The following blog post contains some information on the dangers of middle school and offers parents some tips on how to fend off these dangers. All information contained in this post comes from the recent Leafwood title: From Santa to Sexting, available now at all major bookstores.
Middle school is not what it used to be. From cyberbullying to high-risk behaviors such as prescription drug abuse and choking games to the perils of social media, children and teenagers are faced with unprecedented dangers from all sides.
(photo by tinkerbrad)
Among many other sobering findings about middle schoolers in America, here are a few that parents need to be aware of:
- Middle schoolers have more access to media than ever before. Kids ages 8-18 use devices such as cell-phones, iPods, computers and television an average of seven-and-a-half hours per day. With that much media usage, it has become more and more difficult for parents to guard their children against unwanted messages.
- Both texting and sexting are on the rise. One-half of teens 12-17 send at least 50 texts a day. And, unfortunately, more and more of those texts contain explicit images. According to Pew Research Institute’s Internet Project Survey, “One in six teens with a cell phone has received a sexually suggestive image or video of someone they know.”
- Parents are often unaware of what their children are doing online. According to internet expert Parry Aftab: Only 5 percent of middle schoolers would tell their parents if they were cyberbullied; seventy-two percent of middle schoolers report having more e-mail addresses than their parents know about; and password theft or misuse accounts for 27 percent of cyberbullying.
But there is hope. Parents can begin to rebuild the walls around their family and protect their children by implementing a few simple ground rules:
- Maintain tech-free bedrooms. Keep computers, laptops, televisions and gaming equipment in common areas.
- Monitor social media and Internet usage closely. If older middle schoolers use social networking sites, monitor content and time carefully. Same goes for any time spent browsing the Internet.
- Install Internet guardrails. Many parents choose to install Internet filtering software or set up parental controls. But the best guardrails are conversations parents have with kids about safe ways to use the Internet as well as family rules, consistently enforced, that govern Internet use.
Of course, parenting will always be a challenge. Being better informed about the dangers middle schoolers face is half the battle. You can learn more about the dangers of middle school and ways parents can arm themselves and their family against them in From Santa to Sexting: Helping Your Child Safely Navigate Middle School and Shape the Choices that Last a Lifetime.
This is the latest book by Dr. Brenda Hunter, psychologist and internationally published author who has written several books on parenting, and her daughter, Kristen Blair, an education columnist and writer who has worked on family and educational policy at the national level.
How about you? Are you the parent of a middle schooler? What are some dangers you see middle schoolers facing and how do you combat those dangers?