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Cyber-Bullied Teens twice as likely to Use Tobacco, Alcohol, and Marijuana

AscentiveInternet Safety tips from the Ascentive team

American teens ages 12-17 who in a typical day spend any time on social networking sites are at increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, the 16th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia).

The survey asked 12- to 17-year olds whether they spend time on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites in a typical day. Seventy percent of teens report spending time on social networking sites in a typical day compared to 30 percent of teens that say they do not. This means that 17 million 12- to 17-year olds are social networking in a typical day.

Social Networking Teens at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
Compared to teens that spend no time on social networking sites in a typical day, teens that do are:

  • •Five times likelier to use tobacco;
  • •Three times likelier to use alcohol; and
  • •Twice as likely to use marijuana.

Teen Substance Abuse Photos Rampant on Social Networking Sites
The CASA Columbia survey found that 40 percent of all teens surveyed have seen pictures on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs. Half of teens who have seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs on Facebook and other social networking sites first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger; more than 90 percent first saw such pictures when they were 15 or younger.

Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:

  • •Three times likelier to use alcohol;
  • •Four times likelier to use marijuana;
  • •Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
  • •Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.

Teens Viewing Suggestive Teen Programming at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
This year’s survey explored teen TV viewing habits in relation to teen substance abuse. One-third of teens (32 percent) watch teen reality shows like Jersey ShoreTeen Mom, or 16 and Pregnant or teen dramas like Skins or Gossip Girl in a typical week.

Compared to teens that do not watch suggestive teen programming, teens that typically watch one or more such programs per week are:

  • •Twice as likely to use tobacco;
  • •Almost twice as likely to use alcohol;
  • •More than one-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana;
  • •Twice as likely to be able to get marijuana within a day or less; and
  • •More than one-and-a-half times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription within a day or less.

“The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs and of suggestive teen programming to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs. Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.”

Parental Perceptions Out of Touch with Reality
Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.

Cyber Bullying and Substance Abuse 
The CASA Columbia survey also found that 19 percent of teens ages 12-17 (more than 4.5 million teens) report being cyber bullied (having someone post mean or embarrassing things about them on a social networking site). Compared to teens who are not cyber bullied, teens who have been cyber bullied are more than twice as likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

“The anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression and suggestive television programming that teens are exposed to on a daily basis puts them at increased risk of substance abuse,” said Califano. “The findings in this year’s survey should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children and drive home the need for parents to give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.”

Other Key Findings Related to Teen Substance Abuse
Teens whose parents don’t agree completely with each other on what to say to their teen about drug use are more than three times likelier to use marijuana, and three-and-a-half times likelier to expect to try drugs in the future, than teens whose parents agree completely on what to say about drug use.

  • •Teens whose parents do not agree completely with each other on what to say to their teen about drinking alcohol are twice as likely to use alcohol, than teens whose parents agree completely on what to say about drinking.
  • •Teens who agreed with any of the following statements − “If a friend of mine uses illegal drugs, it’s none of my business,” “I should be able to do what I want with my own body,” or “It’s not a big deal to have sex with someone you don’t care that much about” − are three times likelier to use marijuana, twice as likely to drink alcohol, and much more likely to smoke cigarettes, compared to teens who disagreed with the statements.
  • •For the fifth straight year, more than 60 percent of high school students say they attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold on school grounds.
  • •Forty-two percent of 12- to 17-year olds report knowing at least one friend or classmate who uses illegal drugs, like acid, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin, a 24 percent increase since 2007.

CASA Columbia’s back-to-school survey was conducted using two concurrent surveys. CASA Columbia used Knowledge Networks to do an Internet-based survey administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,037 teens (546 boys, 491 girls), and 528 of their parents, from March 27 to April 27, 2011. Sampling error is +/- 3.1 for teens and +/- 4.4 for parents. As in the past, CASA Columbia used QEV Analytics to do a survey of trend questions at home by telephone that was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,006 teens (478 boys, 528 girls) from March 29 to May 9, 2011. Sampling error is +/- 3.1.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Your Website

AscentiveBusiness tips from the Ascentive team

A well designed website is a vital ingredient to every business. It’s crucial to avoid designing a website that takes way too long to load, has poor accessibility, doesn’t load correctly, is too cluttered, or even too sparse. If one of your visitors leaves your website within eight seconds, it’s time to fix something on your site pronto. Here are some key suggestions as to where you should start:

Speed up your site

When your website fails to grab someone’s attention and compel them to order one of your products or services or even add their email to your mailing list, it may be time for you to check and see your problem is a home page that take too long to load. It’s possible that large resolution images or animated Flash Files may be slowing you down. Try viewing your site over a slower Internet connection or use an online speed test to check your site’s speed.

Use Keywords on Your Pages

Remember, the goal of search engines is to provide relevant results according to the terms that people are using for their searches. This means you need to provide the most relevant, high-quality information that your audience is looking for out on the Internet. One way to do this is to bold the keywords in your headlines and in the “bodies” of your web page content. However, here’s no need to bold all your keywords. In fact, although it’s important to have proper keyword density, you should avoid “keyword stuffing.” Keyword stuffing is when you overload the content or your webpage’s meta tags of the web page with every possible keyword or phrase that relates to the site in many different forms. For example, a bad meta description for our a paper site would read as follows: “paper, copy paper, printer paper, laser printer paper, Xerox paper, typing paper.” Note that this example has only keywords, with no sentence structure. If your site contains an unnaturally high density of one single keyword, your site will actually drop in search engine rankings.

Use Image Tags

Another way to improve your traffic is through the use of optimized graphics in order to get listed in the Google Images’ database. When you build your website, be sure to use Image Tags and Alt Image Tags to code all of your images. And name your image files with popular, relevant, descriptive keywords.

Update Your Website Dates

When your website has the current date, it’s letting visitors known that it’s fresh and current. Search engines take this into consideration when they crawl through your site as well. Always update your website dates on a regular basis.


How to Write an Article

Writing tips from the Ascentive team

The ability to write an article is one of the most important types of writing skills that a professional writer could possibly possess. After all, newspapers and blogs employ more writers than any other writing industry. If you’re a writer, then you need to learn how to write a newspaper article quickly. Here’s how:

The Topic

Exactly what are you going to write about? Brainstorm for ideas if necessary. When writing an article for a newspaper or blog, you may even wish to refer to requested topics for ideas from an editor. It shouldn’t matter that the same type of article had been written before or not, just think what you want to write.

The Headline

All good newspaper articles start off with a good headline that will entice the reader to follow up and read the whole article. Your title also might need to be shortened depending on what kind of space has been allotted for your article. For online magazines and publications, you should find an enticing title that will tell them about the key idea of your article, but mention that it contains a “surprise” or a “secret.” These two words drive more clicks than you can possibly imagine, and work very well for driving people to your articles.

The Body

For the body of the article, you need to find some good quotes from interviews. Nothing brings people in like quotes. It will make your article more personable and give it a human quality, plus it allows you to break the flow of facts. There should be no more than three sentences per paragraph. If you have more to add about a particular topic, you should revisit it after a relevant quote or at the end of the article. In a newspaper your article will be cramped into a corner and put in thin columns, so writing with short paragraphs will look more appealing and readable. Be sure to cover the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your subject. Most news articles are between 200 and 500 words. However, newspapers typically quantify the amount of writing in terms of inches, so ask your editor how many inches he or she requires, and how many words that equates to approximately.

The Picture

Your article should always include a picture. A captivating picture will make or break your readability. Without a picture, your article looks dry and unimportant. Pictures also improve your search engine rankings.

The Blurb

Finish your article with a good one or two sentences introduction of that will interest the reader and give them an idea of what the article will be about that can be used as a blurb.

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Best Free Phone Services on the Web

Business tips from the Ascentive team

Despite the birth of email and instant messenger, the phone is still an important part of business. People use the phone to connect with a voice they think they can trust that represents a particular product or service. But phone service doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg; here are the best free Phone Services on the web.


Make free VoIP calls from your Web-enabled mobile phone through Wi-Fi with GoSIP’s free download.


Fring harnesses your phone’s SMS technology to deliver free VoIP calls wherever you are. It also lets you chat with friends on most major chat clients.


Mobivox offers a free download that allows individuals to call anyone in the world, regardless of the phone they use.


FreeConferenceCall offers accounts that can accommodate up to 96 users.

Free Audio Conferencing:

FAC provides free conference calls and offers toll-free conferencing for participants at 7.9 cents per minute.


Offering a “complete internet fax service,” RingCentral’s free trial allows you to receive faxes as emails, to fax any MS Office file and to sign faxes electronically.


FaxDigits offers most of its services – a dedicated fax line, incoming faxes as PDFs, unlimited inbound faxes – for free. A premium services suite runs users $7.95 per month.

PamFax via Skype:

Although not quite free, some Skype plug-in developers have harnessed the power of Skype to send faxes to any fax machine in the world. Users pay in Skype credits per page with no monthly fees.


WalkieTalkie, Conference Calls and Chatterbox are just a few of the new applications Facebook offers. Facebook has also become a proving ground for VoIP-freeware development.


Ekiga provides free VoIP for Linux enthusiasts.


Acquired by Google,  with GrandCentral one phone number makes all your phones ring.


JahJah  links two traditional phone lines together without downloads


KPhone is a Linux-based softphone project based on volunteer efforts.


Earthlink’s free SIP phone download.


NadizPhone is a VoIP-enabled social networking site that allows free calls between members.


SighSpeed is an award-winning VPS that is free for personal use. Business plans start at $19.95 per month.


TelTel has a free download, but calls cost TelTel credits, which must be paid in $10 increments.

VoIP Discount:

VoIP Discount offers free VoIP calls, but only to trial members. After the trial period, users must buy credits, which gives them 120 “free days” of calling.

AIM Call Out:

Now that every major IM client has its own VoIM service, VoIM less about features and more about brand loyalty. For those still clinging to AOL, here’s yours.

Google Talk:

Finally, Google Talk is a freeware voice over Internet protocol VoIP client application offered by Google.


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What are Cookies?

Internet privacy info from the Ascentive team

If you surf the Internet, you’ve come across cookies in one form or another. A cookie is a type of message that is communicated to a web browser by a web server.  The two main purposes of a cookie are to identify users and possibly prepare customized Web pages, or to save site login information. Due to their core role of enhancing/enabling usability or site processes, disabling cookies may prevent users from using certain websites.

Cookies are created when a user’s web browser loads a particular website. The website sends information to the browser which then creates a text file. Every time the user goes back to the same website, the browser retrieves and sends this file to the website’s server. Computer Cookies are created not just by the website the user is browsing but also by other websites that run ads, widgets, or other elements on the page being loaded. These types of cookies regulate how the ads appear or how the widgets and other elements function on the page.

Session Cookies are a type of cookie used by a server to store information about user page activities so users can easily pick up where they left off on the server’s pages. By default, web pages really don’t have any ‘memory’. Cookies tell the server what pages to show the user so the user doesn’t have to remember or start navigating the site all over again. Cookies act as a sort of “bookmark” within the site. Similarly, cookies can store ordering information needed to make shopping carts work instead of forcing the user to remember all the items the user put in the shopping cart.

Persistent Cookies are employed to store user preferences. Many websites allow the user to customize how information is presented through site layouts or themes. These changes make the site easier to navigate and/or lets user leave a part of the user’s “personality” at the site.

Cookie security and privacy issues

It’s important to note that cookies are not viruses. Cookies use a plain text format, and they are not compiled pieces of code so they cannot be executed nor are they self-executing. They also cannot make copies of themselves and spread to other networks to execute and replicate. However, Cookies can be used for malicious purposes. Since they store information about a user’s browsing preferences and history, both on a specific site and browsing among several sites, cookies can be used to act as a form of spyware.

Responsible web developers deal with privacy issues caused by cookie tracking by clearly describing how cookies are used on their sites. These privacy policies should explain what kind of information is collected and how the information is used.

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