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. Admittedly, as an adult now, I am not the one at the front of the line when the newest iPhone comes out and I haven’t owned a gaming system since Atari. I was slow to join Facebook and it has only been in the last few months, since connecting with Ryan and Shape The Sky, that I started to explore Snapchat and Instagram.
Obviously, I do not consider myself to be tech savvy and up on the latest and greatest. I do however, consider myself to be up on the most recent therapy techniques, theories, client needs, and available mental health resources. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and for 17 years I have worked with clients as young as 7 years old, teens considered to be “at risk youth” and adults struggling with both mental health and addiction. Despite my counseling knowledge, skills, and experiences I was not prepared for what I heard during Ryan’s training sessions. I was shocked, appalled, and saddened by what I heard.
How am I not prepared and what was so shocking you ask? I am floored at just how many apps, venues, and organizations are out there on social media looking to “hook” our kids into their products. It isn’t that I am completely unaware of every app or distorted message found on social media but there were more than I could have imagined. I do not know how to use many of the apps, I don’t understand the secret settings, I am not up on the codes teens use when texting, and I certainly do not have to go through the intense pressures that most teens face today. The stark realization of how much social media infiltrates the lives of our teens and tweens is disheartening. I’m an adult and have a reasonable ability to filter, defend, or close out negative images, words, or people. Our teens don’t always have that ability. They are still trying to fit in, belong, find love, or learn to understand who they are as a person.
I have also become aware of one significant difference from my teenage years and now. I had the safety of home, no computer, no cell phone, and the phone tethered me to the family room for everyone to hear. I had to ask permission to call long distance, it still cost extra back then, my friends couldn’t reach me anytime they wanted and if someone was bullying me I could find solace in those four walls where they couldn’t tease me until the next school day. Now, teens are accessible 24/7. If I don’t like you, it isn’t just you who knows it, everyone knows. Every mistake, heartbreak, bad day, or negative experience is out there for anyone to see, exploit, or take advantage of.
In all of this madness there is a ray of hope. There are people like Ryan and organizations like Shape The Sky that are out there educating parents, teens, and professionals. I am looking forward to my journey with Ryan as I learn more about social media and how I can help to educate others and protect our kids.
So, as a counselor what do I need or want to do with all of this new awareness? I want to be more aware, more educated and more connected. I need to be each of those things if I am to help my clients as best as possible. I have started exploring more of the social media sites and apps Ryan presented in his training. I am not just exploring but learning to use. I am talking with the teens, tweens, and your adults in my personal life to find out first hand what some of the struggles are and how they would hope for adults to assist them in addressing those challenges. I am listening without judgment. I am asking questions knowing I don’t have the answers. This has been an eye opening journey so far and I am buckling up for now because I feel it may get a little bumpy.
Tracey Hazlett, MA, LPC, CADC, CCS
Tracey Hazlett, MA, LPC, CADC, CCS is the owner of her private practice “Finding Hope from Within.” She provides therapy for adults affected by both mental health issues and addiction issues. Some of the mental health issues Ms. Hazlett treats includes Anxiety, Depression, Trauma/PTSD, Grief and Loss, Divorce, Self-esteem Issues, Relationship Issues, and Self-Harm. As a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, she can treat not only the addiction but the underlying issues related to the addiction.
Prior to private practice, Ms. Hazlett has experience working with adults, adolescents and children in community out-patient programming, inpatient mental health setting, and out-patient addiction treatment. Her roles at those setting have included counseling, music therapy, supervision and trainer. Ms. Hazlett completed her undergraduate work at Slippery Rock University of PA with a major in Music Therapy. She continued her graduate work in Community Counseling at Indiana University of PA and obtained her Licensed Professional Counselor status in 2012.