I Will Not Check My Son’s Grades Online Five Times a Day

Here’s something we’ve considered implementing at Sacred Heart – we’re not sure it supports Goal V, personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, though.

Thoughts?

More and more schools are adopting student information software, allowing millions of parents to monitor their kids’ attendance and academic progress. But should they?

Last week I received a letter from my son’s high school that started like this:

Dear Parent/Guardian,

PowerSchool, our student information system, allows you to create your own account and use a single password to access information for all of your children who attend school in our district. This account allows you to keep up to date with your students’ academic progress, attendance, historical grades, etc.

I believe the letter goes on to detail procedures for setting up an account that would allow me to track nearly every aspect of my son’s academic life. I say, “I believe,” because I have not read the rest of the letter. Our family had known the letter was coming, and we’d already discussed how we were going to handle it.

My husband and I handed the letter over to my 14-year-old son with the promise that we will not be using the system to check on his grades or attendance (or anything else). In return, he promised to use the system himself and keep us apprised of anything we need to know.

We’re not the only family that’s had to decide what to do with “student information systems.” According to Bryan Macdonald, senior vice president of PowerSchool, 70 to 80 percent of the schools that use PowerSchool choose to implement the parent portal, which represents about 9 to 10 million students. “Our best data suggests that over 80 percent of parents and students who have access – meaning their school has enabled remote access – use the system at least once a week…and many users check multiple times a day.”

When I posted a challenge on Facebook encouraging friends to join us in eschewing PowerSchool, I received many comments and emails, none of them neutral. Either PowerSchool and its ilk are best thing that’s ever happened to parenting or the worst invention for helicopter parents since the toddler leash.

Several parents reject the technology on the grounds that they want to talk to their kids face-to-face about school:

I am fairly certain that the fear of facing me with bad academic news was the only thing that kept my kids in line. Take away that moment when they have to look us in the eye, admit to not having studied and the ensuing results….not on your life! -Lisa Endlich Heffernan, mother of three and parenting blogger at Grown & Flown

We don’t use the info, either. We just talk to our kids. -Elena Marshall, mother of eight

Teachers and administrators have mixed feelings:

I like that parents can check grades and I encouraged them to do so. I feel that open communication between home and school is essential in educating children, and only sending midterm and final grades home makes grades seem like a big secret. With parent access on PowerSchool, there are no secrets.  I am bothered, however, by parents who CONSTANTLY check…sometimes 5 or 6 times a day. These parents tend to be the ones who push their children the hardest and are the first to complain when grades aren’t entered on the DAY an assignment is due. As a language arts teacher with 60 papers to grade, I just can’t do that!  I’m not sure parents realize the school can see how many times they access the portal. –Mindi Rench, mother of two and junior high literacy coach and education blogger

Teacher Gina Parnaby tweeted that PowerSchool is a “Bane. Stresses my students out to no end. Freaks parents out b/c they see grades not as a communication but as judgment.” Teacher Dana Salvador wrote in an email that i-Parent, the parent portal her school has implemented is a moot issue for her. This is not because the parents have not chosen to use the software, but the parents of her low-income, ESL students don’t speak English and there is no Spanish version of the software.

For a sampling of what students think about PowerSchool, one need look no far than Twitter.

Ultimately, for many, including mother and teacher Christiana Whittington, the choice to use the unfettered access depends on the child.

I think this may be best viewed as a case-by-case scenario. Our son sailed through school effortlessly with excellent grades but hit one very hard. He procrastinated telling us about his issues. By the time we found out that he was struggling, it was really too late to save him. If we had had the opportunity to check on his grades through the portal, we could have easily prevented this. Our other daughter, being dyslexic, has always struggled in school. She had not yet come to grips with the fact that she is a bright person in spite of her disability and was embarrassed about lower grades especially in the highly competitive environment. For her, we would definitely have chosen to access the portal. I think overall this is a good thing but it can also completely undermine trust between parent and child. You really need to know your child.

For the time being, I choose to trust in the power of open communication and my son’s emerging sense of responsibility and character.  When I handed him the envelope, and asked him to keep me in the loop, he thanked me and returned to his room to do his homework. He has four years of high school ahead of him, and only time will tell if my faith in him is warranted. Until then, I plan to keep my hands out of what should be his business, his responsibility, and his life.

Teen Girls And Social Media: A Story Of ‘Secret Lives’ And Misogyny

NPR

Nancy Jo Sales interviewed more than 200 teenage girls about their social media and Internet habits while researching her book American Girls.

Knopf

Social media and dating apps are putting unprecedented pressures on America’s teen girls, author Nancy Jo Sales says. Her new book, American Girls, opens with a story about one 13-year-old who received an Instagram request for “noodz” [nude photos] from a boy she didn’t know very well.

“When I was a girl and the things that would come up in your life that were difficult or troubling or whatever — there was always a Judy Blume book for it,” Sales tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. But, Sales says, when it comes to responding to an out-of-the-blue solicitation for naked images, “there’s no Judy Blume book for that. There’s nothing for them to turn to, to know, like, ‘How do I react to this?’ ”

In the 2 1/2 years she spent researching her book, Sales interviewed more than 200 teenage girls around the country about their social media and Internet usage. She says girls face enormous pressures to post “hot” or sexualized photos of themselves online, and she adds that this pressure can make the Internet an unwelcoming environment.

“I think a lot of people are not aware of how the atmosphere has really changed in social situations … in terms of how the girls are treated and how the boys behave,” Sales says. “This is a kind of sexism and misogyny being played out in real time in this really extreme way.”


Interview Highlights

American Girls

On how males’ and females’ pictures differ on Tinder

I talked to an 18-year-old girl who is talking about looking at Tinder with her older brother and … she said she was struck by the way in which the boys and men’s pictures were very different than the girls’. Guys tend to have a picture like, I don’t know, they’re standing on a mountain looking like they’ve climbed the mountain, or they’re holding a big fish or they’re doing something manly, or in their car. … But the girls’ pictures … tend to be very different; they tend to be a lot more sexualized.

This is a pressure on social media that goes back, for women and girls, a long time. … I trace the origins back to a site called “Hot or Not” which came out in 2000. … The whole idea of “hotness” has become such a factor in the lives of American girls, unfortunately, because according to many, many studies, including a really landmark report by the American Psychological Association in 2007, this has wide-ranging ramifications for girls’ health and well-being, including studies that link this pressure to sexualize on all kinds of things like rising anxiety, depression, cutting, eating disorders. It’s a thing that I don’t think that boys have to deal with as much.

On boys asking girls for nude photos

I think the fact that so often we’re talking about nudes and sexting is because kids are watching porn. There’s multiple studies that say that they are. We know that they are. They’re curious. They’re going through puberty. They’re watching porn. And yet, nobody really talks about it or talks about the fact that it has an effect on how they behave and what they think about sex and sexuality and how they deal with each other. And there’s really no guidelines for girls about how to react to all of this. …

Some 13-year-old girls in Florida and New Jersey both told me that if they didn’t [send photos] they had been threatened with boys sending rumors about them, sending around a picture that actually wasn’t them and saying it was them. I mean, there’s a kind of thing in adult life that we know about called revenge porn, and that happens among kids as well, unfortunately.

It’s very risky for girls to send nudes because when they do, if they chose to, those photos are not private. They can be shared and very often they are shared. I heard story after story of situations where girls had pictures of themselves sent around to groups of people. It has become such a normal thing to them.

On “slut pages”

A “slut page” is when someone, typically a boy, not 100 percent of the time, but mostly a boy or boys, will collect nude photos of girls in their school or in the area’s schools and post them on a page. I’ve seen them on Facebook or Instagram. It looks like an amateur pornography site — it is an amateur pornography site, I would say — and it’s underage girls and pictures that are sent to someone, very often that they think won’t share them but who does. It’s a nonconsensual sharing of these pictures, and sometimes without their knowledge.

I’ve talked to girls who found out about it through text. Suddenly their phone blows up and they find out, “Oh my god, you’re on this page.” I think it’s very threatening because it’s abuse of a certain kind and it’s harassment, and it’s very often not punished in any way, or even known by adults.

On how porn is affecting sex

It was through talking to girls that I started thinking about porn, and they really enlightened me about the effect that porn was having on their lives, because they would start describing to me interactions that they had with boys. For example, “Send me nudes,” or a boy sending a nude picture of himself. … These things that they’re describing sound violent to me. They say, “[Boys] expect this, and they expect that, and they want you to do this, and they want you to do that.” And these things, they’re all the hallmarks of the most popular online porn.

There’s different things that are sort of popularized in porn. Pornographers have found that they get more traffic, more clicks, more views, whatever, the more extreme that it is. That seems to be the trend that has happened in porn in the last decade or so, right? So there are certain acts or moves or behaviors, whatever, which are filtering their way into the sexual encounters of teenage girls and boys.

Depression Strikes Today’s Teen Girls Especially Hard

NPR

A new study suggests that teen girls experience more bouts of depression than teen boys.

Nicole Xu for NPR

It’s tough to be a teenager. Hormones kick in, peer pressures escalate and academic expectations loom large. Kids become more aware of their environment in the teen years — down the block and online. The whole mix of changes can increase stress, anxiety and the risk of depression among all teens, research has long shown.

But a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests many more teenage girls in the U.S. may be experiencing major depressive episodes at this age than boys. And the numbers of teens affected took a particularly big jump after 2011, the scientists note, suggesting that the increasing dependence on social media by this age group may be exacerbating the problem.

Psychiatrist Ramin Mojtabai and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health wanted to know whether rates of depression among teens had increased over the past decade. They analyzed federal data from interviews with more than 172,000 adolescents. Between 2005 and 2014, the scientists found, rates of depression went up significantly — if extrapolated to all U.S. teens it would work out to about a half million more depressed teens. What’s more, three-fourths of those depressed teens in the study were girls.

The findings are just the latest in a steady stream of research showing that women of all ages experience higher rates of depression compared to men, says psychologist and author Catherine Steiner-Adair. And no wonder, she says — despite gains in employment, education and salary, women and girls are still “continually bombarded by media messages, dominant culture, humor and even political figures about how they look — no matter how smart, gifted, or passionate they are.”

Today’s constant online connections — via texting, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, — can exacerbate that harsh focus on looks and other judgments from peers, she says. The uptick in teen depression Mojtabai found after 2011 could be evidence of that.

Mojtabai says girls, in particular, “are more likely to use these new means of communication, so may be exposed to more cyberbullying or other negative effects of this latest social media.”

The effects can feel devastating, says Steiner-Adair.

“We know girls are very vulnerable to defining themselves in comparison to others,” she says. Her young female patients often tell her they get their “entire identity” from their phone, she says, constantly checking the number of “tags, likes, Instagram photos and Snapchat stories.”

Steiner-Adair urges schools to be proactive in trying to reduce teens’ feelings of being “left out” or judged. One tool, she says, might be a course in mindfulness — a form of meditation that has been shown to offer measurable health benefits and can help reduce anxiety and depression.

Such training can help teach kids that their brain “on tech” actually needs a rest, Steiner-Adair says. Mindfulness training teaches the value of solitude and can help practitioners calm the urge to constantly check the phone — a useful skill for people of all ages and gender.

Meanwhile, Mojtabai says, parents and family doctors, as well as teachers and school counselors, should be on the lookout for any behavioral changes in the teens they live and work with that might be signs of depression. Symptoms can include changes in sleep patterns, appetite or energy, or a growing inability to pay attention and concentrate.

Even just one counseling session to evaluate such symptoms, Mojtabai says, can help get teens back on the right track.

A quarter of teens use dangerous e-cig technique

Greenwich Time

Monday, February 6, 2017

A new Yale University study shows that many high schoolers “smoke” electronic cigarettes in a way that could increase their exposure to toxins and nicotine.

According to the study, one in four high schoolers who use electronic cigarettes engage in a practice called “dripping,” in which they inhale vapors produced by dripping e-liquids directly onto heating coils, instead of inhaling from the mouthpiece.

“Dripping,” is reportedly gaining in popularity among youth, who report it produces thicker clouds of vapor, a stronger hit in the back of the throat when inhaled, and a more pleasurable taste, according to the study, published online Feb. 6 in the journal Pediatrics.

Applying the liquid directly to the battery-powered coil heats it at a higher temperature than inhaling from a cartridge or tank, possibly increasing exposure to harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein in the vapors, according to other existing research.

The Yale study, the first to look at dripping rates among teens, recommends that more analysis be done on the toxicity of hot vapors produced by dripping, and that regulators consider imposing restrictions so e-cigarettes cannot be modified for uses like dripping.

Researchers reviewed survey responses from 1,080 e-cigarette users at eight Connecticut high schools and learned that 26.1 percent had tried dripping.

Males, white students, teens who had tried multiple tobacco products, and those who used e-cigarettes on more days in the past month were more likely to use the devices for dripping, according to the study.

The researchers did not assess whether the students added nicotine to the e-liquids used for dripping, or how frequently e-cigarettes were used for dripping.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the FDA.

Try Monotasking

Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)

Stop what you’re doing.

Well, keep reading. Just stop everything else that you’re doing.

Mute your music. Turn off your television. Put down your sandwich and ignore that text message. While you’re at it, put your phone away entirely. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, don’t. But the other rules still apply.)

Just read.

You are now monotasking.

Maybe this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Doing one thing at a time isn’t a new idea.

Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

Earlier research out of Stanford revealed that self-identified “high media multitaskers” are actually more easily distracted than those who limit their time toggling.

So, in layman’s terms, by doing more you’re getting less done.

But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn’t just about getting things done.

Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.”

“It’s a digital literacy skill,” said Manoush Zomorodi, the host and managing editor of WNYC Studios’ “Note to Self” podcast, which recently offered a weeklong interactive series called Infomagical, addressing the effects of information overload. “Our gadgets and all the things we look at on them are designed to not let us single-task. We weren’t talking about this before because we simply weren’t as distracted.”

Ms. Zomorodi prefers the term “single-tasking”: “ ‘Monotasking’ seemed boring to me. It sounds like ‘monotonous.’ ”

Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist, lecturer at Stanford and the author of “The Willpower Instinct,” believes that monotasking is “something that needs to be practiced.” She said: “It’s an important ability and a form of self-awareness as opposed to a cognitive limitation.”

This is great news for the self-identified monotaskers out there.

Jon Pack, a 42-year-old photographer in Brooklyn, was happy to hear that his single-minded manner might be undergoing a rebrand. “When I was looking for jobs and interviewing, they’d always want me to say, ‘I’m a great multitasker,’ ” he said. “And I wouldn’t. My inability to multitask was seen as a negative. Now I can just say, ‘I am a monotasker. I am someone who works best when I focus on one thing at a time.’ ”

And the way we work can have effects that kick in long after we clock out.

As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, Ms. Zomorodi said, can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. “That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day,” she said. “You’ve used them all up.”

The term “brain dead” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

A good sign you’ve task-switched yourself into a stupor: mindlessly scrolling Facebook at the end of the night or, as in Ms. Zomorodi’s case, looking at couches on Pinterest. “I just stuff my brain full of them because I can’t manage to do anything else,” she said. “The sad thing is that I don’t get any closer to deciding which one I like.”

But monotasking can also make work itself more enjoyable.

“I can multitask — and do, of course; it’s kind of essential — but I prefer to do one thing at a time,” Hayley Phelan, a 28-year-old writer, wrote in an email. “If I keep looking at my phone or my inbox or various websites, working feels a lot more tortuous. When I’m focused and making progress, work is actually pleasurable.”

Ms. Phelan isn’t imagining things. “Almost any experience is improved by paying full attention to it,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Attention is one way your brain decides, ‘Is this interesting? Is this worthwhile? Is this fun?’ ”

It’s the reason television shows we tweet through feel tiresome and books we pick up and put down and pick up again never seem to end. The more we allow ourselves to be distracted from a particular activity, the more we feel the need to be distracted. Paying attention pays dividends.

This is why, according to Ms. McGonigal, the ability to monotask might be most valuable in social situations. “Research shows that just having a phone on the table is sufficiently distracting to reduce empathy and rapport between two people who are in conversation,” she said.

Twenty-five thousand people participated in Ms. Zomorodi’s Infomagical project, which started the week with a single-tasking challenge. Upon completion, respondents agreed overwhelmingly that single-tasking was the No. 1 thing they wanted to carry into their post-Infomagical lives. “But they also said it was really, really hard,” Ms. Zomorodi said.

Parents of young children found it difficult for obvious reasons, as did people with jobs that permit them less control over their time. In those cases, try monotasking in areas where you can: conversations with your children, reading a book in bed before they go to sleep, dinner or drinks with friends. After all, monotasking is a good skill to incorporate into all aspects of your life, not just work.

Even those with more flexibility can find themselves going to great lengths for a little bit of focus. Nick Pandolfi, who works in partnerships at Google, once traveled to northern Sweden in what he described as an “extreme” effort to monotask.

“I had to write my business school application essays, and I was having no luck spending an hour here and there after work and on the weekends,” Mr. Pandolfi said. “I just wasn’t inspired. After spending a few days hiking in the Arctic by myself, I was able to get all of them done in just a few days.”

Transcontinental trips aside, Ms. Zomorodi stressed that it was important to find ways to practice. “Start by giving yourself just one morning a week to check in, and remind yourself what it feels like to do one thing at a time,” she said.

Mr. Pandolfi and Ms. Phelan use exercise to aid them, albeit in different ways. “If I need to get through a big project and don’t want to get distracted by my inbox and the minutiae of the web, I hop on the treadmill desk,” Mr. Pandolfi said. Ms. Phelan makes a point of running outside, weekly, “without listening to music or anything else.”

Monotasking can also be as simple as having a conversation.

“Practice how you listen to people,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.”

So is monotasking a movement? “It’s not there yet,” Ms. Zomorodi said. “But I think it will be.”

If enough people pay attention to it, that is.

Underage Drinking

Helpguide.org

Understanding the Dangers and Talking to Your Child

More than half of American youths ages 12 to 20 have tried alcohol. Girls are nearly as likely as boys to experiment with drinking. Underage and binge drinking is risky and can lead to car accidents, violent behavior, alcohol poisoning, and other health problems. Drinking at a young age greatly increases the risk of developing alcohol problems later in life. Talking to kids early and openly about the risks of drinking can help reduce their chances of becoming problem drinkers.

Early age alcohol use

Today, the average age an American girl has her first drink is 13; for a boy, it’s 11. In the U.S. and many other countries, underage drinking is a widespread problem with often serious consequences. Young people who drink are more likely to be the victims of violent crime, to be involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents, and to have depression and anxiety. Other risky behaviors are also linked to early drinking. Young people who start using alcohol before age 21 are more likely to:

  • Be involved in violent behaviors
  • Attempt suicide
  • Engage in unprotected sex or have multiple sex partners
  • Develop alcohol problems in later life

Early age alcohol use

Kids are experimenting with alcohol at earlier ages than ever before. A national survey found that slightly more than half of young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 12 and 20 have consumed alcohol at least once. Some researchers speculate that teens are more vulnerable to addiction because the pleasure center of the brain matures before the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and executive decision making. In other words, teenagers’ capacity for pleasure reaches adult proportions well before their capacity for sound decision making does.

In past generations, boys were much more likely than girls to experiment with alcohol in their teens, but girls are catching up. In 2009, 58% of all males ages 12 and older were current drinkers, higher than the rate for females (47%). But in the youngest group (ages 12 to 17), the percentage of current drinkers was nearly the same (15% of boys, 14% of girls).

While many young people will independently cut down on their drinking or stop drinking altogether as they reach their mid-20s and assume the responsibilities of being an employee, spouse, or parent, the risks of early age drinking remain. People who have their first drink at age 14 or younger are six times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who don’t try alcohol until the legal drinking age.

Factors affecting risk of developing a drinking problem

As well as the age at which they start consuming alcohol, a number of other factors influence a teen or young adult’s drinking behavior and whether it will become a problem. These include:

  • Race and ethnicity. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans for example, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction.
  • Genetics. A teen with an alcoholic sibling or parent is four times more likely to develop a problem with alcohol than someone without such a family history.
  • The presence of mental health disorders. Alcohol problems often go hand in hand with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
  • Personality traits. Teenagers who believe alcohol makes it easier to socialize, for example, tend to drink more than those who don’t believe that alcohol loosens their social inhibitions.
  • Influence of family and peers. Teens are at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems when alcohol is readily available at home or among their peer group, and if drunkenness is acceptable.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to drink heavily than women, but women become addicted at lower levels and shorter duration of use. See Women and Alcohol.

Dangers of drinking while young

The years between 18 and 25 are a time of considerable change, as teenagers spread their wings and leave home, many for the first time. While these may be exciting years, widespread alcohol use means they may be risky years as well. The highest prevalence of problem drinking occurs among young adults aged 18 to 25, nearly 42% of whom admit to binge drinking at least once a month (drinking five or more drinks in rapid succession for men, four or more for women).

Many of us typically think of college as the setting where older teens and younger 20-somethings drink to excess. However, several studies show that heavy drinking is widespread among all young adults regardless of whether or not they attend college. College students tend to drink less often than nonstudents, but when they do imbibe—at parties, for example—they tend to drink more.

The prevalent use of alcohol among teens and young adults is alarming for a number of reasons:

  • Alcohol is a major factor in fatal automobile crashes. About one-third of drivers ages 21 to 24 who died in a car crash in 2009 had a blood alcohol level that was over the legal limit.
  • Drinking may have lasting health effects. Some researchers believe that heavy drinking at this age, when the brain is still developing, may cause lasting impairments in brain functions such as memory, coordination, and motor skills—at least among susceptible individuals.
  • Drinking can lead to sexual assaults and rape. Each year, approximately 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Teen girls who drink face special challenges

Teenage girls experiment with alcohol for many of the same reasons that boys do, but they face some challenges boys don’t:

  • Among teenage heavy drinkers (those having five or more drinks in a row at least five times in one month), girls are more likely to say that they drink to escape problems or to cope with frustration or anger.
  • Girls are more likely to drink because of family problems than because of peer pressure.
  • Drinking can delay puberty in girls, while abusing alcohol can cause endocrine disorders during puberty.
  • Teenage girls who drink are more likely to have unprotected sex than girls who don’t drink, putting them at increased risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Binge drinking and alcohol poisoning

Binge drinking—consuming five or more drinks at a sitting, for males, four or more for females—can cause teens to pass out, black out (lose memory of events that occurred while they were intoxicated), feel sick, miss school, or behave in ways that would otherwise be uncharacteristic of them. For example, they may drive while drunk or get into arguments. Some binge drinkers imbibe heavily every weekend and abstain or drink only in moderation during the week. Others binge less often—for example, during holidays, on special occasions, or at times of great stress. This kind of problem drinking may go unnoticed because people may excuse an occasional binge as a celebration that got carried away or as a response to unusual stress.

Although many young adults drink responsibly or abstain altogether, binge drinking is still a common problem. While teens as young as age 13 admit to this practice, it becomes more popular in mid-adolescence and peaks in the college years. College students between the ages of 18 and 22 are more likely to report binge drinking than non-students of the same age. Recent news reports of deaths from alcohol poisoning on college campuses have spotlighted the dangers of binge drinking.

Binge drinkers are eight times more likely than other college students to:

  • Miss classes
  • Fall behind in schoolwork
  • Be injured
  • Damage property

Binge drinkers also face the grim consequences of alcohol poisoning, a severe and potentially fatal reaction to an alcohol overdose.

How to recognize and treat alcohol poisoning

Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, drinking too much, too fast, slows some bodily functions (such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing) to a dangerous level, causing the drinker to lose consciousness.

Possible signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Unconscious or semiconscious state
  • Slow respiration—eight or fewer breaths per minute, or lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • A strong odor of alcohol on the breath and coming from the skin

What to do if someone develops alcohol poisoning

Here’s what to do in an alcohol-poisoning emergency:

  • Never leave someone who may have alcohol poisoning alone to “sleep it off.”
  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Gently turn the person on his or her left side, using a pillow placed at the small of the back to keep him or her in that position. This will help prevent choking should the individual vomit.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

How to talk to teens about responsible drinking

As a parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend, you have a major impact on the choices that the children in your life make, especially during the preteen and early teen years. One study reported that adolescents from families with alcohol problems were less likely to use alcohol themselves if they felt a sense of control over their environments, had good coping skills, and had highly organized families. Other researchers have found that preserving family rituals, such as keeping established daily routines and celebrating holidays, also can make a difference in steering kids clear of alcohol abuse.

Talking to young people openly and honestly about drinking is also vitally important. Delaying the age at which young people take their first drink lowers their risk of becoming problem drinkers. That’s reason enough to talk to the teenagers in your life about alcohol, but it’s not the only one. These are some of the other important reasons:

  • Alcohol has harmful effects on developing brains and bodies.
  • For adolescents ages 15 to 20, alcohol is implicated in more than a third of driver fatalities resulting from automobile accidents and about two-fifths of drownings.
  • Drinking interferes with good judgment, leading young people into risky behavior and making them vulnerable to sexual coercion.
  • Teenagers who use alcohol and tobacco are at greater risk of using other drugs.
  • Teenagers who drink are more likely to develop behavioral problems, including stealing, fighting, and skipping school.
  • Underage drinking is illegal.

Start the conversation early

While most people recognize the importance of discussing alcohol with kids, they aren’t always sure when to initiate this discussion. Adolescents are often nervous and confused as they face their first opportunities to try alcohol and are often interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Set the stage early by letting your teenager know that he or she can talk to you about anything, without judgment or lecturing.

Open up and listen

Ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers without interrupting.

  • Talk openly about your family history. If your family has had problems with alcohol, your child should know about it. Be open about your own experiences, too.
  • Set clear expectations, and communicate your values. Youngsters are less likely to drink when they know that parents and other important adults in their lives have strong feelings about it.
  • Control your emotions. If you hear something that upsets you, take a few deep breaths and express your feelings in a positive way.
  • Ask about your teenager’s friends. Express an interest in getting to know them better. Getting to know these friends and their parents will help you understand your teenager’s world.

Adapted with permission from Alcohol Use and Abuse, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications.