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Benefits of a Digital Detox for Teens

Your teenager has probably spent lots of time online this summer. You might be noticing that her level of connectivity has become problematic since the school year has begun.

Does this resemble your teen’s routine? At the end of each day, she sets a morning alarm on her iPhone and then checks her Instagram one last time before turning in. Several hours later: the smart phone alarm goes off and before she gets out of bed, she opens the Insta first thing to see what she missed overnight. Then, and only then will she start her day.

How Cell Phones Hold Teens Back
Disrupts schoolwork

This routine can sidetrack teens and interrupt their studies.

Affects Sleep

It can also affect their sleep. Common Sense Media indicated that 68% of teenagers keep their phones by their beds; in fact, 29% of teens keep their phones in their beds with them! They’re worried about missing out on texts, calls, or other notifications during the night.

Lack of face-to-face time

Technology can also interrupt relationships and normal social interactions. Parents should insist that their teens have an understanding of cell phone etiquette. One useful starting point can be a parent-to-child cell phone contract that establishes guidelines as to where and when your teen can use his or her phone.

Is a Digital Detox Needed?

There is, however, another facet of responsible phone use that many parents are becoming more aware of – teens should take time off from technology.

What if you, along with your teen, decided to put away your cell phone for a set time frame on a prearranged period?

Pick a time

It might be challenging during the week, when they need to be digitally connected in order to complete their homework. The weekend is an ideal time. It could be spending a Friday night with everyone’s phones and laptops powered off. Or a full weekend without of tech gadgets. Whichever it is, your entire family stands to benefit from a digital detox.

Take the leap

While it might be difficult to get your teen to agree to separate from his or her devices, a digital detox quiz can quickly evaluate the need. This true/false quiz prompts you to answer statements like “You feel anxious about the next time you’ll be able to use your phone or computer,” “When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you reach for is your smart phone,” and “You have walked into a wall, pole, pothole, or other objects while looking down at your phone.”

After answering 21 questions, your teen might receive a recommendation to undergo a digital detox. Encourage your teen to be honest when answering – we’re all responsible for our actions, no matter how old we are.

Recall the earlier example of the teen; her final thoughts before falling asleep are of texts and notifications, and her first impulse when she wakes is to open the Facebook app on her phone. It’s an unhealthy digital existence.

Concentrate on real life

Digital detoxing in the middle of a digitally-dependent world is an ideal opportunity.

Concentrate on what’s really important in life – personal relationships and real conversations – and not just the ones online!

Science Reveals Prevalent Threads in School Shootings

Justifiably, we will heed a call to action in response to the shooting that left two young people dead at Saugus High School.

One political tribe will extend its thoughts and prayers and the other will demand sensible gun control. In a matter of days, the rhetoric and, sadly, the memory of the event, will vanish from the headlines. That is until it happens again.

The problem of mass shootings is complex. Likewise, a tangible solution will most likely be complex, but the threat can be assuaged by investigating the cohesion among mass shooters.

Ponder that most elected officials and every corporation of importance is protected by the employment of multidisciplinary teams trained in threat assessment.

These teams scrutinize behaviors such as threats posted on social media or those communicated to third parties. These depend not on political talking points, but on scientifically validated behavioral analysis. Yet inexplicably, in most jurisdictions, our children are not protected by this approach. This needs to change.

Criminologists Jillian Peterson and James Densley have been pursuing data-driven prevention strategies.

Their research has reviewed all mass shootings involving four or more deaths since 1966, and all shootings in workplaces, schools, and places of worship shootings since 1999. Their data reveal four commonalities among perpetrators of these mass shooters:

  • First, these mass shooters experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at an early age.
  • Second, virtually every mass shooter they studied had reached a recognizable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting.
  • Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives.
  • Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. For instance, in 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members.

Likewise, the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center published its 2019 annual report this month scrutinizing mass shooters for commonality. The findings revealed that two-thirds had a history of mental health symptoms, including depression, suicidal tendencies or psychosis.

Practically all had a significant life stressor within five years and made threatening communications. Three-fourths provoked concern from others prior to the attack. Research by the FBI identifies the same commonalities.

In spite of this, the media and many politicians tend to view each mass shooter as unique. They are not. Their focus ignores the commonalities and instead centers on the identification of the individual’s motive.

These actors and their narrative, whether it’s Incel, white nationalism, religious extremism or ideology, should be considered pieces of a larger puzzle. Rather than staring at the individual actor trying to understand him, it’s important to examine them in a broader perspective for commonality with other attackers.

The Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, the FBI, and criminologists such as Peterson and Densely realize that we can save lives by identifying and managing threats in a coordinated, behavior focused, multi-disciplinary methodology.

The science confirms that regardless of the narrative or motive, in nearly every instance other persons knew some details of a planned attack.

A coordinated system of information gathering, including anonymous reporting, as well as public awareness of the need to say something when people become aware of concerning behavior is needed.

Every regional jurisdiction must possess a multidisciplinary threat management plan to investigate concerning behaviors. These teams must utilize behavior driven standardized criteria based on science. Recognizing the commonality with childhood trauma, these teams must ensure that children receive evidence based services.

Some ideas put forward by Peterson and Densely to prevent future mass shootings: potential shooting sites can be made less accessible with visible security measures like metal detectors and police officers.

They advocate for weapons to be better controlled, through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensing, universal background checks, safe storage campaigns and red-flag laws, measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.

Peterson and Densely also recommend making it more difficult for potential perpetrators to find validation for their planned actions by pointing to media campaigns like #nonotoriety, which seeks to starve perpetrators of the oxygen of publicity and by looking at how we consume, produce, and distribute violent content on media and social media.

The crisis of mass shootings and school shootings is complicated. But there also are common threads. Solutions need to be based in science not exaggeration.

Cyberstalking Demystified

“The man who victimized our daughter began his quest in 2012 and was 37 years older than her… He created a three-year plan to be with her, marry her and bear his children; posting daily about his intentions, and made no secret that he was coming to her on her 18th birthday, all while under probation for stalking her at the age of 13. He knew every aspect of our daughter’s life, even when her accounts were private. He used her friends accounts and their friends-friends accounts to search for anything related to her. This perpetrator hid behind social media and posted over 15,000 times, detailing what he wanted to do to her and how they would be forever together.  He insisted that no one would ever stop him from being with her.  It was by luck we found all of these posts in September 2016 but wasn’t until November 2016 that this man was arrested.”  – Erin Zezzo, mother of a cyberstalking victim

Stalking is recurrent contact that makes you feel fearful or harassed – whether in person or online. It is a crime that impacts 7.5 million people annually – including children. At any age, stalking and cyberstalking are genuine issues – and crimes women are more than twice as likely to encounter than men.

What can be done to deter Cyberstalking?

In Congress, Brian Fitzpatrick is advocating for increased criminal penalties for stalkers of minors and an evaluation of Federal, State, and local efforts to enforce laws relating to stalking and identify elements of these enforcement efforts that represent best practices. The House passed his bipartisan Combat Online Predators Act [H.R. 4203] and it’s awaiting action in the Senate. Read more here.

Stalking Defined

Stalking is any repeated and unwanted contact with you that makes you feel threatened. You can be stalked by a stranger, but most stalkers are individuals you know – even an intimate partner. Stalking may become worse or get violent over time. Stalking can also be an indication of an abusive relationship.

Someone who is stalking you may threaten your safety by telling you they want to harm you. Some stalkers harass you with less threatening but still unwelcome contact. The use of technology to stalk, also known as “cyberstalking,” includes using the Internet, email, or other electronic communications to stalk someone. Stalking is illegal.

Stalking and cyberstalking can cause sleeping problems or problems at work or school.

Examples of Stalking
  • Following you around or spying on you.
  • Sending you unwelcome emails or letters.
  • Calling you often.
  • Showing up unannounced at your house, school, or work.
  • Giving you unwanted gifts.
  • Ruining your home, car, or other property.
  • Threatening you, your family, or pets with violence.
Examples of Cyberstalking
  • Sending unwelcome, frightening, or obscene emails, text messages, or instant messages (IMs).
  • Harassing or threatening you on social media.
  • Tracing your computer and Internet use.
  • Using technology such as GPS to pinpoint your location.
Does the law prohibit stalking?

Yes. Stalking is illegal. Read about the laws against stalking in your state at the Stalking Resource Center. If you are in immediate danger, contact 911.

You can file a complaint with the police and request a restraining order (court order of protection) against the stalker. Federal law states that you can get a restraining order for free. Don’t be afraid to take action to stop your stalker.

How can I protect myself if I think I’m being stalked?

If you are in imminent danger, contact 911. Find a safe place to go if you are being followed or believe that you will be followed. Head to a police station, friend’s house, domestic violence shelter, fire station, or public area.

If you’re being stalked, take these precautions:
  • Secure a restraining order. A restraining order necessitates that the stalker to stay away from you and not contact you. You can learn how to get a restraining order from a domestic violence shelter, the police, or an attorney in your area.
  • Document every incident. Include the time, date, and other important information. If the incidents occurred online, keep screenshots for your records.
  • Keep evidence such as videotapes, voicemail messages, photos of property damage, and letters.
  • Get names of witnesses.
  • Get help from domestic violence hotlines, domestic violence shelters, counseling services, and support groups. Keep these numbers in your phone in case you need them.
  • Tell people about the stalking, including the police, your employer, family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Always have your phone with you so you can call for help.
  • Consider changing your phone number (although some people leave their number active so they can collect evidence). You can also ask your service provider about call blocking and other safety features.
  • Safeguard your home with alarms, locks, and motion-sensitive lights.
What can I do if I have a Cyberstalker?
  • Send the person a concise, written warning not to contact you again.
  • If they contact you again after you’ve told them not to, do not respond.
  • Print out copies of evidence like emails or screenshots of your phone. Keep a record of the stalking and any contact with police.
  • Report the stalker to the authority in charge of the site or service where the stalker contacted you. For example, if someone is stalking you through Facebook, report them to Facebook.
  • If the stalking doesn’t cease, get help from the police. You also can contact a domestic violence shelter and the National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline for support and recommendations.
  • Block messages from the harasser.
  • Change your email address or screen name.
  • Never post online profiles or messages with details that someone could use to identify or locate you (such as your age, sex, address, workplace, phone number, school, or places you frequent).

For more information or emotional support, contact the Stalking Resource Center National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline at 800-FYI-CALL (394-2255), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.