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Teen Life

6 Ways to Welcome Spring in the Florida Keys By Rosalind Stefanac   When the temperatures dip across Canada, and you’re craving some reprieve from frostbite, put the Florida Keys on your sunshine list. In the U.S.A’s southernmost tip, the Keys are a string of tropical islands spanning across the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The best part? On the scenic 182 km-long Overseas Highway, connected by 42 bridges, you can travel from Key Largo to Key West, stopping to explore all the unique regions along the way. Here are some key things to do in the Keys for you and your teen.   Bike the Old ‘7 As spring blooms across Canada, there's no better time to head south and explore the Florida Keys. With comfortable temperatures averaging around 23-25 C, the Keys are ideal for outdoor exertion. Rent a bike (or walk) the Old Seven Mile Bridge, which was built more than a century ago as the centerpiece of the Key’s Over-Sea Railroad before being converted into a route for cars. Currently, the bridge is only for pedestrians and bikers and will take you to Pigeon Key, which used to house 400 railroad workers in the 1900s. It’s a fascinating story, given the harsh conditions of the day. Take a guided tour, or explore the area yourself, which includes a museum filled with fascinating artifacts. With no restaurants there, be sure to pack a picnic to enjoy by the waterfront before you head back.   Explore the backcountry Head to Big Pine Key for some exercise — and adventure — on the water. As a long-time Lower Keys resident, naturalist guide, book author and professional photographer, Captain Bill Keogh of Big Pine Kayak Adventures and his team will lead you as you paddle your way through the Florida Key’s backcountry by kayak or via catamaran, pointing out all the interesting birds, fish and other wildlife along the way.   Stay at Hawks Cay Resort Located in Marathon (in the Keys’ midpoint) Hawks Cay is a 60-acre family resort with 250 two- and three-bedroom villas, in addition to guest rooms. Kids can snorkel, kayak and paddleboard in the salt-water lagoon on-site or feed the fish at Hawks Cay Marina. There’s also an extensive game room, putting course, basketball and volleyball courts, and daily activities geared specifically to teens and tweens. Canadians who book a stay before the end of 2023 get 20% off their room rate too.   Visit

The Social Media Battle: Examining Its Impact and Helping Our Youth Use Responsibly By Brandy Browne     There is no denying that online platforms have boomed in recent years. In fact, The Mayo Clinic (2022) reports that an estimated 45 per cent of teens ages 13-17 are online “almost constantly”, with social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Snapchat being the most popular.   Social media play a huge role in influencing our youth — both positively as well as negatively, regardless of whether we use it extensively or not.   For example, social media platforms are places where teens can connect with others, and in many cases, find valuable support systems that might be harder to find in person. Teens with chronic illnesses might find online support groups with other teens fighting the same battle. It is also home to a plethora of opportunities to connect with others with similar interests in hobbies, music, television, sports, etc.   On the flip side, it can be damaging at times. Teens often report that social media use is the reason for losing sleep at night and getting distracted from class, homework, or chores. The Mayo Clinic also reports that teens who spend more than three hours per day on social media may have a heightened risk of developing mental health problems.   The issue for teens (and let’s face it, adults as well) is that social media portrays a highlight reel for so many. It’s so easy to look at another person’s Facebook story and think they have it all together, but the reality is that we’re much more comfortable posting our joys for others to share than our sorrows.   5 Tips for Guiding Your Child’s Social Media Use   We want to ensure our youth use social media responsibly, as well as make sure it improves their lives, not makes them worse. Here are some tips to help you get started.   Start a conversation Social media is a powerful tool, so you should make sure your teen knows how to use it responsibly. Set the expectation that it should not interfere with school or responsibilities. It’s also a good idea to set limits on social media use at night (i.e. no electronics after a certain time of the evening) in order to maintain good sleeping habits.   Monitor your teen’s social media accounts This one is controversial. I want to give my eleven-year-old child some privacy, but as her parent, I have a responsibility to keep her safe. Keeping

4 Fun Winter Advent Calendar Ideas for the Family by Rachel Naud   The cold, dreary days of winter may be coming soon, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! Here are some ideas for your family's winter advent calendar that will keep you and yours entertained!   Guides for Managing Finances With the holidays coming up—and the cost of everything going up—now is a good time to have a talk with your teen about finances. Have a teen that is at that age where they don’t have a job but seems to have expensive taste? Teach them about financial literacy and how to manage their money!      The SideKick Mastercard from Hero Financials is a reliable tool that helps tweens and teens understand and manage money efficiently and effectively. No need to set your kids up with a new bank account, you just sign up at herofinancials.com and you can load money on it and use the budgeting tool to divide the money between pre-created categories: general, living expenses, eating out, travel, shopping, and fun which will help your kids budget for what is most important to them. There’s actually a cash-back promotion on the site right now (sign up for Hero's annual plan and get $50 cash back plus a free upgrade after your first load!), which is super cool and the card can be used anywhere a prepaid Mastercard is accepted–in-store or online.   Hot Meals for Cozy Nights Is there anything better than cooking a delicious, hot meal on a cold, snowy night? Here’s an idea: get your teen involved and celebrate Pizza Fridays! It's so easy to make, and when you use good-quality ingredients, it makes for a great pizza!      To make the sauce, use Mutti tomatoes—it’s fresh just like a summer tomato, even though outside the snow may be flying! Made with 100% Italian tomatoes, this sauce makes for a simple, yet absolutely delicious meal. Fun fact! Some tomatoes are better for certain recipes and to pick the best one for your recipe, Mutti has come up with a handy guide to bring your recipe to the next level—check it out on muttipolpa.ca.      Games for Game Nights When the weather turns cold, don’t you just like to heat up the competition with a family game night? Your family will absolutely love the Nintendo Switch OLED Model because it has a 7-inch screen and the colours and graphics are even more vibrant. With the Mario Kart 8

The College Tour is About to Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier By Samantha Jonas-Hain     As a mom of high schoolers, I know how stressful the college search can be. Aside from the emotional aspect (let’s face it, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that bedtime stories and snuggles are things of the past), there is so much of this next chapter that is unknown. How can we as parents make sure that our kids are making informed, well-thought-out choices about college, and setting themselves up for success?   Fortunately, The College Tour has come to the rescue! It is a groundbreaking TV series that travels to colleges and universities, bringing the story of each school to life through the lens of its students. The show streams on Amazon Prime and all episodes are available for free on their website. The College Tour is leveling the playing field by enabling students from all over the world to check out schools without having to spend the time or money to travel there. The show has filmed at over 80 colleges and universities so far, but really, when it comes to The College Tour, the TV show is just the beginning.   The College Tour website is a comprehensive tool for parents, students, and educators to gather information that will help students make smart decisions based off of what’s truly best for them. They offer free classes for international students, first-generation students, majors, and a core class that breaks down the four pillars to look for in a school, in addition to digital series, like Ask Admissions, blogs, and more.   With so much information, available for free, here are some tips on how to get the most out of The College Tour.     Go broad Don’t just watch episodes of The College Tour about schools already on your radar, use this as an opportunity to expand your universe. There are so many incredible schools out there that might be an even better fit, you just don’t know it yet. The show allows you to explore regions, and campuses that otherwise were inaccessible.    Take the classes Online classes are not just useful to students, but also to parents who want to learn more about today's college landscape. The first-generation class is especially useful for parents who didn’t attend college, giving them tools to help their children in their search.    Let them do the asking for you The College Tour has multiple digital series where

5 Signs of Teen Burnout by Carol Bunting   We all want our teens to succeed in school, but putting them under too much pressure can lead to stress and anxiety. There's a risk of burnout if teens do too much at once—juggling studies, friends, family time, hobbies and chores. If you're worried about your teen's well-being, look out for these five signs of teen burnout.     They're not taking part in their hobbies Hobbies help teens take breaks from their studies and unwind with fun activities. They also often help them to socialize if they're group-based hobbies, and they can offer a creative or physical outlet for letting go of emotions and burning off stress. If your teen is neglecting their usual hobbies, they may be overworked and unable to balance school and fun. They might also not have enough mental energy to devote to hobbies because school consumes most of their time.   They're irritable It's common for teens to lash out or get frustrated with those around them because their moods can fluctuate as a result of their developing brains. However, stress compounds irritability, and if you notice the issue gets worse when there's a lot going on at school, your teen could be experiencing burnout. Perhaps they're irritable because they don't feel they're performing well enough, or because they're concerned about disappointing you.     They aren't eating properly Stress and anxiety can impact appetite. For some, it causes undereating and cravings for sugar and junk food. A change in eating habits could indicate that your teenager is struggling with their workload. It may be particularly obvious that stress is affecting their appetite if there's a pattern in their eating habits. For example, if they don't eat their dinner during the week but tend to eat well at the weekends, they could be feeling extra anxious on school days.   They isolate themselves Due to their irritability and desire for independence, teens spend more time alone in their rooms. However, if they suddenly start spending more time than usual isolated from others, especially if they're also avoiding spending time with their friends, this could be a sign that they're struggling.     They have insomnia Symptoms of burnout include insomnia. Your mind is so busy worrying that you can't switch off and rest. Teens have different body clocks than adults and tend to stay up late, but if the late nights are lasting right until morning every night, there could be something else going on. Look for

Back to School Tips: Internet Safety for Kids by Myla Pilao Now that the fall has sprung, children of all ages have returned to school for the new year. The use of digital technology and the Internet is a normal part of life for children now, at home — but increasingly in school as well. And while long-term trends had already formed, the COVID-19 pandemic saw such changes go into overdrive, with children across Canada spending an average of six hours a day of screen time every day, and some children even spending up to 13 hours per day on screens.     Life in front of a screen According to a recent survey, two-thirds of parents allow their children to use the Internet independently, and over 70 percent have admitted to their children engaging in risky online behaviour. With the increasing daily use of digital technology, it's critical for parents to integrate digital literacy and cyber hygiene into their child’s learning process. The Internet is a powerful tool offering a multitude of positive benefits, but it also has its risks. It is up to individuals to practice safe browsing habits that protect them and their families from malicious actors. This will enable them to enjoy all the positive opportunities that the Internet has to offer. To help improve kids’ safety and awareness online, Trend Micro, a global cybersecurity solutions company, launched the Cyber Academy, which offers 7–10-year-olds a series of video-based lessons and learning materials designed to upgrade children’s digital literacy skills in a way that’s meaningful and engaging. The Cyber Academy consists of Internet safety lessons that focus on passwords, two-factor authentication, security and privacy among others. These free 10-15 minute lessons can be delivered on-demand and are available to teachers in the classroom or a guardian at home. This tool is also available in eleven different languages including Czech, Deutsch, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Chinese and Arabic. Trend Micro’s Myla Pilao, Director of Technology Marketing and an avid advocate for the safety of children online, has shared a few tips for parents to keep in mind:   Have conversations about online safety in today’s digital world Encourage your kids to ask questions. Make them feel safe to share if someone or something online makes them feel uncomfortable   Practice Digital Empathy teaching kids to be kind to others online and offline is essential. Respecting others’ boundaries and privacy will make them recognize when someone is trespassing on theirs.   Teach children about privacy and password

Back-to-School Survival Kit by Rachel Naud   It's back-to-school time!  Teens everywhere may be dreading the start of another year, but we've got some good news: it's easier than ever to make your teen's back-to-school experience enjoyable! Check out our list of essential items that will help make the transition into the new school year easier for both you and them.   For Taking Notes   Remember during university days and not wanting to write or jot notes in your textbooks so you could keep them pristine and sell them afterwards? Post-it® Notes are perfect for this job! They are handy for making study notes as well as jotting down quick ideas and tasks to help keep you organized.     These Post-it® Super Sticky Notes have two times the sticking power compared to the original Post-it® Notes. They’ll not only stick to most flat surfaces but also come off easily and cleanly! And, of course, who doesn’t love the fun new colours they’ve launched this year?    For Scratch-Free Dorm Rooms     If you have a university student moving into a dorm, they’ll want to keep Scotch® Wall-Safe Tape on hand. In most dorms, you're not allowed to nail anything to the walls. This tape is ideal for displaying posters, photos, and more. As an added bonus, Scotch® Magic™ Tape is invisible, which makes it perfect for school projects, crafts, or simply mending torn pages!    For Managing Finances   Does your teen have expensive taste and you want to teach them how to effectively manage their money? Get them started with Hero Financials and teach them financial literacy. It’s a reliable tool that helps tweens and teens understand and manage money efficiently and effectively. Your kids don't need a new bank account! Just sign up at herofinancials.com, and you can load money on it and use a variety of features, including a budgeting tool, recurring allowances, and block lists, to help them budget for what matters most to them. It comes with a physical SideKick Mastercard, which can be used anywhere a prepaid Mastercard is accepted in-store or online. Hero has some incentives going on at the moment for new signups, so make sure to visit Hero Financials to check it out.     For Easy Organization     Want to teach your teen the art of time management? The Echo Show 15 has widgets that are Alexa-powered to help keep your teen on track with shared calendars, personal sticky notes, to-do lists, shopping lists, and assigned reminders. Not only that, but they

Back-to-School Top 5 Picks by Rachel Naud It’s that time of year!  Whether you have a middle school, high school, or university student in your house, every student will want some cool essentials to start the back-to-school season off right!   For a Bright and Fun School Year It is hard not to shop at Staples Canada when it comes to back-to-school shopping since they offer many noteworthy products that are not only great for working and learning but are also very fun! With all the tools kids need to work and learn—notebooks, calculators, lunch bags and more—the bright colours make this Pep Rally line a favourite because, let's face it, if your kids love their tools, they will be more excited to learn.   All of these items are available exclusively at Staples stores in Canada, or you can order them online at staples.ca!   For Organizing Toiletries   University students moving into dorms will need some cool bathroom essentials. Bed, Bath & Beyond has everything you need—whether you’re looking for storage solutions or fun décor. Their Simply Essential line has plush towels, flip-flops (a must for any dorm-dweller) and a tote to make storing and carrying their bathroom essentials easy.     You can shop all these items at Bed, Bath & Beyond in-store or online and if you sign up for the Savings Pass, you can get 20% off while earning points towards future purchases! Also, if your child is moving to a different city, you can shop the app or store and use the Pack & Hold program and they’ll have the order ready to pick up near the campus!   For that rewarding study rest     The Endy Weighted Blanket is engineered to promote a sensation of calm and relaxation. This reduces feelings of anxiety, guaranteeing a good night’s rest.  It features a balanced weight that distributes equal pressure across your body. This provides maximum comfort, movement minimization and deeper sleep. Weighing 15 lbs, this personal-sized blanket will envelop you like a warm, soothing hug. This is amazing for power naps and deep sleep, alike!     For a fun, informative, and worry-free academic year     If you’re worried about your teen’s exposure to the Internet, this Fire 7 Kids tablet’s web browser comes with built-in controls designed to help filter out inappropriate sites and let parents add or block specific websites at any time. Your teen can also send announcements and make voice and video calls over wifi to approved contacts with an Alexa-enabled device or app.    For those

5 Ways to Have Philly Fun With Your Teen By Rosalind Stefanac   If you’re looking for a walkable American city filled with history, fantastic food and fun, Philadelphia will not disappoint. With some of the most historic sites in U.S. history—and plenty of places to “hang”— Philly proved to be a perfect blend of learning and adventure for a recent weekend with my teenage son.   Where to stay   Stay downtown for easy walking access to a multitude of parks and free historic sites, such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where the U.S. Constitution was created), and the infamous Rocky (Balboa) steps and statue (more on that below). We loved the atmosphere at the iconic Notary Hotel, which is located in Philadelphia’s former city hall — a building that dates back to 1926—and features all the modern amenities, including a 24-hour gym and a fully stocked tuck shop for late-night snacking. It’s also a block away from the Reading Terminal Market, a food bazaar sure to please every appetite.   What to eat   You can’t not try a Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia. We walked the aisles of the Reading Terminal Market to find these delicious sandwiches topped with thinly sliced steak, caramelized onion, and melted provolone cheese. With more than 80 other merchants there, we also filled up on soft pretzels, tacos, cannolis, cookies and donuts made fresh before our eyes. Open at 8 a.m., the market is a great place for breakfast too. For a memorable dinner, a Mexican-inspired feast at the funky Condesa was also a big hit with my teen (and me).   What to do   #1: Philly fun at Franklin Square As one of the city’s original open space squares, it centres around a 180-year-old fountain and classic carousel and hosts a variety of events throughout the year. While there we explored the Philadelphia Lantern Festival with more than 30 brilliant displays illuminated by tens of thousands of LED lights and plenty of cool photo ops. #2: Take a segway tour Philly offers some fantastic tours by foot, bike, bus and boat, but we opted to see the city’s most iconic spots via Segway with Philly Tour Hub. Following a brief training session, this mode of transport proved to be an exhilarating way to tour a variety of Philly neighbourhoods. If you’ve never ridden a Segway before, go for the shorter, 60-minute tour to avoid sore legs from all that balancing. #3: Channel the champ Burn off some steam by running

7 Ways to Combat Mental Health Problems in Teen Boys by Arianne Granada     Talking about mental health with teen boys may be especially tricky because of their age and the way their brains are developing—especially if they're in the middle of a growth spurt. Unlike girls, who tend to talk about their emotions and ask for help, boys are often uncomfortable with these types of conversations because society makes it seem emotionally risky to demonstrate vulnerability. As parents, it is important that we help our teen boys to speak up about mental health issues. We should encourage them to talk to a friend or family member about their feelings and emotional issues ranging from stress at home and school to depression or anxiety. We chatted with Cassandra Simms, a psychiatrist who specializes in an all-boys residential treatment program at Embark Behavioral Health based in Chandler, Arizona, about how to help young men navigate through life with self-awareness and confidence.   #1 Unlearn the stigma  Mental health is still pretty taboo. We’re getting better about it, but for a long time, there has been a stigma around it being something to be ashamed of. This is often transferred down to our boys in society; they think they're weak if they aren't tough and don’t express their feelings. So it's important that we, as adults, don't make them feel ashamed of their emotions. Allowing them to express themselves encourages mental health awareness and makes a big difference in the long run.   Understanding their language Sometimes the kid you’re talking to is just going to be defiant, or they’re going to be resistant to saying anything or they just shut down. Regardless of how long it takes, make sure you let them know you still want to talk to them. They'll realize that pushing away isn't working, and that makes you gain their trust that you're not going to abandon them despite their behaviour. Make sure that you pass that first wall so you can make it to the other side. Using their words when they talk about mental health issues is important so that they know you listen rather than using something you learned from a textbook. I had a young patient who was a baseball player once who described depression as a water-logged ball. As we would talk about it, I would ask “How are you feeling, how’s that ball? Is it water-logged or not?" Because it gives you an idea of