Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Evolving Role of Independent Educational Consultants, Part 2

Times change.

Recent events, both large and small, have hammered this point home for me these last few months.  On the positive side, it cost me a few less bucks to fill my gas tank yesterday than it did a few weeks ago; but that joy was quickly squelched when my eldest daughter’s college tuition bill came due. 

For those of you who are followers of Loeta and consistent readers of this blog, you know that we pride ourselves on our ability to change with the times.  Our last blog was all about the changing demographics of our clients, and before that we have spoken about changes in programming and schools as well.  Throughout all of this change one thing remains consistent; the product that we are delivering, however if one were to look at the delivery method today versus 5 years ago one would see a marked difference.

Whether it be more flexible contract lengths, more a-la-carte services being offered, an emphasis on case management, or more effective use of video conferencing and social media; more so than ever the overall trend is that educational consultants must look at each case individually, work with the clients and meet the clients where they are (both literally and metaphorically) as opposed to the older model of generating lists and doing straight placement.

When speaking with families I tell them that with 25 years experience, and literally hundreds of site visits and clients during that time, when it comes to the schools and programs - I am indeed the expert.  Conversely they have raised their child, changed diapers, mended skinned knees, and been there through the good times and bad; therefore they are the experts when it comes to their child.  I let families know I depend upon their expertise, and that as a team we will find the best possible academic and/or emotional environment for their at-risk loved one.

So yes, times have changed.  While many lament at the fact that we can’t buy a new car for $5,000 or home for $50,000, I prefer to embrace the fact that we now have so many more options; newer and better ways to communicate and deliver information, a wealth of research and education when it comes to new modalities of treatment and a society which is finally embracing the fact that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad.

Now If I could just do something about that college tuition bill…

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The changing face of Educational Consulting

So here we are, yet again.  After taking advantage of a few opportunities to work in direct care the last few years, we are so very excited to be back to our roots of educational consulting and therapeutic placement. Now that we are back full-time and taking clients, it seems an opportune time to (re)ask ourselves the tough questions; how has the field of educational consulting changed? Are we staying on top of the trends? And most importantly, how can we serve our families, more specifically our clients, better?

Certainly we have tweaked the delivery of our services these last few years; For example, we no longer do placement only but we also now offer case management services, which is unique in our field.  Also, as many of you know we are one of the few educational consulting firms which is firmly entrenched in the addiction world.  In this capacity we with a network of interventionists, short and long term residential programs and sober living homes to assist our clients whose primary struggle is addiction.

All that being said, when looking back over the data from these last five years, one statistic comes through loud and clear.  Yes, the adolescent market is still the lion's share of our practice but the young adult market, and all its complexities, is an ever growing aspect of our consulting practice.  As a profession we have seen this coming down the pipeline for a while now.  All one needs to do is to ask an IEC who does therapeutic work what is the biggest trend they have seen over the last 5 years, and almost universally one will hear it's that their clientele has gotten both older and sicker. 
Certainly those on the programming end of things have seen this trend for a while now, and have expanded their services accordingly.  For example, many wilderness programs and residential programs now offer a young adult track to augment the fine work they already do. One only needs to go back a few years when options for the 18-25 year old whose primary diagnosis was not substance related were few and far between.

Simultaneous to this phenomenon of program expansion, there has been an explosion of age-specific programs for young adults recently.  Having spent the better part of the last year working directly with young men in recovery, we feel we are well educated on the trends in the addiction world and have positioned ourselves well to take advantage of the opportunities out there for families who are struggling.   With this new knowledge base, Loeta will be in a strong position to serve families well along their entire journey. 

We look forward to hearing from you about how Loeta can assist you and your families.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Evolving Role of Independent Educational Consultants

“Oh man.”  I thought, “This won’t end well.”

That is seriously what I thought, I mean just about every time I have witnessed one of these audience participation/role modeling exercises at a conference the inevitable happens.  Someone acts like the joker, or tries to figure out the “trick” and the presenter ends up trying to reel in a crowd where half are mentally somewhere else, and the other half are doing emails. The expression herding cats often comes to mind...

But this time it was different.  At one point I  looked around, and people were really watching, almost eagerly anticipating the dreaded horn sound when the participants, some of whom slipped right into playing appropriate roles, made a mistake.  By the end the whole audience, numbering close to 125, was enthralled and eager to see how this activity is used in the field.

Welcome to the 1st Annual FITS Conference, hosted and put on by Second Nature Wilderness Programs. 

Now what made this all work so well was the brilliance of metaphorically locking IEC’s and treatment professionals in a room together and forcing all of us to see that we are all doing the same thing.  Now of course I am coming at this from the angle of an Educational Consultant, but for years it seems that so many people have made assumptions about the roles that IEC’s play in the placement and follow up care of clients who struggle in more traditional settings.  Granted, if you were to sit 10 IEC’s down, you would most likely get 10 different answers, but I truly feel that the good IEC’s, ones who have worked to understand the treatment world, understand the unique collaborative nature of this side of the business. 

It was an utter joy to sit down and see my fellow IEC’s sitting and chatting with interventionists and therapists, and no one seemed threatened.  Everyone understood that we are all in this for the same reason, and we all bring our own unique skill set and expertise to the table.  Instead of resentment and accusations, we witnessed folks truly spending time trying to learn from each other; plans were made to have IEC’s attend and even present at what are traditionally thought of as addiction conferences, panels with professionals from all corners of the treatment world, hosted by wilderness therapists and being peppered with questions from therapists, IEC' s and interventions ended 15 minute late because no-one wanted them to end and  typical of this field, I have never seen so many hugs when a group said good bye.

Just like that wonderfully mixed group who participated in the activity during that session, we were a mixed crew; a crew who realized that after a great deal of wrangling, negotiation, denial and missteps that to reach our common goal we all need to work together.





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Educational Consulting with the "Failure to Launch" generation; what does independence really mean?

Last week, after spending the day at the School Connections meeting in Boston, MA, I treated myself with a date, a date with my college freshman daughter.  It’s always hard to get a few minutes with her, between her studying (ha!) and basketball practice/games and me running my own business, it’s a rare moment that this Dad can sneak away and have an uninterrupted dinner with his (now) adult daughter. 

During the course of our dinner between mouthfuls and small talk about her sister and my parents, there was a silence, and then she exclaimed, “You know I really do live on my own now.  Think about it, I get myself to classes, practice and games, get my own meals and don’t have to tell anyone where I’m going” Almost immediately I thought, well if you truly live on your own I guess I can pass along these tuition bills to you, but I suppressed that somewhat sarcastic response and just sat back, smiled and watched her as she explained to me the rigors of being in college.

After I got back from dinner I started thinking about what my daughter has talked about, and it got me thinking; what does independence really mean?  I’m sure we all have different definitions – is it living outside of the home?  On your own?  Or is it when you get your first job and that heavily coveted paycheck.  Maybe it is as my daughter says and it’s when you head off to college or basic training. 

Here’s the kicker; it doesn't matter what your perception if independence is; it’s what their perception is. 

Think about it, if a child feels independent, in their mind then they are.  Now what that independence looks like, and whether we agree that they truly are independent is a whole different discussion.  Also a different discussion is why we seem to have such a huge number of dependent, or failure to launch young adults on our hands these days.  Certainly theories abound; kids are growing up too fast, there’s too much technology, kids aren’t responsible enough, poor diets, poor parenting, they’re just lazy, we’re just lazy etc. etc. These are debates which are larger than this little blog, but whatever the reason(s) the reality is that there are a growing number of kids not taking what we consider the traditional path to adulthood.

This trend has impact across the board.  In the Independent Educational Consultant world, it means what we refer to as the young adult market has exploded.  While not a scientific study, anecdotally the young adult portion of Loeta’s business has gone from less than 10% in 2009 to nearly 50% today.  Coinciding with this has been an explosion of young adult programming in our field.  Whether it be wilderness programs, augmented rehab programming or residential therapeutic programs the choices are becoming wider and more varied. 

Some of these programs do a great job of giving these clients an avenue to utilize the tools they have gained over the years while getting them set up in a new city in school or the workforce, while others start from step one with intense therapy and/or treatment.  Some are a shorter more intense programs while others take up to a year to support their clients. A young person can now choose a college based on the college’s counseling and what kind of sobriety support they have; indeed we have come a long ways from Faber College.

At Loeta we spend a lot of our time on the road visiting these programs, just as we do with the adolescent programs, we get to know the people, we spend time with the clients, and we work with the clients on helping choose just the right program for them.  It’s a different process than the one when we work with families of adolescents, we acknowledge the independence of the adults we are working with, and work in conjunction with them, the programs and parents to help chart out a path.  It’s a very collaborative process, and one we are proud of.

So after dinner, I paid (of course), and we walked back to my “T” stop. After a hug goodbye, I watched her run across the street on her way up to her dorm and I though there goes a truly independent young woman, or, as I like to think of her, my little girl.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Heather, Molly and Sophie; 2 are sweet kids, one is an illegal drug - do you know which is which?

Rarely here at Loeta do we repeat the information shared in our newsletter in our blog, but we received such a positive response about this important information, we thought we'd break tradition this once..
So here is the October, 2013 Loeta Educational Consultants Newsletter...As always we encourage you to pass this information along and please follow and share us; it really is the best way to spread the word!
We all know that Miley Cyrus has been in the news a lot lately, and being the father of two teenage daughters, and one who takes some pretty long road trips with them, I get to listen to a lot of music which isn't really, how shall I put it delicately, of my generation.  In any case, on a recent road trip, I found myself listening to some Miley Cyrus music.  While I wasn't able to make out all of the lyrics, I can tell you it's safe to say that Ms. Cyrus's  Hannah Montana days are but a distant memory to her. Anyway, listening to her music got me thinking...
 No, I'm not going to talk about twerking, (I'll admit it now, I was one of those who actually had to look that up)  I'm going to talk about Miley's song, "We Can't Stop". You might know the one, where she utters the line, "Dancing with Molly." After I heard it, and did some investigation into the expression "Dancing with Molly,"  I started to think; just how knowledgeable am I about the drugs being consumed these days?

So I did a little research, and came up with some sobering facts.  The scariest to me is this; according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy(2010) "National data on emergency  room visits document a dramatic escalation in the number of admissions for non-medical use for prescription and over the counter drugs.  The number of admissions grew from 538,237 in 2004 to 917,974 in 2008 an increase of 81% , contrasted with a less than 1% increase in the numbers of visits involving illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.
So just how much do we know about the drugs people are using and abusing these days?  Do we know the difference when someone talks about Triple C's or RISP? Or  are we hopelessly out of it?  We accept that as adults we will always be a bit out of it, but that doesn't mean we are allowed to turn a blind eye to what's going on; it's time to get educated. As for my own education, at least now the next time I hear that Miley is dancing with Molly I'll know she's making a drug reference, not talking about dancing with one of her girlfriends....But you already knew that, right?
BTW, Triple C  is one of the street names for dextromethorphan, or DXM a commonly abused OTC (over the counter) drug,  RISP is runners in scoring position, a baseball stat; go Sox

'Dabbing' the new drug of choice for teens?

Posted: 09/16/2013
By: MaryEllen Resendez
 It’s a new twist on an old drug and it’s becoming increasingly more popular among teens in Arizona.
 The drug is called “Butane Hash Oil” or BHO.
 On the street it goes by many names including shatter, wax, ear wax, honey oil, amber or dabbing. 
Dabbing because you only need a dab.
 “It's something that you need one hit of and you’re good for quite a while," said Shane Watson with the “Not My Kid” organization.
 Watson helps educate parents on the dangers of teens and drugs. Watson speaks from the heart, because he’s lived with the addiction hash oil can cause.
“I was the good student, I was the good kid, I was smart, I was strong and I was successful,” recalls Watson.
He was the kid no one guessed would do drugs, but he did. He started with alcohol and marijuana, but his curiosity lead him to hash oil and harsher drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin.
“I told myself tales that's not going to happen to me, I can out think it, I can out power it, I can outwork it,” said Watson.
But he couldn't; soon drugs were overpowering him.
“It was intense. I felt like I was walking through wet concrete," is how Watson describes the hash oil experience.
Watson lost a decade of his life to addiction. He hurt those around him and soon found he had lost everything.
“The bottom was waking up in Durango jail here in Phoenix being charged with multiple felonies. In one shot, in one evening, everything was gone,"  recalls a remorseful Watson.
Now Watson and Not My Kid are seeing a rise in the popularity of hash oil among teens, some users as young as 11 years old.
Only in this latest butane form of hash, oil is much more potent.
According to Not My Kid, strong strains of marijuana contain 25% tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, while some butane hash oil can contain upwards of 60-90% THC.
For teens, it’s easier to conceal, easier to carry, but much more dangerous to make.
“It uses butane, a very dangerous and flammable solvent and there have been fires. there have been explosions,” explains Watson.
Watson points out to a recent explosion in a town house in Tucson where cooking a batch of “Dab” set off back-to-back explosions and sent glass flying 15 feet into the air.
Another danger is butane can be left in the oil.
“The person that uses it could be smoking butane which is neurotoxic and very dangerous,”  Watson warns.
The oil is thick like honey and sometimes the same color. It can be a yellow wax like honey combs or ear wax, but it can tar colored.
Watson tells ABC15 teens will often use household items to make “Dab."
Parents should look for items like butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol, and coffee filters.
“It's a reality out there and it's something parents need to be aware of and wake up to that it is happening,”  Watson stresses.
Watson tells ABC15 teens will often use household items to make “Dab."
Parents should look for items like butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol, and coffee filters.
“It's a reality out there and it's something parents need to be aware of and wake up to that it is happening,”  Watson stresses.
Watson tells ABC15 teens will often use household items to make “Dab."
Parents should look for items like butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol, and coffee filters.
“It's a reality out there and it's something parents need to be aware of and wake up to that it is happening,”  Watson stresses.
Watson agreed to speak to ABC15 about his drug experiences to help educate kids about the effects and dangers of drugs, and to discourage the use of them.


Can you match the street name with the drug?

1 Molly                         a Ritalin
2 Special K                  b DXM
3 Kibbles n Bits           Ecstasy
4 Skittles                     d  Ketamine

Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among U.S. Teens

More than 5 million, nearly 25 percent, said they had abused these medications

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter
The United States appears to be in the throes of a prescription drug abuse crisis among teens, with a new survey showing that 24 percent of high school students -- more than 5 million kids -- have abused these medications.
That's a 33 percent increase from 2008, the survey authors noted. They said that 13 percent of teens acknowledged having experimented at least once with either Ritalin or Adderall (normally prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD) that was not prescribed for them.
What's more, 20 percent of teens who admit they have abused prescription drugs said their first experience doing so was before the age of 14, with 27 percent mistakenly believing that prescription drug abuse is safer than "street drugs," such as cocaine or ecstasy.
Compounding the problem: The parents surveyed seemed to share in this misconception, with almost one-third buying into the notion that Ritalin or Adderall can boost a child's school performance even if the child is not diagnosed with ADHD.
The findings stem from a nationally representative poll launched in 2012 by The Partnership at, in conjunction with the MetLife Foundation. The survey involved nearly 3,900 teens currently enrolled in grades 9 through 12 at public, private and parochial schools, along with more than 800 parents who participated in at-home interviews.
"From my perspective, one way to look at this is that we've got a real public health crisis," said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO at the Partnership organization. "And it's not getting better. In fact, it's getting deeper and more complex," he said.
"The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it," Pasierb continued. "And it's very important to note that, on this, kids and parents are in the same place. Kids say that they don't think that their parents are going to be upset if they know about this, and parents are essentially saying the same thing," he pointed out.
"Now, if cocaine or heroin use was going up the way prescription drug use is parents would certainly be freaking out," Pasierb added. "And they should be now, because prescription drug abuse is no better."
Among the findings: one-third of teens think there's nothing particularly wrong with the notion of using prescription medications that were never prescribed for them to tackle a specific injury or illness, with almost one-quarter believing that their parents are more concerned about street drug use than the misuse of prescription drugs.
Sixteen percent of parents also said they think prescription drugs are less dangerous than street drugs.
Perhaps this explains another survey finding: While about four in five teens said they had discussed both alcohol and marijuana use with their parents and almost one-third said they had talked with them about crack/cocaine, only between 14 percent and 16 percent said that the topic of painkiller/prescription drug abuse had ever come up.
This was true despite the fact that a parent's medicine cabinet is the repository for 56 percent of the prescription meds teens say they are abusing, the poll found, with nearly half of parents acknowledging that there are no barriers to access at home.
Indeed, 20 percent of parents actually admitted to willfully giving their teen a prescription med that they had on hand, for which their child had no prescription.
That said, Pasierb stressed that the goal of the survey was to draw needed attention to the misconceptions that are at the heart of a rapidly growing problem.
"We know that kids who start abusing when they are very young are much more likely to have an addiction problem as adults," he said. "So, parents need to intervene. They need to control supply and demand by locking up their medicine cabinets and throwing out old expired drugs. And they need to constantly weigh in, starting at very young age, even if they think they have the greatest kid in the world. They need to tell their child about the risks, and make clear how upset they will be if their child abuses these drugs."
One parent speaks from experience.
"I had to learn to set real rules for our home," acknowledged Kat Carnes, a single mom from Houston who has been helping her teenage daughter struggle with an addiction problem that involved a mix of alcohol, street drugs (such as ketamine, ecstasy and cocaine), and prescription meds (including antidepressants).
"She was in 8th grade when all this happened," Carnes recalled. "[But] as I learned more, I discovered that she had been using for a couple of years already, especially during her 7th-grade year, when I was battling breast cancer and not able to focus as closely on her as I probably should have."
Yet, Carnes said the mistakes she made as a parent who initially overlooked her child's growing addiction problem were "pretty common," despite the fact that she is well-versed in medicine and health issues, through her work as a scientific editor and a manager at a major local cancer center.
"I just sort of counted on her to do the right things," Carnes added, "and when she didn't I either tried to minimize it or just hid from it because I didn't know what to do."
Carnes explained that her daughter has now been sober for almost 22 months, with the assistance of a local drug abuse 12-step program and the camaraderie of other families struggling with teen drug abuse. Although careful to describe her daughter's recovery as an ongoing "process," she suggests that much of the progress has been rooted in open and honest communications.
"We hold each other accountable," said Carnes, "for our words and actions."

Answers to drug quiz...
1c, 2d, 3a,4b

Friday, October 4, 2013

How "Undercover Boss" helped me become a better Independent Educational Consultant

Have any of you ever seen that show Undercover Boss?  I've seen a few episodes over the last few years, and it's quite an interesting show.  I am always amused when they have the scene where the white collar boss (usually with a bad toupee on) attempts to work the register of the fast food restaurant or is a chambermaid  at a fancy hotel for one shift.  There is always that odd juxtaposition of the hotel owner being dressed down by hourly employee for not doing his or her job right in the first scene, and then the look of shock when they realize it was actually the owner they were scolding. 

Well in some ways that’s the way I spent my last year.  After 9 years away from running a school, I was thrust back into the world of therapeutic boarding schools.  And like the folks on "Undercover Boss", I often found myself listening to parents, students and staff members speaking about their Independent Educational Consultants (IEC’s), most of whom had no idea I had spent 9 years being an IEC, and more than likely knew of whom they spoke.  I’m not going to lie, during some of the stories I winced at mistakes made, but I have to say that most of the stories I heard made me realize how caring, intelligent and well-trained most IEC’s really are.  During this time of listening I learned a lot about our profession, and have picked up a few lessons…

So what exactly are these lessons?  Well first humility. Some of the most powerful and empowering moments I was involved with this last year, were when I saw IEC’s work inclusively as opposed to exclusively.  I (re)learned very quickly that no one person knows everything, and if we are truly out for the best interest of the child we need to take advice and input for a wide range of sources; parents, therapists and most importantly, the kids themselves.

Second lesson?  You can’t communicate enough.  When one does this job for a while, I think one gets a little too comfortable with the process. On a few occasions this year I was able to see how effective communication from an IEC positively impacted a child’s stay at my school.  When an IEC is pro-active as opposed to reactive, it is so much better for the child.   We as IEC’s know what the process looks like, but this last year really let me see the families go through it all, and the thing I feel could have helped in almost every tense situation was more communication.

My third lesson is harder to define, but in essence it’s to have more fun.  In watching the relationships between families and their IEC’s there was a discernible difference between the families who could sense the passion and enjoyment their IEC felt for their job, and those who were seemingly just cashing a check.  Our passion for what we do definitely comes through, and our positive (or negative) energy most definitely impacts not only the parents, but also the kids we are working with. 

So now that I've had my year as "Undercover Educational Consultant,"  I am so excited to take the lessons I learned, couple them with the new-found passion I have for working with the kids and apply them to all of my families.

Who knows, maybe this could be a new episode of the show; I wonder who’d they get to play me??? 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bullying in the Age of Facebook...A Scary New World

I remember going to a summer hockey camp back in the mid 1970’s; 2 weeks of being on the ice an average of 6 or so hours a day with lots of other activities including tennis, swimming and flag-football games to fill the summer days of a bunch of 10-18 year old boys.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it…

Well it wasn’t.

You see I was one of the 10 year olds; low man on the totem pole, so my life was pretty rough.  I was picked on and bullied fairly intensely, and I spent many nights crying in my pillow. But I was lucky, the leader of the camp was a nice gentleman who took me under his wing, and allowed me to escape. He would invite me over to his faculty apartment and I had quiet evenings away from what seemed like hell. By the end I even learned to really enjoy myself. In retrospect what I went through was really just a normal amount of “boys being boys”, and in many ways was a learning experience for me, but at the time it seemed pretty bad.

The big difference between my experience and what happens today? I was able to get away, to escape. I wasn’t hounded 24/7. There was no Facebook, no mass texts, no internet. Think back for a bit; imagine if those bullies you faced in middle school had access to your entire life. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it. As adults we just can’t imagine it, but the reality is our children live it everyday. For those who compare what we went through as kids to what’s happening today, I say you are at best being na├»ve, at worst cold and unfeeling.

I made it through that hockey camp unscathed. My hope is that you pass the this blog along to friends, professionals and kids so they can see what cyberbullying is all about, and more kids can make it through school the same way.

The article below gives some great insight into the cyberbullying world, and has some great advice at the end.  We need to ALL stand up against this.


Cyberbullying versus Traditional Bullying
When joking crosses the line. Published on May 14, 2012
by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C. in Teen Angst

  Just how different is traditional bullying from cyberbullying? Studies are beginning to show that the way youth bully online is a lot different from traditional schoolyard bullying. Teens may think what they are posting or texting is just a joke, but if you're on the receiving end it may not be all that funny. In fact, if the "joking" is repetitive, it could cross the line into bullying, more specifically cyberbullying.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics cyberbullying is the "most common online risk for all teens and is a peer to peer risk." According to a study released by the University of British Columbia cyberbullying is a big problem, even more common than traditional bullying. About 25 to 30 percent of the young people surveyed admitted experiencing or taking part in cyberbullying, but only 12 percent said the same about traditional bullying. To top it off, 95 percent of the youth said that what happened online was meant to be a joke and about 5 percent was actually meant to harm someone. So, what makes cyberbullying so different from traditional bullying?

In traditional bullying you're usually working with a bully, victim or bystander but that's not the case in cyberbullying. In fact, it's not uncommon to play multiple roles such as cyberbully, target and witness. Previous research indicates that cyberbullying is rarely pre-meditated like traditional bullying, where the bully plans his or her line of attack. In many cases cyberbullying is done impulsively and not planned out like in traditional bullying where the bully pre-meditates the next attack. Also, traditional bullying has the following characteristics that may not be present in cyberbullying cases:

•a need for power and control
•proactively targeting the victim

So, just what is cyberbullying? By definition, it's the deliberate and repeated harm inflicted through the use of cell phones/Smartphone's, computers/tablets, and other electronic devices (including Wi-Fi gaming devices). It's an easier way to bully because unlike traditional bullying it doesn't involve face to face interaction. Teens can become desensitized to a computer screen, and say or do things they wouldn't do to a person's face. The computer desensitizes teens and decreases the level of empathy they feel toward the victim. Plus, when they can't see the person's reaction to what they post or text they may not know if they've gone too far.

It appears that today's youth don't equate joking around with bullying. Even though they do it jokingly it can cut the receiver deeply. By definition a joke is something that is suppose to but here's the magic question "who's laughing?" Ask any teen who's been cyberbullied and they probably won't see the humor in the situation. Plus, when something is posted online, it can be humiliating. That old saying "www" means the "whole world's watching" holds true and cyberbullying victims know it. Bottom line is cyberbullying hurts.

Just Imagine...

You get a text from a friend to check out someone's page, you go there and see degrading posts and a crude picture of you in a swimsuit that had been Photoshopped. Following the posts are a string of lewd comments. You start getting text after text from people, some you don't even know, saying mean things about the post. It feels like the world is laughing at you only you're not laughing. You dread going to school the next day because you have to face all of these people. Your stomach is churning and your head is pounding. You pray it will just go away, like it never happened. "MAKE IT STOP, Make It Stop, make it stop." screams through your mind. You have just entered into the world of a victim. What may have started as a mean joke crossed the line into something more severe, cyberbullying. Scenarios like this are just one example of how some teens are misusing technology.

Young people can quickly spread a rumor through texting, taping an embarrassing incident and posting it on YouTube, or uploading pictures or unkind comments on social networking sites. There are many different avenues that can be used to cyberbully. The key to decreasing cyberbullying is educating today's youth to think before they click. One wrong click has the power to change someone's life forever.

Teaching teens to protect themselves online is very important. I compare learning how to drive a car to teaching teens how to use technology. Here's my logic, odds are you wouldn't turn your teen loose with the keys to the car if they haven't been properly trained or educated to operate a vehicle Why? Because it's dangerous! He could kill himself or someone else. Well, we should realize that the wonderful cyber world also possesses dangers. The internet highway can be dangerous if teens post inappropriate material, bully, give out personal information to strangers, etc. So we really need to educate our teens about how to use technology appropriately. Just as you probably wouldn't toss the car keys at an inexperienced teen and tell him to go take a spin, you shouldn't place a Smartphone or any other electronic device with internet capability in his hands without making sure that he knows how to use it properly.

Let's help our teens realize that feelings do exist in the cyber world, manners do matter, and most importantly, there's a real life person on the receiving end of the messages... A person who laughs, cries and hurts, just like we do. Please help teach our young people that what they do and say to one another off or online does make a difference.

Teens can use these tips to protect themselves online.

•Tell a trusted adult if you're being cyberbullied.
•If you know someone who's being a cyberbully tell her/him to knock it off, if they don't report it. •Contact host/site providers if inappropriate material is being posted on their site.
•Save all evidence if you're being bullied online. Don't delete without keeping a copy for yourself. •Don't respond to rude messages.
•If someone angers you, wait, don't fire off a rude comeback. It'll only make things worse.
•Don't share personal information online.
•Protect your username and password. Don't share it with friends.
•Don't open anything from someone you don't know.
•Keep privacy settings on your computer. Secure your information.
•Choose your friends wisely.
•Only accept close friends on your social networking sites.
•Don't post anything online that you wouldn't mind your parents seeing.
•Most importantly, treat others as you want to be treated. Think before you click. Look at what your posting or uploading and ask "Would I want someone saying or putting that about me online?" If the answer is "No" then don't do it.

While the internet can be fun and super cool it comes with responsibility. Have fun with technology just take heed and exercise caution when using it. A joke is meant to be funny but not at the expense of another person's feelings. Young people joking is one click away from cyberbullying.