More of our girls die by suicide than on mainland Europe – why?

Teen girl
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“Are you f*&king serious?” she asks me, looking at me in that angry / scared / amused way that only teens can do. I like this girl, this young woman. She’s valiant, honest and has a righteous rage.

I am serious I tell her. Really serious.

Moments earlier she’d whipped out her phone to show me an article that she read on the way to my office. The grim headline read: Ireland has the highest rate in Europe for young girls taking their own lives

And I had asked her why she thought this was the case.

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Setting screen time rules for optimum teen health (and parent sanity!)

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Tweens + teens + tech = nightmare!!!

Lots of people are doing a lot of talking about setting rules for kids around their use of technology and that’s a really good thing. We don’t have to look far to find examples of how tech is damaging (as well as enhancing) the lives of our kids – it leaks into everything doesn’t it? Family life, school life, social life, private life. Nothing is untouched by tech these days – unless you are super strict and have none in your house.. in which case I guess you won’t be reading this..

I digress.. 

While there is a lot written telling parents to set rules, there isn’t quite as much written about what exact rules to set. And so parents are still left scratching their heads somewhat – it’s not as if we can refer to what our parents did. We are still coming to terms with this shiny new toy ourselves!

 

 

Educational and life enhancing as it it though, technology use really needs to be contained and starting off with rules and sticking to them is the way to go. For sure. Kids will not set their own boundaries, they are not equipped to do so and not only that, but they are relying on us to do this for them.

Several weeks ago a thirteen year old boy that I work with told me he’d been awake ’til 3am gaming  – an over 18’s game, but that’s not the main point. The main point that struck me was this – he said he was exhausted. That he couldn’t concentrate in school. I agreed that he certainly looked tired. He said “Ya.. I know.. I wish my parents would notice that..”.

He said it would be easier for him is they just took it from him, turned off the modem, set rules. That way he’d sleep better and be able to blame them when him gaming buddies whined that he wasn’t online. He thought it was nice that they trusted him but seriously – how could he resist the temptation??

Rules must be set, much as we want to communicate trust to our young people. One way to communicate that trust is to set rules and then trust them to play ball.

My suggestion is pretty old school: write a list of rules, stick them up on a wall, or several walls and be ready to discuss in advance and then issue consequences (not necessarily punishments) for rule breakage. These consequences will be removal of privileges  – tech related privileges will likely work best (This is known as  ‘Logical consequence’ and I’ll discuss the difference between Logical Consequences, Natural consequences and punishment in another post).

 

Rules suggestions:

1. No phones (or laptops, tablets,  iPads, iPods or TV’s) to be used in any way during meals. Ideally have a bowl or a box to temporarily chuck them into. Y’know, gently. Note your own discomfort with this idea (are you resisting it already??) This is where we need to model the behaviour we expect. If you don’t, you’ll look like a hypocrite to an acutely sharp teenage eye and also it will definitely get thrown into your face during a future argument! Phone etiquette is a modern social skill – we all need to adapt and learn it!

2. Homework first. Lots of houses have a rule where TV or whatever is turned on as soon as the school bag hits the floor – that’s certainly what happened in my house. My suggestion is though that access to tech happens only after homework and/or a small household job or two or done. This will have lots of benefits long term – your child will learn self-discipline, patience, and responsibility. It will also help them avoid the distraction and procrastination that goes with TV watching and it will enhance their enjoyment of said distraction when they finally get to it because nothing will be hanging over them. We need to teach relaxation and reward too!

3. Screens off at the same time every night. We know that the blue light emitted by screens, even small screens like phone interferes with the production of melatonin. This is bad news for sleepy time. And that’s bad news for pretty much everything from academic performance to overall physical and mental health.

(Goes for adults too… #JustSayin

4. Bedrooms should be tech-free zones. Two reasons for this –

  • The sleepy time issue as above
  • The ability to monitor what your child/teen is accessing (or what/who, is accessing them) is zero if the tech is in their bedroom.

Allowing your teen to have a TV in his bedroom will only encourage him to watch a lot of TV and it will be nearly impossible to monitor what he’s watching and how much TV he’s watching. Another idea is to have phones shut down at night and handed over to you until morning. There are thousands of kids all over the world texting and snapping into the small hours and wandering around like zombies the next day. You can prevent this. And they can blame you if they get grief from friends who didn’t get the replies they wanted late at night. Two birds, one stone.

 5. And while I’m there, all mobile devices and non mobile devices should be used in front of you so that you can see what they are accessing and monitor for inappropriate content. It’s true that other parents may not be this vigilant, but at least while they are in your home you can protect them in this way. I’ve heard parents say that they’ll access stuff elsewhere so what’s the point?! This may well be true if your have a normal child! However, if they have an anchor to refer to – ie your rules- it’s more likely that they will be aware of what’s OK and what isn’t, even if they access it. And that’s a good thing.

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Happy International Women’s Day! (but not for all of us)

Violence against Women
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So, here we are again. Every Year since 1908 we have celebrated International Women’s Day and while we have made huge strides in some areas, we have a very long way to go. 

Much has been written in the lead up to today. And much of it grim. I won’t go into the Tuam babies thing here.. (2018 edit –  Weinstein, #MeToo, Repeal the 8th debate, the women-being-ordained question, the sordid details of the rape (victim) trial, the pick-your-own-horror-story… ).To mark the day I thought I’d post a compilation of important pieces about how women are (still) being treated in the 21st century. It’s not terrifically cheery reading so you might want to stop now. I understand, I really do.

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Talking to your child about about sexting

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In my last piece I asked a scary question – Is your child sexting?

And here is the follow-up piece with some suggestions on how to introduce the conversation to your child. And even though it says ‘teen’ in the title – I wrote this with younger children in mind too.

Sexting figures
Sexting figures – I don’t like the word ‘admitted’ but you see where I’m going..

 

Because as you may or may not know, children as young as ten are accessing porn and are being pressured into sexting. So it’s a very real concern that has a lot pf parents worried and feeling powerless. Hopefully, this will help. And if you have any other tips from your own experience and wisdom please do share them below.

             Click here to read the post

Warmly,

Sally O'Reilly Counselling & Psychotherapy

Some rule-setting ideas for parents, teens & technology

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Setting boundaries and creating rules that feel reasonable and workable is a real challenge for parents. In recent years, one of the toughest challenges is what to do with all the tech in our homes.

 

What exact rules can we set? Not just for tweens and teens – but for ourselves too?

Technology in families: Sally O'Reilly Counselling & Psychotherapy

This topic emerges on an almost daily basis for me – professionally but also socially. And so I wrote this piece as an offering of guidelines – they are just guidelines. There is no right or wrong, and every family is different. I’m hoping this piece might help and inspire you if you are finding it hard to decide what rules to set with your own kids.

Click here for the full post!

In my next piece I’ll describe in more details how to decide what consequences to use when rules are broken – and as always please feel free to comment and give me your own tips!

Sally-sig[1]

 

 

Calvin Klein and the glamourisation of sexual harassment

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You’ve probably already heard about the new Calvin Klein advertising campaign. It’s worked, that’s for sure, in that Twitter and Facebook can’t get enough of complaining about it. And of course the pro-sexism and creepy factions can’t get enough of defending it and lashing out at people who recognise it for what it is – blatant sexist glamourisation of and dismissal of sexual harassment.

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The Revenge Porn debacle – and what we can do about it.

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Some people are saying that the allegations about UCD male students posting “revenge porn” in a Facebook group with over 200 members is ‘unbelievable’. And as it turns out, the allegations went unsupported, there is no first hand evidence to support the claims.

For so many though, the story was totally believable. Some people still believe it, thinking – well can’t the evidence be deleted? Isn’t there sufficient shame around sexuality and sex crime to prevent victims from coming forward when invited, encouraged even?

One major piece that this has highlighted for me is this question: what made this story so believable? And I feel it’s because this happens now, we all know it. For any of us to say otherwise at this point is somewhat naive.

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