Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Failure in School Among Teens

Science World Report

First Posted: Sep 24, 2014
Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Failure in School Among Teens

Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Failure in School Among Teens (Photo : Reuters)

A new Swedish study links lack of sleep among adolescents to an increased risk of failure in school.

For adolescents, adequate sleep is crucial for proper growth. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that teens need a little more than nine hours of sleep each night. Previous researches have highlighted how lack of sufficient sleep puts teens at the risk of cognitive and emotional difficulties, disciplinary problems, negative moods and lack of attention at school.

The latest study, led by researchers at Uppsala Universitet, highlights other problems linked with lack of sleep. They reveal that adolescents who suffer from sleep disturbance or habitual short sleep duration are unlikely to progress academically as compared to those who receive sufficient sleep.

The finding is based on the evaluation of more than 20,000 adolescents, aged between 12-19 years, from Uppsala County. They noticed that risk of failure in school increased if the adolescents slept for less than 7 hours per day. .

“Another important finding of our study is that around 30 percent of the adolescents reported regular sleep problems. Similar observations have been made in other adolescent cohorts, indicating that sleep problems among adolescents have reached an epidemic level in our modern societies,” said Christian Benedict, lead researcher of the study.

Recently, a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh found that increasing the amount of sleephelps teens improve insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.

The study was documented in the Journal Sleep Medicine. It was supported by the Swedish Brain Foundation and Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Struggling With Privilege

The Harvard Crimson

The late historian and professor Tony R. Judt once told Historically Speaking that our task “is to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly.”

While Tony Judt certainly was not talking about college life, his message seems to extend to us here at Harvard.

Just listen to the newly minted Dean of the College, Rakesh Khurana, speak about the college experience he hopes each student will get at Harvard. You will hear him talk about “transformation,” and his idea of a “transformative” college experience is deeply rooted in embracing discomfort. Real growth, to Dean Khurana, stems from branching out and exploring this sort of uncomfortable new territory.

Discomfort at Harvard comes in many different forms. But the main source of my own has come from class, privilege, and wealth.

It’s no secret that a good chunk of the Harvard population is unusually wealthy. In fact, according to Walter Benn Michaels, author of the polemic “The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality,” roughly 75 percent of Harvard students’ families have incomes over $100,000 per year, while only 20 percent of American families have incomes that high.

But what’s more troubling than these statistics alone is the fact that, once the most wealthy and privileged come to Harvard, they tend to stick together.

Here’s an example: When I first arrived at Harvard, I ran into someone from back home in New York City. She invited me to dinner with “a few other kids from New York.” Hers was an innocent display of kindness, and yet she was precipitating an insidious phenomenon—the rapid formation of the New York City “clique.”

So why do the New York City (and LA, and Greenwich, and so on) “elite” coalesce into these groups? This is where discomfort comes into the picture.

Yes, people do tend to find friends who have similar backgrounds and beliefs. That’s the easy answer. But in my experience, when it comes to the particularly privileged, there’s something more at play.

Unlike our different cultural or religious backgrounds, privilege is not a source of pride or a difference from our classmates that we choose to celebrate. Instead, privilege—and more importantly what privilege says about each of our characters—makes us uncomfortable. Our privilege forces us to question our worthiness and our merit, two of the things most highly valued at an institution like this one.

I find myself asking: If I got here because of the advantages afforded me by my background (a fact that is almost irrefutably true), then what does that say about my worthiness? What about my classmates who have made it here without any of the opportunities that I had? How do I reconcile my own desire to succeed with the guilt that I can’t help but feel about having had a leg up in the first place? What am I, or where would I be, without my privilege?

These questions are tough to ask and even harder to answer. The natural reaction to these questions, questions that inspire self-doubt, is to insulate ourselves from ever having to confront what it is that makes us so uneasy.

It is possible to avoid them altogether: by surrounding ourselves with friends who grew up the same way. We can avoid situations that bring these questions to the surface and then go about our college lives in bubbles of comfort.

But while avoidance is certainly possible, it’s far from right. If we experience college with social blinders on, we miss out.

In the words of Harvard’s mission statement, “Education at Harvard should liberate students to explore, to create, [and] to challenge.” It’s the last word that matters most. Forcing ourselves to challenge our beliefs, our upbringing, and the way of life that we may have experienced for our first 18 years is undeniably difficult. But it’s also essential to what Harvard seeks to accomplish with each of its students: a broader understanding of the world, and personal growth.

Failure to confront discomfort now leads to an equal inability to confront it later. If our awareness of our classmates of different socioeconomic backgrounds exists purely in the realm of abstraction, then we have failed not only to undergo Khurana’s “transformative” college experience, but we have also failed in making ourselves socially responsible citizens.


Nick F. Barber ’17, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mather House.

It’s Never OK to Hit a Child

Huffington Post Parent Blog
Michele Reiner Headshot
Rob Reiner Headshot

Last week NFL player Adrian Peterson turned himself in on charges of child abuse after a session of disciplining his 4-year-old son left cuts, welts and bruises on the boy’s body.

The gruesome incident sparked a national debate about whether or not it’s ever OK for a parent to hit a child. Research shows the answer is a resounding “No!”

Most parents believe they are doing the right thing when they strike or spank their child, but experts say that hitting a child causes more long-term harm than good — even if it temporarily corrects misbehavior.

Murray Straus, a parenting expert and the director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, writes in his book The Primordial Violence:

[S]panking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school.

We know that children learn by imitating what they see their parents saying and doing. Hitting children when they do something wrong teaches them that violence is the appropriate response to feelings of anger.

Discipline is about teaching, and a child does not need to be hurt to learn. So even if you were spanked as a kid (and many parents today were), the science shows there are much safer and more effective methods of addressing misbehavior.

The Parents Action for Children video “Discipline: Teaching Limits With Love,” hosted by renowned child-development expert Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, explores the most effective, nonviolent methods of addressing misbehavior and explains how to establish discipline with children from the start.

It’s normal to be upset with a child who annoys you, goes against your wishes or just won’t listen. But keep in mind that it’s never OK to translate your anger into physical actions or verbal abuse.

Your ultimate goal should be to communicate your message in a calm, firm way. If your child sees you working to calm yourself down, even if you have to leave the room to do it, she will know that it’s OK to get angry and then calm down and regain control before dealing with a situation.

A child can only learn behavior that she sees, and you are her most important role model.

Want to Stop Mean Girls? Raise Nice Girls, Instead

The Huffington Post Blog

Once upon a time, fourth grade was the year that young girls began to have difficulty navigating friendships. For many years, I worked in a school for kids with learning disabilities. It was always during fourth grade that previously established friendships began to hit turbulence. Names were called. Gossip was spread. Feelings were hurt.

The teachers always had to deal with the worst of it, of course, because the tears, eye rolling, and barely audible sarcastic comments had a way of surfacing the very moment the teachers started teaching.

Some days, the girls resolved their own issues and the previously ex-best friends were new best friends again by the time the school buses lined the driveway. Other days, the standoffs continued until every last student left the building.

It was a complicated system of friending and unfriending long before social media brought such a concept to our fingertips. Desperate to put an end to the shifting alliances and crying girls hiding in bathrooms when they should be doing math, some of the teachers asked me to intervene. So I did.

I started a friendship club. That’s what we called it, anyway. A few of them rolled their eyes at the name, but the truth is they were bored of the usual lunch/recess games and happy to join me in the library to talk about friendship once a week. We crafted and played games while we chatted, and I spent the better part of those meetings teaching the girls about empathy and kindness. Because even in the fourth grade, kids still need lessons in those two very important topics.

A few weeks into the group, a wonderful thing happened. The girls started sharing their feelings with one another. They started talking about the things that bugged them and the things that made them happy. One girl taught another girl how to sew. Two girls who thought they had nothing in common became very close friends. When the girls stopped judging and started listening and empathizing, they felt empowered. And the mean girl stuff that once threatened their emotional and academic well being became a thing of the past. Imagine that?

All of that progress occurred because someone took the time to help them learn to relate and empathize. Someone showed them a better way to establish and navigate friendships. It wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t happen in one week, but it happened.

Sadly, the latest PEW research shows that things like empathy and kindness are low on the list of the traits that the majority of parents deem important for kids right now. Parents, it seems, are much more interested in raising “hard working” and “responsible” kids than raising kind and empathic kids. That’s a shame, really, because kids learn a lot about working hard and being responsible the moment they enter school, but things like empathy and kindness should begin at home.

If we want to put an end to “mean girl” behavior, if we want to stop the covert bullying based on judgment, jealousy, and gossip, we have to teach girls how to relate. We have to show them how to establish healthy friendships, how to listen for the sake of listening (not for the sake of crafting a witty retort), and how to build each other up along the way.

All children have their own individual strengths, and yet our culture celebrates fitting in. We might tell them to get out there and be individuals, but we send them out into a world where identifying with one group or another is essential. Without a group, kids feel lost. But group dynamics can be tricky, and that can pose a problem for many.

While it is perfectly normal for young girls to gravitate toward other girls with common interests, it’s also important to teach our girls to celebrate differences and look for the good in others.

With consistent feedback on kindness and empathy, we can raise a generation of girls who reverse the trend of mean girl behavior that seems to grow in size with each passing year. We can make a difference.

Empower them to help. Competitive parenting isn’t just toxic for the parents caught in the race to the finish line, you know, it also negatively impacts the children witnessing the competition. Stop competing. Your family is your family and it doesn’t matter what other families are doing. Your child might go to Harvard. She might go to a state college. She might become a dancer, an artist, or a teacher. Your job is not to shape her into some version of perfection, your job is to support her as she grows and establishes her own goals and dreams.

Instead of focusing on the unknown, empower your daughter to help a friend in need. Empower her to be a change agent within her community, to think about the wellbeing of others instead of thinking about whether or not others are performing as well as, or better than, her in any given task.

Kill the sarcasm. I hear a lot of sarcasm between parents and children. Parents rely on sarcasm when they’re tired, frustrated, or downright angry. It’s hurtful. It leaves children feeling confused, upset, and helpless. It’s bad for the soul. And yet, parents continue to use it, often in front of other children and adults.

Stop using sarcasm as a form of communication with your daughter. She might not understand all of it right this very moment, but she will internalize it and she will repeat it. She will work it into her own vernacular, and she will use it to hurt other people down the line.

Say what you mean. Be clear. Talk about feelings and model empathy. Rely on honest communication. If you do that, your daughter will learn to do the same.

Create a positive group for girls. You don’t have to coach your daughter’s basketball team to help your daughter and her friends establish positive and healthy friendships. Host a monthly knitting or book group. Start a running club. Consider a creative writing group.

Consistency is the key to helping young girls work on navigating the tumultuous feelings that can accompany making and keeping friends. Find something, or a few somethings, that sparks their interest and make that friendship group happen at least once a month. Within the safety of that group, your daughter and her peers will learn to listen and empathize, build each other up, and stick together no matter what obstacles might come their way.

And those are lessons worth teaching.

Raising Teenagers: Protect When You Must, Permit When You Can

The New York Times Motherlode Blog

CreditJessica Lahey

I don’t think this comes as news to anyone here, but it can be a real challenge to parent and to educate adolescents. My own specimens (boys, 11 and 15) spend their days vacillating between energetic and catatonic, optimistic and morose, ebullient and apathetic. Some days, I doubt that they will be able to forge a safe and successful path into adulthood without my constant help and intervention.

Fortunately, Dr. Laurence Steinberg says this is not the case. In his new book, “Age of Opportunity: Lesson From the New Science of Adolescence” Dr. Steinberg explains that sure, adolescence is challenging, but it is also a time of great opportunity. I loved the book, so I reached out to him and asked for advice on how to best parent and to teach adolescents. His take? Given some information about how the adolescent brain is wired, and a few tips on how to parent children who can have trouble accessing their reserves of self-control and motivation, the children will be all right.

First, a primer on the adolescent brain. While human brains reach their full size by age 10, that brain is far from fully cooked, neurologically speaking. Adolescence is a time of an extraordinary reorganization of resources in the brain, particularly with respect to the prefrontal cortex, the center of self-regulation, and the limbic system, the seat of emotion. Dr. Steinberg suggests that we view adolescent brain development in three overlapping stages:

1. Starting the engines: When puberty first hits, the limbic system becomes more easily aroused, and young teenagers can shift between extreme, euphoric highs and unpredictable, precipitous lows.

2. Developing a better braking system: During middle adolescence, the prefrontal cortex slowly inches toward maturity, which will eventually allow teenagers to master self-control, and yes, they will return to a more reasonable and mature cognitive and emotional state.

3. Putting a skilled driver behind the wheel: Once the brakes of self-control are functional, it’s a matter of fine-tuning, of practicing until those brakes work every time, in all conditions.

There is not much we can do to rush this process of neurological maturation along, but what parents and teachers can do is to help children practice their burgeoning skills of self-control as they emerge. The children who are most likely to emerge from adolescence with a strong sense of self-control, motivation and competence, Dr. Steinberg writes, are those who have been parented according to three goals: warmth, firmness and support. Children raised by warm, firm and supportive parents – what Dr. Steinberg refers to as “authoritative” parenting – emerge from adolescence with more well-honed skills of self-regulation, and are much less likely to fall victim to delinquency, addiction, obesity and premarital pregnancy.

Dr. Steinberg provides the following prescription for helping children navigate adolescence and figure out how regulate their feelings, thoughts and behaviors:

Be Warm. Warm parents react to children’s emotional needs so they can muster the bravery required to function away from parents, under their own initiative. Warm parents are affectionate. They show their children that they not only understand their emotional needs, but also will respond to them. They provide a safe haven and are involved in their child’s life.

Be Firm. Firm parents establish clear rules, even clearer expectations, and predictable consequences. Most importantly, they follow through with those consequences when expectations are not met. “Children acquire self-control by taking the rules that their parents have imposed on them and imposing them on themselves,” Dr. Steinberg writes. Firm parents are consistent and fair, explain their rules and decisions, and avoid harsh punishment that is out of scale with the wrongs committed.

Be Supportive. The best way to support children is by “scaffolding,” Dr. Steinberg writes. Scaffolding is just what it sounds like; the supports parents erect around our children should support them only as much as they require, and as they become better at managing themselves, those external controls should come down. Parents who set children up to succeed, praise efforts rather than outcomes, help them think through their own decisions rather than making decisions for them, and refrain from being overly intrusive, will be able to dismantle those parenting supports gradually, and as they do so, their children will find that they are capable of standing tall on their own without crumbling when the world shakes them up a little bit.

I don’t think adolescence will ever be easy, either for my boys or for me, but I am trying to keep up my end of the deal by removing one piece of their scaffolding, every day. When my older son violates curfew, or my younger son takes off into the woods with my saw and his knife to whittle a staff out of a sapling, I look to my favorite piece of advice from Dr. Steinberg’s book, propped up in the back of my desk: “Protect when you must, but permit when you can.” Because that, I can do.

15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook

Next-generation apps that let users text, video-chat, shop, and share their pics and videos are attracting teens like catnip.

Kelly Schryver  Categories: Social Media

Are teens totally over Facebook? Or are they using it even more than ever? Recent reports go back and forth on teens’ favorite digital hangout, but the fact is that the days of a one-stop shop for all social-networking needs are over. Instead, teens are dividing their attention between an array of apps and tools that let them write, share, video-chat, and even shop for the latest trends.

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every app and site that’s “hot” right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn’t be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics — what they are, why they’re popular, and what problems can crop up when they’re not used responsibly — can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.

15 Social Media Tools Parents Need to Know About Now

Kik Messenger
Yik Yak

1. Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities.

Why it’s popular
Teens like using it to share quick tidbits about their lives with friends. It’s also great for keeping up with what’s going on in the world — breaking news, celebrity gossip, etc.

What parents need to know

  • Public tweets are the norm for teens. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013). Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.
  • Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it’s gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.
  • It’s a promotional tool for celebs. Twitter reels teens in with behind-the-scenes access to celebrities’ lives, adding a whole new dimension to celebrity worship. You may want to point out how much marketing strategy goes into the tweets of those they admire.

2. Instagram is a platform that lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos — either publicly or with a network of followers.

Why it’s popular
Instagram unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. Instagram also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know

  • Teens are on the lookout for “Likes.” Similar to Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens post it to validate their popularity.
  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location info can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.
  • Private messaging is now an option. Instagram Direct allows users to send “private messages” to up to 15 mutual friends. These pics don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chat, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles. Also, strangers can send private messages to users; kids then choose to open the message and view or discard the attached picture.
  • Mature content can slip in. The terms of service specify that users should be at least 13 years old and shouldn’t post partially nude or sexually suggestive photos — but they don’t address violence, swear words, or drugs.

3. Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear.

Why it’s popular
Snapchat’s creators intended the app’s fleeting images to be a way for teens to share fun, light moments without the risk of having them go public. And that’s what most teens use it for: sending goofy or embarrassing photos to one another. Snapchats also seem to send and load much “faster” than email or text.

What parents need to know

  • Many schools have yet to block it, which is one reason why teens like it so much (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013).
  • It’s a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered. After a major hack in December 2013 and a settlement with the FTC, Snapchat has clarified their privacy policy, but teens should stay wary.
  • It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing inappropriate content.

4. Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblelogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if made public).

Why it’s popular
Many teens have tumblrs for personal use — sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends. Tumblelogs with funny memes and gifs often go viral online, as well (case in point: “Texts from Hillary“).

What parents need to know

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos, depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
  • Privacy can be guarded, but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password protect.
  • Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post that’s reblogged from one tumblelog then appears on another. Many teens like — and in fact, want — their posts reblogged. But do you really want your kids’ words and photos on someone else’s page?

5. Google+ is Google’s social network, which is now open to teens. It has attempted to improve on Facebook’s friend concept — using “circles” that give users more control about what they share with whom.

Why it’s popular
Teens aren’t wild about Google+ yet. But many feel that their parents are more accepting of it because they associate it with schoolwork. One popular aspect of Google+ is the addition of real-time video chats in Hangouts (virtual gatherings with approved friends), and some schools may use Google Docs for classroom assignments.

What parents need to know

  • Teens can limit who sees certain posts by using “circles.” Friends, acquaintances, and the general public can all be placed in different circles. If you’re friends with your kid on Google+, know that you may be in a different “circle” than their friends (and therefore seeing different information).
  • Google+ takes teens’ safety seriously. Google+ created age-appropriate privacy default settings for any users whose registration information shows them to be teens. It also automatically reminds them about who may be seeing their posts (if they’re posting on public or extended circles).
  • Data tracking and targeting are concerns. Google+ activity (what you post and search for and who you connect with) is shared across Google services including Gmail and YouTube. This information is used for targeting ads to the user. Users can’t opt out of this type of sharing across Google services.

6. Vine is a social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative and funny — and sometimes thought-provoking.

Why it’s popular
Videos run the gamut from stop-motion clips of puzzles doing and undoing themselves to six-second skits showing how a teen wakes up on a school day vs. a day during summer. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and family.

What parents need to know

  • It’s full of inappropriate videos. In three minutes of random searching, we came across a clip full of full-frontal male nudity, a woman in a fishnet shirt with her breasts exposed, and people blowing marijuana smoke into each other’s mouths. There’s a lot of funny, clever expression on Vine, but much of it isn’t appropriate for kids.
  • There are significant privacy concerns. The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos are all public by default. But you can adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.
  • Parents can be star performers (without knowing). If your teens film you being goofy or silly, you may want to talk about whether they plan to share it.

7. Wanelo (Want, Need, Love) combines shopping, fashion blogging, and social networking all in one. It’s very popular among teens, allowing them to discover, share, and buy products they like.

Why it’s popular
Teens keep up with the latest styles by browsing Wanelo’s “trending” feed, which aggregates the items that are most popular across the site. They can also cultivate their own style through the “My Feed” function, which displays content from the users, brands, and stores they follow.

What parents need to know

  • If you like it, you can buy it. Users can purchase almost anything they see on Wanelo by clicking through to products’ original sites. As one user tweeted, “#Wanelo you can have all of my money! #obsessed.”
  • Brand names are prominent. Upon registering, users are required to follow at least three “stores” (for example, Forever21 or Marc Jacobs) and at least three “people” (many are other everyday people in Wanelo’s network, but there are also publications like Seventeenmagazine).
  • There’s plenty of mature clothing. You may not love what kids find and put on their wish lists. Wanelo could lead to even more arguments over what your teen can and can’t wear.

8. Kik Messenger is an app-based alternative to standard texting that kids use for social networking. It’s free to use but has lots of ads.

Why it’s popular
It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you just use the basic features, making it decidedly more fun in many ways than SMS texting.

What parents need to know

  • It’s too easy to “copy all.” Kik’s ability to link to other Kik-enabled apps within itself is a way to drive “app adoption” (purchases) from its users for developers. The app also encourages new registrants to invite everyone in their phone’s address book to join Kik, since users can only message those who also have the app.
  • There’s some stranger danger. An app named OinkText, linked to Kik, allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.
  • It uses real names. Teens’ usernames identify them on Kik, so they shouldn’t use their full real name as their username.

9. Oovoo is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free. (The premium version removes ads from the service.)

Why it’s popular
Teens mostly use Oovoo to hang out with friends. Many log on after school and keep it up while doing homework. Oovoo can be great for group studying and it makes it easy for kids to receive “face to face” homework help from classmates.

What parents need to know

  • You can only chat with approved friends. Users can only communicate with those on their approved “contact list,” which can help ease parents’ safety concerns.
  • It can be distracting. Because the service makes video chatting so affordable and accessible, it can also be addicting. A conversation with your kids about multitasking may be in order.
  • Kids still prefer in-person communication. Though apps like Oovoo make it easier than ever to video chat with friends, research shows that kids still value face-to-face conversations over online ones — especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Still, they sometimes find it hard to log off when all of their friends are on.

10. Yik Yak is a free, location-aware, social-networking app that lets users post “anything and everything” anonymously through brief, Twitter-like comments, which are distributed to the geographically nearest 500 people who are also signed in to the app. 

Why it’s popular
Kids can find out opinions, secrets, rumors, and more. Plus, they’ll get the bonus thrill of knowing all these have come from a 1.5-mile radius (maybe even from the kids at the desks in front of them!).

What parents need to know

  • It reveals your location. By default, exactly where you are is shown unless you toggle location sharing off. Each time you open the app, GPS updates your location.
  • It’s a mixed bag of trouble. This app has it all: cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location sharing, and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol.
  • Some schools have banned access. Some teens have used the app to threaten others, causing school lockdowns and more. Its gossipy and sometimes cruel nature can be toxic to a high school environment, so administrators are cracking down.

11. is a social site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by other users — sometimes anonymously.

Why it’s popular
Although there are some friendly interactions on — Q&As about favorite foods or crushes, for example — there are lots of mean comments and some creepy sexual posts. This iffy content is part of the site’s appeal for teens.

What parents need to know

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12. WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

Why it’s popular
The price is right; for teens who have a hard time keeping within the limits of a standard texting plan, the ability to send unlimited messages for free is a definite bonus.

What parents need to know

  • It’s for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.
  • It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. Beyond that, the app often encourages you to add friends who haven’t yet signed up.
  • Kids may need some limits. Although unlimited texting may save you cash, capping kids’ communication can help them stay focused on the more important transmissions.

13. Omegle is a chat site (and app) that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or video chat room.

Why it’s popular
Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its “interest boxes” also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

  • Users get paired up with strangers. That’s the whole premise of the app. And there’s no registration required.
  • This is NOT an app for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.
  • Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they’re often much more explicit than those with a user who can be identified might be.

14. Yo. is a bare-bones social app that sends a short text message to friends and family, simply reading “Yo” (and speaking the word aloud). That’s it.

Why it’s popular
This admittedly silly concept has taken off big-time since the app’s release in mid-2014. Although it may not seem like much, this single word has the potential to let friends and family know you’re thinking of them and just wanted to say, you know, “Yo.”

What parents need to know

  • It’s relatively harmless — but watch out for hackers. The app’s simple design and explosive popularity has made it a target for hackers.
  • Yo. may be a flash in the pan. Although your kid may be obsessed with sending “yo” greetings to everyone in her address book today, tomorrow could be a different story, as apps like this tend to have a shorter lifespan.

15. Whisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image.

Why it’s popular 
With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with someone nearby, while others post “confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.
  • Content can be dark. People normally don’t confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.
  • Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine. Take inventory of your kids’ apps and review the best practices.

Websites Editor Polly Conway contributed to this story.

CSH Sr. Mary Grace Henry Named World of Children Award Winner

Reverse The Course

Youth Award –

“Educating a girl can reverse the course of her life and change the course of a community …and a country.”

Educating Girls to Change the World

At the age of 12, Mary Grace Henry became determined to change the life of an underprivileged girl by funding her education. She started sewing headbands that she first sold at her school’s bookstore, using 100% of the profits to help girls living in extreme poverty attend school. Her program,Reverse The Course, has since grown into a successful social business model that is unique for a child of her age.

To date, she has sold over 11,000 hair accessories and funded the education of girls in Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay and Haiti who, without her support, would not have been able to attend school. Funding from World of Children Award will support Reverse The Course’s mission to provide education for disenfranchised girls and to develop business training and mentoring programs for girls, empowering them to become agents of positive change in their societies.


25 Ways to Ask Your Teens “How Was School Today?” WITHOUT asking them “How Was School Today?”

Simple Simon and Company

On Wednesday I posted 25 ways to ask your kids “How was school today?” without asking them “How was school today?” and the questions came from a list that I made to ask my own children who are in elementary school.

But all of those questions are geared toward elementary school aged kids….and I started to think…if I think it’s hard for me to get school stories from my 10 year old boy now what is it going to be like 5 years from now?!?

And then I remembered that I know what its going to be like.  I taught either junior high or high school for almost a decade and I get that communication with that age group is an art.  BUT when you get dialogue, engaged dialogue with a teen it’s never disappointing, it’s guaranteed to be interesting, sometimes it can be very enlightening, and it’s ALWAYS worth the work.  ALWAYS.

So tonight my husband (who also teaches high school) and I sat down and made a list of 25 ways to ask your teens “How Was School Today?” without asking them “How Was School Today?”…in an effort to get some sort of engaged, interesting dialog…even if it only lasts in that brief time in between them texting friends…

25 Ways to ask your teen how was school today

#1.  Where in the school do you hang out the most?  (Like a particular hall, classroom, parking lot, etc.)  Where in the school do you never hang out?

#2.  What would your school be better with?  What would your school be better without?

#3.  If you were a teacher what class would you teach?  What class would be the worst to teach?  Why?

#4.  What was the coolest (saddest, funniest, scariest) thing that you saw today.

#5.  Tell me one thing that you learned today.

#6.  If your day at school today was a movie what movie would it be?

#7.  Besides walking to their next classes, what else do people do in the halls in between classes?

#8.  Who do you think you could be nicer to?

#9.  What is your easiest class?  What is your hardest class?  OR  What class are your learning the most in?  What class are you learning the least in?

#10.  If they played music in the halls at school what would everyone want them to play over the loudspeaker?

#11.  If you could read minds what teachers mind would you read?  What classmates mind would you read?  Whose mind would you NOT want to read?

#12.  If today had a theme song what would it be?

#13.  Which class has your favorite group of students in it?  Which class has the worst group of students?

#14.  What do you think you should do more of at school?  What do you think you should do less of?

#15.  What are the top 3 (or 5) things that you hear people say in the halls?

#16.  What do you think the most important part of school is?

#17.  Tell me one question that you had today…even if it wasn’t answered….actually, especially if it wasn’t answered…

#18.  What class has the most cute boys/girls in it?

#19.  If an alien space ship landed at your school who would you like them to beam aboard and take back to their home planet?

#20.  Who did you help today?  Who helped you today?

#21.  If you could be invisible for the day at school what would you do?

#22.  What part of the day do you look forward to?  What part of the day do you dread?

#23.  What would you change about school lunch?

#24.  What classmate is most likely to be arrested, made president, become a millionaire, be in movies, let loose a flock of wild chickens in the library, etc.

#25.  If you had to go to only one class every day which class would it be?

#26.  Tell me one thing you read at school today.

#27.  If your day at school was an emoticon which one would it be?

#28.  What do you think your teachers talked about in the faculty room today after school?


Ok, so I know there were a few more than 25…but with teenagers…we all need all the help we can get! :)

Good luck with those teens and happy conversing!



I don’t have teenagers of my own but I’ve worked with my fair share of them….and one thing that I’ve found is that when you want them to open up just sitting them down and asking questions isn’t really effective.  BUT, if you….say….trap them in the car…and talk to them while you are driving…and they don’t have to make eye contact… they are more willing to offer up more information or ask more questions.

This also happens while you are working with them on things like making dinner, folding laundry, rearranging furniture, etc.  You can casually talk and ask questions without making them feel like you are grilling them.

When I taught school sometimes I would make up work project jobs to do with students that I was worried about just so that we could have some heart to hearts while scrubbing desks or cleaning out closets.  It sounds lame, but I’m telling you, it works.

9 Lies that Keep Our Schedules Overwhelmed

Becoming Minimalist


“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

The speed of our world is increasing.

Technology and communication continue to improve. Information moves faster. And social media rewards those who never turn it off.

Expectations, demands, and accessibility continue to expand, but the number of hours in a week do not. As a result, our lives get busier and busier.

This approach to life rarely benefits us in the long-run because a busy life is an unreflective life. In fact, often times, we are so busy scurrying from one thing to another we don’t even have the space to realize our schedules have become overwhelmed. We don’t recognize how our overcommitted lives are harming us.

Even worse, we are unable to identify the hidden mistruths in our heart that are contributing to the problem. Consider these:

9 Hidden Lies that Keep Our Schedules Overwhelmed

1. Accolades will bring fulfillment. The thinking goes like this: The busier we are, the more we can accomplish and the more respect we can earn. And the more respect and accolades we receive, the more we can surely prove our worth and value to others. Unfortunately, if you are trying to find fulfillment in someone else’s opinion of you, you will never find it. You will always be left searching (and working) for more.

2. Money will bring happiness. We often get caught up in needless busyness because of our desire to earn and secure more money. Ever notice how often we are offered money (or the chance to win money) for our time? While it is important to work hard and provide for the needs of your family, it is foolish to think money is the quickest shortcut to better living.

3. I don’t have a choice. Many of us live over-busy lives because of the expectations and demands of others. In these cases, it is important to remember you always have a choice. Sure, there are seasons of life that require more of you and your time than others, but seasons always change. If yours hasn’t changed recently, you may need to revisit who is making the decisions in your life and where you can regain some of your control.

4. I’m more productive if I’m busy. Maybe you can be more productive for a short while, but human beings are not designed to work relentlessly without periods of rest. Countless studies confirm the importance of rest for productivity. Eventually, a lifestyle of busyness will detract from our productivity. And more importantly, your health and well-being. There are no exceptions.

5. I am needed. Pride is defined as holding an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance. And it leads to overwhelmed schedules because of the foolish thinking that follows it: “Nobody else can do what I do.” This pride affects the way we view our business, our work, our family, and our personal relationships. Left unchecked, it leads to a busy life and in the end, a fall.

6. Everything is important. Our world has a tendency to make everything appear urgent, important, and beneficial to our lives. As the speed of information increases, our minds are seemingly less equipped to filter all the information and opportunities. But the most productive among us realize nobody can accomplish everything. They are relentless in their understanding of mission and the reality that very few things are truly important. And they never sacrifice the important for the trivial.

7. I need to be busy to keep up with everyone else. It may seem, at times, the only way to get ahead in life is to outwork everyone else. But just because everyone else appears busy does not mean they are busy about the right things. Nor does it mean they are finding joy in their pursuits. Frank Clark perhaps said it best, “Modern man is frantically trying to earn enough to buy things he’s too busy to enjoy.”

8. Busy makes me look more important. Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. In fact, being busy doing the wrong things is actually quite unattractive. Just remember, in a society rushing to keep up with everyone else, those who find peace, contentment, and rest are the ones admired…and envied.

9. Quietness is laziness. Often times, people avoid dealing with life’s deeper issues by packing their schedule tight. Someone who is discontent with their life’s choices can escape the difficult work of addressing them by masking them with busyness. Quietness is not laziness. Quietness is hard, but always worth the effort.

Many of the lies we have been told since birth crowd out the things in life that matter most. Instead of enjoying the benefit of calm, intentional living, we hurry from one needless triviality to another.

Don’t ever get so busy chasing the wrong things that you miss enjoying the right things. (tweet that)

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.


Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

The Washington Post
Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won’t commit to.“I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,” says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.

But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.

“It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say,” she confessed. “When I realize what’s happening, I have to go back and read again and again.”

To cognitive neuroscientists, Handscombe’s experience is the subject of great fascination and growing alarm. Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.

“I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.”

If the rise of nonstop cable TV news gave the world a culture of sound bites, the Internet, Wolf said, is bringing about an eye byte culture. Time spent online — on desktop and mobile devices — was expected to top five hours per day in 2013 for U.S. adults, according to eMarketer, which tracks digital behavior. That’s up from three hours in 2010.

Word lovers and scientists have called for a “slow reading” movement, taking a branding cue from the “slow food” movement. They are battling not just cursory sentence galloping but the constant social network and e-mail temptations that lurk on our gadgets — the bings and dings that interrupt “Call me Ishmael.”

Researchers are working to get a clearer sense of the differences betweenonline and print reading — comprehension, for starters, seems better with paper — and are grappling with what these differences could mean not only for enjoying the latest Pat Conroy novel but for understanding difficult material at work and school. There is concern that young children’s affinity and often mastery of their parents’ devices could stunt the development of deep reading skills.

The brain is the innocent bystander in this new world. It just reflects how we live.

“The brain is plastic its whole life span,” Wolf said. “The brain is constantly adapting.”

Wolf, one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game.”

“I’m not kidding: I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”

Adapting to read

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.

The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Brandon Ambrose, a 31-year-old Navy financial analyst who lives in Alexandria, knows of those consequences.

His book club recently read “The Interestings,” a best-seller by Meg Wolitzer. When the club met, he realized he had missed a number of the book’s key plot points. It hit him that he had been scanning for information about one particular aspect of the book, just as he might scan for one particular fact on his computer screen, where he spends much of his day.

“When you try to read a novel,” he said, “it’s almost like we’re not built to read them anymore, as bad as that sounds.”

Ramesh Kurup noticed something even more troubling. Working his way recently through a number of classic authors — George Eliot, Marcel Proust, that crowd — Kurup, 47, discovered that he was having trouble reading long sentences with multiple, winding clauses full of background information. Online sentences tend to be shorter, and the ones containing complicated information tend to link to helpful background material.

“In a book, there are no graphics or links to keep you on track,” Kurup said.

It’s easier to follow links, he thinks, than to keep track of so many clauses in page after page of long paragraphs.

Kurup’s observation might sound far-fetched, but told about it, Wolf did not scoff. She offered more evidence: Several English department chairs from around the country have e-mailed her to say their students are having trouble reading the classics.

“They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.’ They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.”

Wolf points out that she’s no Luddite. She sends e-mails from her iPhone as often as one of her students. She’s involved with programs to send tablets to developing countries to help children learn to read. But just look, she said, at Twitter and its brisk 140-character declarative sentences.

“How much syntax is lost, and what is syntax but the reflection of our convoluted thoughts?” she said. “My worry is we will lose the ability to express or read this convoluted prose. Will we become Twitter brains?”

Bi-literate brains?

Wolf’s next book will look at what the digital world is doing to the brain, including looking at brain-scan data as people read both online and in print. She is particularly interested in comprehension results in screen vs. print reading.

Already, there is some intriguing research that looks at that question. A 2012 Israeli study of engineering students — who grew up in the world of screens — looked at their comprehension while reading the same text on screen and in print when under time pressure to complete the task.

The students believed they did better on screen. They were wrong. Their comprehension and learning was better on paper.

Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly and that the differences should be dealt with in education, particularly with school-aged children. There are advantages to both ways of reading. There is potential for a bi-literate brain.

“We can’t turn back,” Wolf said. “We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both. We have to ask the question: What do we want to preserve?”

Wolf is training her own brain to be bi-literate. She went back to the Hesse novel the next night, giving herself distance, both in time and space, from her screens.

“I put everything aside. I said to myself, ‘I have to do this,’ ” she said. “It was really hard the second night. It was really hard the third night. It took me two weeks, but by the end of the second week I had pretty much recovered myself so I could enjoy and finish the book.”

Then she read it again.

“I wanted to enjoy this form of reading again,” Wolf said. “When I found myself, it was like I recovered. I found my ability again to slow down, savor and think.”

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post?s local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.