Summertime. Kids are out of school, and oftentimes, find themselves lounging around the house “bored.” Being bored in the summer seems like a common occurrence no matter the generation. What isn’t common however are the things that today’s teens have to deal with. Face it, we will never live the life that teens today live. Cellphones and the problems that come with them, legalized recreational drugs, extreme bullying, depression, these are not things most of us thought about as a teenager yet today’s teens are blasted with it. Take time this summer and make sure your teen is receiving the correct information, let you as a caretaker start the conversation rather than social media. Be proactive.

1) Marijuana/recreational drug use. This is a hot topic of debate. Whether you agree with legalization, or if you are staunchly against it, make sure your teen has correct and true information about it. Teens need to know the effects of marijuana on the brain, how it impairs your abilities and factual information regarding the usage of it. They need to know that though it is becoming more and more typical to see dispensaries popping up, using it illegally can and will have lasting effects that will follow them into adulthood. Never exaggerate or purposely lie to teens, you wanted to be a trusted source they will come to.

2) Bullying. Social media has made the internet a breeding ground for Mean Girls and Guys and blasted it to a new level. Stories about severe bullying and teens taking their own lives are real. We all have witnessed a little playground scuffle, but it is so important to know the signs of bullying and victimization. Physical, verbal and social bullying can happen at school, work, home or through email or instant messages. Know your school district’s stance and policy on bullying and be sure your teen knows it too. Asking your teen’s how things are going at school, what they think of their peers, and blatantly asking if anyone gets picked on are great conversation starters.

3) Cell phone/ Screen time abuse. Teen’s entire lives seem to be wrapped up in the relatively small electronic devices that they are glued to. Recent reports estimate that one in three teens text, snapchat, or email while behind the wheel. Teens need to understand the consequences of their actions. Teens have been found guilty of vehicular manslaughter due to their poor choices of texting and driving. As a caretaker, model limited cell phone usage while operating a vehicle, know what tech tools are out there that can be used to limit or discourage cellphone usage in your teens vehicle and discuss consequences if found to be texting and driving. Monitor your teen’s cellphone if necessary, texting through the night, cyber-bullying and “sexting” are things that teens deal with. Know what your teens and their peers are doing and talk to them about developing safe and healthy boundaries.

4) Over-scheduling. Teens these days are high-achieving and expected to do so much more than in years past. Sports, jobs, social life seems pretty normal but factor in the quest to always keep up with the others and life can get stressful. Model healthy behaviors for your teen. Help them set limits for themselves. Look ahead at their fall schedule and get into a routine before school even begins.

While this list is not exhaustive, these conversation starters can help you get to know your teen more and what they are dealing with in their world. Have a great summer.

Ariane Warren is a 2010 graduate from Central Pennsylvania College. She obtained her bachelor of science degree and began working with children thereafter. Ariane also worked at the Abraxas Leadership Development Program as a counselor prior to becoming a County Employee with Children and Youth Services.

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