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February 9, 2016

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Why Snooping on Your Teen is a Bad Idea

From mSpy to MamaBear, there are more than a handful of apps to assist you in spying on your teen and their personal activities, upping the temptation quotient ten-fold. While the creations of these technologies are mainly a result of concerned, well-intending parents, they aren’t always necessary. This is why it’s important you don’t get caught up in feeling like you need to use them.

Whether born out of necessity or not, the fact is that technology is not only changing our children’s lifestyles, but our parenting techniques as well. Many of us need help with parenting teenagers. Obviously, a proactive attitude is helpful, but how you approach the subject remains up to you. Here are some options beyond spying:

The Fragility of Trust

They say trust takes years to build and seconds to break. Teens are especially susceptible to feeling personally wronged and violated when a trusting relationship is breached. A good relationship with your teen, full of opportunities for open communication, is the best way to build up trust and prevent your teen from feeling they need to keep secrets from you. Sit down to family dinner nightly and give everyone the chance to talk about their day. Stay in tune with your teen and actively listen when they speak, without being too overbearing. This way, you’ll have a better pulse on their behavior and may be able to notice any problematic or risky changes. When you make it a priority to maintain trust with your teen, they’re likely to do the same with you.

Respecting Privacy

Where you draw the line of respecting your teen’s privacy and keeping them protected is up to you, but it is important you are clear with your teen about what you require access to (social media passwords, for example) and what you will do with them. Keeping a business-like agreement with your teen can also help ensure everyone’s on the same page. Consider adding positive things you will do—always knocking before entering their private space—and things you won’t do—listening in on their phone conversations or reading their diary.

Problems in Young Adulthood

According to a 2014 AVG Technologies report, one-third of 16-year-olds have regrets about something they shared on social. Statistics like these shock parents into fearing letting their teens make their own decisions.

“One common concern of parents these days is that children grow up too fast. But sometimes it seems as if children don’t get the space to grow up at all; they just become adept at mimicking the habits of adulthood,” says Atlantic correspondent Hanna Rosin in her expose “The Overprotected Kid.”

Helping your teen build their own knowledge library of appropriate behaviors, with both digital and in-person interactions, will benefit them as they grow older and have to face similar situations alone. Encourage your teen to exercise independence and show them you’re there when they reach out for help.

The Flip Side: Help with Parenting Teenagers

While we reiterate that snooping is rarely a good idea, it’s important to note that too little monitoring may leave your teen feeling lost and unsupported. Moderate privacy and open communication is crucial in creating a healthy relationship with your teen, but if you feel your teen is still keeping secrets, hanging out with the wrong crowd, participating in unacceptable behaviors or directly lying to you, it may be time to seek professional help. Pacific Quest is here to answer your questions and help you and your teen get back on the right track to trust and respect. We provide help with parenting teenagers that may be life changing. Call one of our admissions counselors today.
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December 21, 2015

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The Power of Gratitude

By Maureen Riley, MPH, MA

maureen_riley_450x566Thanksgiving has passed and the holiday season is upon us. However, for students in a therapeutic wilderness program like Pacific Quest, gratitude is always in season. Feelings of gratitude for one’s family members, life opportunities and material possessions, emerge quickly for students who are away from home for an extended period in a wilderness setting. Many of us can relate to the proverb “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  For students in a therapeutic wilderness program, being away from home, family and many modern conveniences we all take for granted can actually be part of an intensely transformative experience.

The absence of life’s luxuries that many teens take for granted can be shocking at first.  Many adolescents report using their cell phones, Netflix and video games as coping mechanisms to relieve stress and anxiety.  All too often, parents and other loved ones report being shut out of their child’s world that seems to get smaller and smaller as he/she escapes into a world beyond their parent’s grasp.

In the early stages of the wilderness experience, students are commonly pondering several questions. These include:

  • How can I survive without my family and friends?
  • How can I survive without electronics?
  • How can I survive without my phone?
  • How can I survive without my comfort foods?
  • How can I survive without my clothes, jewelry, and make up?

Commonly, newly arrived students at Pacific Quest report needing these things as they cannot remember a time when they did not rely heavily on these things to abate stress and anxiety. Throughout a young person’s treatment at Pacific Quest, a gentle shift gradually takes place.  The void created by a separation from these ordinary life conveniences and comforts is filled with time connecting to nature, peers, and tapping in to their own inner experience and emotions.

At the beginning of treatment, the silence can be deafening.  Ironically, most of us have grown accustomed to our senses being constantly bombarded by the stimulation of sights and sounds of the modern world.  Paradoxically, many of our teens view this bombardment of their senses as a comfort they have come to rely on.  As students gradually settle into the sights and sounds of the garden, the need for extraneous stimulation gradually fades.

A natural by-product of this process is that many students come to the realization that they took much for granted before their experience in a wilderness setting.  Often times, adolescents who have shut out their parents and other loved ones come to the realization that they took their families and the things provided to them for granted.  In many teens, this fosters feelings of entitlement.  Additionally, the line between “needs and wants” becomes blurred.

The emotion of gratitude is born from the realization and subsequent expression of appreciation for what one has. This is the antidote to the consumer-driven emphasis on the desire to accumulate more things.  At Pacific Quest, students experience an intentional process that emphasizes delineation between needs and wants.  This process, for many, leads to a natural cultivation of gratitude for the people and things in their lives.

Gratitude is a concept that has received a great deal of attention as the trend towards positive psychology has become mainstream.  Credible research on the connections between gratitude, happiness and well-being tell us that gratefulness can be cultivated and grown.  A deliberate and intentional practice of looking for things to be grateful for can result in increased feelings of gratitude that lead to elevated feelings of optimism and well-being.  At Pacific Quest, the growth of gratitude co-occurs in the same way that the gardens are cultivated and cared for.  The results are a bounty of appreciation for people and things once taken for granted.

August 6, 2015

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6 Healthy Ways Your Teen Can Use Technology

Innovation is always met with the question “how will this change effect the next generation?” Lack of concentration, stifled self-esteem due to a lack of online attention, and irregular sleep patterns are just a few of the negative effects which can occur with overuse of technology. However, not all technology use is bad. There are many instances where technology can actually help your teen to be the best person he or she can be. Here are six ways technology can make a positive impact on your teen when used correctly.

1. Staying Connected with Distant Family Members

In many ways, the Internet has enabled us the ability to stitch our extended families back together and create a loving support system. It’s no secret that many teens and adolescents distance themselves from their parents as they attempt to determine their own sense of self. It can be difficult to influence your child in a positive way when they are struggling to communicate with you. Fluid communication with extended family can create a safe place for your teen to communicate struggles. Encouraging communication, whether through social media or email with the role models within extended family could help your teen feel heard without them feeling as though you are prying into their life.

2. Accessing Information on Almost Any Topic of Interest

Almost every piece of technology has access to information on any subject in which a student may be interested. This access allows young people to quickly expand their web of knowledge and learn new skills that may benefit them in all aspects of life. Of course, this benefit comes with a flipside, as the ability to see almost anything that you could imagine on the Internet—like reducing attention span or stumbling upon information that may be too mature for your child. Use a plugin to remove the noise from around the content, like Reader on mac and Readability on any platform. These two readers can help simulate the type of deep reading a book provides, but with any piece of content. There is also software available that is specifically made to restrict access to certain content and/or track what content your child is viewing online. This can help ensure that when your teen’s imagination runs wild, their search results stay civilized.

3. Feeling Understood and Accepted

Almost any parent of a teen has heard the phrase “you just don’t get me” at least once. And it’s true… to a degree. Adult brains work very differently than teenage brains, because we are wired differently. This can make misunderstandings common, leading many teens to search out someone who better understands them. This type of interaction can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation from taking over a teen’s life, but could also create a dependence on digital attention. To prevent your teen from becoming too reliant on a digital source for their self-worth, set a good example for moderate and healthy technology use, encourage time spent away from technology and create a comfortable way for your teen to express their frustrations and emotions in-person.

4. Expanding an Understanding of Other Cultures and People

With 40 percent of the world’s population using the Internet, communication is easier than it has ever been before. A video can reach millions in minutes, and an email can cross an ocean in seconds. Being able to see the opposite side of the world and hear people of different cultures can really provide perspective in a teen’s life and how their actions can impact the world around them. An easy way to get your teen involved is to share stories and encourage them to follow international accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flipboard etc.— that provide a positive look into the lives of those with different perspectives. It is important to continue to monitor your teen’s social media activity, to keep them safe from any potential danger near or far.

5. Staying Motivated

Technology today is all about making our lives easier. Almost every difficult aspect of our lives has some sort of technological solution. There are tools to track water consumption, monitor physical activity levels, inspire us in the morning and keep us organized throughout the day. If your teen is struggling with staying organized, try a calendar or reminder app to keep them on schedule. If they are becoming distracted with social media while trying to complete homework, look into an app or site that will simply eliminate the distractions. Help your teen to make the most of technology they are already using.

6. Working Smarter, Not Harder

Many researchers have pointed out that reading on a screen is much different than reading a physical book. When a person looks at an article on a screen they immediately try to pick out the most important aspects of the content. On the other hand, when reading a book most spend a great deal of time reading to comprehend the book as a whole. Jim Taylor Ph.D. states “the ubiquitous use of Internet search engines is causing children to become less adept at remembering things and more skilled at remembering where to find things.” This is very effective when doing schoolwork but doesn’t allow the brain to fully commit facts to memory. Taking trips to the library in free time will inspire your teen to explore other ways to learn. Creating a no-screen rule for the last hour before bed will not only inspire your teen to explore reading actual books, but also improve their quality of sleep as well.

The moral of story is echoed over and over again—Too much of anything is usually not a good thing. Mixing in a variety of activities is key to raising a well-rounded adult. It may be hard to gauge if your child is using technology in a way that is beneficial to their well-being, but these tools can help you make sure they are not overusing technology. If you think your teen is addicted to technology, Pacific Quest has written a guide to help you understand and identify the signs and how you can help. Download our free guide here.

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November 8, 2010

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Tweet Tweet: The Negative Impact of Technology - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

I apologize in advance for the irony in the title, as I am using social networking to bring attention to the negative impact of technology.  It seems contradictory, but blogging and other social media tools are very effective in sharing information.  So later in this article when you read that you should limit your computer time, please wait until the end of the article to do so:)

Calling the attention of policy makers, school administrators, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, parents, aunts and uncles…  basically EVERYONE!  Children are in need of your undivided attention.  Children demand face to face interaction to promote psychological development and well being.  With the rise of technology, rough and tumble outdoor play and imaginary games are being replaced by the unilateral LCD screen, otherwise known as television, computer, cell phone, ipod, ipad, etc.   While research is emerging regarding the individual and societal effects of the rise of technology, momentum to teach balance to children is likely not going to come from the top down.  The movement has to start with educating parents and teaching them to role model and draw boundaries with their children regarding how much screen time is okay.

A group called Zone In, based out British Columbia, has assembled a fascinating “fact sheet” that addresses various facets of the impact of technology on child development, behavior, and academics.  They cite academic articles pertaining to developmental delays, obesity, psychological disorders, psychotropic medication, child development, academic performance, declining empathy, media violence, cyberbullying, and technology addiction.  Each article they present suggests a correlation between technology overuse and varying symptoms.  A 2010 article cited by Zone In reports a scary statistic:

Elementary aged children now average 8 hours per day using a combination of technologies (TV, video games, internet, cell phones and iPods), with total amount of exposure time averaging 11 hours per day. Two thirds of children report their parents do not restrict their access to technology, and 75% of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation Report 2010).

This fact is terrifying! Children demand dyadic interaction with real people.  This stimulates adequate development of sensory integration, motor skills and interpersonal attachment. It is difficult parenting in this day and age of technology.  Parents attention is often whisked away to their iphone or blackberry, as business, social networking, and news is at the palms of their hands.  How is mom or dad supposed to tell their child not to text at the dinner table when they have their blackberries out responding to work emails?

The answer is not simple but it can start with parenting.  Parents need to hold themselves to the same standard of that which they hold their children.  For instance, limiting technology interaction outside of school and work can be a solid first step.  Parents can model this by replacing technology time with family games, outings, and conversation.  Kids need help setting limits, and this is where parenting comes in.  Limiting time on facebook, twitter, youtube, television, and videogames is very important.  Parents should be hyperaware of their child’s technology use and help them to balance it.  The main thing for parents to teach is moderation, as technology skills are a crucial aspect of the 21st century work force.  Kids need to help to discern when to turn off the computer or put down the phone and go play outside.