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RBR Presents It’s Hard to Be a Kid Today Giving Parents Tools to Help their Teenagers

RBR Presents It’s Hard to Be a Kid Today

            Giving Parents Tools to Help their Teenagers


) Nicki Francis of Wellspring Center for Prevention engages parents after her presentation on “It’s Hard to Be a Kid Today”    On March 20, Youth Counselor Nicki Francis of Wellspring Center for Prevention gave a frank presentation about the pressures facing children today and how parents can help navigate them through this tough time.   Adolescence has always been a very vulnerable time in a person’s life, however, the age of technology and social media has complicated that timeframe and made it more of a challenge for parents to counteract societal pressures. RBR’s Student Assistance Counselor Lori Todd, the Buc Backers, and the RBR SOURCE sponsored the event.

            Nicki Francis told the primarily parental audience, “There is nothing wrong with kids today. It is what is happening to them; what they are going through and how they turn to substance abuse and like behaviors to get through it.”

            She offered a two-prong approach to help parents, first in educating them on what is out there and how best to combat it.

            Answering the question of what is out there, she explained how technology is a two-sided phenomenon, bringing many benefits to our lives but also detriments.

            For instance, technology is preempting the learning of important life skills such as reading body language, having face to face communication, and learning vocabulary that properly expresses feelings.  Kids do not learn these things because they are always buried in their devices.

            She exclaimed that ironically with all this connectivity facilitated through technology, they may not be connected to people at all.

“Even when they date, “she explained, “They will be talking to each other on their phones and not face to face.”

She added, “They may actually be very lonely, and their world could be crushed if they are not invited to a party, and even worry if they will be re-invited. There is a great fear of missing out and the constant attention to the phone deprives them of getting essential sleep.”

She also believes that, especially in high school, children crave parental connection and need it more than ever.

            She suggests turning off the technology at a certain time by taking away the phone. An example of helping kids reconnect and communicate could be something as simple as establishing a family game night.  Another suggestion is to always volunteer to be the driver when kids are being carpooled places.  She advised parents to turn up the radio slightly so they think you are otherwise engaged but listen to every word.

She informed parents of two online dangers.  One would be sharing intimate photographs of themselves and their friends.  Sometimes the progression of a relationship (the proverbial “first, second and third base” etc.) could be the escalating requests of more and more explicit photos.  This presents an inherent danger of prosecution for child pornography under New Jersey statute for all parties involved. Secondly, there is always the danger that children meet strangers online who misrepresent themselves as other children after many hours of digital conversation and trust-building. 

The best way to combat that, Ms. Francis explains, is to insist on a Face-Time chat so your child can actually see the person she is communicating with. If that person refuses, you know they are not who they say they are.

            Regarding the substances that kids use to get through this time, vaping has emerged as a behavior of choice with many unknown dangers and consequences.  Vaping instruments can be used to dispense two types of drugs, nicotine, which is highly addictive, and marijuana in a very concentrated form. 

            Laws regulating the acquisition of vaping substances is only “age regulated” similar to alcohol and tobacco.  However, a gift card on the internet brings anything to your door.It is also much less expensive than cigarettes as a “one time” vaping device contains the equivalent of 600 cigarettes for a mere $30.  And it only takes 100 puffs to get the average person addicted to nicotine.  The device is also a conveyer of carcinogenic materials including formaldehyde, lead, and mercury.

 The non-nicotine or popular flavored version of these cigarettes contain several more dangerous drugs including a carcinogen called acrylonitrile. Another ingredient called diacetyl has been linked to “Popcorn lung,”  a condition that causes permanent lung damage producing symptoms similar to emphysema.  This is very important information to share, according to Ms. Francis, since some parents actually believe that vaping is safer than traditional cigarettes. 

            Even if a parent is strict about enforcing an e-cigarette free home, Ms. Francis warned them that vaping paraphernalia could be hidden in plain sight in your home.  It also does not give off the odor of traditional marijuana. Innocuous hiding devices for e-cigarettes and any other drugs can be disguised as everyday items as highlighters, USB devices or hidden in food or  beverage cans and even hairbrush handles.  After the talk, parents were only too happy to engage her for further advice.

Pictured are some of the innocuous hiding devices for e-cigarettes and any other drug paraphernalia