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.
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 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
WASHINGTON (Observer-Reporter Newsroom) – “’I downloaded the app because I thought it was a place to work on photos, but when I started looking around I realized it had blogs and places where people socialized,’ Klingensmith said. ‘When I began reading, I came across postings by some young people, they were sharing things that they should have been talking to their parents about, it seemed to me, or asking for professional help. It troubled me and I deleted the app but couldn’t help thinking about it.’”
ALTOONA (WTAJ News) – “Licensed counselor, Ryan Klingensmith runs workshops and counseling sessions for parents and children. Ryan wants parents to understand the ins and outs of social media so they can recognize potential issues or habits that can arise in children.”
PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – “Keeping up with technology is hard and the common joke a lot of parents make is that their young child ‘knows more about this stuff than I do’, but a local mental health counselor says it’s important that parents know about the devices their children are using.”
PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – “Ryan Klingensmith, a public speaker, will speak at an internet safety seminar May 31 to make parents aware of social media misuse and take action in keeping children safe online. At the seminar, Klingensmith will speak of app reviews, cell phone use, social media use/misuse, setting expectations and discussing ways to talk to young people about wise uses of their devices.”
PITTSBURGH (WiseSOVA) – “In Mr. Klingensmith’s 20 years of working as a therapist, supervisor, and community educator in a variety of settings for young people and their families, he has seen many changes happening in the lives of adolescents—one of the biggest being technology.”