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Caution: You’re Tween May be Stressing Over Snap Streaks

Why Snapchat maybe more important to your tween than homework

If you have ever tried to take a smartphone away from a socially savvy tween, then you have probably witnessed what can only be described as a look of sheer terror in the tween’s eyes. Taking a smartphone away from the average middle schooler can easily be equated with ripping out her right arm. I know, sounds dramatic huh? More than a few parents however, can confirm that such a reaction is actually rather common.
If your tween is an avid Snapchatter then such a situation may feel to him like social suicide. Don’t be surprised if your tween begs for a minute or two to at least make arrangements, after all, someone else will have to cover his hard earned streaks!
Are you confused, baffled, unclear about what this means?
Streaks are a Snapchat phenomenon.

What’s a Snapchat Streak?

A steak occurs when a Snapchat user ‘snaps’ another ‘friend’ within a consecutive 24-hour period and receives a snap back. Once this occurs a flame icon appears indicating that the user is now on a streak with that friend. Once a user is on a streak a number will appear next to the flame this tells the user how many consecutive days the streak has been going. In order to continue the streak each friend must send a snap back and forth. An hourglass emoji appears next to a ‘friend’s’ name when the streak is about to end. This cues the user that they need to send a Snap in order to keep the streak going. 

Ok I Get it, So What??

It is well known that the number of ‘friends’ a tween has on social media is seen as a commodity, a sign of social status. Quite recently, the number of streaks a tween maintains has achieved similar recognition. It is not uncommon to hear a tween bragging about the number of streaks she has going as well as about the length of each of these streaks. The longer the streak, the higher it’s perceived value.
You maybe reading this thinking, “Ok, so what’s the big deal, really?”  Sending a Snap back and forth only takes seconds, so theoretically the time commitment is minimal. Say however, your tween has 50 streaks going at one time (that’s right 50, not really so uncommon), he then has to keep track of all of his streaks. If his phone gets taken away as a consequence, or even if he is going someplace where wireless access is not guaranteed, he runs the risk of ruining all his hard work. If he misses the 24-hour time frame, his streak ends. This is why it is not uncommon for kids in trouble will quickly snap a trusted friend and ask him to take over his streaks. password.

Managing the Stress of Snap Streaks

As always the particular dilemmas of raising a tween in the digital age brings with it some unique situations. Over the course of reading this a little light bulb of understanding may have gone off in your brain. This maybe especially true if you are a parent of a tween who has been begging you to get Snapchat, or maybe even a smartphone. Snapchat is the way many tweens communicate with each other regularly. This may explain why your tween rarely seems to send texts or IM’s to friends. By age 12 or 13 a large number of tweens are active users of the app. It is important to understand that technically you need to be 13 to sign-up for a regular account. Suffice it to say, if there is a will, there is a way.  Let’s be clear that this is in no way a endorsement for allowing your 12 year old to have an account.  It is just important for parents to realize that it is not uncommon to find a 12-year-old user whom with or without the knowledge of their parents has found a way to open an account. Toward this end it is always recommended that parents get the passwords for accounts from their tweens. Parents may also want to open their own account so that they can regularly follow their tween’s stories (Snaps users send to all their ‘friends.’).

A Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way

Knowledge is always a powerful ally. With this thought in mind, sit down with your tween and discuss her Snap activity. She is likely to be completely surprised and actually impressed by your understanding of Snap streaks. Find out how many she has, and ask her how she keeps up. It is no secret that social media commonly causes distraction during homework time. This is especially true if your tween is participating in a multitude of Snap streaks. Set parameters on smartphone use with your tween. When the discussion includes a validation that you understand that keeping up streaks is important to your tween, she in turn is more likely to be cooperative and involved. It is important to set limits on Snap streaks. Work with your tween to determine how much time and stress keeping up with streaks is costing her.
Discuss priorities with your tween, homework obviously has to come first but what about smartphone free time with family? 
Strategize with your tween about how to get streaks covered when he may not be available. If for example, he is going to ask a friend to take over, suggest that he create a temporary password he can give to the person covering. One quick caution, remind him that because Snaps disappear, he cannot monitor the content his friend is sending to maintain his streaks.  This can of course be concerning. Your tween may scoff at the idea that a friend would send inappropriate content, but it is very important that your tween carefully consider who he asks to cover for him.

Is This for Real???

You maybe reading this and feeling absolutely incredulous that you should need to waste your breath talking to your tween about streaks. Perhaps you think your tween should just stop such engagement. This is certainly your right as a parent. Let me be clear however, streaks may really matter to your tween. Suddenly asking your tween to stop keeping up her streaks could really stress her out. Streaks allow kids to interact socially and feel part of something many of their peers are doing.  As with any activity, isn’t it all about striking a balance? Also keep in mind; fads fall into and out of place quickly. This is especially true for your technology savvy tweens. If you allow your tween to participate with appropriate limits in place, it is likely that this craze will become boring and short-lived, soon replaced by some other tween obsession. Have you heard about Slime…?




Back to School Battles Begin-Now What??

www.freedigitalphotos.comFor most kids the first few weeks of school are fueled by an exciting energy. It is when the schoolwork begins to build slowly to a stable crescendo however that some tweens experience feelings of anxiety, annoyance, and yes, even anger. Summer suddenly feels like a lifetime ago. Although as a parent you may have tried to prepare for the moment when the attitude toward school switches, once you are in the thick of the battle, it is hard to remember how best to proceed. You may long for the days when your son’s biggest dilemma was whether to go to the pool or the beach with his friends.

Back to school battles are not of course always related to schoolwork. As a parent it can be painful to wake your child up at the crack of dawn to get ready for school. This is especially true if instead of greeting you with a sunshiny smile, she flashes you a smirk that clearly says, “leave me alone, I’m still sleeping.” The social pressures associated with middle school can also contribute to cranky attitudes.

The tween years are often synonymous with feeling awkward and out of place. Tweens tend to be super sensitive and sometimes overly considered with how others perceive them as well as their family members. This why tweens are so easily embarrassed by what their parents say and do.

How do you quell the angst in the air? How do you pre-empt daily battles and instead encourage problem solving?

Here are a few hints:

1.)  Respond with calm. Although your tween may present as overwhelmed and irritability, your own reaction can really change the tone of a situation. With the emotion out of the way, you and your tween will have a better chance of talking through a situation successfully.

2.)  Affirm your understanding. Few things are more validating than a parent who acknowledges a tween’s angst, or anxiety. Even if you don’t agree with your tween’s perspective saying you can see how she is feelings is sometimes enough to thwart a battle before it begins.

3.)  May it a ‘can do’ conversation. Push your tween to problem solve dissatisfying situations by focusing on the things that can be changed. This will make his problem solving efforts far more satisfying and productive.

4.)  Set up satisfying solutions. Take the time to talk through situations to find agreeable answers. If for example, your tween gets upset and/or irritable when you wake her up in the morning suggest that she set up a loud alarm clock across the room. While she may still get annoyed that she has to get up, you will no longer be the target of her attitude.

Back to school battles can be difficult to de-escalate. When you are armed with a commitment to communication you can talk through potential conflict and generate satisfying solutions. 


Virtual Budgeting Challenge Teaches Teens How to Manage Money

Imagine an opportunity to teach teens how to manage their money without facing the risk of losing a single cent. The H&R Block Budget Challenge is currently offering high school students such a situation.

Fifty eight percent of teens surveyed nationally reported they are concerned that they will not be as financially successful as their parents. One third of parents surveyed reported that they are more comfortable talking to their teens about, cigarettes, substance use and bullying than they are about money. Only five states currently require at least one course in personal finance offered to high school students prior to graduation.

H&R Block Dollars & Sense, an educational program aimed at helping teens learn about financial management, has created an interesting initiative to teach teens to manage money. The H&R Block Budget Challenge is a free, online, learn-by-doing simulation created for high school students. Teachers register students to participate in the challenge.

Once enrolled, students begin to virtually ‘live’ the financial life of a recent graduate who has been working for six months. To make the experience realistic, students receive a salary and an opportunity to maximize their earnings through a 401K. Along with the monetary benefits however, come bills. Students must learn to effectively manage their money to pay common expenses such as rent, utilities, and car payments. Additionally, students are challenged by ‘real life’ budget and spending issues such as unexpected costs for car accidents and lost cell phones.


But perhaps the most exciting benefit of the Budget Challenge, is that H&R Block will award $3 million in classroom grants and scholarships to the top performing participants.


Parents can secure a spot for their teens by encouraging teachers to sign up their class.  But hurry, registration for the 2014/2015 school year program ends this Friday, February 6!




Dr. JPL offers Holiday Tips for Parents worried about Teens & Alcohol


On Mourning the Loss of Childhood

It would appear that coining the term ‘tween’ has come at a cost. It would seem that our children ages 8-12 are no longer considered kids, at least in some circles. Parents raising tweens know all too well the daily challenges they face, the embroiled battles in which they often engage as their pre-pubescent children push and pull them in every direction. At times tweens may seem to live by the credo “Rules are made to be broken.” And yet, at other moments it is clear that they take comfort in being told exactly what to do when and how.

Tweenhood is fraught with negotiating new situations. Parenthood (at least for parents of tweens) becomes about helping these little beings affirm some independence and autonomy while ensuring that they don’t grow-up too quickly.

What happened to childhood? Back when we were kids there was no such thing as tweenhood; then again there was also no such thing as cell phones, social media, and the Internet. While the World Wide Web has expanded the universe, it may have also contributed in some small way to taking away a piece of childhood.

As parents we can do our part to sustain even elongate out tween’s childhood through our words, actions and interactions with our children. It is difficult however, to prevent their exposure to a more mature universe however, unless the parents of their peers make the same commitment. Even then, nothing short of raising them in a plastic bubble or ivory tower can truly prevent tweens from exposure to the world at large.

The world has become a much smaller place for our children. As parents perhaps we are simply charged with redefining our role and reactions to our children. Instead of mourning the loss of childhood, we are better served embracing the evolution of access by encouraging our tweens to take on the outside world with our continued counsel. Parental involvement and commitment is the key to contentment for our children.