Have you noticed people smoking e-cigarettes? They look like high-tech versions of conventional cigarettes, but there’s no smoke. People can put a variety of substances inside these slim electronic cartridges and inhale them as vapour. There is no smoke at all, so users commonly refer to it as “vaping” instead of smoking.
Some medical experts argue that e-cigarettes are a good alternative to conventional cigarettes for addicted smokers (although others, such as the Mayo Clinic advises against it). Users still get their nicotine hit, but they avoid the 3,000+ toxic compounds in tobacco cigarettes, and they don’t seem to be producing exhalations dangerous to those around them. Medical research has lagged behind the growth in popularity of e-cigarettes, so we are still waiting for more definitive answers.
But there is little question these high-tech alternatives are bad for kids, because they still involve nicotine, one of the most powerfully addictive drugs out there. No one wants their kids to end up saddled with this difficult, costly lifetime habit.
For parents, the biggest concern is that e-cigarettes may undo decades of effective anti-smoking public health education. And adults who may have hid their smoking from kids (or been forced to avoid their habit in public places like restaurants, bars, workplaces and hospitals), may use e-cigarettes openly without realizing they are normalizing this behaviour for children and teens.
So what should parents do to educate their kids? Read more about e-cigarettes and kids by clicking on this article from the April issue of Montreal Families Magazine.
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CTV News interviewed me for this terrible story about a 24-year-old man who posed as a young girl on Facebook to lure 11 to 13-year-old boys into sending nude pictures of themselves. He would then coerce or blackmail them into sending more by threatening to expose them to their families.
Kids are often quick to take other users’ identities at face value. They don’t yet have the experience and judgement to question such things, or to anticipate this kind of deception. The person on the other end doesn’t have to be a pedophile – it can also be a school bully, or another student attempting a mean-spirited joke.
What can parents tell their kids? If your kids are online, you should bring up the subject of deliberate or mistaken identity switches. Let them know people can do this for all sorts of reasons, out of curiosity, for a joke, to bully someone or to gain someone’s trust to hurt or humiliate them. Tell your children it is unethical – and sometimes illegal – to pass as someone else just to gain their trust. All it takes is a stolen password or using someone else’s picture, and it’s difficult for other users to know what’s going on.
Remind your kids to maintain a healthy dose of suspicion if anyone online asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, or that is illegal. It is important that kids know it is against the law to share pictures of anyone under the age of 18 wearing anything less than a bathing suit. Even if he is your boyfriend (or girlfriend). Even if you send it willingly. Tell a trusted adult. And if they don’t do anything, tell someone else.
Most of the time this kind of deception involves a peer, classmate or acquaintance and not a sexual predator online, but the underlying lesson about the ease of deception online remains the same.
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They may spend plenty of time on Tumblr, Snapchat and Instagram, but many of today’s kids are also learning to use digital technologies in responsible ways for creative, productive projects as well.
This month’s educational column of Montreal Families Magazine was co-written by my 14-year-old twin daughters, Sophie and Alex. They list and describe some helpful apps kids can for school. Check out the article here. Show your kids how to put French verbs right at their fingertips, turn their smartphones or tablets into scientific calculators, and even compress the amount of data they use (reducing your monthly bills in the process).
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