Thursday, May 29, 2014

Being a Cyber Savvy Kid

Teach children to be cyber savvy by explaining the following:
All media is permanent (photos, videos, messages, posts, etc.)!
All your online information is available to the public.
If you don’t want people to know something about your life then don’t do it online!
Even though you may feel invisible when online, everything you do is visible – it’s like living in a glass house.

*Talking with your parents is the key to online safety
Don’t hide your feelings about what happens online.
When you are confused, always ask questions!
Stay away from “adults only” areas of the Internet!
Tell your parents about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable!
Most harm that is done to children online can be prevented by talking to a trusted adult.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Policy statement: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The AAP is finally getting on board with the crucial need to integrate a media consumption assessment for all children at every well-child visit! Pediatricians are encouraged to take media history and ask two media questions at every well-child visit: 1) How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily? 2) Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child's bedroom? Parents are now encouraged to establish a family home use for all media. The policy statement also includes the following; "Media influences on children and teenagers should be recognized by schools, policymakers, product advertisers, and entertainment producers." This marks the first time that the AAP has fully acknowledged that media, including cell phones, iPads, and social media, are a dominant force in children's lives.The AAP states that is concerned by evidence about potential harmful effects of media messages and images. Finally some movement in the right direction!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Online Child Pornography Offenders are Different

Online Child Pornography Offenders are Different: A Meta-analysis of the Characteristics of Online and Offline Sex Offenders Against Children.


The current meta-analysis compared the characteristics of online child pornography-only offenders, typical (offline) sex offenders against children, and offenders with both child pornography and contact sex offences against children (mixed). Based on 30 unique samples (comparison ns ranging from 98 to 2,702), the meta-analysis found key differences between groups. Offenders who committed contact sex offences were more likely to have access to children than those with only child pornography offences. In contrast, offenders who used the internet to commit sexual offences had greater access to the internet than those with contact sex offenders. Differences between the groups, however, were not limited to differential opportunities. Sex offenders against children and mixed offenders were found to score higher on indicators of antisociality than online child pornography offenders (CPOs). CPOs were also more likely to have psychological barriers to sexual offending than sex offenders against children and mixed offenders (e.g., greater victim empathy). Mixed offenders were found to be the most pedophilic, even more than CPOs. The findings suggest that offenders who restricted their offending behavior to online child pornography offences were different from mixed offenders and offline sex offenders against children, and that mixed offenders were a particularly high risk group.
[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Dopamine Hook: Why the Net and Gaming Are Addictive

The word addiction is derived from a Latin term for "enslaved by" or "bound to." Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction -- or has attempted to help someone else to do so -- certainly understands what these terms really mean.

Addiction, unfortunately exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing engagement with it despsite significant negative consequences.

For decades, medical experts believed that only alcohol and certain drugs could cause addiction. Neuroimaging technologies and more recent research, however, have clearly shown that certain pleasurable activities or behavioral processes, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also co-opt the brain.

The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or even a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct neurochemical signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accubens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex.

Dopamine release in this nucleus is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to this region as the brain's pleasure center. All drugs associated with abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine. The likelihood that the use of the drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.

As it turns out, interaction with the Internet and video gaming quickly stimulates the pleasure center in the brain, causing a release of dopamine that is both intense and reliable. This new information helps us understand why the Internet and gaming are so difficult to control and why children, teens, and adults experience intense cravings, tolerance, and ongoing engagement despite negative consequences.

Once the dopamine hook is in place it is extraordinarily difficult to modify behavior and it is crucially important that the person who is experiencing addiction to the Internet or video gaming go through a sustained period of being unplugged or detoxing. Without a sustained break from the dopamine surges there is no way to learn new behaviors that can produce pleasure. In my next blog. I will discuss how it is possible to retrain the pleasure center in the brain to release dopamine when it is stimulated by healthy, life-affirming, off-line activities.