toxic chemicals in the body was three times higher than in the case of adolescents who only vaped.

"E-cigarettes," Dr. Rubinstein says, "are marketed to adults who are trying to reduce or quit smokingas a safer alternative to cigarettes. While they may be beneficial to adults as a form of harm reduction, kids should not be using them at all."

This was the first study to have investigated the presence of toxic, carcinogenic substances in the bodies of teenage e-cigarette users. Some of the harmful chemicals that the scientists tested for were acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide, and crotonaldehyde — all of which are listed as carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic to humans.

Some of the substances tested for were detected in the bodies of adolescents who used flavored, nicotine-free e-cigarette liquid. These included propylene glycol and glycerol, which, although approved by the FDA, "can form carcinogenic compounds when heated."

"[W]hen they're heated to the high temperatures required for vaporization, they can produce toxic substances that are potentially carcinogenic," notes Dr. Rubinstein.

The study authors conclude, "[A]s with traditional cigarettes, messaging to teenagers must include warnings about the potential risk from toxic exposure to carcinogenic compounds generated by these products."

HIV, syphilis cluster in teens, adults found in Milwaukee

USA TODAY NETWORKJames E. Causey and Mary Spicuzza, MilwaukeePublished 6:06 a.m. ET March 8, 2018 | Updated 11:27 a.m. ET March 8, 2018

New cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States reached an all-time high in 2016. According to UPI, 1.6 million cases of chlamydia, 470,000 cases of gonorrhea and 28,000 of syphilis were reported that year. USA TODAY

MILWAUKEE — At least 125 people — including some high school students — have contracted HIV, syphilis or both in one of the largest sexually transmitted infection clusters discovered in this city of 600,000, health care advocates confirmed to the Journal Sentinel.

Three babies also were born locally with syphilis last year, health officials said.

“This is an epidemic people are not talking about enough, and it leads to people taking unnecessary risks,” said Melissa Ugland, a public health consultant who works with a number of Milwaukee nonprofit organizations that focus on public health.

The Milwaukee Health Department has made no announcement to the general public as of early Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not publicly identified areas of the country with clusters of HIV and syphilis as it often does with other communicable diseases such as measles or hepatitis.

Fewer than 10% of the 125 people who tested positive are Milwaukee Public Schools students, but health care experts anticipate that those numbers could increase as more people come forward.

A cluster is an aggregation of disease closely grouped in time and place. This cluster was identified because the people in it could all be connected, and were in contact with each other during a 12-month, identifiable period, Ugland said.

“This is an epidemic people are not talking about enough, and it leads to people taking unnecessary risks.”

Most of those in the group are men and 45% were HIV positive, Ugland and other health-care advocates said.

Ugland said she did not know which school or schools the cluster affected but said several could be.

In a statement, Milwaukee Public Schools officials said the health department informed the school district that the entire city is experiencing an increase in sexually transmitted infections in young people ages 15 to 24.

"Because schools have a significant number of students in the 15-18 age group, we are working with the Milwaukee Health Department, in a collaborative and preventive effort, to share information with young people in middle schools and high schools to keep them healthy and to protect their health," the statement said.

The cluster is still considered to be growing.

"They were continuing to try to track down some folks,” Ugland said.

Bevan Baker, the city's former health commissioner, met with Mayor Tom Barrett to brief him about the cluster in December and again in early January, about a week before Baker resigned over troubles with Milwaukee's lead poisoning prevention programs.

Last week, the Milwaukee Health Department launched a series of advertisements promoting free, confidential sexually transmitted disease at two sites, health officials said Tuesday.

Public health advocates are labeling the cluster a “sentinel event” because of the number of young people becoming HIV positive and the fact that babies were born with syphilis.

“It’s a really big deal,” Ugland said.

Syphilis can be cured easily without long-term problems with penicillin. But if left untreated, the STD can damage the heart, blood vessels, brain and nervous system and that damage cannot be repaired.

Congenital syphilis, transmitted in utero from mother to child, can cause birth defects or a baby's death.

Health officials first became aware of a growing problem with sexually transmitted infections in mid-December after several people reported having HIV or syphilis symptoms.

When people tested positive, they were referred for care and interviewed about their sexual history. Officials attempt to find out who those infected had sex with and reach out to sexual partners to try to get them tested and in for treatment.

While some people in the cluster have been upfront with information on their sexual contacts, others have been hesitant to give out names, advocates said.

“The best way to know is to get tested.”

Many people fail to come forward out of fear of being stigmatized, community volunteer Gary Hollander said. He's also former chief executive of Diverse and Resilient, a grass-roots organization that gives a voice to LGBT issues.

When dealing with a cluster this big, health officials need to move quickly. The viruses and bacterial infections can spread fast, Hollander said.

Syphilis symptoms can develop 10 to 90 days after contact but usually occur within three weeks. A firm, round, painless sore forms around the original site of the infection.

People who don’t get that treated might get additional symptoms, such as a rash on the palm of the hands or feet.

As for HIV, since the virus is no longer viewed as a death sentence, as it was during the 1980s and 1990s, people have become lax and stopped preventive measures that caused sexually transmitted infections to drop, Hollander said. That includes wearing a condom during sex, knowing their status, talking to their partners and making sexual health a part of their health routine.

“That’s the unfortunate part,” he said.

People are living longer, productive lives with HIV, and new medications like pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) have been shown to prevent its spread entirely.

HIV symptoms vary and it can take several years for the symptoms to present itself. That makes it easy for a person living without symptoms to spread the disease without knowing.

“The best way to know is to get tested,” Hollander said.

When Milwaukee Public Schools discovered the news they immediately had health care professionals in to talk with students, Ugland said.

While not having sex is the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections, Ugland said some young people don’t have that choice in part because of crimes such as sex trafficking.

News of the cluster should be a wake-up call that the infections remain a public health crisis, much like the flu or mumps, Hollander said.

The Milwaukee metro area already has led the nation gonorrhea rates in 2015 and 2016, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.. It ranked sixth in chlamydia cases per 100,000 population.

People ages 15 to 24 make up 37.4% of the HIV cases in Milwaukee, while people ages 20 to 29 make up 57.1% of the syphilis cases, according to the Milwaukee Health Department.

Follow James E. Causey and Mary Spicuzza on Twitter: @jecausey and @MSpicuzzaMJS

How Swallowing a Slug Left a Teen Paralyzed

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | March 7, 2018 02:52pm ET

Slugs and snails can carry a parasite that commonly attacks rats but can also cause life-threatening infections in people.

Credit: Shutterstock

Accepting a simple dare — eat a garden slug — had devastating consequences for one teenage rugby player in Australia, according to news reports: When the teen swallowed the slug, it led to a parasitic infection that caused a serious brain disease, leaving the teen paralyzed from the neck down.

Sam Ballard was 19 years old in 2010 when he swallowed the slug, which was carrying the roundworm parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, commonly known as the rat lungworm, according to Australian news site As adults, these parasites typically infect rats, but during the earlier stages of their life cycle, they may be carried by slugs and snails that eat rat feces — and they can infect people who consume infected snails or slugs that are undercooked.

In Ballard's case, the parasite caused a serious brain infection. He fell into a coma for 420 days and was paralyzed from the neck down when he was released from the hospital three years later, recently reported. Ballard, who is still paralyzed and requires round-the-clock care, was in the news this month after his insurance benefits package from Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme was recently slashed from 492,000 Australian dollars ($383,700) to about AU$135,000 ($105,000), according to [8 Awful Parasite Infections That Will Make Your Skin Crawl]

In addition to snails and slugs, rat lungworm can parasitize frogs, land crabs and freshwater shrimp, which may also pass the infection to people if these animals are consumed raw or undercooked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People with rat lungworm infections often don't develop any symptoms, or they may exhibit mild, short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, or nausea and vomiting. In fact, the parasite generally dies on its own, even if the infected person receives no treatment, the CDC says.

However, the infection can sometimes lead to a rare form of meningitis known as eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, in which a type of white blood cell known as an eosinophil increases in number in the brain and spinal fluid. (Meningitis refers to inflammation of the meninges, the lining of the brain and spinal cord.) In some cases — such as Ballard's — this can lead to severe disruption of the nervous system, causing paralysis or even death, according to the CDC.

Though most of the known cases of rat lungworm infection have been documented in the Pacific islands and parts of Asia, a study published in May 2017 in the journal PLOS ONE indicated that the parasite is now established throughout Florida. What's more, cases of the parasitic infection on Maui in Hawaii are also on the rise, with four people infected and four suspected infections reported in April of last year.

Researchers warned that as the world continues to warm, the worm's range will likely continue to expand, potentially introducing it across the continental United States, Live Science previously reported.

Original article on Live Science.

That Teen Sexting Study: What Else You Need To Know Before Freaking Out

Tara Haelle , CONTRIBUTORI offer straight talk on science, medicine, health and vaccines.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


You’ve probably read about the new teen sexting research review published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics: about one in four teens have received a “sext,” a text message with sexual content, and approximately one in seven have sent one. The findings are solid and come from a review of more than three dozen studies. But most outlets reporting on the study—and apparent alarm about it—have not dug deeply into the challenges of studying texting, what we still don’t know (a LOT) and why we should take a deep breath before freaking out about the findings.

What did the study find?

The researchers found 15% of teens have sent a sext, and 27% have received one. Unsurprisingly, the older teens were, the more likely they were to send or receive a sext. Also, the frequency of sexting among teens has been increasing over the past decade — again unsurprising since ownership and use of cell phones has also increased among adolescents. (Most of the sexting happened over cell phones, though some involved computers too.)

Potentially more concerning numbers are that 12% of teens said they’ve forwarded a sext without the permission of the person they received it from, and 8% of teens had one of their sexts forwarded without giving their consent.

How was the study done?

The researchers analyzed the findings of 39 studies involving 110,380 adolescents ranging from 12-17 years old. The studies had been published between 2009 and 2016 and most (34) measured how many teens have sent sexts. Another 20 measured receiving them, five looked at forwarding them without consent, and four examined having a sext forwarded without consent.

What are the risks of sexting?

According to a tip sheet for parents in the same journal, “Risks include emotional distress for those who are pressured to send these photos as well as those who receive these photos. Sexting can also cause harm if photos are distributed widely, causing increased distress or embarrassment.”

The tip sheet also notes that sexting can lead to legal repercussions, but few courts prosecute these anymore, particularly since the possibility of a lifetime label of sex offender — potentially for sending a half-nude photo of yourself just once to your boyfriend or girlfriend — can destroy a person’s life.

Why do teens sext?

If this is a serious question, you’ve never met a teenager and appear to have forgotten your entire adolescence. But if that’s the case, here’s what the experts have to say in their tip sheet for parents in JAMA Pediatrics: “Adolescence is a time of life in which teenagers are learning about their own bodies, how to take risks, and about romantic attractions. For some teenagers, engaging in sexting may feel like a way to explore their attraction to someone.”

What should parents do about it?

Talk to your kids, but be sensible, keep some perspective and consider the actual risks of different circumstances. For example, consider this statement from the study: “A higher rate among older youth is expected and generally corresponds to the age of sexual identity and exploration, which lends credence to the notion that youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development.” See how much we still don’t know below.

What data are we missing most?

We know almost nothing about tween sexting. The only study that looked at sexting in those under age 12 was done in 2010-2011, which might as well be a century ago in the digital age. How common sexting is in this age group is particularly important: “Relationships among tweens are often transient, which may make them more vulnerable to having sexts forwarded without consent,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, given their relative cognitive naïveté, tweens may be particularly vulnerable to sextortion (ie, nude images and/or videos are used as a form of threat or blackmail) and, like youth who report early sexual debut, may be at risk for a host of risky behaviors and negative consequences.”

But here’s the thing: Sexting is REALLY hard to study—too hard to draw broad conclusions yet.

This study’s numbers are a tiny slice of the picture. If your 12-year-old is sending photos of their naked body, yes, that’s a big reason to be concerned, and you should be regularly talking with your kids about the risks of that behavior (such as it ending up on the front page of Reddit). But here’s what those numbers obscure:

What counts as a sext?

There’s no standard definition in research or everyday experience. For some, it’s any message related to sex, even just written. Does telling a raunchy joke over text message count as sexting? Or does it need to discuss a body part or behavior of either the sender or recipient? Or does it need to be an explicit invitation?

For others, a sext must include a sexually explicit photo or video. But again: Does it need to show full nudity, or is partial nudity or suggestive clothing, such as lingerie covering all the relevant bits, also sexting? Does the photo need to be of the sender, recipient or one of their acquaintances? Or does any type of sexual content — a porn video, or a link to one — count as a sext? Does a link to a porn video only count if it’s accompanied by additional comments from the sender?

There’s no consensus on these answers, but it matters. “Psychologically, it is likely that the significance of sending nude photos or videos is quite different from sending sexualized text,” write Elizabeth Englander, PhD, and Meghan McCoy, EdD, in an accompanying editorial. Yet the study authors noted that most studies combine both types of sexting, making it harder to draw meaningful conclusions.

What are specific risks of specific types of sexting in specific populations?

Sexting has been linked to a greater likelihood of risky sex behaviors, such as unprotected sex, but are these behaviors associated with all types of sexting, or just those involving photos of the sender, or only photos of the recipient, or…? Are the risks higher or lower for girls versus boys versus teens who don’t identify with a male or female gender? Do the risks vary based on sexual preference?

Consider a 17-year-old girl sending her 17-year-old boyfriend this text: “I can’t wait to put my hands down your pants again.” Or his text that he “can’t wait to touch her tits again.” How worried about these text messages, without images, should parents be? Does it matter if the two have been dating for two weeks or two years? Does the answer change if they’re 16? Or 15? What are they more likely to do? Or does it just mean they’ve already done it?

Englander and McCoy also addressed this: “While several studies have noted that sexting within an existing relationship is potentially quite different than sexting between unattached individuals, clarifying the nature of frequently transient adolescent relationships is challenging.”

Is all sexting a bad thing?

Could sexting have positive effects for those involved? What if it’s simply a different way to communicate what teens have been communicating to one another for centuries? Or what if it’s a way to flirt without actually taking things to the next level, especially if it doesn’t involve photos? There’s evidence that it’s not all negative and even that the bad stuff isn’t that common.

“In a few studies, researchers noted that most people who sext felt positively about the experience and that positive outcomes seem to be associated with sexting within established relationships,” the researchers wrote. “Other studies examining outcomes such as harassment or bullying by peers, lost opportunities, trouble with parents or school authorities or having the picture posted online found such outcomes to be unusual. Most were endorsed by less than 5% of people who sext.”

Obviously nonconsensual sexting is a bigger problem. Should it be considered more directly as harassment? Is consensual sexting without any forwarding something to wring our hands over? Or does it depend on the specific content and medium (words, images, videos, etc.), the child’s age, their relationship status, their maturity and other factors?

Bottom line: Every good study that attempts to answer one question will inspire more questions, and that’s certainly the case here. The real take-home from this new study is that there’s a LOT we still don’t know about teens and sexting, and maybe we should take it slow until we do.

in 7 teens are sexting, new research finds

One in seven teens report that they are sending sexts, and one in four are receiving sexts, according to a new study.

Sexting is known as the sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through the internet or via electronic devices such as smartphones.

One in seven teens report that they are sending sexts, and one in four are receiving sexts, according to our study of over 110,000 teens from around the world published today, Monday Feb. 26, in JAMA Pediatrics.

Teen-to-teen sexting has generated considerable media attention, with news headlines mostly warning of the dangers of sexting.

In January 2018, police in Châteauguay, near Montreal, launched a campaign called "sexts are porn" targeted at students aged 12 to 17. In the U.K., one police force recently warned parents they may be prosecuted if their children send indecent images over mobile phones.

Naturally, this has many parents worried. Is consensual teen sexting a cause for concern?

Girls and boys participate equally

Sexting over the last decade has been on the rise, which is consistent with the rapid growth in the availability and ownership of smartphones. Teen sex, on the other hand, has been on the decline over the last decade.

Our team conducted a meta-analysis of the research literature, drawing from 39 research studies on teen sexting internationally between 2009 and 2016.

We found that approximately 15 percent of teens are sending sexts. Meanwhile, around 41 percent of teens are having sexual intercourse, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

Considerable evidence suggests that teen sexting is related to sexual behavior. Older teens are also sexting more often than younger teens. Taken together, it is not surprising that older teens are both more likely to sext and have sexual intercourse.

Boys are often portrayed as the requesters, and girls as the senders, of nude images or videos. Findings from our study debunk this widely held assumption and show that boys and girls are equally likely to participate in sexting.

Our study found that the large majority of teens are using their personal smartphones versus their computers to sext. In 2015, approximately 92 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 17 in the U.S. owned a cellphone.

Risk-taking or "normal" behavior?

With the ubiquity of smartphones and increasing digital usage across all age categories, parents should not be surprised that teens are engaging in sexting with other teens.

Researchers suggest that consensual teen sexting may be a normal component of sexual behavior and development in the digital age. The increased prevalence of this sexual behavior, in older youth in particular, corresponds to their increasing interest in sexual exploration and identity development.

Sexting has been linked to impulsive and risk-taking behaviors but, so far, the evidence for an association between sexting and poor mental health such as depression or loneliness is weak to non-existent.

The most consistent predictor of consensual teen sexting is actually whether or not they want to flirt, be romantically involved with another teen, or maintain intimacy with their partner.

Sharing without consent

Although girls and boys sext a similar amount, there are important differences in the perception of this behavior among youth.

Compared to boys, girls report feeling more pressure to sext, and also worry they will be judged harshly for sexting (e.g., slut shaming) or for not sexting (e.g., being called a "prude").

Boys, on the other hand, may see sexting as an opportunity to showcase their social status.

This double standard may create higher levels of distress for girls.

The moment the youth presses "send," they are trusting that the receiver will not share the images or videos without their consent. Sexting can become a problem when this trust is violated.

In many countries, it is illegal for a person to distribute an intimate photo without the explicit consent of the individual in the photo. Nonetheless, our research suggests that 12.5 percent of teens are forwarding intimate photos without the consent of the sender.

Coercion and "sextortion"

Taken together, several challenges can potentially arise. First, many teens may feel as though sexting is an expectation. Although likely not a warranted expectation, the idea that "my friends are doing it, then maybe I should do it" could be a strong peer motivator.

A second problem that may arise is when teens are coerced into sexting or when they are "sextorted" (when images or videos are used as a form of threat or blackmail).

Another problem is the idea of digital security. Teenage brains are still developing; their capacity to critically analyze the digital tools and apps they are using may not be enough to keep them safe.

Where are these images stored? Who, other than the intended recipient, has access to them? How long are they kept digitally? And, if I change my mind can I get them back?

These and many other questions are simply not at the forefront of the teenage mind -- nor, arguably, are they always in an adult's mind either, 53 per cent of whom engage in sexting themselves -- especially when these thoughts are competing with sexual interest and intimacy.

Parents should be proactive

Parents can keep their teens aware and informed by having open discussions -- about healthy dating relationships, peer pressure, digital security, sexuality and citizenship more broadly.

The general consensus is that parents and caregivers should be proactive, rather than protective and reactive, about talking to their teens about sexting. Preaching abstinence is not effective. As with the issue of safe sex, this should be an ongoing conversation with your child instead of a one off "talk."

In these discussions, it is important to emphasize digital citizenship. Broadly, digital citizenship encourages individuals to act in a way that is safe, legal and ethical -- in their online and digital interactions and behaviors.

This is also an opportunity for parents and caregivers to emphasize that digital citizenship applies to adults as well. And such conversations can provide an opening for discussing other sensitive issues with teens, such as sexuality.

It's also important to discuss strategies for dealing with peer pressure to engage in sexting. And to discuss the potential consequences of sending sexts. Parents should emphasize cause and effect for teens. Once the videos or images have been sent, the teen forfeits control of who sees it.

Sex and the digital world are two topics that can overwhelm parents and caregivers. Fortunately, there are some excellent resources on these issues to help guide conversations with your teens, including Digital Citizenship: Guide for Parents and Common Sense Media's Sexting Handbook.

If a parent or teen is concerned about videos and images being distributed without their consent, or if they are being coerced into sexting or sextorted, they should report their concerns immediately to their local police. In Canada, they can also consult and send a report to In the U.S., they can consult

img src="" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1"

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Pediatricians Call For Universal Depression Screening For Teens

February 26, 201812:03 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition



It's easy to mistake adolescent depression for something else, child psychiatrists say; the signs can include misbehavior, eating problems or sleep trouble.

Johner Bildbyra/Getty Images

Only about 50 percent of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood. And as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens don't get the care that could help them.

"It's a huge problem," says Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and associate professor at Columbia University.

To address this divide, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidelines this week that call for universal screening for depression.


The Risk Of Teen Depression And Suicide Is Linked To Smartphone Use, Study Says

"What we're endorsing is that everyone, 12 and up, be screened ... at least once a year," Zuckerbrot says. The screening, she says, could be done during a well-visit, a sports' physical or during another office visit.

Zuckerbrot helped write the guidelines, which have been in development for a while. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends depression screening, and many pediatricians have already woven the screenings into their practices.

"Teenagers are often more honest when they're not looking somebody in the face who's asking questions," about their emotional health Zuckerbrot says. So, most pediatricians use a self-reported questionnaire that teens fill out themselves, either on an electronic device or on paper.

"It's an opportunity for the adolescent to answer questions about themselves privately," she says.

The questionnaires contain a range of questions. For instance, one version, asks: 'Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems: feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Or, little interest or pleasure in doing things?' Teens are also asked questions such as, 'Are you having difficulty with sleep, either too much or too little?' 'Any problems with eating?'

The new recommendations also call for families with a depressed teen to develop a safety plan to restrict the young person's access to lethal means of harm. Suicide is a leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 17, and "adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability," according to an AAP report.

There's growing awareness in the U.S. of the need for young people to have good access to mental health care, says Dr. Doug Newton, a child psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. "As a nation this has become part of the dialogue; it increasing"

"People are aware of what's happening in our schools and the importance of mental health," Newton says. Kaiser Permanente has a stigma-reduction campaign called Find Your Words.

"Stigma is a huge challenge," he says, "specifically for adolescents. Often times they're not coming in to get help because of the stigma attached."

It's not easy to talk about depression, yet the problem is fairly common. During the teenage years, there's about a 20 percent [chance] of having depression or anxiety, research suggests.

"It's highly prevalent," Newton says. The goal of the "Find Your Words" campaign is to help make depression easier for everyone to talk about.

Another challenge to diagnosis is that families often don't detect depression, or they confuse it for something else.

"Sometimes teens are acting out or misbehaving," Zuckerbrot says. They're seen as being hostile or bad. "When, instead, they're really suffering from depression."

The Spiral Into Fentanyl

TRENDING beth ann clyde | JUNE 22, 2017

Rebecca* started experimenting with drugs when she was 14. Her friends were doing it and she wanted to try too. She started with weed and alcohol, but less than a year later, she began stealing Xanax from her mother and buying it from her boyfriend, a drug dealer.

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The couple broke up when Rebecca was 16 and she lost all their mutual friends. But she quickly found a new crowd—a group from Huntington High School—and a new boyfriend. He was a heroin dealer. Still reeling from the pain of her last break-up, Rebecca wanted to give it a try. It only took one use for her to become an addict.

“I felt completely numb, euphoric and detached from reality,” Rebecca recalled. It was exactly what she thought she needed.

Within a week her family sent her away to rehab for 10 months. It didn’t work. Neither did her next trip. Or the next one. Rebecca said she has been to rehab 20 times since 2013, completed 10 inpatient programs, been to jail three times and needs two hands to count the number of funerals she’s attended for friends who have overdosed on heroin. But none of that scared her and, at the age of 17, she realized she received a bag of heroin laced with something. She later learned it was fentanyl and people were dying from it. That didn’t scare her either.

“My addict brain would get excited about getting potent stuff and that it was going to do the job,” Rebecca said. “You get a certain warmth in your chest. It’s different than heroin, a different euphoria, more intense at once.”

Intense is an understatement. The anesthetic often used for surgery and to treat cancer patients in extreme pain is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Fentanyl is the latest wrinkle in an epidemic that, despite increased awareness over the last decade, is only getting worse. In 2016, a record 502 Long Islanders died from an opioid overdose. Nearly half (242) were related to fentanyl. As usual, Suffolk County was the hardest hit—180 people died from a fentanyl overdose, up from 86 in 2015, but this has yet to be explained.

“Now you have a whole class of people who take it to the next level and are actually seeking fentanyl. And heroin becomes like…a Tylenol,” said Steve Chassman, LCSW, CASAC the executive director of Long Island Center for Alcohol and Drug Dependency (LICADD).

I-Stop, a computerized system used to track prescription pill abuse, was introduced to halt widespread doctor shopping for medications like OxyCotin in 2013. It’s worked—sort of. Since then, rates of opioid prescriptions have droppednationwide and in New York—the first time there has been a decrease since 1996, the year OxyCotin hit the market. Yet overdose rates have continued to increase. Users began shifting to heroin, a cheaper, more potent alternative. To make their product more desirable, dealers began cutting heroin with fentanyl, an even less expensive but more potent option. Unlike heroin, which must be derived from poppies, fentanyl can be made in a lab, making it easier to produce.

“This is a business initiative [on the part of dealers],” said Chassman. “It’s cheap, it’s synthetic and it’s potent…[People] are doing three bags of heroin that are 80 percent pure, then getting one mixed with fentanyl. This is the greatest contributor to the overdose rates that have soared on Long Island.”

In an effort to lower rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that allowed NARCAN, an overdose-reversing drug, to be available in drug stores without a prescription. The hope was that by making it more accessible to addicts’ loved ones, it could save more lives. But because fentanyl is so powerful, overdose-reversing drugs like NARCAN don’t always work. Fentanyl floods the brain’s opioid receptor more quickly than heroin and binds more tightly to it, explained David Schlager, MD, who works in the psychiatry department of Stony Brook University Hospital. It can put the user past his or her lethal dose of opioids.

Why is This Happening?

Elected officials have asked Chassman why, despite the publicity and legislation, is the opioid epidemic is getting worse, not better. Chassman likes to call it the “billion-dollar question” and typically answers with another one: “Why are more Long Islanders, older and younger, trying to anesthetize themselves at a rate we’ve never seen?”

He has his theories: Social media bullying, technology forcing people to work far longer than the traditional 9 to 5, stress induced by watching crisis after crisis play out on 24-hour news networks.

“People are looking to self-medicate,” Chessman said. “These drugs are highly good at anesthetizing for fear, sadness, low self-esteem, harassment and social acceptance or lack thereof.”

Research on whether mental illnesses like depression can lead to addiction has been mixed. In 2012, researchers in Washington and California found that depressed people were about twice as likely as non-depressed people to misuse painkillers. A separate study published in 2015 found that adolescents were more likely to use prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons and become addicted. But last year, Harvard researchers found mood disorders did not increase someone’s chances of starting to use opioids. Nevertheless, they did conclude that a person with a mood disorder was twice as likely to continue to use prescription opioids after physical pain went away in an effort to mask emotional pain. And the slide from prescription painkillers to heroin and now to fentanyl is, at this point, an over-documented reality.

It’s also true that stress can lead to addictive behaviors. In 2008, director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Stress Center Rajita Sinha found that chronic stress or trauma can lead to an increase in stressor-produced cortisol in the brain. For adolescents, negative life events that can cause long-lasting stress include loss or divorce of parents, physical or emotional abuse. Trauma causes include physical and sexual abuse. To adapt, the brain essentially rewires itself. Sinha also found that stress can effect prefrontal functioning and lead to low behavioral and cognitive control, which can skew judgement.

Rebecca recalled suffering from anxiety in high school but not being able to get a grasp on her underlying issues.

“I didn’t know what was happening when I had anxiety attacks in class,” she said. “Then every time I went to treatment, It was like peeling the layers of onion, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil you have to address.”

Other factors, such as family history of addiction, can also increase someone’s likelihood of abusing drugs themselves. But Schlager doesn’t think mental health professionals should focus more on anxiety and depression issues when treating a current addict or one early in recovery.

“[Focusing on what the addict is masking] is overly emphasized and in some ways dangerous,” he said, adding that he frequently works with patients who think if they are treated for anxiety, they won’t need to use anymore. Though self-medication may be a reason someone initially uses a drug, “Once you get addicted to something it takes on a life of its own. The desire to use does not go away once you’re addicted.”

By not addressing the addiction as a separate issue from mood disorders, a patient remains a continued overdose risk. Schlager believes the desire to use, not the need to self-medicate, is the real reason we are still in the midst of a public health crisis that has allowed fentanyl to take hundreds of lives in the last year alone.

The Road to Recovery

An opioid addict must overcome a minimum of two hurdles to get and stay clean: the physical withdrawal and the mental cravings. The physical pain, which produces flu-like symptoms including vomiting, shaking, abdominal pain and muscle spasms typically lasts a week. Narcotic pain relievers like Suboxone and methadone can help lessen symptoms, but getting past physical withdrawal is only a fraction of the battle.

Kristie Golden, the associate director of operations, neurosciences, neurology, neurosurgery & psychiatry at Stony Brook University Hospital, said the amount of time it takes for an addict to get over mental cravings varies from person to person. For some, they never go away. It helps to explain the enormous relapse rates for opiate addiction. A 2010 study conducted by Irish researchers followed 109 opiate addicts in in-patient facilities. Ninety-nine relapsed after being discharged, including 64 within one week. Primary reasons included heavier opiate use prior to treatment and no aftercare.

It doesn’t help that the national average stay in an in-patient facility is only 11 to 14 days, and Chassman has seen addicts get discharged after just three or four days. “Insurance companies had a fiduciary interest in only allotting three or four days for treatment for heroin of fentanyl,” he said. The average in-patient stay for drug addiction can cost insurance companies $30,000 per month. Five days of heroin detoxification is about $3,000. Last year, Cuomo signed legislation that ended prior insurance authorization for immediate access to inpatient service. The law requires that a patient diagnosed with substance use disorder receive a minimum of 14 days of inpatient care if s/he is on an in-network insurance plan. It’s a start, but still barely enough time to get past physical symptoms. A two-week stay quickly puts addicts back around triggers before they have the mental wherewithal to withstand the pressure to relapse.

“In an ideal world it takes 90 days for the mind to re-route itself, to understand, ‘I have to develop and learn healthy coping skills and how to apply them,’” Chassman said. “But you run into the problem of who is paying for that?”

Vivitrol, which can be prescribed to a patient by a doctor after detox, is a monthly shot that can block the effects of opioids including feelings of well-being and physical pain relief. Approved by the FDA in 2010, there has not been much research on the long-term effects of the drug. And at $1000 per shot, it can be too pricy for all addicts.

In an attempt to reduce relapse rates at an accessible rate, The Family and Children’s Association opened THRIVE, a sober space for recovering addicts, in March. It is a free recovery space on Long Island and it provides education, counseling and activities for addicts and families on-site. The hope is to keep addicts away from the people, places and things that trigger them and provide them with a new community similar to the ones they find in 12-step programs.

“This is where people can go, old and young, and meet other people in recovery,” said Chassman, who advocated for the center with LICADD. “It’s unrealistic to say, ‘You’re addicted to the most powerful narcotic on the planet and when we release you after four days, don’t ever show another symptom.’”

Sometimes, an addict can’t even get one day in treatment. Nationwide, 23.1 million Americans needed treatment for drugs and alcohol in 2012. That’s 8 percent of the population. Only 2.5 million received it at a facility that specialized in drug and alcohol detox or rehabilitation, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That means 90 percent of addicts never received the help they needed. Rebecca remembered friends who called an in-patient center looking for help only to learn there was a wait list for a bed and Golden has heard the same from addicts who tried to get into an outpatient program. Golden said it’s often because as the crisis has grown, treatment centers have struggled to keep up, something Chassman believes has been fatal.

“If you’re ready and want [help] and the treatment center says, ‘Call back in 2 weeks’…There’s no two weeks. There’s only now,” he said. He added that LICADD has built connections with rehabilitation and detox facilities for six decades and uses them to help patients find treatment on-demand.

Time is always of the essence when treating opiate use—one bag of heroin laced with fentanyl can kill someone, even if it’s the first time they’re using. In an effort to catch the disease early and prevent it from happening in the first place, Stony Brook University Hospital rolled out a screening and prevention protocol SBIRT in February 2016. The program trains clinicians to screen patients for risky behavior that could indicate addiction or potential for addiction. During the training, providers are instructed to connect patients with resources, which can range from a support group to a NARCAN kit. All 11 hospitals in Suffolk County followed suit, as did Stony Brook’s primary care settings such as Family Medicine.

“Starting the conversation has not always been routine,” Golden said. “When you have primary care physicians routinely asking about alcohol and drug use, our hope is it will help those providers better understand their patients and to catch things earlier on in the person’s life in order to help them access whatever they need to prevent a lifetime of addiction.”

On June 14, the New York State Senate passed a bill package that added six new derivatives of fentanyl to the controlled substance list, which is regulated by the Department of Health. The package, which passed in Assembly and will now reach Governor Cuomo’s desk, also called for tighter penalties for dealers. Bill 2761, known as Laree’s Law, establishes that if a dealer sells a controlled opiate substance that results in someone’s death, s/he can be charged with homicide. If convicted, the dealer can spend up to life in prison. Currently, a dealer who sells a fatal dose of opiates is typically charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, which carries a sentence of 5 to 25 years depending on his or her record.

To get drugs off the streets, the Suffolk County Police Department introduced an anonymous hotline last year, which allows people to call in tips about drug rings and dealers to 631-852-NARC. It has led to 32 arrests since April 2016. The department understands the need for a multi-faceted approach and is also focusing on prevention. In 2015, it implemented drug education program The Ugly Truth. The program informs parents of signs of substance abuse, explains physical and emotional consequences of drug use and provides families and addicts with resources. Participants can also receive NARCAN training and take home a kit. The program has been presented about 50 times across Suffolk County, including schools and libraries. The department also instituted Project Medicine Cabinet, a drop-off receptacle where people can discard expired or unused medications, in each police precinct. The aim is to prevent people—and their families—from misusing the drugs which can lead to fentanyl and heroin abuse and overdose.

Even though time is of the essence, it can take a while for programs to take hold, which could explain why the problem is getting worse before it gets better. And a person has to be open to hearing the messages.

“I wasn’t ready to surrender,” recalled Rebecca. “I was just trying to please [my parents] or [go because] my habit got too expensive…I went for all the wrong reasons.” Rebecca had three weeks in recovery when we spoke and is planning to earn the last credit she needs to graduate high school. “This is the first time I’m taking the initiative. My parents gave up. They did the tough love thing. They did everything they could. It’s like, ‘Shit or get off the pot. This is your life.’”

* Name has been changed at person’s request

The LICADD 24/7 hotline for Suffolk County is 631-979-1700. Other New York state residents can also call 1-877-846-7369.

(CNN)The rate of teen drug overdose deaths in the United States climbed 19% from 2014 to 2015, from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 teens to 3.7 per 100,000, according to data released this week. The new numbers involve teens ages 15 to 19 and were released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Most of the overdose deaths were unintentional and driven primarily by opioids, including both prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone and illicit drugs such as heroin and street fentanyl.

Heroin's contribution to teen overdose deaths

Mirroring the larger population, there was a downward trend in overdose deaths from methadone and prescription opioids in recent years but an uptick in deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The rate of teen overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids has increased sevenfold from 0.1 deaths per 100,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2002 to 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin for this age group in 2015 was one for every 100,000 teens. That's three times what it was in 1999, when the rate was 0.3 overdose deaths for every 100,000.

The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey showed a continuing decline in the use of illicit substances -- marijuana, alcohol and tobacco -- and misuse of prescription drugs among teens. The annual survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The recent increases in teen overdose deaths come after a relatively stable period from 2007 to 2011 and then a slight decline from 2012 to 2014.

President Donald Trump, who recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, has said that one of the keys to combating the epidemic is reaching out to younger people.

"The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place," Trump said this month after a briefing with Cabinet members and advisers on the epidemic. "If they don't start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off. So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them 'no good, really bad for you in every way.' "

Although stories of teens using drugs and overdosing appear often in headlines, the number of teens dying from overdose is quite small. In 2015, 772 drug overdose deaths were reported for the 15- to 19-year-old age group. That represents just 1.4% of the 52,404 people who died of drug overdoses that same year. More than 33,000 of those deaths were from opioids.

We love to hear from our audience. Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter and Facebook for the latest health news and let us know what we're missing.

"The public and the media tend to think of our opioid addiction epidemic as having a greater impact on teens. But the reality is that older Americans, 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds, have been hit much harder," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.

Far more U.S. teens than previously thought are transgender or identify themselves using other nontraditional gender terms, with many rejecting the idea that girl and boy are the only options, new research suggests.

The study looked at students in ninth and 11th grade and estimated that nearly 3 percent are transgender or gender nonconforming, meaning they don't always self-identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. That includes kids who refer to themselves using neutral pronouns like "them" instead of "he" or "she."

"Diverse gender identities are more prevalent than people would expect," said lead author Nic Rider, a University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow who studies transgender health.

The study is an analysis of a 2016 statewide survey of almost 81,000 Minnesota teens.

Nearly 2,200 identified as transgender or gender nonconforming. The study found that these kids reported worse mental and physical health than other kids, echoing results seen in previous research. Bullying and discrimination are among possible reasons for the differences, Rider said, although the survey didn't ask.

Rider said it's a study based on a statewide population of teens in ninth and 11th grades and that the results can be used to estimate numbers of trans and gender nonconforming teens in those grades across the United States.

The study was published Monday in Pediatrics .

Although the study only included teens in two grades, the rates are higher than a UCLA study released last year estimating that 0.7 percent of teens aged 13 to 17 are transgender, or about 150,000 kids. That study used government data on adults to estimate numbers for children. It said 0.6 percent of U.S. adults identify as transgender, or about 1.4 million.

Some experts believe rising awareness of transgender issues has led increasing numbers of transgender teens to come out, or to experiment with gender identification.

"With growing trans visibility in the United States, some youth might find it safer to come out and talk about gender exploration," Rider said.

But differences in estimates may also reflect differences in how gender identity questions are phrased, Rider said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not asked about transgender status on its youth surveys, noting that it is difficult to find the right question to yield a credible answer.

The survey Rider analyzed asked about the sex the teens were assigned at birth, and if they considered themselves transgender, gender queer, gender fluid or unsure about their gender identity. Kids were not asked if they had undergone surgery or other medical treatment to transition to the opposite sex.

Dr. Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, wrote in an accompanying opinion article in Pediatrics that the study supports other research suggesting that earlier counts of the trans population "have been underestimated by orders of magnitude." He said that the higher numbers should serve as a lesson to schools and physicians to abandon limited views of gender.

"Youth are rejecting this binary thinking and are asking adults to keep up," he wrote.

Rider said to improve health disparities affecting transgender teens, doctors should help them feel more comfortable about seeking health care by asking how they identify and if they've experienced bullying, discrimination or other victimization. That's important, Rider said, "because this conveys competence, inclusivity, and caring."

That advice echoes American Academy of Pediatrics policy that says pediatricians should use gender-neutral terms and encourage teens to feel comfortable talking "about their emerging sexual identities."

Screen Addiction Among Teens: Is There Such A Thing?

February 5, 20185:00 AM ET

Look up from this screen right now. Take a look around. On a bus. In a cafe. Even at a stoplight. Chances are, most of the other people in your line of sight are staring at their phones or other devices. And if they don't happen to have one out, it is certainly tucked away in a pocket or bag.

But are we truly addicted to technology? And what about our kids? It's a scary question, and a big one for scientists right now. Still, while the debate rages on, some doctors and technologists are focusing on solutions.

"There is a fairly even split in the scientific community about whether 'tech addiction' is a real thing," says Dr. Michael Bishop. He runs Summerland, which he calls "a summer camp for screen overuse," for teens.

Dueling diagnoses

"Technology addiction" doesn't appear in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-V, published in 2013. That's the Bible of the psychiatric profession in the United States. The closest it comes is something called "Internet Gaming Disorder," and that is listed as a condition for further study, not an official diagnosis.

This omission is important not only because it shapes therapists' and doctors' understanding of their patients, but because without an official DSM code, it is harder to bill insurers for treatment of a specific issue.

The World Health Organization has, by contrast, listed "gaming disorder" as a disorder due to an addictive behavior in the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases, an internationally used diagnostic manual.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is the author of the 2016 book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids. When I ask him about the term "addiction" he doesn't miss a beat.

There are brain-imaging studies of the effects of screen time, he says. And he also has treated many teens who are so wrapped up in video games that they don't even get up to use the bathroom.

He says the evidence is clear, but we're not ready to face it.

"We have, as a society, gone all-in on tech," he says. "So we don't want some buzz-killing truth-sayers telling us that the emperor has no clothes and that the devices that we've all so fallen in love with can be a problem" — especially for kids and their developing brains, he adds.

Addiction may not be an official term in the U.S., at least not yet. But researchers and clinicians like Bishop, who avoid using it, are still concerned about some of the patterns of behavior they see.


What Kind of Screen Time Parent Are You? Take This Quiz And Find Out

"I came to this issue out of a place of deep skepticism: addicted to video games? That can't be right," said Dr. Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University, who has been researching the effects of media on children for decades.

But, "I've been forced by data to accept that it's a problem," he told me when I interviewed him for my book The Art of Screen Time. "Addiction to video games and Internet use, defined as 'serious dysfunction in multiple aspects of your life that achieves clinical significance,' does seem to exist."

Measuring problematic use

Gentile's definition doesn't address the question of whether media can cause changes in your brain, or create a true physical dependency.

It also doesn't address the question, raised by some of the clinicians I've spoken with, of whether media overuse is best thought of as a symptom of something else, such as depression, anxiety or ADHD. Gentile's definition simply asks whether someone's relationship to media is causing problems to the extent that they would benefit from getting some help.

Gentile was one of the co-authors of a study published in November that tried to shed more light on that question. The study has the subtitle "A Parent Report Measure of Screen Media 'Addiction' in Children." Note that the term addiction is in quotes here. In the study, researchers asked parents of school-aged children to complete a questionnaire based on the criteria for "Internet Gaming Disorder."

For example, it asked, is their preferred media activity the only thing that puts them in a good mood? Are they angry or otherwise unhappy when forced to unplug? Is their use increasing over time? Do they sneak around to use screens? Does it interfere with family activities, friendships or school?

The experts I've talked to say the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most, this study suggests, is your relationship to it, and that requires looking at the full context of life.

Seeking treatment

Though tech addiction isn't officially recognized yet in the United States, there are in-patient treatment facilities for teens that try to address the problem.

For my book, I interviewed a teenage boy who attended a wilderness therapy program in Utah called Outback.

"I started playing [video games] when I was around 9 years old," said Griffin, whose last name I didn't use to protect his privacy. He chose email over a phone interview. "I played because I found it fun, but after a while I played mostly because I preferred it over socializing and confronting my problems."

After he spent weeks hiking through the wilderness, his mother saw a lot of improvement in his demeanor and focus. However, Griffin came home to a reality where he still needed a laptop for high school and still used a smartphone to connect with friends.

Bishop, who runs two therapeutic Summerland camps in California and North Carolina, says the teens who come to him fall into two broad categories. There are the ones, overwhelmingly boys, who spend so much time playing video games that, in his words, they "fall behind in their social skills." Often they are battling depression or anxiety, or may be on the autism spectrum.

Then, there is a group of mostly girls who misuse and overuse social media. They may be obsessed with taking selfies — Bishop calls them "selfists" — or they may have sent inappropriate pictures of themselves or bullied others online.

Regardless of the problem, "We feel the issue is best conceptualized as a 'habit' over an 'addiction,' " Bishop says. "When teens think about their behavior as a habit, they are more empowered to change."

Labeling someone an addict, essentially saying they have a chronic disease, is a powerful move. And it may be especially dangerous for teens, who are in the process of forming their identities, says Maia Szalavitz.

Szalavitz is an addiction expert and the author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way Of Understanding Addiction. Based on her experience with drug and alcohol addiction, she thinks grouping kids together who have problems with screens can be counterproductive. Young people with milder problems may learn from their more "deviant peers," she says. For that reason, she would encourage families to start with individual or family counseling.

Different habits demand different approaches to treatment. People who have problematic relationships with alcohol, drugs or gambling can choose abstinence, though it's far from easy. Those who are binge eaters, however, cannot. They must rebuild their relationships with food while continuing to eat every day.

In today's world, technology may be more like food than it is like alcohol. Video games or social media may be avoidable, but most students need to use computers for school assignments, build tech skills for the workplace, and learn to combat distraction and procrastination as part of growing up.

How can people, especially young people, forge healthier relationships with technology while continuing to use it every day? Some technologists believe that what has to happen is a change in the tech itself.

A public health approach

Tristan Harris is the founder of Time Well Spent, an organization dedicated to pushing for more "humane" technology. A former "design ethicist" at Google, he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he saw the tech industry turning toward something "less and less about actually trying to benefit people and more and more about how do we keep people hooked. "

In other words, as long as these companies make their money from advertising, they will have incentive to try to design products that maximize the time you spend using them, whether or not it makes your life better. Harris' solution is to pressure the industry to turn to new business models, such as subscription services. "We're trying to completely change the incentives away from addiction, and the way to do that is to change the business model."

Along with Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that offers parents research and resources on kids' media use, they are currently launching a "Truth About Tech" campaign that Harris compares to anti-smoking campaigns exposing the workings of Big Tobacco.

Fighting tech with tech

For over a decade Gabe Zichermann was a self-described "cheerleader" for what's called "gamification." He consulted with the world's largest corporations and governments on how to make their products and policies as compelling as a video game.

But, he says, "There was a moment I realized that things had gone too far." He was in a restaurant and looked around and saw "literally everyone was looking at their phones." Zichermann started thinking about his family history and about his own relationship to technology.

He realized that his work up to that point had been contributing to some serious social problems. Like Harris, he is concerned that in a world of ubiquitous and free content, platform and device makers make more money the more time you spend on screens.

This, he says, results in "a ton of compulsive behavior" — around everything from pornography to World of Warcraft to Facebook. Feeling "partially responsible," Zichermann set out to create an anti-addiction app.

It's called Onward, and it has a number of different features and approaches in both free and paid modes.

It can simply monitor in the background and give you a report of your use, which for some people, says Zichermann, is enough to motivate change. Or it can share that report with someone else — say, a parent — for accountability (the app is rated for use by 13-year-olds and above).

Or, say you want to stop browsing Facebook during business hours. The paid mode of the app allows you to block Facebook, but it can also monitor in the background to try to predict when you might be about to surf there. "The idea is that when the drink is in your hand, it's too late," says Zichermann.

In that moment, the app serves up an intervention like a breathing exercise, or an invitation to get in touch with a friend. Zichermann calls this, "a robot sitting on your shoulder — the angel of your good intention."

The company has partnered with both UCLA Health and Columbia University Medical Center to research the efficacy of the app, and Zichermann says they plan to seek FDA approval as a so-called "digiceutical."

In essence, Zichermann is trying to gamify balance — to keep score and offer people rewards for turning away from behavior that's become a problem.

The word "addiction" may currently be attracting controversy, but you don't need a doctor's official pronouncement to work on putting the devices down more often — or to encourage your kids to do so as well.

E-cigarettes may indeed help smokers quit, according to a new report from a top research group, but at the same time they may pose a real threat of nicotine addiction -- and, possibly even a gateway to cigarette use -- for teens and young adults.

The report, released by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), reveals the conundrum facing doctors, researchers and others who have been trying to pin down whether these relatively new devices constitute a public health boon or threat.

Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

A smoker is engulfed by vapors as he smokes an electronic vaping machine during lunch time in central London, Aug. 9, 2017.

What research finds is in many ways a double-edged sword. According to the report, which looked at the body of evidence on these devices so far, e-cigarettes are a far better alternative to conventional smoking, and possibly even a useful smoking cessation aid for those looking to quit. But young adults who start using e-cigs may be more likely to take up conventional smoking in the future, the group warned.

E-cigarettes may help smokers quit after all

Currently, millions of Americans use e-cigarettes, and as a result, the devices have become the most common tobacco product used by young adults -- and a multibillion-dollar industry.

“There is [some] limited evidence of e-cigs being effective as smoking cessation aids,” said Dr. David Eaton, chair of the committee that published the report. But, he cautioned, e-cigarettes have not been around long enough to assess their effect on long-term problems such as cancer and heart or lung disease.

Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

An attendant demonstrates Japan Tobacco Inc.'s Ploom Tech smokeless tobacco device for a photograph during a media preview at the company's Ploom Shop Ginza in Tokyo, June 28, 2017.more +

Plus, he said, the studies the committee reviewed indicated that young adults using these products had a higher risk of smoking cigarettes at some point -- though the picture was not as clear when it came to whether their risks of becoming a lifelong smoker were higher if they used e-cigarettes.

Industry groups, however, disputed the idea that these devices were a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes.

Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association industry group, called the report’s findings that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional cigarette smoking for young adults “absolutely untrue,” calling the devices an “absolutely vastly less harmful product” when compared to conventional smoking.

The NAS report was commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help better inform regulators and the public on how best to deal with this evolving field. The report also notes that e-cigarettes contain less toxins than conventional cigarettes, but also that they likely contain a similar amount of nicotine -- though this can vary depending on type of e-cigarette device used.

From getting beyond drunk at a friend’s party, to some seriously questionable outfit choices, teenagers often do things that seem outlandishly stupid. But we now know why: the areas of the brain that control decision-making don’t fully develop until early adulthood.

A teen’s developing brain places them at greater risk of being reactive in their decision-making, and less able to consider the consequences of their choices. So how can parents help their teenagers learn and apply good decision-making skills?

The difference between what teenagers know and do

Most children demonstrate an understanding of “right” and “wrong” behaviour from an early age. As language develops, children are able to give clear reasons as to why certain behaviours are undesirable.

But children and teenagers have been found to be poor decision-makersif they feel pressured, stressed or are seeking attention from peers.

So it’s reasonable to expect a 15-year-old to know they should not steal. But they are less adept at choosing not to steal in the presence of coaxing peers whom they wish to impress.

The difference between what teenagers know and what they choose can be explained in terms of “cold” and “hot” situations. Cold situations are choices made during times of low emotional arousal. During these periods, teenagers are able to make well-reasoned and rational decisions.

Hot situations refer to choices during periods of high emotional arousal (feeling excited, anxious, or upset).

Teenagers may not make the decision they know is right if they’re pressured, stressed or seeking approval from mates.Unsplash/steinar engeland, CC BY

Hot situations increase the chance of teenagers engaging in risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviours, with little self-control or consideration of the possible consequences of their actions.

The impact of emotional arousal on decision-making explains why teenagers might discuss, for example, the negative consequences associated with drinking and drug-taking, but then engage in those very behaviours when with friends.

The biology of bad decision making in teens

Brain studies show the frontal lobe – which is responsible for decision-making, impulse control, sensation-seeking, emotional responses and consequential thinking – does not finish developing until our early-to-mid 20s.

The regions of the human brain. from

The relationship between brain development and the risk of making poor choices, particularly during hot situations, is referred to as psychosocial maturity.

Research has shown youth aged 12 to 17 years are significantly less psychosocially mature than 18 to 23 years who are also less psychosocially mature than adults (24 and older).

Overall, teenagers’ psychosocial immaturity makes them more likely to:

• seek excitement and engage in risk-taking behaviour

• make choices on impulse

• focus on short-term gains

• have difficulty delaying gratification

• be susceptible to peer pressure

• fail to anticipate consequences of their choices.

Helping teenagers make good decisions

Gradual increases in autonomy and practice with independent decision-making are vital for teenagers to become confident adults with good emotional and social well-being. Although parents know poor choices are part of becoming an adult, most want to protect their teenager from making very serious, or illegal, choices.

Good decision-making skills can be learned, and there are six key steps parents can employ to encourage better teen decision-making:

  1. Be aware of upcoming events that may present teenagers with decisions that need to be made. Listen to their expectations about the events (such as whether they expect to drink alcohol)
  2. Present scenarios which may present a risk, or will require a decision (such as missing the train home, friends becoming intoxicated) to explore healthy, or safer choices
  3. Encourage your teenager to stop and think. Help them recognise “when in the moment” to temporarily remove themselves from a situation to help them make decisions away from direct pressures (go to the bathroom, make a phone call, text a friend)
  4. Provide a decision-making compass. Although teenagers are not able to consider all of the potential consequences of a situation, to check whether a decision is a good one, get them to consider whether they would tell you about their decision (“would I want mum/dad/grandma/grandpa to know about what I’m about do?”)
  5. Remind teenagers to ask for help. They don’t have to make choices alone. Ensure they save contact details of people who can be available to talk through options if they’re in a difficult situation (siblings, parents, or extended family)
  6. Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Teenagers may make some wrong choices. Use these lived experiences to generate discussion about where the decision making went wrong, and how to make better choices in the future.

Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices -- playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting -- were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.

Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

"Although this study can't show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use," said Twenge, author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -- And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood."

Total screen abstinence doesn't lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

"The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use," Twenge said. "Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising -- two activities reliably linked to greater happiness."

Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens. Specifically, young people's life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That's the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

"By far the largest change in teens' lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep," she said. "The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens' psychological well-being."

What teens wish their parents knew about social media

By Ana Homayoun January 9

When teens were asked, recently, if they believe their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what they do or say online, or even what social-media apps and sites they use, more than a quarter of them agreed.

After visiting schools around the country, it seems to me they’re likely giving their parents a bit too much credit. When I ask audiences at parent education nights how many have ever used Snapchat, or Tbh, few if any hands go up.

I’ve interviewed middle school and high school students about secrets they wish parents knew about their online use, but don’t necessarily want to tell them. These are three of the secrets students shared:

  1. “When you take away one device at night, you might not realize how many devices we still have with us.” Access to smartphones has shifted communication for teens, and self-regulation can be difficult. The fear of missing out (FOMO) can create an overwhelming desire to be connected — in fact, according to 2015 Pew Research, 94 percent of teens go online daily, which isn’t surprising, and 24 percent of teens feel as though they are online constantly. Encouraging kids to find effective ways to self-regulate is sometimes about getting their buy-in — that is, encouraging them to reflect on the impact their daily online habits are having on their personal, academic and extracurricular goals.
  2. [Melinda Gates spent her career in technology. She wasn’t prepared for its effect on her kids.]
  3. “Many of us have a fake Instagram account.” A parent recently told me she had full control over her ninth-grade son’s online interactions. She explained that he didn’t even know the password for his Instagram account, and that if he wanted to post something, he had to go through her. I quietly surmised that her son might be hiding some of his online activities from her. If kids are online, parents are usually more effective acting as mentors than as micromanagers. Having open-ended conversations rather than wielding authoritative control enables kids to build the critical thinking skills needed to make smarter decisions online and in-real-life. For some kids, a finsta (“fake” Instagram) or a rinsta (“real” Instagram) might be where they feel they can share their raw, authentic feelings, even though they don’t always realize that anything shared online has the potential for a greater audience, amplified consequences or longer shelf-life. It’s up to parents to find a way in, not through coercion, but through conversation.
  4. “If we are passionate or angry about something, we take it to social media.” Young people want their opinions to be heard. Many tweens and teens find their online communities are engaging, interactive and responsive. A message or Snapchat sent to a friend can result in an instant reply, and something posted to a group chat or online profile can create the opportunity for community-level conversation and engagement. Responses from friends and followers make kids feel heard and listened to, which is often critically important for those who simply want acknowledgment and validation (this isn’t, of course, much different for adults). At the same time, we know that teens’ and tweens’ brains are still developing and that kids often lack impulse control and the ability to understand the long-term consequences of decisions made in moments of anger and frustration. Parents who empathize with the challenges their children face can help them devise smarter, healthier ways to self-filter before posting.

And here are several things they’d like their parents to do:

  1. “Talk with us about the apps we like to use and why. Most of you have no idea about our world.” One of my students recently told me how a group of nine of her friends from school were using family tracking apps to monitor one another. When she and a few of her friends wanted to hang out or were all in the same place, there would be a continual stream of social pressure, guilt and shame from others who weren’t invited (“Why are you hanging out without us? Guess you think you’re too cool for us?”). Her parents had no idea that some of their teen daughter’s friends were essentially stalking her. Many apps have geolocation features, and parents don’t realize the new level of potential pressure (and danger) these on-all-the-time experiences can bring. Ultimately, my student removed herself from the tracking group when she decided the stress she was experiencing wasn’t worth it. A tip? Ask your kids which apps they spend the most time on (or check their phone’s data usage). Download those apps and spend time learning the ins and outs.
  2. “Help us keep an eye on who is following us.” Even when kids keep social media accounts private or provide restricted access, anyone can request to follow or friend them and potentially have full access to their postings. In a world where likes, loves, comments and follower counts have become a barometer for popularity, teens might find it difficult to turn away potential followers, even when they should. Parents and educators should encourage teens and tweens to curate access to their accounts.
  3. “Accept that there are lots of good things on social media — it is not all bad stuff.” Social media isn’t good or bad — it is a new form of communication and language that adults need to learn, because pretending it doesn’t exist generally isn’t a wise approach. When adults express genuine curiosity and compassion about the positive experiences associated with online interactions, kids are more likely to confide in them about the intertwining nature of their online and in-real-life experiences. Positive, supportive online communities can make a world of difference to kids who have moved to a new area, or who don’t feel particularly connected to their school community, or who aren’t able to attend school because of illness.
  4. “Talk with us about sexting and healthy relationships in a way that isn’t awkward.” Tweens and teens who are socializing and navigating relationships online and in-real-life face challenges unheard of in previous generations. Some might mistakenly confuse the sending of explicit photos and messages with a level of intimacy that might not exist, and others might not fully understand the long-term social, emotional and legal consequences of sending, sharing and storing explicit photos (parents, check your local laws). According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project, teens may benefit from conversations focused on promoting the skills needed to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

If we want teens and tweens to adopt better habits and healthier choices online and in-real life, we have to change how we talk about the social world, both online and in-real-life. In the end, promoting social media wellness is all about developing awareness and encouraging open communication, because teens who perceive their parents are unaware are less likely to seek their parents’ guidance and support in times of need — and that’s not a secret we want them to keep.

Teens eat laundry detergent in new social media 'challenge'

Tide warns consumers not to dine on laundry pods

By Carianne Luter - Associate producer

Posted: 1:32 PM, January 10, 2018Updated: 5:42 PM, January 10, 2018

MIAMI - A new social media trend is causing health concerns: attention-starved teens are scarfing down laundry detergent pods.

Online “memes” feature photos depicting the laundry pods as a pizza topping or breakfast cereal. Videos appear to show people biting into the detergent pacs and spitting them out.

Online users joke about how "tasty" the pods look... in some cases, even calling them the "forbidden fruit."

Medical experts say the consequences of ingesting these products can be dire. As CNN reports, the packets can cause vomiting, throat burns and eye injuries, among other issues.

In March 2017, College Humor posted a videoabout eating laundry pods. The end of the video shows a guy devouring a bowl of laundry pods before he is carted off into an ambulance saying, "I don't regret it."

A spokesperson for Tide says its laundry pacs are only meant to clean clothes. The company released the following statement:

“Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes, and they're used safely in millions of households every day. They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children.”

"We have seen no indication of an increase of cases seeking medical treatment amongst infants and teenagers associated with the recent uptick in social media conversation or in consumer calls.”

If you're concerned about this or other hazards, Floridians can call 1-800-222-1222 any time of day to be connected to the appropriate poison center.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.

Letter to the Editor: Help Keep Teens Safe This Holiday Season


Photo: Wayside Youth & Family Support Network logo.

You might know me as the “Slices of Life” columnist, or as Minutes Recorder for various Belmont committees, but I’m also a Public Health Educator, now working with Wayside Youth & Family Support Network to oversee Belmont’s implementation of grants focused on drug/alcohol use and mental health disorders. In that capacity, and as a fellow Belmont parent, I thought I’d share some of Wayside’s tips for helping to keep our teens safe this holiday season.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered several years ago in Belmont, revealed that approximately one-third of our teenage students admitted they are drinking. Most are getting their alcohol from older siblings, older friends, or home. In many instances, their parents do not know how much they drink – or even that they drink at all.

This is not only illegal, it’s dangerous. Teen alcohol use can lead to unsafe behaviors that puts our kids’ health and safety at risk. Due to their developing brains, teens tend to drink too much when they drink. And those who drink endanger more than themselves: teens who drink put themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning, car crashes, injuries, violence, or unprotected and/or unwanted sex.

As a parent of three teens, I thought I would share the following tips to reduce teen drinking:

  • Keep alcohol in a secure location, preferably in locked cabinets. Even if you trust your teen, their friends may be tempted by what’s available in your home.
  • If you are hosting a party, do not leave unsupervised alcohol around where it is accessible to underage guests. And tell other relatives not to serve alcohol to your child under the age of 21.
  • Let your child know what you expect. Tell your teen that adults may be drinking during the holidays, but under no circumstances is he/she allowed to drink alcohol.
  • If your child is attending a party, check on the details. Find out if there will be parental supervision, and be sure no alcohol will be available at the parties that your teen will be attending. Wait up to greet your child when he/she arrives home at curfew time.
  • Never serve alcohol to anyone under 21, and don’t allow children to serve alcohol to others. It is illegal to serve or provide alcohol to underage youth, or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. (See the Social Host Liability Law:
  • Make sure not to leave your teenagers home alone if you go out of town. Word gets out quickly and a drinking party can develop, sometimes without your child’s consent.
  • Do not relax your family rules with your own teens during the holidays; it can be difficult to return to previous expectations.

Did you know that for every year a teen does not use alcohol, the odds of lifelong dependence decrease by 15 percent? That’s worth keeping in mind. Avoidance now is an investment in the lifelong health of our teens.

Please do what you can to reduce youth access to alcohol; it really does take a village!

If I can be of support to you or your teens, please contact me at

Maryland teen found in stream died of alcohol poisoning, complicated by hypothermia and drowning

A memorial in votive candles near the wooded area in the Bannockburn neighborhood of Bethesda, where police said the body of Navid Nicholas Sepehri, 17, was found. (Dan Morse/The Washington Post)

By Dan Morse December 15

The Bethesda teenager found dead in a frigid stream last weekend died of acute alcohol intoxication, complicated by hypothermia and drowning, an official at Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Friday.

The death was ruled accidental, said Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the office.

The findings are consistent with what police and family members have said about what was known of the final hours of Navid Nicholas Sepehri, 17, who went to a party Saturday night, drank vodka, set off walking and never came home.

Navid’s father, Frank Sepehri, found his son’s body in a patch of water the next day. Police officials have been looking at their officers’ interactions with the teen and his father, who each crossed paths with police during a five-hour window Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Navid Nicholas Sepehri’s father found him dead on Sunday. Officials say he suffered from alcohol poisoning and drowned. (Family Photo)

“We want to determine exactly what the actions of our officers were,” Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said this week.

He said his heart went out to the family of the senior at Walt Whitman High School. “I just can’t imagine the pain they’re going through,” the chief said.

Around 7 p.m. Saturday, Navid Sepehri left his home in Bethesda — the last time his family saw him alive. He apparently met up with friends and at some point headed to a teenage party at a house on Elgin Lane in Bethesda.

Police said the homeowners grew concerned that uninvited teenagers had shown up with alcohol. The homeowners asked a group of teens to call their parents for rides home.

Around the same time, police received a call about noise from the party. Officers arrived to find youths scurrying off into yards, police said. Officers spoke with a small group of teens who stayed outside the home on the street, including Navid Sepehri. The teens told the officers they were waiting for rides, according to a police statement, and officers had found no evidence the homeowners had provided alcohol.

Later, after Sepehri didn’t return home, his father began driving to search for him as the night grew colder.

In the first hour of Sunday, temperatures in the region were around 31 degrees with a wind chill of 25 degrees.

At about 3:23 a.m. Sunday, Frank Sepehri drove into the parking lot of a county police station in Bethesda and spoke with an officer, according to his account and a police account.

For reasons that are still not clear, the officer did not take a missing-person report, and Frank Sepehri returned to his search.

The information released Friday by the Medical Examiner’s Office did not address at what time the 17-year-old died.

Police received a missing-person report about Navid Sepehri at 12:46 p.m. Sunday, and searched for the teenager. His father also kept searching, and found his son just before 5 p.m. Sunday in the stream in a wooded ravine behind some homes.

Drug Overdose Deaths Continue to Soar

By Steve Sternberg, Senior Writer | Dec. 15, 2017, at 10:39 a.m.

The nation's opioid epidemic continues to spiral out of control, with synthetic opiates such as fentanyl continuing to drive the death toll higher, the latest government statistics show.

At least 66,324 people died of drug overdoses during the 12-month period ending in May 2017, up 17 percent from the 56,488 who died between May 2015 and May 2016, according to data released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics.

That's a population roughly equivalent to Union City, New Jersey, or Portland, Maine.

"It's obviously really terrible news," says Christopher Ruhm, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia. "This tells us the situation, if anything, seems to be accelerating."

[NIH Survey: Alcohol, Marijuana and Vaping Top Students’ 2017 Drug Use]

The new tally backs up provisional estimates, released over the summer, indicating that overdose deaths during the 12-month period ending in May 2017 topped the 58,000 U.S. military deaths that occurred during the Vietnam War.

Deaths from synthetic, non-methadone opioids like fentanyl – 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin – climbed steeply in 2016, rocketing past heroin during the summer of that year.

"This is a problem that until a couple of years ago we associated with prescription opioids," Ruhm says. "Now it has moved into illegal ones, such as heroin and fentanyl."

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 23,000 people died of overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetics, accounting for nearly a third of overdose fatalities in the latest count. That's nearly double the number from the previous 12-month period. During the same period, heroin overdoses accounted for 15,525 deaths; prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Percocet, were linked to 14,647 deaths.

The agency's data are provisional, drawn from death certificates entered into the National Vital Statistics System from the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The actual totals are likely to be even higher because up to 5 percent of cases in some jurisdictions may still be under investigation.

Data released this week in America's Health Rankings, a state-level health rankings project sponsored by the United Health Foundation, offers another window into the nation's escalating drug problem. The rankings also rely on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NCHS, but analysis tallies drug death rates overall and by state.

Nationwide, drug deaths rose 7 percent in the last year from 14 to 15 per 100,000. The drug death rate among men is 18.7 deaths per 100,000, significantly higher than the rate for women at 11.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

Over the past five years, the biggest increases in drug deaths have occurred in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

Massachusetts represents a tragic paradox, says Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. Perennially ranked among the healthiest states, Massachusetts has the highest concentration of mental health professionals in the U.S. – a total of 547 per 100,000 residents – yet it also had a 69 percent increase in drug deaths over the last five years.

The state's soaring rate, Randall says, raises critical questions about what's being done there to bring the epidemic under control and to help those affected by it.

Ruhm says that federal, state and local health officials may be vocal about the magnitude of the problem – in October, President Donald Trump declared opioid addiction a public health crisis – but they're not taking adequate steps to bring the epidemic under control.

"We're in the process of passing enormous tax cuts that are going to raise the federal deficits," Ruhm says. "They're going to need to cut Medicare and Medicaid to address the budget crisis they're creating. That's not the response I would hope to see."

One remedy that shows promise are lawsuits brought against opioid producers and distributors by persons injured by opioids and by federal, state and local governments and Native American tribes, report Rebecca Haffajee of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor and Michelle Mello of Stanford University Law School. A class action lawsuit filed against Purdue Pharma in Canada by patients who were prescribed, and took, OxyContin and controlled-release oxycodone may soon be settled for $20 million, if all involved provinces agree. The Canadian plaintiffs' allegations are similar to those in many U.S. cases, the authors say.

The goal of the government lawsuits is to win restitution that can be used to buttress services stretched to the breaking point by opioid addiction, the authors write in the New England Journal of Medicine. The money could fund opioid addiction treatment programs, law-enforcement efforts and support services for people recovering from addiction, such as housing and employment assistance. The strategy is legally appealing because it counters defenses that seek to deflect blame onto opioid users or prescribers, the authors say, adding that they also reap "substantial publicity."

The New York Times

Marijuana and Vaping Are More Popular Than Cigarettes Among Teenagers


The Juul brand e-cigarette, which resembles a flash drive, is popular among underage vapers. Conventional cigarette smoking has dropped so sharply among American teenagers that marijuana use and vaping are now more common. CreditSuzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe, via Getty Images

Cigarette smoking has dropped so sharply among American teenagers that vaping and marijuana use are now more common, according to a national survey of adolescent drug use released Thursday.

The report, sponsored by the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse and administered by the University of Michigan, found that 22.9 percent of high school seniors said they had used marijuana within the previous 30 days and 16.6 percent had used a vaping device. Only 9.7 percent had smoked cigarettes.

The survey of 43,703 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students in public and private schools nationwide raised concerns about the popularity of vaping devices, available in countless styles to appeal to different social groups. But it was otherwise optimistic. It found that teenagers’ consumption of most substances — including alcohol, tobacco, prescription opioids and stimulants — has either fallen or held steady at last year’s levels, the lowest rates in 20 years.

By contrast, rates of marijuana use have remained largely consistent, with occasional small shifts, in recent years. (Studies show, however, that marijuana rates have risen among young adults in the last decade.)

“We’re impressed by the improvement in substance use by all teenagers,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the institute.

Still, Dr. Compton continued, “we don’t yet know about the health problems in vaping.”

Vaping devices, which typically vaporize substances into an inhalant, are perceived by some experts as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes because they do not include carcinogens that come with burning tobacco. But Dr. Compton said, “The concern is that it may represent a new route for exposure to nicotine and marijuana.”

The devices are typically sold with nicotine. But when 12th-graders were asked what they believed was in the mist they had vaped most recently, 51.8 percent said “just flavoring.” When asked about use in the past month, one in 20 12th-graders said they had used marijuana in vaping devices and one in 10 said nicotine.

Cassie Poncelow, a school counselor at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colo., has noticed an upsurge in vaping across all social groups.

“We’re seeing a ton of it,” she said. The devices are readily accessible and easy to conceal, she added.

“Kids are taking hits on their vape pens in the hallways and nobody notices,” Ms. Poncelow said, noting that some devices resemble flash drives, which students plug into laptops to recharge.

But educators and public health officials praised the drop in tobacco use. Dr. Compton noted that in 1996, 10.4 percent of eighth graders reported smoking cigarettes daily. By 2017, that figure fell to 0.6 percent. In 1997, daily smoking among 12th graders peaked at 24.6 percent. By 2017, only 4.2 percent smoked cigarettes daily.

Thomas J. Glynn, a former director of cancer science at the American Cancer Society and an adjunct lecturer at Stanford University School of Medicine, hailed the continuing tobacco decline as “an astounding accomplishment in public health.”

“But,” he added, “it doesn’t mean we close the door and go home now.”

While noting that the data on vaping devices as a gateway to cigarettes is inconclusive, he added, “I think we have to have alarms out.”

Dr. Compton attributed the tobacco decline to many factors, including strong public health antismoking campaigns, higher cigarette prices and peer pressure not to smoke. Students in all grade levels reported that they viewed cigarettes and alcohol as distasteful and a serious health risk.

Similar explanations have been given for dropping rates of alcohol use, especially binge drinking. Students have become more self-conscious about the possibility of their drunken images being posted on social media, experts say, which can tarnish reputations and college eligibility.

But marijuana? Not so much.

In the report, only 14.1 percent of 12th graders said they saw a “great risk” from smoking marijuana occasionally. In 1991, 40.6 percent of seniors held that view. In 2017, nearly 24 percent of students in all three grades said they had used marijuana over the past year, a rate that has stayed relatively stable in recent years.

Allison Kilcoyne, who directs a health center at a high school in a Boston suburb, has seen firsthand the evidence of the survey’s marijuana findings. Persuading students about marijuana’s risk is tricky, said Ms. Kilcoyne, a family nurse practitioner, especially in a state that permits medical marijuana.

“They perceive there are no negative effects,” Ms. Kilcoyne said. “I talk about the impact on their developing brain and the risk of learning to smoke marijuana as a coping mechanism. We have other interventions, I say. But the problem is that for them, it works. They’re feeling immediate relief of whatever symptoms they have. They’re medicating themselves.”

Yet while marijuana use among high school seniors has not declined, it has also not increased in recent years. Given that fewer students hold marijuana in disregard, researchers are perplexed but relieved that use of marijuana has not kept pace with attitudes toward it.

“Drug use tends to go hand in hand with perceptions of risk and approval,” said Ty S. Schepis, an associate professor of psychology at Texas State University who studies adolescent and young adult drug use.

But approving of marijuana may not necessarily translate in such a manner, he said. “I’ve had friends who like to go sky diving. I would never go sky diving. There are certain activities that we may quietly condone or tacitly approve, even though the majority still may not want to engage in it.”

Teens don't realize how much their parents track them online

Brett Molina, USA TODAYPublished 8:00 a.m. ET Dec. 13, 2017 | Updated 9:52 a.m. ET Dec. 13, 2017

These ten questions can help determine if your child is really prepared to have their own online device. USA TODAY

More than a quarter of parents use a device to track or monitor their kids' online activity, finds a survey from Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey.

It's far more than the percentage of teens — 15% — who think their parents are tracking or monitoring what they do online.

Whether all that snooping is effective seems unclear. Only 30% of teens who responded to the survey said their parents were "extremely" aware or "very aware" of what they do online. By comparison, 52% of parents believed they were very aware of their kids' web activity.

"There’s a pretty big difference between parents who say they know and what kids say parents know," said Michael Robb, director of research for Common Sense Media.

The online survey from Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey was among a national sample of 884 teens ages 14-17 and 3,282 parents of teens.

Options for tracking kids' online activities vary from tools for your router capable of tracking the websites users visit to apps letting you review your child's smartphone call logs and text messages.

Devorah Heitner, author of the book Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) In Their Digital World, suggests mentoring kids about best online practices instead of monitoring. If parents do choose to monitor, they should talk with their kids first.

"You have to really ask yourself what you think you’re going to learn by covertly monitoring your kid," she said. "What’s your plan of action if you see something that concerns you?"

As smartphones and social media continue to infiltrate our daily lives, questions have surfaced over when it's too young for kids to participate.

YouTube has been criticized for how it filters content following reports parents were able to find inappropriate videos on its YouTube Kids app.

Earlier this month, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said "bad actors" were exploiting YouTube's system.

Last week Facebook rolled out Messenger Kids, a version of its messaging app for the under-13 crowd. The app allows younger kids to have their own experience on Messenger, but controlled and monitored through their parents' account.

Facebook isn't the biggest worry for parents, however. Other findings from the survey:

- Snapchat is the app that causes the most anxiety for parents. The survey found 29% said the messaging apps makes them most nervous, followed by Facebook at 16%.

- Teens don't like Facebook as much as Snapchat or Instagram. More than three-quarters of teens said they use both messaging apps, but only 49% said they use Facebook, while 42% said they use Twitter.

Robb said Common Sense Media plans to partner with Survey Monkey on future online polls because the pace of technology is so rapid. "These surveys will be a quicker way to take the pulse of parents and teens."

Eyewitnesses claim teen was at underage drinking party before death

Multiple witnesses said Bethesda High School senior Navid Sepehri attended an underage drinking party and appeared to be highly intoxicated just before his disappearance. He was found dead Sunday.

Scott Broom, WUSA 6:27 PM. EST December 11, 2017

BETHESDA, MD. (WUSA9) - A 17-year old Walt Whitman High School senior was seen at an underaged drinking party appearing to be highly intoxicated before his mysterious death, according to at least four teens who say they were at the party.

The teens asked to remain anonymous and declined to be quoted directly.

Seventeen-year-old Navid Sepehri was found dead in a forest near the Bannockburn Swim Club in the 6500 block of Laverock Lane in Bethesda about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday after a day-long search.

He had not been seen since late the night before, the witnesses said.

The death appeared to be from accidental causes, according to a letter sent to the Whitman community by principal Alan Goodwin.

Police have not determined a cause of death and are waiting for results of an autopsy from the Maryland Medical Examiner.

Montgomery County police were called to a nearby home on Elgin Drive the night before Sepehri's disappearance after a caller alleged there was a large underage drinking party occurring at the house, which included a bonfire.

According to a parent of a teen, police broke up the party.

Teen witnesses said Sepheri had been seen walking with friends in the neighborhood after the party.

Sepehri's body was discovered after teens gave police information on a possible location from friend tracking apps they shared with Sepehri on their phones, according to a parent with knowledge of the search who asked not to be quoted directly.

© 2017 WUSA-TV

A Long Island college student died after being found slumped over at a house party off of a State University of New York campus with a fatally toxic mix of drugs and alcohol in his bloodstream over the weekend, according to a published report.

SUNY Oneonta freshman Daniel William Michaels, of Dix Hills, died from cardiac arrest after someone noticed him unconscious on a couch at a house where members of a fraternity lived early on Saturday, according to The Daily Star of Ostego County.

School officials say the fraternity, Alpha Pi, isn't recognized by SUNY Oneonta.

A coroner said preliminary toxicology report indicates that Michaels, who was studying business and economics, had a mix of amphetamines, benzodiazepines and alcohol in his system. A full toxicology report is set to be released in four to six weeks.

Top Tri-State News Photos

According to the newspaper, students called 911 after someone picking up another student saw Michaels on the couch. But before police arrived on scene, someone else drove the unconscious 18-year-old to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police said they were investigating how he might have obtained the drugs and where else he was earlier in the night. But foul play is not suspected in the case.

SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski announced Michaels' death in an email to campus over the weekend.

Expert Links Spike In Teen Anxiety, Depression To Smartphone, Social Media Dependency

November 29, 2017 8:29 PM By Andy Sheehan

Filed Under: Andy Sheehan, Anxiety, Cell Phones, Depression, Local TV, Smartphones

Follow KDKA-TV: Facebook | Twitter

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Today’s teens are under pressure to succeed, get into a good college, be liked, and more.

While that’s always been the case, more and more kids are suffering from severe and debilitating anxiety because of this.

Teenage angst never been more apparent than in this generation.

In the past five years, studies show a sudden and marked increase in teen depression and suicide. Now, more than a one-third of American teens suffer from severe – and sometimes paralyzing — anxiety.

“It’s really about being anxious all the time,” one teen said.

And to find the reason why, you may not need look further than your teen’s smartphone.

Twenge said depression and anxiety in teens began spiking in 2011 and 2012 when more than half of America got a smartphone.

“That’s exactly when these mental health issue started to spike among teens. When the smartphone became the norm, that’s when these mental health issues showed up,” Psychologist Jean Twenge said.

More teens than ever complain of severe loneliness. They’ve retreated to their rooms at home, spend less and less time out in the real world, while diving deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of their phone.

Twenge calls them iGen — the first generation to spend their entire adolescence on a smartphone instead of hanging out with their friends in person. Teens like Christian Brown communicate through text or social media.

“You’re interacting with a phone with a human being on it but not any actually organism – a human being,” Brown said.

Through their phone, they become hyperaware of their social status. How many likes are they getting? How many followers on Snapchat and Instragram, etc.

Teens constantly compare and rate themselves against each other. They also know when they’ve been excluded from parties and other social events.

“You see them having fun and you say what am I doing right now? Absolutely nothing and it sucks. Why can’t I be there with them? Why can’t I do that? It just brings you down,” Brown said.

And even with negative results, teens find it hard to disengage. Many are now spending more than eight hours on their phones a day. Twenge says it’s a dependency that is causing kids who might have resolved their feelings in the past to slip into depression and severe anxiety.

“This generation they’re really guinea pigs in an unintentional experiment with technology,” she said.

So what can parents do?

Strictly banning the phone is probably not an option, but psychologists recommend speaking with your teen about these danger and having them try to limit their use. If they have become depressed, get them professional help.

Brown is part of a local group called Reel Teens Pittsburgh, who are actually trying to use social media to take the problem of depression and anxiety head-on. They host a Facebook live forum at Point Park University inviting teens to share their own stories online, helping each other know they’re not alone.

In her book, “iGEN: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us” Twenge says it time the rest of realize the scope of the problem and he need for answers.

“iGen is definitely a generation with a mental health crisis,” she said.

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New 'gray death' drug can kill with a single dose, authorities warn

Published May 08, 2017

A lethal new drug dubbed “gray death” by authorities that is dangerous to even touch with gloves is being eyed in overdose cases across Georgia, Alabama and Ohio. Investigators said the high-potency cocktail — which is comprised of heroin, fentanyl, the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, and a synthetic opioid called U-47700 — can kill users with a single dose.

“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told The Associated Press.


A spokeswoman for the agency told the Associated Press that they’ve seen 50 overdoses cases involving gray death over the past three months. Users can inject, swallow, smoke or snort the drug, which varies in consistency and looks like a concrete mixture.

The Ohio coroner’s office told the news agency that a compound similar to gray death has been coming in for months, with at least eight samples matching the drug mixture. A user can buy the lethal cocktail for as low as $10 on the street, Forbes reported.

Law enforcement officials believe a price drop led users to switch from prescription painkillers to heroin, which is often cut with fentanyl — a drug that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Most alarming to officials is that users do not have a way of telling if heroin is pure or laced with other drugs before using it. The same goes for the gray death.


“You don’t know what you’re getting with these things,” Richie Webber, who overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in 2014, told The Associated Press. “Every time you shoot up, you’re literally playing Russian roulette with your life.”

With the nation already in the midst of an opioid epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and law enforcement departments around the country have been on high alert for fentanyl-laced opioids, which are behind an increasing number of unintentional overdose fatalities in multiple states across the United States. In 2015 alone, opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, killed more than 33,000 Americans.

“Normally we would be able to walk by one of our scientists, and say ‘What are you testing?’ and they’ll tell you heroin or ‘We’re testing fentanyl,’” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told The Associated Press. “Now, sometimes they’re looking at it, at least initially, and say, ‘Well, we don’t know.’”

In Alabama, where authorities said they see an evolution of drug abuse and addiction across the state, they are trying to send a clear message about the danger of using gray death before it becomes widely available.

“This is not a drug that you use to get high — if you put this drug into your body you will die, it will kill you,” Clay Hammac, Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task commander, told ABC 33 40.

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Why today's teens are taking longer to grow up

By Jean Twenge, the Conversation

Updated 5:33 AM ET, Mon September 25, 2017

  • This generation of teens is delaying the responsibilities and pleasures of adulthood, researcher says
  • This "slow life strategy" has its benefits and drawbacks

Teens aren't what they used to be.

The teen pregnancy rate has reached an all-time low. Fewer teens are drinking alcohol, having sex or working part-time jobs.

And as I found in a newly released analysis of seven large surveys, teens are also now less likely to drive, date or go out without their parents than their counterparts 10 or 20 years ago.

Some have tried to explain certain aspects of these trends. Today's teens are more virtuous and responsible, sociologist David Finkelhor has argued. No, says journalist Jess Williams, they're just more boring. Others have suggested that teens aren't working because they are simply lazy.

However, none of these researchers and writers has been able to tie everything together. Not drinking or having sex might be considered "virtuous," but not driving or working is unrelated to virtue -- and might actually be seen as less responsible. A lower teen pregnancy rate isn't "boring" or "lazy"; it's fantastic.

These trends continued even as the economy improved after 2011, suggesting the Great Recession isn't the primary cause. Nor is more schoolwork: The average teen today spends less time on homework than his counterparts did in the 1990s, with time spent on extracurricular activities staying about the same.

To figure out what's really going on, it's worth taking a broader look at today's teens -- a generation of kids I call "iGen" -- and the environment they're living in.

A different culture, a slower path

Working, driving, drinking alcohol, having sex and dating have one thing in common: They are all activities adults do. This generation of teens, then, is delaying the responsibilities and pleasures of adulthood.

Adolescence -- once the beginning of adulthood -- now seems to be an extension of childhood. It's not that teens are more virtuous or lazier. They could simply be taking longer to grow up.

Looking at these trends through the lens of "life history theory" might be useful. According to this model, whether development is "slow" (with teens taking longer to get to adulthood) or "fast" (getting to adulthood sooner) depends on cultural context.

A "slow life strategy" is more common in times and places where families have fewer children and spend more time cultivating each child's growth and development. This is a good description of our current culture in the U.S., when the average family has two children, kids can start playing organized sports as preschoolers and preparing for college can begin as early as elementary school. This isn't a class phenomenon; I found in my analysis that the trend of growing up more slowly doesn't discriminate between teens from less advantaged backgrounds and those from wealthier families.

A "fast-life strategy," on the other hand, was the more common parenting approach in the mid-20th century, when fewer labor-saving devices were available and the average woman had four children. As a result, kids needed to fend for themselves sooner. When my uncle told me he went skinny-dipping with his friends when he was eight, I wondered why his parents gave him permission.

Then I remembered: His parents had six other children (with one more to come), ran a farm and it was 1947. The parents needed to focus on day-to-day survival, not making sure their kids had violin lessons by age five.

Is growing up slowly good or bad?

Life history theory explicitly notes that slow and fast life strategies are adaptations to a particular environment, so each isn't inherently "good" or "bad." Likewise, viewing the trends in teen behavior as "good" or "bad" (or as teens being more "mature" or "immature," or more "responsible" or "lazy") misses the big picture: slower development toward adulthood. And it's not just teens -- children are less likely to walk to and from school and are more closely supervised, while young adults are taking longer to settle into careers, marry and have children.

"Adulting" -- which refers to young adults performing adult responsibilities as if this were remarkable -- has now entered the lexicon. The entire developmental path from infancy to full adulthood has slowed.

But like any adaptation, the slow life strategy has trade-offs. It's definitely a good thing that fewer teens are having sex and drinking alcohol. But what about when they go to college and suddenly enter an environment where sex and alcohol are rampant? For example, although fewer 18-year-olds now binge-drink, 21- to 22-year-olds still binge-drink at roughly the same rate as they have since the 1980s.

One study found that teens who rapidly increased their binge-drinking were more at risk of alcohol dependence and adjustment issues than those who learned to drink over a longer period of time. Delaying exposure to alcohol, then, could make young adults less prepared to deal with drinking in college.

The same might be true of teens who don't work, drive or go out much in high school. Yes, they're probably less likely to get into an accident, but they may also arrive at college or the workplace less prepared to make decisions on their own.

College administrators describe students who can't do anything without calling their parents. Employers worry that more young employees lack the ability to work independently.

Although I found in my analyses that iGen evinces a stronger work ethic than millennials, they'll probably also require more guidance as they transition into adulthood.

Even with the downsides in mind, it's likely beneficial that teens are spending more time developing socially and emotionally before they date, have sex, drink alcohol and work for pay.

The key is to make sure that teens eventually get the opportunity to develop the skills they will need as adults: independence, along with social and decision-making skills.

For parents, this might mean making a concerted effort to push your teenagers out of the house more. Otherwise, they might just want to live with you forever.

Bullied teens twice as likely to bring weapons to school

Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) - One in five teens are victims of bullying, and these adolescents are about twice as likely to bring guns and knives to school than peers who aren’t bullied, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers examined how high school students answered three survey questions: how often they skipped school because they felt unsafe; how often they got in physical fights at school; and how many times they were threatened with a weapon at school.

“High school students who reported being bullied on school property within the past 12 months were not at increased risk for carrying a weapon to school if they answered ‘no’ to all three of these questions,” said senior study author Dr. Andrew Adesman, a researcher at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in Lake Success.

“Importantly, students who said yes to all three of these physical safety/injury questions were at the greatest risk for carrying a weapon to school,” Adesman said by email.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey responses from a nationally representative sample of more than 15,000 students in grades 9 to 12.

Overall, about 20% of participants reported being victims of bullying at least once in the past year, and about 4% said they had brought a weapon to school in the past month, researchers report online November 27 in Pediatrics.

When a Teen Hangs With the Wrong Crowd

Understand the magnetic pull of unhealthy relationships to help kids make better choices.

By Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, Contributor |Nov. 28, 2017, at 6:00 a.m.

Parents should take time to get to know who their teens hangs out with – and their friends' parents as well. (Hero Images/Getty Images)

Friends play an important role in a teen's life.

While not being socially connected can leave a teen more prone to isolation and depression, having good friends can boost self-esteem and improve communication skills; and some of those friendships can last a lifetime. On the flip side, having bad friends can lead to risky decision-making, bad behaviors and poor academic performance. So, basically, having no friends sucks and having bad friends can screw things up, but having good friends rocks.

However, finding good friends can be hard for teens who struggle socially, and falling into the wrong crowd is easy. Trying to pull a teen away from these potentially destructive relationships can be like trying to separate two powerful magnets. Once teens find peer acceptance, they don’t want to let it go. They will do whatever it takes to fit in, even if it means going against their parents' wishes.

In some cases, teens seem to have nothing in common with their new friends, but desire something different. These teens will often abandon their good friends in search of new and exciting relationships. Adolescence and the tyranny of extremes can truly leave parents in a quandary about what to do next. Long gone are the childhood days of arranging play dates and orchestrating friendships. Teens, as opposed to young children, like to be in the driver's seat. But if the teen is a reckless driver, parents may be left frantically searching for ways to keep the teen on the straight and narrow path.

So what's a parent to do? First, it's important to identify if there is reason to be concerned about who your child is associating with. These are some signs your child may be hanging with the wrong crowd:

  • Suspicious behavior. Teens who are up to no good usually sneak behind their parents' backs and behave suspiciously.
  • Tanking grades. Teens who get involved with the wrong crowd often begin to neglect academic responsibilities. Their homework assignments don’t get completed, projects don’t get turned in and they may arrive to class late or even skip classes.
  • Snarky attitude. It's certainly not out of character for many teens to roll their eyes, sigh loudly or do other things to show when they're annoyed. But add a group of snarky teens to the mix, and the result can be a back-talking disrespectful tirade.
  • Avoiding interests and hobbies. When teens hang out with peers who are a poor influence, they tend to withdraw from what they once enjoyed doing. They become more interested in impressing their new friends and doing the things their friends like instead.
  • Dissing old friends. Teens who find a new peer group tend to neglect old friends in favor of the new and may jeopardize positive relationships.

Of course, if you determine your teen is hanging with the wrong crowd, you have to decide how to handle the issue. While there's not one approach that works for all situations, here are some things to consider and strategies you can employ:

  • Establish clear, consistent ground rules for new friendships. For example, parents need to meet their teens' new friends prior to letting them hang out. Now, as teens get older, this becomes increasingly difficult, especially if teens form these toxic relationships at work or school. The good news is that teens like to hang out beyond the confines of these environments, so that gives parents a little leverage to work with.
  • Meet the new friends. It’s a good idea to show teens that their relationships are important. Hosting a cookout or pizza party gives parents an opportunity to learn more about who their kids' new friends are.
  • Meet the parents. Equally important to getting to know your teens' friends is getting to know their friends' parents. Although this may be awkward at first, arrange to get a cup of coffee or plan another way to meet. If the teens are at a concert or some other event, make it a point to be there for pickup or when dropping your kid off, and be present and out of the car to conveniently meet the parents.
  • Don't be quick to judge. Parents should take time to really get to know these new friends individually. Some teens may come from a disruptive or dysfunctional home, but that doesn’t mean they represent the wrong crowd. Oftentimes, in these instances, kids desire any kind of attention, good or bad. If parents can be accepting, then the teen may opt to get on the right track. Equally, once these teens have a good relationship with their friend’s parent, they may not want to do anything to jeopardize that relationship.
  • Choose your words wisely. Parents should be extra careful not to put down or criticize a teen's new friends, since doing so can spur rebellion. At the same time, parents should not ignore concerns. If, for instance, parents are worried about changes in their teen’s behavior, they should say something like, “I noticed some concerning changes ever since you started hanging out your new friends, and I wanted to speak with you about them.”

The adolescent years are already a turbulent time, and toxic relationships can make this period even more difficult. It’s OK for parents to be scared and want to rush to save their teens from self-destruction, but that may not be what they need. They may need an opportunity to scout things out for themselves and make their own decisions. In their quest for autonomy, teens are going to make mistakes.

If you are a parent who is fighting the magnetic pull of the wrong crowd, don’t fret. Teens have numerous influences in their lives, and there is no greater influence than the parent-child relationship.

Drinking in teens and 20s increases risk of getting cancer

Young women who drink regularly increase breast cancer risk by 34%

Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 11:07

Sarah Burns

Drinking in teens and 20s increases the risk of getting cancer 10-20 years later

Young people don’t realise that drinking in their teens and 20s increases their cancer risk, the HSE has warned.

Women in their teens and 20s who drink regularly increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 34 per cent. Alcohol poses the greatest risk for mouth, head and neck cancers in Irish men. Those who drink two or more standard drinks per day are three times more likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime with these cancers compared to those who do not drink.

“Just as smoking does not cause lung cancer overnight, drinking in your teens and twenties does not result in a diagnosis of cancer immediately but it certainly increases the risk 10-20 years later,” a statement from the HSE said.

Monday marks the beginning of this year’s European Action on Alcohol Awareness Week which is focusing on alcohol and cancer.

Around 900 people are diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer every year. Alcohol causes seven types of cancer including mouth, larynx, throat, oesophagus, breast, liver and bowel and is listed by the World Health Organisation as a Group 1 carcinogen along with tobacco, asbestos and HPV.

The Health Ireland 2016 survey found that just 16 per cent of 15-24 year old women were aware of the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

For men and women who drink alcohol throughout their lifetime, there is a 49 per cent increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Dr Marie Laffoy, assistant national director of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme said “it’s important to get the message out to young people that what they drink now effects their cancer risk in the future”.

“Drinking regularly in your teens and 20s does have an effect long term and this isn’t something you can ignore until you are in your 50s and worry about it then,” Dr Laffoy said.

Teens' painkiller misuse linked to dating violence

November 20, 2017 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Teens who abuse prescription drugs, like opioid painkillers, are prone to initiating or being victims of dating violence, a new study finds.

In a nationwide survey of more than 10,000 teenagers who had dated in the past year, the researchers found that non-medical use of prescription drugsby boys was associated with sexual dating violence.

And non-medical use of prescription drugs by girls was linked more often with physical dating violence, according to the study's lead researcher, Heather Clayton. She is a health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings showed that nearly 10 percent of high school studentssurveyed said they had experienced physical dating violence, and slightly more than 10 percent said they were victims of sexual dating violence.

"According to the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 17 percent of U.S. high school students indicated that they had used prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription at some point in their lifetime," Clayton said.

In addition, an estimated 6 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds misused prescription drugs—such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives—in the past year.

"We know that youth who experience dating violence are more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs and drinking alcohol, be involved in antisocial behavior and thinking about suicide," Clayton said.

"The associations are likely complex and reflective of the many challenges faced by already at-risk populations," she added.

One pediatrics expert believes that there's a vicious-cycle nature to the misuse of prescription drugs and dating violence, with each feeding on the other.

"It is likely that prescription drug abuse increases likelihood for violence victimization, and such victimization increases the chances that a young person engages in prescription drug abuse," said Dr. Elizabeth Miller. She directs the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"It is important to pay attention to how sexual violence may be related to other health problems, like prescription drug abuse," said Miller, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.

It's also possible that both prescription drug abuse and dating violence have similar root causes, like mental health problems that occur before the teenage years, she suggested.

"Doctors and nurses caring for youth should be aware that young people who are abusing drugs are also more likely to be in unhealthy and abusive relationships, which in turn can make the drug use worse," Miller added.

For the study, CDC researchers analyzed data on more than 5,100 boys and 5,300 girls, in grades 9 to 12, who had participated in dating in the year before the survey.

The teens were asked how many times in the past year they had taken a prescription drug— such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax —without a doctor's prescription.

The students also were asked whether they had been physically assaulted by their date. That included such things as being hit, slammed into something or injured with an object or weapon.

The teens were asked about sexual violence as well—specifically, how many times in the last year someone they were dating did sexual things that they did not want to do, such as kissing, touching or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

According to Clayton, "This study can be used to inform and enhance community and school efforts to prevent adolescent dating violence victimization and substance use. Clinicians may also consider the association between these behavioral health concerns when screening their adolescent patients for experiences of dating violence or substance use."

Parents need to be informed and aware of the newest trends influencing our youth. Stay in the know with Parents In Control!


Health & Science

Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use

By Jean Twenge November 19

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless — classic symptoms of depression — surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13-to-18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.

In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background: more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities, and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” — those born after 1995 — is much more likely to experience mental-health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.

All signs point to the screen

Because the years between 2010 and 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: This gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 — right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online also was linked to mental-health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent only one hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least when viewed through social media use).

Two studies followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A third study randomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week vs. continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online also doesn’t explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely than others to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: Genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental-health problems no matter what era they lived in.

But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental-health issues may have slipped into depression because of too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time — say, to two hours a day or less — is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing — given the possible consequences of depression and suicide — seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

Teaching preteens, teens about cyber safety

A community conversation in Roanoke County focuses on consequences

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - Roanoke County parents are addressing the issues that come along with cell phones and social media for middle school and high school students.

A community conversation scheduled for Monday night will cover everything from cyber safety and avoiding strangers online, to the consequences of sharing inappropriate images and the importance of creating a positive online reputation.

Organizers of the discussion say the key focus is kids who are in that middle school to early high school age group. They're starting to get the freedom that comes with social media and cell phones, but many have not developed the maturity level to handle the online situations they encounter.

One of the big messages that school leaders and parents are hoping to get across in Monday night's meeting is the permanence of digital conversations and social media.

"We just have to continue to say, 'Anything you send, anything that you put on any type of electronic, it's there forever,'" says Nancy Hand, the executive director of the Prevention Council of Roanoke County. "It's the World Wide Web and it never goes away. Even though Snapchat tells you it disappears, or Instagram or any of those other apps, it never goes away."

This meeting comes as the number of teenagers sending sexually inappropriate messages and photos continues to grow. A study by finds that nationwide, nearly 40 percent of all teens have sent a sexually suggestive message. About one in five teen girls has reported sending nude or semi-nude photos.

Expert say not only is it happening more and more, but the consequences can result in years of punishment. That's why parents behind Monday night's discussion say they want to raise awareness about those consequences.

It is against the law in Virginia to produce, store, or share explicit photos of anyone under the age of 18. Sexting can't be prosecuted as child pornography, a felony that can result in years of prison time and having your name on the sex offender registry for life.

"People don't understand what a felony really means," says Laura Bowman, vice president of programs for the Cave Spring Middle School PTA. "To have a child that is 13 years old on the sex offender registry, think about their chances of getting into college, of getting a good job, of getting a girlfriend, of getting married. The consequences are dire for children and that's why we're having this meeting."

The meeting will also focus on the importance of creating a positive on my reputation, giving yourself the upper hand when applying for colleges or jobs later in life.

Monday's conversation will feature a panel of local experts including the Roanoke County Police Department, the office of the Attorney General, the Prevention Council of Roanoke County and staff from Roanoke County Public Schools.

It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Cave Spring Middle School auditorium.

Copyright 2017 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.

Social Media Concerns

Dad senses something’s wrong with daughter, reads her iPad and feels sick

Privacy. It’s something that everyone wants for themselves, however having complete privacy isn’t generally the best thing. This father discovered that invading his little girl’s privacy is worth the argument.

As youngsters achieve their high schooler years they turn out to be more closed off from their folks. They concentrate more on building up their identity inside their friend groups, and that frequently implies separating themselves from their folks. Yet, how would you know when privacy is taken too far?

Scott Jenkins is a good, caring father of two beautiful little girls to whom he would give the world. Scott gradually saw that his little girl Haylee was becoming more detached from him. “She was becoming secretive and sneaky,” the concerned father shared on Scary Mommy. This may not appear like such abnormal conduct, but in fact it was much more awful.

Scott routinely checked his little girls’ online action, as regularly as twice every week. While he found some differences – much more time spent in discussions or erased pictures – it didn’t appear like a big problem in the beginning. Fortunately for Scott, his instinct was too strong, making it impossible to overlook.

One night, Scott had a bad feeling. With no clear explanation behind for needing to do so, he knew it was important to check his little girl’s iPad quickly. What he found was stunning, deplorable, sickening and outrageous.

Haylee had been messaging a 15-year-old kid named Bruce. In the same way as other adolescents, Bruce loved the idea of meeting new people on the web. He brought Haylee into his virtual circles, where she started to meet other people through their online profiles. Haylee thought she was conversing with other kids, however she couldn’t have been more wrong.

As Scott was examining Haylee’s iPad, he went over an outrageous picture. “The sexy stance raised worries to me,” the father said. “So my searching transformed into a manhunt, checking everything in every one of her records.” It may have appeared to be meddlesome to Haylee, yet this chase wound up saving her life.

Scott investigated the profiles of “young men” who were following his girl on Instagram, and he discovered through their optional records that they were in reality grown-up men. Scott immediately call the police. He offered access to all the family’s gadgets to the Cyber Task Force of the Portage Police Department. After seven months, Scott got a call that chilled him deep down.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, would you and your family be able to please come to the police headquarters asap?” That was the call that demonstrated Scott how close he had been to losing his little girl forever.

The family discovered that Bruce was actually a piece of a detailed human trafficking plan. “He was the first safe face that our kids see,” a terrifying Scott said. “He was accidentally attracting young ladies into his group as prey for the men to pick and choose from. Bruce’s friends list reached the globe, and his more than 2,000 followers were simply a buffet of youthful, unaware kids whom these men were talking with. Our kids.” This disturbing story is a rude awakening for parents all over the world. It is basic to watch out for kids’ online use and social media accounts. According to Scott, “It’s justified the upset you may cause your children to guard them.” If you don’t feel good checking your youngsters’ online action, look for different options, for example, help from a friend or an expert you can trust. If Scott had not searched so profoundly into Haylee’s account, he may never have seen his little girl again.

For more data, contact National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1 (888) 373-7888.

Why synthetic marijuana like K2 or Spice can cause "really bizarre" symptoms

Synthetic marijuana compounds, sometimes called K2 or Spice, are actually chemically different from marijuana, and are more dangerous than pot, according to a new review of studies.

Synthetic marijuana compounds are linked to a number of serious side effects, including seizures, psychosis and even death, the review’s authors said.

These compounds “produce a variety of dangerous acute and chronic adverse effects … with a greater severity and frequency than observed following marijuana use,” the researchers wrote in their review, which was published Feb. 2 in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. Therefore, “K2/Spice products are clearly not safe marijuana alternatives,” the researchers said.

Manufacturers first started to sell synthetic marijuana compounds in the early 2000s. The products are often marketed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana that will not show up on a standard drug test.

In the early 2000s, “we started seeing all kinds of people coming into emergency rooms saying they smoked marijuana, but then they had these really bizarre symptoms that did not correspond with the effects you see with marijuana,” Paul Prather, a cellular and molecular pharmacologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), said in a statement.

There are now more than 150 different types of synthetic marijuana compounds, the researchers said. The products are designed to activate two receptors in the body, called CB1 and CB2 — the same receptors that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, binds to. But although they activate the same receptors, synthetic marijuana compounds are structurally different from marijuana, the researchers said. In addition, as a group, these compounds have diverse chemical structures, meaning that they are often quite different from each other as well, they said.

Many types of synthetic marijuana compounds are illegal in the United States, but clandestine manufacturers continue to develop new compounds that aren’t always covered by existing laws and aren’t always detected by current drug tests, the researchers said.

Some of the reported side effects of synthetic marijuana compounds include convulsions, kidney injury, toxicity to the heart, strokes and anxiety. So far, 20 deaths have been linked to the use of synthetic marijuana compounds, the researchers said.

Studies have found that these compounds tend to activate the CB1 receptor to a greater degree than does THC, suggesting that synthetic marijuana compounds have the ability to induce far more intense effects than marijuana, according to the review.

In addition, when some of these compounds are broken down in the body, their by-products also have the ability to activate the CB1 receptor, which could contribute to the increased toxicity of the drugs, they said. What’s more, because of their diverse structures, synthetic marijuana compounds may also activate other receptors besides CB1 and CB2 — which could explain why these drugs produce some adverse side effects that are not seen with marijuana, they said.

The researchers also note that when people purchase synthetic marijuana compounds, they don’t know what’s really in the product that they are buying.

“Not only does the amount of the active pharmacological agent change with different batches of drugs, made by different labs, but the active compound itself can change,” said William Fantegrossi, a behavioral pharmacologist at UAMS. And there are usually a minimum of three different types of synthetic cannabinoids in a single product, the researchers said.

More research is needed to determine exactly why synthetic marijuana compounds appear to be more toxic to people than marijuana, the authors of the review said.

Drug overdoses rise, heart disease deaths fall: CDC



Friday, November 3, 2017, 12:55 PM

Death rates for heart disease are all down as of mid-2017, the CDC reports.

America’s overall health checkup is mixed, according to three federal reports out Friday.

First, the good news: Death rates for heart disease, cancer and HIV are all down as of mid-2017, compared to the same period last year.

Now, the bad news: Overall mortality rates are up from the same time last year, and deaths from drug overdoses in America rose a whopping 21% last year.

For every 100,000 residents, almost 20 died in drug overdoses in 2016, compared to 16.3 the year before, Bloomberg reported.

Drug overdoses spiked by an alarming 21% over the last year, reports the CDC.

CDC researcher Farida Ahmad called the spike in OD’s “a stark increase. And the entire nation is on notice. President Trump last month declared the country’s opioid epidemic a nationwide public health emergency. Other new reports show that teen pregnancy continues to decline. But overall preterm births, a birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy, have persistently increased over the past couple of years.

“Preterm birth is associated with a number of adverse outcomes for the infant and for the mom, and so seeing that trend kind of ticking in the wrong direction is something that could be potentially concerning,” report author Lauren Rossen told CNN.

The new reports, Ahmad noted, identify emerging health trends and can assist healthcare professionals find the best strategies for helping people.

New Smoking Device Teens are Using

MONQ is a modern aromatherapy delivery device in which breathing in creates a gentle suction. ... As the aromatherapy liquid heats up, it turns into a mist consisting of water vapor and carbon dioxide, along with the aromatic compounds released by the heating of the essential oils.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of what the dangers are. Teens are smoking this because they think it is healthy?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs Bill Banning E-Cigarettes, Vaping In Public Indoor Spaces

“The reality is they also carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill on Monday that bans e-cigarettes and vaping systems in public indoor spaces.

The state Clean Indoor Air Act previously regulated smoking substances containing tobacco, like cigarettes, cigars and pipes, in public indoor places. The addition of new smoking methods, like e-cigarettes, vaping pens and e-hookahs, closes a loophole in the law that allowed individuals to smoke tobacco in public places where cigarettes are prohibited

Suffolk County Woman Charged With Violating Social Host Law

Police say there were 200 people at her son's 17th birthday and underage drinking was observed by officers.

DEER PARK, NY – A Deer Park woman was issued a summons for hosting a party at her residence in Deer Park where there was underage drinking Friday night, police said.

First Precinct Patrol officers responded to a complaint of beer bottles in the street at 10 Mark Lane at approximately 10 p.m. When police arrived, there were about 200 underage people at the home for the woman’s son’s 17th birthday party and underage drinking was observed, police said.

Police charged the host, Natasha Miles, 44, with violating the county's social host law. Miles is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Nov. 22.

Nearly 22 people suffer opioid overdoses on Long Island over two-day span

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini (c.) said “This is obviously a historic problem,” after one person’s fatal overdose took place in Elwood on Long Island.




Saturday, June 3, 2017, 11:22 PM

Roughly 22 people suffered opioid overdoses in Suffolk County in just the past two days, authorities said Saturday.

At least one person died in what Long Island police said was a 60% uptick in opioid overdoses over the usual 48-hour window.

“This is now the time to intervene and get your loved one help,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.

The incidents took place across the county and involved the full range of opiates — prescription pills, heroin and the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl, authorities said.

New anti-bully psa!

Great to show your children!



Stacey Ross Cohen, Contributor

President and CEO, Co-Communications; Personal branding expert, author and speaker; marketing pro; film lover; supermom; community-minded

To Post or Not to Post? How Social Media Influences College Admissions

09/22/2017 09:18 am ET

Three can’t-miss tips from admissions and social media experts about your online footprint

As the new school year begins, high school juniors and seniors are readying themselves for the dreaded college admissions process. And today, SAT scores, transcripts, and teacher recommendations aren’t the only things causing stress. Now there’s social media, too.

More and more, what teens post online influences the college admissions process. Some 35% of college admissions officers now check applicants’ social media pages, compared to just 10% of officers in 2008, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 survey of 365 college admissions officers.

“For better or worse, social media has become an established factor in college admissions,” says Yariv Alpher, executive director of research at Kaplan Test Prep. “It’s more important than ever for applicants to make wise decisions.”

When students don’t use good judgement, the consequences are dire. Consider Harvard University’s recent withdrawal of admission offers to 10 incoming freshmen for offensive Facebook posts. Harvard’s decision created a stir and serves as an eye-opener for students, parents, and college admission officers alike. It’s now clear that what happens online matters offline, too.

The Harvard scenario underscores that “admissions doesn’t necessarily end at the acceptance letter,” Alpher says. Colleges have a duty to build a positive community and can reject behaviors that undermine that. “We can’t stress to students enough that their social footprint is their own personal calling card, and that the hunt for likes, shares and comments can have unintended, negative consequences,” Alpher adds.

Nancy Beane, associate director of college counseling at The Westminster Schools and president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), agrees. “Make smart choices before you say or post something,” she advises.

So, what’s a prospective college student to do? Below are three tips to ensure your social media footprint works for you, not against you.

Determine your ‘it’ factor

Before jumping into the tactics, let’s think big picture: What passions, expertise, achievements, and skills can you showcase? What value can you bring to your college community? In short: What’s your personal brand?

Pay attention to the image that you’re projecting,” stresses Hans Hanson, CEO and Founder of CollegeLogic. “Create the image you desire and build your brand. Work hard to develop it and protect it with every ounce of responsible intention.”

Students need to differentiate themselves in a positive way by injecting their brand into their daily routines and habits, including their profiles, posts, texts, and emails. “A prospective student’s image is formed in the initial email they send to the college admission office,” Hanson explains. “It is further solidified during college visits in how they present themselves. It is cemented in social media posts. They must always keep in mind that someone is always looking, and what takes a long time to build can be torn down in a moment’s lapse of bad judgement, typically resulting in lost opportunity.”

Part of your brand should be your volunteer work, or entrepreneurial experiences. Beane, of The Westminster Schools, shares input from her colleagues in the college counseling department: “Colleges and universities want to make sure that incoming students are responsible and will be good community members,” she relays. “Students who initiate a project, including earning the funding for it rather than having their parents’ financial support, would probably be looked upon more favorably.”

Audit your current online profiles. Do they match your planned brand? Then, view the profiles of students presently attending your dream school. What can you learn from them?

Develop your digital portfolio

Now that you have audited your online presence and reflected on your strengths, it’s time to create a captivating online portfolio.

Start with a clean-up. Remove social media profiles that are dormant, off-brand, or inappropriate. No references to alcohol or drug usage, no profanity, no defamatory comments.

“Past social media posts are discoverable and don’t disappear,” notes Alan Katzman, Founder of Social Assurity, which provides social media education and training for students. “Every photo, video, tweet, like, and comment is out there in the public eye. It is key to learn how to use social media proactively and productively.”

Next, construct the right profiles. Make every word, photo, and video count. Spend time crafting a LinkedIn presence, and showcase your experience, achievements, and aspirations. Secure testimonials and endorsements from teachers, employers, athletic coaches, and club presidents.

Lastly, remember: less is more. Rather than using every social media platform, select just a few that are in sync with your career aspirations. For example: Those interested in the creative arts should leverage YouTube or Instagram.

Make some noise

You have your portfolio complete. Now what? It’s important to deliver the experience of you in a meaningful and deliberate way. Avoid posting “in the moment” — instead, take time to craft content that showcases your character, expertise, and passion. Hone the art of storytelling through blogging; tell your story through a series of thoughtful essays. And consider doing so on your own website. (If you’re not up to that just yet, still snag the vanity URL. Otherwise, someone else may come along and scoop up

Invest in networking both online and offline. College-bound students can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to communicate with other prospective students, or to seek out alumni events. Also make sure to connect via LinkedIn with college advisors and department heads at desired colleges and universities.

As an increasing number of college admissions officers turn to social media, these tips will become even more important. Indeed, the recently announced Coalition College Application plans to include an online student portfolio as a key component. As any smart, ambitious student knows, anything that can give you a competitive edge is worthwhile. And more and more, a strong online personal brand is that golden ticket.


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