Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wilderness Day Group for Video Game Addicted Kids

                                  CYBER ADDICTION RECOVERY CENTER 
                                       CHRISTOPHER MULLIGAN LCSW
                                                       "Get Unplugged!
                Wilderness Adventures for “Tech” Dependent/Addicted Kids

Christopher Mulligan LCSW is offering therapeutic activities in our local-natural surroundings (Los Angeles) designed to help children and teens break the destructive cycle of compulsive internet and gaming behavior. Children/teens will be presented with the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventures that unfold in a therapeutic sequence that will develop self-awareness, physical skills, communication skills, trust in self and others, respect, psychological and physical courage, and empathy.

In order to create new and adaptive behaviors tech dependent/addicted children/teens must get “unplugged” from their home environment. Participating in outdoor activities is one of the most effective ways to help tech dependent/addicted children/teens create an accurate awareness of how technology is damaging the quality of their lives and develop new social skills and recreational interests that will help them “plug” in to a non technological dependent life style.

Prior to the start of each wilderness experience there will be a group check-in where therapists will facilitate introductions, allow for the exploration of each person’s history including what brings them to our program, set the stage for the events of the day, and focus on helping the group members develop their observational skills and a greater awareness of their environment as well as the impact they have on their environment.

Therapists will review and emphasize the importance of the safety of group members and discuss how communication, trust, and accountability factor into the activities chosen for a given day. Throughout the day therapists supervise and process individual and group dynamics and connect these dynamics to tech dependence/addiction. After the completion of the group activities, therapists check-in with the group and review reflections and lessons from the day.

Adventure 1: Day Hike Adventure 2: 2-Day Hike (1 Overnight) Adventure 3: Climbing Adventure 4: Learning to Rappel Adventure 5: Hiking and Rappelling Adventure 6: Multi-day Outing

For more information, contact Christopher Mulligan LCSW at 855-735-HELP (4357) or email

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Should private Social Media Communication Stop Between Students and Teachers?

Today there is a very interesting article on page 1 of the NY Sunday Times on school districts that are trying to limit or prevent private social media communication between students and teachers. Seems like a really good idea to me. What do you think?

Research: Video gaming youth have brains like gamblers!!

Research: Video gaming youth have brains like gamblers

. Posted in Gaming Addiction

Children who love video games have brains like gamblers

Certain children's brains could be hard-wired to spend hours playing video games, according to a study which reignites the debate over whether the habit should be considered an addiction.
Dr Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium, who led the research, said: "Although our subjects were not addicted to video games in the strict diagnostic sense, the current result seems to suggest that video gaming is related to addiction."
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a neuroscientist from Imperial College London, said the findings "further close the gap between this activity and other addictions, giving us a better understanding of possible long term treatment."
Read the journal article at the Telegraph
Citation: Translational Psychiatry (2011) 1, e53; doi:10.1038/tp.2011.53 Published online 15 November 2011

The neural basis of video gaming

S Kühn1,2,3, A Romanowski2, C Schilling2, R Lorenz2, C Mörsen2, N Seiferth2, T Banaschewski4, A Barbot5, G J Barker6, C Büchel7, P J Conrod6, J W Dalley8,9, H Flor10, H Garavan11, B Ittermann3, K Mann12, J-L Martinot13,14, T Paus15,16,17, M Rietschel18, M N Smolka19,20, A Ströhle1, B Walaszek3, G Schumann6, A Heinz2 and J Gallinat2 The IMAGEN Consortium
Video game playing is a frequent recreational activity. Previous studies have reported an involvement of dopamine-related ventral striatum. However, structural brain correlates of video game playing have not been investigated. On magnetic resonance imaging scans of 154 14-year-olds, we computed voxel-based morphometry to explore differences between frequent and infrequent video game players. Moreover, we assessed the Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) task during functional magnetic resonance imaging and the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT). We found higher left striatal grey matter volume when comparing frequent against infrequent video game players that was negatively correlated with deliberation time in CGT. Within the same region, we found an activity difference in MID task: frequent compared with infrequent video game players showed enhanced activity during feedback of loss compared with no loss. This activity was likewise negatively correlated with deliberation time. The association of video game playing with higher left ventral striatum volume could reflect altered reward processing and represent adaptive neural plasticity.
Download a .pdf copy of the research article: The neural basis of video gaming at

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do Teens Have Different Types of Sex Addiction?

Ten Types of Sex Addiction in "Don't Call It Love"

Patterns of Addictive Sexual Behaviors

Below is an excellent summary of 10 types of sex addiction idenified by Dr. Patrick Carnes in a blog by , of Guide. Dr. Carnes has focused on adult sexual behavior and the 10 types of behavior below apply to adults. Do they also apply to teens? Certainly the application to teens can be debated, but there is little doubt that teens who are engaged in online sex or cyber sex are vulnerable to compulsive "fantasy sex," "anonymous sex," "paying for sex," and "voyeuristic sex."

Updated July 31, 2010
In his book, "Don't Call It Love," sex addiction expert Dr. Patrick Carnes described 10 types of addictive sexual behavior. As the title, "Don't Call It Love" suggests, each type of sexual addiction puts distance between people, in contrast with the closeness and intimacy they experience with genuine love.
Opinions about what constitutes problematic behavior vary among professionals and the public. Clearly, some of these behaviors, such as fantasy sex, can occur in moderation within healthy sexual relationships, while others, such as exploitative sex, are highly problematic in any context.

1. Fantasy sex

Fantasy sex is an obsession with sexual fantasy, rather than the reality of genuine sexual feelings, sexual behavior, and sexual relationships. The fantasies can be so intense and overwhelming that they are a major preoccupation for the individual involved. As the fantasy is a way of escaping from reality, it can prevent a person from developing genuine loving feelings, which are based on accepting the other person the way they really are.
2. Seductive role sex
Seductive sex focuses on charming, persuading or manipulating others into sexual contact, and involves treating the other person as a "conquest" or a challenge, rather than someone else to connect with. The other person becomes an object the seducer uses to make himself or herself feel more powerful. People who get addicted to seductive sex may have multiple relationships, affairs, and/or unsuccessful serial relationships.

3. Anonymous sex

Anonymous sex is becoming sexually aroused through having sex with strangers. This may involve engaging in sex with anonymous partners, or having one-night stands. Obviously, anonymous sex makes it impossible to develop genuine loving feelings towards the other person, because they cease to be sexually interesting when the partners get to know each other.

4. Paying for sex

The financial basis of sexual contact when a person pays for prostitutes or for sexually explicit phone calls also inhibits genuine connection, because the implication is that sex is a business arrangement, and that the person being paid is having sex for financial gain, not because he or she is interested in developing a loving relationship with the paying partner.

5. Trading sex

The other side of the paying-for-sex transaction is receiving money or drugs for sex or using sex as a business. For these individuals, sex is treated as a commodity, rather than a personal experience. Whether the person trading sex feels empowered by charging a fee for sexual services, or whether they feel financially desperate, dependent on drugs or believe trading sex is necessary for their means of survival, trading sex can diminish emotional connections to sex.

6. Voyeuristic sex

Voyeuristic sex is focused on observing other people engaged in sexual activity, rather than engaging in sexual contact yourself. This can involve getting sexually aroused using pornographic pictures in books, magazines, the computer, pornographic films, peep-shows or secretly observing other people when they might be naked or having sex. Voyeurism tends to be combined with excessive masturbation, even to the point of injury. As the voyeur is engaging in solitary activities, rather than connecting with the object of their desire, and exploiting the other person or people without their knowledge, intimacy and love are not an option.

7. Exhibitionistic sex

Exhibitionist includes flashing sexual parts of the body in public, sometimes while wearing clothes designed to expose. Posing for pornographic pictures or films, or having sex where others can see are also forms of exhibitionism. Exhibitionism can override genuine loving connections because the excitement comes from the reaction -- typically of shock or disapproval -- of the audience, not from the sexual contact with your partner.

8. Intrusive sex

Intrusive sex involves touching others in a sexual way -- such as touching their penis, vulva, buttocks or breasts -- without permission. Intrusive sex may involve the use of a position of power or authority, such as the role of priest, parent or teacher, to sexually exploit another person. Because intrusive sex is by it's nature exploitative, making it impossible to form the basis for trust or love, although victims may experience feelings of loyalty towards authority figures that they misconstrue as love.
9. Pain exchange
The giving or receiving of pain, also known as sadomasochism or S&M, is a type of sexually addictive behavior in which pain is associated with sexual pleasure. There is a blatant imbalance of power between the giver and the receiver, although both partners may be consenting. As with intrusive sex, victims may perceive their feelings towards their torturer as loving, but there is no genuine trust or intimacy when a relationship is based on hurting one another.

10. Exploitative sex

Exploitative sex is a step beyond intrusive sex, and involves the forcing another person to engage in sexual contact. Rape and sex with children or other vulnerable people are types of exploitative sex. Because one person is being violated by the other, there is no possibility for genuine love or intimacy to develop, and usually the opposite emotions are provoked in the victim.
If you, as a parent, suspect your child/teen has crossed the line and is engaging in any/all of the above types of sex addiction, reach out for help as soon as is possible. It is very diificult to admit that a child/teen has a sexual behavior problem, so the inclination is to deny/hide/avoid. Time is a very important factor in the development of a serious problem with sex addiction. Ask for guidance. Don't let shame get the best of you. Call 855-735-HELP for a fully confidential assessment.
Chris Mulligan LCSW

Bully Proof Your Child!

Here is a really effective set of guidelines for protecting your child/teen from bullying fro

Bully-proofing My Child

Bullying is not a normal rite of passage.  It can have serious consequences.  You can help your child learn how to prevent bullying.  These tips can help:
  • Help your child understand bullying.  Explain what bullying is. It is more than physical; it can be done in person or over the phone or computer.
  • Keep open lines of communication with your child.  Check in with your child and listen to any concerns about friends and other students.
  • Encourage your child to pursue their interests. Doing what they love may help your child be more confident among their peers and make friends with other kids with similar interests. 
  • Teach your child to take a stand against bullying.  Give guidance about how to stand up to those who bully if it is safe to do so. 
  • Talk to your child about seeking help from a trusted adult when feeling threatened by a bully. Talk about whom they should go to for help and role-play what they should say. Assure your child that they should not be afraid to tell an adult when someone they know is being bullied.
  • Know what is going on in your child's school.  Visit the school website, subscribe to the student paper—if there is one—and join the PTA listserv or mailing list. Get to know other parents, school counselors, and staff.  Contact the school by phone or e-mail if you have suggestions to make the school a safer and better learning place.


Here is a great website:

Responding to Bullying

How you and your entire school community respond to bullying makes a huge difference in both the moment the bullying occurs and preventing bullying in the future.

How Bullying Affects a School

Bullying negatively affects the atmosphere of the school and disrupts the learning environment:
  • Student achievement suffers among both the students who are bullied and those who engage in bullying. Students who bully and students who are bullied by others are more likely to skip and/or drop out of school.
  • Teacher morale declines amid harmful social dynamics in the classroom that interfere with discipline and learning.
  • Adult-student relationships suffer.  Students who witness bullying can become fearful and develop the belief that the adults are not in control or are uncaring.
  • Parent confidence and trust in the school erodes when students experience bullying or are accused of bullying others.

Additional Resources

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Teen Video Game Addiction and the Loss of Social Growth.

When we think about the potential damage to teens from compulsive gaming, perhaps the most significant problem is the lost social "practice" time. As teens struggle to figure out peer relationships -- especially dating -- they go through hundreds and hundreds of learning trials. They practice approaching groups, keeping a conversation going, the art of sarcasm, how to make plans in a way that is inviting to a peer, and of course, being rejected. Personal identity is also a long process filled with ups and downs, wins and losses, coherence and disorganization. It's not so much a matter of the teen years being filled with drama and upheaval, but more that teens need a lot of time to grow and season.

For each hour spent deep in a fantasy land, building an army, creating wealth, etc., is time a learning trial is lost forever. The ratio isn't one to one -- meaning for every one hour in video game mode is one hour lost in reality. The cost is much greater. As typical teens create growth through risk taking in the real world, the video gamer falls further and further behind. Six months of compulsive gaming can result in a gap of twelve months of growth. At a certain point, the gap becomes so large that the gamer can't see any way to fit in and thus turns more deeply into his fantasy life.

The key is to try to head off/prevent these losses from happening by carefully monitoring time spent in "real time" with real friends. If you see a trend of withdrawal and avoidance, be prepared to act decisively to set clear limits so that your teen can keep pace with his peers and not get lost in a role playing game, potentially forever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Teen video game addiction website!

Dear blog readers, I have just created a new website that focuses on mental health treatment for child/teen video game and net addiction. The purpose of the site is to help parents understand addiction and find appropriate mental health care. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tipe of the Day from The Most Addictive Games

Most Addictive Video Games - Internet Addiction Tips
"Nothing to see here."
Given that the vast majority of American and Canadian households now have computers, internet access, and in many cases game consoles, access to video games has never been easier. Videogames are a multi-billion dollar industry and sales increase steadily year after year. An eagerly anticipated new game title can easily surpass the box office receipts of major movie releases. For example, Halo 3 for the XBox 360 brought in $170 million in its first day while Spiderman 3 earned $59 million on opening day.
Considering the size of the game industry, consumers have an almost overwhelming selection of titles to choose from. However, some choices are better than others...
When parents shop for a new game for their child they are able to check the ESRB rating printed on the front of the box to see if the content is appropriate for the age of their child. For example an "E" (Everyone) rating indicates that the game is "suitable for ages 6 and older", while a "M" (Mature) rating indicates that the game has content "suitable for persons age 17 and older".
How can one avoid the most addictive video games? Unfortunately there is no rating to indicate the potentially addictive nature of the game. Of course it would be nearly impossible to devise a rating system for "addictiveness" - and TechAddiction certainly does not believe that this is a practical solution. As we have written before, most people can play most games without becoming addicted - they know when to stop and are interested in many activities other than gaming. However, there are certain games which do seem to have a higher risk of turning into an addiction.
What are the most addictive video games?
Based on the clients I see in my own clinical practice, from speaking to other therapists, and from newly emerging research in the field, you may want to reconsider your decision to get involved with the following games due to their potentially addictive nature. A list of the most addictive video games may include:
1) World of Warcraft 2) Everquest 3) Second Life 4) Diablo 2 5) Eve Online
The easiest way to be a non-smoker is to never start. Similarly, the best way to avoid becoming addicted to a game is to not buy it. Simple, but true. Hopefully, being aware of some of the most addicitve video games should help you avoid bringing these games into your home.
If you are considering buying one of these video games, ask yourself if it is really worth the risk. What do you have to lose by starting one of these games? Well, depending on who you are: Your marriage, your boyfriend / girlfriend, your school grades, your university degree, your scholarship, your savings, your friends, your health, your job...
There are literally thousands of other video games which are less likely to become addictive. Again, TechAddiction realizes that most people can play these games without becoming addicted, but if you haven't already started playing, why take the risk? When you see these games in a store, you may want to just keep walking - you have nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose.
One final thought: You may have noticed that all of the most addictive video games listed above are MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). In next month's tip, TechAddiction will outline why this type of game seems to result in addiction more than any other genre.
Good luck!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Myth of Cyber Bullying: Sophie Prince

CNN did a piece on Sophie Prince -- the Irish 15 high school student who committed suicide outside of Boston last year due to bullying (on Piers Morgan 11/30/11). Sophie's mother was interviewed and in the context of the interview she stated that cyber bullying had very little to do with Sophie's suicide. Most of the truly horrific cyber comments on Facebook occurred AFTER Sophie was dead. The day-in-and-day-out bullying happened fact-to-face while Sophie was at school, with other children and adults around.

The Berkman Center at Harvard made this same point last year in a summary of current research on bullying: most youth fear and are most affected by OFFLINE bullying/aggression/intimidation. They key here is to remember that students and staff in school settings are on the front line of bullying and are in the best position to stop bullying. Cyber attacks are terrible, but they are not as destructive or as prevalent at old fashioned, in the hallway way or in the bathroom bullying that occurs at school.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

People who multitask actually fail at multitasking!

Study finds people who multitask often bad at it

RANDOLPH E. SCHMID   08/24/09 09:38 PM ET   AP
WASHINGTON — The people who multitask the most are the ones who are worst at it. That's the surprising conclusion of researchers at Stanford University, who found multitaskers are more easily distracted and less able to ignore irrelevant information than people who do less multitasking.
"The huge finding is, the more media people use the worse they are at using any media. We were totally shocked," Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford's communications department, said in a telephone interview.
The researchers studied 262 college undergraduates, dividing them into high and low multitasking groups and comparing such things as memory, ability to switch from one task to another and being able to focus on a task. Their findings are reported in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
When it came to such essential abilities, people who did a lot of multitasking didn't score as well as others, Nass said.
Still to be answered is why the folks who are worst at multitasking are the ones doing it the most.
It's sort of a chicken-or-egg question.
"Is multitasking causing them to be lousy at multitasking, or is their lousiness at multitasking causing them to be multitaskers?" Nass wondered. "Is it born or learned?"
In a society that seems to encourage more and more multitasking, the findings have social implications, Nass observed. Multitasking is already blamed for car crashes as several states restrict the use of cell phones while driving. Lawyers or advertisers can try to use irrelevant information to distract and refocus people to influence their decisions.
In the study, the researchers first had to figure out who are the heavy and light multitaskers. They gave the students a form listing a variety of media such as print, television, computer-based video, music, computer games, telephone voice or text, and so forth.
The students were asked, for each form of media, which other forms they used at the same time always, often, sometimes or never.
The result ranged from an average of about 1.5 media items at the low end to more than four among heavy multitaskers.
Then they tested the abilities of students in the various groups.
For example, ability to ignore irrelevant information was tested by showing them a group of red and blue rectangles, blanking them out, and then showing them again and asking if any of the red ones had moved.
The test required ignoring the blue rectangles. The researchers thought people who do a lot of multitasking would be better at it.
"But they're not. They're worse. They're much worse," said Nass. The high media multitaskers couldn't ignore the blue rectangles. "They couldn't ignore stuff that doesn't matter. They love stuff that doesn't matter," he said.
Perhaps the multitaskers can take in the information and organize it better? Nope.
"They are worse at that, too," Nass said.
"So then we thought, OK, maybe they have bigger memories. They don't. They were equal" with the low multitaskers, he added.
Finally, they tested ability to switch from one task to another by classifying a letter as a vowel or consonant, or a number as even or odd. The high multitaskers took longer to make the switch from one task to the other.
This particularly surprised the researchers, considering the need to switch from one thing to another in multitasking.
"They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," lead author Eyal Ophir said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds."
The next step is to look into what multitaskers are good at and see if the difference between high and low multitaskers is one of "exploring" versus "exploiting" information.
"High multitaskers just love more and more information. Their greatest thrill is to get more," he said. On the other hand, "exploiters like to think about the information they already have."
The research was funded by Stanford Major Grant, Volkswagen Grant, Nissan Grant and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant.
On the Net:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The truth about teens and multi-tasking from The Children's Digital Media Center

In this article, Dr. Patricia Greenfield and Yalda T. Uhls, from UCLA and Children’s Digital Media Center, help us make sense of some of the research being done on how multitasking affects productivity and development.
Children’s simultaneous use of different media, or media multitasking, is at an all-time high, as a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation demonstrates.1 The primary driver of this trend is the computer with its multiple windows, but other media contribute to multitasking because they can be used simultaneously. For example, a child who uses a computer to instant message with friends while a television is on in the background or while listening to music is multitasking.
There is also social multitasking, in which, for example, you text one person while talking face-to-face to another. And it’s important to realize that we all multitask everyday. To date, it has actually been considered a valuable skill, given that in our time-strapped society, multitasking allows you to complete many different tasks at the same time.
Multitasking is here to stay; the question is, what are the benefits or costs to multitasking, and, if there are costs, how can parents mitigate them?

Early research pointing to positive effects of playing video games showed that it could promote divided attention skills, a perceptual foundation for multitasking.2 A more recent study employed a tool that measures how effectively a participant performs on four tasks carried out simultaneously. This study showed that participants who played two hours of a shooting game called Counter-Strike improved multitasking scores significantly over those in a control group who did not play the game.3
So video games promote skills in multitasking — but many parents, educators, and researchers are left asking whether multitasking is fundamentally a good thing. Recent studies have investigated whether someone performs better or processes a task more deeply if it is done alone rather than in a multitasking environment.
One of these studies used CNN Headline News to simulate a multitasking environment and a cognitive task that many of us encounter daily: simultaneously collecting information from multiple visual and aural cues.4 The experiment showed that college students recalled significantly fewer facts from four main news stories in CNN’s visually complex environment than from the same stories presented in a visually simple format, with the news anchor alone on the screen and the news crawls and other stimuli edited out.
So what happens to learning in a classroom environment that encourages media multitasking? Researchers at Cornell University studied this in a college-level communication studies class in which students were generally encouraged to use their laptops and the Internet during lectures to explore topics in greater detail. Half the students were allowed to keep their laptops open, while the other half had to close their laptops. Students with closed laptops recalled significantly more material in a surprise quiz after class than did the students with open laptops.5 Although these results may be obvious to teachers, many schools appear to be unaware of the potentially negative impact on learning produced by multitasking when they provide wireless connections to the Internet in lecture halls with the intention of improving learning.
This research indicates that multitasking — both within-medium, as with the CNN study, and multimedia, as with the classroom Internet study — decreases our ability to process and retain information. These studies show the cognitive costs of multitasking: It can distract from the main message and from socially important tasks. Multitasking can also decrease reflection on learning — or “metacognition” — as it shifts activity away from brain areas that deeply reflect on information and learning to areas that deal with more habitual processing.6 It can also cause situational Attention Deficit Disorder, which can lead to irritability, declining productivity, and disorganization.7
Additionally, there are social costs, which concern many parents today. In an intense four-year study of modern family life, anthropologist Elinor Ochs at UCLA’s Sloan Center found that multitasking contributes to decreased family interaction. Researchers in Norway found that social multitasking with a cell phone creates generational boundaries, undermines family rituals and shared communication, and magnifies the importance of peer group while decreasing the importance of family.8
So what can mitigate some the cognitive effects of multitasking — such as decreased reflection and automatic thinking? One answer is reading. Research has shown that the amount of out-of-class reading done in college years is a statistically significant predictor of critical thinking skills.9 In addition, reading promotes imagination, increases vocabulary, and encourages reflection.10
Perhaps most importantly, parents can lead by example to encourage breaks from multitasking. This may mean setting limits on media time or turning off the TV and pulling out a board game that requires concentration on a single task. But, more generally, it means slowing down the pace a bit and encouraging family time, since the positive influences of parents on a child’s development can take place only when parents spend time with their children.
If you’re interested in learning more, please take a look at Patricia Greenfield’s article in Science magazine.

Rideout, V., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.
Greenfield, P. M., Dewinstanley, P., Kilpatrick, H., & Kaye, D. (1994). Action video games and informal education: Effects on strategies for dividing visual attention. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15:105–123.
Kearney, P. In Proceedings of the DiGRA World Conference, 2005.
Bergen, L., Grimes, T., & Potter, D. (2005). How attention partitions itself during … Human Communication Research, 31 (3), 311-336.
Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The Lecture and the Laptop: Multitasking in wireless learning … Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(1), 46-65.
Foerde, K., Poldrack, R.A., & Knowlton, B.J. (2007). Secondary task effects on classification learning. Memory & Cognition, 35, 864-74.
Hallowell, E. M. (2005). Delivered from distraction: Getting the most out of life with attention deficit disorder. New York: Ballantine Books.
Ling, R. and Yttri, B. (2005). Control, emancipation and status: The mobile telephone in the teen’s parental and peer group control relationships. In R. Kraut, M. Brynin, & S. Kiesler (Eds.) Information technology at home. Oxford: Oxford.
Terenzini, P. T., Springer, L., Pascarella, E. T., & Nora, A. (1995). Influences affecting the development of students’ critical thinking skills. Research in Higher Education, 36, 23-39.
Kagan, J. (1965). Reflection-impulsivity and reading ability in primary grade children. Child Development, 36, 609-628.
By Common Sense Media
January 21, 2010

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a Parent's Guide to Cyber Safety: FBI Publication

A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety

U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation  Publications

Drawing - Group of ChildrenDear Parent:
Our children are our nation's most valuable asset. They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better nation. Our children are also the most vulnerable members of society. Protecting our children against the fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must be a national priority.
Unfortunately the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.
I hope that this pamphlet helps you to begin to understand the complexities of online child exploitation. For further information, please contact your local FBI office or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
Louis J. Freeh, Former Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
On-line Caution - Browsers and Search EnginesIntroduction
While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.
There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.
Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use their on-line access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.
This guide was prepared from actual investigations involving child victims, as well as investigations where law enforcement officers posed as children. Further information on protecting your child on-line may be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the Information Highway pamphlets.
What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?
Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.
Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.
You find pornography on your child's computer.
Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.
Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.Drawing - Telephone
While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.
While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's phone number.
Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.
Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
Even if you don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator Online?
  • Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer-sex offenders.
  • Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.
  • Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else's Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
  • Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone pager to complete this retrieval.
  • This is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.
Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
  1. Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;
  2. Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age;
  3. Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.
If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.
What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?
  • Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
  • Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
  • Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an on-line predator.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Instruct your children:
      • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
      • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
      • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
      • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
      • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
      • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.
Frequently Asked Questions:
My child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website, what should I do?
Generally, advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. Such advertising can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent of the problem.
Is any service safer than the others?
Sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this pamphlet.
Should I just forbid my child from going on-line?
There are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.
Helpful Definitions:
Internet - An immense, global network that connects computers via telephone lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses of electronic information. With only a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider, people from all over the world can communicate and share information with little more than a few keystrokes.
Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) - Electronic networks of computers that are connected by a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by their "dial-up" accessibility. BBS users link their individual computers to the central BBS computer by a modem which allows them to post messages, read messages left by others, trade information, or hold direct conversations. Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and limited to those users who have access privileges granted by the systems operator.
Commercial On-line Service (COS) - Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their service for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet as part of their total service package.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric and Netcom. These services offer direct, full access to the Internet at a flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers for their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites. Not all ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental and nonprofit organizations also provide Internet access to their members.
Public Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the COS and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay Chat. A number of customers can be in the public chat rooms at any given time, which are monitored for illegal activity and even appropriate language by systems operators (SYSOP). Some public chat rooms are monitored more frequently than others, depending on the COS and the type of chat room. Violators can be reported to the administrators of the system (at America On-line they are referred to as terms of service [TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat rooms usually cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment, sports, game rooms, children only, etc.
Electronic Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides for the transmission of messages and files between computers over a communications network similar to mailing a letter via the postal service. E-mail is stored on a server, where it will remain until the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity can be maintained by the sender by predetermining what the receiver will see as the "from" address. Another way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous remailer," which is a service that allows the user to send an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's own header, stripping off the originator's name completely.
Chat - Real-time text conversation between users in a chat room with no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation is accessible by all individuals in the chat room while the conversation is taking place.
Instant Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two users in a chat room.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public and/or private chat rooms on COS.
Usenet (Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter and is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image files (GIFs). Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the postings, take copies of posted items, or post responses. Each newsgroup can hold thousands of postings. Currently, there are over 29,000 public newsgroups and that number is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or private. There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided with the newsgroup's address.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Cyber Division
Innocent Images National Initiative
11700 Beltsville Drive
Calverton, MD 20705

Contact your local FBI office for further informa

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cyber Predator vs. Jerry Sandusky

There are many lessons to be learned about child safety from the events at Penn State -- perhaps none more relevant to our "techy" time in history than the vast majority of child sexual predators live offline and are VERY familiar to their victims. Jerry Sandusky did not use a computer to groom his victims, but instead used face-to-face kindness, generosity, trust, and opportunity.

The Berkman Center at Harvard has disputed the "cyber predator" as a common event and have strongly encouraged everyone who has children or works with children to look at offline predators as posing the greatest risk. It is crucial to focus on the fact that 90% of all child sexual abuse comes at the hands of a person who the child knows and trusts (60% involve some one in the child/teen's family).

The fact that Jerry Sandusky was able to use his charitable foundation and access to Penn State athletic facilities to find, groom, and abuse children does not surprise me in the least. He did what many pedophiles do: they find a public venue to identify vulnerable children and then rely on the adults surrounding the child to look the other way, to be in denial, to rationalize deviant and violent behavior. Yes, there is an expectation by clever pedophiles that the egregious nature of their offense will be allowed to proceed because no one who knows the pedophile (as a stand up guy) will want to get involved accuse the pedophile of an unspeakable act (shame on you JoePA and every one on your staff!).

So, remember that the Sandusky story is really SOP for pedophiles -- as is the lack of action by Penn State. Cyber space can be aa dangerous place for sure -- but the most skilled sexual predators are next door, at the YMCA, coaching youth sports, or running an organization for at risk youth.

Christopher Mulligan LCSW

Friday, November 18, 2011

10 Reasons to Cancel Your Teen’s Data Plan


10 Reasons to Cancel Your Teen’s Data Plan

Teenagers in today’s society have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Just by using a web-enabled cell phone, they have access to everything the internet has to offer. News outlets across the United States have reported the unseen dangers, but many parents remain unaware of the trouble that can result. Here are ten reasons you might want to consider canceling your teen’s data plan.

  1. Difficult to Monitor – Despite the parental controls that some service providers offer, a tech-savvy teen can still hide their tracks on a mobile device.
  2. Sexually Inappropriate Content – Not having a data plan makes sending questionable images to another cell phone much more difficult. The lack of online capabilities can greatly reduce the access your teen has to sexually inappropriate content, whether that means pornography or sharing ill-advised photos of themselves.
  3. Bullying – The bullying epidemic among older kids and teens is no secret. Limiting the capabilities of your teen’s cell phone can help protect them from some forms of bullying, or prevent them from being a bully to others.
  4. The Distraction Factor – Today’s teens spend an enormous amount of time using social networking sites from their phones, leaving them completely distracted from the world around them. Not having the ability to access such sites at their fingertips throughout the entirety of their day forces them to interact with their surroundings; everything from their grades to the conversation at the dinner table can improve when there’s no media plan available.
  5. Cheating – Having access to search engines during a difficult test can tempt even the most honest teen. Removing that temptation can help steer your teen away from making a decision that can have an adverse effect on their academic future.
  6. Usage Fees – The charges for data usage can be exorbitant, especially if your teen is downloading music, games and ringtones. Opting to have data usage disabled can save a small fortune, especially if you have more than one teenager on a family plan.
  7. Driving Dangers – While disabling data use doesn’t prevent texting, it can limit the available distractions. Have a talk with your teen driver about the dangers of texting while driving, but it might be a good idea to also consider dropping the data plan from their line for this reason as well.
  8. Peer Pressure and Risky Behavior – Today, everything from nudity to fighting is encouraged among groups of teens, simply for the purpose of recording and sharing the photos and video footage. Limiting the capabilities of your teen’s device can curtail his or her involvement in such risky or illegal behavior.
  9. Spreading of Harmful Rumors and Gossip – Though most wouldn’t use the term “blackmail,” that’s exactly what some teens are doing when they use photos and video caught on a cell phone to torment a classmate. Though disabling your teen’s data usage won’t protect them from being the victim of voyeurism, it will prevent them from sharing embarrassing footage of others.
  10. Too Much Information – Many social networking sites like Facebook offer the ability to “check in” from a mobile device. This publishes the user’s current location, sometimes complete with a map. For naïve teens, this doesn’t seem like an issue, but it can be dangerous if their privacy settings allow strangers to see the information.
Simply restricting your teen’s access to these services won’t keep them safe from the dangers of our high-tech society. It’s imperative to explain your reasons for not allowing mobile web access, and to have a conversation about the behaviors that a cell phone simply documents.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Focusing on the Self Rather than Caring for Others

A Shift Toward Self

Published Jul 25, 2011 12:00 AM

A study shows fame as the top value promoted in TV programs targeted to pre-teens in 2007, with emphasis on community feeling and kindness to others far less than before.
"Don't you know who I am? Remember my name. Fame! I'm gonna live forever."
— Irene Cara, "Fame"

Being famous is now the number one value emphasized by television shows popular with 9- to 11-year-olds, according to a recent study by UCLA psychologists.
On a list of 16 values, fame jumped from 15th in both 1987 and 1997 to first in 2007. From 1997 to 2007, the quality of benevolence (being kind and helping others) fell from second to 13th, and tradition dropped from fourth to 15th.
The study assessed the values of characters in popular television shows in each decade from 1967 to 2007, with two shows per decade evaluated.
"I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years," says Yalda T. Uhls, a UCLA doctoral student in developmental psychology and the lead author of the study. "I thought fame would be important but did not expect this drastic an increase or such a dramatic decrease in other values, such as community feeling. If you believe, as I do, that television reflects the culture, then American culture has changed drastically."
Community feeling (being part of a group) was the top value in 1967, 1977 and 1997 and was number two in 1987, the study found. By 2007, however, it had fallen out of the top 10, to 11th.
"The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture," explains the study's senior author, Patricia M. Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children's Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles. "Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism, but they also reflect the culture. They both reflect it and serve as a powerful socialization force for the next generation."
The top five values in 2007 were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. In 1997, the top five were community feeling, benevolence, image, tradition and self-acceptance. In 2007, benevolence dropped to 12th and community feeling to 11th. Financial success went from 12th in 1967 and 1997 to fifth in 2007.
The two least emphasized values in 2007 were spiritualism (16th) and tradition (15th); tradition had been ranked fourth in 1997.
Uhls and Greenfield analyzed Nielsen demographic data to determine the most popular shows with 9- to 11-year-olds and then surveyed 60 participants, aged 18 to 59, to determine how important each value was in episodes of the various shows.
"The biggest change occurred from 1997 to 2007, when YouTube, Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity," Uhls says. "Their growth parallels the rise in narcissism and the drop in empathy among college students in the United States, as other research has shown. We don't think this is a coincidence. Changes we have seen in narcissism and empathy are being reflected on television. In the past, children had their home, community and school; now they have thousands of 'friends' who look at their photos and their posts and comment on them. The growth of social media gives children access to an audience beyond the school grounds."
"If you have 400 or more Facebook friends, which many high school and college students do, you are on stage," Greenfield says. "It's intrinsically narcissistic."
"Preteens are at an age when they want to be popular, just like the famous teenagers they see on TV and the Internet," adds Uhls, who has an 11-year-old daughter and formerly worked as a movie studio executive. "With Internet celebrities and reality TV stars everywhere, the pathway for nearly anyone to become famous, without a connection to hard work and skill, may seem easier than ever. When being famous and rich is much more important than being kind to others, what will happen to kids as they form their values and their identities?"
To learn about the Children's Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, visit .