Digital Surveillance – Should We Be Watching Teens?

Digital Surveillance Won’t Drive Teens Off Social Media But is It Helpful?

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by: Paula Brown and Robin Kay

Surveillance Online is Simply a Reality For Youth Today

Digital culture now has a place in the everyday lives of teens. There are at least two underlying issues for students at school: the importance of participation and the risks and consequences of visibility (Media Literacy). Surveillance of online activities is a reality for teens while they are at school. Fear of cyberbullying leads school administrators to monitor all conversations.  The surveillance conducted by parents, teachers, and schools is intended to protect teens. However, students are also subjected to surveillance by the corporations that own and control the digital tools they use. This surveillance is less noticeable, as it is done unobtrusively as Internet users travel from site to site (Media Smarts).

What Message is Being Sent to Teens?

Teens are receiving inconsistent messages about privacy.  One the one hand, parents and teachers are telling them that they need to value and protect their privacy. On the other hand, teens are told that their privacy needs to be compromised for their own protection. Parents feel the need to monitor their teens sighting the dangers of internet predators. Schools monitor to prevent access to inappropriate content and cyber-bullying (Media Literacy).

Teens Need to Have Control Too

Surveillance creates a culture of distrust, particularly when it comes to parental surveillance. Constant surveillance also hinders youths’ ability to identify and manage a multitude of potentially harmful situations (Media Smarts). Most teens understand that the internet is a fully monitored space where parents, teachers and corporations keep them under constant surveillance. They are aware of the online risks and feel that the surveillance they’re subject to is annoying (and often useless).

Generally speaking, teens agree that privacy is important to them but so is communicating with their peers. They also feel the need to have that creative outlet and to be able to contribute to the online culture that is the world we live in today. We want our teens to be safe, but we must also educate them on what it means to be digital citizens, how to network online with a diverse set of people, ethically sharing information and resources, and taking thoughtful actions to promote a positive outcome in their communities or across the globe.

Resources

Liam Berriman & Rachel Thomson (2015) Spectacles of intimacy? Mapping the moral landscape of teenage social media, Journal of Youth Studies.

MediaSmarts. (2012). Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Talking to youth and parents about life online. Ottawa, Ontario.

Seounmi Youn 2008. Parental influence and teens’ attitude toward online privacy protection

 

Suspension May Be More Hazardous than Helpful for Students

Considering Alternatives to Suspending or Expelling Students from School

By Natasha Porfirio and Robin Kay

Is Suspension the Answer?

In elementary or high school the worst form of discipline that can happen to a student is suspension or expulsion. Some educators believe that it is beneficial for the students to help make them realize what their actions had lead to. The number of students being suspended or expelled from schools in Australia, for example, has increased dramatically over the past few years (Singhal & Gladstone, 2018),  Suspension is a common form of punishment in Australia, the United Kingdom and in the United States, however evidence shows that these tactics are not as effective as we once thought (Hemphill et al., 2014)

Where it All Started

Many of you reading this article may have heard horror stories about your parents or grandparents being punished at school very differently than how bad behaviour is dealt with now. Early forms of punishment included spanking, slapping, extreme verbal comments, and other belittling actions towards the student in front of the class (Hart & Lordan, 1978). These forms of punishment then shifted in the 1990s’ towards a zero-tolerance policy related to suspension and expulsion to youth drug use and violence (Skiba & Knesting, 2001).  In some schools, students are being suspended for minor bad behaviour which includes swearing, verbal disrespect and violating school dress codes. The intention of the zero-tolerance policy was to make schools a safe place to learn, but there has not been any conclusive evidence that this approach is effective.

Is Suspension a Reasonable Response?

Consequences mean different things to different people.  The school and educators will advertise that suspension and expulsion are opportunities for the student to continue their learning outside of the school, with help to stay on track, as well as offered additional support to help with positive behaviour (What Parents Need to Know).

However, suspension has unexpected and perhaps unintended consequence. Requiring students to stay home from school for a few days means that they could miss key information from lessons, leading to decreased learning performance and becoming more detached from the academic environment (Ferguson, 2012). Students who have disabilities or additional health issues who are expelled from school may not get all the resources that they need in order to enhance their learning abilities when they are temporarily removed from the school.  Suspension could also have an impact on caregivers who have to stay home from work or find other forms of childcare.

Research has shown that if the school turns their back on the student by suspending them rather than helping them, the student is more likely to drop out, or repeat the grade. There is also evidence that shows suspension and expulsion does not only affect the student for that short period time away from school but it will also affect the students in their later developments. Removing a student from their learning environment at a young age from school can hinder their social-emotional and behaviour development (Vera Institute of Justice, 2003). Suspension also leads to a decrease in cognitively enriching experiences that contribute to the healthy development and academic success later on in the student’s life  (Vera Institute of Justice, 2003). Somewhat surprisingly, the main reason why suspension is easier, is that schools do not have the financial resources to provide support for students at high risks (Ferguson, 2012).

Possible Alternatives

There are a wide range of alternative to suspensions provide by Vaughan-Brandon (2018)  and Owen et al., 2015) including

  • Creating Safe, Inclusive Learning Environments
  • Alternative Programming
  • Behaviour Contracts
  • Community Service
  • Counselling
  • In-School Suspension
  • Problem Solving Training
  • Restorative Justice
  • Social Skills Instruction

Resources

Ferguson, C. (2012). Does suspending students work? Time.

Hemphill, S., Plenty, S., Herrenkohl, T., Toumourou, J., & Catalano, R. (2014) Students and school factors associated with school suspension: A multilevel analysis of students in Victoria, Australia, and Washington state, united states. Science Direct, 36,187-194.

Owen, J, Wettach, J. & Hoffman, K. S. (2015). Instead of suspension: Alternative strategies for effective school discipline

Kang – Brown, J., Trone, J., Fratello, J., Daftary – Kapur, T. (2013). A generation later: What we’ve learned about zero tolerance in schools. VERE institute of Justice.

Murphy, A. Van Brunt, B. (2018). Addressing dangerous behavior in the classroom: A three-pronged approach can help educators prevent or de-escalate classroom crises. Educational Leadership, 76(1), 66–70.

Ontario Government (2018).  Suspension and expulsion: What Parents need to know

Singhal, P., and Gladstone, N. (2018). NSM primary school suspensions skyrocket. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Skiba, Russell., and Knesting, K. (2001). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: an analysis of school disciplinary practice. New Directions for Youth Development.

Suspended Progress: the harms of suspension and expulsion (May, 2016).

Vaughan-Brandon, L. (2018). Creative alternative strategies to school suspensions

Technology: A Story of Good and Evil

Is the use of technology helpful or harmful to students? Finding a balance.

by Dane StaresinicMark SangheraNatasha PorfirioDiane Pedrupillai

Overview

With technology being ubiquitous in our lives, finding the balance between the right amount and too much usage can be a difficult task, especially for adolescents. From a social perspective, teenage use of technology often stems from wants of talking to friends, joining group conversations, learning about current events within a friend group and staying up to date, feeling bored and feeling like they will miss out if they are not up to date with social media activity (Reachout.com).  Completing tasks and assignments in school, creating an online resume for work and getting online support for learning are clear benefits (Reachout.com). On the other hand, there are at least two clear concerns when using technology: cyberbullying and overuse.

Key Areas of Concerns

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over electronic devices such as laptop/computers and cell phone. The form of communication can be done via text, sending photos/ videos, email, online apps, social media platforms, and gaming to name a few (KidsHealth). What makes cyberbullying particularly scary is that it is no longer limited to the schoolyards or the playground.  The Cyberbullying Research Center states that over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying (BullyingStatistics.Org). Cyberbullying like other forms of bullying can lead to psychological emotional and physical stress that include depression, school violence, and even school avoidance (Willard, 2018).

Overuse of Technology

The overuse of technology with respect to teens has a profound effect on gender identity, sexual orientation, and vocational identity.  Isolation can occur when students spend too much time with technology. Another detrimental aspect of overuse of technology is inappropriate material and relationships. In the former, teenagers can post inappropriate material of themselves, which can cause them to be humiliated online. In the latter, teenagers who are minors can get into inappropriate relationships with strangers, which can cause them to be in dangerous situations (Reachout.com).  

Practical Suggestions for Educators

Addressing Cyberbullying

Most cyberbullying take place between students that attend the same school. To help prevent cyberbullying, remind students to understand that once they post something online, it doesn’t leave. Encourage the students to always think before they hit send or post their comment. Ensure that your students are treating each other and themselves with respect in the classroom. Teachers could also limit the type of websites that can be used during class, to prevent or stop bullying going on in the classroom.

Students need to be aware of the possible safety methods that are out there.  In schools, we have students learning about safety technology usage through the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).  Having schools blocking students’ access to certain web pages helps or reminds students of the dangers they are encountering.  Educators need to also teach students of privacy acts so that they don’t encounter strangers online and also feel comfortable with communicating with others or even engaging themselves with technology.

Establishing Suitable Usage Time

With technology becoming readily available for many teenagers in North America, daily use will continue to grow because teens have easy access to technology and particularly social media. It is important for teenagers to recognize and understand a suitable amount of time to spend using their devices such as phones and computers. It is recommended that teenagers spend no more than two hours per day looking at screens from devices. From this information, careful consideration should be applied to the use of devices by teenagers.

Useful Resources

Pew Research Center (2015), Teens Report Access to Smartphones

Reach Out (2018), Social Media and Teenagers

Parenting in Ottawa (2018), How much technology is too much?

Kids health (2014), Cyberbullying

Bullying Statistics (2010), Cyberbullying statistics

Comparitech (2018), Cyberbullying Statistics and Facts for 2016 – 2018

Parents (2011), Cyberbullying 101: What is Cyberbullying?

Government of Canada (2018), How can you prevent cyberbullying?

The Washington Post Company (2012), Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

There’s More to it Than Just Hormones

Investigating Cognitive Issues in Teens

by Patrick McAuliffeChase MurdochMichael SilvaEmily Melito

Overview

Within the education spectrum, cognitive development has become a major issue of concern. There are a number of stages of development that most teenagers experience. However, there are a number of issues that can arise in cognitive development including limited ability think abstractly and concretely, adolescent egocentrism, and overuse of technology (Levine 2015).

Key Areas of Concern

Concrete vs. Abstract Thinking

At some point, most adolescents transition from concrete ways of thinking to more critical and abstract thinking. During this stage, teens start to think in a socio-centric manner where they acknowledge others and their thoughts. This vital transition from egocentric to socio-centric thinking plays encourages individuals to expand their thinking and consider different possibilities while forming ideas and opinions (Cherry 2018). However, teens vary in this transitional phase making it challenging for teachers to delve into higher level concepts.

Here are two suggestions for helping educators students at different cognitive development levels. First, there are several diagnostic tests on can use measure cognitive abilities and define what students may need assistance in this issue (Goldstone and Sakamoto,2003).  A second suggestion is to alternate between abstract explanations and concrete examples and while teaching to build up a deep understanding of the core concepts being taught (Huebner et al.,  2008). Furthermore, developed a test to measure the students in their classrooms ability to think abstractly.

Egocentrism

Tweens and teens often think that the world revolves around them. This is a normal component of human development, where adolescents hold themselves above everyone else. There are two main elements of adolescent egocentrism, the personal fable and the imaginary audience (Vartanian, Lesa Rae, 2000). The personal fable is the teen’s belief that they are special or unique. This encourages the teen to think of themselves as an individual. The imaginary audience makes the teen feel that all their peers are constantly watching and judging everything they are doing. (Galanaki, E. P. 2017).

Toney (2001) notes that there are several ways to deal with adolescent egocentrism in the classroom. Each classroom must be seen as a safe place, where there will be no judgement. This will help to alleviate the imaginary audience. Additionally, the teacher must answer the question “what’s in it for me?” when starting a new topic.  It is critical to make the material relevant to the students.

Technology

Technology is a part of our everyday lives and adolescents spend more time on technology and social media than any other activity besides sleeping (Mihailidis, 2013). The impact of technology can have a negative impact on teen cognitive development. For example, students who spend time doing homework with the television on or another form of technology unrelated to their homework remember and understand less when they are tested on it compared to students that do homework without technology distraction (Levine, 2015).  Belief in being able to multitask with technology can result in a significant decrease in learning (Levine, 2015).

Limiting the use of technology, especially when doing homework is challenging (Korbey, 2015). One suggestion is to restrict access to WiFi networks when academic tasks need to be completed (Korbey, 2015). Another suggestion is to educate students on the negative impacts technology can have on learning and overall importance when student attempt to multitask with electronic devices.

 

All Gasoline, No Brakes, No Steering Wheel

A Look at the Adolescent Brain

by Nicole TaylorReagan MacDonaldRadu MavrodinStephanie McPhersonHiba Syeda

Overview

Students have many decisions to make throughout a day, from the clothes they wear to how they can fit in with their peers or whether they should participate in illegal activities. Since the development of a human brain occurs from back to front, the region responsible for controlling impulsive behaviour (frontal lobes) and analyzing long-term consequence has been shown to develop up to the age of 30. As such, it is important to recognize that teen brains are in constant development and as educators, we must enforce risk management strategies. Important issues to consider when teaching teens include rewards and motivation, decision making and self-control, trauma and effects, and building of the teen brain.

Key Areas of Concern

Rewards and Motivation

Many educators are still using extrinsic reward systems such as points for good behaviour. These reward systems, though,  can actually have a negative impact on teen behaviour. Since the reward and impulsivity areas of the brain mature faster than the prefrontal cortex, extrinsic reward systems promote the modelling of behaviours solely for extrinsic motivation. Research has shown that tangible rewards (extrinsic) undermine intrinsic motivation. As such, it is suggested that reward systems should be removed completely from schools and an emphasis on facilitating intrinsic motivation should be the primary focus.

Decision Making and Self Control

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for thinking logically and restraining impulsive decisions, this part of your brain matures slower than the rest, therefore the reason why adolescents tend to make poor decisions. As an adolescent, they are at a greater risk for death because of their poor decisions, brain maturity is still developing until around the age of 23 and even later for males. Teens are being exposed to sensation-driven risks that affect their ability to think rationally when their brains aren’t fully developed yet. The decisions made by this age group are usually impulsive and not logical due to the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex.

Trauma and Effects

Adolescent brains are more sensitive to the effects of stress which can greatly impact how teens deal with and manage the different stressful factors in their life. This sensitivity can become more problematic in teens when they have experienced and suffered from “chronic stressors” like “abuse or trauma, in childhood.” (Griffin, 2017) When this sensitivity continues to manifest, the teen’s neurological system is affected as it makes it harder for the teen to maintain cognitive control. That, in turn, makes it harder for the teen to stabilize their emotions and behaviours.

A teen affected by trauma have more difficulty managing their emotions and dealing with stress in comparison to a non-traumatized brain. When constantly bombarded with traumatic and stressful situations, teens may fail to learn how to self-sooth and or regulate their emotions (Gunn, 2018). This can lead to being withdrawn from people in their lives, overreacting to minor irritations, disturbed sleeping patterns and are prone to being rebellious (State of Victoria, 2015).

Psychological trauma sets into motion several processes throughout the brain and body that make the body ready to respond to danger (Finch, 2018). When the primary function of a child’s brain is to protect itself and process fear, normal brain development is affected. Experiencing traumatic events directly impairs the ability to learn, both immediately after the event and over time  (Gunn, 2018).

Building the Teen Brain

For adolescent students, brain development is at a vulnerable stage. The way students spend their time is a critical piece to their neurological development. The adolescent brain is prone to seek out sensations, often involving risks. For example, the intake of drugs and alcohol have current effects on the teen brain and body, but can also have lasting damages. It is important at this stage to encourage healthy suggestions.

Practical Suggestions for Educators

Shifting to  Intrinsic Motivation

Examples of facilitating intrinsic motivation include developing interesting and engaging activities with the help of students, providing choices to the students regarding various aspects of the classroom environment thereby encouraging autonomy, and ensuring that tasks are optimally challenging (i.e., not too easy and not too difficult).

Good Decision Making Within The Classroom

With all the decisions that adolescents make in a day, it is important that educators assist students in making positive decisions. The educator will get to decide the choices, so whatever decision the teen makes, it is pre-approved by the educator to benefit them. This allows for the student to feel like they have the power of what they are doing. This can be as simple as giving students the opportunity to choose what day a test is on, what assignments to work on during class, or how they are going to present information. They need to be taught how to weigh the pros and cons of each option, deciding what will work best for them.  Creating positive choices will then correlate into the world outside of the classroom in helping them to take time to come to a decision and to chose the one that will benefit them the most.

Helping Students Impacted by Trauma

Students need to have an environment where they feel safe, and oftentimes a student who is suffering from traumatic experiences is unable to reassure themselves of their own safety. They go into “survival mode” where they are unable to truly enjoy their experiences at school as they are often riddled with anxiety and stress. These are a couple of ways that teachers can help students who have experienced trauma (adapted from Minero, E. 2018).

  1. Connect with the student and let them confide in you as it can help them process their own emotions and make them feel better knowing that someone is there for them.
  2. Create a strategy that helps reduce stress for the student but also reduces secondary stress for the teacher.
  3. Teachers need to keep a clear boundary between work and home in order to avoid getting overwhelmed and feeling like they are unable to help the student. Furthermore, they should realize that they can only provide so much help, that sometimes there are situations that are outside their control or realm of knowledge, and that social workers or the police do need to get involved and that as a Teacher they did the best they could.

Reinforcing Healthy Brain Development

In the school community, it is important to make students aware of the teen brain, as well as reinforce a positive and supportive environment. In the classroom, encouraging routines, critical thinking, and positive behaviour and skills allows for the development of a healthy brain. The development of the teenage brain is not limited to education. At home, emphasizing sleeping routines and providing emotional support to adolescents, reinforces the development of a healthy brain.

Useful Resources

Casey, B.J. & Caudle, K (2013), The Teenage Brain: Self Control

Deci, E. & Koester, R. & Ryan, R. (2001), Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation in Education: Reconsidered Once Again

Finch, S. (2018). How does Trauma Affect Memory

Griffin, A. (2017). Adolescent Neurological Development and Implications for Health and

Well-Being. Healthcare, 5(4), 62.

Healthy Promotion Agency (2018), Advice for Parent and Caregivers

Gunn, J. (2018). This is a Student’s Brain on Trauma

Minero, E. (2018). When Students Are Traumatized, Teachers Are Too | Edutopia.

Raising Children Network (2018), Brain Development: Teenagers

Spano, S (2003), Adolescent Brain Development

Statistics Canada (2018), A Portrait of Canadian Youth  

State of Victoria. (2015), Trauma and Teeneagers – Common reactions

Teen Mental Health (2018), The Teen Brain

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation (2018), Adolescent Brain Development

The Elephant in Every Secondary School Classroom

Mental Health Issues for Teens/Adolescents

by Evan VenturaPhilip MaddenJason SiRyan SchwengerNatasha Geiecker

Overview

Although mental illness is not as taboo as it once was in the past, it still has a significant impact on the health of Canadians. Mental illness is associated with a decrease in everyday functioning due to significant stress, changes in behaviour, an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and a feeling of being disconnected from people. Many Canadians, unfortunately, experience mental health illness either directly or indirectly through family and friends. It is estimated that one in three Canadians will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime. Mental health illness comes with many challenges, a few key areas of concern regarding mental illness are suicide, ADHD, depression, and self-injury. Unfortunately, these issues are prominent in the adolescent population.

Key Areas of Concern

Student Suicide A Preventable Reality

Teen suicide rates are unacceptably high.  Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people (aged 15-34) (Robinson et. al, 2018). Schools and teachers can be key stakeholders in delivering suicide-prevention activities and initiatives.  Furthermore, suicide continues to be an area of concern in Indigenous communities, at least in part due to the lasting legacy of residential schooling (Wilk et al., 2017)

Due to their close relationships and daily proximity to youth populations, teachers have been identified as key agents in the prevention of the ‘silent epidemic’ of youth suicide. Education professionals have been compared to psychological professionals in a number of capacities in regards to dealing with suicide.

ADHD A Difficult Disorder to Diagnose

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder which impacts the way that people function in any given environment.  Five percent of children are known to have ADHD of which 65 percent continue such symptoms in their teenage years. It is thought to be genetically passed through families and is diagnosed more in boys than girls. (Teenmanetalhealth.org) The symptoms may include increased to severe hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity (Kidshealth.org).

Due to the ambiguous nature of ADHD diagnosis, a teacher would first do well to inquiry with parents to ensure that a particular student(s) have been professionally diagnosed with ADHD. However, steps teachers can make to improve the learning and general behaviour of students with ADHD in the classroom may include but are not limited to:

  • reducing distractions in and around the classroom
  • giving clear  and direct instruction
  • pair students with buddies
  • break up large tasks into manageable chunks
  • be sensitive to a student’s self-esteem

Educators must be careful in their approach lest they are misguided into thinking some students may simply not be listening or trying in the classroom. [kidshealth.org] Good communication between teachers and parents regarding their students/children and between teachers and those students with ADHD are necessary for dealing with this disorder.  

Depression A Battling the Invisible Monster

Depression is a dysregulation of the brain function that control emotions (or moods). It is a mood disorder characterized by intense and persistent negative emotions (TeenMentalHealth). Depression needs to be taken seriously considering 50% of youth who have experienced mood disorders such as depression have also had suicidal thoughts in their lifetime (StatisticsCanada).  Depression can affect adolescents and can be hard to detect. Students who are experiencing depression can feel a lack of emotion, constant fatigue, increased anger, changes in sleep and eating habits. Students battling depression may lose interest in things that were once important to them.

If you are concerned about an adolescent student in your life struggling with depression, check in often with how they are feeling. Early identification can help the adolescent receive the help that they might need. If the adolescent does require help please contact the appropriate personnel such as the principal, school support staff, the parents/guardians of the student and/or arrange a meeting with a qualified doctor to ensure that proper mental health assessment is done (TeenMentalHealth).

Self-InjuryNon-Suicidal Self-Injury

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) referred is also referred to as self-injury or self-harm. It is important to understand what motivates teens to harm themselves because not all people do it for the same reason. For instance, young people who self-injure may do so as a method to cope with stress– hurting themselves is often seen as a way to control their upsetting feelings. Others do so to dissociate from their problems. (TeenMentalHealth).

Teens may self- harm to

  • reduce anxiety/tension
  • reduce sadness and loneliness
  • alleviate angry feelings
  • punish oneself due to self-hatred
  • get help from or show distress to others
  • escape feelings of numbness (e.g. to feel something)

The best way to help someone to stop self-injuring is to help him or her address the underlying issues. When someone self-injures, they do not intend to die. Once the issues can be addressed and solved, they will not continue injuring themselves. (TeenMentalHealth).

Useful Resources

Depression, TeenMentalHealth

Self-injury, Teenmentalhealth

Statistics Canada (2018), A Portrait of Canadian Youth

ADHD, kidshealth.org

Mental Illness in Canada

Report from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System: Mental Illness in Canada, 2015

 

Helping Teachers Address Social Development in Adolescents

by Michael RitchieHibba El-AawarShane HubbardBraedie QuinnNegin Shahamatifard

Overview

Adolescence is a crucial time in the development of young people – they are physically transitioning into adulthood and growing both mentally and emotionally. Of particular interest to researchers, educators, and parents alike is the nature of social development in young people, particularly the difficulties associated with this unique time in life. Self-esteem, peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, and depression are all realities of adolescent social development and are issues that young people face on a daily basis.

Key Areas of Concern

Self-Esteem

Self-image involves forming a mental representation of one’s self.  Self-esteem is how one feels about oneself, which is based on the development of their self-image. In correlation to social development, the transition from childhood to adulthood should be initiated by positive self-image and healthy self-esteem.

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure can influence an adolescent’s thinking and behaviour.  Children and teenagers can be influenced by their peers, both positively and negatively, at any age. Just as people can influence others to make negative choices, they can also influence them to make positive ones. For example, an adolescent might join a volunteer project because all of their friends are doing it. Conversely, children can easily adapt to dangerous habits such as smoking, drug, and alcohol consumption if their friends are engaging in these activities.

Drugs/Alcohol and Sex

Drug/alcohol abuse and engagement in sexual activities are serious and common issues among adolescents.  In 2014, 25% of young adults aged 12-17 experimented with drugs and alcohol; four years later, that percentage increased to 40%.  In 2015, 229,715 (22.3%) babies were born to teen moms in America. It is important for parents to address key issues involving sex and drugs/alcohol with their children and teenagers.  It is no secret that sex and drugs/alcohol are very prevalent in adolescent culture.

Depression

Depression is the lasting feeling of unhappiness, hopelessness, and despair. There are various types of depression, including major depressive order (symptoms constant), minor depression (symptoms lasting less than two weeks), and dysthymic disorder (low mood for most days). In Ontario, Canada, 34% of high-school students have experienced a moderate level of psychological distress, while 14% have indicated a serious level of psychological distress.

Practical Suggestions for Educators

How to Build Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can be displayed by students in various ways: bullying or being bullied, acting out, staying in their shell, becoming easily frustrated, and quitting or giving up. Educators can promote self-esteem and build a classroom community through:

  • Valuing students strengths and allowing them to utilize their abilities;
  • Avoiding comparisons between students;
  • Teach, model, and embrace each other’s differences;
  • Give individual and specific praises towards students behaviour;
  • Establish achievable goals for students;
  • Facilitate students in decision-making and problem-solving;
  • Offer choices in classroom activities/assignments to engage students in decision-making;
  • Let students know that it is natural to make mistakes and to ask for help, and emphasize that it is apart of the learning process:
  • Establish key classroom expectations that may include: appreciations/no put downs; attentive listening; mutual respect; the “right to pass.”

Peer Pressure

Teachers’ attitudes can influence the dynamics of the class, and there are strategies to help students cope with pressures in the classroom.  These include:

  • Providing opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and to help them
    believe in themselves;
  • Creating an environment where students are not afraid to be themselves;
  • Teaching students to realize that they can learn from their mistakes and how to deal with them;
  • Reinforcing the values that students important to themselves and their family.

How to Discuss Safe Sex and Healthy Drug use with Adolescents

Consider the following topics and strategies when discussing sex and drugs with your teens:

  • Adolescents are often vulnerable; set a good example because children and teenagers often learn through observation;
  • Remind adolescents of the harmful effects that drugs and alcohol can have on their bodies and minds;
  • Inform adolescents about the negative outcomes of sex, including, but not limited to, sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnancy;
  • Remind adolescents about safe sex and the ways in which they can keep themselves safe;
  • Remind adolescents of the dangers associated with the pairing of sex with drugs and alcohol such as sexual assault and date rape, and methods of keeping themselves safe.

Websites such as Addiction Center have many resources and tips to help you best communicate with adolescents.

How to Identify and Treat Depression

Fortunately, 80% of those who receive treatment for depression feel like it does indeed help. Here are a few symptoms that you can use to identify depression:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness;
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in all normal activities;
  • Easy to irritate, even over small matters;
  • Feelings of worthlessness;
  • Thoughts of death and suicide;
  • Slowing of the mind and body.

If depression is identified in a student, there are a variety of sources from which to seek help. In particular, their family doctor should be the first resource in the treatment of depression. There are also a variety of helplines that can be contacted including Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Useful Resources

Facts and Statistics, CAMH Mental Illness and Addiction

Kids Help Phone

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Teens Health, Lyness, 2018