Teen’s Fictional Story of a Bullied Child’s Suicide: Did it go too far?

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 01:26 am

Hailey Bennett is 12 years old – her mother died when she was three and her father is abusive. She’s been bullied for years – in school and on her Facebook page where she admits she wants to die and is ignored – and eventually she commits suicide. At least that is the fictional story being told by Jessica Barba, a 15 year old high school student from New York who created a video called “The Story of Hailey Bennett” as a class project to make a point – that bullying is real, that it happens every day and could be happening to the child who on the surface is living a happy life – and that each and every one of us can and should make a difference in putting an end to this.

To tell Hailey’s story Jessica created a six-minute video and a fake Facebook page. Both had disclaimers to let viewers know that Hailey was a fictional character. A concerned parent however saw “Hailey’s” Facebook page with the update that said “I wanna be dead” and called the police who contacted the school. Despite multiple disclaimers that this was a fictional story, Jessica was suspended from school for 5 days.

“I just created the video in order to raise awareness of the major issue that’s bullying,” 15-year-old Jessica Barba told Matt Lauer on TODAY. “I don’t understand why I’m being punished for it.”

And really when it comes down to it, that is the question. Should she have been? Jessica created a fake Facebook page – that violated Facebook’s terms of service – but the unfortunate truth is that happens every day, often with intent to harm – to bully or deliberately hurt or humiliate others – not to raise awareness of that behavior and encourage others to take a stand against it.

Here is Jessica’s video:

It’s amazing the world technology allows us to create. 10 years ago Jessica Barba could only have submitted this as a paper – I doubt it would have created this much uproar. But not today. Today, she brought us into Hailey’s world and it was real enough to frighten a parent into calling the police. Real enough to frighten the school administration into suspending her. But should they have? Too often what we don’t see is exactly what we need to see…and Jessica Barba certainly opened our eyes.

But did she go too far? Or did the school officials? What do you think??

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-21-2012 to 05-27-2012

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:02 am

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Behavior Problems in Your Kid? Consider checking for Sleep Apnea http://t.co/w2aLaLDR

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Lying

Last updated on May 30th, 2012 at 11:56 am

Most kids at some point in time, will tell a lie. As a parent, handling the situation correctly will help put a stop to the lying before it turns into a habit.

When your child tells a lie…

  • Don’t yell, raise your voice, or overreact. Stay calm. Overreacting will scare your child and they will be afraid to come and tell you the truth next time. If your child knows you are going to stay calm, they are more likely to tell the truth.
  • Don’t call your child a liar, or accuse them of lying. Accusing will make them feel trapped and make things worse. Instead of ‘I know you broke the window”, say…”Looks like there was an accident, do you need some help cleaning things up, what happened”.
  • Only talk about the facts. Stick to the things you saw or heard firsthand. “I can see the blinds are broken, please tell the truth, what happened?” Or, “your coach told me a different version. Please tell the truth.”

Enforce consequences

When your child lies, there should be a reasonable consequence. Help them understand that there are in fact two sets of consequences. A consequence when you do something wrong AND another for lying…and make the consequence fit the crime.

For example: maybe your child cheats on a test and then lies about it. Two sets of consequences….

  1. They have to right the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated, and deal with whatever consequences come from the teacher.
  2. For lying, they lose a privilege, such as not going out with friends for two weeks. If they hadn’t lied, you might be comfortable just expecting them to write the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated.

Help them to understand why lying is bad

Beyond just the immediate consequences for their actions, it is important to help our children understand why lying is wrong. Explain to your child that when we lie we get into trouble. Lying will also give us and our families a bad reputation, and it hurts other people. Others will not want to be your friend and they won’t be able to trust you when you lie.

We should also talk to our children about our own “honesty policy”. Make it clear that in your home you will always tell them the truth, and you expect them to always do the same.

Above all, we need to demonstrate honesty in all WE do as parents, and be sure to praise our children when they tell the truth.

Help Your Kids Beat Summer Camp Homesickness

Last updated on August 19th, 2015 at 11:31 pm

Leaving home, even for a short while, can create a lot of anxiety for kids — not to mention their parents. But you can reduce your child’s fears by sending her off with two essential items: a sense of independence and a vote of confidence.

“Kids need opportunities to take care of themselves, and parents have gotten a lot worse at that over the years,” says Bob Ditter, a child and family therapist in Boston, Mass., who consults camps nationwide. A big part of separation anxiety is wondering, “How am I going to be successful?”

To boost your child’s confidence and minimize homesickness, Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, suggests these six steps:

1. Practice separations throughout the year.

Set up sleepovers at relatives’ and friends’ homes, and use those experiences to build confidence. When it’s time for camp or a trip with another family, remind your child that she’s spent the night away before. She’s already seen that you can go away and then come back.

2. Teach independence.

In addition to creating opportunities for independence, you need to call attention to the small steps your child takes. Tell her you liked the way she handled a conflict or how she approached the salesperson for help. She may not see those moves as accomplishments if you don’t acknowledge them.

3. Involve them in decision-making.

Giving your child choices will help her feel that she has some control over what happens to her while she’s away. Once you’ve set the parameters and made your own short list of camps, let her make the final call. Give her the ability to choose her own activities, and accept what she picks. “You have to be open-minded,” says Smith. “We are not our children, and they aren’t us. It’s part of learning how to make decisions.”

4. Minimize surprises.

Part of homesickness is being unfamiliar with your surroundings, so the more information your child has about logistics, the easier her transition will be. Explain how camp is laid out: where her cabin is located, how the bathroom is set up, how far away the dining hall is. Tell her where she’ll be sleeping in Grandma’s house, what the neighborhood is like and how close the playground is.

5. Avoid making an escape plan.

The minute you tell your child she doesn’t have to stay if she’s unhappy, you’ve prepared her to be unhappy. Instead, if your child calls you weeping and begging to come home, listen to her, but then move past the anxiety: “What did you do that was fun? Is there something you’re doing tomorrow that you’re looking forward to? If you’re still feeling this way next week, we can talk about it.”

6. Don’t wig out.

Severe homesickness is very rare, according to Smith, so the unhappiness you’re hearing probably doesn’t characterize your child’s entire experience. Keep reflecting your confidence that she’ll have a great time, and remind yourself of the goal: to help her learn new skills, build self-esteem, and gain confidence and independence

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-14-2012 to 05-20-2012

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:03 am

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

New lead poisoning guidelines: What parents should know – it’s recommended to test children at age 1 & again at age 2 http://t.co/b5q4A8Hg

Executive Function: Helping Your Child’s Brain Take Charge

Last updated on May 30th, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Joey is a seven year old referred by his pediatrician because he has difficulty paying attention in school. His mind wanders, he responds to his teacher’s questions in class with “What, I don’t know,” and he is a bit self-conscious about his declining grades. Joey is a super sweet little boy, he does not squirm in his seat, bother other kids or anger the teacher. She simply wonders, “Why is he always day-dreaming?”

The answer, as pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Beljan says is, “Joey’s boss is out.” Here’s “ADHD and Executive Function: When the boss is out” a blog-talk-radio episode on the boss in Joey’s brain.

Joey’s boss resides in the frontal lobes of the brain. His boss is in charge of the executive functions that help him to preview, plan, think, inhibit, organize and execute tasks of daily living. I call this area of the brain “The Thinker.” You can read all about The Caveman and The Thinker here in The Family Coach Method.

Let’s learn a little about what are executive functions, how do we assess them and how do we improve them?

What is Executive Function and why does it matter?

The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. Executive functions are the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.

Executive functions take place in the frontal lobes, specifically the neocortex of the brain. If you’ve never heard of an executive function that’s no surprise yet, you use them every day. When you get up, choose your outfit, make your bed, make your coffee and plan your day, you are using your executive functions. Planning, organizing, holding information in your immediate memory, inhibiting your behavior, making good choices and managing your emotions are all activities mediated by executive function.

Let’s look at a description of a few executive functions. Think about yourself, your spouse and children. How do you see these functions evident in the behavior of those you care about? What might you, your child or spouse need more of?

Executive Functions

  • Inhibition – The ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts. The flip side of inhibition is impulsivity; if you have weak ability to stop yourself from acting on your impulses, then you are “impulsive.”
  • Cognitive Shift – The ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.
  • Emotional Control (self-regulation) – The ability to modulate emotional responses by managing one’s feelings. I call this using one’s thinker to manage one’s caveman.
  • Initiation – The ability to begin a task or activity. This includes the ability to independently generate ideas, appropriate responses and useful problem-solving strategies.
  • Working memory – The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task. Working memory is what you are using right now as you read this article. You are holding the information in memory and thinking about it.
  • Planning/Organization – The ability to identify, plan and manage current and future task demands.
  • Organization of Materials – The ability to create order in work, play and storage spaces.
  • Self-Monitoring – The ability to monitor one’s own internal feelings and performance in order to manage one’s thought, behavior and feelings.

We can improve executive function through a variety of activities. Play is a modality I often use.

As I sit and play with a child I teach them how to approach the play environment, how to choose, arrange and interact with toys, art or play materials. I teach the children that every activity has a beginning, middle and end. We begin a task, participate in the task or activity and then end the experience by putting materials away and making a conscious choice regarding what we will play next. Managing our feelings, body space, speed of movement and impulsivity are also well-addressed through play.

Brain Training is also another modality of executive function enhancement. Cognitive training or brain training consists of a variety of exercises designed to help improve functioning in areas such as sustaining attention, thinking before acting, visual and auditory processing, listening, reading – areas in which ADHD individuals often experience difficulties.

Modalities include computer work, person to person motor-cognition work and neurofeedback.

If an individual is having attentional or learning problems, tutoring or drill and practice in academic areas are often not effective. The principle underlying cognitive brain training is to help improve the “core” abilities and self-control necessary before an individual can function successfully academically. The exercises “drill for skill” directly in the areas where basic specific cognitive difficulties occur.

Brain Training is like exercise for the brain with specific exercises for specific neuropsychological functions or deficits. The key is to build neuronal connections. Activities that include a motor and cognitive component may work best but the research is not to a degree that one can assert Brain Training is yet an Evidence Based Treatment. In a few years, we’ll surely know more.

Research is ongoing as to what forms of brain training are effective. The key is to personalize your choice of program. The methodology of the program needs to meet the needs of your child. Does your child have attention challenges? Is their issue inhibition? Reading social cues? Staying on topic? Dyslexia?

Some programs include Luminosity, Captain’s Log, COGMED, MC2, Brain Gym and Brain Builder. If your child has not had a neuropsychological or executive function evaluation that may be a first step.

If you need to know more about the specific skills you wish to enhance in your child, a neuropsychologist can do an assessment of executive function. Here is a valuable audio on psychological testing and executive function http://www.lynnekenney.com/what-type-of-testing-is-best-for-my-child-adhd-ef/.

Here are some excellent books on the topic http://www.researchild.org/publications.

Valuable Links


This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”. Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.