Thursday, August 30, 2012


Our kids are wired.  Schools, libraries, friend's homes, their bedrooms, and their phones offer access to a wide new world in ways previous generations have never experienced.  Many times, our children are much more "tech savy" than their parents.  This can lead to problems.

Even if you are not the smoothest OS X operator, or adept at using all the apps on your phone, you can still talk to your kids about netiquette (net etiquette).  Discussing what to do if you encounter something you did not intend to view or someone you don't know sending you messages can help defend your child against sexual predators.  Discussing appropriate commenting and how hurtful cyberbullying can be can reduce your child's involvement in it.  Providing tactics for keeping pictures and passwords safe can reduce the degree of victimization your child may experience.

We recommend connecting to Cyberslammed ( for lots of great tips on reducing online risks for your child.  There is a great article about netiquette on the Kansas City Star's website, too (

We cannot assume that just because our kids are sitting in our living rooms that they are safe.  We need to make sure that we give them appropriate skills and tools for safety, just as we would if they were walking about in any big city.  Learn more, take action.  Your kids are worth the time it will take!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Harmless ad?

I often ask parents if they would fast forward a movie through a violent scene if one came on while they were watching with their children.  Then I ask if they would fast forward thru a scene that had "R-rated" sex in it. Many more say they would fast forward thru the sex than say they would fast forward thru the violence.  I find this interesting in that I would HOPE that the parents don't want their children to ever engage in violent behavior, but do want them to have a healthy and rewarding sex life when they are adults in a committed relationship.  Now, I am not advocating for watching risque films with your kids...I am just musing on the things that we tend to ignore as a society.

We are constantly assailed with images and messages about violence, sex, drugs, values.  If you are not talking about these things with your kids, where are they getting the information that they need to make decisions?  Since we cannot remove all of these messages from our children's lives, perhaps we can capitalize on them as opportunities for dialog?

Take this example:

Harmless good fun, right?  Did you notice the guy with the helium balloon?  Are you aware that quite a few kids DIE from this?  Are you aware that inhalants are a big problem locally?  As a preventionist, I would hope that if you see this ad on TV while your kids are in the room, that you might use it as an opportunity to talk about huffing.  Inhaling anything that wasn't designed to be inhaled is dangerous.  The helium in tanks used to fill balloons comes from sources that do not guarantee the purity of the gas; it is often contaminated with toxins.  Also, kids die every year because they burst their lungs when they try to inhale directly from the tank nozzle. Do your kids have this information?

I would love to hear some examples of ways that you have engaged young people after seeing a "teachable moment" come across the screen or airwaves.  Share them here on the blog, or email me with examples and I can share them anonymously with our readers.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm a data geek...

I like data.  Yup.  I do.  Both quantitative (with numbers) and qualitative (mostly words).  That doesn't make me a bad person.  I do recognize that it probably does put me in the minority, though.

So, I understand that not everyone would be as excited as I was last week when we received a fresh set of data about our community, from a survey given to local students last spring.  The survey asked students about alcohol, drugs, stealing, violence, delinquent behaviors, and the things that are going on in their personal lives, families, community, and schools that influence their decisions about such things.  It is very similar to surveys given to middle and high school students all across the nation, and provides a good glimpse into what is going on.

I am happy to report that although I am in the minority, I am not alone in my excitement.  A group of dedicated fellow data geeks are joining me to take a hard look at that data, and will be preparing a summary of the findings to share with the community in the next month.  This community has had access to the data from this survey for quite some time (our coalition has records from as far back as 2002, taken every two years).  We now have enough information to be able to see what the trends in behaviors are, and what we might need to focus on for the next couple of years. 

The coalition will be sharing bits of interesting information as we go along.  We hope that all of you will join us in discussion about some of the more encouraging and alarming things that we uncover, AND what we can do to keep the encouraging things and to get rid of the bad things.  We have clearly made tremendous progress in many areas related to the mission of Five Town CTC—but there is still a lot of work left to do.

Here is a sneak-peek example: rates of drinking by most youth have gone down, but our rates of binge drinking still remain higher than national averages.  Drinking five or more drinks in a row (which is how binge drinking is defined in these surveys) is dangerous behavior for adults, and even more so for young bodies not yet finished developing (see our post on teen brain development from 2011).

Even if you don't love data, you probably do love this community or the kids in it.  Take a look, and consider coming to a coalition meeting, or stopping by our offices to talk about your take on this.  We would love to hear your point of view!