Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category


Debate over morning-after pill for 15-year-olds

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Allison Guarino understands the controversy over new rules allowing 15-year-olds to buy the morning-after pill without a prescription. But as someone who teaches pregnancy prevention to ninth-graders in Boston, she thinks lowering the age will “help the girls who need the help the most.”

“Some girls might not have a good relationship with their parents,” she said, “or they had unprotected sex and they don’t know what to do.”

On the other side of the issue are folks like Brenda Velasco Ross, who says the new rules infringe on her rights as a parent.

“It breaks my heart and saddens me and really angers me,” said Ross, stepmom of four, including 12- and 13-year-olds in Fullerton, Calif. “If you have to buy Sudafed, you have to show ID. When I buy spray paint for a project for my daughter, I have to show my ID. It just baffles me that, with this, which has to do with pregnancy and being sexually active, I don’t have to be involved. That to me just violates my rights as a parent to have guidelines and parameters for my children.”

The two opinions reflect some of the issues in the debate over new rules issued last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which lowered the age for buying the drug without a prescription from 17 to 15. In April, a federal judge, Edward Korman, said there should be no age restrictions at all. The Obama administration said it wants to maintain the prescription requirement for those under 15 and will appeal the judge’s ruling.

Guarino, 19, a college freshman majoring in public health and political science at Boston University, said she encounters a lot of ignorance on issues related to sex and pregnancy. “I would encourage any young person to go talk to their parents or a doctor, but that’s not the reality,” she said.

Jennifer Morgan, 18, a native of Somerville, Mass., who attends college in Pennsylvania, said she’s not sure she supports eliminating the age limit entirely, but “I think it’s fine for a 15-year-old. Not every girl has the privilege of being able to go talk to her mother in a crisis like that. Because time is of the essence, and if a girl in that situation and that age doesn’t have any other support, I feel like it’s OK.”

Morgan recently completed a stint on a leadership team for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and added that while abstinence is an ideal, “not every teen is going to stay abstinent.”

Samantha Bailey-Loomis, 16, who recently founded a Students For Life chapter at her high school in Branford, Conn., opposes the concept of the morning-after pill in the same way that she opposes abortion. “My mom had me when she was 17,” she said. “If this was available when she was young, I wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be able to make the difference I am in the community today.” Loomis said girls who are worried they might be pregnant should talk to their parents about it, and if they can’t, should seek help from organizations that can provide the support they need.

Dianne Sikel, who volunteers in a juvenile probation program in Phoenix, said dropping the age limit is “a move in the right direction.” She added that it’s easy to tell kids to use condoms, “but it doesn’t always work out that way.”

“These pills being available to teens are far better of an option than having a young couple being forced to become parents, for a young girl, who made a bad choice one evening, who may be forced to abort, or ultimately having to give up a child for adoption,” said Sikel, a parent of two boys, 13 and 16.

Sophia Martin, who teaches at a high school in Northern California where many students continue their education after being expelled from other schools, said she “can understand how upsetting it is to think your kid might engage in unprotected sex and then get the morning after pill without your knowledge. But to me the core reason to abolish any kind of age limit is that there are young people who are in situations in their families where they can’t turn to their parents.”

Martin said some girls become “pregnant not because they chose to have sex. It’s such a hard situation for them to talk about.”

But Andrew Bay, 19, who’s finishing up his freshman year at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., says he thinks making the morning-after pill so easily available “almost encourages even younger children to have unprotected sex.” If he had to put an age limit on getting the drug without a prescription, “It should probably be 18. At least at 18 you’re considered mature enough to make medical decisions on your own.”

Denny Pattyn, founder of Silver Ring Thing, which promotes chastity until marriage and encourages young people to wear purity rings to symbolize their commitments, said he worries that allowing younger teens to get the morning-after pill without a doctor or parent’s knowledge is going to increase the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. “It’s incredibly irresponsible,” he said. “These kids are getting these diseases and they don’t even know they’re getting them.”

Dr. Cora Breuner of the American Academy of Pediatrics said headlines about the age limit have prompted some families to broach the topic of safe sex. Even if parents don’t bring it up, teens are hearing about it via social media.

“I know this in my own practice, there are a lot more conversations between parents and their children about this decision,” said Breuner, an adolescent health specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This will prompt a conversation nationally that can help at so many levels.”


Free phone apps can help budget for prom

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By The Associated Press

Prom planning can get overwhelming. These free smartphone apps can help you budget, shop and experiment with hairstyles.


Set a budget, read money saving tips and scroll through a prom countdown checklist in this app by Visa Inc.

Available at the Apple App Store and Google Play store


Search for prom dresses by price, color or body type in this app buy online retailer Dresses can be bought with a few taps on the app.

Available at the Apple App Store


Browse tuxedo styles and create your own look in this app from wholesaler Jim’s Formal Wear, whose tuxedos are found in stores around the country.

Available at the Apple App Store


Upload a picture of yourself and try on the latest hairstyles of female celebrities.

Available at the Apple App Store.


Prom spending on the rise again

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By JOSEPH PISANI, AP Business Writer

The prom is making a big comeback.

The recession forced parents and teens to cut back on spending for the annual high school dance, but wallets are finally opening again.

“Dresses are more elaborate,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group. “They are now buying two pairs of shoes, one to go to prom and one to dance in.”

“This crop of kids cares about prom,” says Cohen.

And so do the parents, who see the dance as a rite of passage. The pressure to help give teenagers a memorable night is high. “You don’t want your kid to be the only kid who doesn’t have what the other kids have,” says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University.

Prom spending is expected to rise this spring to an average $1,139. That’s among families who are planning to spend some money to attend the annual affair, according to a survey of 1,025 parents of prom age teens by payment processor Visa Inc. and research company Gfk. Not included in the average were 12 percent who said they wouldn’t spend anything on the prom. A majority of parents with teenagers surveyed were still unsure how much they’d spend.

Leigh Dow didn’t have a budget for her 16-year-old daughter’s prom dress. She wanted it to be well made, have a good fit and be unique.

Dow paid $500 for a raspberry-colored gown with silver beading and a sweetheart neckline. She expects her daughter, Darby McDaniel, who is a junior in high school to wear the dress more than once.

Dow will also pay for a hairstylist, a spray tan and part of the cost of a party bus to drive a group of kids to the dance.

“Prom has become a very big production,” says Dow, who owns Dow Media Group, a marketing company.

Mother and daughter bought the dress from a small boutique in Chandler, Ariz., where they live. They chose the boutique because it keeps a registry of the dresses that girls from area schools buy, so that no two girls from the same school show up in identical dresses.

“You don’t want to be competing with anyone,” says McDaniel, whose prom is open to both juniors and seniors. “You don’t want to be outshined.”

Other parents set more precise budgets. Anne Klein, who lives in Durango, Colo., gave her 17-year old daughter a budget of $150 for a prom dress. They picked a $120 peach colored dress from a Macy’s Inc. store in San Diego while visiting colleges in the area. The remaining $30 will go towards shoes.

David’s Bridal, which sells prom dresses, says the average spent on prom dresses this year at its 300 stores is $170. The most popular color is pink blush, thanks to “Hunger Games” actress Jennifer Lawrence, says Brian Beitler, an executive vice president. Lawrence wore a similar color to the Academy Awards.

“Kids are fantasizing about their own stardom in a way,” says Yarrow. “This is sort of their red carpet moment.”

Boys want to be noticed too. Men’s Wearhouse Inc. says boys are spending anywhere from $60 to $200 on tuxedo rentals. A gray tuxedo by Vera Wang is popular this year. It rents for $180.

Baby blue tuxedos are a popular choice on The website says that it had to make more of its $220 tuxedos after they sold out three months ago. The retailer, which also sells its tuxedos in small boutiques, attributes the bump in sales to celebrities who have been wearing colored tuxedos to awards shows. Sales of the website’s hunting camouflage tuxedos are up 20 percent from a year ago. They’re in demand because the cast of popular duck hunting reality show “Duck Dynasty” wear similar ones, says Mark Bietz, vice president of marketing at

Wendy Kerschner, of Adamstown, Penn., told her 16-year-old son that she wasn’t paying for any of his prom expenses. She wanted to teach him a lesson about spending money. “I am in the minority,” says Kerschner, who does marketing for in-home senior care company Comfort Keepers.

Her son, Casey Kerschner, paid $129 to rent a gray tuxedo with money he made cleaning stalls at a horse barn. The prom ticket cost the high school junior $50. He spent $20 on two tickets for the after-prom party. He didn’t take a limousine earlier this month. Most people in his school didn’t. Instead, he paid $10 to get his Volkswagen Jetta cleaned.

“It’s fun,” says Casey Kerschner about the prom, “but in my opinion, it’s not worth $220.”

He’s not sure if he will go to the prom again next year. A local tuxedo shop offers high school boys a free rental if they wear a tuxedo all day and hand out fliers and coupons. He might try to do that next year.

“The way I see it,” he says, “I worked a little over two weeks shoveling stalls at a horse barn to spend five hours at a dance.”


Wonder how the president talks his daughters out of getting tattoos?

Posted by Lorain County Moms

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has a strategy to discourage his daughters from rebelling, perhaps by getting a tattoo himself.

Obama says he and his wife, Michelle, have told 14-year-old Malia and 11-year-old Sasha that if they ever decide to get a tattoo then “mommy and me” will get the same tattoo in the same place on their bodies and show it off on YouTube as a “family tattoo.”

Obama commented in an interview taped last week and broadcast Wednesday on NBC’s “Today.”

The president also dismissed the first lady’s recent reference to herself as a single mom during a separate television interview.

Obama suggested the comment was a slip of the tongue. But he also acknowledged there have been times in his political career when she probably did feel like a single parent.


Crisis hotlines turning to text to reach teens

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press

NEW YORK — They stream in a couple of dozen times a week, cries for help in bursts of text to, a nonprofit more used to texting out details to teens on good causes and campaigns than receiving them from young people in crisis.

“I feel like committing suicide,” one text read. “What’s the suicide hotline number?” Another asked: “How do you tell a friend they need to go to rehab?”

DoSomething isn’t a hotline, but its CEO, Nancy Lublin, decided to, well, do something. She’s leading an effort to establish a 24/7 national text number across trigger issues for teens in the hope that it will become their 911, perhaps reaching those who wouldn’t otherwise seek help using more established methods of telephone talking or computer-based chat.

“Most of the texts we get like this are about things like being bullied,” Lublin said. “A lot of things are about relationships, so we’ll get texts from kids about breakups, or ‘I like a boy, what should I do?’ But the worst one we ever got said, ‘He won’t stop raping me. It’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?’”

Lublin hopes the Crisis Text Line, due to launch in August, will serve as a New York-based umbrella, shuttling texts for help to partner organizations around the country, such as The Trevor Project for gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning youth or other groups already providing hotlines on dating and sexual abuse to bullying, depression and eating disorders.

As more teens have gone mobile, using their phones as an extension of themselves, hotline providers have tried to keep up. Fewer seem to operate today than in decades past. A smattering reach out through mobile text, including Teen Line in Los Angeles, though that service and others offer limited schedules or are “siloed,” as Lublin put it, specializing in narrow areas of concern when multiple problems might be driving a teen to the brink.

Some text providers operate in specific towns, counties or regions and-or rely on trained teen volunteers to handle the load across modes of communication. Several agreed that text enhances call-in and chat options for a generation of young people who prefer to communicate by typing on their phones, especially when they don’t want parents, teachers, friends or boyfriends to listen in.

“We’ve had people who are walking and they just needed to get out of their house because they had an argument with their parent, so they’re texting us as they’re calming down,” said Jennifer James, who supervises chat and text outreach for Common Ground, which also serves adults from its base in southeastern Michigan.

Katie Locke, 26, in Philadelphia was one of those teens in 2006, when she found herself in a suicidal panic after a fight with an old friend.

At 18, she said she grabbed her phone, left her college dorm room and headed out in the cold to sit on a bench to talk with a worker on a crisis phone line she knew from one of her favorite blogs. The number was the only one she had handy and it didn’t offer text, which she would have preferred.

“People don’t always have the (mobile phone) minutes or aren’t in a position where they can speak aloud if they’re in danger from somebody around them,” Locke said. “I know for me there were other times when I probably should have called a crisis hotline and didn’t because of the anxiety about calling. That was such an enormous barrier, to have to dial a phone number.”

Brian Pinero, director of the National Dating Abuse Helpline run by a nonprofit called Love is Respect, knows that lesson well.

The organization launched phone and computer-based chat in 2007, and chat quickly grew to the more heavily used method of contact. The Austin, Texas-based group launched text in 2011 and it’s now about 20 percent of the operation, Pinero said.

“Many times the phone is actually the most powerful computer in the home, but also for people who are of lower socio-economic status, they may not have the ability to engage in chat. Text messaging is something that is even offered on pay-as-you-go phones.”

According to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, one in four teens is a “cell-mostly” Internet user. Texting among teens increased from about 50 texts a day in 2009 to about 60, with the number running into hundreds for some.

“Phone calls are not the way young people express themselves,” said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and an assistant professor of media, culture and communication at New York University.

“And one of the big problems that’s emerged is hotlines are splintered across a ton of different phone numbers. Young people don’t know them,” said Boyd, who sits on the board of Crisis Text Line.

Comparisons of text hotline volume and efficiency are hard to come by. Researcher Deb Levine, executive director and founder of the nonprofit ISIS, for Internet Sexuality Information Services, said it’s clear the number of hotlines of all kinds has declined significantly since a heyday in the Just Say No 1980s.

But chat and text help have been on the rise for more than two years, she said. Most are small-scale operations serving specific communities, said Levine, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

“Hotlines are always going to serve a purpose for some teens. Some of them are going to pick up the phone and call, some of them are going to text. I do believe that there’s only so much you can do in 160 characters,” she said. “There is a power to voice.”

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is in its second year of running one of the largest text and chat outreach operations for people ages 15 to 24, targeting African-American and Latino youth through promotional campaigns on MTV, websites and mobile providers, social media, wallet cards, video and Seventeen magazine.

Through February, nearly 185,000 conversations — 22,447 via text — were recorded, according to Planned Parenthood. About a third of conversations on health-related topics — including birth control, abortion and pregnancy tests — were with users both under 25 and African-American or Latino.

And nearly all chat and text users ages 15 to 24 agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their conversations, indicating significantly decreased levels of worry afterward.

“What we’ve seen from our online chat and text-messaging program is that they appreciate a real answer, in real time, from a real person,” said Leslie Kantor, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of education.

Evie Priestman, 14, an eighth-grader in Arlington, Va., has called hotlines as recently as a month ago, when she reached out for information on fending off suicidal thoughts, but she hasn’t tried text.

“I think teens would definitely use a hotline if they could text to it. I know I would,” she said. “Most teens keep their feelings to themselves.”

Debbie Gant-Reed sees the need every day. She’s the crisis lines coordinator at a 24-hour help line in Reno, Nev., called the Crisis Call Center. The center has been providing 24-hour text help for two and a half years, fielding about 500 text conversations a month.

“We’re now taking texts from all over the country,” she said. “You can chat all you want but you’re going to get older people. Young people don’t chat. They text.”

Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at


Ohio crash cautionary tale for families with teens

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press

NEW YORK —  There were lies told to parents, a car with five seats carrying eight teens, and an unlicensed driver. The car was speeding. No seat belts were used.

If parents of teenagers need a real-life cautionary tale to sum up all their warnings and fears, surely the crash of a stolen car in Warren, Ohio that killed six teenagers is it.

“You heard about that story?” Daniel Flannery, an Ohio father of three teens, asked his kids as news of the tragedy filtered out. “This could happen to you. It’s horrible. These kids are not coming home. I don’t want you to be that person.”

Mario Almonte of Queens, N.Y., said he and his wife talked to their teenage son — who’s on the verge of getting his driver’s license — about it, too. “We pointed to this tragedy and mentioned that he shouldn’t think something like this can never happen to him,” said Almonte. “Sometimes it just takes one bad decision to end in tragedy.”

Unfortunately, car crashes with multiple teen deaths are not uncommon. Five teens died in a Texas crash Tuesday; three died in Indiana last week, and four died in a California crash last month. But one aspect of the Ohio story may be especially compelling to parents involved in the usual battles with teens about where they’re going, who they’re with, and when they’re coming home: Some of the kids misled their parents as to their whereabouts.

The father of one of the dead said the teenagers were coming home from a sleepover at a friend’s house, but the mother of another boy killed said that her son and his best friend had lied about staying over at each other’s homes that evening. She said she thinks they went to a party. “If only he had listened,” said Lisa Williamson, mother of 14-year-old Brandon Murray.

“It’s an age-old thing for teens to tell their folks they’re going to do one thing and they’re doing another,” said Daniel Flannery, a psychologist who teaches at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He even admits that his own children, “while very good kids and excellent students, sometimes do things they know we won’t approve of and they mislead us.” And he notes that like most parents of teens, he’s gotten his share of calls from other parents asking, “Is my son at your house?”

But while teenagers lying to parents is nothing new, the deadly outcome in this case is drawing attention.

“Any time a tragedy like this occurs, while you don’t want to go overboard on the sensationalism, it is a teachable moment. It has to be,” said Flannery, who also runs Case Western’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education.

Emily Cappo, a mom in suburban Westchester, N.Y., who writes a blog about raising three sons at, says she’s just starting to deal with teen issues among her older boys’ peers. “All these high school parties are going on now,” she said. “And parents really don’t know what’s going on. You don’t want to think that your own child is involved in it.”

Older parents may think it was worse before the era of cell phones, because if your kid was out of touch, you had no way to reach them. But Cappo thinks cell phones may “give a false sense of security that you can contact your kid at any time. That probably contributes to things like this happening.”

And some teens are expert at cell phone subterfuge. They turn phones off, ignore them or let them run out of juice. When they do call home, a cell provides less information about location than landlines at physical addresses. Sure, you can put a GPS locator on a cell, but kids can disable those, or leave their phones in an approved location and head off.

While it’s not easy to stay on top of what teens are up to, the one thing parents shouldn’t do is back off, says Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. He says research shows that “at the very point when adolescents are most likely to get involved in risk-taking behaviors, many parents monitor less than they had previously. It’s at this point where young people are trying to develop a level of healthy independence that they most need parental guidance.”

He said monitoring is different from the controls associated with overly protective “helicopter parenting”; this is more about “parents weighing in on important decisions.” Knowing the activities and whereabouts of teens is key, along with making expectations clear and following through with discipline when rules aren’t honored, he said.

Guilamos-Ramos co-authored a book called “Parental Monitoring of Adolescents” that has been adapted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as an online resource for parents, and he says the research shows that most parents overestimate how much they’re supervising. “It’s pretty classic for parents to say, ‘I did check on my teen, I feel like I was clear about the rules’ and for teens to say, ‘We never talked about that,’” he said.

And while teens may complain about parents checking on them, “parents don’t realize that teens actually want that structure — they actually feel comforted by it,” he said.

Cappo likes the policy some parents have of telling kids they can always call home for a ride, no matter what, so they’re not tempted to lie: “If you’re at a party, I never want you to get in a car with someone who’s been drinking; if you’ve been drinking, call me, I won’t ask questions, I just want you safe.” But not all parents “want to go that far because they don’t want to give their kids permission to drink. The kid feels like they can’t make that call because ‘my parents will kill me.’ It’s hard because we don’t want to sit there and give them the green light,” Cappo said.

Whatever rules parents come up with, Guilamos-Ramos said, they need to emphasize “there is only one goal: We want to make sure you are safe.”


IUDs, implants urged for teen girls’ birth control

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO — Teenage girls may prefer the pill, the patch or even wishful thinking, but their doctors should be recommending IUDs or hormonal implants — long-lasting and more effective birth control that you don’t have to remember to use every time, the nation’s leading gynecologists group said Thursday.

The IUD and implants are safe and nearly 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and should be “first-line recommendations,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in updating its guidance for teens.

Both types of contraception are more invasive than the pill, requiring a doctor to put them in place. That, and cost, are probably why the pill is still the most popular form of contraception in the U.S.

But birth control pills often must be taken at the very same time every day to be most potent. And forgetting to take even one can lead to pregnancy, which is why the pill is sometimes only 91 percent effective.

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic inserted in the uterus that can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. An implant is a matchstick-size plastic rod that releases hormones. It is placed under the skin of the upper arm and usually lasts three years.

The new guidelines don’t tell teens not to use other methods, but “if your goal is to prevent a pregnancy, then using an implant or an IUD would be the best way to do this,” said Dr. Tina Raine-Bennett, head of the committee that wrote the recommendations.

The organization’s previous guidelines, issued in 2007, also encouraged the use of IUDs and implants among teenagers. The new guidelines go further in saying physicians should discuss the two types of birth control with sexually active teens at every doctor visit.

The gynecologists group said condoms should still be used at all times because no other birth control method protects against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

While it may sound surprising that such invasive contraceptives are being endorsed for teenagers, 43 percent of girls ages 15 to 19 have had sex, a government survey found. Most are using some kind of effective birth control, but only about 5 percent use the long-lasting devices, the gynecologists group said.

In 21 states, all teenagers can get contraceptives without parental permission, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks laws affecting women’s health. A few other states allow it under certain circumstances.

The IUD and implant cost hundreds of dollars. The new health reform law requires health insurance plans to cover birth control without co-payments. Also, some publicly funded health clinics offer birth control free or at a reduced cost.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been more cautious and has not endorsed specific methods of birth control, but is updating its guidance. Some pediatricians have been reluctant to recommend IUDs for teens, partly because of concerns over infection risks; an older model was blamed for infertility.

Dr. Paula Braverman, a University of Cincinnati physician involved in updating the academy’s position, said the gynecologists’ advice does a good job of clarifying misconceptions about IUDs and implants.

An IUD called the Dalkon Shield that was sold in the 1970s was linked to dangerous and sometimes deadly infections. Newer IUDs have been found to be safe, and the gynecologists group said the risk of pelvic infections increases only slightly during the first three weeks after insertion.

The hormonal implant has been updated, too. The newest kind uses just one thin rod; an older type no longer sold in the U.S. used six rods that sometimes didn’t stay in place. IUDs and implants can be removed at any time with no lasting effect on fertility, the gynecologists group said.

“The ones on the market today are extremely safe,” said Dr. Mary Fournier, an adolescent-medicine specialist at Chicago’s Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, who praised the new recommendations. “That is what everybody should be telling their patients.”

She said she already recommends IUDs for her patients and is being trained in how to insert birth control implants.

Raine-Bennett, research director for women’s health at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., said she gets mixed reactions from her patients about both methods.

“Some of them say, ‘Great! Something that I don’t have to think about.’ Others are, like, ‘Hmmm, something in my body?’ It really varies,” she said.

Doctors need to be sensitive to that and provide detailed information to dispel any myths and allow teens to make informed decisions, Raine-Bennett said.


Teens putting their own spin on personalization

Posted by Lorain County Moms


NEW YORK — As the thousands of Sophias and Isabellas and Jacobs and Masons born this past year will learn when they go to pick up their backpacks off the soccer field or sort their duffels in college dorms, their names aren’t as unique as they are.

But their Twitter handles will be one of a kind, and some companies that specialize in customized products are already seeing social media names replace initials or birth names as IDs. Or you might find something decorated with a wink-wink emoticon or social-media acronym that not all parents can decipher, or the hashtag that is an of-the-moment, pop-culture rallying point.

Social media are influencing actual design, not just which designs are popular.

“As we see customization become more ubiquitous, we see this trend growing,” says Marc Cowlin, director of marketing at CafePress, an online retailer that lets consumers put their own stamp on apparel, accessories and more. “If you think about what you do in your regular life, you customize everything: your TV schedule, with DVRs letting us watch what we want to watch and when. Your radio is an iPod playlist or niche satellite, so why not with your own product?”

He adds: “Teenagers love having something in their hands that no one else has, or that only the right people have.”

CafePress has grown simultaneously with social media, and Cowlin says personalization is its fastest-growing category. It seems each day there’s a new “shop” specializing in a hashtag; it could be a saying from a movie, or a plug for a school team or club. (Something like (hash)GoTigers.)

You can buy pajamas or flashlights with a favorite phrase inspired by texters: LOL, TTYL or BRB, for example.

Cowlin also expects to see upward sales of water bottles and T-shirts labeled with Twitter handles this back-to-school season, and Twitter chatter indicates similar interest in personalized laptop and cell phone cases.

“It’s a generation that’s interested in any merchandise that tips its hat to social media,” Cowlin says.

They have a point, Cowlin adds: “By personalizing your water bottle with your Twitter handle, it’s less likely to get lost. There might be 50 white water bottles on the field, but only one will have your social media name.”

Daniella Yacobovsky, who co-founded an online jewelry business, Bauble Bar, 18 months ago, sees the same strong interest in personalized products but still was taken by surprise by the success of the company’s Twitter handle necklace.

Think of it as the next-generation Carrie Bradshaw nameplate for girls whose moms will know what the Carrie Bradshaw nameplate is. (For those who don’t, it’s one of the first fashion trends that Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Sex and the City” character started. A necklace with a girlie script spelling your name was all the rage for 20-somethings a decade ago.)

Social media references are “a very 2012 way of expressing yourself,” Yacobovsky says. “You can have it say something that’s not your exact name but something like it with an ‘at’ symbol in front so everyone will know who it is. But the name can be reflective of you — maybe your name, or the name of your blog, or an insider nickname, but you’re not stuck in the box of your given name.”

Not everyone has bought into the trend, though. L.L. Bean, a go-to source for school bags embroidered with names and initials, now can do the “at” sign, but no one is asking for it, says spokeswoman Mary Rose MacKinnon.

About 60 percent of the book packs sold by the brand are embroidered with classic initials. Still, she says, it is the tween and teen shopper driving that personalization business, too.

For Bauble Bar, the Twitter handle necklace has been popular for gifts, hitting the “$80-$100 sweet spot” that works for teenage birthday gifts and graduation presents, Yacobovsky says. Other people are buying it for themselves.

“Something like this necklace lends itself to viral sharing. You order it, personalize it, take an Instagram picture of it when you get it and then put it on Twitter, and then your followers want it with their name on it,” she says.

Social media are both a democratizing force in fashion and one that plays to aspirations to be an insider, echoes Suchit Majmudar, vice president of brand development and strategy for mall retailer Charming Charlie, which is selling emoticon necklaces.

Teenagers have for many generations used style both to make a statement and to fit in, he notes, but in 2012, it’s all quite literally at their fingertips.

They also understand and feel comfortable using the technology to make the products, adds Cowlin of CafePress.

“They grew up with it, they know how to do it. They’ll jump in front of a computer screen and play with design tools until they get it all just the way they want it,” he says. “There’s a big difference watching my 14 year-old-daughter customize something versus myself or my wife.”


Our bizarre coming-of-age ritual

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Marla Jo Fisher, The Orange County Register

Every culture has its bizarre coming-of-age rituals.

In Vanuatu, adolescent boys dive headfirst off towers, with ropes tied to their ankles to save them from certain death.

Brazilian girls of the Tikuna tribe are painted with black dye and throw firebrands at symbolic demons.

In the Amazon, boys of a certain tribe are initiated into manhood by sticking their hands into mittens woven of viciously biting ants.

In our country, the most common rite of passage also involves pain and sacrifice.

It’s called orthodontics.

And my daughter can’t wait to undergo it.

The young people undergoing the ritual feel pain, to be sure.

But not as much as that endured by their parents, who must come up with big bucks so their children’s teeth can be prodded, pushed and pulled into positions deemed aesthetically pleasing to the tribal clan.

Parents are willing to do this, even if it is a financial hardship, because they believe that their child will never enter middle-class America without artificially straightened teeth.

In case you’ve been living somewhere like Great Britain all your life, this ritual found all across North America involves placing metal wire and brackets onto adolescent teeth, which are then tightened every month until squeezed into the most desirable position. Sometimes, teeth must be pulled, in a horrific ceremony often accompanied by codeine and heavy drinking by the parent.

Family members assist, not only by selling their labor and cattle to pay for the procedure, but also by preparing soft, mushy foods for the day after each tightening episode, when the child’s mouth is invariably sore.

The new thing, of course, is for American children to get orthodontia twice, once when they’re still in grade school, and again later on, when they are starting to become obnoxious.

If you’re an orthodontist, I’m sure you’ll now be firing up your email account to write and tell me 8,627 reasons why 9-year-olds desperately need to wear braces. But I think it’s a clever scheme designed primarily to extract money from my wallet.

After all, two sets of braces foisted on the same kid (hold your breath here) cost a lot more than one set.

When Curly Girl was 9, I took her to the orthodontist associated with her dentist for a “free consultation.” After the free consultation, they handed me a card with recommendations for two courses of braces, in the middle of which she was supposed to wear a retainer for two years.

After I woke up on the floor, recovering from my dead faint at the prices, I tried to imagine forcing my stubborn daughter to wear a mouthpiece every night for two years.

Really, the simpler thing would just be to move to England, where they’re still not so obsessed with cosmetic dentistry.

The interesting thing also is that no one at this orthodontist’s office could give me any cogent reason why she needed two sets of braces. Except maybe that the orthodontist was buying a vacation home in Hawaii.

Proving once again what a bad mother I am, I skipped the whole 9-year-old braces thing and just told her she could have braces — after her brother’s were done. Well, I’m finished paying for Cheetah Boy’s braces now, and bracing for the second round of bills for her dental work.

Curly Girl just had her “molds made,” a procedure where they shove gooey stuff into your mouth to get an impression of your teeth. And she’s eagerly awaiting the pain that’s to come with the dental appliances, even though everyone’s warned her how much it’s going to hurt.

But, then, kids will do anything to be just like their friends. And the amount of metal in the mouths of her middle-school friends right now could build a fighter jet, if it were all melted down for scrap.

So I’m counting my pennies and getting out the blender. It’s time for the whipped carrots and sweet potatoes again.

Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting, while being exhorted from everywhere to be thinner, smarter, sexier, healthier, more frugal, a better mom, better dressed and a tidier housekeeper. Contact her at Read her blog at


Elaborate prom invites get new name: Prom-posals

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Never mind a text that meekly asks “will u go 2 prom w/me?”

Today’s teenagers are taking a cue from elaborately staged wedding proposals, inviting each other to prom with flash mobs, scavenger hunts, homemade music videos and even airplane banners flying over the beach.

And while coming up with clever or romantic ways to ask someone to prom isn’t an entirely new concept, the effort and expense going into the big ask these days has given rise to a new term: Prom-posal.

“This year is the first time we’ve done prom invitations,” said Remy Colin, owner of Aerial Messages, a company that charges $600 for a plane to fly a banner with a message on it. “It’s expensive as hell for a high schooler who doesn’t have any money, but we’ve done two in the past three months,” one in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and one in Tampa, Fla.

Alex Chichkov, 17, arranged for a plane trailing “Come to prom with me, Kayla?” to fly over a student fundraiser his girlfriend Kayla Bennett was attending at King High School in Tampa in March.

“I’ve seen it for weddings and I wanted to do something huge or unique,” said Alex, a senior who paid for the flyover with money he earned working at a family business. “I didn’t want to do anything generic. In the history of the school, no one has done anything that big. It’s going to be my only prom, first time ever, last time ever, with someone who’s been my girlfriend for two and a half years, so it deserves to be that big.”

The plane flew over a student Relay for Life event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, right before the talent show, while a sound system played a Michael Buble cover of the Frank Sinatra song, “Come Fly With Me.”

“Everyone was cheering and she had the biggest smile on her face,” Alex said. Naturally, Kayla said yes.

Rebecca Leet, 17, had an audience of over 250 people for a prom-posal from her boyfriend, Joe Nelson, 18. Rebecca and Joe both worked on a school performance of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Collierville High School in Collierville, Tenn. At the end of the show, their teacher, Keith Salter, told the audience to stay put for one more thing.

Joe came out on stage, got down on one knee and pulled out a box with a ring in it. “It’s not what you think!” Salter quickly assured the audience, as some gasped, thinking it was a teenage marriage proposal.

Then Joe popped the question — the prom question. “She got all teary and said yes,” Joe said. “It made my day just knowing I did something memorable and she really enjoyed it.”

Nancy Darling, an Oberlin College professor of psychology who studies adolescent development, said teenage relationships go through stages, one of which is taking the romance public. “It’s a public declaration of ‘I really want to go to the prom, and I like you!’” she said.

She added that despite stereotypes of teens “as sex-driven and aggressive,” data shows kids are now becoming “more conservative” socially, with less sexual intercourse than previous generations. “We’re back to being romantic,” she said.

And while some prom-posals come from girls, most are planned by boys, letting them show off “this whole sweet side that doesn’t get a lot of chance to come up,” said Darling. “We’ve really underestimated the romance of guys.”

The Heart Bandits, a “romance event coordinating company” that usually arranges marriage proposals, has, for the first time this year, gotten requests for help with prom-posals, said Michele Velazquez, co-owner of the company. The Heart Bandits created a scavenger hunt in Santa Monica, Calif., that led a girl to a classroom with candles, rose petals and her prospective date holding a “Will you go to prom?” sign. In Michigan, signs were posted on a road ending with an invitation to prom. Velazquez said she’s had inquiries from other teens, but most can’t afford the $300 pricetag.

But many prom-posals are creative without costing a fortune. In East Greenwich, R.I., baker Michael Valente at Felicia’s Coffee got an order for a cake with a frosting heart and the words, “Juliana, Prom?” ‘’It was something new for me,“ Valente said. ”But I think it was so sweet.”

Search YouTube for “prom invitation” and you’ll find homemade videos of lone Romeos crooning to their beloveds, flash mobs dancing to taped songs during the formal ask, and groups of kids wearing T-shirts that spell out “PROM” one letter at a time. Keith Naranjo, a senior at a high school in Manhattan, Kan., put together a fruit basket with cute notes for each fruit like “Let’s go to the promegranate” and “I’m berry serious.”

“A lot of times you’ll see notes written on kids’ car windows with markers,” said Will Sherwood, a student at Plant High School in Tampa who hid his prom invitation in a bouquet of flowers. “Or there will be 2,000 sticky notes and each sticky note makes a letter. I saw one on Facebook where someone left tiny candles lit on a front porch that spelled out prom.”

He added that “because of social media, people like to take pictures of it and put it up on Facebook, and then other people will say, ‘You have such a good guy!’”

Just be careful where you hang those signs. Last year, James Tate, a student at Shelton High School in Shelton, Conn., was barred from his prom because he had put the invitation in big cardboard letters on a school wall. Fortunately, after the story made national headlines, the school headmaster relented, and Tate was allowed to go.