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Know! Transition Increases Risk

posted Aug 24, 2017, 10:01 AM by Tim Pohlman

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Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs reduces their risk of using in the first place.
Know! encourages you to share this Parent Tip with friends and family.
Know! is a program of:
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Link to the Spanish archives
Prevention Action Alliance
6171 Huntley Road, Suite G
Columbus, Ohio 43229
Know! Transition Increases Risk
While there is much excitement about the start of a new school year, there may be much apprehension and anxiety as well. This may be especially so for youth entering into their first year of middle or high school, and for adolescents of any age transitioning to a new school (due to a move or a number of other reasons). The thought of unfamiliar faces, new teachers and coaches, increased academic and athletic expectations, lockers that possibly won’t open and sharing hallways with older students – the risk for first day jitters is at an all-time high. But there is another “risk” factor that increases during such times of transition as well – the risk for the onset of substance use. 
Middle school is the time when substances like alcohol, cigarettes and possibly marijuana, tend to make their first appearance. According to the 2016 Monitoring the Future(MTF) study, by 8th grade, 23% of students drank alcohol, 10% smoked cigarettes, and 13% used marijuana. As young people progress into high school, the risk for use of these particular substances, and others, grow significantly due to an increase in access and availability, drug use by upper class-men and an increase in substances being used at social activities. To compare, among 12th grade students, 61% drank alcohol, 28% smoked cigarettes and marijuana use had more than tripled, with 45% having used in the past year. 
It is also important to note that among high school seniors, the MTF study showed the use of small cigars (16%) and prescription drugs (12%) to be significant.
When it comes to the reasons young people give for drinking, smoking and using other drugs, not much has changed over the years. Teens use in an attempt to:
• Ease anxieties;
• Loosen up at social gatherings;
• Relax when stressed or to “stop feeling” when sad or
• Fit in or give in to peer pressure; 
• Improve academic or athletic performance; 
• Lose weight or gain muscle; 
• And of course some teens use simply to get high,
take a risk or satisfy their curiosity.
What has changed over the years, according to the MTF study, alcohol, tobacco and drug use among teens declined significantly in 2016, and have hit their lowest rates since the 1990s. In looking at the percentage of students still drinking and smoking, however, we see that there remains work to be done. Parents are the first line of defense in the prevention of substance use among youth; and while it may seem very basic, here are some things you can do to protect your child, regardless of age or grade level:
Include these items on your Back-To-School To-Do list:
1. Be active and supportive in your child’s daily life. 
2. Ask questions about substance use and reinforce non-use messages. 
3. Make clear your expectations and consequences for breaking rules.
4. Know where your child is and who they are with at all times. 
5. Make sure young people are being monitored when hanging out together. For times you are not  
  physically present, check in with them regularly.
6. Keep an eye on your child’s social media activities.
In general, middle and high school youth are interested in gaining independence, trying new things and taking some risks – all normal aspects of development. Unfortunately for some, these normal aspects of development may increase the tendency to experiment with substances. Being there for them and having regular and ongoing conversations about the dangers of substance use can and does go a long way toward keeping them safe, healthy and drug-free. 
For the full report from the 2016 Monitoring the Future, click here

Know! The Trending Online Suicide Game - Blue Whale Challenge

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:00 PM by Tim Pohlman

Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs reduces their risk of using in the first place.
Know! encourages you to share this Parent Tip with friends and family.
Know! is a program of Prevention Action Alliance
Link to Prevention Action Alliance's Facebook page
Prevention Action Alliance
6171 Huntley Road, Suite G
Columbus, Ohio 43229

Know! The Trending Online Suicide Game – Blue Whale Challenge

There’s yet another online trend catching the attention of tweens and teens around the world. It’s called the Blue Whale Challenge. But unlike some of the fun, harmless challenges we’ve seen in the past, the Blue Whale Challenge poses dire consequences. To win this game is to take one’s own life. 
This social media game that is being accessed through Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook began in Russia and has made its way into multiple other countries including the U.S. The basis of the challenge is that an anonymous “group administrator,” otherwise known as “the curator,” hands out 50 tasks to selected players that must be completed, documented and posted during a 50-day period. The tasks start off small but become increasingly more harmful, with players being asked to wake up at unusual hours to watch disturbing videos, self-cut in the shape of a whale and take selfies while hanging off the highest rooftop they can find. In the end, the only way to “win” the Blue Whale Challenge is to die by suicide.
It is being debated whether this challenge is real or just a viral hoax. However, police nationwide aren’t taking chances, and are sending warnings to parents and school administrators following the suicides of two U.S. teens whose deaths appear to be connected to the Blue Whale Challenge.
In July 2017, fifteen-year-old Isaiah Gonzales was found hanging in his closet with his cell phone propped up nearby where he had been livestreaming his suicide. According to his family, Isaiah was a happy kid who showed no signs of depression. He had recently joined the ROTC program at his Texas school and was gearing up to start his sophomore year in high school. The family had not heard of the Blue Whale Challenge until after their son’s death. In addition to the suicide video, they found other photos of the teen documenting acts of self-harm on his cell phone – connecting back to the challenge.
A second teenage death in the U.S. is also being linked to the Blue Whale Challenge. A sixteen-year-old Georgia girl, whose family is choosing to keep her name private, committed suicide in May 2017. Her death, like that of Isaiah’s, came as a shock to family and friends. Following her death, her older brother discovered the link to the Blue Whale Challenge. He found a sketch his sister had drawn of a girl with a name beneath it in Russian. It turned out to be the name of a 17-year-old girl who posted a “goodbye” selfie moments before committing suicide in Russia in November 2015 – that traced back to something called the Blue Whale Challenge. The brother then remembered the picture of the blue whale taped next to his sister’s mirror in her bedroom. As he continued to look through her sketches he found pages of whale drawings and magazine cutouts with the words “I Am a Blue Whale” pasted over them, accompanied by drawings indicating self-harm, suicidal statements and multiple entries written in Russian. The family said they had no idea their daughter knew Russian.
As an adult, we wonder why any youth would get involved in something like this in the first place, knowing the consequences. For one thing, we must consider the tween/teenage brain and where it is in development. Logic is not at the forefront. Curiosity is likely a large factor for seeking out this challenge, but depression and desire for acceptance may play a role as well. 
As for what keeps a youth in the game, even after the stakes rise to dangerous levels? Psychological manipulation for one. Former players also say the “curator” threatens blackmail and harm to them and their families if they don’t complete the assigned tasks. 
As parents, we’re shaking our heads in disbelief and wondering what we need to do to prevent our child from getting involved in something so awful. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to stay ahead of all social media trends that may impact our youth, so the most important thing we can do to protect our children is to talk them.  
  • Initiate conversations on the topic: Share the dangers of online challenges such as this; encourage them not to follow the crowd and not to feel pressured into doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.


  • Create an open, trusting environment: Provide them with opportunities to talk to you, then listen without judgement. Make sure they know that no matter what situation they may find themselves in the virtual or “real” world, including something you may find inappropriate, you are there to help them through it.
It is also important to monitor your children’s social media activities: Three hashtags that signal this particular game include: #BluWhaleChallenge, #CuratorFindMe and #I_Am_Whale., a New York-based digital media company, posted an example List of 50 Tasks. While tasks may vary or change over time, being aware of the types of signs to watch out for can only be helpful.
*Please note that the original list of 50 tasks came from and may or may not be authentic.

Know! To Pause, Breathe, Think, Act

posted Jul 26, 2017, 3:47 PM by Tim Pohlman

Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs reduces their risk of using in the first place.
Know! encourages you to share this Parent Tip with friends and family.
Know! is a program of Prevention Action Alliance
Link to Prevention Action Alliance's Facebook page
Prevention Action Alliance
6171 Huntley Road, Suite G
Columbus, Ohio 43229
Know! To Pause, Breathe, Think,

In the previous tip, Know! The Effect of Peer Presence, we discussed the fact that the mere presence of peers can lead a young person to take risks he or she wouldn’t normally take on their own, and that the main culprit is the adolescent brain and its underdeveloped self-control center. In addition to parental supervision and extra caution when allowing your tween/teen to gather with friends, experts say we can help our children curb those impulsive tendencies by encouraging greater self-control.


How do we do that? One strategy is to teach our sons and daughters to activate their internal pause button when a situation calls for it, allowing for a more mindful response as opposed to an unthinking reaction.


Here’s an example scenario to share with your child: You are at a teen party (with my permission). The parents are home and there is no alcohol or other substances allowed. Then a few older teens show up with a secret stash of alcohol and offer it to you. These are peers you look up to and really want to connect with, but you know the “right” thing to do would be to turn down the offer. The parents monitoring the party are unaware of the alcohol brought in and you know that if you so choose, you can likely get away with having a drink. What do you do?


Step 1: Recognize the Signs – You may feel torn between knowing and doing what’s “right” and wanting to impress your peers; your heart may begin to race, you may feel a little knot in your stomach or you may feel a sense of excitement at the thought of taking a risk


Step 2: Press Pause – Hit that internal pause button and allow everything to stop momentarily


Step 3: Take a Deep Breath – A quick shot of oxygen to the brain will allow you to become more aware of your present situation; the more awareness you have in the present moment, the more likely you are to make a better decision


Step 4: Think – There is no need to react immediately, just think for a moment and consider the potential outcomes


Step 5: Act – Hit the “play” button; now you can respond or take action more mindfully


While this five-step process may seem like an eternity, it will play out fairly quickly. Teaching your child to give themselves a few extra seconds before reacting however, can make a huge difference.


Keep in mind that as your child grows and develops, his or her level of self-control will also depend a great deal on you. Your temperament, your parenting style, and your display (or lack) of self-control will greatly influence your child. Though you cannot change your basic temperament, you can change certain aspects of your personality – if needed – to improve parenting. Structure promotes self-regulation in children. Adopting more of an authoritative parenting style, meaning high warmth toward your child, yet clear and consistent rules and follow-through on consequences, will also help your child with self-control.


This learning process will continue throughout adolescence, and will naturally improve as children get older. However, you can help them build this skill by providing them with safe opportunities to practice self-control. As your child strengthens this ability, you, in response, can gradually loosen the external controls.



Sources: Nadya Andreeva: 5 Amazing Benefits of Deep Breath – Breath is Life. Huffingtonpost: Healthy Living - Breathing Exercises Could Help Teens Be Less mpulsive. July 2013. ParentMap: How to Encourage Self-Control in Tweens and Teens. Adapted from Wise-Minded Parenting: 7 Essentials of Successful Tweens and Teens by Laura S. Kastner, Ph.D., with Kristen A. Russell, ublished by ParentMapKelly Pietrangeli: Tiny Buddha: Think Before Reacting  How to Use Your Mental Pause Button.

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Know! What Your Kids Are Watching - 13 Reasons Why

posted Jul 16, 2017, 8:48 PM by Tim Pohlman   [ updated Jul 16, 2017, 8:48 PM ]

knowTalk early and often about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Even when it gets tough.
Empowering Parents To Raise Their Children To Be Substance-Free
PDFEPSClick here to print a PDF of this article so you can start a conversation with your child
Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs reduces their risk of using in the first place.

Know! encourages you to share this Parent Tip with friends and family.

Learn more at:
Know! is a program of:
FLink to the article on the Drug Free Action Alliance Facebook page
Drug Free Action Alliance
6155 Huntley Road, Suite H
Columbus, Ohio 43229
PH: (614) 540-9985
FX: (614) 540-9990



Know! What Your Kids Are


Watching - 13 Reasons Why


If you haven’t already received a parent notice from your local school district regarding the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” let this Know! Parent Tip serve as your alert.

Even if you haven’t heard of 13 Reasons Why, don’t assume your pre-teen or teen hasn’t, and do approach this as if he/she may have caught some, several or all 13 episodes. The controversy surrounding this show is the subject matter and how it is being addressed, including depression, bullying, emotional abuse, substance abuse, sexual assault and suicide – and the viewing audience – as this series is the latest buzz in middle and high schools across the nation.

This Netflix-exclusive series begins following the suicide of a high school teenager named Hannah. She has left behind 13 pre-recorded cassette tapes, which is meant to be passed around to the 13 people she blames for her death. Among the many concerns expressed by many mental health experts, they say the show conveys the idea that if your voice is not heard in life, it will most certainly be heard in death. By taking her own life and leaving behind her thoughts, Hannah was able to cause her unlucky 13 to experience extreme guilt, shame and fear – exacting the ultimate revenge on those who hurt her.

Parents nationwide have received notices from local school districts warning that suicide has risen to become the second leading cause of death among U.S. teens, and that watching 13 Reasons Why may increase thoughts of suicide among this most-impressionable age group – specifically for those who may be experiencing issues similar to those portrayed in the show. Schools are also cautioning that suicide is being glamourized in this series and may be viewed as a way out.

In an article published by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Behavioral Health Expert John Ackerman, PhD says the show misses the mark when it comes to realistic behavior surrounding suicide. He says it is unrealistic, for a teen especially, to put together an elaborate series of tapes in the midst of an emotional crisis and that empathy and revenge are rarely the culprits of taking one’s life. Ackerman says, “…13RW suggests Hannah’s suicide served its intended purpose. It promotes the idea that something permanent and shocking is the only way to make others understand the depth of one’s pain and what others have done to cause it.” He says that it was a potentially dangerous decision by writers and producers, in the final episode, to depict Hannah’s suicide in such a drawn out and detailed fashion and warns of “suicide contagion;” a phenomenon where there is an increase in suicides after exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.

Suicide is not the only concerning factor of a young viewing audience. There are multiple graphic, physical assaults and sexual assaults that occur among these teens, as well of plenty of alcohol and drug use (on top of bad language). While many teens tragically do experience assault and do engage in substance abuse, your child does not necessarily benefit from seeing it played out in front of them.

13 Reasons Why is not intended for the middle school youth and in most cases, not at all appropriate for this age group. If your high school student is among the viewing audience, your best bet is to watch it yourself and discuss it with your teen. It is however, a great series for parents to watch. The majority of us parents raising teens currently, never had to deal with the pressures and public shaming that takes place on social media (at least not in our adolescence) and therefore may not realize how deeply devastating it can be for a teen. This show also gives adults a glimpse at how poorly some young people treat others and the impact it can have – in case we have forgotten, from our high school days.

This series is definitely getting conversations started and that’s a good thing. But the bottom line is that we, as parents, must know what our kids are watching and keep the conversations going.

Suicide Prevention Resources:

Sources: John Ackerman, PhD. Nationwide Children’s Hospital: 13 Reasons Why: Should Parents Be Concerned About This Netflix Series? National Suicide Know! is a program of: Prevention LifelineNetflix.Com: 13 Reasons Why.

Visit to get the conversation going !!!

Know! The Big Sibling Effect

posted Jun 30, 2017, 5:51 PM by Tim Pohlman   [ updated Jun 30, 2017, 5:51 PM ]

Know! The Big Sibling Effect

My little eyes look up to you; you must be ten feet tall.

My little ears hear what you say; I listen to it all.


I see with your friends; and how you act with mom and dad.

I notice how you do in school; and your choices – good and bad.


My big sibling – you’re the greatest; I want to be just like YOU.

I’ll keep watching and keep learning; so please be careful what you do.


There is a unique and special connection between siblings that cannot be denied nor duplicated. They are both tormentors and protectors; a source of teasing one moment, the greatest ally the next. Siblings are also likely to be one and other’s longest-lasting relationship. Four out of five Americans get to experience the growing years with a brother or sister, and in most families, the older siblings serve as role models for the younger ones. The influence of older siblings is so powerful in fact, that it is said to rival that of peers and many times outweigh parental influence - for the better or worse.

Let’s start with the “worse.” When it comes to risky behaviors, research shows that younger siblings are likely to emulate the behaviors and actions of their older siblings. A girl whose teen sister becomes pregnant is four to six times more likely to become a teen mom herself. A younger sibling whose older brother or sister drinks underage is twice as likely to drink underage as well. If that older sibling is a cigarette smoker, the younger sibling is four times as likely to take up the habit. When older siblings use marijuana and other drugs, the risk for use among their younger siblings also increases substantially.

An interesting finding, however, is that the closer in age the siblings, the less likely the younger one is to follow in the footsteps of the older sibling. Some experts say this to be due, in part, to the younger sibling wanting to stand out from his or her older sibling, which could be a positive or a negative, depending on the situation.

 As for the “better” news; good behavior role modeling by older siblings is believed to be just as contagious among younger brothers and sisters. An adolescent is more likely to have a negative attitude toward substance use and make more positive decisions in general when his or her older sibling chooses to be drug-free and demonstrates other healthy lifestyle behaviors.

It’s important to be aware and to share! The first step in drug prevention is awareness. The second piece is conveying that information to your children. First and foremost, make sure you’re talking with your older and younger children on a regular and ongoing basis (age-appropriate of course) about the dangers of substances.

When speaking with older siblings: Stress the importance of their decision making and how it not only impacts their life, but the life of their younger siblings who look up to them.

When speaking with younger siblings: Talk with them about the fact that they are not destined to repeat their older siblings’ negative behavior. Empower younger siblings by reminding them that they are their own person, fully capable of making healthier, more positive lifestyle choices, and avoiding the same mistakes that their older sibling may have made.


Sources: Academia: Sibling Influence on Adolescent Alcohol, Cigarette, and Marijuana Drug Use. Benjamin Guild Gibbs, June 2005Europe PMC - Sibling influences on adolescent substance use: the role of modeling, collusion, and conflictHuffington Post: Proof There’s Nothing Quite Like A Sibling Bond, Aug. 2014NPR: Health News - Big Sibling’s Big Influence: Some Behaviors Run In The Family, April 2013Nursing Schools: 15 Fascinating Scientific Facts About Siblings, May 2011.

Know! To STOP Sexting In Its Tracks

posted Jun 30, 2017, 5:47 PM by Tim Pohlman   [ updated Jun 30, 2017, 5:47 PM ]


Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs reduces their risk of using in the first place.
Know! encourages you to share this Parent Tip with friends and family.
Know! is a program of Prevention Action Alliance
Link to Prevention Action Alliance's Facebook page
Prevention Action Alliance
6171 Huntley Road, Suite G
Columbus, Ohio 43229
Know! To STOP Sexting In
Its Tracks
In the previous tip, Know! Your Child’s Risk for Sexting, we talked about the prevalence of teen sexting, the problems it can cause and the importance of making this topic a priority in your conversations with your pre-teens and teens. In this tip, we provide parents with ideas on taking those conversations beyond, “You better never…”
Sexting isn’t risk-free (as many teens may believe). Schools can only do so much to curtail such activity, which means it falls upon us, as parents and caregivers, to give our children a clear understanding of the dangers and consequences of sexting. 
Here are some suggestions:
  • Get them talking about the topic by asking (in a non-confrontational way) what they know about sexting (keep in mind they may call it something different) and if they know of peers doing it
  • Remind them that messages and photos that are meant to be private can easily be shared, even through apps and such that claim privacy – there is no safeguarding an image or message once sent, as it can easily be received, copied and forwarded
  • Tell them that if they receive a sext to NEVER forward it or share with anyone – as it could be a violation of privacy laws or possibly be considered child pornography 
  • Let them know that there are real scenarios of such images being forwarded and ending up on pornographic websites – causing real safety concerns for the females or males in the photos
  • Share with them the stories of young people who deeply regretted their decision to send inappropriate photos or videos of themselves and are now dealing with extreme social ridicule
  • Be clear on your expectations that they do NOT ever post or send any type of sexually-oriented content, as well as the consequences should this rule be broken
  • Monitor your teen’s phones and other electronic devices – it’s not an invasion of privacy, it’s your job
  • Make it a house rule that cell phones are collected before bedtime and charged in your room overnight (as nighttime is a popular time for sexting to occur)
  • Be actively engaged in your child’s daily life; talk with them regularly about your family’s values; help to build their self-esteem; and teach them about the importance of privacy, intimacy and above all, self-respect
While there is no guarantee that your child will steer clear of such activity, the greatest defense against teen sexting is a parent who communicates openly with their child to provide a clear understanding of the risks, who sets clear expectations and consequences and is actively engaged in their child’s daily life. 

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