Are your teens addicted to their phones? New study says half are

Ben Villalpando is officially attached to his cell phone. Credit: Nicole Villalpando
Ben Villalpando is officially attached to his cell phone.

Like many parents with teens, we have a love-hate relationship with our children’s cellphones. It’s great when kids need to let us know when their after school plans change, which they often do. It’s great when we need to track where they are because the bus home from school is running late or to make sure they got picked up from a friend’s house. It’s even great when we need to ask them what they want at the store or to come downstairs for dinner.

What is not great about it is without limits, they would be on it 24-7. They would choose phone use — texting, video watching, game playing — over sleep, eating, homework. It sometimes makes you wonder: Why did we give them the phone in the first place? and do they even need a phone? 

Common Sense Media surveyed 1,240 parents and their children ages 12-18 in February and March about how they felt about their mobile devices.

Half of the teens say they “feel addicted” to mobile devices. 59 percent of parents agreed that their kids were addicted.

Here are some of the key findings of the study:


  • Addiction: 1 out of every 2 teens feels addicted to his or her device, and the majority of parents (59 percent) feel that their kids are addicted.
  • Frequency: 72 percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications; 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.
  • Distraction: 77 percent of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together at least a few times per week.
  • Conflict: A third of parents and teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) say they argue with each other on a daily basis about device use.
  • Risky behavior: 56 percent of parents admit they check their mobile devices while driving; 51 percent of teens see their parents checking/using their mobile devices when driving.

The Common Sense report stemmed from last November’s report, Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, which indicated that U.S. teens use an average of nine hours of media per day. Of course, the American Academy of Pediatrics would like kids to not be on any screen for more than two hours a day and not before age 2. 

I’ve written a lot about limiting screen time. Here are some ideas on how to do it:

Too much screen time can take its toll.
Too much screen time can take its toll.

Don’t go cold turkey. It’s too much, too fast. Take small steps, adding a new rule or taking away something each week or two.

Quality over quantity.Instead of mindlessly watching TV, let the kids pick one or two favorites to watch each week.

Watch or play together.Yes, I know. Sometimes watching my daughter play computer games or watch her favorite show makes me want to scream. Yet, if we watch together, I’m making sure that there’s a conversation, not just mindless play or watching.

No TV, computers, gaming system, phone in the bedrooms. You can monitor what kids are watching and how much they are watching if they are not squirreled away in the bedroom. At night, you especially want the smartphones off because that’s when all of their friends are trying to text them instead of letting them sleep. It’s also when kids are not monitored and all kinds of mean or unsettling phone behavior can happen. That old saying, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” applies to electronics as well.

Set an example. If you’re constantly on the phone or computer at home, what kid is going to follow your advice? Even though we all have to work from home sometimes, try to make a point to set aside the electronics and make time for family.

One thing at a time.Multitasking might look like efficiency, but why do you need to be on the laptop and smartphone while watching TV and eating dinner? Dinner should be the priority. And that TV as background noise is not a good idea because kids will end up watching it even if they don’t realize it.

Be the boss. There are apps for setting time limits on smartphones and tablets, like Screen Time, that will physically turn off the device. You also can buy devices like BOB Screen Time Manager for the TV and computer. But the best monitor doesn’t come in an app or a device. It’s you setting the limits and enforcing them. Be the parent.

Find other things to do.Busy kids don’t miss their machines. If you’re traveling this summer, pull out a deck of cards and learn a new game. Bring drawing paper and colored pencils. Have the kids create their own board games while you are driving. When you stop for the night, it’s time to play their game. They also can set up scavenger hunts for each other. Never underestimate the power of a good game of hide-and-seek or the journey of an early morning or nighttime hike.

Get out of the house. Have the kids plan a daily field trip. It doesn’t have to be expensive — the library is free, as is a park. You can even have the kids do the research on where to go and what to do when they get there. (That kind of screen time doesn’t count if they should need the computer to do the research.)

You also might find these tips from the Khabeli School useful:

  1. Use dinnertime as a forum for discussion and storytelling. At the dinner table, tell your child a story about something that’s going on in the world. Introduce the characters, explain the conflict and then ask your child what they would do to solve the problem. Families can also participate in collaborative storytelling by having a child start a story with once sentence and the next person at the table adds another, and so on, until the story is complete.
  2. Get outside and use those math skills. Work together with your child to build a garden, fix a fence or put up a treehouse. Have your child draw a map and create clues for a treasure hunt. You can explore using math by measuring the perimeter of your yard, recording numbers and types of bugs in the yard and graphing the results, or examining volume with old containers.
  3. Encourage reading and writing. Write in a journal together as a family. Write about your favorite thing that happened to you that day and illustrate it. Draw a doodle. Have your child turn the doodle into a drawing, and then create a story about it. Start family reading time where each person in the family chooses his or her own book and reads for a specified amount of time. Start off with just 5-10 minutes a day, and slowly increase the amount over time.
  4. Schedule play dates with friends. Socialization is a key part of a child’s development. After seeing friends every day during the school year, a child can get lonely in the summer. Make the effort to invite friends over to play, and try to have a fun activity prepared that they can do together. Try to keep them away from the couch and TV by suggesting a handful of activities for the children during playtime. Write a play, make art, take a survey and turn that information into a story, a song or a graph. Play games, do a science experiment (with parental supervision) or build a tent. 
  5. Collaborate on household chores. Kids who have responsibilities around the house are more likely to view themselves as a person capable of making a contribution. Because it can be difficult to stick to the chore routines over summer, join in on chores together, even simple ones like mopping, sweeping and dusting. Provide children with practical life skills that foster a sense of self worth. Have your child prepare a meal or a side dish. Teach your child how to sew with small projects like a pillow or a button repair.

Don’t forget, that when they are on mobile devices, you need to know what they are doing. Bob Lotter, creator of MyMobileWatchdog, encourages parents to put apps (like his) on phones that help you monitor what they are doing. He suggests the apps should:

  • Control what applications kids can run.
  • Set which hours they are allowed to text or receive phone calls.
  • Monitor texts and phone calls.
  • Manage contacts to make sure they are from a real person their children know.
  • Block inappropriate websites.
  • Monitor photos taken and received.
  • Shut the camera off.
  • Set up the phone to only be able to call parents or a specific approved contact at certain hours and do nothing else.
  • Allow parents to block and unblock apps. (Think: grades are down, no Instagram for you; grades are up, you get to Instagram again or you get to Instagram only in a parent’s presence.)
  • Has anti-hacking measures that don’t allow children to remove the software.
  • Creates a report that is admissible in court.


Parenting expert Dr. Leonard Sax has his own ideas and warnings about social media and our teens.  He offers these tips:

“At 9 p.m., collect the cellphones, turn them off and put them on the charger, which goes in the parents’ bedroom, ” he says. “It has to be the parent’s job to parent, not the child’s.”

A lot of parents think they are doing a good job. They have their kids’ Facebook passwords, they look at their kids’ texts and emails. But what parents don’t realize is kids are creating two different identities. The public one that parents are monitoring is on Facebook and uses the parent-provided cellphone. The other identity is on Instagram and Snapchat and It’s posting inappropriate photos they wouldn’t want their parents to see and sharing other people’s photos they wouldn’t want anyone to see. And it’s also buying a prepaid debit card and using it to buy a second cellphone.

Parents need to be on the lookout for that second cellphone and install cyber monitoring services such as Net Nanny, which monitors their Internet use, and My Mobile Watchdog, which allows you to see your child’s text messaging and photos and block websites.

Sax also has more ideas on what we need to do as parents, beyond just controlling our kids’ screen time usage. 

As well, remember, this screen addiction applies to you, too. One study found an increase of injuries to children because of distracted parents on their phones. You’re not parenting if your on your phone.


Parents of girls read “Girls & Sex” even if it makes you uncomfortable

girls and sexPeggy Orenstein’s “Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” ($26.99, Harper) sure made me queasy. It’s hard for parents of girls (and boys, too) to think about what they might be doing with their private parts.

Yet, this book is a necessary wake up call to what our daughters are exposed to and experience out there. And what our boys might be experiencing as well as the objects of their affection as well as their potential abusers. So, let’s get our heads out of the sand and start reading.

Orenstein gives us these facts:

On porn: More than 40 percent of children ages 10 to 17 have been exposed to porn online.

On the rise of oral sex: “Nearly every girl I spoke with had at least one experience with a boy who had tried, despite her clear refusal, to coerce or force her into oral sex: verbally, via repeated texts, or by physically planting his hands on her shoulders and pushing downward.”

On losing their virginity: “Nearly two-thirds of teenagers have intercourse at least once before college — the average age of virginity loss in this country, as I’ve said is 17 — and while most do so with a romantic partner, a sizable number of girls cash in what they call their V card with a friend or a guy they’ve only just met. Over half … were drunk for the occasion. Most say they regret their experience ans wish they’d waited.”

On sexual assault in college: A third of female undergraduates who responded to a 2015 survey had been victims of nonconsensual sexual contact.

Have a kid heading off to college this fall? Read “Letting Go” and “Do Your Laundry”

letting go do your laundryKaren Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger have updated their book “Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, ($16.99, William Morrow). It can help you explain why the tensions rise between parent and kid that last year of high school and especially the summer between high school and college, and what to expect once a child gets to college. It has a year by year guide about what might happen once they get there.

While this is THE guidebook on the subject, we also recommend mother-daughter team Margo Ewing Woodacre and Steffany Bane Carey to write the book, “I’ll Miss You Too: The Off-to-College Guide for Parents and Students.”

For a funnier take on letting go, read “Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,” by Becky Blades ($14.99, Source Books). It includes great advice like “Thank you notes are always in style,” “Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Except in class,” and “Fasten your seat belt. Being alive makes everything better.” There’s a lot of truth behind the humor. Slip it into your child’s suitcase before they leave for school.

Spending too much on your kids? Read these books

Two books have recently crossed my desk about kids and money.

opposite of spoiledThe first “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money,” by Ron Lieber ($15.99, Harper Collins), promises to be “a generational manifesto first and foremost — a promise to our kids that we will make them better at managing money than we are and give them the tools they need to avoid the financial traps that still ensnare so many adults.”

Lieber wants to you to be honest with your children about money and allow them to ask any question. He believes they should know your financial state and how you got that way.

The chapter that everyone will want to know about is “The Allowance Debates.” Lieber, who is the Your Money columnist for the New York Times, recommends that you start allowance by first grade and that it be 50 cents to $1 per year of age for children younger than 10. They get a raise each birthday. Set up three jars: Spend for impulse purchases, Give for donating money, and Save for a long-term goal purchase that they determine. He recommends splitting up the money evenly into the jars at first. When you set up these jars, this is also the time to discuss what is a want versus a need, and also consider with kids the concept of it being enough and not too much.

Lieber warns against letting kids watch too much commercials, letting kids demand things they want and overindulging in birthdays, holidays and tooth fairly money. He also wants kids doing chores and not getting paid for them. That’s part of being in the family.

He has models of when to give in to what other kids are getting such as smartphones and cars. He encourages kids to work when they come of age and help save for college.

Brett Graff’s “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids,” ($16, Seal) goes through classic items that parents overspend on and how they can better use that money. She’s the Home Economist for Reuters news service. She wants you to put more money into college savings from the beginning and less into commercial things like the latest and greatest crib and stroller. She makes the case for public school, for volunteering rather than donating money, investing in disability insurance but not a cleaning service, buying your home at the right time and more tips. She’s also a fan of starting allowance early and the three-jar system.

Not buying itSome of her ideas make sense but might make us uncomfortable like buying cheap soap and not spending money on moisturizers, but she does make some good points. After all, does your child feel inadequate because her nursery didn’t match as a baby? Probably not.

Do you know your child’s strengths? New book from Gallup can help you

strength based parenting“Strength Based Parenting: Developing your Children’s Innate Talents” from Mary Reckmeyer, the executive director of Gallup’s Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center, ($24.99, Gallup Press), leads you through how to find your child’s strengths. Of course, the book also comes with codes for you to access Gallup’s testing: Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 for children older than 15 and Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer for children ages 10-14.

The most satisfying part of this book is this chapter labeled: “There’s No ‘Right’ Way to Parent.” In it Reckmeyer assures us “Nn.”

Whew! Of course, if there was a magic pill, this parenting thing would be easier, right?

Instead Reckmeyer and her colleagues at Gallup want you to assess your child’s talents, invest in those and create strengths. They want you to stop trying to fix their weaknesses and realize that your child’s strengths might not be similar to yours, which makes it hard to know how to parent that child.

They also give you ideas of what makes a good parenting partnership:  complementary strengths, common mission, fairness, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, communicating and unselfishness.

From there, you give your child the Clifton assessment that is right for them, or if they are younger than 10, you base their strengths on what you believe them to have until they are old enough to take the assessment. The rest of the book is spent helping you analyze and understand the strengths you determined or the test determined your child has.

Teens have a phone? Read “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers”

american girlsNancy Jo Sales writes in “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers,” (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95), about a generation of girls who are social media pioneers. She followed groups of girls from California to New York and places in between from the time they were 13 to the time they were 19. Interviewing them once a year about the effects of social media on their lives.

Sales writes: “One of the things that continually struck me over the course of my reporting was the similarity of girls’ experiences on social media regardless of their race or background.”

One girl acknowledged: “Social media lets you make a lot of impulsive decisions. And the younger you get a phone, the more impulsive your decisions are and then you get older and you just keep doing the same things from there.”

It’s clear from the time they were 13, that they felt sexualized by the boys and demeaned by the girls.

“I think what made me feel worst was the sense I got from many girls that they felt disrespected,” Sales writes in her conclusion.

This is a book that will shock you about just how prevalent sexting and cyberbulling are. You could say, “not my daughter, not my son,” but clearly with the number of girls she interviewed, something is happening.

Sales cites a 2007 American Psychological Association report that found: “It isn’t that girls and women haven’t been exploited for their sexuality before; of course they have; but sexualization has become a prevailing mode, influencing how girls see themselves, as well as how they present themselves.”

On the idolization of Kim Kardashian and the need to post sexualized pictures of themselves, the girls told her:

“Girls post pictures of their bodies and say they’re body positive and everyone’s like ‘You’re so beautiful.’ But they’re not body confident. They’re Photoshopping their bodies and editing their pictures. They say they’re confident in their bodies, which is totally ironic — if you post a picture of yourself on Instagram to feel confident, then you’re not.”

They do realize why girls are doing it:  “More provocative equals more likes.”

“It attracts more guys and then it makes other girls think about doing it just for attention. They’re attention whores.”

Sales cites writer Jean Kilbourne: “The biggest problem is that girls are only being given one way of thinking about what is beautiful and sexy and it’s a very porn-star, cliched way. There’s a much wider, broader variety of choices of how to be sexy than the Victoria’s Secret way.”

Sales found girls who had jumped on the YouTube band wagon and wanted to become YouTube stars. It was like they were leading double lives or becoming the YouTube star their “fans” wanted them to be:

One girl said: “My whole YouTube social media thing is all around what people want from me. At the end of my videos, I’ll always ask, ‘What do you want to see next?’ ‘Cause they’re everything to me. They’re all my views … so I definitely want to do what they want.”

Social media has changed the way that girls and boys date, too.

One girl said: “There’s no such thing as dating anymore. I watch really cute, like high school movies, and we don’t have that. It’s so sad. Like I wonder, “What’s it like to go on a date?” There are couples, but they way they get together is they hook up at a party and he’ll ask for her number. They make out and then it goes from there. … It all starts with hooking up.”

While social media had girls knowing exactly what their peers were doing: “I love social media. Literally, that’s our entire life. All day I’m checking Twitter. If I don’t know where my friends are, I just go on Twitter, ’cause they post what they’re doing.”

Yet, they weren’t developing as close a relationship with their peers because of social media.

People share each other’s texts without their permission by taking screenshots and posting them. One girl and her friends said: “I have terrible trust issues. Ever since middle school and everybody got their phones. I don’t feel like I can trust anyone.”

“And you feel betrayed.”

“Over and over.”

Sales reminds: cyberbullying victims are nearly twice as likely to have attempted suicide, as well as more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

So, why don’t the girls just put down their phones and stop posting.

“Social Media is destroying our lives.”

“Then why don’t you go off it?” Sales asks.

“Because then we would have no life.”

Yet, the girls want their parents to realize what is going on, and to help them navigate this new world, but without getting them in trouble.

One girl and her friend: “I think that parents literally need to knock some sense into their kids and watch what their kids are doing… ’cause I feel like a lot of kids are sneaking it behind their parents backs.”

“They don’t want their parents to know what’s really going on ’cause they’re afraid they’ll take away their phones.”


















Congratulations to Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards winners

Wednesday night, the winners of the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards were announced at the Long Center. The awards are created in partnership with the Long Center, the University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts and Zach Theatre.

High-schoolers perform their productions at the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards.
High-schoolers perform their productions at the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards.


Best Production                                              

Hendrickson High School                              “Urinetown: The Musical”


Best Direction

Hendrickson High School                              “Urinetown: The Musical”


gahsmta2Best Choreography

Cedar Ridge High School                               “AIDA”


Best Musical Direction

James Bowie High School                             “Tarzan”


Best Orchestra 

James Bowie High School                           “Tarzan”


Best Scenic Design

Round Rock High School                                                “Mary Poppins”


Best Lighting Design

Rouse High School                                           “Guys and Dolls”


Best Costume Design

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School                  “The Addams Family”


Best Technical Execution

Vista Ridge High School                                “Young Frankenstein”


Best Ensemble

McCallum Fine Arts Academy                     “Titanic”


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Pedro Castenada (Hendrickson High School)       “Urinetown: The Musical”


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sophie Niles (McNeil High School)                            “Little Shop of Horrors”


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Harmon Gamble (Hendrickson High School)         “Urinetown: The Musical”


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Chloe Byars (James Bowie High School)                 “Tarzan”


Best Featured Performer (TIE)

Kayja Thomas (Cedar Creek High School)                              “Footloose”


Scholarship Recipients

Kaitlin Hatton, DJ Fortner, David Pena, Jesse Hernandez, Joseph Kelley, Alex Poole, Tristan Banuelos, Alyssa Anderson, Audrey Dickerson, Makasha Copeland, Adele Simms


School Grants

Bastrop High School

Del Valle High School

Georgetown High School

John B. Connally High School

David Crockett High School

More Boy Scouts are becoming Eagle Scouts nationally, locally

Every February, Eagle Scouts gather for a reception at Frank Fickett Scout Training and Service Center in Austin. They each get called to the front to be recognized. Mark Matson
Every February, Eagle Scouts gather for a reception at Frank Fickett Scout Training and Service Center in Austin. They each get called to the front to be recognized. Mark Matson

At a time when boys have more extracurricular choices than ever and more demands from school, more nationwide are choosing to become Eagle Scouts, the Boy Scouts of America’s highest achievement. The 2015 class nationwide was the fourth largest class ever — more than 54,00 achieved that rank, which represents about 6.57 percent of eligible scouts.

Locally, Capital Area Council also has seen its numbers rising. Last year, 383 scouts in the council’s 15 counties became Eagle Scouts. The council saw a bump in Eagle Scouts around its centennial in 2012, with 443 new Eagle Scouts that year. Since then the numbers have stayed close to 400. The decade before, only about 300 local boys were becoming Eagle Scouts each year.

Nationally, Boy Scouts celebrated a centennial in 2010, which added to those numbers.

Charles Mead, who is the director of marketing and public relations for the local council and himself an Eagle Scout, says the goal of Boy Scouts is more than creating Eagle Scouts. “By the time they finish being involved in our program, they are a little more adept in how do you reach those goals. They are more self-secure, have more leadership skills, they’ve thought about what kind of person they want to become. It’s about character development. … We’re trying to produce people to grow into better citizens.”

But, he says, “If they become an Eagle Scout, that’s fantastic.”

Eagle Scout is something to put on college applications and resumes. If you have have earned Eagle Scout rank or a Girl Scout Gold Award, you can enter the military a rank ahead of someone without that designation.

“Business owners say when they see somebody put Eagle Scout on their college or job application, it might not get you admitted or get you the job, but it gets you past the first step,” Mead says. “This is somebody who you can take seriously, who will get the job done.”

To become an Eagle Scout, boys, beginning around sixth grade, move through the different ranks leading up to Eagle and earn at least 21 merit badges. Of those badges, 13 are specifically required; the other eight can be chosen to reflect a boy’s personal interests. Merit badges cover things like emergency preparedness, environmental science, communication, first aid, personal fitness, swimming and more.

“It’s everything you need to be successful in life,” Mead says.

Ryan Beltran, a senior at Westwood High School, built a rosary trail at Eagle Wings Retreat Center for his Eagle Scout project. Andrew McCully, left, Connor Smith, Rishi Agrawal and Jason Dolan, far right, help Ryan Beltran, second from right, mix concrete.
Ryan Beltran, a senior at Westwood High School, built a rosary trail at Eagle Wings Retreat Center for his Eagle Scout project. Andrew McCully, left, Connor Smith, Rishi Agrawal and Jason Dolan, far right, help Ryan Beltran, second from right, mix concrete.

After that work is complete, they do a project that has to benefit a community group, school or religious institution. Many projects involve building something like a garden or a fitness area. Scouts have to plan and develop the project, including raising all of the funding and recruiting and organizing volunteers to do the project. Everything has to be completed before they turn 18, though there are special circumstances where that has been extended.

Many projects involve about 300 hours of volunteer hours to get done, including the scout’s own hours. There is no minimum number of hours required, though. By the time they start work on their own project, they likely have helped other scouts with their projects, too.

Potential Eagle Scouts have to get the project approved before they start. A committee at the unit level (a smaller group within the council where the boy and his troop belong) makes sure the project meets the requirements, is feasible and has safety issues addressed, and that the action steps for the future plan are included in detail and that the scout is on the right track to getting it finished. Ultimately, an Eagle Scout presents the project to five different levels, including the scoutmaster, the unit committee, the organization it will benefit, the council’s board of review and the national advancement team.

“There’s a learning experience there,” Mead says. “It’s not enough to have a good idea, but you also have to convince others.”

The program requires a lot of adult volunteers to get scouts past the initial requirements and help them make sure they have thought of everything to get their project approved. Yes, there’s probably some parental nudging going on, too, but the program is designed for boys to work with adults other than their parents, even if their parent is the scoutmaster.

How long it takes to complete the project and get it approved varies. Some boys can do it in a couple of months. Others it takes about a year. Mead says, usually where kids trip up is not having enough depth in planning the fundraising and not understanding exactly what it will take to accomplish the project.

Boys learn good project managing skills: time management, multitasking, leadership, communication and problem solving.

For Israel Quintanilla III, a senior at Gateway College Preparatory School, the project itself wasn’t as difficult as the previous requirements and the paperwork involved. “It takes a long time to get to the project,” he says. “Everything before it is really stressful and takes a lot of energy.

Often, scouts find managing other scouts the most challenging part of the service project.

Quintanilla created an outdoor fitness area for VFW Post 8787. “The hardest part was getting all the scouts focused,” he says. “They were younger and were fairly new to the program. They didn’t know how to take orders correctly. They were messing around.”

Chris Donnell, a senior at Hendrickson High School, built raised beds for Pflugerville Community Garden for his Eagle Scout project.
Chris Donnell, a senior at Hendrickson High School, built raised beds for Pflugerville Community Garden for his Eagle Scout project.

By engaging younger boys, Quintanilla was helping to prepare them to possibly do their own Eagle project one day.

Chris Donnell, a Hendrickson High School senior, built raised garden beds for Pflugerville Community Garden. He managed 15 volunteers on the day they were building the gardens, but by the time he had gotten to his project, he had helped many other scouts with their projects. “It’s teaching you how to have leadership effectively,” he says.

Once they earn their Eagle Scout rank, there’s still more they can do. Ryan Beltran, a senior at Westwood High School, completed his project in March 2013. He built a rosary trail at Eagle Wings Retreat Center in Burnet. Now he’s helping teach younger scouts how to earn their merit badges. He returns to Eagle Wings occasionally to do maintenance on the trail.

“It’s a big project looking at it,” he says. “I’m proud to see it again and to know that I had built that.”

Did you become an Eagle Scout?

Send us a photo of your project or receiving the rank to

Teen’s face marked by acne? Teach them good skin care

Dr. Ted Lain is a dermatologist. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

Their faces can’t lie. They are teenagers. Walk through any middle school or high school, and you will see teens who are struggling horribly with acne as well as those teens who seem relatively unscathed. Blame it on hormones and genetics if your kids fall in the first category.

Even those in the second category probably need a lesson in good skin care. “If you can teach your child to start cleansing their face, they will be way of peers,” says dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain. He advises teens to clean their faces at the end of the day so they can get rid off the built-up gunk in their pores before going to sleep.

Lain and aesthetician Tracy Bethel of Aloe Skin + Body have two very different views of where to start kids in their cleansing regimen. Bethel uses natural things you find at the grocery store. Lain advises starting with over-the-counter acne-control products to start.

The key with teens is making sure that once they actually start cleaning their face (a big hurdle), they are not over scrubbing. Cleaning their face, means using a cleanser that has an exfoliant, not just soap, Lain says, because soap doesn’t get rid of the dead skin that is clogging the pores.’

Teens often don’t have patience to wait for their skin to clear up, and they will over clean to try to get rid of the acne and actually do additional damage. Lain doesn’t like cleansers that have beads or rough particles because they can cause tears in the skin and permanently scar the face.

After using a cleanser, the skin should feel soft, the oil should be gone, but it shouldn’t be dry.

Check out the back of the box of skin care products to see what's in them. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman
Check out the back of the box of skin care products to see what’s in them. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Lain suggests starting with an over-the-counter product that has alpha or beta hydroxyl acids or salicylic acid, which help to exfoliate. If those don’t work, you would move up to an over-the-counter product that has Benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that causes the acne as well as removes excess oil and dead skin. Sulfur is usually used in combination with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, and removes the dead skin cells and helps remove excess oil.

Lain says you don’t have to worry too much about the over-the counter products being too harsh because they are regulated about how strong they can be.

If none of that works, Lain says, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Usually you’ll also see an aesthetician who will remove blackheads. He usually starts teens on a cream medication, but if it’s a particularly severe case, he’ll prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria that is causing the acne flare up.

Sometimes in girls when the flare up is hormonal, he’ll talk about controlling the hormones, which might mean a birth control pills.

The biggest issue he sees with teens and medication or medicated creams is compliance. He’s recommended apps to remind them, but the bottom line is they have to be willing to spend the time following instructions to get clearer skin. And again, they have to be patient. Sometimes, in the first two or three weeks, the skin might actually get worse before it gets better.

If parents don’t want to put their kids on medications, there are other options. Lain uses a facial system called hydrafacial, which use a hand-held device to vacuum out pores and he uses the Isolaz, which uses a laser to kill the bacteria and a vacuum to suck up the gunk in the pores.

Bethel warns about using a lot of over-the-counter products. “What happens is, you start treating one problem and you’re creating another problem,” she says. She points to salicylic acid, which can irritate skin.

Honey at Round Rock Honey can help your face, too. Nicole Barrios/Round Rock Leader
Honey at Round Rock Honey can help your face, too. Nicole Barrios/Round Rock Leader

Instead, she uses aspirin, mushed into a powder, then made into a paste to put on a pimple to reduce the inflammation. She also recommends using honey mixed with a little bit of water and coconut oil or grape seed oil to use as a cleanser or a masque. Honey is a natural antibacterial, anifungal and anti-inflammatory

She also uses a paste of oatmeal to be a gentle exfoliant and an oil remover. If the oatmeal is too chunky on the skin, put it in a coffee grinder before making the paste. Sometimes she mixes the oatmeal with a little tea tree oil, but warns against using just tea tree oil on your skin. It has to be mixed with something, like the oatmeal or a coconut oil or grape seed oil as a buffer.

One of the biggest things she teaches teens is that their skin is an essential element of their body. If you’re allergic to eating an ingredient like almonds, it shouldn’t be used on your skin.

“Skin really starts to tell us things about our body,” she says. It tells you if you’re stressed or if hormones are on overdrive. It’s also a reminder of their bad diet. Bethel warns against diets high in sugar because sugar is a natural inflammatory.

Lain also talks to teens about their diet. Everyone has individual foods that might be an acne trigger. Common ones are milk and peanut butter. One thing is universal: saturated fats do help feed the oil content of your skin.

Bethel starts seeing kids for facials as preteens — ages 11 and 12. She’ll teach them about the importance of sunscreen, do a quick facial and teach them about cleaning their face. The teen facial usually happens a little older, but includes an extraction.

Bethel is not against seeing a dermatologist when the acne is severe or her clients have tried the natural remedies and they are not working. Sometimes a round of antibiotics is what’s needed during a flare up to get the skin back in check.

What are you doing in February? Austin family events happening next month


 Benjamin Bazan (Tomás) and Claire Stephen as The Library Lady. in Zach Theatre's bilingual Tomás and the Library Lady. Credit: Kirk Tuck
Benjamin Bazan (Tomás) and Claire Stephen as the Library Lady in Zach Theatre’s bilingual Tomás and the Library Lady.
Credit: Kirk Tuck

“Tomás and the Library Lady.” Pat Mora’s story about the son of a young migrant farm worker comes to the Zach Theatre stage in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance. For ages 5 and up. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 14. Mora offers a post-show discussion Feb. 13. $12 children, $16 adults. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road.

“Pippi Longstocking.” 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27; 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28. $12 adults, $8 children 12 and younger. Scottish Rite Theatre, 207 W. 18th St.

“James & the Giant Peach.” The Roald Dahl book comes to life in musical form. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19; 11 a.m. Feb. 20, 27, March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9. 2 p.m. Feb. 21, 26, March 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, April 2, 3, 9; and 4:30 p.m. April 10. 11 a.m. Feb. 27 is the Autism, sensory-friendly show. $29 adults, $26 children. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 202 S. Lamar Blvd.

“Peppa Pig Live!” The beloved pig of children’s literature fame comes to ACL Live. 6 p.m. Feb. 10. $39-$49. ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 310 W. Second St.

“Pocoyo Live Show.” The TV show comes to life. 4 p.m. Feb. 28. $25-$49. ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 310 W. Second St.


Kite-Making workshop. 1-3 p.m. Feb. 6. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center, 2100 E. Third St.

Chinese New Year Festival. Hear and see Chinese music and dance. 2 p.m. Feb. 7, Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

Youth Valentine’s Dance. 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11. Metz Recreation Center, 2406 Canterbury St.

Black History Month Kids Day. Enjoy family crafts and history. Noon-4 p.m. Feb. 13. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

Valentine’s Day Faerie Tea Party. 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14. $16 per child. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. Register online at

TEDXYouth@Austin Full Circle. An interactive forum for middle- and high-schoolers to share ideas and explore big ideas. Free, but apply at 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 13. Westlake High School, 4100 Westbank Drive.


Thinkery Workshops: Cow Eye Dissection for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 6, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 7. $39 for one child and adult. Build a Hovercraft for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14. $34 for one child and adult. Cooking with Dr. Seuss for ages 4 to 7. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 20 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21. $29 one child and adult. Printmaking for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 27 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28. $29 one child and adult. The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Girlstart will be offering interactive science at Weatherfest.
Girlstart will be offering interactive science at Weatherfest.

Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday Weather Fest. The Bullock Museum in partnership with Girlstart and Time Warner Cable offers weather-related science experiments and family-friendly activities. Noon-3 p.m. Feb. 7.  Living Histories. The staff at the museum come dresed as historical characters. 10 a.m.-noon. Feb. 4. Science Thursday. Find science experiments from Central Texas Discover Engineering. 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 11. Home School Day. Enjoy STEM activities for homeschoolers. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 18. Bullock Texas State History Museum. 1800 Congress Ave.

Myopiafest. Learn about Mark Mothersbaugh’s art as Contemporary Austin opens the exhibit “Myopia!” Play games, watch vintage children’s shows and make art to take home. Free. 11 a.m.-3p.m. Feb. 13. Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave.


PBS Kids at the Alamo: “Ready Jet Go!” See this kids astronomy show and enjoy activities with a real life astronomer.  10 a.m. Feb. 13. Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane.

The Minions are back in the summer family film "Minions." Universal Pictures
The Minions are back in the summer family film “Minions.” Universal Pictures

Family movie matinee: “Minions.” 2 p.m. Feb. 6, Windsor Park library branch.

Family movie night: “Shaun the Sheep.” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Twin Oaks library branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 16, Cepeda Branch.


Book People events: Cory Putman Oakes, Jo Whittemore, Mari Mancusi read their books: “Dinosaur Boy Saves Mars,” “Confidentially Yours,” and “Golden Girl.” noon Feb. 13. Kate Wetherhead reads “Jack & Louisa: Act 2” 7 p.m. Feb. 22. Lincoln Peirce reads “Big Nate Blasts Off,” 6 p.m. Feb. 23. Book People, 603 N. Lamar

This is an undated copy of one of the original illustrations from "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." Frederick Warne & Co.
This is an undated copy of one of the original illustrations from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Frederick Warne & Co.

Barnes & Noble events. Weekly 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all stores: “Silly Wonderful You,” Feb. 6; “Love Monster and the Last Chocolate,” Feb. 13; Peter Rabbit, Feb. 20; Dr. Seuss’s birthday celebration, Feb. 27. Lego event with expert builder. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Sunset Valley. Dumbledore’s Army. This month a love potion will be made. 7 p.m. Feb. 18, Arboretum.  “The Three-Wheeled Wagon,” reading and signing by author Laura McGinnity. 1 p.m. Feb. 20, Round Rock.

At the library: 

Sew Happy. Learn to sew for ages 10 and up. 5 p.m. Feb. 2, Manchaca Road Branch.

Lego Lab. 5 p.m. Feb. 3,  Willie Mae Kirk Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 5, North Village Branch; 3:30 p.m. Twin Oaks and Windsor Park branches, 3:30 p.m. Feb. 10, Carver Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11 Yarborough Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 11 Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 12 Hampton and Terrazas branches; 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16, Manchaca Road Branch.

Felt Friends World Tour  — Robot. Sew a felt robot.4:30 p.m. Feb. 4. Twin Oaks Branch.

Book Circle: Lunar New Year Celebration. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 4, Yarborough Branch.

Crafternoon. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Terrazas Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 11, Twin Oaks Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 22, Manchaca Road Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23, Terrazas and Howson branches; 4 p.m. Feb. 25, Cepeda Branch.

Maker Mania. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11. Faulk Central Library.

Book Circle: Legos and Duplos. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11, Yarborough Branch.

Literature Live Presents: “The Selfesh Giant” puppet theater for ages 4 and up. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 17, North Village Branch.

Art Lab for the Littles. Make art for ages 3 to 6. 11 a.m. Feb. 18. Terrazas Branch.

Family Craft Night. 7 p.m. Feb. 25. Hampton Branch at Oak Hill.

Book Circle: Shrinky Dinks. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 25, Yarborough Branch.