Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

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

Sugar & Spite: Bullying and Young Girls

Source: TIME.com

Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of, right? Well, not exactly, it seems. Bullying and nasty cliques start as early as elementary school, says Michelle Anthony, a developmental psychologist and the co-author of Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades (St. Martin’s Griffin). Anthony and her co-author, Reyna Lindert, have developed a helpful technique for parents to employ. In brief, they advise observing the social situation, connecting with the child and guiding the child to the point that she is supported in her actions. TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs spoke with Anthony about their research and conclusions.

How did you get interested in this topic?
Our interest in this topic began personally as the mothers of young girls. My eldest daughter, when she was 6, was enmeshed in a two-year-long struggle with a friend. For the first year, I didn’t even know about it, because she felt so alone and isolated that she didn’t talk about it with anyone. She tried to get help from her teacher, who sort of told her to thicken her skin over it. She took that to heart as being her problem and really was silent for a while. Then it became apparent as it began influencing her life more and more. Dr. Lindert’s daughter in fifth grade was ousted from her friendship circle in the middle of the year and basically had to start over socially. So our interests really began as mothers, and then knowing our background and our expertise, we began working with families and parents and girls.

Is there a common misperception that this only happens when kids get older?
Exactly, that this is a problem that only comes to light in middle school and high school. The reality is that the roots are all in elementary school. Girls as young as kindergarten are facing significant social challenges without the resources, without the tools and most important, without the support to best manage them.

Is this type of bullying behavior common?
Oh, I think it’s extremely common. I don’t think there’s a single school in this country where a good portion of girls aren’t dealing with friendship struggles and various degrees of social cruelty. I think what’s more uncommon is to have a language to talk about it. So many girls are facing these struggles alone. Either their parents say, “She’ll be nicer tomorrow,” or “Just find another friend,” or “Don’t play with someone who’s mean.” We’re doing it from the best place, we’re doing it to be helpful. But the problem is, for the girls themselves, it’s isolating them further, because it’s basically saying to them, “This is your problem to figure out by yourself.” 

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Among young kids, is bullying more common among girls or boys?
I think what we’re talking about here — in terms of social cruelty and relational aggression — is more common among girls. Which is not to say that it doesn’t happen with boys. But if you had to stereotype, girls more often use social power to have influence over their peers, and boys more often use physical intimidation to have power over their peers. Some people would argue that the physical blow from a boy bully might be more acute, might be more dramatic, might be more dangerous. But what research has shown is that girls’ relational aggression tends to involve more people, and it tends to last longer, and in that way is just as devastating for the girls who experience it.

Do most daughters tell their parents that something is going on?
Sometimes. When it gets bad enough, they usually do. And if they don’t, parents — especially parents who are taught to recognize shifts in their children — will begin to notice changes. More often than girls coming and saying, “I have this big problem,” you’ll see shifts in behavior. They’ll stop liking things they used to like, or they’ll start complaining about headaches or stomachaches more, or that they don’t like [a particular] class, because that’s where these things are happening. When girls come home, there are sort of codes that they use: “She was mean” — that’s a very common phrase for a child to use — or, “My friend and I got in a fight.”

Is it ever necessary to enlist the school’s help?
Absolutely. In every case? Absolutely not. But I’m a very big advocate of parents not staying alone. Teachers, guidance counselors, principals, social workers — there are a slew of people in these school districts whose purpose is to help kids learn. And when kids are stuck in social strife, they can’t learn. To face it alone doesn’t make any sense. For parents, to reach out to get more knowledge and more support is so beneficial to their child. This isn’t about tattling on some other child and saying, “This kid is mean.” It’s really about understanding the situation that your child is in.

Should you ever move your daughter out of the school?
That can happen if things are bad enough. But I think before that, there are a lot of steps. For instance, put the kids in separate classes.

Has the Internet made this worse?
Yes. That’s one of the big things about the difference from when our generation was growing up. Meanness happened then too, but the sphere of influence was much smaller. The public and permanent nature of the acts today — because of social-networking sites, technology and the Internet — make it very real for these kids since everyone is involved. Whatever happens will last literally forever.

Do things get any better when the girls get older?
This behavior peaks around middle school and the very beginning of high school. It tends to decrease over high school, because the girls’ friendships become more stabilized and they really learn how to interact and to support one another, and to have the kind of friendships that we think of as adult friendships.

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August 29, 2010 Posted by | Books, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Parenting | , , , , | 4 Comments

What Were You Thinking? The Causes Of Online Disinhibition

The online disinhibition effect has cost people their jobs, their income and their relationships, yet many are still oblivious to it.

Credit: Re-posted from PsyBlog

The first famous case of someone allegedly losing their job from indiscreet remarks made online was in 2002. Heather Armstrong, author of the blog ‘dooce’, claimed she was fired after her colleagues discovered she’d been lampooning them online.

In internet terms getting fired for a blog rant is ancient news; to make the headlines now your indiscretions have to be on Twitter or Facebook. One recent example was this girl who was ‘Facebook fired’ after she said exactly what she thought of her boss on Facebook after a bad day at work.

What she’d forgotten was they were Facebook friends, so the update would appear front and centre the next time he logged into Facebook. She might as well have said it straight to his face and, for good measure, kicked him in the shins.

These are two examples of what psychologists call the ‘online disinhibition effect’, the idea that when online people feel less inhibited by social conventions. Compared with face-to-face interactions, online we feel freer to do and say what we want and, as a result, often do and say things we shouldn’t.

Internet psychologist John Suler has written about six characteristics of the internet which lead to radical changes in our online behaviour (Suler, 2004):

1. Anonymity

Online people feel they can’t be identified in the same way they can when they’re in public. It’s similar to going out in a costume at night with a mask on to cover the face (see research on deindividuation). That sense of disconnection from our normal personality allows new ways of behaving. People may even consider their online behaviours to arise from an online alter ego.

Ironically, though, some people are far less anonymous online than offline. Because of the online disinhibition effect some share too much on their social networking profiles, sometimes even things they wouldn’t admit to their closest friends. It’s easy to forget that you don’t need espionage training to type someone’s name into Google.

2. Invisibility

Because others can’t see us online, we don’t have to worry about how we look to others and what emotional signals we are sending through facial expressions.

Imagine, for example, that you’re telling a friend about a distressing experience face-to-face. You may feel the urge to try and hide the depth of your emotion from them, which stops you telling the story. Online, however, you can continue to tell the story without giving away how bad it really is.

It can allow us to open up about things that we can’t discuss face-to-face. Online support groups rely on this openness to allow members to discuss their deepest hopes and fears. This is one of the potentially positive aspects of the online disinhibition effect, as long as users protect their privacy and identity.

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3. Stop/start communication

Face-to-face we see people’s reactions to what we’ve said or done immediately. That tends to put us off upsetting them or risking their judgement.

Online there are no such restrictions: because of online asynchronicity it’s possible to say something and wait 24 hours before reading the response, or never read it at all.

This cuts both ways. So-called ‘internet trolls’ are people who post to discussion forums or other online groups with the express purpose of stirring up controversy (known online as flame wars). They are experts in a kind of emotional hit-and-run. On the other hand, people who have difficulty when communicating face-to-face can become eloquent and courteous when online.

The majority of us probably fall somewhere in between these two extreme positions. Nevertheless the lack of instant feedback from other people’s body language causes all sorts of communication failures online. One of the most common causes of these failures is jokes. Without the accompanying body language, friendly jibes are easily misunderstood and interactions can quickly take a turn for the worse.

4. Voices in your head

The very act of reading online can create a surprisingly intimate connection. Because other people’s words are in our heads, we may merge them with our own internal monologues.

While humans have been reading novels and letters for centuries, these are relatively formal modes of communication, and it’s only in the last decade that online communication has brought the intimacy of a letter to informal, everyday conversation.

5. An imaginary world

The anonymity, invisibility and fantasy elements of online activities encourage us to think that the usual rules don’t apply. Like a science fiction escape fantasy, the net allows us to be who we want and do what we want, both good and bad.

The problem is that when life becomes a game that can be left behind at the flick of a switch, it’s easy to throw responsibility out of the window.

6. No police

We all fear disapproval and punishment, but this imaginary world appears to have no police and no authority figures. Although there are people with authority online, it’s difficult to tell who they are. There is no internet government, no one person in charge of it all. So people feel freer online: away from authority, social convention and conformity.

Of course the idea that authority doesn’t exist online is fantasy because the policeman exists inside all of us, to a greater or lesser extent.

Wing it

These factors work together to create a world in which we can feel freer. But this freedom is an illusion maintained by the online experience of invisibility, anonymity and lack of immediate, visceral, emotional feedback from others, or at least our ability to turn that feedback off.

Perhaps this is freedom: some people do report feeling closer to their real selves when online. But there’s a reason we developed all those social inhibitions in the old-fashioned, offline world. They stop us offending other people, which helps us keep our jobs and maintain our relationships. That’s not to say that the internet can’t help us build relationships with others or find jobs, it clearly can. It’s just that we tend to be less aware of both how much our behaviour can change online and the potential drawbacks to these changes.

Every now and then we need reminding that the internet is still a relatively fresh invention and, socially, we are still coming to terms with it. Long-established niceties of face-to-face behaviour haven’t yet taken hold online and, in the absence of precedent, we have to wing it.

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August 24, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Bullying, Health Psychology, Internet, Social Psychology, Technology | , , , | 8 Comments

Online Shopping: Is “Drink Buying” A Problem for You?

PHOTO Some online shoppers are indulging their temptations and  making purchases they might not have made if sober.

Andrea calls them “gifts” from her drunk self to her sober self.
Some online shoppers are indulging their temptations and making purchases they might not have made if sober.

When she hasn’t been drinking, the 26-year-old New Yorker says that she rarely does more than browse online retail sites. But give her some booze and the buying begins.

“Get some drinks in me and I’m more likely to bite the bullet and figure out where to store the crap later on,” she said.

Andrea, who asked to withhold her name to protect her privacy, said she’s shopped under the influence more than a dozen times, but the habit comes and goes.

“I’ll do it several times over a month and then forget about it for a while,” she said. “Luckily, I haven’t bought or won anything terribly extravagant. Generally, I am pleasantly surprised about my purchases.”

After her latest late-night spree, she said awoke to the whole Doc Savage comic book series, the movie “Popeye,” with Robin Williams, the children’s book “Mouse Tails,” and (her favorite) the book “Statistics for the Utterly Confused.”

Along with her list of drunken purchases, she posted on her Facebook page, “Can we PLEASE get a breathalyzer on these things?”

While inebriated Internet buying may not be be an epidemic, it’s also not that unusual. A spokesperson for an online retail site, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, said that intoxicated-sounding shoppers regularly call the site’s customer service asking for help placing orders.

“They’re trying to get a little roadside assistance on the shopping piece,” the spokesperson said, adding that sometimes the customers need technical guidance, while other times it sounds like they just want to hear a friendly voice.

Andrea said she’s partial to things that remind her of childhood memories (her very first drunk purchases were the book “The Phantom Tollbooth” and a whittling kit), but, occasionally, she said she wakes up to the just plain bizarre. “I [bid] on a plaster casting kit, which is rather surprising as I have no idea what I was thinking of doing with it,” she said.

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But no matter what her sober self finds in the morning, she said she never thinks of returning anything. Why? “[I'm] way too embarrassed,” she said. Psychologists say the habit is fairly harmless as long as people don’t take it to extremes or spend extravagantly. “Normally, when we haven’t had a drink or two, our rational selves intercede between the emotion and the action and we say, ‘Oh, I don’t really need that’ or ‘Oh, I don’t have the money right now,'” said John Grohol, a clinical psychologist and founder of the online mental health resource PsychCentral.com. “But alcohol takes that one step away, that rational voice away, and we go directly to the emotion and the behavior.” Source: ABC news

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May 15, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Alcohol, Books, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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Source: Eurekalert

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

The Internet, Facebook, Pornography & Affairs: A Talkback Podcast Of Real-Life Stories

On Sunday 12th March I took part in an amazing talk-back discussion on Peter Jan965_logoetzki’s “Talking Life” radio program on which I am a regular guest. The discussion, which involved a number of stories from listeners calling in, was about the darker side of the internet and social networking. A number of people spoke of the tragic circumstances of losing  their relationships through affairs, in which Facebook and other social networking sites where involved. We explored with callers what their experiences had been, what they had learned and advice which they would give to others about realationships and social networking. If you use Facebook, social networking or online gaming or your partner does, this is well worth a listen.

You can now listen to the entire podcast (four parts) by selecting the links below. These files are now stored in my library internally for easy access: (Free – mp3-internal links) click to play or right click on the links and “save link /target as” to download.

Affairs on the Internet part 1

Affairs on the Internet part 2

Affairs on the Internet part 3

Affairs on the Internet part 4

OR

Peter Janetzki

Peter Janetzki

A podcast of the entire show in easy to listen parts, and podcasts of recent shows can be found here or by clicking on the 96.5 logo.You can listen to the podcast from your browser or with iTunes, Talking Life streams live every Sunday night from from 8-10pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10) and you can listen by going to the 96.5 website @ 96five.com and clicking on the home page media player.

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April 24, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Bullying, Internet, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Parenting, podcast, research, Resources, Sex & Sexuality, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Academic Dishonesty = Fail: Procrastination & Copying Homework Increases Failure Rate Irrespective of Aptitude

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2010) — The history of students who copy homework from classmates may be as old as school itself. But in today’s age of lecture-hall laptops and online coursework, how prevalent and damaging to the education of students has such academic dishonesty become?

According to research published online March 18 in Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, it turns out that unnoticed student cheating is a significant cause of course failure nationally.

A researcher from the University of Kansas has teamed up with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to get a better handle on copying in college in the 21st century.

Young-Jin Lee, assistant professor of educational technology at KU, and the Research in Learning, Assessing and Tutoring Effectively group at MIT spent four years seeing how many copied answers MIT students submitted to MasteringPhysics, an online homework tutoring system.

“MIT freshmen are required to take physics,” said Lee. “Homework was given through a Web-based tutor that our group had developed. We analyzed when they logged in, when they logged out, what kind of problems they solved and what kinds of hints they used.”

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Lee said that it was easy to spot students who had obtained answers from classmates before completing the homework.

“We ran into very interesting students who could solve the problems — very hard problems — in less than one minute, without making any mistakes,” said Lee.

Students also were asked to complete an anonymous survey about the frequency of their homework copying. (According to the survey, students nationally admit to engaging in more academic dishonesty than MIT students.)

Among the researchers’ most notable findings:

* Students who procrastinated also copied more often. Those who started their homework three days ahead of deadline copied less than 10 percent of their problems, while those who drug their feet until the last minute were repetitive copiers.

The students who copied frequently had about three times the chance of failing the course.

* Results of the survey show that students are twice as likely to copy on written homework than on online homework.

* This study showed that doing all the homework assigned is “a surer route to exam success” than a preexisting aptitude for physics.

“People believe that students copy because of their poor academic skills,” Lee said. “But we found that repetitive copiers — students who copy over 30 percent of their homework problems — had enough knowledge, at least at the beginning of the semester. But they didn’t put enough effort in. They didn’t start their homework long enough ahead of time, as compared to noncopiers.”

Because repetitive copiers don’t adequately learn physics topics on which they copy the homework, Lee said, the research strongly implies that copying caused declining performance on analytic test problems later in the semester.

“Even though everyone knows not doing homework is bad for learning, no one knows how bad it is,” said Lee. “Now we have a quantitative measurement. It could make an A student get B or even C.”

At the beginning of a semester, the researchers found that copying was not as widespread as it was late in the semester.

“Obviously, the amount of copying was not so prevalent because the academic load was not as much at the beginning of the semester,” said Lee. “In order to copy solutions, the students need to build their networks. They need to get to know each other so that they can ask for the answers.”

But the KU researcher and his MIT colleagues also demonstrated that changes to college course formats — such as breaking up large lecture classes into smaller “studio” classes, increasing interactions between teaching staff and students, changing the grading system — could reduce student copying fourfold.

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

Adapted from materials provided by University of Kansas

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March 22, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Cognition, Education, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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