Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A tip from the Family Institute at Northwestern on College Drinking

As our college freshmen prepare for the transition to higher education, the Family Institute at Northwestern weighs in on college drinking - "most at risk are incoming freshmen, student athletes, and those involved in fraternities and sororities".  But the good news is that drinking behavior can be influenced by parents".   

With 16 as the average age teens start drinking, this tip of the month offers useful talking points for all parents.


JULY 2016

College Drinking
Tell your college-age sons and daughters that more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related accidents each year, and nearly 600,000 are injured while drunk.i Tell them that over half a million are assaulted by another student under the influence, and 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.ii

"College drinking is sometimes still viewed as a harmless rite of passage," says one researcher in the field of campus behavior. "That's particularly dangerous given that research shows this age group is much more impulsive even when alcohol's not involved."iii Most at risk are incoming freshmen, student athletes, and those involved in fraternities and sororities.

The good news is that drinking behavior can be influenced by parents. In one study, those graduating high school seniors and college freshmen who believed that their parents knew and cared about their drinking drank less -- and less often -- than those who thought their parents didn't know or care about their alcohol use.iv Another study found that parental monitoring, parental attitudes toward drinking, and parent-child communication all impacted students' alcohol consumption.v Students whose parents raised the topic of alcohol throughout the college years -- not just prior to freshman year -- drank significantly less than classmates whose parents never raised the

Parents who want to be particularly proactive might also:
  • Pose questions that get youngsters thinking (while you listen rather than preach): How can you stay safe at a party with alcohol flowing? What will you do if a drunk friend gets behind the wheel and expects you to climb aboard? How will you decide how much alcohol is enough? How will you handle a roommate who drinks to excess? Do you know your school's rules and consequences for alcohol violations?
  • Let them know that the norm on campuses is moderate -- not abusive -- drinking, so that they don't imagine the only way to fit in is by getting drunk.
  • Acknowledge the force of peer pressure, and how simply holding a glass in their hand -- whether it contains tonic or soda or sparkling water with a slice of lime -- might mollify classmates who want everyone to get plastered along with them.
  • Suggest that adding ice to drinks will dilute alcohol's potency and reduce the likelihood of intoxication.
  • Designate a responsible driver in advance if there's going to be a need for transportation.

With 16 the average age teens start drinking, why wait until the approach of college to begin these conversations?

i Hingson, Ralph W., et al. "Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24, 1998-2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2009 Jul; (16): 12-20.
ii ibid.
iii Dr. James Murphy, quoted in Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, October 2013.
iv Wetherill, R. Fromme, K. "The effects of perceived awareness and caring, family motives and social motives on alcohol use by high school and first semester college students." Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2007,21, 147-154.
v Turrisi, Robert et al. (2013). "Examining the role of parents in college student alcohol etiology and prevention." In: Interventions for addiction: Comprehensive addictive behaviors and disorders. Elsevier Inc., San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 865-873.
vi Doumas, Diana M., et al. "A randomized trial evaluating a parent based intervention to reduce college drinking." Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, July 2013, 45:1, 31-37.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sharing a timely blog post from Liz Repking, Cyber Security Consulting

Is Pokemon Go Safe for Kids?

It is an understatement to say that Pokemon Go is popular. It is off the charts crazy! My children are regularly exiting the house saying “Going to find some Pokemon. Be back soon.” Additionally, I have received numerous texts and emails asking things like “What is Pokemon Go?” “Is Pokemon Go safe for my kids?” and “What should I be concerned about with Pokemon Go?” All great questions. So here is a quick tutorial for you.
What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic. It was released worldwide on July 6, 2016 for both iOS and Android devices. Augmented reality means a view of reality is modified by the computer. When someone is looking for a character in Pokemon Go, he views his surroundings via the device’s camera, the reality, and imposes a digital image of a Pokemon characterI into the reality. The user can then capture the character by launching the Pokeball at the character. According to Survey Monkey, this is the ‘biggest mobile game in US history’.
What are the upsides of Pokemon Go?
Like most apps, there are some great benefits to this widely popular game.
  1. It gets kids outside and moving. Before I realized what was happening, my 17 year old son kept leaving the house in 15 minute increments. I asked him what he was doing, and he would tell me that he was going for a walk. The child has never voluntarily gone for a walk! I was immediately suspicious. My mind wandered to places that I did not want it to go. That same day, I noticed 2 boys outside my house on bikes, stopped on the sidewalk for about 2 minutes, staring at their phones. I asked my son what he thought about these two boys. He smiled and said that they were probably hunting for Pokemon! I laughed and he fessed up to his ‘walks’.
  2. It gives kids another way to socialize. My sons have spent time with their friends hunting Pokemon. Clearly, there is trouble galore that 15 and 17 year olds can easily find on a boring summer night. Pokemon has given kids a purpose to hanging out together. Additionally, I see kids of different ages playing together. We have a 4 year old neighbor who comes to our door multiple times a day looking to play with my oldest son. The other day, my son took the neighbor out to find Pokemon! They were gone for over an hour in the neighborhood. It was a thing of beauty to see these two boys, who are 13 years apart, sharing an activity that brought them both an hour of entertainment and fun.
  3. It’s free! During the summer, I feel like a human ATM machine. There is a lot of time to fill and so many things that kids want to do cost money. This is not only a free app to download from both the App Store and Google Play, but it is free for the kids to go out and explore. Depending on the age of the child, the child may hop on a bike, a scooter or simply walk the neighborhood to play.
  4. Poke Stops can be educational. Poke Stops are places where players can collect valuable rewards. Poke Stops are placed in important areas connecting them to historic places or land marks. Take the opportunity to go with your Pokemon Trainer and teach them about the location.
What are the downsides of Pokemon Go?
  1. It’s still a screen! Have we taken a few steps back in the battle to have conversation when doing simple things like riding in the car? I find myself asking my children to put the phone down and talk to me. The common response is “But Mom, I can catch some more Pokemon as we drive.” I know I am not alone in this increased addiction to technology and social media. A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, when speaking of his son: “His nose is in the phone continuously with Pokemon Go!” The question remains, do we wave the screen limits because the game is getting them out of the house, moving, and being social or do we recognize that kids have found another addictive online game?
  2. Predators go where kids are hanging out. There are a lot of kids roaming neighborhoods looking for Pokemon. Most are completely absorbed in the game and aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. As they congregate in common areas, they may feel a false sense of camaraderie with strangers they meet who are also ‘hunting Pokemon’.  Additionally, people can place a lure in a real-life location. The lure will attract Pokemon to a specific location and will be in effect at that location for 30 minutes. Predators use lures to make a specific more attractive to kids hunting for Pokemon. Talk to your kids about strangers, the people they meet while playing, and then take the time to go with them on the hunt.
  3. Like most online games, there are In-App purchases available. As described, players can ‘enhance their Pokemon GO experience’ by purchasing certain items and features. Make sure that you have In-App purchases disabled on your child’s device.
  4. Be aware of data usage and battery drain when playing. Depending on what part of the game is being used, data usage can range from 2MB to 8MB of use per hour. This usage can be reduced if your Pokemon Trainer, i.e. your child, plays in areas that have Wi-Fi. Also, make sure that the apps and updates to the app are only downloaded when the device is on Wi-Fi. Similarly, the game can quickly drain the device’s battery. There is a battery saver mode that can be enabled. Open up the Pokemon Go app, and then tap on the “Setting” button on the top-right corner of the screen. Scroll down the menu until you see ‘Battery Saver’. Tap it to select it (a tick will appear), and then you can turn your phone upside down, which will dim the screen. This will save precious battery life. Turning off sound effects, music and vibration will also help keep the battery from draining too fast.
Most importantly, take time to talk to your children about both the fun things they can do with Pokemon Go as well as the things that they should be aware of as they enjoy the app. I went on one of my son’s ‘walks’ with him and asked him to show me how the app works. He was happy to have me go with him and loved showing me how it works. The obsession with it is enough to drive me crazy at times, but I also look at it as an opportunity to get involved with my kids and spend some time with them doing something they are enjoying.