No Forced Kisses for your Kids: A Holiday Safety Tip for Families

December 18, 2011

I’d like to bring your attention to a great article written by a fantastic woman on behalf of an amazing organization called Kidpower.

I’ve known and respected Dr. Amy Tiemann for several years – I even contributed a chapter to her insightful anthology Courageous Parents, Confident Kids. I’ve also known Irene van der Zande, the soft-spoken yet determined force behind Kidpower for several years. Together these two women are making a tremendous difference that everyone focused on youth issues should be aware of, and leverage.

Here then is the beginning of the article, with links to additional articles below:

No Forced Kisses for your Kids: A Holiday Safety Tip for Families

By Dr. Amy Tiemann

As parents well know, the holiday season is both incredibly exciting and potentially overwhelming for kids, sometimes all rolled together into one. At gatherings with families and friends, expectations about affection, attention, and teasing can create unnecessary stress and discomfort. By accepting our children’s different personalities and thinking through our boundaries ahead of time, we can teach our kids important life skills and make holiday parties and reunions more fun.

Most of us can remember being pressured to just “suffer through it” from our own childhoods. Who doesn’t recall being forced to kiss “Great Aunt Edna” as a kid, or getting scratched by Uncle Bob’s beard as he leaned in for a squeeze? Or, being told to just ignore the teasing and roughhousing of our cousins?

As a mother, I can relate to the embarrassment that a parent might feel when a child doesn’t want to give a big hug to Grandma when she walks in the door-especially if Grandma has been eagerly anticipating the visit for weeks and months. Read more here….

Here are additional Kidpower resources about how to use boundaries to make our holiday gatherings truly joyful:



Teacher Sends Girl Photo of his Penis, Offers Her $50 for Sex

December 16, 2011

A Washington state teacher and track coach, Ernest “Ernie” Ammons, has been charged with Facebook friending a former student then offering her money to have sex with him.

According to King County prosecutors, the 16-year-old high school student said she accepted Ammons’ friend request last summer and began talking with him via phone, text message and Facebook. The conversations became sexual and teacher allegedly suggested they have sex in his truck or the school’s weight room. He also began sending pictures of himself and his penis and offered the girl $50 for sex an offer he increased to $100 after she asked if that’s all he thought she was worth.

It was a friend of the girl who told school officials about the inappropriate conversations. Though he confessed to the charges when confronted by his boss, Ammons has not yet entered a plea to the charge against him. He remains free pending the case’s resolution.

Media doesn’t talk much about internet sexual predators anymore, but the threat hasn’t lessened

Once over-hyped as lurking behind every online contact, then dismissed as statistically insignificant, child sexual predators constitute a very real threat to our youth, and they are constantly trolling for new victims.

I do not believe in fear mongering, and do not support those who would have you believe that dozens of sexual predators have singled out your child and are but a single mouse click away from harming them at this very moment.

Nor do I support those who want to stick their head in the sand and pretend that the sexual predation of minors online is a rarity – my own experiences with cases tells me otherwise. All youth are susceptible to sexual predation at some times; those who are particularly vulnerable are susceptible a great deal of the time.

This case against the teacher is a classic example of a known offender leveraging the internet for exploitation

The risk of a stranger meeting your child or teen online and grooming them for sexual exploitation is real. But a significant percentage of cases follow the pattern highlighted in this case where a sexual predator leverages the internet to build a secret relationship with a child or teen they already know. They’ve already identified their victim, but need a private ‘location’ to groom this child or teen for exploitation. The internet makes the perfect location for this type of predator because they can create an intimate private place without ever being seen near their future target.

This girl was fortunate to have a friend with enough sense to inform the school.

Protect your child from sexual exploitation in both physical and digital forms

  1.  Talk, and keep on talking to your children about appropriate and inappropriate conversations, pictures and touching. Start when kids are young, talk frequently, and make the conversation’s focus practical, not scary.
    1. Keep your perspective. Yes, there are sexual predators online, and yes they are trawling for targets, but they are not stalking every child every moment of the day or night. Only a fraction of youth will experience full blown solicitation, but all children should be forearmed.
    2. Warning kids about ‘creepy strangers’ is off target. Predators look like anyone else.
    3. Instead of saying don’t let strangers talk to you about, or touch you… (which implies it’s ok if others do), say no one – not mommy, not daddy, not brother, not uncle, not family friend, no one – is allowed to make you feel uncomfortable, talk to you about your body,  touch you in private places, or take photos of you undressed or barely dressed.
  2. Leverage Family Safety Tools, and do your own checking in.Depending on the age and maturity of your child/teen, use family safety settings and tools (also called parental controls) that are transparent (so your child knows what’s being monitored) that can help detect potentially at-risk communications.
    1. Though Facebook is the most popular social networking site, it isn’t the best site for young teens – and it does not allow access for users under 13.
    2. Instead use one of the social networking sites that was actually designed with safety as a core principle from the ground up. You want a site that uses moderators and screening as these vastly decrease the likelihood that your child will be solicited by a predator – whether that be a sexual predator, an emotional predator, a physical predator, or a reputational predator.
    3. Help tweens and teens understand that sending a sexual image of themselves to someone else can have far reaching consequences. There is a whole segment of the population beyond their boy/girlfriend who is very interested in seeing these pictures, touching the pictures, kissing the pictures, and masturbating to the pictures. Should their photo fall into the hands of a person interested in child pornography, it is likely to be traded and shared my thousands of times.
  3. Listen, and keep on listening to your children. Your kids won’t tell you about risks if you aren’t listening and being thoughtful.
    1. If you have a history of freaking out, taking away their internet access, etc. when they come to you about something, then you’ve taught them not to come to you. This increases their vulnerability as the very people they should be able to turn to have made themselves unusable.
    2. Build trust that you will be calm, listen, and find the right solution no matter what they bring to you.
  4. It is never the victim’s fault.  God-forbid that any child should be abused, but statistics say a percentage of kids will experience sexual exploitation instigated either online, or offline. It is never their fault. As with all sexual crimes, there is only one person at fault— the predator.
    1. Sexual acts with minors are illegal and exploitive, and as a society, everyone must be committed to protecting minors, even when they act against their own best interests. Yes, they might have done things that put them at greater risk, but they are the victim, not the abuser.
    2. Understand that sexual predators frequently try to make a child believe that the abuse was the child’s fault or something they wanted because if the child feels guilty or ashamed they will be much less likely to report it. Predators may say, “You wouldn’t have contacted me if you didn’t want it,” or “I only did this because I thought it was what you wanted.”
    3. If a parent or authority figure says to an abused child or teen something like “What were you thinking?” or “What was your part in this?” the child or teen may see that as siding with the predator. If the adult in any way reinforces the predator’s message of guilt, they remove the last shreds of hope from the child that they will be believed, nurtured, and protected by those they need support from the most.

For more information on how to protect kids and teens from online exploitation see my instructions for Protecting Kids.

If you believe a child is being abused, or know an child abuser, don’t hesitate. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline 1-800-THE-LOST, use their website’s reporting tool or call your local law enforcement agency.
Learn more about the case against Ernest Ammons:

Learn more about child sexual exploitation and the internet:


48% of 7th-12th Graders Were Sexually Harassed Last School Year

November 12, 2011

After the women’s liberation movement, Title IX, the Gay rights movement, gay unions, and the sexual revolution, you would think students would be more evolved than new research by American Association of University Women (AAUW) titled Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School shows.

This research, described as “the most comprehensive, nationally representative research conducted in the past 10 years on sexual harassment in middle and high schools” paints a disappointing picture of sexually hostile school environments.

Of the 48% of students who reported being sexually harassed in the past school year, 87% said the harassment had a negative effect on them.

Describing the negative effects, 33% said they did not want to go to school as a result of the harassment, and another 33% said they felt sick to their stomachs.  30% said sexual harassment caused them to have a hard time studying, and 19% had trouble sleeping. In every case the harassment had a higher rate of impact on girls vs. boys.

Sexual harassment also affected victim’s school experience. 10% said they got into trouble at school as a result of sexual harassment; 9% said they changed the way they went to or from school (10% of girls and 6% of boys); and 8% quit an activity or sport. 12% of students said they stayed home from school because of sexual harassment, and 4% of students ultimately changed schools.

And this is what was reported about experiences in one specific school year. The report noted that when a longer time span is examined, over 80% of students said they had experienced sexual harassment at least once in their school career (AAUW, 1993, 2001).

Girls were more likely than boys to say that they had been negatively affected by sexual harassment—a finding that confirms previous research by AAUW (2001) and others.

The report also found that “these negative emotional effects take a toll on students’ and especially girls’ education, resulting in decreased productivity and increased absenteeism from school (Chesire, 2004). Thus, although both girls and boys can encounter sexual harassment at school, it is still a highly “gendered phenomenon that is directly and negatively associated with outcomes for girls” (Ormerod et al., 2008).”

Unfortunately, the prevalence of incidents makes “many students feel sexual harassment is normal behavior, and often victims of sexual harassment in turn victimize other children. It’s a vicious cycle that exacts an enduring emotional toll on students.”

Interestingly, 40% of boys reported being sexually harassed, though still at a significantly lower rate than girls (56%) it is higher than most people would have assumed, and reports of harassment among middle school students were actually evenly divided by gender.

Boys were more likely to be the harassers, and children from lower-income families reported more severe effects.

The internet’s role

Overall, cyber-harassment was less prevalent than in person sexual harassment. While the research found that 44% percent of students were harassed in person, 30% reported online harassment, like receiving unwelcome comments, jokes or pictures through texts, e-mail, Facebook and other tools.

12% percent of students were called gay or lesbian in a negative way through texting, e-mail, Facebook, or other electronic means and 13% of students had sexual rumors spread about them through electronic means.

Many students who were sexually harassed online were also sexually harassed in person. The research also found that students who were sexually harassed both in person and electronically were most likely to be negatively affected by their experiences with sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment isn’t hidden, but it still goes unreported – or misreported

According to the research, only about 9% of students who were sexually harassed reported the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor, or other adult at school (12% of girls and 5% of boys).  Only 27% said they talked about it with parents or family members, and only 23% told friends. Half of students said they did nothing afterward in response to the sexual harassment.

The data shows witnessing sexual harassment at school was also common. 33% of girls and 24% of boys said they observed sexual harassment at school in the 2010–11 school year, and 56% said they witnessed more than one incident of sexual in that time period. Students who witnessed sexual harassment and stepped in to help, they were most likely to tell the harasser to stop or to see if the sexually harassed person was okay.

Many students who witnessed sexual harassment did nothing simply because they did not know how to respond, did not think it would make a difference, or feared that they would become targets themselves.

Misreporting – The researchers make special mention of the issue of misreporting the few incidents that do get reported to schools. Sexual harassment in school is sometimes considered a form of bullying yet distinguishing between the terms is important because they have different definitions and are regulated by different laws. Too often, the more comfortable term bullying is used to describe sexual harassment, obscuring the role of gender and sex in these incidents (Stein & Mennemeier, 2011). The result is that schools are likely to promote bullying prevention while ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment (Gruber & Fineran, 2007).

The help students want

“Our report clearly shows that, in many instances, we are failing to provide the safe environment necessary for our children to succeed,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. “Children and their families are too often left to fend for themselves when kids are harassed.”

The researchers asked students for their ideas on how to reduce sexual harassment in their schools and the students were very clear about what they want:

  • 57% want be able to anonymously report problems
  • 51% want schools to enforce sexual harassment policies and punish harassers
  • 39% want a designated person they can talk to
  • 31% want there to be in-class discussions
  • 22% want online resources

Make a difference

As disappointing as this report is, the only way to change the outcome is to acknowledge the problem and change the behaviors. While I don’t think anonymous reporting of sexual harassment is a good idea as this can be used as a terrible form of harassment itself.

It is unacceptable that students today have to plead for schools to enforce harassment policies and actually punish the harassers. It’s unacceptable that students don’t have someone the school has designated for them to talk to, and that sexual harassment isn’t discussed in classes.   And it is unacceptable that many students who witnessed sexual harassment did nothing simply because they did not know how to respond, or did not think it would make a difference.

Ask your students about their experiences in a calm manner and be sure they know they can come to you if there is an incident, and how to report incidents that happen to them, or incidents they witnessed to the school.

Download the full Crossing the Line; Sexual Harassment at School report


One in Three Teachers Cyberbullied – 25% Comes From Parents

September 3, 2011

We hear a lot about kids bullying and cyberbullying kids, we hear plenty of stories about adults harassing and stalking others online, but what we hear less about is the cyberbullying teachers are subjected to at the hands of their students – and the student’s parents.

More than a third of teachers in the U.K. have been abused online. Most of the abuse (72%) came from students, but over a quarter (26%) came from parents according to a new study from Plymouth University in England conducted by professor Andy Pippen.

“Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support. It is a sticky area as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal,” Pippen told the Huffington Post UK.

While teachers have always been targets of abuse – cars damaged, homes trashed, graffiti slurs, and threats – the internet’s anonymity appears to have given bullies – particularly parent bullies – the opportunity to scale to a new level of viciousness.

Showing typical gender role bias, 60% of the teachers who reported being bullied are women.  The abuse is manifest through several online mediums like chat and social networks, but cyberbullies are also creating Facebook groups specifically targeting certain teachers, posting videos on YouTube, and leveraging the ever nasty site.

“It seems to a subset of the [parent] population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Phippen.

While this report is out of the U.K. and not the U.S., it would be naïve to assume that teachers here and around the world aren’t facing the same issues.

Perhaps as schools put together the final pieces of their back-to-school materials for this school year they should add a section to their student cyberbullying policy that specifically outlines expectations for parents.  If the parents are cyberbullies, it will be awfully hard to get their kids to behave better.


Back-to-School and Internet Safety

August 19, 2011

The phrase back-to-school conjures up thoughts of trying on clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and purchasing the notebooks, pens, and other paraphernalia your student needs for the year ahead.

However, new to most parents is the realization that an Internet safety checkup also falls into this seasonal rhythm.

The beginning of school is an excellent time to review your current Internet safety guidelines and see if they are still a good fit for your family and your child. It may be time to expand online privileges and reinforce the added responsibilities and expectations that come with age and with any new devices your child may be using.

Here is a checklist for this change of season:

  1. Begin by reviewing your student’s current privileges and responsibilities. Ideally, kids should take on new privileges and responsibilities each year so they can learn to become more responsible, and eventually grow into independent adults. Is it time to increase the level of access you provide to them?
  2. Reinforce the basics. Internet Safety has four basic principles – protect yourself, respect the safety of others, be kind, and act responsibly by following family rules and the terms and conditions set by services.
  3. Address new areas of potential risk – For example, if your child is starting to use social networking, it’s time to have a discussion about which service to use, what information he or she should share, what privacy settings should be in place, and so on.
  4. Review your school’s Internet usage guidelines. Permission slips for using the Internet in school are sent home during the first week of school. These require parents and students to agree to the school’s guidelines and they provide another great opportunity to address acceptable online usage and actions.
  5. Talk to each child, tween, and teen every year about Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber stalking are all terms for ways in which those who wish to hurt others, for whatever reason, use online tools to do so. This form of bullying is incredibly damaging both to those who are victims, and to the bullies themselves. It is critical that you establish an environment that makes your children feel safe in coming to you to report any problems.


Not All Fun and Games – 20-year-old Dies After Marathon Video Gaming Session

August 14, 2011

“He had probably been on all night, on the computer at his desk, on Facebook or gaming — one or the other,” said the father of a 20-year-old British man who died as a result of a blood clot that formed after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day. Waiting outside a job center the next day the man collapsed and died.

An autopsy determined that the man died of deep vein thrombosis, a clot formed most likely in the deep veins of one of the man’s legs due to prolonged inactivity.  “Playing video games, long car rides and long plane rides predispose you to clots,” said Dr. Phil Ragno, director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. in an interview with ABC News.

Though rare, death by video gaming is a real risk

Apart from the obvious lack of a healthy life balance, excessive gaming has claimed the lives of people from Britain to Korea and Taiwan – and it’s not just the gamer’s at risk. Last year a Korean couple starved their baby to death because they were so concentrated or raising their virtual baby. – See my blog Internet ‘Addicted’ Korean Couple Starves Baby to Death.

Gaming is so entertaining that 72% of the U.S. population plays games online[i]; gaming comes in second only to social networking in a ranking of time Americans spend online by category[ii].  In fact, the average number of hours spent by gamers each week on online gaming increased by 10%, or a total of 8 hours a week, between 2009 and 2010[iii].

An ‘addiction’ to online gaming can occur with any type of game (for women over 50 it’s more likely to be simple single-player games like Tetris and Solitaire played for hours a day) but compulsive playing is most commonly seen among MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) players, who represent approximately 9% of gamers[iv] .

MMORPG’s provide environments with  real-time interactions are and highly social; aspects that all gamers enjoy, but which may provide marginalized youth a sense of  control of their social relationships, providing greater success in social relationships in these virtual environments than they have in real relationships[v].

Though we typically associate addiction with substances (like drugs) there is more to addiction than brain chemistry. “Even with alcohol, it’s not just physical. There’s a psychological component to the addiction, knowing ‘I can escape or feel good about my life.'” says Kimberly Young, PsyD, clinical director of the Center for On-Line Addiction[vi].

Like addiction to drugs and alcohol, the Internet offers children and adolescents a way to escape painful feelings or troubling situations. They may sacrifice needed hours of sleep to spend time online and withdraw from family and friends to escape into a comfortable online world that they have created and shaped. Children who already struggle with emotional or psychological issues are at greater risk for developing inappropriate or excessive online habits[vii].

“[Gaming addiction is] a clinical impulse control disorder”, says Dr. Kimberly Young, Director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery “an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling[viii].”

Echoing Dr. Young’s thoughts, Keith Bakker, director of Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants says “children who play four to five hours per day have no time for socializing, doing homework, or playing sports. That takes away from normal social development. You can get a 21-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old”.

In a two year longitudinal study conducted by researchers from the US, Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2010, researchers found that the percentage of pathological youth gamers is similar across the world. Using the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a guide to define the addictive condition, the researchers found between 7.6 and 9.9% of the student sample could be defined as pathological gamers.

The research concluded that video game addiction is a serious and unique behavioral problem. “Once they become addicted, pathological gamers were more likely to become depressed, have increased social phobias, and increased anxiety. And they received poorer grades in school,” said Dr. Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State associate professor of psychology. “…pathological gaming is not simply a symptom of depression, social phobia or anxiety. In fact, those problems seem to increase as children become more addicted. In addition, when children stopped being addicted, depression, anxiety and social phobias decreased as well.”

However, it’s important to note that heavy game playing in and of itself does not mean the gamer is suffering from addiction. Dr. Douglas Gentile, Director of the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University and the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family underscores this message saying, “It is important that people realize that playing a lot is not the same thing as pathological play. For something to be an addiction, it has to mean more than you do it a lot. It has to mean that you do it in such a way that it damages your life.[ix]

In the same way that not all heavy gamers are addicts, not all negative outcomes associated with video gaming are addiction related. Other negative effects can include physical symptoms and emotional issues. Physical symptoms may include tendonitis and seizures, short term aggression mimicking violent age-inappropriate games[x] (there is conflicting research about any long term changes in aggression), obesity due to lack of exercise, poor socialization, or a lack of attention to school, chores or work.  Negative emotional effects include depression, anxiety, social phobias and lower school performance[xi].

Compulsive internet use and Grades

Youth who are heavy users of media are more than twice as likely to say they get poor grades (mostly C’s or lower) as light media users. Heavy media users are also more likely to say they get into trouble, are sad or unhappy, and are often bored[xii].  These results remain consistent regardless of factors such as age, gender and race.

Set boundaries

If your child just spent an entire beautiful weekend sitting indoors tweaking her Facebook page, foregoing a trip with the family to an amusement park, she may be showing signs of addiction. Many parents feel torn about limiting their children’s time on the computer.

If a teen is struggling socially, some parents believe any human interaction, even if it comes through the computer, is preferable to none. And with teens that are risk-takers or have questionable taste in friends, some parents feel they can better monitor and keep their children safe by letting them stay home, downloading music files and creating quizzes for their Web pages. Other parents just want to avoid the tantrums, the cold shoulder, or the arguments that flare whenever the issue of computer time management comes up[xiii].

Begin with creating boundaries. While savvy or compulsive youth may figure out how to circumvent family safety tools like content filters, time restrictions, and reports of which websites they’ve visited, these technology tools are still important parts of prevention and should be in place on computers, game consoles and phones.

Discuss the problem openly. Before beginning a conversation with your child, consider the message you want to deliver, and the tone you use. Avoid blame and focus on your concern about some of the changes you have seen in his or her behavior and refer to those changes in specific terms: fatigue, declining grades, giving up hobbies, social withdrawal, etc… Anyone struggling with an addiction is likely to feel threatened by any intervention and respond emotionally. Be prepared for an emotional outburst laden with accusatory phrases designed to make the parent feel guilty or inadequate[xiv]. It is important not to respond to the emotion—or worse yet, get sidetracked with a lecture on disrespect. Acknowledge your child’s feelings but stay focused on the topic of his or her Internet use.

Talk with your child about the settings you’ve put in place as well as why these boundaries are there. Help them understand that it is for their own protection and ask them to collaborate with you in ensuring they have a healthy balance in their lives. Put them on the honor system to keep the log themselves for a week or two to build trust between you. If they balk at this idea or clearly lie in their log, you are likely dealing with their denial of addiction[xv].

Part of boundary setting is gaining the skills to monitor those boundaries. This may require that you get a little more computer savvy yourself. Check browser history folders and internet logs, learn about technologies for monitoring online use and install these tools. If you don’t already know how to do these things, a simple search will provide you with step-by-step guides, or you can ask someone you know who is more computer savvy.

Refusing to let your child or teen use the internet at all is not a solution. The internet has become a critical part of lives in the 21st century. They need to use the internet for school projects, communication, and fun. As parents and caregivers, our job is to ensure that youth learn how to use these tools in a healthy, balanced, and responsible manner and this simply cannot be accomplished by banning technology. Work with your child to set time and website limits, and you may need to be more physically present as they learn to cut back their use. Allow perhaps an hour per night after homework, with a few extra weekend hours. Stick to your rules and remember that you’re not simply trying to control him or her – you are working to free them of a psychological dependence[xvi].

Increase participation in other activities. One way to help children from developing an internet addiction or problem is to be sure they are actively engaged in other activities like schoolwork, sports, arts, entertainment, social interactions. Participation in these activities is also a critical step in helping youth struggling with an internet compulsion to regain the balance in their lives and reduce depression, guilt, or other feelings they may experience as part of the negative side of their addiction.

Enlist the support of your child’s network. If your child goes online from other family members or friends homes, ask that they help ensure your child is adhering to their boundaries and help suggest alternative activities.

As parents and caregivers, understanding how to differentiate between ‘normal’ internet gaming and compulsive gaming is critically important for knowing when to seek help for concerning behavior. Internet usage naturally ebbs and flows to accommodate other activities and interests among healthy internet users.

Usage may spike because your child has just started playing a new game or for some other short-term interest. While potentially time consuming and engrossing, this is very different behavior than that of youth who spend virtually all of their waking hours, week in and week out, gaming behind an internet connected screen, ignoring relationships, homework, and the world.

If you are unsure whether your child or teen falls into the latter category, compare their behavior to the list of warning signs below. As you review the list, keep in mind that if a child or teen exhibits a one (or a few) of these behaviors, it may or may not be cause for concern. For example, plenty of teens prefer to spend time online rather than with family, we all lose track of time online on occasion, and a new game can be very compelling.  On the other hand, if you read through this list and most of these signs are visible in your child, it may be time to consider the best course of action.


Warning signs of compulsive internet use[xvii]:

  • Preoccupation with the internet; or specific internet destinations
  • Defensive about time spent online gaming
  • A heightened sense of euphoria while involved in gaming
  • Loses track of time while online
  • Sacrifices needed hours of sleep to spend time gaming
  • Becomes agitated or angry when not online or online time is interrupted
  • Spends time online in place of homework or chores
  • Prefers to spend time online rather than with friends or family
  • Disobeys time limits that have been set for Internet usage
  • Lies about amount of time spent online or “sneaks” online when no one is around
  • Seems preoccupied with getting back online when away from the computer
  • Loses interest in activities that were enjoyable before he or she had online access
  • Escapes into the internet to avoid responsibilities, escape painful feelings or troubling situations
  • Depression

There is no shame in seeking additional help for your child. If your child or teen struggles with an internet addiction and your intervention efforts are not enough, seek help. Your primary care physician or your child’s school counselor should be able to suggest resources, you can search online for information and resources in your area, and the resources cited in this document may also be of great use as you look for help.

There are a couple of Web sites that you and your child can visit together to assess their level of addiction. Try the addiction quizzes at or Even if you don’t actually believe your child is addicted, the tests are a good way to initiate some dialogue and get them thinking about how they are spending their time.

[iii] According to Online Gaming 2010, the most recent report from leading market research company The NPD Group,

[iv] and Entertainment Software Association. 2005 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data: Essential Factors About the Computer and Video Game Industry. Available at:  January 2, 2007 and Olson CK.  Media violence research and youth violence data: why do they conflict?  Acad Psychiatry. 2004;28:144-50.

[xii] Generation M2 Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds

[xvii] Compiled from:,, and . Kimberly Young, Director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, identified the following potential warning signs for children with pathological Internet

New FBI App Helps Parents When Kids go Missing

August 9, 2011

Remember turning around in the store and suddenly your child wasn’t there? Usually you find them within moments, but that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach reminds you that not every parent will be so lucky.  Every year thousands of children become victims of crime – whether it’s through kidnappings, violent attacks, or sexual abuse, according to the FBI’s Crimes Against Children website.

To help reduce these crimes, the FBI has just launched a new free Child ID app (currently only for iPhone users, the app will be available for other phones soon) that provides users with an easy way to electronically store photos and crucial information about your child so you can immediately provide the most important information to law enforcement should your child go missing.

When every minute counts the immediacy of access to this information is critical.  If you have to first go home to get a photo of your child, or other information, vital time is lost.

Until needed, your child’s information isn’t shared

The Child ID app stores the data locally on your phone – nowhere else – unless you decide to share it either by showing pictures and information on your phone, or by emailing the information to authorities.

In addition to providing the ability to store images and information vital to an investigation the app includes advice to help you keep your children safe and specific guidance on what to do in those first few crucial hours after a child goes missing. Law enforcement can then issue an AMBER Alert to serve as an instant call to action for everyone in the immediate area to be on the lookout for your child.

Spread the word

Fortunately, relatively few parents will ever experience the abduction of their child, but this is literally the best life insurance you can have if you are among the unlucky few. Every parent with young children should have this app installed, filled in and kept up to date.  And everyone who reads this article should spread the word to everyone they know with young children, and everyone who spends time with young children – like grandparents, babysitters, or aunts and uncles.

To echo the FBI “Put your child’s safety in your own hands. Download the FBI’s Child ID app today”.  If you don’t use iPhone, keep checking the FBI’s Crimes Against Children website to learn when your phone has this capability.