Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Final Evaluation

Hello all! If you followed some or all of the 6 lessons on Connect 4 Your Teen, would you mind taking a quick minute to answer 10 simple agree/disagree survey questions? Our final evals for the efficiency of our lessons is due this week and we would greatly appreciate some more feedback!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Lesson #6 - "Teens and Technology"

Addiction, Parental Monitoring, Social Media, & Cyberbullying


When the authors of this blog surveyed parents to find out what their concerns were in parenting teens, roughly 44% responded with concerns regarding teens and technology. It is estimated that American teens spend an average of nine hours per day on their devices - outside of school and homework (Siegle, 2017). Technology addiction functions similarly to drug addiction: “the constant and instant feedback technology users receive causes the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which makes users feel good and crave more. The quicker and more frequently they are reinforced, the more addictive it becomes” (Siegle, 2017, pp. 234 & Greenfield, 2017). Clearly, technology addiction is a real problem! Do you think your teen might be addicted to their device? Here are some warning signs to look for:

·      Preoccupation with tech
·      Being unable to limit tech participation
·      Loss of interest in other (non-tech) activities
·    Being untruthful about the amount of time spent on tech
·      Relationship & school problems due to tech usage
(Siegle, 2017)

So, what can parents do? It all comes back to Connect 4 Your Teen. Remember Lesson 3 when we talked about gradual autonomy granting? This lesson will compliment the concept of setting limits with your teen. Setting limits and gradual autonomy granting are ways for parents to monitor teens and tech.

Parental Monitoring

Over the course of this blog, we have (hopefully) been able to help you identify some important chips for your Connect 4 Your Teen board. Now is the time to put all the chips in your board and use them! When it comes to teens and technology, parents can’t afford to take a hands-off approach. While technology can be a positive thing in our lives, it also “provides opportunities for abuses such as plagiarism, cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content, and technology addiction. The severity and ramification of each of these varies, but all are areas educators and parents should not ignore and should discuss with young people” (Siegle, 2017, pp. 232).

Here are some suggestions for monitoring and setting limits on your teen’s technology usage:

  • Don’t get your teen a smartphone just because everyone else has one! Make them wait until you think they can handle it.
  • Allow access to different internet sites by degrees according to their age: 12 for email, 14 for Facebook, etc. (gradual autonomy granting!)
  • When you do give them a smartphone, do it with the understanding that they will hand it over to you at any time without question.
  • Ask your teen to hand over their phone at random intervals to check their texts and other communications - no deleting allowed!
  • Set “red light” hours when tech usage is prohibited, such as before school or during family dinner.
  • Better yet, set “green light” hours when limited tech is allowed, and cap this time off at a certain number of hours per day.
  • Set up computers and gaming consoles in a public place in the house.
  • No devices allowed in bedrooms at any time!
  • Consider having your teen do something to earn their tech time, such as reading, exercising, practicing their instrument, or going outside.
  • If you monitor your teen’s tech, realize you are one of the few parents who do and you are going to take some flack for it - probably from your teen, his/her friends, and even other parents!

When parents don’t monitor their teen’s technology usage, it can lead to trouble. Trouble can be anything from breaking something to committing a crime. One of the less-noticeable troubles often happens right under our noses: bullying!

Take a look at the picture below! Are you the parent that is oblivious?

Looking at the statistics on this picture, how do you rate? The best way to prevent tech problems is to be aware! This video is a great introduction to how to start:

Social Media

Social media can be a positive thing - it’s fun to connect with friends, share your day, and have a good laugh! However, not all people are competent enough to understand how their actions affect others, and teens are no exception. Because the teenage brain is still developing, adolescents are still learning how to communicate and express their feelings and emotions (, n.d.) Here, parental monitoring comes in again. Consider only allowing your teen on the social media platforms that you use as parents. That way you can check up on them! If you have a partner, consider the divide-and-conquer approach to following your teen on different sites so nothing gets missed. More importantly, set a good example for your teen by not saying or doing anything on social media that you would not say or do in person.


Think about the term “bully.” What comes to mind? Take a minute to watch this clip from the movie Zootopia, which does an excellent job demonstrating bullying:

This shows both sides of bullying, the bully and the one who stands up to the bully. Even though the rabbit is small, she isn’t afraid to stand up to the bully, the big fox, to help her friends! How can parents, educators and other adults help teens learn this? is an excellent website to find out how to understand and deal with bullying:

It is so easy to hide when we are on social media, because it isn’t as confrontational as face to face. Sometimes, using media is an easy way to vent. One of the authors of this blog has a video to help you learn more about how detrimental venting on social media can be, and how easily it can be turned into cyberbullying:

Research has shown that one way to combat cyberbullying is through cooperation of schools, parents and teens working together (Beale & Hall, 2017).
Here are seven ways that cyberbullying may occur:

1.     Flaming - intentionally sending angry messages directed at an individual or group
2.     Harassment - repeatedly sending flaming messages
3.     Denigration - posting hurtful and false statements about someone to someone else
4.     Cyberstalking - harassment that is threatening
5.     Masquerading - hiding one’s true identity while posting hurtful comments about someone
6.     Outing and trickery - using information about someone and announcing it publicly
7.     Exclusion - intentionally excluding someone from an online activity
(Beale & Hall, 2017)

In conclusion, here’s a great, short clip about how much damage can be done by a few texted words:

Reflective Questions & Challenge
What can you do this week for another chip in your Connect 4 board? Consider the following ideas:
·       How much time does your teen spend on technology outside of school and school work?
·       Do you know what your teen does while online?
·       Have you talked to your teen about being safe online?
·       Does your teen know what you expect from them while they’re online?
·       Are you “friends” with your teen online, or do you “follow” them?
·       Would you be aware if your teen had been cyberbullied, or had cyberbullied someone else?
·       If there are changes to be made, what is the best way to go about introducing these changes?

This completes the 6-part curriculum on parenting teenagers! We hope you have enjoyed learning how to Connect 4 Your Teen, and have been able to enhance the relationship with your teenager. Though it has been a busy few weeks for the authors, we have also enjoyed the whirlwind of this virtual workshop! We would really appreciate you taking the time to complete the evaluations at the end of each lesson - there are only a few short questions which should take very little time to complete. We understand how valuable your time is and really appreciate you spending some of it with us. Please feel free to share this blog link with any parent who could benefit from our presentations. And remember, Connect 4 Your Teen!
Reader Survey:
Please take a moment to leave some feedback on this post!

Beale, A. V., & Hall, K. R. (2017). Cyberbullying: What school administrators (and parents) can do. The Clearing House, 81(1), 8-12. Retrieved from:
Cooley, C.H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Scribner’s.
Erickson, L. B., Wisniewski, P., Xu, H., Carroll, J. M., Rosson, M., B., Perkins, D., F. (2016). The boundaries between: Parental involvement in a teen’s online world. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(6), 1384–1403. doi:10.1002/asi.23450
Greenfield, D. (2017, February). Substance abuse and addiction. Presentation at the Critical Connections: Fostering Cross-Functional Conversations on Student Mental Health Conference, Hartford, CT.
Raising Children. (n.d.). Brain development: Teenagers. Retrieved from:
Sartaj, B. & Aslam, N. (2010). Role of authoritative and authoritarian parenting in home, health, and emotional adjustment. Journal of Behavioural Sciences, 20, 47-66.
Siegle, D. (2017). The Dark Side of Using Technology. Gifted Child Today, 40(4), 232-235.
Stop Bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Photo/Video References
Citynews Today. (2016). Tech-children. Retrieved from:
Common sense media. (2013). Cyberbullying Prevention Tips for Kids. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Gregorio, R. (2013). Cyberbullying PSA. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Platin. (2016). Zootopia: Judy and Gideon fight. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Lindsey, J. (2018). Lesson 6 live take 2. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Sourcefast. (2017). Social-media websites. Retrieved from:
Wordpress. (2014). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from:
Wordpress. (2105). Retrieved from:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lesson #5 - "Teens: At the Corner of Happy & Healthy"

Learning about what it takes to help your teen be happy and healthy can be difficult. Teens experience many struggles during this time of their lives, such as academic pressure and forming their own morals and values. Just like carefully looking both ways to cross a street, parents need to embrace this concept and Connect 4 Your Teen. Research has shown that a positive relationship with parents can help teenagers develop a good attitude about school and positively impact their academic achievement (Kocayor & Simsek, 2016).
Academic Achievement

This video helps parents see how influential they can be in their teens lives.
I love the tips we learn in this video to help encourage academic success!
  • High Expectations: Ask how they can improve next time, and tell them you know they can do better.
  • Talk about school: Be specific and let them talk about their experiences. Let them feel smarter than you!
  • Develop good work habits: Encourage them to ask for help. Help them learn to navigate a world with distractions.
  • Have a positive attitude: Ask them what they can do different next time.
  • Read together: This creates a foundation for education. Read for fun as well as phonics!
Would it be safe to assume most parents want to see their child succeed? Probably, but how does this happen? Is academic achievement merely being smart and listening? Research helps us understand one answer to this question. In one study, it was found that the attachment a parent and child have can help encourage that child to engage in academics and school activities (Kocayor & Simsek, 2016). It was also found that teens with a strong parent attachment have a “working model of self and are more likely to express their feelings and exhibit more positive social behaviors” (Kocayor & Simsek, 2016, pp. 415).
Identity Development

The teenage years are regarded as a time of rapid development. Therefore, building an identity can be difficult alongside all the other pressures of life, and self-image can be influenced by all these changes. Erikson (1993) helps us understand this as he explains how teens go through the process of forming their own identity. He explains how significant this process is for teens; one of the most important times in their development. This is when teens explore their sexual, social and personal identities (Erikson, 1993). Therefore, it’s important to take note of how influential others are during this time of self-searching and identity development. Teens compare themselves to others, and therefore start building their new roles and identities around what others think. This phenomenon is referred to as “The Looking Glass Self” (Cooley, 1902). How can we help our teens develop a positive self-image that ultimately leads to healthy identity development? In the tsunami of positive parenting propaganda in the world today, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Rather than look at everything you could (or perhaps should) be doing, let’s talk about one common parenting pitfall to avoid.
Watch the following video from one of our authors about self-esteem:

Here’s what Prager University has to say about self-esteem:

What do you think? Has your outlook on self-esteem changed? If you’re on the fence, consider asking your kids what makes them feel good about themselves, and then decide for yourself!
The Developing Teen

One thing that can interfere with appropriate development for teens is lack of sleep. With more homework, increased extracurricular involvement, and later curfews, most teens probably get much less sleep than they need. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens still need 8-10 hours of sleep, and only about 15% of teens get this much (National Sleep Foundation, n.d.). Here, we can once again pull in gradual autonomy granting and state that parents still need to monitor their adolescents’ needs for structure and bedtime routines.
My sixteen-year-old daughter is extremely extroverted. She draws energy from social events and being around groups of people in general. She absolutely hates missing out on things! She also wants to be involved in various clubs, sports, and activities at school. More than once, this mama bear has had to put her foot down and insist that she is stretching herself too thin.
While extracurricular involvement is positively related to academic achievement (Mahoney & Cairns, 1997), too much of a good thing can quickly lead to burnout for teens as well as parents. As parents, we must have the courage to say “no” to some good things in the interest of better things, like optimal physical, emotional, and mental development. As a matter of interest, my extroverted daughter still goes to bed 8:00 p.m. every night - right along with her younger siblings!

Reflective Questions & Challenge

What can you do this week for another chip in your Connect 4 board? Consider the following ideas:

  • Ask your teen how school is going
  • Start reading a new book together
  • Ask your teen what makes them feel good about themselves
  • Find something to praise your teen for
  • Ponder whether your teen gets enough sleep
  • Ask yourself if your teen is overscheduled - if so, how can you help them cut back?

That’s all for this week! Next time on Connect 4 Your Teen:
 “Teens and Technology” – Addiction, Parental Monitoring, Social Media, & Cyberbullying
Reader Survey:
Please take a moment to leave some feedback on this post!
Baumeister, R.F., Campbell, J.D., Krueger, J.I., & Vohs, K.D. (2005). Exploding the self-esteem myth. Scientific American Mind, 292(1), 84-91. Retrieved from:
Cooley, C.H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Scribner’s.
Erikson, E. (1993). Childhood and Society (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Norton.
Kocayor, E. & Simsek, O. F. (2016). Parental attachment and adolescents’ perception of school alienation: The mediation role of self-esteem and adjustment. The Journal of Psychology, 150,(4), 405–421.
Mahoney, J. & Cairns, R. (1997). Do extracurricular activities protect against early school dropout? Developmental Psychology, 33(2), 241-253.
Stosny, S. (2013, April 12). Forget self-esteem. Develop self-value. Retrieved from:
Photo and Video References
Google. (n.d.). Can't sleep? Retrieved from:
Hulls, N. (2012). Happy teens. Retrieved from:
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Teens and sleep. Retrieved from:
People for Education. (2014). Helping your kids succeed in school. Retrieved from:
Pulsipher, M. (2018). Self-esteem. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Teenage Survival Coach. (n.d.). Teenage sleep. How much is needed? Retrieved from:
Virily. (n.d.). This will happen to you if you look at yourself in a mirror too much. Retrieved from:
Walsh, M. (2017, 14 September). Why self-esteem is self-defeating. [Video file]. Prager University. Retrieved from:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lesson #4 - "How to Save a [Teen] Life"

Before we dive into Lesson 4, how did you do on last week’s challenges?
  • How does setting limits show love for my teen?
  • Though my teen may complain about rules, how do they really feel?
  • What are the consequences of not setting limits for my teen?

Now, onto Lesson 4! This week we will discuss depression, delinquency, and suicide prevention.

Lesson 4: “How to Save a [Teen] Life”

Have you ever put on a pair of tinted glasses and marveled at how the world seemed to change color before your eyes? Many of us probably know someone who is colorblind. A colorblind person can understand their condition, and that it means they don’t see colors in their true form, the way non-colorblind people do. They can even listen as those people describe the world in vivid colors that they will never see. Even though colorblind individuals know that they are colorblind, and understand that they aren’t seeing the world as it really is, this does not change the way the world looks to them.
Take a look at these two photos. How does each picture make you feel?

You might be surprised to learn that this is the same image with two different lenses. For those who struggle with emotional color blindness, this analogy is a striking representation of negativity and depression. A depressed person might understand that their gray-tinted glasses keep them from seeing the world as it really is. They might have learned all about thought distortions (Burns, 1999)  and how to get around them. They might have memorized The Power of Positive Thinking (Peale, 1952). And still, trying to function with such an emotional impairment is a daily battle.
So, what does this have to do with your teen? Take a look at these statistics on teen depression:

  • “Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
  • Between 10 to 15% of teenagers have some symptoms of depression at any one time.
  •  Depression increases a teen’s risk for attempting suicide by 12 times.
  • 30 percent of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem.
  • Depressed teens usually have a smaller social circle and take advantage of fewer career and educational opportunities.
  • Depressed teens are more likely to have trouble at school and in jobs, and to struggle with relationships."
(, n.d.) 
Your teen might not be in that 20% of adolescents who experience depression . . . but what if they are? And can you be sure they are not? The following video clip demonstrates how parents may not always know what is really going on beneath the surface of their teenager.

For teens, depression consists of a cloud of emotions and feelings raining down on them.

Parental support is crucial for teens with depressive symptoms. Don’t overlook signs of sleeping all the time or not wanting to be social as “normal” teen behavior.
This clip shows Eeyore in all his glory! Sad and depressed!

Understanding how teenagers feel can be like putting a puzzle together with your eyes closed. It can be very frustrating as a parent, and many times you feel like a failure. Good news: it’s not you. It is common knowledge that teenagers go through many physical and emotional changes during adolescence, and peers can be very influential at this time (Keijsers et al., 2012). This being said, this is the time they need parents to Connect 4 Your Teen the most!


Wouldn’t it be great if teens listened all the time? Without objection? It would be smooth sailing. In the last two lessons, we learned about parenting styles and gradual autonomy granting. Both of these things are important steps in preventing delinquency. Research tells us how important adequate supervision of our teens’ friends can be in preventing delinquency. When parents are aware of teens’ friends, it is a great tool to be in tune with what their teen is doing. (Keijsers et al., 2012) Teens who find themselves on the road to delinquency need their parents more than ever. Parents can help teens understand why delinquent behavior is not a favorable course to take.  It has been found that teens who spend time with delinquent friends may then be more likely to participate in delinquent activities themselves due to exposure (Keijsers et al., 2012). This is where Connect 4 Your Teen comes in. Connecting with your teen is your ticket to preventing delinquency. A study done in 2002 showed that teen perceptions of social support, parental supervision, and classroom participation reduced the incidence of delinquency in 5th and 6th grade students (Morrison, Robertson, Laurie, & Kelly, 2002).

  • Consider the following suggestions for discouraging delinquency:
  • Foster positive relationships through connection rituals
  • Carve out family time
  • Get your teen engaged with school
  • Monitor activities
  • Let them know they have a support system

(Office of Juvenile Delinquency, n.d.)


According to research, there are specific risk and protective factors associated with suicide attempts in adolescence:
 Risk Factors (associated with INCREASED suicide attempts)
  • Alcohol & substance abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty
  • Psychological disorders
  • Impulsiveness
  • Social isolation
  • Access to lethal means
  • Sexual minority status
  • Previous suicide attempts
(Fitzgerald et al., 2017)

Protective Factors (associated with DECREASED suicide attempts):
  • Positive relationships with parents
  • Positive relationships with teachers/coaches
  • Positive relationships with adults in community
  • Perceived support by adolescent

(Fitzgerald et al., 2017)

If your teen has any of the risk factors listed above, you might also watch for the common motivators of suicide:
  • Feelings of alienation
  • Feelings of inadequacy/failure
  • Feeling psychologically overwhelmed
  • Desire to leave problems behind
  • Desire to be reunited with deceased loved ones

(Fitzgerald et al., 2017)

Clearly, the connection you have with your teen can literally save his or her life. But, trying to understand suicide can be quite challenging and emotional. There is so much information out there. Fortunately, there are experts available to help sort through the information and help you get what you need to save someone’s life. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great website to do this:

For your reference, here is their hotline as well:


In closing, take a few moments to watch this powerful music video about saving a life:

 Reflective Questions & Challenge
What can you do this week for another chip in your Connect 4 board? Consider the following ideas:
  • Establish parenting techniques to guide and direct your teenager
  • Educate yourself on signs of depression in teens
  • Be involved with your teen
  • Make your teen aware of their support system in the community

Next time on Connect 4 Your Teen: Academic achievement, appropriate development, and self-esteem.

Reader Survey
Please take a moment to leave some feedback on this post!

Burns, D.D. (1999). The feeling good handbook. New York, NY: Plume/Penguin Books.

FitzGerald, C.A., Fullerton, L., Green, D., Hall, M., Y Penaloza, L.J. (2017). The association between positive relationships with adults and suicide-attempt resilience in American Indian youth in New Mexico. The Journal of the National Center, 24(2), 40-53.

I Need a LightHouse. (n.d.). Teen depression. Retrieved from:

Keijsers, L., Branje, S., Hawk, S.T., Frijns, T., Koot, H.M., Lier, P.V., Schwartz, S. J., & Meeus, W. (2012) Forbidden friends as forbidden fruit: Parental supervision of friendships, contact with deviant peers, and adolescent delinquency. Child Development, 83(2) 651-666.

Morrison, G.M., Robertson, L., Laurie, B., & Kelly, J. (2002). Protective factors related to antisocial behavior trajectories. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 277-290.

Peale, N.V. (1956). The power of positive thinking. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from:
U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Photo/Video References:
Carson, S. (2017). I’m fine. Teen depression PSA. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Crime Prevention Security Systems. (n.d.). Teenager in handcuffs. Retrieved from:
Flynn, M., & Johnson, A. (Producers). (2009). How to save a life. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Pexels. (n.d.). Free stock photo of blue sky, bright clouds. Retrieved from:
True Counsellor. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved from:
University of Miami Health System (n.d.). Depression and suicide stats. Retrieved from:
Walljasper, Y. (2014). Eeyore. Depression. [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Whatever Blog Blog Blog. (2014). Suicide prevention. Retrieved from:

Final Evaluation

Hello all! If you followed some or all of the 6 lessons on Connect 4 Your Teen, would you mind taking a quick minute to answer 10 simple ag...