Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Bullying: Casey Heynes Speaks Out

People all over the world have reacted to the video of Casey Heynes reaction to years of pent up anger from bullying. The following article and video Casey being interviewed on Australian current affairs program is well worth a watch for any parent, teacher or concerned community member. Please leave any thoughts or comments below.

Source: autismkey.com

Last week, we wrote about a popular video clip involving Casey Heynes, an Australian student who retaliated after being bullied by 12-year-old Ritchard Gale. The video struck a chord with many across the globe and went viral, being viewed by millions in the process. We covered the story on our site because of the inordinate number of children with autism who are bullied on a daily basis and felt the need to shed additional light on this growing epidemic that currently exists in schools.
On Sunday, A Current Affair (ACA) Australia, aired a fascinating in-depth interview with Casey Heynes (posted below) that gave the back-story that led up to the on-camera bullying episode and subsequent retaliation. In the ACA segment, Heynes describes a chronic pattern of abuse that occurred “practically every day.”  Some of his torment included being called “fatty,” taking slaps across the back of the head, being tripped and bombarded with water bombs at school.
The bullying began all the way back in the second grade and continued until the day Heynes’ incident was caught on camera. The harassment was so severe, Heynes describes how he considered suicide as recently as last year. “Bullycide” as it is called, has become a major problem among teens who are tormented to the point of taking their own lives.
As a parent of a child with autism, these bullying stories are extremely upsetting and much more needs to be done to address this seemingly out-of-control problem. If there is any silver lining to the Casey Heynes incident, it has brought significant attention to bullying in schools and will give further ammunition to those seeking legislative changes to address the epidemic. In fact, as we reported the other day, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier will soon be introducing legislation that addresses bullying against special needs students. The video below is a great testimony of how a single incident can change the course of how the public perceives a particular issue and the good that can come from it. In fact, the Casey Heynes story may be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, providing a catalyst for significant change to help finally protect our children from bullies once and for all.

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March 24, 2011 Posted by | ADHD /ADD, Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Look Both Ways: Keeping Your Kids Safe On Facebook

With a bit of strategic parental guidance, you can educate your kids about the potential hazards of social media and give them the tools they need to protect themselves from online predators, guard their personal information, preserve their online reputation, and avoid suspicious downloads that could harm your PC.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com

Facebook and Kids

An iStrategyLabs study documents the growth rates of Facebook profiles in the United States based on age, gender, location, education level, and interests. The study shows that from January 2009 to January 2010, the 13-to-17-year-old age group grew about 88 percent in the U.S., jumping from about 5.7 million teenage Facebook users to almost 10.7 million. Those figures, of course, don’t include minors who lied about their age upon creating their profile.

Despite a legal requirement that kids must be 13 or older to sign up for Facebook, many younger children are using the service. Because no perfect age-verification system exists, younger kids are able to slip by unnoticed through falsifying their age. (For instance, I have one friend whose 12-year-old daughter listed her birth year as 1991 on Facebook, thereby claiming that she was 19 years old.)

The safety and public-policy teams at Facebook are aware of their young audience, and the site has rolled out privacy settings specifically for the under-18 set. Users between the ages of 13 and 17 get what Facebook’s privacy policy calls a “slightly different experience.” Minors do not have public search listings created for them when they sign up for Facebook, meaning their accounts cannot be found on general search engines outside of Facebook.

The “Everyone” setting is not quite as open for minors as it is for adults. If a minor’s privacy settings are set to “Everyone,” that includes only friends, friends of friends, and people within the child’s verified school or work network. However, the “Everyone” setting still allows adults to search for minors by name and send them friend requests (and vice versa), unless the account owner manually changes that. Also, only people within a minor’s “Friends of Friends” network can message them.

Facebook recently premiered a new location-based service called Places, which has some restrictions for minors as well. Minors can share their location through Places only with people on their Friends lists, even if their privacy settings are set to “Everyone.”

As for the teens who lie about how old they are, Facebook does have a way of verifying age. If, for instance, a 19-year-old is mostly friends with 13- and 14-year-olds, and they seem to be taking lots of photos together, then Facebook might suspect that the user is actually 12 or 13–and then it may flag the user’s page for removal or give the user a warning.

The Basics: Protecting Personal Information

Even with Facebook’s privacy policy for minors, a child’s personal information is still widely on display. A young person’s Facebook account is just the beginning of their online footprint, and they need to take that fact seriously, since it can affect their reputation today and potentially come into play later in life when they’re applying for college and for jobs.

Facebook public-policy representative Nicky Jackson Colaco advises parents to sit down with their kids and talk about the importance of protecting one’s online identity. Maintaining open communication with your children is the key to understanding exactly how they’re using Facebook.

“I’d never send my son onto the football field without pads and knowledge of the game,” Colaco says, “and it’s exactly the same with Facebook.”

If you have a Facebook profile, consider sending your child a friend request–not necessarily as a spying tool, but to remind your child of your own online presence. If you don’t have a Facebook account, ask your child to show you their profile. It helps to familiarize yourself as much as possible with the site’s privacy controls and other settings, because the more you know about Facebook, the better equipped you can be if something serious ever arises.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at your child’s photos and wall posts to make sure they are age appropriate. Remind your child that the Internet in general, but especially Facebook, is not a kids-only zone, and that adults can see what’s on their profile as well. Maintaining an appropriate online presence as a teenager will help your child build a respectable online footprint. Remember: The Internet never forgets.

If your kid really has something to hide, they might make a Facebook profile behind your back, or have one account that’s parent-friendly and a separate account for their friends. If they show you a profile that seems skimpy on content, that could be a red flag. That’s where PC and Web-monitoring tools could come into play (see the “Monitoring Behavior” section on the next page).

Finally, go over Facebook’s privacy settings with your child, and show them how to activate the highest level of security. Emphasize that Facebook is a place for friends and not strangers, and then change their profile to “friends only.” Again, remind your child to be wary of what they post in their status updates, since oversharing online can lead to consequences in the real world.

“As the site gets bigger, it’s important to have everyone working together–us, parents, kids, our safety advisory board–to make sure the site remains a safe place,” Colaco says.

Cyberbullying

The suicides of 13-year-old Megan Meier and 15-year-old Phoebe Prince have brought media attention to the potentially devastating effects of cyberbullying. A study performed as part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a division of the Pew Research center, reports that “32 percent of online teens have experienced some sort of harassment via the Internet,” including private material being forwarded without permission, threatening messages, and embarrassing photos posted without their consent.

Report/Block this Person

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The best way to deal with a cyberbully is to report them and block them from your kid’s Facebook profile.

Research performed at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center shows that, while adults are inclined to moderate their online behavior, children and teens are “significantly more willing to ‘go further’ and to type very shocking things that they would never say in person… Kids believe that online statements simply ‘don’t count’ because they’re not being said to someone’s face.”

Because young people tend to believe that they aren’t accountable for their online actions, Facebook becomes a convenient place to target victims for bullying. Although you can’t do much to prevent your child from being bullied online, you can help them end the harassment if it starts.

The MARC Center has several guides offering tips on how to handle cyberbullying, and all of them start with communicating directly with your child–don’t be afraid to get involved. If you think your child is being bullied, advise your child to spend less time on the site in question, or flag the bully by notifying the Website. If the behavior is also happening at school, notify the school’s administrators so that they, too, can get involved.

Facebook also makes it easy to report harassment issues, and encourages users to do so. But what if you find out that your child is the one doing the bullying? Both scenarios are possible, and both should be dealt with.

In a New York Times Q&A session on cyberbullying, expert Elizabeth K. Englander of the MARC Center addresses an approach that parents should take if they discover that their child is the bully. She first recommends that you discuss with your child why cyberbullying is hurtful, and bring up some of the tragic cases of teen suicide related to online harassment. Try to understand that your child could be reacting to pressure from friends, or that your child may be retaliating against someone who hurt their feelings in a similar manner. Although such circumstances don’t excuse the behavior, learning about them could bring a larger issue to your attention.

Finally, establish a set of rules for your teen to follow when using Facebook and other social networking sites, and monitor your child’s usage, perhaps even placing a daily time limit.

Stranger Danger

Earlier this year, 33-year-old Peter Chapman was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 17-year-old girl he met through Facebook. Chapman, a registered sex offender, had created a fake profile and pretended to be 17 years old to gain the victim’s trust.

Report a sex offender

If you or your child encounters a known sex offender on Facebook, report that person right away. Facebook has a special form for this.

Despite Facebook’s valiant efforts to rid its site of online predators, the system isn’t foolproof. The site has banned convicted sex offenders from joining, and in 2008 all of the known sex offenders already on the site were removed. However, considering the case of Peter Chapman, predators are still finding ways to cheat the system.

As mentioned earlier, you can limit privacy settings so that your child is directly interacting only with people they know–and more important, you can hide information such as your child’s age, school, and full name from people who are not direct friends.

Stress to your child the importance of avoiding people they do not know in real life. Even if the stranger’s profile says that they are the same age as your child and that they go to a nearby school, the profile could be a decoy. Your child can report to Facebook any stranger who tries to contact them or engage in inappropriate activity.

Third-Party Applications

Many third-party applications on Facebook are aimed directly at teens–often they involve games, establishing crushes, or sprucing up profiles. But many kids don’t quite grasp that these Facebook components are not actually created by Facebook, and that therefore they have different terms of service.

Request for Permission

Be sure to explain to your kids that apps can’t use their profile without permission, and make sure they know what they’re allowing.

Even worse, some of these external downloads could contain malware. Sunbelt Software has reported several suspicious Facebook scams, from a Texas Hold’em poker app containing adware to various phishing scams under similar disguises.

Make sure you have an up-to-date antivirus program and ad-blocking software that could catch these threats. Talk to your kids about skimming through the terms of service and privacy policies for applications before they accept the download. Also advise them never to open a link posted on their wall from someone they don’t know–it could point to a malicious site.

Monitoring Behavior

If you want to keep a more watchful eye on your kids’ online behavior, you can use any of several effective tools.

SafetyWeb is an online service geared toward parents who wish to keep tabs on what their kids are doing online. It checks across 45 different social networking sites to see if your child has a registered public profile, and it monitors those accounts for any potentially threatening activities. Monitored platforms include Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube. It also recognizes LiveJournal as a social network and will monitor that site, but it has yet to include other blogging platforms such as Tumblr.

SafetyWeb

SafetyWeb monitors your child’s online activity for you, so you’re not in the dark about their accounts and activities.

The service will notify you, the parent, if your child has posted anything potentially unsafe or inappropriate, within categories related to drugs and alcohol, sex, depression, profanity, and cyberbullying. That way, you can check your child’s public activity without having to join every site or read every post they make.

McGruff Safeguard software takes online monitoring a step further: It can record every move your child makes on the Internet, covering everything from instant-message logs to search terms on Google. Parents can keep a close eye on their children and discuss any behavior found to be dangerous or inappropriate.

Whether you use a software monitoring tool or not, experts agree that having regular conversations with your children about their online usage is the most important element to keeping them safe and aware of the dangers of the Web.

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October 1, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Bullying, Child Behavior, Girls, Identity, Internet, Parenting, research, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bullying: Why Do Girls Tend To Become Violent & Agressive Later Than Boys?

Girls appear to be “protected” from showing antisocial behaviour until their teenage years, new research from the University of Cambridge has found.

The study sheds new light on antisocial behaviour in girls compared with boys and suggests that rather than violence or antisocial behaviour simply reflecting bad choices, the brains of people with antisocial behaviour may work differently from those who behave normally.

Until now, little research has been done on antisocial behaviour (Conduct Disorder) in girls. According to Cambridge Neuroscientist Dr Graeme Fairchild of the Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the study:

“Almost nothing is known about the neuropsychology of severe antisocial behaviour in girls. Although less common in girls than boys, UK crime figures show that serious violence is increasing sharply in female adolescents.”

The study, published online this month in Biological Psychiatry, compared a group of 25 girls, aged 14-18 years-old, with high levels of antisocial and/or violent behaviour with a group of 30 healthy controls.

“Most of our participants had major difficulties controlling their temper, lashing out and breaking things around their homes when they got angry, and had often been involved in serious fights. Several had convictions for violent offences and some had been to prison for assault,”
Dr Fairchild explains.

Dr Fairchild and colleagues measured the girls’ ability to recognise the six primary facial expressions – anger, disgust, sadness, fear, surprise and happiness. They found that girls with antisocial behaviour made a large number of errors when asked to recognise anger and disgust, but had no problems recognising other facial expressions.

According to Dr Fairchild: “Our findings suggest that antisocial behaviour or violence may not simply reflect bad choices but that, at some level, the brains of individuals with antisocial behaviour may work differently. This might make it harder for them to read emotions in others – particularly to realise that someone is angry with them – and to learn from punishment.”

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The study also shows that although girls and boys with severe antisocial behaviour have the same problems recognising emotions, the girls – whose problems began when they were teenagers – more closely resembled boys whose antisocial behaviour began in childhood.

Boys with childhood-onset Conduct Disorder have difficulties recognising anger and disgust, but those with adolescence-onset Conduct Disorder do not.

“This suggests that there are interesting differences in antisocial behaviour between girls and boys, with girls being protected from showing antisocial behaviour until their teenage years for reasons we don’t yet understand,”
Dr Fairchild says.

The next phase of the research involves a brain scanning study. “As far as we know, this will be the first functional neuroimaging study ever carried out in girls with severe antisocial behaviour,” Dr Fairchild says.

Around five percent of school-age children would meet criteria for Conduct Disorder, but it is approximately three to four times more common in boys than girls. A range of factors – ranging from physical abuse in childhood to being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – make it more likely that someone will develop Conduct Disorder.

It is difficult to treat using psychological therapy, and there are no effective drug treatments, but a new form of therapy called Multi-Systemic Therapy is currently being trialled in the UK and shows promise in treating antisocial behaviour.

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Source: the University of Cambridge

Research Article: Facial Expression Recognition, Fear Conditioning, and Startle Modulation in Female Subjects with Conduct Disorder.
Fairchild G, Stobbe Y, van Goozen SH, Calder AJ, Goodyer IM.
Biol Psychiatry. 2010 May 4.

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May 14, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, Girls, Identity, Parenting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cool School Where Peace Rules: FREE Downloadable PC Video Game Teaches Kids Conflict Resolution Skills

Human development scientists and computer game developers designed a video game that teaches kids how to resolve conflicts peacefully amongst themselves. Inanimate objects, such as pencils and erasers, come to life to lead players through a series of common scenarios in which arguments are about to occur. The player is prompted for the non-violent solution and is rewarded for choosing correctly

Amid growing concern surrounding the effects violent video games have on children, a new computer game could be the alternative parents have been waiting for.

You can download it HERE for free

Kids who play together also argue together. Fights over games, toys and friendships are common, but when arguments heat up, it’s time to solve them before things get out of hand. A new computer game teaches kids how to solve playground and classroom quarrels that kids face every day in a positive way — without fists and fights.

“It helps them resolve conflicts by giving them a chance to think about what happens in the course of an actual conflict episode,” said Melanie Killen, Ph.D., a human development expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.

The game, called “Cool School: Where Peace Rules” — designed by a team of human development scientists, teachers, government mediators, computer game developers and animators — helps kids solve school violence and bullying while still having fun.

“You’re learning things, but at the same time it’s having fun with it,” said student Ellen Yaffe.

Animated objects come to life and depict common conflicts. Kids experiment on how to settle each argument. Players have the option of threatening the peer, telling the teacher, forgetting about it or talking things through.

Players are rewarded for choosing positive solutions to resolve conflicts with letters they collect to win.

“What this game is doing is it’s empowering children to make choices and decisions and to see what unfolds based on their own decisions,” Dr. Killen said.

Parents and teachers praise the new game, and kids love it for their own reasons.

“I think they make it very realistic with like the names and how the school looks,” student Jacob Tycko told Ivanhoe.

The best part is the game is totally free. You can download it HERE for free

Source: Sciencedaily

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May 10, 2010 Posted by | Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Parenting, Resilience, Resources, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Preventing Child Bullying: The Important Role Of Parents

Getting to know friends, helping with homework are among the things parents can do to decrease the likelihood that their child will become a bully

View Abstract Here

Communities across the United States are developing programs to address child bullying. New research shows that parents can play an important role in preventing their children from becoming bullies in the first place.

“Improving parent-child communication and parental involvement with their children could have a substantial impact on child bullying,” said Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, MSHS, lead author of a study to be presented Monday, May 3 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Shetgiri, a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas, and colleagues analyzed data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Among the questions asked of 45,897 parents with children 10-17 years old was whether their child bullies or is cruel or mean to others. Researchers then identified factors that increased or reduced the risk of a child being a bully.

Results showed the prevalence of bullying was 15 percent. Factors increasing the risk included race, emotional/behavioral problems and mothers’ mental health.

African-American and Latino children had a higher likelihood of being bullies compared to white children. In addition, children with emotional, developmental or behavioral problems and those whose mothers reported having less than “very good” mental health also were more likely to be bullies. Other parental characteristics that increased the likelihood of child bullying were getting angry with their child frequently and feeling that their child often did things to bother them.

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There also were factors that decreased the likelihood that a child will become a bully. Older children, those living in a home where the primary language spoken is not English and those who consistently did their homework were less likely to be bullies.

Parents also played a protective role. Those who shared ideas and talked with their child, and those who met most of their child’s friends were less likely to have children who bully.

“Parents can also work with health care providers to make sure any emotional or behavioral concerns they have about their child, as well as their own mental health, are addressed,” Dr. Shetgiri said. “Lastly, parents can take advantage of parenting programs that can help them become aware of and manage negative feelings, such as anger, and respond to their child in a non-aggressive manner.

View Abstract Here

Source: Eurekalert

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May 4, 2010 Posted by | Bullying, Child Behavior, Parenting, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I Saw It Happen”: Children Who Witness Bullying Can Be Traumatized Too

Students who witness bullying of their peers may suffer more psychologically than the victim or the bullies.

Read The Original Research Paper (PDF)

2002 students ages 12 to 16 were surveyed at public schools in England. The survey asked them whether they’d committed, witnessed, or been the victim of several types of bullying behavior (e.g., kicking, name-calling, threatening, etc.) and whether they had experienced psychological stress symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or hostility.

Why bystanders suffer more than victims of bullying

As reported in the article, previous research shows that children who witness bullying feel guilty, presumably for not doing anything to help the victim.

In addition, they may have felt more stressed by vacillating between doing what they thought they should do (i.e., help the victim) on the one hand, and being afraid of being victimized themselves, on the other.  Being in this type of “approach/avoidance” conflict has been shown in numerous studies to create high levels of stress.

The combination of guilt and fear among witnesses that they will experience the same thing may be another reason why they are more affected by bullying than the actual victims.

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Uncertainty, especially combined with feelings of fear or guilt, contributes to stress. Stress leads to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.

Sitting down and discussing feelings of fear and guilt with your child may help to minimize the destructive force and ultimate impact of those emotions on mental health.  Practical “survival” tips about how to avoid, distract, or other means of handling bullies would help, too, giving kids options if they are cornered by or are a witness to bullies in action.
Read The Original Research Paper (PDF)

Source: Psychological Association (2009, December 15). Witnesses to bullying may face more mental health risks than bullies and victims. ScienceDaily.
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April 22, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Bullying, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Too Sexy Too Soon! PART I – Should Girls As Young As 9 Be Taken To Get Their Legs Waxed?

Video still of an children's fashion shoot image which was released as part of a report into the sexualisation of children.

There has been an increasing amount of concern amongst health professionals regarding the rise of “tweenage” culture, the target marketing of pre-adolescent children, particularly girls, with clothing and cultural images that seem to be pushing them towards adulthood way too early. The following newspaper articles from this weekend’s newspapers highlight this disturbing trend, and offer up some food for thought for parents.

Source for both articles: news.com.au

PARENTS are sending girls as young as nine to have painful beauty treatments.

Beauticians say that young children are being brought into salons by parents to undergo painful hair removal treatments.

NSW Community Services Minister Linda Burney criticised the paractice, and although she stopped short of calling it abuse, she said that mothers should not force their daughters to mature too quickly.

“Most people would be pretty aghast that girls as young as nine would feel that they need to have their legs waxed,” Ms Burney said.

“It raises the broader issue of children growing up too quickly and brings up the issue of sexualisation of children. Children should be allowed to be children and not feel they need to emulate what they see in gossip magazines and the advertising industry.”

Too young, too painful

She warned that the sexualisation of young girls through such beauty treatments could lead to depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Parents needed to use common sense in deciding when the right time was to allow their child to wax, but there was also an onus on the beauty industry, although regulation was not the answer, she said.

“At the end of the day, it is really on the proprietor to make a particular decision about whether they will allow that client in the salon,” Ms Burney said.

Bullied

Ms Burney said that there may be exceptional circumstances, for example, if a child was being teased or bullied because they were particularly hairy.

Child sexualisation expert and humanities and social science lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Emma Rush, said she was “disturbed” parents were taking young children to have the procedure.

“It might seem like a nice thing to do for a little girl, but not at that age. Mid-teens, sure. Children aged nine or younger have not got the cognitive (capacity). They don’t have the need for it. There is the question of whether they are ready to cope with the attention that can attract,” Dr Rush said.

She said girls in primary schools were now exhibiting depression, anxiety and eating disorders, which had all been strongly linked to sexualisation.

“Parents also need to think about the message that this is sending to their children,” she said.

“It is very limiting for a child how much focus there is on looks.”

She said children should never be pressured to undergo such beauty treatments and discouraged from starting them until at least 14.

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Leg waxes for nine year olds?

Alison Godfrey

Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 11:17am

THE Sunday Telegraph this weekend reported that parents were forcing girls as young as nine to get leg waxes.

In the article NSW Community Services Minister Linda Burney said mothers should not force their daughters to mature too quickly.

“Most people would be pretty aghast that girls as young as nine would feel that they need to have their legs waxed,” Ms Burney said.

“It raises the broader issue of children growing up too quickly and brings up the issue of sexualisation of children. Children should be allowed to be children and not feel they need to emulate what they see in gossip magazines and the advertising industry.”

She warned that the sexualisation of young girls through such beauty treatments could lead to depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Firstly I was horrified, then I wondered – are they really forcing them? Or are nine-year-old girls asking their parents if they can shave their legs and mums are taking them to the salon instead? Are mums just buckling to pester power?

Either way, it does raise the issue of sexualisation of young children. The story about leg waxing follows a run of other stories of inappropriate products aimed at children. Take a look at this padded bra for seven-year-olds which a UK retailer was forced to remove from sale after The Sun called the bra a “paedo (pedophile) bikini”.

Last month, Professor Newman, the president of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrist said she had seen four-year-olds who wanted to go on diets. She said the overt sexualisation of society was pushing teenage concerns about body image, “sexiness” and of being a “worthwhile individual” well into a child’s first years of life.

If you need any more proof of the issue – there’s this article about Noah Cyrus, Mylie’s 10-year-old sister selling fishnet stockings and knee high dominatrix boots.

Last week I was shopping for clothes for my soon to be born baby girl. I was shocked by the by the rock star style mini-skirts and leather jackets in Best and Less. I just wanted something cute, simple, elegant and baby like. What girl under one wears black leather and studs? What are they thinking?

But then, we should also be asking what are the parents thinking? Because ultimately it is the parents that agree to buy these items for children. It is parents who say yes, rather than no.

Yesterday I made my husband turn off Video Hits because CJ was watching a scantily clad woman gyrating to hip hop music. It made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t appropriate for a two-year-old. I can only imagine the conversations that must generate in families with older children.

When my baby girl is born in, hopefully just over 10 weeks, I know that I will probably be even more protective with her. And leg waxing will have to wait until I am ready for it.

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April 20, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Bullying, Child Behavior, Eating Disorder, Girls, Parenting, research, Sex & Sexuality, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Kids Who Bully Want Status But Long For Affection

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2010) — Bullying is common in classrooms around the world: About 15 percent of children are victimized, leading to depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other negative outcomes. What’s driving bullies to behave the way they do? According to a new large-scale Dutch study, most bullies are motivated by the pursuit of status and affection.

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The longitudinal study was conducted by researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. It appears in the March/April 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

In their work, the researchers questioned almost 500 elementary-school children ages 9 to 12. Based on their findings, they conclude that bullies generally choose to gain status by dominating their victims. But at the same time, they try to reduce the chances that they’ll end up on the outs with other classmates by choosing as victims children who are weak and not well-liked by others. In short, even bullies care a lot about others’ affection and don’t want to lose it.

Gender also plays a role. For example, the study finds that at this age, bullies only care about not losing affection from classmates of their own gender. So when boys bully boys, it doesn’t matter whether girls approve or disapprove. The same holds for girls. Moreover, boys will bully only those girls that aren’t well liked by other boys, regardless of what girls think about it, and girls will do the same in their bullying of boys.

“To understand the complex nature of acceptance and rejection, it’s necessary to distinguish the gender of the bully, the gender of the target, and the gender of the classmates who accept and reject bullies and victims,” according to René Veenstra, professor of sociology at the University of Groningen, who led the study.

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

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March 28, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, Identity, Parenting | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online ‘Cold Shoulder’ Shown To Effect Kids Self-Esteem

Read the original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2010) — Research by psychologists at the University of Kent has revealed that online ostracism is a threat to children’s self-esteem.

The study, the results of which are published March 22 in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, looked at how children, adolescents and adults react to being ostracised by other players during an online computer game. This is the first time the effect of online ostracism on children has been investigated.

The study was carried out by a team at the University’s Centre for the Study of Group Processes and was led by Professor Dominic Abrams. Professor Abrams explained that research into cyber-bullying usually focuses on direct abuse and insults. ‘However, a more indirect and perhaps common form of bullying is ostracism — when people are purposefully ignored by others,’ he said. Professor Abrams also explained that ‘online ostracism affects adults by threatening their basic needs for self-esteem, sense of belonging, sense of meaning and sense of control. We wanted to discover whether children and adolescents have similar reactions.’

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Three groups of participants took part in the study: 41 eight and nine-year-old children, 79 thirteen and fourteen-year-olds and 46 twenty-year-old adults. All were asked to play a game of online ‘cyberball’ in which three online players — depicted on screen by their names — passed a ball to one another. In games where the participant was included, they threw and received the ball four times within the trial. However, in a game when they were ostracised they received the ball only twice at the start, and then the other two players continued to play only passing the ball between themselves.

After each game participants’ basic needs were assessed, as well as how much they had enjoyed the game.

Professor Abrams said: ‘For all age groups, online ostracism substantially threatened the four basic needs — esteem, belonging, meaning and control — and also lowered their mood, showing that social exclusion online is very powerful even among children.’

However, there were also differences between the three age groups in their responses to cyber-ostracism. Ostracism affected the self-esteem of the eight and nine-year-old children more than the other groups. This suggests that the adolescents and adults have developed better buffers against threats to self-esteem.

Among the thirteen to fourteen-year-olds ostracism had the largest effect on feelings of belonging, strongly suggesting that adolescents may place a higher value on inclusion in peer networks than do children or adults.

The good news is that the negative reactions were cancelled out when children were included in a later game. Professor Abrams added: ‘Whereas adults might be quite skilled at finding a relationship in which to be included after having been ostracised, it could be a bigger challenge for children. This suggests that parents and schools need to be vigilant in case children in their care are experiencing sustained ostracism.

Read the original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

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March 26, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Parenting, Resilience, Social Psychology, Technology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Quirky Yes,Hopeless No’:Making Quirky Cool & Helping Kids With Aspergers Learn Social Skills

By PATRICIA MORRIS BUCKLEY – For the North County Times | Posted: March 17, 2010

Beth Wagner Brust knows there are few things more difficult than watching your child struggle to make friends. Her youngest son, Ben, was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten, but by third grade he still didn’t have any friends.

“My pediatrician said he had Asperger’s,” explained Brust, a Carmel Valley resident. Asperger’s is considered a higher form of autism that makes social interaction, among other things, difficult. “Like any parent, I was thrown for a loop. Then I heard about the Friends Club in Carlsbad.”

The Friends Club is a safe, non-threatening and non-stressful environment where kids with Asperger’s get together to learn the “unwritten” social skills. Now it’s inspired Brust and Cynthia La Brie Norall, Ph.D., to write “Quirky, Yes — Hopeless, No: Practical Tips to Help Your Child with Asperger’s Syndrome Be More Socially Accepted” (St. Martin’s Griffin).

Asperger’s children are often the kids who are bullied, sit alone at lunch and rarely get an invitation to a birthday party. But at the club, they learn such skills as making eye contact, greeting people, letting others talk about their interests and being less rigid through games, breaking skills into baby steps and role playing.

By learning the subtle social cues that typical children take for granted, they can begin making friends. And that’s exactly what happened with Ben.

“By the end of the first year, I heard him ask another kid, ‘Am I boring you?’ and I almost fell over,” recalled Brust. “I’d never heard him say that before. It was amazing to see that growth in six months.”

The Friends Club was the brainchild of Norall, an educational behavior psychologist. While working at a preschool in Valley Center in 1992, she first encountered children with autism. That’s around the time that autism diagnoses began to rise dramatically. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of every 100 8-year-olds is autistic.

“I just found this population fascinating,” Norall said. “I went to every seminar and conference I could on autism. I really wanted to help them.”

In 1999, she opened her own practice, Comprehensive Autism Services and Education (CASE). A year later, she started the Friends Club when her mentor, Dr. B.J. Freeman, a child psychologist who founded the Autism Clinic at UCLA, suggested that she do something to help those higher on the autistic spectrum.

The Friends Club broke the commonly held professional belief that social groups should also contain typical children.

“I got a lot of negative criticism over that decision,” she said. “But these kids know that they are different and if I brought in typical kids, the Aspies (kids with Asperger’s) would stand out. They needed a place to connect.”

Norall likes to tell the story of a teenage girl on her first time at Friends Club who said, “Well, Cynthia, it’s about time you put this together for my species.”

Nine years later, thousands of Aspies have been through the Friends Club. In addition to the branch in Carlsbad, there are Friends Club satellites in Napa, Vancouver, Canada and Oahu, Hawaii, and also a camp during the summer. Twenty-two groups have approximately 150 kids. Groups are broken into age categories; from very young (age 3 to 7), to tweeners, teens and young adults. Norall’s staff now numbers 50, a few of whom are Friends Club graduates. Each group contains six kids and two leaders.

Parents, amazed at the results, kept encouraging Norall to write a book. With that goal in mind, she’d kept extensive summaries of each activity as a report for the parents, but also to remind herself what the kids had taught her. Still, it took Brust, a children’s author herself, to persuade Norall to really get writing.

They decided they wanted the book, originally titled “Decoding Your Asperger’s Children: Lessons Learned at the Friends Club,” to be a practical parenting guide rather than a book on what Asperger’s is or how to “cure it.”

The book is organized alphabetically by topic, such as cooperation, discipline, bullying, perfectionism, anxiety or meltdowns. The lessons teach “people skills,” including how to greet others, how to make eye contact, how to pay compliments, how to cooperate and ask for help and how not to be rude.

Ultimately, Norall and Brust wanted their readers to understand how the Aspie’s brain is wired differently. Then they can not only help the youngsters, but also be less frustrated overall and enjoy the differences these kids bring to the world.

“We wanted a book that had no jargon, but written in a conversational tone like Dr. Spock,” said Brust. “We also wanted readers to be able to skip around in it. There’s always a ‘trouble du jour,’ and you can read just about that. Parents of special needs kids have no time and it doesn’t take a big time commitment to read this book. We’ve made it as accessible as possible.”

The finished manuscript quickly sold to mainstream publisher St. Martin’s Griffin. “Quirky, Yes — Hopeless, No” hit stores in August. Alyse Diamond, the book’s editor, believes there’s nothing like it in a market filled with technical books by doctors or memoirs by mothers.

“What gripped me was that this wasn’t just another book written by a doctor,” said Diamond. “The co-writer is a mom and she’s been in the trenches with her son, so together they bring a unique perspective that you don’t normally see. More and more kids are being diagnosed with autism every year. It’s not going away. That’s why it’s important to us to get a book like this in the hands of people who need it.”

Reaction to the book has been highly positive. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Although a dozen or more experts are cited, the book is conversational in tone, full of insights and will help and encourage parents and their Aspie or high-functioning autistic kids alike.”

Temple Grandin, the author of “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” and “Thinking in Pictures,” and perhaps the most famous person with autism, said in her review, “This is a fantastic book for helping people on the autism spectrum learn social skills. Great for individuals on the spectrum, teachers, and social skills training specialists.”

While good reviews from major publications and notable names in the autism field are welcome, the ones that mean the most to Norall and Brust are those from parents and professionals who work with the children.

“I want everyone to read this book so that the teasing will stop,” said Brust. “These kids can be creative and fun. I love being around Ben because he thinks differently. But that can also be frustrating because we don’t understand how they think.”

The good news is that Ben, now a senior at Canyon Crest High School, is doing so well that he plans to attend community college soon. While he just stopped going to Friends Club, Brust sees the lasting value of what he learned there and hopes that people who read their book will experience some of the same social connections he’s had.

“This book is about helping Aspie kids navigate the world better,” Brust said. “Every chapter has something specific and concrete that parents can do to make a difference. Our goal is to help as many of these kids as possible.”

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March 18, 2010 Posted by | Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Parenting, Resilience, Social Justice, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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