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.
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 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
First, a little information about my background: I’ve been working with teens and tweens since the early ‘90s. I first started my career working direct care at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. There, I learned much about a wide range of mental illness and the resulting behaviors. I then worked in residential settings treating teens struggling with mental health, trauma and behavioral concerns. Within these facilities, there was very limited access to the internet and cell phones were not permitted. Even in their home and community, their access was limited. IM messaging was used on computers and texting on flip phones, but very few people were accessing the World Wide Web.
And then things changed. In 2010, I began working in Prevention Education. The role had me engaging with students in 6th to 12th grade. At this time, I also became the proud owner of a smartphone. This was the beginning of my passion for technology, social media and phone apps. I began to discover apps and downloaded everything from calendars to games to photo editing tools.
As I was exploring all the tools and tricks that existed on my new toy, I stumbled upon a post by a teen that was upsetting and concerning. The topic was one which I typically came across in the journals and sessions of teens I worked with in treatment. I looked deeper into similar posts via the use of hashtags (#) and began to see an underground world of mental health issues being shared on popular social media sites. I began exploring and researching content from various public postings and asked peers and friends if they were aware of this behavior. None were. How could this be?
This disturbing lack of public awareness led me to scour the Web and social media sites to learn more of the online community. The magnitude of the content and the way some teens were using that content was disturbing. Over the next three years, I researched and created trainings for parents, teachers, therapists and other adults involved with young people to help educate them about social media use and misuse. My mission was to make sure adults and kids knew both the good and the bad that existed and how it impacted them.
I was compelled to teach the young people I work with how to navigate the cyber world safely. You don’t just give a 16 year old a car and say “Here you go!” without giving them instruction and offering opportunities to practice to driving safely. With this in mind, I developed trainings for students in the schools I worked in about how to behave responsibly when they are connected online. In the process, I found that I learned from them about what was new or trending at the time and how social media impacts youth culture. The youth told me that they appreciated the tools I gave to make good decisions when connected to the cloud and that they don’t like it when adults “preached” to them. They wanted to know what to do if something happens online. As one student said, “Don’t talk to us like we are completely ignorant. Just give us options if something bad happens.”
Educating adults was an imperative part of the process because they can’t teach what they don’t know. They appreciated the trainings and learning about social media and youth culture. They wanted to know what their students/children are doing online, but they often didn’t have time or experience to research on their own.
As this journey continues, I have developed and modified trainings for professionals. I have expanded on my programs to responsibly educate youth and adults about social media, mental health and digital responsibility based upon best practice recommendations by prevention, mental health and technology expert guidelines.
I want to thank you for your interest in my journey and look forward to showing you how to Shape Your Sky.