Friday, April 27, 2012

Why is porn dangerous to children and teens?

How Does Pornography Harm Kids?

From the "enough is enough" website:


·         Has a negative impact on the emotional and mental health of children
·         Fosters sexual “mis-education”
·         Is a counterfeit for erotic love and intimacy
·         Diminishes sexual satisfaction
·         Teaches “Adult Entertainment” is normal and desirable
·         Desensitizes the viewer and increases an appetite for more deviant, bizarre, or violent types of pornography
      ·         Contains images that can never be erased
·         Facilitates sexual aggression
·         Can lead to objectification (obsessive fetishes over body parts and the rating of women by size and shape)
·         Can lead to “acting out”
·         Can lead to increased sexual callousness toward women
·         Can cause some to trivialize rape as a criminal offense
The Drug of the new Millennium 
Brain Imaging Studies
During certain critical periods of childhood, a child’s brain is being programmed for sexual orientation.  Studies have shown that the prefrontal part of the brain that controls common sense, judgment, and emotion is not mature until approximately 21 years of age. Exposure to healthy sexual norms and attitudes during this critical period can result in the child developing a healthy sexual orientation. In contrast, if there is exposure to pornography during this period, thoughts of sexual deviance may become imprinted on the child’s “hard drive” and become a permanent part of his or her sexual orientation. 
"The imprinting can become at times so strong that the individual can never gain satisfaction by giving--they always want to be taking.  And its never satisfying, as it was perhaps at one time along the way, because it requires more and more of the stimulus to keep up with their sexual desires."
— W. Dean Belnap, M.D., Pediatrician and Child and Adolescent Psychiatris 
Compulsive Habituation
In her report before Congress, Dr. Jill Manning, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in research and clinical work related to pornography and problematic sexual behavior, noted that studies show when a child or adolescent encounters Internet pornography, it can have lasting negative or even traumatic effects on the child’s sense of security and sexuality; that it promotes the belief that superior sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner, thereby reinforcing the commoditization of sex and the objectification of humans; and that children who have been exposed have an increased risk for developing sexual compulsions and addictive behavior.  
Exposure to Pornography May Incite Children to Act Out Sexually Against Other Children
Children often imitate what they’ve seen, read, or heard. When children watch cowboys and Indians, they want to go play cowboys and Indians. When children watch Superman, they pretend to be action heroes. When kids watch sex, it’s no surprise they want to act out sexually. Some studies suggest that exposure to pornography can prompt kids to act out sexually against younger, smaller, and more vulnerable children.
Clinicians, psychologists, and law enforcement officials have noted an increase in the number of children seeking clinical help for issues relating to sexual exploitation; an increase in the number of children “acting out” sexually and a jump in the incidences of child-on-child sex attacks; and increased incidences of child-produced pornography.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Teen sex offender? Or Victim of Cyber Sexual Trauma?

Jamie is 13 and hasn't even kissed a girl. But he's now on the Sex Offender Register after online porn warped his mind...

By John Woods from today's edition of the  The UK Daily Mail Online

Jamie was ten years old when he saw his first pornographic sex scene. During a sleepover, a classmate offered to show him ‘some funny pictures’ on his laptop.
‘At first I found it a bit scary and a bit yucky,’ Jamie told me as he shifted uncomfortably on his chair during our therapy session.‘I didn’t know it was possible for people to do those sort of things — and there were lots of nasty close-ups. But it gave me funny feelings and the pictures started to stick in my head.’

For the next three years, while his parents assumed he was using his computer for his homework, Jamie visited porn websites for up to two hours a night.
Even when his school performance began to suffer, they had no idea of the murky world their shy, quiet son was inhabiting while upstairs in his bedroom.
While it’s not his real name, Jamie is typical of the young men I meet. He explained: ‘The websites led me to other websites and soon I was looking at even weirder stuff I could never have imagined — animals, children, stabbing and strangling.
‘I stopped leaving my room and seeing my friends because when I was away from the pornography, I was dying to get back to see what else I could find.’
And it was only when the police came knocking one morning that Jamie’s secret life was exposed. After identifying that someone in the house was accessing child porn, they took Jamie’s laptop away for examination.  Jamie is only 13 — and he still hasn’t even kissed a girl, let alone had sex.Though he is only a child himself, the result is that he has been put on the Sex Offender Register, blighting his life for the foreseeable future. 

Even with intensive therapy, Jamie still suffers from deep shame — ‘as if it is written across my forehead’ — which has led him to fear he will never be able to form a healthy relationship with a woman.As he told me at a recent session: ‘It still makes me think I might never have a proper girlfriend — because the pictures still come back to me sometimes. It make makes me want to shout, “Stop, stop.” But sometimes they still won’t go away.’

Jamie’s story is not unique. He is just one of the growing number of young patients referred by social services, youth offender services and police to the Portman Clinic — where I work as a psychotherapist. I would never normally consider speaking out in this way. But after much thought, I have come to the conclusion this is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.

For the past 70 years our services, which are part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, have been available to anyone who has committed any kind of offence.
But an increasingly large part of our caseload is taken up with young people whose behaviour has become out of control due, largely, to compulsive internet porn use.
This year alone, this has included 50 referrals of children under 18, and that’s just for North London, where we are based. 

Yet even though we are one of the very few units in the country dealing with these issues, funding cuts mean mental health services are having to make drastic efficiency savings that significantly reduce our service.

Our patients are the young people for whom seeing thousands upon thousands of sexually explicit images is still not enough.I regularly see boys as young as 12 who have convictions for looking at child porn because they did not realise they had crossed the line.

I also treat children who are so frustrated at being unable to live out their fantasies in everyday life — and so confused by the message of endless sexual availability on the web — that they have committed rapes or sexual assaults.
Another example would be Paul, 12. He has been referred to us because his obsessive sexual viewing habits have now spilled into the real world.
At school, he has been repeatedly exposing himself to teachers and other pupils in lessons.

And, at home, his appalled mother has found him walking around the house naked in a constant state of sexual excitement.
Another case is Andrew, aged 13, who was referred to the clinic because he has been abusing his five-year-old half-sister. Due to his two years of constant porn use, he has built up a complex fantasy world — so it was no big step for him to try to involve her.

Our research at the clinic has found that although the internet doesn’t create these problems, it can release interests which would never have surfaced otherwise.
Without virtual pornography, it’s my belief that Andrew would not have acquired his compulsion to abuse, let alone dreamt up the idea of involving his sister.
One of my regular patients, Jude, was referred to me at the age of 18 by social workers who were concerned that years of web porn use had not only made him socially isolated but a danger to others, too.

When a girl he liked did not return his feelings, he told me: ‘I feel like stabbing her.’ He also threatened to kill himself because he felt he would never be able to have a normal relationship, and admitted he liked ‘seeing women being hurt’.
A particular scenario he enjoyed thinking about was a man grabbing a woman’s throat and punching her in the face. 

Chillingly, he had already taken to following women late at night, and maintained he would become more of a risk to them if he was forced to give up watching porn.
All these cases are only the tip of the iceberg. For every young person who has come to the attention of police or social services, there will be tens of thousands more who manage to keep their habit under wraps — but who still face long-term consequences for their mental and emotional health. After all, we are rearing a guinea pig generation — a generation of boys and young men raised in a world where internet porn is freely on offer at any time.

Of course, critics who oppose restrictions will say pornography has always been with us; young boys have always looked at risque magazines.
Yet the advent of the internet — and particularly broadband over the past decade — means that never in human history has such a vast and relentless amount of it been so easily and freely available to all.

'Our research at the clinic has found that although the internet doesn’t create these problems, it can release interests which would never have surfaced otherwise.'

According to a cross-party parliamentary report, published last week, the scale of the exposure is so vast that four out of five 16-year-olds  regularly access porn online — while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material.
It means any child who has started to feel vaguely curious about sex can tap that same three-letter word into a search engine, and in a split second  have access to thousands of graphic video clips.

As a therapist, I am convinced that these images can be deeply traumatising to children — not least because a competitive market means that pornographers are trying to outdo each other to come up with the most extreme images.
This contest to push the boundaries means that straight intercourse is considered too boring. Images of brutal anal sex and women being humiliated and degraded by two or more men at any one time are the new norms.

For many young boys, this means their first sexual experience is not a nervously negotiated request for a dance from a girl at the end of the school disco. It is watching  grotesquely degrading images of women, all too often mixed in with violent abuse.

But because most parents are so uncomfortable with a child’s developing sexuality, few warn them about porn before they see it — or can face up to the fact they might be watching it. As a result, children don’t know that pornography is fiction and they naturally assume it’s what grown-ups do. Because it’s freely available, they think it must therefore be OK.

But once these brutal images have formed a child’s first sex lesson, in my experience, they can be difficult to erase. The more hardcore the material, the more intense and long-lasting the effects.

Of course, a lot will depend on the particular vulnerability — and developmental stage — of the child. But, inevitably, some of the kids who regularly see such scenes will become conditioned to being aroused by only the most extreme practices at a critical state of their sexual development.

'The advent of the internet — and particularly broadband over the past decade — means that never in human history has such a vast and relentless amount of pornography been so easily and freely available to all.'

Instead of seeking out meaningful, romantic relationships, voyeurism may also become their substitute.
Many of the boys I treat stop going out and seeing friends, and drop out of school because life seems easier and more gratifying in front of a computer screen.
I have treated patients who can easily spend up to six hours a day compulsively viewing porn.

Research by the Oxford University neuroscientist and former director of the Royal Institution, psychologist Susan Greenfield, has found that intense internet use alters brain chemistry, encouraging instant gratification and making young people more self-centred.It has also been linked to mental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, and, once addiction takes hold, young people’s lives can become seriously derailed.Evidence has found they become more prone to ‘real world’ violence, and less able to emphathise. 

What’s more, it is also from porn that boys are forming their views of what women should look like, and how they should behave sexually. I hear young boys routinely refer to girls as ‘bitches’ who need to be dominated.
They bemoan the fact that they can’t go out with ‘real’ girls because they ‘want things’. 

In other words, females who exist outside of cyberspace have needs of their own that boys resent having to consider.But there are also worrying signs that girls’ behaviour is also being affected. Although almost all my patients are young males, one of them is a 15-year-old schoolgirl, who was referred to the clinic after posing for explicit images.While it is true that children in families with weak parenting and fewer boundaries are more at risk, the therapists at our clinic also see plenty of youngsters from well-off, middle-class families. In studies, these are the youngsters more likely to have computers in their rooms, who have more advanced skills with which to navigate the internet, and who are most likely to own smartphones — from which internet sex can be easily accessed.

One of my patients, the son of a wealthy businessman, had his A-level year wrecked and only narrowly escaped prison after he felt compulsively drawn to tracking down the most extreme sexual practices he could find.

Again, the family — who had no idea of their son’s activities — received a knock on the door from police who had discovered that child porn images were being accessed by someone in their home. They seized every mobile phone and computer in the house.With so much pornography use among our children, it may seem astonishing that most parents simply have no idea of what their children are doing.

'One of my patients, the son of a wealthy businessman, had his A-level year wrecked and only narrowly escaped prison after he felt compulsively drawn to tracking down the most extreme sexual practices he could find.'

Yet most remain in denial, despite the fact that the largest consumer group for internet pornography is  children between 12 and 17.
In my experience, even savvy mums and dads can be terrified of laying a single finger on their child’s computer — for fear of breaking something, ‘messing it up’ or invading their offspring’s privacy. But the reality is that leaving children to their own devices is no better than letting your child cross the road wearing a blindfold.
In the Seventies and Eighties, parents were urged to ask: ‘Do you know where your child is?’

The urgent question parents should now ask is: ‘Do you know where your child is going online?’ because, in my view, where they wander on the web is potentially more dangerous.

Parents must wake up to the fact that they need to regain their authority — and not be scared of laying down controls.But it’s never going to be possible to apply filters to every smartphone — or every computer your child uses. This is where the internet service providers must come in.MP Claire Perry and her parliamentary colleagues want the internet service providers to make porn something you have to opt in for — not something that  is automatically available on  your computer whether you want it or not.

After all, when magazines were the main way for people to access porn, our society never allowed them to be legally sold to minors.
In our culture, drink and cigarettes are also banned from sale to children because we know all too well the harmful effects. As a therapist, I believe the internet has now been around long enough for us to see the toll that unregulated sexual imagery is having on our children. 

Young people may become child-abusers while they are still children themselves.
Boys and young men may come to prefer simulated sexual relationships with porn stars rather than real women.

I have counselled enough damaged children to know that just as our society protects them from booze and smoking by imposing age limits, the time has now come for us to protect them from web pornography, too.
The names of patients in this article have been changed, and their identities disguised.
Interview by Tanith Carey

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Safe and Sane Use of Video Gaming

Tips for Smart Videogaming    Print E-mail

More than just fun 'n' games. They can be a social experience – in a single room or over the Internet. For some families, they can be a way to get together. They're also an evolving art form, like film. And research has shown that many games can be learning tools – for math, probability, economics, strategic thinking, negotiation, and other skills – which is why some educators use them in their classrooms.
Families that play together.... Parents, playing videogames with your kids is a great way to understand gaming and watch their interests and development. A common interest also makes for great family discussions and casual conversations.
Ratings are helpful. Pay attention to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s videogame ratings at, both the age rating (like E for Everyone, T for Teen and M for Mature) and content descriptors (like “Suggestive Themes,” “Language” or “Violence”). Remember, some children can handle games rated above their age group, others can’t. Age ratings are guidelines – the final decision is up to you.
Preview the game. If after checking the ratings, you’re still not sure if a game is appropriate, there are a ton of resources you can consult on the Internet. and provide game reviews that are written specifically from a parent’s perspective.
Tweak the safety settings. All handheld devices and game consoles have helpful safety settings that families will want to go over together. Parental control options on gaming devices include: pre-approving friend requests to play online, controlling the types of games that can be played, disabling Internet access, and limiting the duration or time of day that a child can play.
Trash talk's a reality. It may not be pretty, some of it could be abusive, but it's not necessarily all bad. Just like there's trash talk on the football field, it happens in games and virtual worlds, too. Most games today can be played online, communicating with other players via text chat, talk, or Webcam video, Parents, check in on what happens in videogame play, but know that aggressive and “colorful” language isn’t necessarily hurtful. If your child is being harassed online, be sure he or she knows how to deal with it. Often players can block harassers or report them to the game’s publisher.
A balanced (activity) diet is good. What really isn't good is excessive gaming. Some gaming devices have password-protected settings that parents can use to limit how long and when kids can play. Tech controls can be very helpful, but a focus on values more than rules and talking with your kids are usually the best approach in parenting gamers and all online kids.
Don't hurt yourself! Be aware of how gaming affects players – from sleep patterns to repetitive stress injuries to the chance of hurting people or the furniture with those fast-moving controllers in gamers' hands. Eat, sleep, and take breaks (but don't eat too much)!
Consoles play more than games. Some videogame consoles can be used to watch DVDs, stream movies and other video content, surf the Web and communicate. Be aware of game devices' capabilities and their built-in parental controls. When gaming connects to the Net and gamer communities, all your family's regular online-safety rules should apply.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pew Research 0 to 8 media use!

Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America
A Common Sense Media Research Study

Even very young children are frequent digital media users.

TOTAL DIGITAL MEDIA USE. Today a substantial proportion of the time that young children spend with screen media is spent with digital media — including computers, handheld and console video game players, and other interactive mobile devices such as cell phones, video iPods, and iPad-style tablet devices. Among 0- to 8-year-olds as a whole, a quarter (27%) of all screen time is spent with these digital devices.
MOBILE MEDIA. Half (52%) of all children now have access to one of the newer mobile devices at home: either a smartphone (41%), a video iPod (21%), or an iPad or other tablet device (8%).
More than a quarter (29%) of all parents have down- loaded “apps” (applications used on mobile devices) for their children to use. And more than a third (38%) of children have ever used one of these newer mobile devices, including 10% of 0- to 1-year-olds, 39% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 52% of 5- to 8-year-olds.
In a typical day, 11% of all 0- to 8-year olds use a cell phone, iPod, iPad, or similar device for media consumption, and those who do spend an average of :43 doing so.
COMPUTERS. Computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2- to 4-year- olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of ten (90%) 5- to 8-year-olds having done so. For many of these children, computer use is a regular occurrence: 22% of 5- to 8-year-olds use a computer at least once a day, and another 46% use it at least once a week. Even among 2- to 4-year-olds, 12% use a computer every day, with another 24% doing so at least once a week. Among all children who have used a computer, the average age at first use was just 3 ½ years old.
VIDEO GAMES. Playing console video games is also popular among these young children: Half (51%) of all 0- to 8-year-olds have ever played a console video game, including 44% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 81% of 5- to 8-year-olds. Among those who have played console video games, the average age at first use was just under 4 years old (3 years and 11 months). Among 5- to 8-year-olds, 17% play console video games at least once a day, and another 36% play them at least once a week.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Did the internet play a role in the mass murders in Norway?

Below is an excerpt from a truly fascinating piece on the role of social media in the mind of the mass murderer in Norway.

Does the internet breed killers?

By Andrew Keen, Special to CNN
updated 8:40 AM EDT, Thu April 19, 2012

Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for killing 77 people in Norway in a bomb and gun rampage last summer.

  • Keen: Breivik captures the delusional, violent, narcissistic nature of digital culture
  • Breivik killed 77 Norwegians in bomb and gun rampage in July 2011
  • Marche: Social networks like Facebook are making us lonely
  • Keen: Violent video games allowed Breivik to "virtualize" killing of real people
Editor's note: Editor's note: Andrew Keen is a British-American entrepreneur and professional skeptic. He is the author of "The Cult of the Amateur," and the upcoming (June 2012) "Digital Vertigo." This is the latest in a series of commentaries for CNN looking at how internet trends are influencing social culture. Follow @ajkeen on Twitter.
(CNN) -- The comment on the Facebook page of the Norwegian tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang last July was unequivocal. "The death penalty is the only just sentence in this case!!!!!!" it said. Written by Thomas Indrebo, the "case" to which the message referred was the meticulously planned mass murder of 77 people in Oslo on July 22, 2011by Anders Behring Breivik.

This week, the Breivik case has finally come to Oslo central criminal court. But Indrebo, who, as it happens, had been selected as a "lay" judge (the Norwegian version of the U.S. and UK jury system), wasn't in court. He had been dismissed for his Facebook comment which the case's presiding judge, Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, suggested could "weaken trust in his impartiality."
Strangely enough, even Breivik, who posted his murderous intentions on his own Facebook page just before the July rampage, might have agreed with Indrebo's Facebook comment. Speaking in court yesterday, Breivik admitted: "There are only two just and fair outcomes of this case. One is an acquittal, the other is capital punishment."

Breivik's bizarre comment captures the baffling nature of a case that has so far lurched from the grotesque public confessional of a mass murderer to the equally tasteless spectacle of a hatemonger whose racist delusions seem to have been fed, in part at least, by the Internet.

Indeed, virtual networks like Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and the World of Warcraft seem to offer as good clues as any to why this 32 year-old man should decide one day to blow up and shoot as many fellow Norwegians as he could. Anders Behring Breivik may or may not be found to be clinically insane. But beneath or beside his madness, there's something about Breivik which captures, in extremis, the increasingly delusional, violent and narcissistic nature of our digital culture.
It would, of course, be crass to blame something as tragic as the mass murder of 77 innocent Norwegians on social media. And yet it would be equally irresponsible to simply ignore these signs and refuse to draw any connection at all between Breivik's troubled personality and the broader culture forces in our electronically networked world.

Firstly, there's his self-evidently narcissistic personality which has enabled him to stand in an Oslo court this week and unselfconsciously boast about what he called "the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack in Europe since World War II." It was this same narcissism, of course, that also generated his 1,500 page "2083 Manifesto" as well as his prolific postings on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube.

Narcissism, of course, wasn't invented by the Internet and it would be absurd to establish a causal connection between self-love and mass murder. That said, however, today's digital media culture -- which shatters the 20th century mass audience into billions of 21st century authors and enables them all to broadcast their most intimate thoughts to the world -- seems to be making narcissism the default mode of contemporary existence. As Stephen Marche notes in an excellent Atlantic cover story this month about Facebook: "Rising narcissism isn't so much a trend as the trend behind all other trends."
Social networks like Facebook are making us lonely, Marche concludes. The more connected we think we are on social media "communities," he argues, the more isolated and atomized we really are becoming. And if there's one self-evident thing on show this week in Oslo's central court, it is the loneliness of being Anders Behring Breivik.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Third of 10-year-olds have seen explicit images in Britian!

Children grow up addicted to online porn sites: Third of 10-year-olds have seen explicit images

By Gerri Peev

A 'guinea pig’ generation of children is growing up addicted to hardcore internet pornography, MPs were warned last night.
Four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn online while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material, a disturbing cross-party report reveals.
It also cites figures showing that more than a quarter of young patients being treated at a leading private clinic are receiving help for addiction to online pornography.
Disturbing: The cross-party report reveals four out of five 16-year-olds regularly access porn websites
Disturbing: The cross-party report reveals four out of five 16-year-olds regularly access porn websites
One appalled MP revealed that her son had told her that swapping hardcore images on memory sticks between pupils at his school is ‘absolutely rife’.
There are fears that the rise of internet pornography is leaving teenagers unable to maintain normal relationships and even increasing their susceptibility to grooming by sexual abusers.
Yesterday the backbench Tory behind the study, Claire Perry, demanded that internet providers offer parents a simple way of filtering out adult content.
Even very young children can accidentally stumble across pornography, the report for the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection said.
Warped: There are fears readily available internet pornography could damage teenagers' ability to maintain normal relationships
Warped: There are fears readily available internet pornography could damage teenagers' ability to maintain normal relationships
Last night Miranda Suit, founder of campaign group Safermedia, told the inquiry: ‘This generation is going through an experiment. No one knows how they will survive this unprecedented assault on their sexual development. They are guinea pigs for the next generation.’
David Cameron told MPs yesterday that he had called technology firms together to offer a ‘choice of blocking all adult and age-restricted content on their home internet’.
But the Prime Minister has been left frustrated by the unwillingness of the major internet service providers to force new customers to ‘opt in’ to adult content as opposed to the current system of ‘opting out’ by installing their own filters.
how it can be blocked

Miss Perry’s report also revealed that the privately run Portland Clinic in London reported that 26 per cent of young people coming to it for psychological treatment were hooked on internet porn.

And Tory MP Andrea Leadsom revealed that her own son had told her that ‘handing around very hardcore porn on memory sticks is absolutely rife at his school’. The mother of three fears regulators are ignorant about the availability of porn through internet-ready TVs, calling the internet a modern-day ‘Wild West’.

Over 60 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds have internet access in their own rooms, compared with 30 per cent six years before. Alarmingly, 41 per cent of seven to ten-year-olds can access the internet from their own rooms, more than a fourfold increase on previous figures.
Claire Perry, Conservative MP for Devizes
Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP
Appalled: Backbencher Claire Perry (left) was behind the report, while fellow Tory MP Andrea Leadsom (right) said porn swapping was rife at her son's school
The report suggested 12 per cent of young teenagers were involved in sharing intimate images of themselves, which were often circulated around the class when a relationship broke up.One child abuse counsellor told how victims were desensitised with sexually explicit images by their ‘groomers’.

Tink Palmer, of the Marie Collins Foundation, said porn could be ‘a vehicle for perpetrators who wish to harm children online to encourage them to enter into that sort of fantasy and then often meet them offline.’
She said well over half of young women victims of grooming and abuse she encountered were from ‘middle-class’ families living in ‘very comfortable’ homes.
One recent study found that children from the middle classes were more likely to have access to internet porn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prevent internet addiction in teens before it starts!

Here is a list of very helpful suggestion focusing on prevention of technology addiction posted on the reSTART website!

To help prevent Internet addiction before it starts, try these tips:

1. Limit Time Online
The American Academy of Pediatrics says two hours tops of screen time should be the limit, but Demetri Christakis, MD, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, thinks that’s too much and suggests just one hour.
2. Lead by Example
Don’t spend hours on the computer when your children are home and don’t update your Facebook status constantly when you should be focusing on family time.
3. Keep an Eye on Gamers
The type of game your child is playing can make a huge difference. The reality-based ones (such as World of Warcraft or Second Life) are the worst because they never end or shut off. “There’s always someone awake across the world ready to play,” says Dr. Christakis.  
Look for these signs of a serious addiction:
1. Internet usage interferes with your child’s normal everyday activities such as getting ready for school, coming to family dinner or attending sports practices.
2. He doesn’t go to bed when he normally would and appears exhausted in the morning.
3. He can’t focus on homework long enough to finish an assignment without logging on to the computer.
4. If you try to cut down his Internet time, he becomes belligerent and abnormally irritated.
5. He’s lost any interest in things that used to excite him, such as hanging out with friends or playing outside.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Watch out teens: Pro eating disorders sites emerge online!

Social networks become a battleground on body image

The image of the woman in a bikini is anything but sexy.Her pelvic bones jut so far from her lower torso that they look like bent elbows. Her actual elbows are the widest part of her arms. And splashed across her concave stomach are the words "Hunger hurts, but starving works."

Just another online posting by someone into "thinspo," short for "thin-spiration," in which people with anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders (EDs) use the Internet's broad reach to encourage and network about achieving extreme, unhealthy thinness.

"It's appealing to people who are in the throes of their sickness," said Lynn Grefe, president of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). "At that stage, it's like a competition -- 'I can get skinnier than that picture, I can beat her.' "

Thinspo has been an online presence since the dawn of the Internet, but social media are making its effects more pervasive, say treatment and prevention leaders.NEDA has recently worked with major platforms, including Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest, to adjust their terms-of-use policies to forbid the promotion of "self-harm" by users.

"Pro-anas" (anorexics) and "pro-mias" (bulimics) sometimes combine aspirational visuals -- ranging from shockingly skeletal close-ups of rib cages to full-length portraits of thin, beautiful celebrities such as model Kate Moss -- with tips on hiding self-starvation from parents and suggestions on the bare minimum you can eat to stay alive. In the twisted world of pro-ana and pro-mia motivation, misery loves company, and the secretive, isolated ED sufferer feels the pull of community.

"They try to normalize it," said Jillian Lampert, director of communications, outreach and research for the Emily Program in St. Paul, a nationally known ED treatment and prevention center. "They are fake friends encouraging sickness."Even if viewers don't have a diagnosed eating disorder, the images can push someone on the cusp over the edge, she said: "Just gazing at the photos can impact their body satisfaction and their eating habits -- no matter that the majority of these pictures are altered."

According to estimates for Minnesota compiled by sources including the National Institute for Mental Health and studies published in psychiatric journals, about 8 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys ages 10 to 17 have an eating disorder. Among adults, the percentages are 6 percent for women and 3 percent for men. Kezia Gayan of Minneapolis developed her ED, a combination of anorexia and bulimia, when she was a college freshman. "I would eat small amounts, like two cookies, and then purge," she said.
Now 25, a former Emily Program patient in recovery and working on a master's degree in family therapy, Gayan sees thinspo followers as falling prey to "a dangerous sort of groupthink." While she says she didn't visit such sites often, "they can definitely be a trigger. They can help you feel like what you're doing isn't wrong."

Some posters include disclaimers calling their passion a "lifestyle choice." But the provocative photos speak louder than their words. Others, trying to evade tightening social-media restrictions, reposition themselves as "fitspo" enthusiasts, tying in images of bodies engaged in exercise and athleticism, "but many of the pictures are very much the same," Lampert said. "They don't seem to make the connection that athletes need enough fuel to perform well."

While ED experts compare thinspo to showing a junkie how to order heroin online, some bloggers and commenters have expressed uneasiness over social-media platforms being the arbiters of what is and is not OK to post. Leita Walker, an attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels who often writes terms of use for social media sites, says such policies are not a First Amendment violation."The owner of the platform can decide what kind of content they're going to allow," she said. "The Apple store can say, 'We're not allowing pornographic apps in our store.' Facebook can say, 'We're not going to allow obscene content or pro-ana content.'"People may be rightly concerned about the power of large social-media platforms to censor, she said, "but that has to be remedied through market pressure as opposed to a legal claim under the First Amendment."Because eating disorders have the highest death rate of all mental illnesses, "to take this lightly, this encouragement of sickness, is ridiculous," Grefe said. "Would we not have a problem with a site that was pro-leukemia?"
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046