March 8th, 2011
By: Ellen Seidman
Let’s say you have a child with disabilities who has cognitive delays, and when people jokingly uses the word “retard” to call someone stupid, it bothers you.
Let’s say that in honor of Spread The Word To End The Word Day, which was this week, you decide to do a little project: For a few days you will message people on Twitter who use the word “retard” and let them know the r-word is derogatory to people with disabilities.
You don’t actually expect the word to disappear anytime soon or that people will instantly chop it out of their vocabularies. But maybe, just maybe, you can raise a little awareness. You will set up alerts for tweets that contain “retard.”
And you will find that there are so many mentions of the word — thousands a day — this could be your full-time job. People in the U.S., England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Kuwait say the word. Men, women, teens (lots and lots of teens), people of all races and all spelling abilities.
You will not fault people for their use of the r-word, because the term has become slang. They don’t mean to malign people with disabilities. Heck, you used to call annoying situations “retarded” before you understood.
You have no problem with the words “stupid” or “dumb” or worse. Sure, call your friends names if you’d like, it’s your conversation. But maybe you don’t have to toss around the word “retard.” Or say even worse things:
When you’re sending a message limited to 140 characters, you’d expect that some people won’t get what’s so wrong. You can’t get into explanations of how equating people doing stupid or blockheaded stuff (“I’m a retard for forgetting my wallet!”) with people who have intellectual disabilities insults them, and how it perpetuates stereotypes. You’d expect most people to ignore you, which they do.
You’d expect some to be defensive, as the very act of tweeting at them is confrontational, even though you try to keep your tweets even-handed: Hi. Mom of kids with disabilities here. The word “retard” is demeaning. But still, you will be surprised by how people dig in their heels:
March 1st, 2011
By: Mara Gay
Teenagers should be barred from tanning salons to help prevent them from getting skin cancer, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
The country’s largest group of pediatric doctors warned today that spending time in the tanning salon greatly increases the chances of getting melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly type of skin cancer. According to the group, melanoma is the second leading type of cancer among women in their 20s.
The new policy makes the American Academy of Pediatrics the latest medical group to campaign for increased regulation of tanning salons. In 2009, the World Health Organization classified tanning as a carcinogen and has also lobbied to bar teens from the popular practice. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology support a ban as well.
Dr. Sophie Balk of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, the lead author of the new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the group is singling out teens because tanning has become trendy among teenage girls. According to research cited by Balk, nearly one out of four white women ages 13 to 19 has visited a tanning salon at least once.
“I would try and encourage people to love the skin they’re in,” Balk told AOL News in a phone interview today. She said the Academy is pushing for legislation that would bar teenagers under the age of 18 from using the tanning salons.
But the Indoor Tanning Association, which represents the tanning salon industry, says parents bear the ultimate responsibility for their children’s health. John Overstreet, the association’s executive director, noted that most states already require parental permission in tanning salons and said there is no need for increased regulation.
“I think parents can best determine whether or not their teenager should get a suntan,” he told AOL News by phone today.
He said teens account for about 10 percent of the industry’s clients. A ban, he said, “would definitely push some of these businesses over the edge.”
Overstreet said some studies suggest that tanning in moderation can actually be healthy, by boosting vitamin D levels in the body.
According to the Academy of Pediatrics, however, recommending that teens seek out tanning to achieve healthy levels of vitamin D, which is vital to bone health, is irresponsible. Instead, the authors said, teens should consider taking supplements. “Why should you expose yourself to a carcinogen if you can go outside or take a supplement?” Balk said.
Each year, about 8,500 Americans die from melanoma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
December 21st, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Weight loss surgery is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, raising concerns about potentially unknown side effects in this younger population.
Researchers found that in California alone, 590 people between the ages of 13 and 20 underwent weight loss surgery between 2005 and 2007. The rate of complications, including bleeding, infection, and kidney or lung problems, was the same among teenagers as among adults.
“Obesity surgery is the gold standard for permanent weight loss, [but] with more and more teens and children being obese and overweight, we are starting to see the treatment for that kind of go over to that age group,” CBS correspondent Jennifer Ashton said.
The majority of surgical weight-loss procedures, including the popular lap-band, have not had their safety and effectiveness tested in children and are not approved for use in that population.
Advocates of weight-loss surgery in children say that intervening early to fight obesity can have important lifelong health benefits.
“We will hopefully be able to prevent the diabetes, the high blood pressure, the high cholesterol that we’re starting to see in teenagers who are already obese,” Ashton said. “Why wait until they are 20 or 30 to start treating that when some people say you should start treating it when they have the disorder?”
The problem is that no research has been done on the long-term consequences of surgically altering a teenager’s digestive system.
“How do these people how do 10, 20, 30 years after the procedure?” Ashton said. “That’s going to be very important.”
Writing in his book Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, Steven R. Gundry echoes that concern.
“I’m worried about all those gastric bypass patients who lose 150 pounds in six months,” he writes. “I’d like them to let me know how they’re doing twenty to thirty years from now.”
November 18th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Teenagers carry 30 percent more of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies than older adults, according to a study conducted by researchers from Statistics Canada.
BPA is an industrial chemical used to make hard, clear plastics for water bottles and baby bottles, and resins to line food and beverage cans. It is also found in the special paper used to print receipts. An endocrine disruptor, it mimics the effect of estrogen in the human body and interferes with the function of other hormones.
“Phthalates and [BPA] … aren’t quite identical to the natural hormone molecules in men’s or women’s bodies, but they come close enough that they occupy the same receptors on estrogen-sensitive tissues and exert their own unique effects on human health,” writes David Steinman in his book Safe Trip to Eden.
BPA has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, reproductive and nervous problems, including changes in the brain.
Researchers collected urine samples from more than 5,400 Canadians between the ages of six and 79, testing for traces of BPA. They found traces of the toxin in 91 percent of those tested.
Teenagers might have higher levels because they consume more food relative to their body weight, the researchers suggested, or because they metabolize it differently. Researchers expressed concern that these higher levels might pose an even more severe risk of developmental problems at an age when the body is undergoing major changes.
The average level of BPA found was just over one part per billion, 1,000 times the level at which estrogen is naturally found in the body.
Health Canada has officially designated BPA as a toxic chemical and ordered its removal from baby bottles, but most other countries have yet to follow suit.
“The No. 1 priority at the moment has got to be getting it out of the lining of tin cans,” said Rick Smith of Environmental Defense. “When nine out of 10 Canadians have a hormonally active chemical in their body, for which easy alternatives are available … why not make some further changes with respect to BPA?”
October 14th, 2010
Agence France Presse
Around half of US teens meet the criteria for a mental disorder and nearly one in four report having a mood, behavior or anxiety disorder that interferes with daily life, American researchers say.
Fifty-one percent of boys and 49 percent of girls aged 13-19 have a mood, behavior, anxiety or substance use disorder, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In 22.2 percent of teens, the disorder was so severe it impaired their daily activities and caused great distress, says the study led by Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
“The prevalence of severe emotional and behavior disorders is even higher than the most frequent major physical conditions in adolescence, including asthma or diabetes,” the study says.
Mental problems do not get the same attention from public health authorities even though they cost US families around a quarter of a trillion dollars a year, according to the study.
Around nine percent of all US children have asthma and less than a quarter of one percent of all people under the age of 20 have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Merikangas and a team of researchers analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement, which surveyed more than 10,000 US teens.
The study is the first to track the prevalence of a broad range of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample of US teens.
They found that nearly a third of the teens met the criteria for the most common mental disorder among US youth, anxiety disorders, which include social phobia and panic “attacks”.
This class of disorder also had the earliest median onset age, occurring in children as young as six years old.
Behavior disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, were the next most common condition (19.1 percent), followed by mood disorders (14.3 percent) such as depression.
Eleven percent of teens with a mood disorder, 10 percent with behavior disorders and eight percent who had anxiety disorders, especially social phobics, met the criteria for severe impairment, meaning their condition affected their day-to-day life and caused them great distress.
Teen mental disorder rates mirror those seen in adults, suggesting that most adults develop a mental disorder before adulthood, say the researchers, calling for earlier intervention and prevention, and more research to determine what the risk factors are for mental disorders in youth.
August 6th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
A new report published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has revealed that young people who spend too much time on the internet are more likely to be depressed than those who use it moderately. “Pathological” internet use is linked to causing other problems as well such as poor physical health, relationship problems, aggressive behaviors and even psychological disorders.
For the study, the research team evaluated the mental health and internet use patterns of more than 1,000 Chinese teenagers. At the start of the study, the teenagers filled out questionnaires about their feelings both on- and off-line, and how often they used the internet. The researchers also evaluated the mental health patterns of the teens.
After nine months, researchers again evaluated the participants to see what had developed. They found that young people with internet addiction are 250 percent more likely to develop depression than young people without it.
“This result suggests that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence,” explain the study authors in their paper.
Study authors suggest that schools start to screen children for internet addiction as part of an early prevention strategy.
“Certain symptoms of internet addiction are similar to those in other types of addictive behavior. These including cravings (in this case, for more time on the computer), neglecting family members and friends, moodiness when not using the computer, and lying to people about the amount of time spent on the internet,” explains Jack Challem in his book The Food-Mood Solution: All-Natural Ways to Banish Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress, Overeating, and Alcohol and Drug Problems–and Feel Good Again.
May 26, 2010
By Kate Devlin
In total 1,047 young people aged either 14 or younger had an abortion in 2009 the figures show, a slight drop on the previous year
The figures were released just a day after the first advert for abortion was shown on British television.
It also follows a recommendation that teenagers and other young women be encouraged to stockpile the morning after pill at home in case of emergencies by the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government’s public health body.
There were 3,823 abortions performed on under 16s, and 17,916 on under-18s last year, the statistics, released by the Department of Health, show, also a slight fall on the previous year.
One in three women having a termination, including 1,341 under-18s, had already had at least one abortion.
Another 2,637 women had had three previous abortions, while 779 had had four, 214 had had five and 48 women had had seven or more abortions.
Even by a relatively young age many women had had multiple terminations, the figures also show.
Among 25 to 29 year olds, 3,268 had already had two terminations, and 70 had had five previous abortions.
Overall, however, the number of women having abortions fell slightly for the second year in a row, from 195,296 in 2008 to 189,100 in 2009.
A total of 136 were performed on girls under 14, the figures show, and 911 on 14-year-olds.
At the other end of the spectrum there were 720 abortions among women aged 45 to 49, and 21 on those aged 50 and older.
The abortion rate was highest for women aged 19 to 21, at 33 per 1,000 for women, again slightly lower than last year.
The vast majority, 91 per cent, were carried out before 13 weeks, the figures also show.
There was a slight rise in the rate of medical abortions, which use pills to stimulate a termination, to 40 per cent up from 38 per cent last year.
Overall, 2,085 abortions, or one per cent of the total, were for children who would have been born disabled, including 775 for chromosomal abnormalities including Down’s syndrome.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: “It’s interesting to see that fewer abortions took place last year, for the second year running.
“However abortion figures tend to fluctuate slightly year-on-year so we can’t call this a trend yet, especially with the background of the last few decades’ gradual rise in the numbers of abortions.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We’re pleased to see that the rate of abortions continues to fall.
“There is a wide range of effective contraception available – women should speak to their GP or practice nurse or visit nhs.uk if they need more information.”
But Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, which researches the reasons behind family breakdown, said that the high abortion rates were an “inevitable consequence of a society that has made an idol of sexual pleasure”.
He added: “It is not ignorance of contraception that leads to alarming rates of teenage abortions.
“The contraceptive culture has made girls feel they have a right to have babies to order and to do away with any that would interfere with their chosen lifestyle.”
May 25, 2010
By Kate Devlin
Free condoms should also be available to young people in schools and youth clubs, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which wants all young people to have access to confidential contraceptive advice.
The organisation argues that easier access to contraception will help reduce unwanted pregnancies. But campaigners warned that it risked fuelling promiscuity among young people.
The advice is the first time that Nice has called for young people to have access to emergency contraception to keep at home.
Pharmacies in particular should be targeted as places where the under-25s can get the morning-after pill in advance, it recommends.
It also advises that teenagers get free condoms, in a range of types and sizes, and that they should be shown how to use them.
Youngsters should also be encouraged to carry condoms around with them, and use them every time they have sex, to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
April 21, 2010
By Carl Franzen
Not so long ago, “text” simply described plain old letters on a page. Today, according to new research, it’s become the primary method of communication for America’s teenagers, more popular even than face-to-face conversations.
It’s enough to make even the least tech-savvy of adults sit up straight and go, “OMG!”
News of the paradigm shift comes by way of a report on “Teens and Mobile Phones,” released today by the Pew Research Center. After surveying some 800 teens ages 12 to 17, Pew found that 54 percent were daily texters, up drastically from just 38 percent in 2008, and now far outpacing actually talking to each another, which rests at a measly 33 percent.
Just as staggering is the sheer volume of texting being done by today’s teens. The study found that half of all those it surveyed send upwards of 50 text messages a day, for a total of 1,500 a month. One in three sent more than 100 a day. The researchers also noted a distinct gender divide, with young women texting on average much more than young men (80 texts daily versus 30), a finding that contradicts results of previous studies on the same subject.
The Pew study does more than just provide raw data on the texting trend. It analyzes how such extensive cell phone use complicates relationships with authority figures, reporting that “for parents, teens’ attachment to their phones is an area of conflict and regulation,” especially as their parents attempt to limit usage and control the contents of information being sent and stored.
More than two-thirds of parents reportedly check the contents of their child’s phone, and 62 percent have taken it away as a form of punishment. Meanwhile, 64 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to texting in class, despite the fact that 65 percent of the study group attended schools that completely banned cell phones.
Pew also briefly addresses the phenomenon of “Sexting,” which has resulted in numerous legal problems and personal tragedies for many teens in recent years. The report notes that 4 percent of the teens surveyed “say they have sent a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude image of themselves to someone via text message,” while 15 percent had received such images. Pew also published a study late last year specifically addressing “Teens and Sexting,” but the implications of those findings are likely to change in light of the latest report.
Reacting to the findings, technology guru and parent Cory Doctorow drew a comparison between the mobile phone’s place in the lives of today’s teens and the place held by cars for teens of the past. Writing on Boing Boing, Doctorow observes that the explosion of teen drivers beginning in the postwar era produced something else now taken for granted:
The widespread adoption of driving licenses by teens meant that for the first time in American history, practically every adolescent could be expected to carry government-issued identity papers. …
March 23, 2010
By: Margaret Ryan
A school that has allowed its pupils to start the day an hour later says it has seen absenteeism decline.
At Monkseaton High School, in North Tyneside, 800 pupils aged 13-19 have started lessons at 10am since October.
Early results indicates that general absence has dropped by 8% and persistent absenteeism by 27%.
Head teacher Paul Kelley said that changing the school day could help towards creating “happier, better educated teenagers”.
Mr Kelley said it was now medically established that it was better for teenagers to start their school day later in terms of their mental and physical health and how they learn better in the afternoon.
“ We can help them be less stressed by simply changing the time of the school day ”
“It is a question of do schools fit the medical reality of teenagers?” he said.
The experiment of starting the school an hour later is being overseen by scientists, including an Oxford neuroscience professor Russell Foster.
He performed memory tests on pupils at the school which suggested the more difficult lessons should take place in the afternoon.
He said young people’s body clocks may shift as they reach their teenage years – meaning they want to get up later not because they are lazy but because they are biologically programmed to do.
Prof Till Roenneberg, who is an expert on studying sleep, said it was “nonsense” to start the school day early.
He said: “It is about the way our biological clock settles into light and dark cycles. This clearly becomes later and later in adolescence.”
Prof Roenneberg said if teenagers are woken up too early they miss out on the most essential part of their sleep.
“Sleep is essential to consolidate what you learn,” he said.
Mr Kelley said GCSE results from his school in January and February also seemed “hopeful” but it was too soon to say for definite whether changing the school hours had affected grades.
The final results of the study at the school are due to be published in an academic journal, probably next year.
Mr Kelley said: “We can help them learn better. We can help them be less stressed by simply changing the time of the school day.”
He said that this in turn could change ideas about young people in general.
“This is one of the things society has imposed on teens because it feels right for us [adults],” he said.
But now we know the implications of this situation, he said: “We can change provision for teenagers and we are going to have happier, better educated teenagers.”
He said starting the school day later had not caused any particular problems as the school is still open 8am-5pm, with lessons running 10am-3.40pm.
The school will decide before the next timetable is finalised whether or not to continue with the later start.