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.
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
“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…
When a child turns 16 , according to most state laws, they are ready to learn to drive. We, parents and adults, prepare them.
“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.
I regularly talk to kids about apps. Over the past year, I’m starting to hear about Tinder with the senior aged kids. Part of my work is teaching them to recognize red flag behaviors, indicators for grooming and not going to meet people in person that they meet on Tinder (or other sites such as Craigslist).
I know what Tinder is and how it works. As with all apps I discuss, I get on it from time to time to see if there are any new updates or behaviors I need to teach to parents. But not all parents or educators know what it is and how it works to give kids this knowledge.