Mental Health, Cyberbullying and Substance Abuse in Teens
What you need to know to protect your teen.
New Jersey’s chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance estimates one in eight adolescents experience depression. To distinguish between a simple case of the blues and clinical depression, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to look for the following warning signs. Five or more may indicate possible clinical depression:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Extreme moodiness or spontaneous crying
- Changes in eating habits, along with noticeable weight changes
- Expressions of hopelessness or low self-worth
- Paranoia or extreme secrecy
- Self-mutilation or threatening to cause personal injury
- Obsessive concerns over body image
- Excessive isolation
- Turning away from friends and social groups
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people in New Jersey. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found approximately 14 percent of NJ teens had seriously considered suicide. Contact the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline at 855-NJ-Hopeline immediately if you notice any of these signs:
- Talk of death or dying
- Changes in normal eating and sleeping habits
- Avoiding spending time with family and friends
- Dramatic weight changes
- Signs of substance abuse
- Extreme mood swings
- Loss of interest in schoolwork or regular activities
A 2011 Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation report found widespread underage drinking in New Jersey, with more than 45 percent of high school students having at least one alcoholic beverage on one or more occasions during a 30-day period.
The study also found:
- 18 percent had their first drink (not sip) of alcohol before age 13
- Over 26 percent had five or more alcoholic drinks in a row during the 30-day period
- Underage drinkers in New Jersey drank an average of 4.2 drinks per day, compared to the 1.6 drinks consumed by legal drinkers in the state
Cyberbullying is a particularly cruel form of bullying where kids use social media, text messaging and other forms of electronic communication to harass. A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found 16 percent high school students admitted to being electronically bullied in the past year. The numbers from bullyingstatistics.org are even more alarming:
- One in 10 adolescents report having embarrassing or damaging photos taken of them without their permission
- Approximately half of all teens and adolescents have been victims of cyberbullying, and nearly the same number report having engaged in cyberbullying
- One in every three teens have received online cyber threats
- One-fifth of teens have posted or sent nude or sexually suggestive photos of themselves
New Jersey’s tough anti-bullying laws enacted in 2011 are designed to ensure schools recognize and report various forms of bullying to the state. Every school is required have an anti-bullying specialist and school safety team, who are held liable for failing to take effective measures against bullying and cyberbullying perpetrators.
Watch your kids even when you’re not actually there with these tracking and monitoring programs.
- Dad Guard: Child-protection software that records your teen’s phone and computer activity, including text messages, emails, Internet history, social media, location and more, and emails you daily activity reports.
- TextGuard: Allows parents access to their child’s text messages without their knowledge.
- My Mobile Watchdog: Offers 20 parental controls for your teen’s smartphone that allow you to see text messages and contact history, block websites, turn off apps and more.
- Teen Tracker: GPS tracking device that allows parents to track their teen driver.
- Ignore No More: Enables parents to lock their kid’s phone from a distance. The phone remains inoperable until parents are called for a password to unlock it.