Posts

By, Diane Braun

We all know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your body, but what does sitting in front of the television do to your brain?

A recent conversation with a colleague made me curious about this phenomenon called “binge-watching.”

Binge-watching is defined as watching between two and six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting. A recent Netflix survey found that 61 percent of about 1500 on-line respondents say they binge-watch regularly.

Why do we do it?  According to Robert F. Potter, PhD., director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University, we do it for a few reasons:

  • Production companies encourage us by offering up the next episode as soon as the previous one ends.
  • Writers structure dramas with cliffhangers at the end of every episode.
  • We want to keep watching. Television captures our attention in more ways than one.  Plots, subplots and dialogue require us to pay close attention to scene changes.  Our brain is hard-wired to monitor changes in our environment as a survival mechanism, so it’s hard for us to tear our eyes away.  As long as something’s moving onscreen, we’re watching.

Sitting still for long periods of time slows one’s circulation and metabolism, resulting in sluggishness.  At the same time, great TV shows with complicated storylines and complex characters can wear you out emotionally and mentally. Excessive TV watching has long been associated with health problems such as obesity and diabetes as well as mental health problems like depression.

Cliffhangers, on the other hand, leave us with a heightened sense of excitement.  If something positive happens afterward, the excitement may carry over into your real life and make it more intense.

Your emotional state at the end of a show is also affected by how you felt when you started it up.  Research shows that people who tried to forget about their anxieties by watching television had a 4 percent increased risk of developing insomnia. 

This is similar to any addictive behavior, Potter says.  If you use something to help you escape from problems you almost always feel worse later.  Research shows that the longer you stay in the world of a TV show, the more it influences the way you see the real world.  A better strategy is to use TV as a reward for confronting and dealing with an issue.

Want to break the binge addiction? If you are addicted to hour-long dramas, watch one episode and then just 20 minutes of the next episode.  That will likely resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger but won’t draw you in for the entire hour.

As this behavior continues to be a part of our culture, just remember to exercise some caution once one episode concludes and resist the urge to click that “next” button.

By Diane Braun, Jan. 22, 2019 –

When asked which of these is a symptom of alcohol overdose, which would you choose?

  1. Irregular breathing   B.) Confusion    C.) Vomiting   D.) All of these.

The answer is D, all of these.

January 22-27 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW).  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been sponsoring National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week since 2010 to educate youth and shatter the myths about substance use and addiction. 

NDAFW happens every year in January and is a week-long series of educational events that link teens with scientific experts.  Since its inception, NDAFW has continued to grow, with more than 2100 events held throughout 50 states and 35 countries last year. Activities focus on general drug use or on specific trends of concern in individual communities.

NIDA has produced a wide variety of resources for organizers of events and promotional activities, including resources for parents and educators. Classroom activities specific to the week and other year-round lessons on drugs and alcohol, including lesson plans, are available on the NDAFW website. 

Free booklets with science-based facts about drugs and alcohol are available and include NIDA’s most in-demand teen publications. New this year is the “Opioids: Facts for Teens” booklet.

An on-line chat with National Institute of Health scientists and science writers is available on Thursday, January 24 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm EST.  Teens in schools around the country can submit substance use questions in an anonymous forum.  Registration is available on the NDAFW website. In previous years, more than 50 schools participated with more than 10,000 questions submitted.

Youth can be curious about substances they see and hear about on social media. Misperceptions can happen when they only follow certain views.  Making sure your child’s questions are answered is vital to keeping them safe. 

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recommends:

  • Always keep conversations open and honest.
  • Come from a place of love, even when you’re having tough conversations.
  • Balance positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.
  • Keep in mind that teachable moments come up all of the time — be mindful of natural places for the conversation to go in order to broach the topic of drugs and alcohol.

Take this opportunity to educate yourself and your child about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Begin a dialogue so they will feel free to come to you with any future questions or concerns.

By Diane Braun, Project Manager, Oct. 24, 2018 –

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people each year.  This year’s event will take place October 23-31.

According to the Red Ribbon Week website, this event is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs.

Red Ribbon Week was started when drug traffickers in Mexico City murdered DEA agent Kiki Camarena in 1985.  This began the continuing tradition of displaying red ribbons as a symbol of intolerance toward the use of drugs.  The mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a Drug-Free America.

National Family Partnership is the sponsor of this annual celebration. They are helping citizens across the country come together to keep children, families and communities safe, healthy and drug-free, through parent training, networking and sponsoring events.

With over thirty annual events having taken place, you might ask, “Is Red Ribbon Week effective?”  According to Peggy Sapp, President of National Family Partnership, consider the following:

  • Red Ribbon Week is an environmental strategy, which means it doesn’t just affect a small group but usually goes beyond schools, churches and other groups into the broader community.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to be an awareness campaign that gets information to the general public about the dangers of drug use.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to get people talking to other people and working on activities that will help rebuild a sense of community and common purpose.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to help parents and schools deliver an effective drug prevention curriculum.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to create critical mass, which is necessary to reduce destructive social norms/behaviors and promote positive social norms/behaviors.
  • Red Ribbon Week is designed to be positive and fun, two things necessary to maintain good mental health.

Schools can benefit from curriculum available on the official Red Ribbon Week website, www.redribbon.org.  Incorporating substance use prevention education into daily classes such as health is an ideal way to bring awareness to students and promote prevention.

Parents should also access the website for great ideas about talking to children of any age about the dangers of substance use.  Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t; however, only 25 percent of teens report having these conversations.

Alcohol and other forms of drug abuse in this country have reached epidemic stages, and it is imperative that visible, unified prevention education efforts by community members be launched to eliminate the demand for drugs.

Please join Youth First this week as we promote the importance of prevention and educating our children, families and communities about the dangers of substance use.

By Diane Braun, Oct. 3, 2018 –

The month of October brings Red Ribbon Week, an event supported by the National Family Partnership as an anti-drug campaign.  Since 1986, this campaign has brought awareness to the general public about the dangers of drug abuse, including alcohol, prescription drugs and marijuana.

Did you know the greatest influence on young people’s decision to begin drinking alcohol is the world they live in?  This includes their families, friends, schools, the larger community and society as a whole.  Alcohol use by young people is often made possible by adults.  After all, teens can’t legally buy alcohol on their own.

Alcohol is the most used and abused drug among teenagers in America.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 31.5 percent of all high school students in America report they have engaged in “binge drinking,” which is when someone consumes five or more drinks in one sitting.

On average 11,318 American youth ages 12-20 try alcohol for the first time every day.  Youth who began drinking alcohol by the 7th grade are more likely to have academic problems along with substance use and delinquent behavior in both middle and high school.  By the time they reach adulthood, it will often lead to criminal activity and violent crimes.

Youth who drink make this choice because they want to take risks or engage in risky behaviors that are taking place among their peer groups.  They might have less connection to their parents and more independence to use alcohol.  Alcohol might be a stress-reliever or they might simply have a lack of information about the dangers of alcohol.

The risks associated with underage drinking range from physical effects (such as hangovers) to death from alcohol poisoning. Major risks include exercising poor judgment to drive while impaired and engaging in risky behaviors.

Most importantly, a growing brain can be harmed by alcohol use. With the brain continuing to develop into the 20’s, damage done by alcohol can cause major problems.

What can a community do to change this?  If we create friendly, alcohol-free places where youth can gather, the pressure to use alcohol will diminish.  Providing programs, including volunteer work, where young people can grow, explore their options, succeed and feel good about activities without alcohol are proven to prevent use.

Educating young people on the dangers of “doing drugs” and showing what healthy choices can do to impact their lives is essential.  Providing resources to youth who are involved with underage drinking helps by letting them know that it’s never too late to stop the abuse and start making smarter choices.

Encourage young people to become involved in athletics and after-school activities such as clubs.  Create opportunities for older teens that have made the commitment to be drug-free to become mentors to younger students, showing by example how to make smart choices.

Parents, know your teen’s peer group.  Who are they spending time with?  What are they doing?

By focusing on the positives of prevention rather than scare tactics, youth will make decisions that will benefit them long-term without experiencing the effects of alcohol abuse.

By Diane Braun, May 8, 2018 –

When asked to name the one person who was their strongest supporter, loved them unconditionally and influenced them the most, the majority of people would name their mother.

The maternal bond is strong, and for those of us who grew up with a woman who was tough on us for no other reason than to make US tough enough to handle life’s experiences, we realize (perhaps too late) that all past Mother’s Days should have been spent expressing love and gratitude with words rather than gifts.

According to a Fundivo survey in 2016, eight out of ten Americans planned to celebrate Mother’s Day, spending over $21 billion dollars on the holiday. I can remember drawing pictures, making cards, buying flowers and candy for my mom over the years.

My mom was always appreciative and returned the favor when I became a mom. She was a first generation American, born to Polish and Ukrainian immigrants who came to this country in the early 1900s. Her perspective on parenting came from her own parents:  raise healthy children who become productive adults.

She told me many times that her parents considered themselves successful because all eight of their children survived childhood and became adults who got married, had children and supported themselves. She did not have a relationship with her mother that involved shopping, going to movies or out to eat.  She simply knew that her mother loved her because she took good care of her.

Low attachment to caregivers, as in the mother-child bond, plays an important role in later behavior and delinquency problems. The closer a child is to their mother, the less likely the child will be at risk for delinquency.

Research has shown that a strong adult in a child’s life can make a difference in not only their attitude about themselves and the world around them, but also in their decision to make healthy choices about drugs and alcohol.

Mom wisdom, aka “Mom-isms,” is a term I recently learned that not only made me smile but made me realize that everyone needs someone in their life giving this advice.  Examples of “Mom-isms:”  “When you have your own house, then you can make the rules.” and “So what if Sally’s mom let her do it. If Sally’s mom let her jump off the Empire State Building, would you want me to let you do it?” and “I’m doing this for your own good.”

Who in your life challenges you to be your best with love and understanding?  Is there someone who is looking out for you, making sure you get honest advice to keep you safe? Have you realized as an adult that this advice needs to be passed on to your own children?

My wish this Mother’s Day is that all mothers know how important they are and continue to dish out the wisdom that comes with love and devotion to their children.

 

By Diane Braun, April 17, 2018 –

Prom and graduation are two of the most exciting events in a teen’s high school experience.  It’s a time to celebrate the end of the school year and remember for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately too often prom and graduation night end tragically for teens that die from drinking and driving or alcohol poisoning.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in three deaths from alcohol-related incidents occurs during prom or graduation weekend.

Drug-Free Action Alliance has developed a public awareness campaign to provide parents with accurate information about the health risks of underage drinking and the legal consequences of providing alcohol to youth.  The campaign encourages parents and the community to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is not acceptable at prom and graduation time.  It is illegal, unsafe and unhealthy for anyone under age 21 to drink alcohol.

Here are the facts:

  • Parents who give alcohol to their teen’s friends under any circumstances, even in their own homes, are breaking the law.
  • Parents who knowingly allow a person under 21 to remain in their home or on their property while consuming or possessing alcohol can be prosecuted and everything associated with such a violation can be confiscated, including personal property.
  • Parents can be sued if they give alcohol to anyone under 21 and they, in turn, hurt someone, hurt themselves or damage property.

Parents play a major role in their children’s choices about alcohol and other drugs.  Underage use of alcohol is a serious problem that too often leads to harmful consequences for youth and their families.

Parents can help their teens and their friends remain safe by taking responsibility, getting involved and setting limits.  Always be clear about your expectations.

You may have talked many times about healthy choices, but it’s important to be very clear about no alcohol use before the age of 21.  Parents should discuss the dangers of a) drinking and driving and b) getting into a car with a drunk driver.

Present possible scenarios and what to do in these situations.  Set a curfew that you can be awake for.  Make sure teens are home at the agreed-upon time and you see them walk in the door.  Use that time to hear details of their evening.

If hosting a party, do not serve or allow alcohol.  An adult who provides alcohol to a minor is breaking the law and risking that teen’s life.  Indiana passed a social host liability law in 2014 which prohibits anyone from “furnishing property for the purpose of enabling minors to consume alcohol.”

Parents and teens are encouraged to make the decision before spring events to be safe, which means staying alcohol-free.  Make sure your teen understands your expectations and the consequences.  Healthy choices and good communication can create those happy memories that last a lifetime.

 

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, March 13, 2018 –

We all know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your body, but what does sitting in front of the television do to your brain?

A recent conversation with a colleague made me curious about this phenomenon called “binge-watching.”

Binge-watching is defined as watching between two and six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting. A recent Netflix survey found that 61 percent of about 1500 on-line respondents say they binge-watch regularly.

Why do we do it?  According to Robert F. Potter, PhD., director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University, we do it for a few reasons:

  • Production companies encourage us by offering up the next episode as soon as the previous one ends.
  • Writers structure dramas with cliffhangers at the end of every episode.
  • We want to keep watching. Television captures our attention in more ways than one. Plots, subplots and dialogue require us to pay close attention to scene changes.  Our brain is hard-wired to monitor changes in our environment as a survival mechanism, so it’s hard for us to tear our eyes away.  As long as something’s moving onscreen, we’re watching.

Sitting still for long periods of time slows one’s circulation and metabolism, resulting in sluggishness.  At the same time, great TV shows with complicated storylines and complex characters can wear you out emotionally and mentally. Excessive TV watching has long been associated with health problems such as obesity and diabetes as well as mental health problems like depression.

Cliffhangers, on the other hand, leave us with a heightened sense of excitement.  If something positive happens afterward, the excitement may carry over into your real life and make it more intense.

Your emotional state at the end of a show is also affected by how you felt when you started it up.  Research shows that people who tried to forget about their anxieties by watching television had a 4 percent increased risk of developing insomnia.

This is similar to any addictive behavior, Potter says.  If you use something to help you escape from problems you almost always feel worse later.  Research shows that the longer you stay in the world of a TV show, the more it influences the way you see the real world.  A better strategy is to use TV as a reward for confronting and dealing with an issue.

Want to break the binge addiction? If you are addicted to hour-long dramas, watch one episode and then just 20 minutes of the next episode.  That will likely resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger but won’t draw you in for the entire hour.

The world of Netflix and other streaming services is still relatively new.  More research is needed to understand the true effects of binge-watching on physical and mental health.  As this behavior continues to be a part of our culture, just remember to exercise some caution once one episode concludes and resist the urge to click that “next” button.

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, January 24, 2017 –

My husband and I have three children who are now all adults: two sons born 2 ½ years apart and a daughter born three years later.

As our children were growing up, I noticed our sons were very different even though they have the same parents and grew up in the same house.

It was fascinating to me that our oldest son was always the thinker — looking at every situation from all angles before making a decision or answering a question.  My mother said he was “born old,” demonstrating more patience and maturity than others his age.

My second son has always been impulsive and never hesitated to try a new sport or activity.  He was described by his older brother as the true example of the Nike logo “Just Do It.”  A gifted athlete, he could step into any sport and do well. We had our share of trips to the emergency room, however, when his impulses outweighed caution.

According to Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues, “Some of it has to do with the way the parent relates to the child in his spot, and some of it actually happens because of the spot itself.  Each spot has unique challenges,” she explains.

Simply by virtue of being a couple’s first child, a firstborn will naturally be a sort of experiment for the new parents.  Going “by the book,” new parents will be extremely attentive to the firstborn, strict with rules and overly cautious about the little things.  This in turn may cause the child to become a perfectionist, always striving to please the parents.

Firstborns tend to be reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling and achievers.  Firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do.

In contrast, if the couple has a second child, they might raise the second born with less stringency due to their experiences with the firstborn.  They might also be less attentive to the second since there’s another child competing for attention, and they probably will be less inclined to call the doctor’s office for every little scratch and bruise.

In our family, my youngest son was also the middle child.  Middle children tend to be people-pleasers and peacemakers, thriving on friendships and having a large social circle.  Their daring nature is often a ploy for getting attention and can be described as rebelliousness.

Even more important than birth order is creating an environment that is positive, safe, healthy and stimulating.  Though peers, siblings, genes and circumstances all play into how a child’s temperament develops, Wallace states that “parents still are the major influencing factors because, truthfully, the first year of life is the bonding with the primary caretaker that impacts upon self-confidence, trust and the ability to interact with another person.”

Birth order, along with other factors, does play a role in the traits of each child. Focus on each child’s personality and adapt your expectations to their individuality to produce confident, productive people.

Kids playing outside

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, May 3, 2016 –

Spring and summer brings blue skies, warm breezes and the sound of children playing outdoors. Most parents have no problem sending their children outside to play.

Why? Because we all know there are quite a few real benefits to playing outdoors.

Children who play outside learn how to solve real-life problems better than children who are always in their rooms playing video games in seclusion. Examples of problem solving include learning to get along with friends or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort.

Playing outside provides children with exercise, something many children don’t get enough of anymore. Outdoor play combines exercise with having fun. Riding bikes, playing tag with friends and throwing or hitting a ball all get our children’s bodies moving, something playing most video games can’t accomplish.

It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common with today’s kids who have busy schedules with long school days and extracurricular activities.

Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One of the qualities many children are lacking is imagination. In today’s age of technology, children are provided with images for everything.

Why go outside and play astronaut in outer space when we can watch a movie about it or play a video game? Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something television, video games and computers can’t do.

Free play and discretionary time has declined more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years. A new Nielson Company report indicates children 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen.

According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age with school-aged children spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media.

Finally, it’s important that children get vitamin D, and the best source is the sun. Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and overall health. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give our children their daily dose of vitamin D.

Encouraging children to go outside, get moving and connect with the natural world are all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don’t stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and stronger!