Children and Adolescents and Digital Media – Summary of AAP Recommendations

This blog is a thorny subject for many families – use of tech and amount of screen time. It first appeared in Quora.

Research into the impact of limiting screen time in children and adolescents is in it’s infancy. Excuse the pun.

However, an excellent Technical Report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was just published and is probably the best guide to parents on the matter.

The AAP recommends a Family Media Plan. Do you use one?

Children and Adolescents and Digital Media, Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos, Jenny Radesky, Dimitri Christakis, et al

We have summarized the main contents of the report – where context allowed, we used direct or slightly adapted quotes from the article. A PDF of the article is available at the link above and I recommend viewing it if you have a particular interest. Uncontrolled use of social media appears harmful, and it is worth considering the other good and bad outcomes linked with digital media in general.

Preschool Children

The Good

AAP discourages media exposure for children younger than 2 years based on research on TV and videos, which showed that in-person interactions with parents are much more effective than video for learning of new verbal or nonverbal problem-solving skills.

Video chat (eg, Skype or Facetime) for short duration with parental support is OK for infants and toddlers.

High-quality TV programs (eg, Public Broadcasting Service [PBS] programs, such as Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) can demonstrably improve cognitive, linguistic, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age. For families who find it difficult to modify the overall amount of media use in their homes, changing to high-quality content may be a more actionable alternative.

As content from PBS high-quality programs is translated into apps and game formats (eg, Martha Speaks, Big Bird’s Words, and Cookie Monster’s Challenge apps), educational benefits have been shown in preschoolers. Unfortunately, very few of the commercially available apps found in the educational section of app stores have evidence-based design input with demonstrated learning effectiveness. Apps designed for joint adult-child use and that have automatic ‘stops’ hold promise but are not commonly used.

The Bad

An earlier age of media use onset, greater cumulative hours of media use, and content that is not of high quality all are significant independent predictors of poor executive functioning (impulse control, self-regulation, mental flexibility).

Strong associations between violent media content and child aggressive behavior have been clearly documented.

A recent study of 2-year-olds found that body mass index (BMI) increased for every hour per week of media consumed.

School-Aged Children and Teens

The Good

Digital media can increase collaboration and tolerance in older children. The media can also enhance access to support networks for children with ongoing conditions as well as those with differing gender identities.

Reducing media consumption in older kids has been shown to reduce BMI.

Parent media use is a strong predictor of child media habits and parents have an important role in creating ‘unplugged’ zones and times in their households.

The Bad

Children are more likely to be overweight if they have 2 or more hours media use per day, a TV or equivalent in their bedroom. Adolescents who have higher uses of social media or who sleep with their mobile phones in their bedroom are at greater risk of sleep problems. Studies have found associations between media use in bed before sleep, sleep difficulties, and symptoms of depression in teenagers. The problems appear to worsen with later media turn-off times and number of devices in the bedroom. A ‘dose-response’ relationship has been discovered between daytime and bedtime use of electronic devices and sleep duration.

Adolescents frequently access depictions of risky behaviors on their media devices and a growing body of evidence suggests that peer viewers of this content are influenced to see these behaviors as acceptable and desirable. There are also numerous web sites that promote unhealthy behaviors or even offer life-threatening advice to vulnerable adolescents.

Research has suggested a U-shaped relationship between Internet use and depression, with increased risks for depression at both the high and low ends of Internet use. Passive use of social media has also been linked to a decline in wellbeing, whereas those who actively use it to post content did not experience this decline.

Cyberbullying is the focus of increased research and is known to lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health consequences, including an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Teenagers who engage in ‘sexting’ are at increased risk of a greater number of sexual partners, depression and substance misuse.

Child pornography and abuse has increased with the help of anonymous cyberspace sites (‘the dark net’). Children who have had online sexual images of themselves posted online experience an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Sexual grooming tends to involve adolescents rather than very young children.

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What are some examples of parenting styles that result in successful individuals?

So, in this blog we manage to include reference to both presidential nominees. Thank you for reading!

Clinton and Trump 2016 Copyright Futurism.com

The diversity of parenting styles and context for individual parents, children and families is infinite. MyFampal has researched this area quite extensively, and there are huge arrays of anecdotal information and opinion on parenting styles, but very limited evidence that one style of parent support offers better long term benefit over another.

Food for Thought

Success Means Different things to Different People

How is success measured? Health? Education? Relationships? Happiness? Social conscience? Annual earnings? Charitable giving? Number of likes on Social Media?

Who is the most ‘successful’ adult – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Which one would you like your child to emulate? [Zeitgeist example – like milk, best served fresh]

Styles and Expectations Vary Greatly Between Cultures

Contrast the high-pressure Gaokao exams in China with US and UK preference for continual assessment. These very different teaching methods meet with mixed approval of parents, but still dominate in those cultures.

What Factors Impact ‘Parental Success’ in Raising a Child

I am assuming that factors such as love, compassion, nurturing etc are taken as read. In no particular order, and by no means exhaustive…

Time, childhood trauma, childhood trauma for parents, teen mental health issues, age, socio-economics, genetics, education, health, peer group, career choice, beliefs, political view, gender, and resilience.

How many of those can a parent truly impact?

What do you think?

This blog first appeared as an answer to a question posed by a user on Quora and answered by John Kerrigan.

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Complex Questions: What challenges have you encountered as a parent while finding information for your kids?

What challenges have you encountered as a parent while finding information for your kids?

By far and away my biggest challenge is…

Panning for Gold

 Prospector
SOURCE: Tony Oliver

Or, sorting out proven evidence from the unproven.

Search engines have made it much easier to access, but the new problem is now one of wading through piles of data to get at the relevant insights you need to support your child.

Too Much Data

A German scientist, Lutz Bornmann, estimated that the growth rate of scientific publication (including evidence on effective tools and techniques to help parents) is 8% to 9% per year – that’s a doubling of available data every 9 years.

Lost in Translation

Parents that do seek information gravitate to media outlets. And this is where the real problems starts for us! Media outlets have, at best insufficient time and expertise, and at worst deliberately misrepresent data to fit an agenda. For example in general, the media:

  1. don’t have time or skill to translate science into lay-language
  2. do not critically appraise press releases and pass them on with minimal edits
  3. portray opinion as evidence
  4. are biased and misrepresent findings

What do you think?

This blog first appeared as an answer to a question posed by a user on Quora and answered by John Kerrigan.

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Here’s Why Data Without Valuable Insights Will Just Leave Us All More Confused

fitness-app

Even those of us who aren’t tech-savvy will have noticed there’s a proliferation of apps, services and hardware on the market at the moment that have been created to enable us to collect more data about ourselves than ever before.

From a Fitbit that you strap to your wrist to tell you more about your steps or the Spire that hooks onto your clothes and assesses your stress levels, through to apps designed to teach you mindfulness or wearable devices to track your blood pressure.

Whether you call the movement ‘quantified self’, ‘mHealth’ or just see it as a natural progression as the worlds of tech and wellbeing collide, it’s here to stay. And you can track anything and everything all from your wrist or your phone. But is all of this data really making us fitter, happier and healthier?

Sure when you first buy a fitness tracker and see your points or steps climb up throughout the day, you feel a sense of achievement. The same goes for a sleep app, a calorie counter or maybe one that rewards you when your breathing slows down.

But that novelty wears off quickly. And many of us are left with stacks of data, but little guidance into what to do next. That’s mostly because there are no clear goals and no added insights to inform us about how we could do better. We’re often just rewarded with a virtual medal because we smashed an arbitrary ‘points goal’—it’s hardly going to keep us sticking around for very long, is it?

The fitness tracking industry has come under fire only this past week for similar reasons, as research concludes a fitness tracker and accompanying app, when added to diet and exercise advice, does a worse job than advice alone to help people with long term weight loss. Although there are many reasons why that could be the case, we think a huge part of it is that people just don’t know what to do with all the new data they have access to. Knowing that you walked 10,000 steps today might sound impressive. But that target doesn’t work for everyone. Will you work to improve that number? Should the target vary by baseline fitness, weight or age? The truth is, many modern day apps and devices aren’t built to answer these important questions.

Data is meaningless unless you’re collecting the right kind, using it in the right ways and tracking it over time. Because there are rarely any quick-fixes and immediate results, just long-term data collection that raises awareness, builds a picture and provides insight on trends and patterns.

This is why we feel MyFampal stands out, because it’s not about gamifying your family’s behavior or a child’s anxiety. We know that’s not right when we’re dealing with such an important issue. Instead, we’re focused on collecting the right kinds of data from our scientifically robust questionnaires, making well-informed recommendations and then supporting families collect that data over time to get the best insights on pre-empting and preventing more serious mental health issues.

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My Sister Wrote a Suicide Note. All I Could Think Was That I Still Hadn’t Done My Homework!

girl-hair

My life was turned upside down when I was twelve years old.

My older sister was gone. Overnight, I transformed from annoying younger sibling to only child. No one told me what to do (other than my parents and teachers). I no longer had to hide in my room because I was scared of the shouting. I finally didn’t live in fear in my own house.

Life wasn’t always like this.

When we were children you would never have met such lovely girls. When my sister and I were really young, around 3 and 5, we would play a silly game. One of us would wrap a blanket around the other and fill it with stuffed animals and dolls. We would then push the package down the stairs to see how fast it would go. One time my sister pushed me before I was ready and I went tumbling down the stairs head first into a door. It probably wasn’t the safest game looking back, but it was really fun.

I honestly don’t believe that there was one moment where everything went downhill.

It was more of a gradual descent and we just didn’t have the skills or resources to know what to do. My guess would be that it started when we moved country for my Dad’s job. He didn’t really discuss the move with any of us, we just packed up and left.

When my sister started her freshman year at high school she began to change.

I don’t blame the high school that she went to, though some of the people that she met there were sketchy.

One day I came home from school and no one was home. Hours later, Mum called to say she wasn’t going to be home for a while and I should microwave the leftover pasta for dinner. I forgot to take the pasta out the metal pan, so nearly set my house on fire. There’s still a black scorch mark on the back of the microwave.

I went back to my computer and continued talking to my friends, figuring I’d do my homework when Mum got home and yelled at me to do it. But she didn’t come home ’til ten. She had my sister with her, who stormed upstairs. Mum told me that she had written a suicide note and was being sent to a mental health clinic. I remember thinking, “Wow that’s pretty bad. Crap! I’ve done no homework.”

It definitely wasn’t my best life moment. My sister went away for a week to work on her depression and even thought she made out like it had helped a lot (she was really good at manipulation), nothing changed. A few months went by with her screaming and shouting every day about some trivial thing, and I would just run upstairs to hide from the mood swings.

Around this time she started pushing some pretty serious boundaries.

One time she showed me a pack of cigarettes, next she told me she’d bought some weed. Both times she told me not to tell my parents but I was a 12 year old kid! Of course I’m telling them.

The last straw was when we took a family holiday to West Virginia. I don’t know how it escalated but there was this massive screaming fight, the first my Dad ever saw her intense anger. My sister grabbed his phone and was holding it hostage. She eventually threw it across the room, shattering the screen. At this point, my mum took me out of the room and we walked around the parking lot.

Soon after my sister was sent packing to a wilderness behavior therapy program. The only time we were in contact was via a weekly letter that we’d send each other. A few months later, she ‘graduated’ and showed us all of the camping techniques that she had learned. It was actually pretty impressive.

Next thing I know my sister is being sent to a boarding school in Arizona to help with her depression and mood swings. Again, my only contact with her was during a weekly phone call with the whole family. Sometimes these were fun and kind of normal – other times it was like a therapy session. I felt like I had very little time to talk to her because she was always talking to mum and dad instead of me.

Her time at the school did a lot more for my sister, my mum, and my dad than it did for me. I’m not saying I got nothing out of it, but siblings tended to be excluded from a lot of the therapy that went on. That school definitely did a lot to help our family to get back on a better path though.

All of us are in a better place – we’re a pretty snazzy family now!

We’re not perfect, but we’re family so it doesn’t matter. My sister and I are supposed to bicker about small things like what to watch on TV. We’re supposed to be mildly rebellious against our parents because, obviously, nothing they do will ever be cool to us.

Even though they all have flaws, all my family has supported me through hard times, literally and figuratively. They are the most important thing to me. Even when my dad is trying to make me watch Bridge on the River Kwai or my sister’s trying to convince me my spandex shorts are hers or when my mum turns into the Grinch at Halloween.

All these little quirks are what makes our family so great, and I love them to the moon and back.

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I Put My Daughter Into Therapy to Cure Her Violent Outbursts, But it Was Me Who Learned the Biggest Lesson

photo-of-family

I always thought our family was perfectly normal…

As toddlers the girls were into drawing, painting and played happily with friends.  We had fun holidays as a unit and with extended family and friends. Later, the girls did well at school and my husband and I counted our blessings.

My husband often worked long hours and there were times he had to work weekends too. This was hard for us all; I needed a break from being a full time mum and the girls needed their dad. My own upbringing was quite strict and I was determined to be more supple with my own children.  This, in combination with Sam’s absences, made for an environment where boundaries weren’t held.

As my eldest daughter Charlotte got older, she learnt to manipulate me…

We had to move cities for my husband’s work, which also had him travelling a lot. Though the girls were more than able to keep up academically at their new school, emotionally they struggled.  I tried to keep them on an even keel with activities like movie nights, long dog walks and shared meal preparation but I was fighting a losing battle.

Teenage Charlotte began to refuse any requests I made of her – little things like picking up laundry and clearing the table.  With high school looming, her moods and anger became more frequent.  She became increasingly rude, started to isolate herself in the evenings and spent more time on social media.

When I voiced my concerns to friends they said that their kids were doing the same things so I didn’t think much more about it and put it down to ‘hormones’. When Charlotte started high school, she joined the field hockey team and started to make new friends.

I thought life was settling down. Boy, was I wrong…

One morning I got a call from school to say that Charlotte had written a suicide note.  I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Sam was away with work so he couldn’t help. The school counsellor was great, explaining the protocol in situations like this and introducing us to professional mental health support. A professional therapist assessed Charlotte as ‘at risk’ and referred her to a teenage psychiatric hospital.

That was the start of a long downward spiral for Charlotte’s mood, antisocial behavior and mental health issues. While in hospital Charlotte learnt from other patients how to cut herself. From the teen psychiatric outpatient center she started smoking and learnt where to buy drugs.

At home, we began to fear her coming home from school and felt we couldn’t give her the parent support she needed. We would walk on eggshells, never knowing what mood she would be in. Sam was still away with work a lot and Charlotte was becoming abusive to me – verbally and, on occasion, physically aggressive too. Charlotte is a bright girl and it felt like she would plan some destructive behavior when she knew that I wouldn’t be able to cope or had to go out. The stress we were all under was terrible; I felt alone and scared.

We were lurching from one crisis to another…

That Summer we took a trip as a family to celebrate my birthday. All was going well until one evening when Charlotte flew into a rage. For the first-time, Sam saw her extreme antisocial behavior at its worst. The next morning, he and I had a long talk. Despite our best intentions, we realized we were failing Charlotte and possibly endangering our other daughter.  

We contacted an education consultant who recommended a residential course of therapy. I felt relieved. Charlotte was going to get help to cope with her depression. When she first started at Spring Ridge Academy for teenage girls, she was defiant, resistant and unwilling to change. Her therapists had their work cut out for them but gradually, over time, Charlotte began to realize that the only way out was to roll up her sleeves and participate.

Charlotte had the most intensive therapy, but we also benefitted.

We had weekly phone therapy sessions and, with help, slowly began to learn how to communicate more openly with each other.

In addition to the weekly calls, the school held a workshop for parents. This event changed my life. It made me realize I need to speak up and say what I feel.

After years of avoiding conflict I stopped being a mouse and started to grow a backbone. 

My relationship with my husband became more balanced and healthy and I stopped saying yes to everything. 

As I became stronger, my relationship with Charlotte changed. She was used to me accepting whatever aggressive behavior she felt like dishing out but now the balance of our relationship was changing for the better.  

It’s been a long, difficult and emotional road…

Though we’re through the worst of it, it’s not over by a long way. Every day, week and month brings a new challenge that tests us all in some way but we have learnt how to communicate our feelings, fears and concerns to each other in a healthy way.

It’s not plain sailing and there are times when I fear we are slipping backwards, but after a time-out and a few deep breaths, the family comes back to talk through the issues. This is progress. None of us are perfect and we all have baggage, but the process we have been through has helped us understand ourselves better and treat each other with respect.

My family means the world me to and I love them all to bits. I feel sad that we didn’t have the knowledge, resources or skills to prevent Charlotte’s slide into depression. But I am happy that because of the care she received, and the lessons we all learned, we’ve become a happier and healthier family.

Names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy.

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Suicide Might be Painless, But What Comes Next is Effing Horrible

girls-story-image

As a child, I was constantly getting my hands dirty with bruises and grass stains were a constant feature on my legs. I was a tree climber, a rock runner, the kid who had to be kept on a leash. I was always skinning my knees and getting myself into situations I had trouble getting out of, like getting stuck up trees. One time I ran straight into a busy street full of cars (hence the leash).

It was during the summer of sixth grade that things started escalating. I didn’t like the way I looked in a bathing suit, I didn’t like the way my mouth looked when I smiled. I didn’t like my teeth, but I didn’t like how I might look with braces. I didn’t like being outside. I didn’t like swimming anymore, something I had done competitively since fourth grade. I couldn’t find my passion anymore. The thought popped into my mind: what if I was depressed?

“Of course you’re not depressed. You could be one of those starving kids in Africa,” is all my dad had to say about my signs of depression. I left the conversation there and went on with my life, quietly loathing everything I did. I grew distant from my friends and found myself shrinking further into the dark recesses of my mind.

This little bead of heaviness and depression grew and grew. The only way I knew to release the tension was via angry fits at my parents. These became more common and intense, developing into blind rages that I had a hard time remembering.

I was told I threw lamps at walls and a phone at my dad’s head. I was told I threatened to kill myself on multiple occasions.

After my guidance counsellor found a suicide note in my backpack, I was sent to hospital and on to the “psych ward.” I was admitted on a Wednesday, and I left on Monday and it was quite an education. I learned about heroin use and how to lie to loved ones. I was taught that self-harm releases emotions – by a girl with a broken piece of bathroom tile.

After that I was placed on an outpatient program and given a cocktail of antidepressants that turned me into a zombie. It was here I smoked my first cigarette; saw my first drug deal; took my first sip of fireball whiskey. It seemed less about therapy and more about hanging out with exotic risk-takers.

But all good things come to an end. A month later, back at home, I tried to kill myself with a mix of orange juice, vodka, half a month’s supply of antidepressants and some oxycodone I found in a bathroom cabinet. To this day, orange juice tastes like vomit and bad times.

After that failed attempt, life went on. Every few days I’d fly into another blind fit of anger and when it was over my family would tiptoe around me, constantly on eggshells. The worst rage I ever flew into was in West Virginia. I don’t really remember much about what happened but I know that during that time my family was scared for my life and, occasionally, their own.

Three weeks later I was dispatched into the middle of nowhere (Trails Carolina, to be specific). I spent the next three months living in a temperate rain forest in the same clothes and sleeping bag. My feet bled, mosquito bites got infected and I would puke plain red quinoa every Wednesday. I didn’t brush my hair or shower once in 90 days. I hugged a stick every night in my sleeping bag, pretending it was a person.

When my time was done, I assumed I was coming home but it wasn’t to be. I was driven straight to a special school in Arizona. The rules were strict, and some of the staff seemed to have it in for some girls.

Everyone had a different story. Some wanted to be free to binge and purge as they wanted; some to get high and lose themselves in drugs; others to be with the boyfriend who showed love with his fists. But we all wanted to go home. We missed our parents, brothers, sisters, friends and pets.

The girls at the school all felt like mistakes. It didn’t matter how many times we were told we were merely the symptom of a nonworking family system. That the rest of our families had the same struggles we did. It didn’t change the fact that we were the ones who had been sent away.

Our families weren’t being scrutinized every second of the day, supervised as they slept. They were at home, they had each other. We had no one. Or so I thought. Over time, my therapy group became like a second family, sharing tears over the assault, the addiction, the suicide ideation, the rape. This teen family understood what I was going through more than my family ever could.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change my Mom, my Dad, my sister for anything in the world. They may never know what I went through, they may have made mistakes. But they helped me the best way they knew how. They’re my family, and they’re irreplaceable.

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I Thought My Family Was Just Fine, Then My Daughter Tried to Jump Out of a Hotel Window

Father and Daughter Playing Together at the Beach at Sunset. Happy Fun Smiling Lifestyle

When was the moment I realized our family needed help? It was probably lying on a hotel bed in a pool of tears, grappling with my teenage daughter to stop her jumping out of the window. That’s a pretty clear sign, right?
Sure, there were indications before that that things were going awry. But the changes were gradual. I was busy at work. And who knows what normal teen behavior looks like anyway?

The funny thing is that around that time it felt like we were living the dream. We had holidays to France, trips to Disneyworld, lazy barbeques with friends and their kids. We were earning good money and had the car, foreign holidays and MacBooks to match.

Yes, there were plenty of 70 hour weeks, but you have to make sacrifices to have a successful career. Family life had to come a distant second place, as my wife and kids knew only too well (I’d tell them). Looking back, I didn’t see how stressful that time was for us all, but that’s the point: I was too busy to notice.

I was so far removed I didn’t notice the change at home until it was too late. My eldest had just started high school and wasn’t getting on well. Her grades were slipping and she had trouble sleeping, was rude and aggressively antisocial.

Soon after, she handed a suicide note to a school nurse. I was abroad with work and rushed home. How did I feel? Truthfully, I was annoyed at my daughter’s ‘attention seeking’. That was a low point for me – not my daughter’s cry for help, but my reaction to it.

We were now officially in treatment. She was transferred to an acute Psychiatric Unit, prescribed an antidepressant and four days later was released to a community care unit. Within three weeks she had started drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and self-harming. It was clear this treatment was doing more harm than good.

Soon after this I sold the company I’d worked long and hard to build up. Sitting by myself in a hotel room with an unopened bottle of champagne, I didn’t feel very accomplished. I didn’t feel happy. And things were about to get much worse.

How did we not see this coming?
My daughter held my smartphone hostage because she didn’t want to go to the restaurant we’d booked. I didn’t respond well, calling her a spoiled rich kid. She hurled the phone against the wall and screamed that she hated me. That was when she tried to open the hotel window and jump out. That was what mental health issues looked like.

Thirty minutes later her rage had abated but I was holding on tight to make sure she didn’t try again. My wife and I did a sweep of the room to remove knives, corkscrews – anything she could use to harm herself.

This was the first time I had experienced what my wife and second child had been living through for many months. While my daughter’s anger was the main symptom, it was clear our whole family was damaged and needed support. I was unable to help my daughter cope with her mood swings and depression. I was frightened and out of control.

My wife and I stayed up long into the night asking ourselves how could we have missed the warning signs and what more we could have done. Over the next few weeks we digested all the information we could get our hands on, and sought advice from friends who had experienced similar challenges.

The result was a long period of intensive treatment for my daughter. A process that was not without stress.

The program began with three months in the wilderness. At just fourteen, my eldest daughter was separated from her family, friends and smartphone. We were allowed to communicate with her only by letter.

While my wife cried every night, I felt relieved. I believed we’d addressed the issue and the program would cure her. Again, I cringe when I think of my reaction to this traumatic upheaval to the family.

My daughter received some 18 months of intense treatment at a Therapeutic Boarding School 2000 miles away, while the rest of us undertook regular family therapy. At the end of that program, my daughter was no longer on medication; she was no longer considered a suicide risk and she was managing her depression. We brought her home for good.

Treatment was a huge drain on our family. It was brutal financially but the emotional toll was worse. Sisters were separated during their formative years, the normal fabric of family life dreadfully torn. Treatment delivered results for us, but at what cost?

I firmly believe that a ‘problem child’ is just the most visible symptom of a ‘problem family’. Preventing the tidal wave of problems that my family experienced begins with a long hard look in the mirror. I only wish I’d learned that lesson earlier.

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MyFampal Launches MyFampal Parent™ – The World’s First Emotional Fitness Tracker For Families

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New service helps families pre-empt and prevent behavioral issues before they can have devastating consequences.

  • Identify potential mental health issues before they take root
  • Recognize warning signs around your children’s emotions and behavior
  • Reduce risk-taking that can lead to serious consequences
  • Measure your child’s recovery during and following therapy
  • 1 month free. Then only $9.99 per quarter

MyFampal today announced the launch of an exciting new emotional fitness tracking service called MyFampal Parent that helps parents take control of their family’s wellbeing. An easy-to-use web-based app helps parents monitor how well their family functions as a unit and then lets them compare their results against other families.

MyFampal Parent™ enables concerned parents to simply and regularly track the behavior of their children through an easy-to-use web app, helping them pre-empt and prevent behavioral issues before they can have more serious consequences. It allows them to record events such as arguments, interactions, or prolonged periods of silence or sleep that may seem unusual at the time. The service then provides parents with insights and draws their attention to concerning patterns of behavior or moods.

Once registered, family members and carers can assess their family’s emotional health with a range of simple but scientifically robust questionnaires and compare their rating against other families around the world. Once each questionnaire has been completed, MyFampal Parent™ will not only present the results in an easily digestible format, but it will also offer immediate advice and raise future potential interventions for parents to address with each child.

MyFampal Parent™ can also track their children’s moods and emotions over time to identify potential triggers and flash-points so they can understand when the family is at its most positive or most vulnerable. And in the future MyFampal Parent™ will help parents connect to local, accredited professionals should they need a greater level of help and support.

“In the same way that we take exercise to maintain physical fitness and long term health, so we need to take action every day to ensure our families’ emotional wellbeing,” said John Kerrigan, co-CEO of MyFampal. “As our children move from childhood into adolescence they are developing both physically and emotionally, as well as making decisions that may impact them for the rest of their lives. MyFampal Parent™ helps families with this growth and gives parents additional support to identify and prevent behavioral issues.”

MyFampal Parent™ not only allows parents to track their child’s behavior, moods and emotions over time, it also recognizes the role of the family in relation to their development. It does this by opening users up to a series of proven questionnaires to assess their perceptions and understand the seriousness of each individual’s issues.
Kerrigan continued, “MyFampal Parent™ meets a pressing need: Parents must have access to more reliable information and wider support than is currently available today. Our focus is on pre-empting and preventing behavioral and mental health issues and stopping them from spiraling out of control”.

“Families that experience the stress of a loved one spiraling out of control will know that support is hard to access and can also be extremely expensive. Family mental health provision is struggling to cope with treating sufferers and simply can’t provide support in prevention. Through MyFampal Parent™ we have tried to address all these issues, providing an educational resource to parents, a way to track and identify issues and then deliver advice on how to address them. This advice will improve over time as we involve our community in the development of proven resources.

MyFampal Parent™ costs $9.99 per quarter (3-month period) and is simple to use on any connected device. It is a web based-service: Users simply log in to use the tracker, answer questionnaires or have access to further research and information. Each user’s information is strictly private, encrypted and secure. Only parents are able to download the information so that they can review it themselves, or if they wish they could share it during a session with a therapist or another professional as real-time evidence of their family dynamics.

For more information about MyFampal please go to: www.myfampal.com and to register for MyFampal Parent please go to: www.myfampal.com/myfampal-parent.

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About MyFampal

MyFampal is dedicated to connecting families with proven resources and experts to pre-empt and prevent developmental problems from becoming life altering and permanently debilitating.?MyFampal is rooted in rigorous scientific evidence and analysis. The founders of MyFampal are two successful entrepreneurs and fathers who each have spent 20 years innovating and investing in healthcare research. They are backed by an Advisory Committee made up of eminent psychiatrists, psychologists and family health experts. MyFampal Parent is the organization’s first product.

MyFampal is a trading name of Ablescent Ltd. Ablescent Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 09594153. Registered office: Future Business Centre, King’s Hedges Road, Cambridge, CB4 2HY, UK. The company also has offices in New Jersey, USA. For more information, go to www.myfampal.com

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Touchpaper Marketing
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Mental Health Issues More Common in Teenage Girls

Here are five new findings about teenage mental health that you’ll find surprising

We all know there are a lot of pressures on teenagers that could lead them down the road of behavioral or even mental health issues. Such as pressure to perform well at school, pressure to conform from various friendship groups and pressure to fit in with their loving family at home when the rest of their lives can often feel like a whirlwind, just to name a few.

But the million-dollar question is: Have teenagers always been this way or are more of them experiencing issues with social situations, depression and anxiety than ever before?

The short answer is: yes.

A new study from the Department of Education in the UK interviewed a cohort of Year 10 students in 2005 and another in 2014 to delve deep into exploring mental health trends, identifying mindset issues and looking into the things teens have found the most challenging in their lives so far.

The findings point to all kinds of fascinating conclusions, but one of the major ones is that overall mental wellbeing in this age group has worsened in nine years and evidence from elsewhere suggests this is not just confined to the UK.

Sure it’s easy to make a sweeping statement like that. But I wanted to pick apart the key findings from the study to understand why and I think you’ll find some of the new findings just as surprising, fascinating and concerning as I did.

1. Teens from advantaged backgrounds exhibited MORE signs of distress

One of the most interesting findings from the study suggested that young people from “relatively advantaged backgrounds” are actually more likely to exhibit signs of psychological distress than what the study perceived to be less advantaged families. What’s more, higher levels of parental education tended to lead to a higher incidence of psychological distress.

The report acknowledges these differences are small. Yet what this highlights is the danger of taking a broad-brush approach and assuming children and teens are fine if they’re from a certain family. Mental health issues can affect people from all backgrounds.

2. Girls are more likely to experience psychological distress than boys

The study also pointed to a definite increase in the split between girls and boys experiencing psychological distress. Between 2004 and 2015 more teenage girls reported experiencing mental health issues than their male counterparts.

The study added that as well as there being a marked difference in the experience between females and males, there was also a significant increase in the cases of psychological distress in single parent and step families, as well as those with long standing illness or disabilities.

3. Teens feel like they need to work harder than ever

Gone are the days of complaining about the work ethic of teenagers. According to the study, teens strongly equate hard work with success. This means they understand the value of working hard. But there’s a catch…

4. Teens feel they have less control over their destiny

There’s a concerning disconnect here. On the whole, teens believe hard work equals success. And yet many of them also believe their destiny is out of their own hands. This is known as ‘locus of control’. The study suggests teens have a much lower ‘locus of control’ than they used to, which means they don’t believe they actually have control over their futures or events that might effect them.

So the problem here is that teens believe they should be working harder than ever, but at the same time don’t believe that they can influence their own outcomes, which in turn leads to psychological distress.

5. It’s not all bad news: Engagement in risky behaviours has decreased and educational aspirations have increased

The report also highlights that between 2004 and 2015 incidences of truanting fell massively from 23 percent to 13 percent. Furthermore, the number of teens expecting to continue on to complete their A levels increased from 59 percent to 65 percent. And on the whole young people were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, like drinking, smoking, drugs and vandalism.

Overall this is positive. But you could theorize that although educational aspiration changes is a positive driver, it’s important to be wary that this added pressure could create troubles later down the line.

Key takeaways:

• Mental health issues can affect children and teens from all backgrounds
• Girls, single parent teens and those in step families are more likely to face challenges
• Teens feel a huge pressure to work hard
• Yet teens also feel more out of control when it comes to defining their own futures

Paul Howard is CEO and Founder of MyFampal, a technology company dedicated to improving family outcomes.

MyFampal has developed a service that helps parents take control of their family’s wellbeing. Think of it like an emotional fitness tracker for your family. We’d love you to try it out, for free by clicking this link: www.myfampal.com/myfampal-parent

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