Archive for March 2013

Monthly Archive

Teens and Fad Diets

eating strawberryWe’re entering the last few days of March which is Nutrition Awareness month, so asked a guest author to talk a bit about some of the fad diets teens may be exposed to. As we’ve mentioned before, we support the idea of eating  a variety of foods balanced with regular physical activity. Diets can be dangerous for developing teens and a meal plan that uses diet pills, restricts calories, or is limited to consuming only a select food group is typically not recommended. This post is not an all encompassing list of popular diets, but our guest, Siobhan Thomas-Smith, a medical student at the University of Washington School of Medicine, highlights some of the popular fad diets in the media today. Read full post »

Topics in the News: Energy Drinks & Teens

iStock_000005235439XSmallA couple of years ago, I wrote a post about teens and energy drinks, and mentioned that because energy drinks are “nutritional supplements”, they didn’t have to adhere to certain FDA standards. However, that may change. Monster Energy Drinks have decided to market their products as “beverages”, not nutritional supplements, meaning that they must list ingredients in more detail, including caffeine. While a reasonable amount of caffeine has not been shown to harm healthy adults, caffeine may not be healthy for teens. Read full post »

Gone too soon: teen suicide

dark portraitWe had a post on teen suicide last summer, but a recent event prompted me to talk about this painful subject again. This week, the body of a teen girl was found near an elementary school and it’s thought that her death is related to suicide. The month of May is actually child mental health awareness month, so we will have more posts to come on mental health in teens, but for those affected by this recent tragedy, I wanted to offer tips for parents on signs that their teen may be suffering from depression. Read full post »

Teens benefit from two loving parents

Equal rights for same-sex marriageTeens and children face many challenges to growing up healthy and well adjusted. They may have school stress or disagreements with friends. There are pressures to succeed, to look a certain way or achieve certain goals. Teens face the added pressures of  possible drug and alcohol use, new relationships, and self-esteem. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in support of gay marriage. Why did they do this? Because having two loving parents is associated with better outcomes for children and teens. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 8: The Media’s Response to the Steubenville Convictions

Taking notesI thought Part 7 was my last post in the series, but the media response to the sentencing of the two rapists in the Steubenville case has been so outrageous that I’m going to tack on a postscript here.

One of the first news reports to come out after the conviction was from CNN, and it spent much more time sympathizing with the rapists than the victim- in fact, the victim was not mentioned. You can watch the video here. A concerned Poppy Harlow states, “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened, as these two young men, that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their life fell apart…” She then goes on to describe said emotion in the courtroom, and the offenders’ sadness. Later on, another reporter asked a legal correspondent, “What’s the lasting effect of two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?”
Read full post »

Nutrition and your teen – Healthy at Every Size

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind, drawing on blackboardThe human body comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are petite and some of us are built like linebackers or basketball point guards. All of us require food to fuel our body. Some people think humanity comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure that we won’t all be susceptible to the same diseases (this could be infection or famine). I tend to think variety keeps life interesting, helps us have empathy and acceptance, and provides us with the opportunity to learn from the strengths of others. March is national nutrition month, so this week let’s cover an up and coming topic in nutrition: the idea that healthy people can come in all shapes and sizes. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Students Sitting on StepsThis is my last post on the topic of teens and sexual assault. I’m going to start with another story from my adolescence that will always stay with me. I was 15, and had lied, finagled, and faked my way into an all-night party at my friend Hannah’s* house. The ages at this party ranged from 13-20 (first problem), Hannah’s mother was willing to tell parents she’d be there all night, but went to sleep early and never woke up (second problem), the house had a few acres of property, including cabins (third problem), and there was beer everywhere (fourth problem.)

Read full post »

Nutrition and Your Teen

bowlMarch is National Nutrition Awareness month so we wanted to take advantage of this and talk about nutrition for teens over the next few weeks. I’ve already started hearing ads on the radio and television commenting on nutrition for the month. With all of the media coverage on health, diets, exercise, and supplements, it can be extremely confusing to know what information is valid for your family or your teen as an individual. While I can’t tell you exactly what to believe, perhaps I can share some information from a medical standpoint that may help with picking the advice that’s right for your teen. Over the month of March, I’ll post ideas on nutrition for you and your teen. Read full post »

Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 6: Sexual Assault Within A Relationship

gayteencoupleWhen I was about 15, a friend was confiding in me about our friend Sasha’s* fight with her boyfriend James*. Sasha had been dating James for a while, and their relationship included sexual activity. She told me that Sasha had cheated on James, and he had found out and been furious.

“What did he do?” I asked.

“He was really mad. He yelled at her and threw things and made her have sex with him,” she said.

“Like, he made her have sex, when she was saying no?” I said, incredulous.

“Well… I don’t know. I don’t think so. He said she was crying but didn’t fight him or anything.”

Reading this as an adult makes me cringe. But as teens, we were a little confused as to whether James could really rape Sasha, given that they were going out and had had sex before. When we saw Sasha next, she and James were together and they seemed happy. We concluded that she couldn’t have been sexually assaulted.

When we think of teens being sexually assaulted, we often think of stranger/ acquaintance rape, but teens can and are sexually assaulted by their romantic partners. This can occur even if they have consented to sex in the past, and might again in the future. Consenting to one episode of sexual contact does not mean that there is blanket consent for sexual consent at all times.

This seems like an easy concept for adults to understand, but it’s important to remember that the very idea of date and marital rape wasn’t really addressed by our society until the 1970s. One of my earliest memories of talk radio is listening to (and being confused by) a debate in the early 80s that boiled down to, “Is it really possible to rape your own wife?”

Teens- especially younger teens- can be confused by the concept of sexual assault within the confines of a romantic relationship that has already involved sexual contact. It’s important that teens realize that it’s wrong to make, or coerce, someone into having sex, even if they’ve consented to sex before. It’s also important that teens know they can say no to someone- with every expectation of an immediate halt to sexual activity- even if they’ve said yes before, no matter what the circumstances. In Sasha’s case, I found out later she felt she’d “deserved it” for having sexual contact with someone else while dating James.

While it’s very important that your teen realize that it’s important to gain consent for sexual contact, they also need to know that consent is important for every sexual contact. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a teen has to seriously sit down and formally ask for consent every time (although they can if they want to), but they do need to realize that consent is not a one-time process when one is dating someone, or has had sexual contact with them before. This may not be one of those concepts where you can give a step-by-step guide on how to deal with it, but it’s still important that they’re aware the concept exists.

Once you’ve discussed how important this is with your teen, ask them how they’d go about making sure every sexual contact is consensual. There isn’t one correct answer. Discuss their ideas with them. Depending on your teen, they may be so embarrassed at the idea of talking to you about this that they stop the conversation, which is fine. Once you’ve asked the question, you can leave their mind to fill in the blanks when it’s time… although bringing it up again when they’re in a romantic/ sexual relationship never hurts.

What conversations have you had with your teen about this? What was their reaction?

*Names changed


Part 1: The Steubenville Incident

Part 2: Drinking and Drugs

Part 3: The Age of Consent

Part 4: Trusting Your Gut

Part 5: Developmentally Delayed Teens

Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Part 8: The Media’s Response to the Steubenville Convictions


Preventing Teen Pregnancy

prego teen on floorTeen pregnancy rates have declined in the US over the past few years, however they continue to be higher than other industrialized nations. We’ve blogged about teen pregnancy before, and my co-author posted an entire series on the topic, but a journal article published online this week has prompted me to write about teen pregnancy today.  With the staggering statistic of nearly 1,000 teens giving birth each day in the US, I think it’s worth mentioning again. Read full post »