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Shaping the Future Through Awareness

My Introduction Into Social Media as a LPC

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 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.

Cyberwisdom Alert: 13 Reasons Why

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:

13 reasons reource guide

 

Ryan

Ryan
Founder, Shape the Sky

Let’s Get Medical: Salt & Ice Challenge

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.

Nursing Faculty portraits

Brenda Cassidy, DNP, MSN,CPNP-PC
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, over 20 years experience

Ask Amanda: Self-Esteem

Question:

“Dear Amanda,

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:

Moms
– 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.

Dads
– 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!

Food
– Don’t talk about food as “good” or “bad.” Talk about balance and what helps to keep our bodies healthy.

Social Media
– 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.

Warning Signs
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-new

Amanda Cooper, LCSW

Ask Amanda: Technology Addiction

Question:

“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 is go to the mall and try to walk without colliding with a teen whose eyes are turned downward to a device.

First, let’s start with the definition of addiction.  According to Merriam-Webster, addiction is defined as:

  • A strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).
  • An unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something.

If we use the first definition, I think we need to focus of the word “harmful.”  What would be harmful for a child with a device?  Clearly using a smart phone while driving is potentially harmful, but is all usage harmful?  As adults, we use smart phones and devices as tools in our work.  They help to organize our schedules, set reminders for appointments, check bank balances, take photos…there are dozens of positive usages for devices.

For many teens, they also use their devices for good.  I know in my daughter’s high school, many teachers encourage the usage of their devices for sending reminder texts about tests and homework, cancelling after school activities and even to do research in class when the teacher could not secure the cart of laptops.  In her personal life, there is the app that helped her to study for her drivers permit exam, records her practice lessons for her instrument and allows her to connect with colleges via her email.

In my world, I think of addiction as something that interferes and impacts one’s ability to carry on the activities of daily life.  So, having a glass of wine, not addiction.  Drinking every night and being unable to go to work or care for children, becomes harmful and thus, an addiction.

In the world of devices, I encourage parents to think about which patterns get in the way of positive usage.  For example, no one in my family has their smart phone in their bedroom.  Sleep is crucial for success so removing them to charge downstairs is a way to put a routine in place that encourages healthy device usage.  Parents have many controls that they can add to a child’s device, depending of age, to help guide positive usage.  Parents can control what time of day texts are permitted and phone calls.  For example, you can allow only messages from designated people during the school day and after 10:00 PM.

During meals, everyone puts their cell phone on the table and no one touches it until the end of the meal.  I can clearly see if I have an emergency call on the screen, but usually they stay quiet and we enjoy a family meal.  For other ideas, here is a link.

The best way to help address device overuse is to develop a contract with your child BEFORE they are given a device.  In the contract, you can outline time limits, time lengths, restrictions, in app purchases etc.  Then the standard is set and rewards for positive use as well as consequences for inappropriate use are already on the table

Is there the potential for a teen to become addicted to a device? YES!  If you are worried if your child is addicted to a device, it is important to seek professional help. Some behaviors that could be of concern: not sleeping due to being on the device, change or decrease in friends, decrease in other age appropriate activities (sports, clubs, job), lower grades, etc. Shape the Sky has begun training agencies and therapists who we recommend and we know have the knowledge to help.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility as adults to teach our children good habits so that their devices are tools to assist them (and us) in this busy world.  We need to create and continue a dialogue with them and help them to develop other interpersonal skills so that they grow to be successful young adults.

amanda-new

Amanda Cooper, LCSW

Man Accused of ‘Digitally Kidnapping’ 4-Year-Old on Facebook

This is a story of a mom who discovered her daughters picture being used by a random man on Facebook claiming that it was his daughter. It’s a interesting read that may make you think twice before posting your child’s picture on social media. In reality, trying to avoid positing your child’s picture on social media is a daunting and unrealistic task. You might be able to control what you post on social media, but chances are, if you are like me, you have family and friends who spend time with your child and take pictures with them and post on social media. Besides, you are proud of your child(ren) and you want to brag to your friends about their accomplishments and achievements.
My guidance on this is, use the settings available on social media to control who can see your posts. Talk to your friends and ask them not to post pictures of your child(ren) on social media and give them a reason for your request. Link them to this article. Educate yourself about wise posting because in a few short years, you will be entering the phase of your teen(s) running rampant with selfie’s and helping them with their own self-posting learning curve.
– Ryan

Parental Support on Social Media

During my trainings, I encourage parents to sign up for Facebook and Instagram at minimum to learn how they work. I discuss the parental benefits of understanding the platforms, so they can articulate to their children how to make safe and wise decisions when using them. Social media can also be a useful tool for parents who needs support being parents. Check out this article by the folks at Connect Safely.
– Ryan