Detecting risky behavior in teenagers may be more difficult than parents’ think. In fact, some of these red flags are visible in a child’s room but not immediately noticeable.
The Akron Police Department’s Hidden in Plain Sight program is interactive and educates adults about risky activities many kids and teens could be involved in. The program was originated by Bath Township and Copley Police departments.
At a recent session, various tables were set up displaying different items that adults may be unaware are dangerous to kids and teens; and Officer Laurie Natko and Lt. Rick Edwards, from the Akron Police Department, led the presentation. While some parents may think it would be obvious if their children were engaging in risky behaviors, many of these red flags are “hidden in plain sight.”
For example, Natko described four different ways kids and teenagers have been getting intoxicated from alcohol without drinking it or leaving an odor on their breath. Once such method is a “vaportini,” where vapor is separated from the alcohol, and for parents, the level in a bottle of alcohol in a family’s cabinet doesn’t lower when their children consume it. Young people also can absorb alcohol into their bodies through items like tampons. Other topics covered in the program include marijuana, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, eating disorders, self-mutilation, caffeine and popular social media challenges that are unsafe for kids and teens.
Natko says social media and YouTube have influenced adolescents to engage in challenges that harm them and can even be deadly. Some of the challenges covered in the program include the Choking Game, Salt and Ice Challenge, Fire Challenge and the Baking Soda and Vinegar Challenge.
Another example, the very popular Cinnamon Challenge, was making its way across all social media platforms, which involves kids attempting to eat a spoonful of cinnamon. Edwards explained the dangers of the Cinnamon Challenge: “When you put the cinnamon in your mouth, it dries up the saliva. The first reaction kids have is to try to cough it out, but when you cough out, you take a deep breath in, and now you have ingested this into your lungs. Usually kids will aspirate on cinnamon, and people have died from it.”
Natko added: “The important thing here is once that cinnamon hits their lungs, it still continues to absorb that nice, moist area. They are collapsing their lungs and ending up in the emergency room.”
Both Natko and Edwards said the best way to combat these hazardous behaviors is to talk to your children and grandchildren about these topics.
Natko insisted, “Look through their vehicles, phones, computers and rooms. You have this right. Look for these items and have conversations. Don’t let the first time they hear about these things be from one of their friends, because they will get the wrong information.”
Even issues like eating disorders and self-mutilation can be detected by certain items, like particular types of bracelets.
Children are less at-risk when their parents communicate their expectations, say the program facilitators. Kids and teens should be prepared and know what to do in risky situations without being afraid of getting in trouble or afraid of their parents’ reactions.
The program will be hosted at a number of local schools and neighborhood meetings throughout the year.
Below are a series of videos taken from the program at Northwest Family Recreation Center.