Archive for 2013

Should You Track Your Teen?

StudyingBack in the old days when I was a teenager, there weren’t many ways to keep track of your teen without actually seeing them or talking to them on the (landline) telephone. Once they were out of your sight, you had to trust that they were doing what they said they would. Nowadays, parents can gain more in-depth information about their teen’s private life than ever before. They can keep in almost constant communication with teens via texting. There are products to track a teen’s location, driving speed, and even the keystrokes on their computer. And now the question arises: Parents can track their teen, but should they?

Families have answered this question in different ways, with some believing that their teen’s right to privacy outweighs the benefits of keeping closer tabs on them, while others believe that given the trouble teens can get into, it’s better to know as much as possible. Here are a few tips to consider (and possibly disagree with!) Read full post »

Preparing Your Teen for College: Immunizations and Medical Care

It’s already July, which means summer has officially started in Washington! For parents who have a teen heading to college in the Fall, congratulations! This is a huge accomplishment for both of you. Thinking about college and helping your teen settle into a new environment may seem a bit daunting. We’d like to help with some tips over the summer months. Our colleague, Dr. Cora Breuner, has graciously offered her advice on preparing your teen for college. In this video post, she offers information on medical care and keeping track of immunization records when your teen leaves for college

Why the DOMA Repeal is Important for Teens

gayteencoupleMy Adolescent Medicine colleagues and I were thrilled to see Section 3 of DOMA overturned by the Supreme Court. 20 years ago, when I was a teen, gay marriage was not an issue I even considered; it seemed ridiculous that our society would ever accept such a thing. In 2003, Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, and over the next 10 years, many states (including ours) followed suit.

However, just because a state considered a same-sex marriage legally binding, didn’t mean that recognition carried over to the federal government. Section 3 of DOMA forbade same-sex couples from receiving the federal benefits of marriage, and there are many. By overturning Section 3 of DOMA, not only do all couples married in states that recognize gay unions receive the full benefits that marriage provides, but it also sends a strong, positive message about where our country is headed on LGBTQ rights.

Federal recognition of marriage goes beyond the tangible benefits. The repeal of DOMA Section 3 signals a key change in our country. When the U.S. government decides to stop discriminating based on sexual orientation, it paves the way for LGBTQ rights nationwide.

Why is this important for teens?  Read full post »

Michael Douglas, the CDC, and the HPV Vaccine

gardisilMichael Douglas made waves recently when he (maybe) attributed his throat cancer to oral sex. The media kerfuffle around his statement highlighted two undeniable facts: strains of the HPV virus are a leading cause of head and neck cancers, and engaging in oral sex with multiple partners can increase one’s risk of contracting oral HPV

The HPV vaccine has often been called “the cervical cancer vaccine”, but we’re learning more and more about HPV as we go. Certain strains of HPV have been linked to multiple types of cancer. This is one of the reasons why the HPV vaccine is now recommended for boys as well as girls. (Another being that if boys aren’t carrying HPV, they won’t give it to women they have sexual contact with.) Read full post »

Driving Dangers this Summer

car keys alcoholThe days between Memorial Day and Labor Day encompass some of the most amazing events of the year for teens: Prom, graduation, summer vacation. These times of celebration are sometimes accompanied by parties involving alcohol and drugs which can lead to dangerous circumstances. In Washington, the 4 months between May and September are some of the most dangerous for teen drivers. The local news station just ran a story about this issue and I know we’ve covered the dangers of alcohol as well as teen driving, but feel it’s very timely to cover it again.

Read full post »

Can Teens Get Addicted to Online Games?

computerkidThose in mental health circles are already aware that the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Disorders, aka the DSM-5, came out on May 18th. The new DSM changed, reorganized, and introduced certain mental health diagnoses.

One disorder which was put into Section III- which basically translates into “This might exist, but we need more research”, is Internet Gaming Disorder. This disorder signifies that certain people may become addicted to playing online or video games in the same way people can become addicted to gambling (which is a diagnosable disorder). The theory is that when playing games, some people experience intense activation of the “pleasure center” of the brain, similar to that experienced when taking an addictive drug.

I should clarify that there’s nothing wrong with playing video and online games! It can be a fun way to spend one’s time, or time with friends online, and may even have cognitive benefits. However, when gaming begins interfering with offline life, families may need to intervene.

For some parents, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what sorts of behaviors would indicate a gaming addiction, as opposed to a gaming hobby or habit. It can also be very hard to tell if someone has a gaming addiction, as opposed to depression or social anxiety, which might result in some similar behaviors.

I can’t tell you exactly what symptoms would indicate an online or video gaming addiction (and, to be fair, neither can the DSM-5). I can, however, give you some signs to watch for if you’re concerned about your teen and playing games. Some of these symptoms might indicate addiction-like behaviors, and some might indicate another problem, but all of them warrant attention and a conversation with a mental health professional. Read full post »

College and other educational opportunities for your teen

college studentGuest Author: Charley Jones, MSWc,  University of Washington

Is your teen graduating from High School this year?

First, congratulations!  Graduating from high school is a great accomplishment and presents a landmark in one’s life, closing the doors of formal education in your teenage years and opening the doors to many future options.  As a parent, you’ve played a large role in the success of your teen being able to achieve this accomplishment! This is arguably a time when some of the most meaningful education happens in one’s life.  The upcoming decisions of “where to go next” can be exciting and overwhelming for teens and parents because of the vast amount of options available.  I’ll start with a few tips to evaluate the options for your teen and briefly describe what a few of these options look like. Read full post »

Teens and prescription drug abuse

There is nothing safe about being your own pharmacist: Guest Blogger Alexis Barrere RN   

A pink/red cough medicine on a gray/black background.A teen worried about their weight may overhear that their sibling’s ADHD medicines was making them less hungry and choose to started sneaking some of their siblings pills every few days. Or a teen who finds an old bottle of painkillers that had been left over from their dad’s operation may decide to try them or share them with friends, assuming the pills are safe since a medical provider prescribed them. Sometimes parents even give their own prescription medications to their kids. Taking prescription drugs in a way that hasn’t been recommended by a doctor can be more dangerous than people think. In fact, it’s drug abuse. And it’s just as illegal as taking street drugs.

Teens experiment with prescription drugs because they think they will help them have more fun, lose weight, fit in, and even study more effectively. Prescription drugs can also be easier to get than street drugs. Family members or friends may have them, but prescription drugs are also sold on the street like other illegal drugs. A 2009 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that prescription drug abuse is on the rise, with 20% of teens saying they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. Read full post »

Teens and Social Media: Depression Displays on Facebook part 2

one young teenager boy or girl silhouette computer computing lapGuest author Megan Moreno: Adolescent medicine physician and Principle Investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team

As Sara described last week, an area of our research team’s interest has been investigating depression disclosures on social media. We have conducted several research studies in this area, each new study develops after learning new things from the last one. Our initial study in the area of depression looked at how often depression disclosures were present on Facebook. We found that up to a quarter of Facebook profiles of older adolescents included one or more depression symptom displays. We also found that these displays were in particular patterns, and that comments from friends to these displays were frequent. Read full post »

Teens and Social Media: Depression Displays on Facebook part 1

iStock_000019144724XSmallMay is Mental Health Awareness Month and though this is the final day of May, we wanted to continue to blog about mood and emotions. We have some amazing guest bloggers who are doing interesting work in the areas of social media and depression. Over the coming weeks, I want to highlight the research performed by Dr. Megan Moreno and her Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT). To find more on social media and mental health, Dr. Moreno’s team has also contributed posts to On the Pulse.

Guest Author Sara Klunk: A college student and social media researcher perspective

As a college student on the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT), I spend a lot of time researching, well, myself. Okay, not myself exactly, but people who are my age, go to the same university, and have a lot of the same interests. So basically, yes, I spend a lot of time researching myself, my friends and how we interact with each other on social media sites. As our team has continued to explore this area, it has been interesting to see how the results match up with my own experiences on these sites. Read full post »