Dating Violence: Quizzes

Quiz #1

Take this quiz to help figure out if you’re experiencing abuse in your relationship.

Read statements 1-8 and think about your answers.

  1. I’m scared of talking to/spending time with, or hugging other people because my partner may get angry.
  2. I have to check in with my partner about where I’m going or they will get angry.
  3. My partner calls and texts me all day long and gets angry if I don’t respond.
  4. I feel embarrassed about how my partner treats me.
  5. My partner has pushed, slapped, or hit me.
  6. My partner likes to choose what I wear.
  7. My partner has said things such as, “Why do you make me so angry” or “Why do you make me treat you this way.”
  8. I’m fearful of my partner and worry about ending the relationship.

 

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions it’s possible that you have experienced some dating violence in your relationship. It is important to remember that abuse is never your fault. Visit our other guides to learn more about dating violence and how to get help.

 

Quiz #2

Take this quiz to help figure out if you’re behaving violently in your relationship.

Read statements 1-8 and think about your answers.

  1. I get very angry when I see my partner talking to, spending time with, hugging, texting, or social networking with another person.
  2. I need to know where my partner is most (or all) of the time.
  3. Calling and texting my partner all day long shows them how much I care about them.
  4. I feel guilty or ashamed about how angry I become with my partner.
  5. I’ve pushed, slapped, or hit my partner.
  6. I have strong preferences about what my partner wears.
  7. My partner gets me so angry that I sometimes feel out of control.
  8. I’m concerned about the way I treat my partner.

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions it’s possible that you’ve been behaving abusively towards your partner. It’s important to get help now to stop the cycle of dating violence.

Dating Violence: How to get help

Dating violence is common in teenagers and young adults, so it is likely that you or someone you know could be affected by it. Knowing what dating violence is and how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship can be an important first step. Whether you want to get help for yourself or a friend, want to learn more about dating violence, or think you may be acting abusively in your relationship, there are many resources available to you.

Our goal is to keep you safe. Please make sure you are in a safe place before accessing any resources. If you feel like you are in danger or need help immediately, please call 911.

I think I may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

Remember, abuse is never your fault. When you are ready, there are many options available to you to get support. It is great if you have a friend or family member to talk to because having a support system is important. However, even though these people love and care about you, they might not know what to do if you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. We also encourage you to talk to other trusted adults (teachers, coaches, counselors, and healthcare providers) because they often have special training on how to deal with dating violence. However, these people may not always be available (for example during nights, weekends, or vacations), it might be difficult to find transportation, or you may feel more comfortable talking to someone you don’t know confidentially.

That is why we want to give you options to talk to trained peer advocates (someone around your age who has knowledge about dating violence) who are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week to listen, answer questions, and connect you to resources in your area. All conversations are confidential.

 Here are some ways to get started:

Call

  • National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
    • 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 for TTY
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    • 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY
  • LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
    • The GLBT Talkline: 1-888-843-4564
  • GLBT Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743
  • The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

 Text/Chat

  • Go to Loveisrespect.org for the most updated information on texting/chatting with a peer advocate.

 Websites

I want to ask for help. What should I say?

We understand it can be hard to talk about your relationship and sometimes even awkward if you are talking to someone you don’t know.

There is no wrong way to start the conversation, but here are some suggestions:

  • I think I might be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. How do I know?
  • My partner does (example of behavior), is that ok?
  • I am scared of my partner. How can I stay safe?
  • How can I leave an abusive relationship?

What if it isn’t safe for me to ask for help?

Depending on your situation, some resources might be safer to use than others–we trust your judgment.

Here are some tips for reaching out to support services:

  • Delete text messages, phone call history, and Internet search history after using the resource.
  • Ask to use the phone, computer, or tablet of someone you trust to access resources.
  • Purchase a “secret” phone to keep in a safe place, so you can have access to a phone if you need to get help.
  • Use phones in the community to call a hotline. Phones are usually available at community centers or public libraries.

If you feel like you are in danger or need help immediately, please call 911.

How do I keep myself safe?

Everyone’s situation is unique, that is why we recommend developing a safety plan. Your safety plan is made just for you and can help you know what to do if you are in danger. Consider creating your safety plan with someone you trust or with the help of a peer advocate. Visit this website for more information about safety planning.

Why do some people stay in an unhealthy or abusive relationship?

It can be hard to end any relationship, and an unhealthy or abusive relationship is no exception. If you are in an abusive relationship, there can be many benefits to leaving- including improved emotional health, physical health, and relationships with other people. Most of all, you deserve to be in a relationship with a partner who respects you. Many people are afraid of what their partner might do if they end the relationship, and in some cases, it may not be safe to leave.

If you are considering leaving an abusive relationship, talk to someone you trust, make a plan to keep yourself safe, and ask for help. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, it is important to understand why they may not leave the relationship and support them, even if they decide to stay with their partner.

Here are some reasons why it can be hard to leave an abusive relationship:

  • The person may still love their partner, and it can be hard to turn these feelings off.
  • People may think they will be able to change their partner’s behavior, or it won’t happen again.
  • The victim may also feel like the abuse is their fault or not recognize the behaviors as abusive.
  • A person may rely on their partner for money, a place to live, or help with a disability.
  • Fear can play a big role in staying in an abusive relationship. An abusive partner may threaten to reveal information (sexual orientation, immigration status, intimate photo) or hurt their partner if they end the relationship.

My friend is in an abusive relationship, what should I do?

It can be very hard to see someone you care about in an abusive relationship. Remember the abuse is never their fault and they are the only one who can decide to leave the relationship.

Here are some of the ways you can help:

  • Tell your friend you are concerned about them. Even if they don’t show it, they will appreciate knowing that you are there for them.
  • Provide support, listen, and remind your friend the abuse is never their fault.
  • Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult and safely access resources.
  • Work with your friend to create a safety plan.
  • Avoid confronting the abuser. You are unlikely to make the abuser change their actions, and this may make the situation worse.
  • Take care of yourself. It is normal to feel overwhelmed when someone you care about is struggling. You should talk to a trusted adult (parent, teacher, coach, counselor), healthcare provider, or peer advocate (resources above) about your feelings and how to help your friend.

You may also find yourself in a situation where you notice a friend is behaving violently towards their partner. It can be hard to admit your friend is abusive, but ignoring these behaviors is the same as encouraging them. Help your friend recognize their behaviors are wrong and encourage them to get professional help. Don’t blame the partner for the abuse or try to justify your friend’s behavior. Educate your friend on healthy relationships and set a good example in your own relationships. If you have questions on how to help a friend who is behaving abusively, you should talk to a trusted adult, healthcare provider, or peer advocate (resources above).

I’ve been abusive in my relationship. What should I do?

Recognizing your behavior as unhealthy or abusive is the first step to changing your behavior. It is important to realize that you have control over your behavior. In order to stop being abusive, it is important to get help from a professional. You should talk to a healthcare professional or a trained peer advocate (resources above) about accessing resources near you. You may feel uncomfortable talking to someone about your behavior, but remember, these individuals are trained to get you the help you need and will be there to support you. If you are committed to changing your behavior and accept help from others, you will be able to have healthy relationships in the future.

Most importantly, you should respect your partner’s decision to end the relationship or get help from the police or legal system. Even if you are working on changing your behavior, your partner always has a right to be safe.

Dating Violence: General Information

Dating and relationships are an important part of growing up. All relationships have qualities that can make them healthy, abusive, or somewhere in between. Being in a dating relationship can mean different things to different people. Whether you’re official, dating, talking, or hooking up, you and your partner deserve to be treated with respect.

What is Dating Violence?

“Dating violence” refers to dating relationships with any type of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, and digital).

Anyone can be a victim of abuse or behave in an abusive way regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual practices. Someone can also experience abuse and behave abusively in their relationship at the same time.

You may have an idea about what dating violence or abusive relationships look like from your own experiences or what you have seen in other people’s relationships, your culture, TV, movies, or online. While many people know something about dating violence, there is still a lot to learn– around half of college students say it’s hard to identify dating violence. This guide will give you more information about dating violence and how to get help.

It is important to know that unhealthy or abusive behaviors are NOT normal. If you are experiencing them, it is NEVER your fault.

How common is Dating Violence?

Dating violence is common among teenagers and young adults. It is hard to know exactly how many people experience dating violence because many victims never tell anyone about the abuse.

  • About 1.5 million high school students report physical abuse from a partner in the US every year.
  • Around 10% of high school students have experienced sexual abuse.
  • People between 18 and 24 years old have the highest rates of stalking in the US.
  • More than half of people who experience abuse in adult relationships report their first experience with dating violence occurred between the ages of 11 and 24.

Because this is such a common issue, it is likely that you or someone you know is affected by dating violence. It is important for you to be able to recognize the signs and know how to get help.

What makes a relationship healthy, unhealthy, or abusive?

Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect, good communication, and equality. Each partner is appreciated and valued in a healthy relationship. However, this doesn’t mean the relationship or partners are perfect. Even in healthy relationships, a partner can make a mistake. What makes the relationship healthy is that even in conflicts or disagreements, you should be able to tell your partner how you feel, and they should respond in a way that makes you feel safe and supported.

Unhealthy relationships are somewhere in between healthy and abusive. One person may try to make most of the decisions or control how the other person acts. Some examples of unhealthy behaviors are:

  • Imbalance: Your partner always decides what restaurant you eat at or where you go on a date.
  • Inconsiderate behavior: You ask your partner not to call you when you are visiting your grandmother, but they call you multiple times anyways.
  • Holding grudges: Your partner gives you the silent treatment after you decide to go to the movies with a friend instead of hanging out with them.
  • Poor communication: After a disagreement, your partner avoids you instead of telling you what is bothering them.

Abusive relationships can include physical violence, but that is not the only kind. There are many types of violence that can take place in a relationship, including physical, emotional, sexual, and digital abuse. Some of these might be harder to recognize than others, and they can all be serious. In general, abusive relationships are based on unequal power and control. Some examples of abusive behaviors are:

  • Anger
  • Blame
  • Manipulation
  • Stalking
  • Isolation
  • Pressure
  • Lies
  • Threats

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse is when another person intentionally touches you in an unwanted way or comes in close contact to your body. Physical abuse can be painful, leave a bruise, or cause an injury- but it doesn’t always. All types of physical abuse are serious.

A few examples of physical abuse are:

  • Hitting, slapping, grabbing, or kicking
  • Choking or strangling
  • Throwing objects at you, even if it doesn’t hit you
  • Using a weapon (such as a gun, knife, bat, or other object)

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional (or verbal) abuse is when a person says or does something that makes you feel afraid or bad about yourself. It can also include constant monitoring or stalking. Some people believe that emotional abuse isn’t as serious as physical abuse, but we know that isn’t true. Experiencing emotional abuse can affect your self-esteem and confidence. All types of abuse are wrong, and you never deserve to feel controlled or afraid in your relationship.

A few examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Threatening to harm you or themselves if you break up with them
  • Yelling at you or blaming you for their actions
  • Embarrassing you on purpose or calling you names
  • Controlling what you wear or who you spend time with
  • Saying they will reveal your secrets if you don’t do what they say

 What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse refers to any unwanted sexual contact or any sexual contact when someone doesn’t have the ability to control their sexual activity (they are passed out or intoxicated). All sexual contact requires enthusiastic consent. If someone doesn’t resist sexual contact, that doesn’t mean they consent. A person may not resist an unwanted sexual act for many reasons. For example, they are afraid of getting hurt if they fight back or cannot say “no” because they are intoxicated or passed out. Just because a person has consented to a sexual act, this doesn’t mean they can’t change their mind in that moment or in the future. Sexual abuse doesn’t have to be violent or leave a mark. People can experience sexual abuse from anyone, including a stranger, friend, dating partner, or a spouse.

Some types of sexual abuse are harder to recognize, like refusing to use condoms when asked or saying, “if you loved me, you would have sex with me.”

A few examples of sexual abuse are:

  • Any unwanted sexual contact (kissing, touching, penetration)
  • Sexual contact with someone who can’t consent (they are passed out or intoxicated)
  • Using threats or bribes to get someone to do sexual acts
  • Using a weapon or physical force to make someone perform sexual acts
  • Name calling or unwanted violent behavior during sex
  • Pressuring or forcing a partner to have sex with or perform sexual acts to someone else

What is digital abuse?

Digital abuse is when a partner uses technology to bully, harass, control, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Technology is a great way to stay in touch and connected with the people you care about, especially your partner. Your partner should not try to control how you use technology or social media and shouldn’t use technology to try to control you. Remember, all healthy relationships have boundaries – and this includes technology. Try having a conversation with your partner at the beginning of your relationship to help establish these boundaries (for example: Will you use each other’s phone? Will you check-in to share location? Will you post about your relationship on social media?).

Some examples of digital abuse are:

  • Demanding to have access to your passwords or messages
  • Texts you excessively and gets mad if you don’t respond
  • Tells you who you can be friends with or follow on social media
  • Keeps tabs on who you are texting, calling, or messaging
  • Pressures you to send explicit videos, pictures, or texts
  • Uses GPS or social media to know your location

How can I get help?

Whether you want to get help for yourself or a friend, want to learn more about dating violence, or think you may be acting abusively in your relationship, there are many resources available to you. Here are a few of our favorite resources, and if you want to learn more about resources, visit our “How to get help” guide.

Our goal is to keep you safe. Please make sure you are in a safe place before accessing any resources. If you feel like you are in danger or need help immediately, please call 911.

 Call

  • National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
    • 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 for TTY
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    • 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY
  • LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
    • The GLBT Talkline: 1-888-843-4564
  • GLBT Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743
  • The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

 Text/Chat

  • Go to Loveisrespect.org for the most updated information on texting/chatting with a peer advocate.

 Websites

How am I supposed to cope? How do I live with this now and for the rest of my life? I’m a senior and this week should have been my last week of school. No goodbyes. No graduation. No senior baseball season. No senior play. No senior prom. Nothing.

depressed girlThank you for writing in – you are giving voice to what so many seniors are feeling right now. This is not the senior year anyone expected or planned for. You, and so many others, are likely feeling a sense of grief and loss of all of the things you had looked forward to at the end of the school year. Not having these milestones and not having closure of the school year is a huge loss that many people are struggling with. You may be feeling sad, angry, shocked, confused, or all of the above. Similar to when you lose a loved one, grief takes time to recover from.

Some things you may find helpful:

  • Giving voice to your feelings is important in the path to coping. You’ve already done this, and we encourage you to continue to do so.
  • Stay socially connected during this time, whether by texting or a virtual get-together.
  • Identify things that you are grateful for and the things you can control.
  • Identify things you can do right now. Without the usual activities that you enjoy, you may have to think creatively about things you can do at home or virtually that bring you moments of joy and relaxation.
  • Consider alternate celebrations. While it will not be the same as the graduation or prom you planned, consider a way to celebrate your accomplishments at home or virtually.
As time passes, you may consider the ways these few months have been meaningful for you and your classmates. It’s not the senior year you hoped for, but it is a shared experience that you and your friends will carry with you, look back on, and feel bonded over.
We also encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider who may be able to offer resources and tips unique to you and your community.​

I am a virgin, but sometimes when I’m doing jumping jacks, it sounds like my vagina is clapping. Why does this happen? Can I make it stop?

girl with hands over groinThank you for your question. Our bodies can make a lot of different sounds, sometimes they’re funny and other times they’re downright embarrassing. Either way, it’s important to remember you’re not alone! The sound you are hearing is likely due to air becoming trapped in the vaginal cavity. Once the air leaves the vaginal cavity, it can make an unusual sound, regardless of whether or not you’re sexually active. You may hear the sounds during sex, exercise, or even during your pelvic exam. Many teens refer to these sounds as a “vaginal fart” “queef”, or “vart.”   You can’t do anything to prevent the noise from happening, but most of the time you might be the only one who hears it.  However, if you have concerns about your health, call or schedule an appointment with your health care provider (HCP).

How safe is it to vape?

How safe is it to vape?

Answer:

Lots of people have questions about vaping and its effect on health.

Here are some facts:

  • Vaping or using e-cigarettes as a teenager or young adult increases your risk of smoking regular cigarettes in the future.
    • One study showed teenagers using e-cigarettes in high school were 7 times more likely to smoke cigarettes approximately 6 months later, when compared to students not using e-cigarettes.
  • 2,807 people were hospitalized for lung problems from vaping by February 2020 in the United States.
  • Almost all vape products have nicotine, even if they say “Nicotine Free.”
  • Vape products have high amounts of nicotine compared to cigarettes. This means they are more addictive than cigarettes.
    • 1 JUUL pod = 20 regular cigarettes

Vaping is still pretty new, so not all the side effects are known. Side effects are experienced by people vaping and those who breathe the air around them (like secondhand smoke). Most of the known side effects are from the chemicals in the vape liquid. This includes nicotine which can cause addiction, heart problems, and harm brain development. There are also other chemicals, like heavy metals or carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer).

Overall, vaping or using e-cigarettes is not safe and is not recommended for teenagers and young adults. If you have questions about vaping, talk to your healthcare provider or go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to learn more.

I always drink a cup of coffee every day in the morning, even at 13 years old. About 10-20 minutes later, I always get cramps and have to go to the bathroom repeatedly. Is that normal?

Great question! Coffee is a natural diuretic (makes you have to pee), and for many people it also has a laxative effect (makes you have to poop). This is partly because the main active component in coffee is caffeine, and also because of other aspects such as the high acidity of coffee. Caffeine stimulates your digestive system and prompts bowel movements. If your coffee is hot, it will further relax your system due to the temperature, increasing the laxative effect. Common side effects from drinking coffee include stomach upset, diarrhea, increased heart and breathing rate, jitters and restlessness, and difficulty sleeping, among others.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents do not drink any caffeine, because we don’t know how it affects growing brains and bodies. Instead, they suggest sticking to water, milk, and juice in limited amounts. Reducing your coffee intake will help to alleviate unwanted symptoms, including the unpleasant digestive side effects. Slowly decreasing your coffee intake can help to avoid any unwanted caffeine withdrawal symptoms (like a headache).

My stomach sticks out but I’m not technically overweight. I’ve been doing 50 sit-ups in bed every night for about 5 months. It doesn’t seem to be helping. Should I tell my parents about my secret exercise, and how do I get rid of belly fat?

Thanks for asking this question! Every body is different and unique. There is not one body shape or size that is right for everyone, and many different factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and hormones, play a role in how a body looks.

Exercise can be a healthy habit, but it is important to be aware of our reasons for exercising. Sit-ups may help to strengthen muscle tone, however targeting one body part does not work for weight loss. Think about if there is any type of exercise you find joy while doing (and are able to do while in the current pandemic), such as stretching, yoga, or walking.

As you mentioned, having a discussion with your parents about exercise is a great place to start. If you feel like you are struggling with self-acceptance around body image, consider talking to your parents, doctor, or another health professional to get support around these concerns.

School Violence

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the term “school violence” refers to violence that disrupts learning and occurs on school property before, during, or after school as well as during school sponsored events. School violence includes anything from bullying and threats to fights and physical attacks with a weapon. The CDC has developed lots of programs to help us understand and decrease school violence and make our home and school environments safer..

Why does violence in schools happen?

While bullying, threats, and fights are unfortunately still too common in schools, school shootings are fortunately rare but always a terrible tragedy. Since 2009, there have been 180 school shootings in the United States.  Homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in teens between the ages of 10 to 24 years old, after accidents (unintentional injuries) and suicide, but the majority are not in schools.  School violence doesn’t result from one cause or in one type of school. Violence can occur in rural, city, and suburban schools. Violence of this level doesn’t usually occur at random, and there may be warning signs of mental illness, previous trauma, isolation or trouble making friends. In studies, teens involved in violence are more likely to use  drugs and alcohol, participate in risky activities either alone or with friends, and/or express thoughts of suicide. Students, teachers, and parents can help improve the school climate by creating a structured environment where everyone feels included.

Whom can I talk to if I’m worried about violence in my school?

It’s totally normal to be anxious (worried) about possible violence in your school because, unfortunately, it can happen unexpectedly.  A great place to start is by having a conversation with a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor. Letting someone know how you are feeling is super important and can be helpful when working to understand your feelings. The trusted adult may not have all the answers, but they may be able to show you some of the things that you can do to keep you safe. Talking with a teacher or guidance counselor can be helpful because they can review practical tips to keep students safe that have been created by the school (many are similar to that of a fire drill or tornado drill).

What if I am feeling unsafe at school?

Violence can either be physical (touching, hitting, etc.) or verbal (bullying, threats); either way it is always unacceptable, no matter where or when it occurs. The most important thing you can do is tell someone, such as a trusted adult. It’s important to remember that you might not be the only person experiencing violence and you have the potential to help someone else as well.

Is there anything I can do to help stop or prevent school violence?

There are many things you can do to help you feel safe while as school. Team work and kindness are important in addressing safety at school.  Your school is responsible for keeping the students safe; however, you can talk to your friends and teachers about starting a safety committee to lessen bullying and increase belonging. You can also work with other students to develop mediation club where students are trained to help lessen tension among fellow students. Most of all, you can be a role model by helping others and spreading kindness in your school. For example: watch for the classmate who’s always sitting alone in the cafeteria, on the bus, or on the buddy bench and befriend them! You might just brighten their day by striking up a friendly conversation. Spreading kindness and developing friendships is important for every school! It’s also very important, that if you ever hear or see a classmate or teacher talking about violence towards others or weapons of any kind that you speak with a trusted adult immediately. Telling a trusted adult immediately could keep you and your community safe from violence. It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend or your favorite teacher, no one should ever talk or joke about violence towards others. Remember the motto “see something, say something.”

What is a safety drill?

Your school may have practice safety drills in the event of an act of violence, similar to fire or tornado drills. According to the CDC, 7% of youth have missed 1 or more days of school because they felt unsafe at school.  The hopes is that you’ll never need to use these drills in real life. Here are a few tips that may be helpful:

  • Participate in your school’s safety drills. The drills are usually hosted by the local police departments. Many of these men and women will be the ones who respond in the event of a real emergency, which means it’s a great time to ask questions.
  • It might be scary, but imagine yourself in a real situation and make a plan with your teacher and classmates.
  • If violence were to happen at school, your teacher may ask you make yourself safe, one way to do this may be using a classroom item to block the doorway (i.e. a cabinet, table, or chair). This will help stop anyone from coming in or out of the classroom, keeping everyone safe.
  • Your teacher may also ask you and your classmates to find a safe space (away from doors or windows) in the event of school violence.
  • Work together as a class to keep everyone calm and quiet. Team work is super important here, try holding hands and sending a squeeze down the line (similar to the game telephone).
Remember school violence can happen before, during, or after school and extends beyond bullying. Our world can sometimes be unpredictable and violence can happen without warning. It’s important to always be alert and aware of your surroundings whether it’s at school, the mall, or at the movies. Make a mental note of the exits closest to you and what you would do in the event of a dangerous situation or an emergency. Find ways to spread kindness in your community.

 

I use a bottle and pen to masturbate. Am I still a virgin?

Good question.  There isn’t a medical definition of a “virgin” or virginity.  The term is used differently by different people and may relate to cultural or religious beliefs or the meaning of “having sex” or life experiences.  Sometimes the term is used for people who have not had sex or sexual contact.  So “losing your virginity” may have different meanings; some may say that occurs the first time you have sexual contact (i.e. touching or rubbing genitals either alone or with a partner); others may define losing their virginity as, oral or anal sex or penis-in-vagina sex.

Masturbation is the touching or rubbing of genitals. For girls, this includes rubbing their vulva (which includes the clitoris, inner and outer labia, and vaginal opening) and may also include the vagina. For boys, this includes touching and rubbing their penis (some may touch their testicles and/or anus). It’s OK to masturbate, but make sure you have privacy and safety.  Do NOT use foreign objects (things that should NOT go inside you) such as pens, bottles (glass or plastic), remote controllers, medicine bottles, hair brushes, curling irons, corn on the cob, banana, etc. during masturbation. If you prefer to use a prop, you can purchase a “sex toy.” There are two different types of sex toys: vibrator and dildo. A vibrator is hand-held device that increases pleasure through massage and vibration in and around your vagina. A dildo typically resembles a penis and can be inserted into the vagina to mimic sexual intercourse. If you have any questions or concerns about masturbation that you speak with your HCP.

How Safe Is It… to brew kombucha at home?

Kombucha is a fizzy, bubbly drink known for its tart taste, and made from fermented sweet tea.

Fermentation is a natural technique used to make a variety of foods and drinks. The process happens when a carbohydrate, such as sugar, chemically interacts with bacteria or fungi to create alcohol or acid. Common foods made by fermentation include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread.

To make kombucha, brewed tea and sugar interact with a culture that contains bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). When the sweetened tea interacts with the SCOBY over time, kombucha forms. Probiotics develop during fermentation, which are bacteria that play a positive role in gut health.

Bottles of kombucha sold at grocery stores are made in giant batches in factories. They brew tea in large steel kettles, add sugar, and then mix the sweet tea with various flavorings. You can also make kombucha at home in smaller amounts. Making kombucha at home is less expensive over time, and you can customize flavors. A challenge to brewing kombucha at home is that you are dealing with bacteria, which has the potential to be harmful.

The SCOBY used to make kombucha contain living bacteria, which poses potential risks. Mold can grow on the SCOBY for a variety of reasons, such as fermentation occurring at too high or low of a temperature, improper storage, or use of flavorings that encourage mold growth. This mold can cause allergic reactions or illnesses and can be poisonous, although it is not deadly. If there is mold on your SCOBY, throw out the SCOBY and the kombucha right away.

Overall, following careful kombucha-making directions is key to reducing the risk of mold occurring–and if mold appears, it’s best to throw out your SCOBY and kombucha, carefully test your process, and start over.

Tips to prevent mold if you make kombucha at home:

  • Use clean tools and utensils
  • Ensure a mold-free environment
  • Ferment at 68-78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Keep the kombucha spaced away from anything else fermenting
  • Use correct proportions of ingredients

 

I noticed when I exercise my heart will beat really fast and strong (like it’s coming through my chest), but I can never feel my pulse. I did some research and I am curious, could I have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or heart disease? Should I see a doctor or can I diagnosis it myself?

Thank you for your question. Heart disease is fortunately rare in teenagers. Some children are born with a birth defect of abnormal heart valves, a hole between 2 parts of the heart, or a difference in the shape of the chambers of the heart, called “congenital heart disease.” Congenital heart disease is usually noticed early in life. Occasionally teens will have a family history of rhythm problem or easy fainting that can be a serious heart problem. So you should definitely see your health provider if you have chest pain, fainting, or an abnormal heart beat during exercise, or a family history of rhythm problems.

Take a minute, put your hand over your heart, do you feel the “lub-dub-lub-dub” sound that your heart is making? When you exercise, your heart pumps more blood and oxygen to all the different parts of your body, which causes your heart rate to go up! It’s normal to feel your heart beating faster and stronger during and for several minutes after exercise, especially if you are doing an activity that includes running or quick total body movements. This type of exercise is called cardiovascular exercise and helps keep your health healthy. Teens are typically more active than adults and participate in more sports related activities than adults do, which helps keep the heart healthy and strong. Some arrhythmias can be diagnosed by listening to your heart beat (through a stethoscope, a tool doctors and nurses use to listen to your heart) or a radial pulse (two fingers on the outside of your wrist below your thumb where it bends), but it’s not reliable. Since your heart is beating hard, you should be able to find your pulse, although you may want to practice when you are just resting so you know what it feels like. Regardless, if you have concerns about your heart or body and something doesn’t seem quite right, you should talk with your health care provider (HCP).

I live in rural Illinois and I’m worried about the coronavirus. What is being done to help get rid of it and could I die from it?

Thanks for sending the question. Lots of other teens have asked the same questions. Our world is going through challenging and uncertain times right now. It’s been over 100 years since our world has gone through a pandemic. It’s totally normal to feel anxious, confused, and/or frustrated about COVID-19 because it’s new to all of us. It’s also super difficult to escape the name since there are warnings all over the TV and social media. However, it’s important to know that although the virus has infected over 3 million people worldwide, researchers, doctors, and nurses are working hard to understand this virus and develop new treatments. Every day we are learning new things! Health professionals are working on trials of medications and transfusions of plasma from people who have already had COVID. Companies are working hard to develop a new vaccine (similar to the flu vaccine) to protect people from the coronavirus. While development of safe and effective vaccines is likely at least a year away from being available, everyone should make sure to get all the their regular immunization so they don’t get measles, mumps, whooping cough and many other illnesses.

Although these are scary and uncertain times, teenagers rarely get serious illnesses from the coronaviruses but they can give it to others when they don’t have any symptoms. So your biggest task is to avoid passing it on to others, especially those with other health problems and those over age 60. If you do get coronavirus, it’s important to rest and drink lots of fluids, just as you would with the flu. Here are some helpful tips to protect yourself and reduce the spread of infection: wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds), use hand sanitizer (if you can’t use soap and water), cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze (use your elbow), don’t touch your mouth, nose, eyes, or face, practice social distancing (leave at least 6ft between you and another person), and wear a mask in public.