Wednesday | February 8, 2023

Devices and Your Teen’s Developing Brain

We all know that too much screen time is bad for little kids. This includes time spent using iPhones, iPads, video games and computers. Many studies have exposed that too much screen time for little kids can cause permanent damage to their brains. In fact, it can interfere with a child’s ability to focus, concentrate and communicate as they grow older.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]                      “over use of social media can lead to anxiety“[/pullquote]

But do high-tech devices have the same impact on our teenager’s brains, or is more screen time okay for teenagers? It seems to all depend.

​Some screen time is important and even essential for teens. Using a computer is a great way to conduct research or type up school assignments. Phones are an important method of communication and have become increasingly important as a way of interacting with peers. Video games and time spent playing on an iPad are fun and can be a great way to unwind with friends.

But moderation is the key. This is especially important since a person’s brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. This means that too much screen time can definitely negatively affect a teenager’s developing brain. Here’s how:

Too much screen time can lead to dangerous addiction. According to one 2013 study, addiction is linked with depression, impulsiveness and traits associated with autism. It occurs when addicts turn to technology to experience a rush, which is what happens when dopamine floods the brain. The need for this pleasurable sensation fights with the brain’s ability to think rationally and use restraint.

Though you might not think getting a rush from technology is a particular problem, it can actually be deadly. What happens when a teenager is so addicted to their phone that it interferes with their ability to drive safely? They might text and drive or check their phone while behind the wheel, which is dangerous. It can also be illegal depending on where you live.

Technology is not only addictive to the teenaged brain, but over use of social media can lead to anxiety, depression and a loss of interest in socializing face-to-face. Experts have seen an alarming rise in tech-related mental health issues. Parents are being called upon to limit their teen’s time spent on social media, to enforce tech-free family time and eliminate phones from their teenager’s bedrooms at night. It’s all in an effort to ensure their teenager has a healthy balance of socializing, exercise and interaction outside of the virtual world.

Too much screen time can also affect a teen’s ability to sleep. Sleeping and dreaming are essential to developing and maintaining long-term memory. When a teenager is on their phone late into the night, they aren’t getting the sleep they need for their brains to properly function.

In addition to its impact on the brain, over use of technology can have negative physical side effects as well. Too much screen time can lead to eye strain, headaches, tendonitis of the wrist and pain in the neck, shoulders and back.

While technology can have negative impacts on the developing teenager’s brain, we must also recognize it’s an important part of life today. In fact, we can’t live without it. The key is to ensure our teens have balance in their lives. It’s important they socialize with friends, interact with real people, get enough sleep, and not let technology interfere with their physical safety and mental well being.

February 19th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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Helping Older Kids Understand Extreme Cold Weather Conditions

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It does not take long for intense cold weather to negatively affect your children when outside.[/pullquote]

The winter can be a fun season.

There’s so much to do outdoors, like skiing, tobogganing and ice skating. But extreme cold weather can mean risks to your health and safety. Often, parents worry about cold weather as it relates to little children. We bundle them up warmly and know they’re protected from the elements.

It’s easy to assume older children will know how to dress themselves warmly and appropriately for cold weather, but it’s not always the case. Not only are snow pants for teenagers sometimes seen as “uncool,” but older kids might either not check the forecast or underestimate the dangers of -20 degree Celsius weather.

That’s why it’s especially important for parents and older kids to develop an awareness of extreme cold weather conditions—what it means, the dangers it presents and how to prevent things like frostbite and hypothermia.

An Extreme Cold Weather Alert is issued when Environment Canada predicts a forecast of -20 degrees Celsius or colder or a wind chill of -30 degrees. Whether your kids walk to school or go outside at lunch or recess, exposure to cold weather can lead to respiratory illnesses like colds and flu, frostbite and hypothermia. Some of these conditions will require immediate medical attention.

To limit illness and exposure to the elements, you’ll want to ensure your older kids know how to stay warm and dry. A few things to note:

Check the forecast. When you get up in the morning, put on the news or check a weather app on your phone. What will the temperature be throughout the day? Will it be a dry day or does the forecast call for precipitation? What is the temperature with the windchill factored in?

Dress in layers. Wool and fleece hold heat better than cotton and make great inner layers. Top inner layers with waterproof and windproof outer layers and warm, waterproof boots. If you’re planning to spend any time doing outdoor activities, wear thermal leggings, warm socks and snow pants. You can even buy special mitten and boot inserts at sporting goods stores to warm your hands and feet if you’re going to be skiing or skating, for instance.

Cover exposed skin. Wear a hat that covers your ears, warm mittens (instead of gloves) and a scarf or neck warmer to prevent wind from touching your skin. Make sure to zip up your jacket and cover your face against the biting wind to prevent skin from painful frostbite.

Change wet clothing. If you’re wet or have been sweating, you’ll want to change into warm, dry clothes as soon as possible to prevent developing hypothermia.

Reschedule outdoor activities. If extreme cold weather is forecasted, your school might reschedule that ski trip you were looking forward to. You should also consider rescheduling other outdoor activities, like skating with friends, and plan to do something indoors, such as see a movie instead. An indoor activity would be a much safer idea on days like these. You might also want to take public transportation or ask for a ride rather than walk to school or your friend’s house if the weather is expected to be extremely cold.

Know the signs. Frostbite can occur when skin is exposed to extreme cold. Skin will freeze and die when temperatures are so cold that blood can no longer circulate. It can affect any area of skin, including cheeks, nose, hands and feet. Skin will turn yellowish and feel stinging or numbness. The condition requires medical attention, but there are things you can do in the meantime. You’ll need to remove tight clothing or jewellery and warm your hands in your armpits, which retains heat. Get inside immediately. You can even immerse frozen fingers and toes in warm water.

​Hypothermia, another cold-weather-related condition, occurs when the body’s temperature drops below 35 degrees. Symptoms include shivering and confusion and, if untreated, can result in organ failure and death. Warning signs for kids include bright red, cold skin and very little energy. Seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for medical help, replace wet clothing with dry, get indoors, wrap the body with warm blankets and drink warm liquids.

It does not take long for intense cold weather to negatively affect your children when outside. Just take a variety of precautions to help them understand how to reduce their chances of overexposure.


January 9th, 2018

Posted In: Community, Education, Nutrition, Parenting, Uncategorised

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Is it a Good Idea for Your Teen to get a Job?

As parents, we want our teens to learn responsibility, work hard and earn money. The same line of thinking can make many teens eager to get their first job. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 46% of Canadians ages 15 to 19 have jobs. But is an after-school job actually a good idea?

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]working during the school year can have many positive benefits.[/pullquote]

On one hand, it may sound risky. An after-school job can leave your teen with less time for volunteering, extra-curricular activities, socializing and of course, doing their homework. Without sufficient skills to organize and prioritize, your teen might end up being pulled in too many directions, stressed out, tired or left with too little time to focus on getting good grades. At the end of the day, isn’t getting into a good university or college program their most important job?

A recent study by researchers at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia were intrigued by this dilemma. The researchers analyzed information from the Youth in Transition Survey by Statistics Canada to determine whether, in fact, teenage employment is bad. They looked at responses from nearly 250,000 young Canadians at various points as they grew up. They determined that working during the school year can have many positive benefits.

The researchers found that teens who worked between 25 to 31 hours during the school year experienced many advantages. For instance, the more hours a teen worked at age 15, the more likely they were to be working at age 21. In addition, teens who worked at 15 were more likely to earn more as they got older. Analysts found that 15-year-olds who worked 33 hours a week during the school year earned 25 percent more at age 23. Teens who worked too many hours, however, could experience negative effects.

It can be surmised that having to juggle the competing demands of school and work as teenagers teaches teens how to balance these demands later on. Additional responsibility helps them become more prepared, organized and adept at time management as they get older. Plus, the head start they have in terms of building their resume and networking can give them a leg up over teens who didn’t work during high school.

The Sauder School study also found that teens who worked during high school had better suited careers than those who didn’t work. Whether a teen worked for a family business or an external employer, they were more likely to have better-fitting jobs in the long term. That’s likely because working teaches teens from an early age what they do and don’t want to do in future. They are exposed to different work environments and management styles, helping them narrow down what sorts of occupations they want in future. Teens who don’t work in high school might end up having to discover these same lessons when they are already in the workforce.

There are still many unanswered questions and there’s no right answer. The study couldn’t determine the long-term consequence of teenage employment on future work patterns. For instance, are those who worked as teens happier than those who didn’t? Do they have lower divorce rates and a healthier family life as a result? In other words, working as a teen might not put you further ahead or guarantee a better life as an adult.

When deciding whether to let your teen work, there is a lot to consider. Do they want to work or are you pushing them in that direction? Are they learning responsibility and discipline from volunteering or extra-curricular commitments? Do they have a demanding academic schedule? Are they already struggling to balance coursework with teenage life and succeed academically? These are things you’ll want to consider, in addition to the research.

Indeed, parenting attitudes are changing, school is being seen as a teenager’s “job” and, in fact, fewer teens are working now than in previous years. It’s an individual decision, and one that only you and your teen can make. Now that you have some additional information at your fingertips, you are better equipped to have this all-important discussion with your teen.

November 30th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Technology, Uncategorised

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Studying Abroad Can Be A Great Way To Experience The World

Have you ever considered studying abroad? If you have always dreamed of living in another country, learning a new language and meeting new people, studying in a foreign place is your chance to do all this while acquiring school credits.

It might seem overwhelming at first. Choosing if you should go, what you should study and where you should travel is a big decision. It requires careful thinking and research. If you’ve ever dreamed about studying abroad, here is some information to help get your thinking process off to a productive start.

Determine if you want to go. Studying abroad can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the world and yourself. It’s an extraordinary way to experience another city or country first-hand, rather than from a book. It turns a new city into your classroom, enabling you to learn skills that can’t be mastered sitting at a desk. For instance, not only do study abroad programs enable you to earn a credit to help you graduate, but it can also be an exciting way to experience a new culture. When you’re in a new place, you get to try local foods, pick up a language or perfect one you’ve been learning at home.

​[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]gain confidence, become more self-reliant[/pullquote]

You will experience history and immerse yourself in a different environment on a daily basis. Even as you find your way around a new city, you will become more independent and meet new people in the process. You will gain confidence, become more self-reliant and get out of your comfort zone. While this sounds great, you know yourself better than anyone. Are you ready to leave home for a few weeks or a semester? Do you have friends who will be making the trip with you? These are things to consider, because as fun and exciting as studying abroad can be, you have to be ready to make the trip.

Figure out what you want to study and where. Now that you’ve decided studying abroad is for you, there are other things to consider. Are you interested in earning a language credit, studying English in the birthplace of Shakespeare himself or discovering history in a place that’s captured your imagination since you were little? These are all things to think about.

​What you study and where you study are often linked. Certain programs may be available in some cities, but not others. If you don’t speak the language of the host country, you might have a harder time studying there than in another place. On the other hand, this could be your chance to brush up on your French or Spanish, for instance, and you may want that immersive experience. Speak to your parents and guidance counsellor about making the right course selection for you. There are also resources online to help you find the right course and city to meet your needs.

Budget accordingly. Studying abroad can be expensive. There’s the flight, tuition and room and board to consider, not to mention meals, transportation, excursions and entertainment. ​Do you have money saved? Can your parents help? Have you researched financial aid and scholarship options that can offset some of the cost?

​If this is something you really want to do, it might be a good idea to start saving in advance. Get a part-time job and set money aside so you can travel abroad in the future. Perhaps you can even work while you’re there to earn money. What about considering ways to save money? Perhaps you can have a roommate or live with a host family when you’re abroad. These are options, and ones your guidance counsellor can discuss with you when you meet to chat about studying abroad.

​Of course, you’ll need to do your research and establish a budget. It’s important to figure out how much you can anticipate to spend in a given city. What is the currency exchange rate? Is the city relatively expensive or inexpensive? How much will you need to earn or save to afford the cost?

Prepare for your trip. Once you’ve chosen to study abroad and selected a program, place and budget, you’ll want to prepare for your trip. What are the visa requirements for the country in which you will be studying? Is your passport up to date? Do you have travel and health insurance in case you become ill while you’re away? Often your school can help you with these things, but it’s best to be aware of these matters yourself as well.

​There are often other things to consider, too. Do you need any vaccinations? Go to the bank and ensure you have the proper currency and enough of it. Do you also have debit cards or credit cards? You’ll want to let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.

​Make sure you have all your travel information handy, as well as names and address for where you’re staying and studying. Do you have travel guides handy? Check luggage restrictions to make sure you don’t pack too much. You’ll also want to ensure you’ve packed correctly.

​Have you also checked the weather in the city in which you’ll be staying? Some winters are milder than others, and some summers (like in Australia) are colder than ours.

​Go online, read travel guides, talk to others who have been abroad and prepare accordingly for a life changing trip.

November 17th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Education, Technology, Uncategorised

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How to Write an Essay

Writing an essay can be a daunting task. This is especially the case for those who don’t enjoy writing or who don’t have much practice writing essays often.

Help is on the way! There are a few things students can do to make the essay assignment easier and even enjoyable.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The first thing to do is plan backward.[/pullquote]

When is your deadline? How much time will it take you to research, write and polish the essay? Do you have other projects and deadlines as well? Those who procrastinate and leave essays until the last minute tend not to do as well as those who ensure they leave ample time to complete the project well. It’s also much less stressful when you plan ahead. Some essays requiring extensive research can take weeks to complete well, while personal essays or those shorter in length might not require as much time to complete. Figure out what else you have to work on, prioritize, and leave enough time complete each assignment, even if it means starting your essay well in advance of the actual deadline.

Next, you’ll want to ensure you understand the assignment. Read the instructions again and again. Ask your classmates or teacher for clarification if you have any questions. That way you don’t waste time working on an assignment only to find out you didn’t understand it properly to begin with.

Some essays require research. Now is the time to begin researching. Read as much as you can about the topic so you can understand the issues and make some informed decisions about what research you’re looking for. Do you need primary sources? Secondary? At this stage, you’ll want to “get all your ducks in a row,” so to speak. You might want to take notes by hand or use your computer to document what information you’re finding and where each piece of information has come from. Failing to document your sources, even accidentally, is considered plagiarism. Make sure you’re keeping careful notes so you can create footnotes or a bibliography at the end of your essay, should that be required. Even make note of information found online, not just facts that came from books or journals.

When you’re ready to sit down and write, you’ll need to begin with an introduction. An introduction lays out the issue at hand, or essentially states what your essay is about. It should also include your thesis, or the point you’ll be making throughout the essay.

In the body of the essay, you will put your research to work. You will use whatever information you’ve collected to prove your thesis. It’s usually advised that you choose three separate arguments within the body that prove your point. You’ll be citing sources and information pertinent to your case. It’s also wise to state current beliefs and then prove them wrong using your research. Make sure to reference your thesis and organize your thoughts in a clear and logical way.

Finally, you’ll need to write the conclusion. This sums up your essay, restates your thesis and, briefly, the points you’ve made in your argument. Essentially, your conclusion wraps things up and lets readers know your essay has come to an end.

You might need to include a bibliography, or all the sources you used to complete your essay. Often teachers will grade this as well. You will want to make sure you’re listing your sources correctly, so go online for a template or ask your teacher about the standard format.

Though you might be done your first draft, you’re not ready to hand in the assignment yet. Read it over for grammatical and spelling errors. You might want to reorganize the information in your body paragraphs or tweak the introduction or conclusion. Have someone else proofread your essay. Ask them whether there are any errors, if your sentences make sense and if you’ve proven your point. Once you’ve made any corrections and read it over again, you’ll be ready to hand in your assignment.

Essays can be a lot of work, but once you’ve done one, you’ll be prepared to write many more in your high school or university career.

November 8th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting

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