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.
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
“Let’s take a moment to examine the concepts of knowledge and wisdom and how they relate to social media. Some people may combine knowledge and wisdom in the same category. While they are closely connected and work well together when used symbiotically, there are distinct differences. Knowledge is gained daily through assignments, tasks, and activities…think of it as “book smarts”. Wisdom is built over time and through observation and experience. Knowledge is something you can direct via your educational, occupational and interests path. Wisdom is the summation of the experience that provides guidance for what you do with knowledge… think of Wisdom as life experience or “street smarts”.
Children are born learners. They naturally want to discover the world and all it has to offer. They go to school to gain knowledge. As they grow we adults help sculpt their wisdom. We teach and model right from wrong and how to interact in the world successfully. We help them understand behaviors and consequences. We allow them to stumble and learn from mistakes. From the day they are born, our goal for our children is to have them accumulate a knowledge bank and then be able to use wisdom to judge how to most successfully use that knowledge.
In order to foster wisdom, in any area of our children’s lives, we need to be able to assess, redirect and guide our child’s choices as a result of their knowledge. In order to do this we must have the knowledge ourselves of each individual area to understand how to shape their wisdom.
Our children go to school and spend time with friends. They gain knowledge about technology because it’s part of today’s society. They gather this knowledge quickly and at an early age. They will rapidly outpace parents and teachers with knowledge of the technology through everyday use. Yet as a result of the lack of brain maturing until the age of twenty five, they do not have fully developed wisdom related to cause and effect of what they post on social media.
As adults we have gathered a lifetime of wisdom. We have learned from our mistakes and developed an ability to make good decisions. But we, as adults, have not kept up gaining knowledge related to technology and social media. This can cause us to struggle with imparting wisdom to our children and their online activities. It’s important for us to continue to gather knowledge about social media and technology. How can children be expected to gather wisdom from us when we don’t know anything about the subject?
One teen gave me feedback a few years ago about adults teaching teens about technology. They simply stated “first learn how to use it.” Good Advice. I think.