Tag: teenagers

Everyone Is Responsible for Internet Safety

I can’t say enough about Internet Safety, but I am not the only one.  Our most recent podcast features Charlotte Aynsley, e-safety pioneer and expert, to shed some light on the topic. And just the other night I was at an inaugural lecture of a prestigious law professor at King’s College, London, who talked about the importance of Internet Regulation the world over.

But here is the thing, is the message really sinking in, particularly with our teenagers?

After all the Internet is the global hangout, full of wonderful opportunities. What could go wrong? Back in the summer this year, I actually heard a young boy say something to that nature—why would it be on the Internet if it is bad—and according to On Internet Safety guest Aynsley, this child is not the only one who thinks that way. There are many children growing up believing that everything on the Internet is true and right.

Though this might sound naïve, it makes a whole lot of sense to the young person whose internet experience is all positive until it isn’t. In the UK, the legal age for having a social media account is 13, though about 24% of children have accounts when they are 10 and twice as many when they turn 12.

A few years ago, a hysterical acquaintance shared that her underage daughter was asked to undress over the Internet.  But thankfully it was all curtailed before any damage was done. But what if it hadn’t been stopped.

Sadly, everyone’s story doesn’t have the same ending as my acquaintance’s daughter had, and mainly because few teenagers are aware of the emotional and mental impact that sharing sexually explicit images can have on them, their friends or others or that sexting, as it is called, is criminal if you are under the age of 18. 

Admittedly, this issue is not being policed as strictly as it could be, Aynsley points out, but all the same, consequences can lead to emotional and mental unrest and cause dire consequences for the future.

Another top issue that holds problems for teenagers online is body image, which impacts  girls disproportionately. The pressure on them to be perfect and happy all the time, as told to us by our two teen girls in On Being A Teen Girl Now, is magnified on social media.  Through polished selfies, this aim for perfection goes well beyond looks and enters how our teen girls are feeling about themselves.

Hence the rise in mental health issues amongst this age group. The key is education, Aynsley says and points out that transparency and honest and real life role models and experiences are of paramount importance.

And this honesty doesn’t just rest with the teenagers themselves, it has to live with parents and guardians, social media companies, the government, the police, everyone.

Staying safe on the internet, which can be a wonderful place, requires a joint effort to not only be aware of the problems stacked against us, particularly children and teenagers, but also be willing to tackle the issues.

The good news is that our podcast clears up the confusion around these tough topics and offers teenagers and their guardians practical tools and tips on the matters.  Listen to On Internet Safety on Apple podcasts and other platforms were podcasts are played.

Six Ways To Handle Peer Pressure

The saying goes that only two things in life are certain—death and taxes. And the latter has become a rather grey area for some. Never mind. But here is the thing: the older I get the more I wonder if there is a third certainty that we all have to reckon with. Yep, you guessed it: peer pressure.

We all experience it throughout life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve known about it. Of course, as a child I might not have known its name or fully understood it, but when one of the kids of my youth encouraged me to hide underneath my great grandparents’ old house, though we had been warned of snakes and other dangers, I couldn’t resist the possibility of an adventure. Others had done it and lived to tell the tale. So did I but not without causing a lot of upset to a whole lot of people.

Fast forward, as a middle-aged woman (gulp) the pressure is still on daily, also known as keeping up with the Joneses, not something that I consciously engage in. While peer pressure can be far more elusive at this age, it’s there. For example, when considering strong encouragement from a peer on what outfit to wear for a celebrated occasion, for example, I find myself tempted to give in to what others are doing or to make comparisons that leave me feeling glum.

Make no mistake about it, I know all talk about grooming isn’t about peer pressure. I receive lots of handy advice with no pressure at all and have been known to give out some too, but when peers, people around us, pressure us to do things that make us uncomfortable that might have negative consequences mentally or physically, it is important to see it for what it is—peer pressure.

My examples are small things, don’t sweat them, but there are bigger ones that can be quite intense during the teen years such as pressure to stay out beyond a curfew, drink, smoke, cheat on an exam, get up to shenanigans online, engage in violence, have sex and so on.

Many of these big topics gain momentum in the name of youth or because they are billed as a rite of passage and/or because everybody else is doing it. And if given in to, the consequences can be life altering.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of wonderful advice out there to manage peer pressure. Hence, I have taken six top tips from UIO’s podcast series:


  • Keep self-confidence in tow – ‘Just like we put on coats and gloves when we go out into inclement weather, we need to put on self-confidence when we step out into the world.’

  • Show yourself some love and take care of yourself – ‘Your body serves you now. It really is your temple. Look after it.’

  • Don’t worry what everybody else is doing – ‘Try to avoid making comparisons, you are unique.’

  • Know yourself, what you really value and hang onto it – ‘The thing that you want to dull because you are not fitting in. That is your bit of uniqueness. Own it. It is your superpower.’

  • Dare to be different – ‘It takes a brave girl or woman to say wait a minute, I think I am worth more. I have infinite worth and value.’

  • Think about who you hang out with; who you choose to trust – ‘Those that matter won’t mind; those that mind won’t matter.’

All good stuff from the ladies of UIO. Now about that adventure; it was a hiding to nothing and hardly worth the admonishment I received from my father. As for bagging the right outfit for a special occasion, now is the time to dare to be different. Feeling less stressed already.

Mind the Generation Gap Please

Mind the gap, please when you are communicating with your parents. Sure, mind the gap is a London underground catchphrase but not doing so can lead to serious consequences. And so can not considering that there are likely many generation gaps between you and your parents. This gap, unto itself, can raise illusive barriers as well as very tangible ones that makes it very difficult to communicate during the best of times, let alone during the worst of times.

When I was a teen girl, a very long time ago, mind you, I didn’t have the nerve to speak to my parents about certain topics that were looming large in my life—dating, peer pressure, body image concerns and so on. It was not the done thing and quite fankly, the assumption was that they were not interested and even if they were they wouldn’t share my viewpoint on the issues anyhow.

Make no mistake about  it, my parents were not evil people, quite the opposite, but like most of their peers they seemed to have a closed door policy, if you will, concerning certain issues. They set the boundaries, the rules, and we followed them or not as best as we could and suffered the consequences later.

Looking back, however,  I can see the errors in my thinking. I could have saved myself a lot of time, emotional outbursts and even heartache, had I even knocked at the door, let alone pushed at it gently.

Fast forward, parental styles nowadays do seem to be more open, but even if they aren’t, there is too much margin for error to allow the door to stay closed. It is crucial to take the lead and gently push the door open to communicate with your parents.

In doing so, however, there are just a few things to mind that might help bridge the foreboding generation gap.

  1. Maintain Good Terms – Make an effort to maintain good relations with your parents and/or guardians, not just when you need a ride home, money for an activity, etc. But keeping up your end as a family member and actively seeking out opportunities to do something together whether in the kitchen, in the yard, etc. Thinking back, I had some of the best conversations with my dad, when I helped him wash the car.
  2. Speak Their Language – Sure times have moved on and so many phrases are yesterday, however, not understanding where someone else is coming from raises barriers and causes feelings of exclusion. So TEACH THEM YOUR LANGUAGE, TOO.
  3. Honour Boundaries – Every family has them, even if they are unspoken but particularly when they are spoken, honour them. Try to do what you agreed and when you can’t acknowledge that you didn’t. However if trying to do something is causing great stress, explain this and try to negotiate a middle ground. What I am not saying is to disrespect the parental no.
  4. Respect Their No – They have a right to set rules, as they are responsible for you. Having said this, I firmly believe teens have a voice, collectively and individually. Do use your voice respectfully. Throwing the phone down or slamming doors won’t get you a yes anyhow. It is likely to keep the door that you’re trying to open tightly shut. But finding the right time, telling them that it is important to you, that you really need to talk, will help you share your views more confidently and feel valued and assured that your parents are listening, even if they still say no.
  5. Listen To Them – It is a a two-way street, right. Just as you want them to listen to you,  you need to do the same thing. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it is right for you. Listen without thinking of your comeback or paying lip service quickly and then doing your own thing anyhow. Listening involves processing information and understanding what it is being said and why.

When it is all said and done, remember you might find that you still have fundamental disagreements, considering the generation gap(s), tried and tested values, traditions and so on that contribute to your parents thinking and decision making processes.  Still keep in mind that most parents have your best interest at heart and want what they believe is right for you. Take a deep breath, mind the gap please, and gently push the door open to communication that feeds into interdependence for healthy family relations.





A Taste Of Travel For Teens

Nothing like travel to get us moving, thinking, living. And summertime is the perfect backdrop for it for anyone but especially for teens. With many schools already out for summer in the US and those in the UK letting out soon, teens are on the move and rightly so.

During this crucial time in their lives, there is nothing like travel to get them intuitively growing. But there is one suggestion to really spark this growth, let them leave home without you. Really! Yes, read more in my latest Huffington Post blog.

Roll on summertime for a taste of travel for teens.