Over the past two days, news stories of the “Momo Challenge” have been rapidly spreading through the media. This has led to much misinformation, unclear understanding and concerned parents, professionals and teachers as well as frightened children. On Wednesday, February 27th, reports of this “challenge” were seen in many media news stories and by forwarded posts on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. By Thursday February 28th 2019, students in schools were talking about it and scared by the image attached to this story.
Revenge porn is a type of cyberbullying that is on the rise. Also known as non-consensual porn, this occurs when photos of an intimate nature are distributed without the subject’s consent.
Do you remember when Atari was the most popular, must have, latest gaming system? Or, when you got your first cell phone and it was used for emergencies only? How about when television ads first started to include that “www dot thing” at the bottom of the screen? Growing up, I can remember each of these instances and more as the world wide web began to infiltrate our homes and lives.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth 10-24 and the numbers are rising. You may have recently heard of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. If you have or haven’t, please read this article linked below.
I have worked very hard to work towards suicide prevention in a responsible way following the common sense guidelines by experts and expert organizations. 13 Reasons Why almost follows the exact opposite of all of those recommendations.
I’ve talked with many kids that have been watching it. I’ve started asking what the overall message they got from it was. One of the kids said “All people who commit suicide were bullied.” This is a concerning message received. In my opinion it was very irresponsible for Netflix to not do it’s homework and develop this show. Even more concerning is that they chose to release it in the peak of suicide season. The spring, for an unknown reason, is the time of the year where there are the highest suicide rates.
Releasing this on March 31st was not well thought out. If your child is watching this please see the Resource Guide below for talking points about the show that will help you help them understand that suicide is not a guaranteed result of bullying and that others should not be blamed for suicide as depicted in the show.
I’ve started to watch this myself and am not finished with it yet, but as a mental health professional for over 20 years, it very much concerns me and disappoints me with the message that those not in the mental health field are leaving with our youth.
Here is our Resource Guide for issues surrounding this issue:
Founder, Shape the Sky
A critical adolescent developmental task involves developing a stable sense of self. During these vulnerable years, tweens and teens are strongly influenced by their peers and the actions of their peers take on a heightened sense of importance. We have known for many years the grave pull of peer pressure and how it influences teen behavior. In the age of social media, adolescents are able to utilize digital peer pressure to influence behavior of vulnerable teens and tweens. The recent internet phenomena circulating social media sites is the Salt and Ice Challenge (SIC).
By placing salt on the skin and then ice on top of the salt, the teen feels a “burning” sensation and is challenged to see how long they can withstand this sensation. This is a very serious medical concern as the mixture causes the temperature to become 0 degrees F and can cause second and third degree burn injuries. It is similar to frostbite and numbness associated with the cold interferes with the teen’s awareness that an injury has occurred. Nerve damage and permanent scars to the skin at varying depths are possible.
It is critical for parents to be aware of their adolescent’s use of social media and monitor for sites they visit and content on their network pages. Parents are not always aware of the nuances of social media and feel uneducated about how to monitor the social media sites their teens use. It is extremely important for parents to be informed about access to the internet and social media sites available to their adolescent. If they find something that they do not understand or are alarmed by, they can use their pediatric primary care provider to assist them.
As a pediatric nurse practitioner for 20 years, I always discuss social media and the internet with teens and their parents. Although many parents are involved, too many parents will tell me that their older sibling checks on the younger teen’s sites and many are unaware of the vast array of web pages, links and social media sites accessible to their teens. One study reported adolescent use of social media and the internet at 7-11 hours/day with 25% of it being unsupervised as it is accessed on their cell phones. Please click here and here for articles from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control. They have excellent resources for parents to stay informed.
Brenda Cassidy, DNP, MSN,CPNP-PC
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, over 20 years experience
I have two children: a girl in middle school and a boy in high school. They have become obsessed with the PokémonGo app. It has been all over the news about thieves using it to lure kids to areas and robbing them. I feel that I should make them delete the app. What should I do?
A very timely question! For those that aren’t aware, Pokémon is a video game created by Nintendo for their handheld device, the Gameboy. It was first released in 1996 in Japan and has become a worldwide phenomenon spawning multiple movies, TV shows, trading cards, etc. There have been various editions of the game over the last 20 years. Many of our kids have grown up with the figures as a part of their pop culture.
In a nutshell, the game involves the player traveling around trying to capture Pokémon (pocket monsters) that run wild in the world using a special device called a Poké ball. There are hundreds of different breeds of Pokémon with varying levels of power. For more info about the game, click here.
Until now, the game has been played on Nintendo platforms with some sharing via Wi-Fi between players. For the first time, the game can be played on your cell phone with a free app called PokémonGo. It is a “live” version of the platform game, only the world isn’t imaginary anymore. The app uses GPS to pinpoint exact locations of your child/teen and generates content for them to interact with. The game was designed to get kids out and walking in the fresh air. Features of the game include “eggs” that hatch after walking so many kilometers, accessories/upgrades you can find and notifications for wild Pokémon in your area. In order to catch the wild Pokémon, players need to track and sometimes even run to get it. Quite ingenious!
One tool that can be purchased or earned is called “lure.” This allows a player to attract Pokémon to a particular location. This is helpful if you are trying to capture a rare breed or several Pokémon in a small area. A side effect is that it also attracts other players to you. This is what is getting the publicity as, yes, those with negative purposes could use this feature to lure unsuspecting kids (and adults) to locations that are not well lit, vacant or off the beaten path. Note: At this time, the GPS feature only shows you where items or Pokémon in the game are. It does not show you the location of other players.
So back to your question….should you make them delete the app? Ultimately, that is your decision as a parent, but this is the approach I would take (and did!).
First, learn a little about the game. It’s actually a lot of fun…sort of a combination of a treasure hunt and geocaching. It’s a great way to get a child or teenager (or adult!) out of the house and exploring their Community. I spent this weekend taking my child to a few local sites that were considered “hot spots,” meaning there were many Pokémon or accessories in the area. We were at a local university, a cemetery (lots of cemeteries are on the map), a local park and a church. All were good locations for kids to go out and walk. One friend actually downloaded the app along with her child and they are playing together while exploring their city.
That being said, it is also an excellent opportunity to talk with your child about the location feature on their device. Do they know what a GPS is? Do they know how to change the location and privacy settings? Do they know their Community and what areas may be unsafe? Do they go with a group and have a plan in case they encounter a stranger? Are certain locations off limits depending on the time of day?
This is also a good opportunity to have follow-up discussions about what they are posting on social media sites and review those privacy settings, especially regarding their location. Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat and Tumblr all have big followings based on this new game. Fun fact: In the five days it’s been on the market, PokemonGo has been downloaded more that the social media app, Tinder and is set to overtake Twitter as well. Click here to read more.
If you are concerned, then it’s time to make a different decision and/or seek out help. As with all social media, we want our kids to use the technology in a safe manner. So talk and connect….it is all about the open conversation.
Amanda Cooper, LCSW
I have a teenage daughter who is on social media. I worry about her self-esteem and her comparing herself to other girls on social media. How do I help her develop strong self-esteem in this social media visually driven world we are immersed in?”
Great question! Worrying about our daughter’s self esteem, especially in regards to body image and media, has been around for a long time. For decades, women have been used in print and television media to sell and promote various items and goods. They have been touched up, airbrushed and Photoshopped for years. Social media has certainly taken its place as the primary vehicle for teens to get information and feedback.
First of all, continue to do the good things that parents do to instill good self-esteem:
– Praise accomplishments
– Do things as a family
– Help your daughter build sets of skills and ways to express herself
– Encourage sports teams or other group based activities (band, theater, etc.).
Next, watch how you, as her parents, interact with her:
– Don’t criticize your own body in front of her, i.e.“Doesn’t my butt look big in these jeans?”
– Don’t wear her clothes. Allow her to develop her own sense of style and image.
– Teach her to be self sufficient and allow her to learn the same skills that you would a son: change a tire, drive, mow the lawn, play ball, learn sports, etc.
– Remember, that one-on-one time with a father is important!
– Don’t talk about food as “good” or “bad.” Talk about balance and what helps to keep our bodies healthy.
– Have a conversation about what your daughter is seeing. If she’s watching the Kardashians on television, talk with her about what she is thinking. Help her to develop a critical lens to translate and decode what is the message behind the ad or show.
– Talk with her about what she is seeing on Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr. Discuss what hashtags her cyberpeers are using with selfies and photos. If you want more information about hashtags, contact Shape the Sky and request our hashtag guide.
– Review your daughter’s social media activities and discuss how to post a positive “brand” about herself.
– Research blogs about celebrities who stood up when their image was sabotaged by Photoshop and how they advocated for an accurate betrayal. Click here for an example of a great blog on the topic.
If you continue to be concerned or notice your daughter becoming withdrawn, overly negative or changing her sleep, weight or eating habits, contact a professional. An assessment with a good therapist can give her support to get through a difficult time as well as screen for anything that may need further intervention.
As always, keep the conversation going. We can’t help them travel the path if they don’t have a map and a guide.
Amanda Cooper, LCSW
“I’m working with parents that are struggling with their kids’ behavioral outbursts when they take away their device. It’s almost like they have an addiction to their phone or tablet. I’ve heard of internet addiction, but is there device addiction?”
This is a very good question and one that comes up often in discussions with parents and professionals. For the most part, the object of dependence tends to be the cell phone. If you need a demonstration, all you need to do…
Standing in front of an audience was never a career goal for me. I had no intention to do public speaking. My last year of college, I took a mandatory public speaking course over the summer when I knew there would be only a few students in my class. So, when I was first asked to do an assembly for middle school students, I was petrified. I instantly put them to sleep.
With every new challenge we take on in life, there is an expectation set before the venture begins. Elementary, middle, and high schools have a handbook to follow. There are expectations about attendance, academics, and behaviors. Often parents and students have to sign and return a form confirming that they reviewed the school handbook at the beginning of the year. College classes have a course outline. A new job has a job description that both the potential employee and employer understand and agree to before hiring. A marriage has wedding vows that are based in a lifetime commitment. Society has laws that we must follow in order to maintain a safe and healthy community.