Social Media addiction and your teen’s mental health

Social media is a growing trend and a required skill in the 21st century. We live in a time when if a teen does not have an Instagram account, Twitter or Snapchat, they are automatically considered an outcast and looked down upon in one way or another. Because of the way these social media platforms have been designed, they are highly addictive. According to recent surveys it was understood that almost 90% of Facebook users felt that their day cannot start on a good note unless they check their public social profile. That trend is only growing among young people with other various platforms.

Parents tend to often overlook the very negative and diverse effects that these websites have on the mind and mental health of their children. Following are some of the many negative effects social media and its addiction has on people:

  1. When one person is posting everything they do on a daily basis on a public platform, it is easy for people to begin to form a comparison. People automatically begin to judge their lives with everyone else’s and often forget the difference between one’s actual life and their virtual life.
  2. Teens express that when their phones are taken away, they feel completely uneasy and anxious being unable to check their notifications on their social media platforms.
  3. When a lot of pictures are being turned into memes and humorous content, it is easy to make things that have a very serious connotation into something that is almost ridiculous. Further, pictures on social media can be made to look more glamorous and that comes with negative influences for young people.
  4. People get into a debate over perceptions and realities. If they do not get a lot of likes on a single picture they report feeling sadness, insecurity or loneliness. We are seeing this growing trend in our Digital World programs.
  5. It is true that social media has enabled connectivity and staying in touch with friends, but it has also made cyber bullying easy. People find it easier to mock and ridicule others from behind their screens. The number of suicides has dramatically increased ever since the use of social media has made it easier for people to hide, and still make people feel terrible about themselves, or worse, put out material or pictures to the world that were meant to be private.

These are the effects social media addiction has on people. It is important that technology is used in a balanced manner to ensure it does not influence one’s personality, feelings or actions in any negative way. Having open communication, talking with your children and being their number one resource is imperative to contributing to a healthy online social life.

Check out this video on how to stop the worst of social media: Link

Teens are smarter than adults

How often do you hear that teens and youth are smarter than their educated parents, teachers, administrators and other adults in their lives? NEVER. An amazing new evidence based practice is sweeping across Geauga County letting us see how youth are smarter than adults in many ways. So before you get to angry, let me explain…

Youth today face many more issues than most adults faced growing up, especially with the massive amount of technology they are constantly surrounded by. We see some youth struggling with addiction, bullying, mental illness, problems in school at home and with peers. However, do we REALLY know what most youth are struggling with? For most adults the answer is NO. So we decided to ask adults in our schools and communities what they think the problems are that youth face today? Here are some of the responses we received: drugs (especially heroin), prescription pills, vaping, too involved in technology, underage drinking, they are lazy, and finally, they don’t do anything in school/not challenged. Then we asked students from various Geauga County schools the same question. Here are their responses: mental illness, mostly anxiety and depression; social media’s impact on negative self- image (because of the “picture perfect lives” others are portraying); social isolation; negativity on social media; and pressure…. not peer pressure, but pressure to be perfect and very high achieving, mostly coming from parents and schools.

So what does this mean? Youth are the experts, and are smarter than adults when it comes to what they face and experience every day. So the big question is why don’t we listen to what they have to say? The usual adult approach is…. “this is the problem you are facing and this is how we will fix it”. The new movement is here to let you know that this thinking is going to be a thing of the past.

Starting in 2015, ESC introduced our schools to a new evidence based practice called Youth Led Prevention (YLP). It is exactly as it sounds: youth telling adults what issues they face, and advocating for their ideas on how to fix them. The adult leader or allies’ role is to help guide the process of identifying the problem, determining capacity to change the problem, developing solutions, implementing ideas, and even evaluating the impact of their solutions. We are allowing our youth to be smarter than adults, we are listening to what they have to say, and teaching them how to act on their ideas. This process is called the Strategic Planning Framework.

Youth Led Prevention has allowed so many students in Geauga County to speak out that we now have YLP groups in seven school buildings, and have 14 representatives on our Youth Advisory Council (YAC). We are proud of the youth- led activities these students have undertaken in such a short amount of time.

Please check back for more articles, and to see what your local YLP group is doing in your community!

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Teen depression skyrockets and there is one common theme: Social Media

According to a recent national survey, between the years 2010-2015, the number of teens who felt useless and joyless surged 33%. Suicide attempts alone increased by 23%. These numbers are simply terrifying. After countless surveys, all of the results have one thing in common: a smartphone and the growth of social media. According to a recent poll, teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows.” Our goal in the Digital World program is to promote healthy online behavior and personal relationships, as well as talk to kids about the “reality” of the Internet, and how social media affects us both socially and emotionally, now and in the future. Take a look at Kids in a Cyber World for some quick facts about how fast social media has grown, and the ways the cyber world, left unchecked can impact youth development.

If you would like more information on this presentation or other Digital World programs send an inquiry to gpsempowered@gmail.com.

Yes you can… actually talk to your parents about sex???

I received a letter the other day as the high school TPP instructor that was similar to many I have received in the past. Here is a part of that letter:

“I know that the time you spent with us was well appreciated and will help us in the future to stay out of bad situations. I really got something out of the I Statements and the skit. I thought it was going to be bad but it was fun and helped me think ahead of what I should say or how I should act”.

Even though I did not want to talk to my parents about sex I did. We had a nice talk that was kinda awkward, but we wouldn’t have had that talk if it wasn’t for you.”

Now, for those of you who don’t get the chance to be part of this program, here is the question freshman and sophomores ask a parent: What is your opinion on teens and sexual relationships (or teens and abstinence)?

I thought I would let you in on 5 simple rules to follow that increase the chances that this very important conversation will go well.

  1. Ask early, not when you NEED to know their opinion for any reason. As she said above, it helps you stay out of bad situations.
  2. Use the I Statement she refers to. Stating how you feel BEFORE you talk is important. Most teens use awkward or uncomfortable, but most don’t ever talk because the fear parents will overact, or think it’s not a conversation it’s a confession! State what you feel using the I Statement before you start.
  3. Keep the conversation general. It’s easier to get parents real opinions on relationships, values, risks, abstinence, and what they have seen over the years when they are not talking about you specifically.
  4. Give your parents props for their experience and insight. They really do have a lot more experience in relationships than you, and parents love when teens actually give them credit for something!
  5. Blame TPP class for having to ask the question. Everyone does! Check out Tell it Like it Is for more tips and information you may need or want to use.

Good Luck!!

-Holly

7th graders take a BIG risk to learn about STDs/STIs

Seventh graders across Geauga County are learning about some of the physical risks when teens choose to become sexually active as part of TPP’s Holistic Sexuality Education Program. If young people make the choice to become sexually active, and yes this includes oral sex, they could be a part of the statistic : One out of two people contract an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) or STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) by the time they are 25 years old. That’s 50%! When teens choose to have sex they also have a 33% chance of getting involved in an unwanted pregnancy by age 20. The seventh grade TPP program emphasizes the physical and emotional risks that teens take by choosing to become sexually active.

Even AFTER learning about several of the risks and consequences many students will still volunteer to participate in a “physical risk activity” called the Envelope Game, designed to teach students about STD/STI basics. In this activity student volunteers receive an envelope with various STD names sealed inside, with decorated, inviting and attractive pictures, colors or logos on the outside (get the idea?). They open them one at a time and  are often surprised and embarrassed to see and read aloud what they “got” in their envelope. They, and the class then get the opportunity to hear about the disease, the symptoms and possible treatment options. Many are shocked to learn that some STD’S are viral and cannot be cured, which means they will have them in some form forever!

Several students choose not to volunteer to play the game and remain 100% SAFE, the same as those who choose abstinence in real life. These students made the BEST choice, as part of of TPP’s signature decision ‘math problem’.

Students are encouraged to talk to parents about this activity and are assigned homework to help facilitate the conversation. Parents are the primary source of sexuality information for young people, believe it or not!

Do your boys know the law? Men, babies and the law

Talking about sex with your children can be difficult and complicated enough, but do they, or you really know the life- long financial consequences if they father a child?

There are many eye opening facts that young men should be aware of if they make a choice to have sex outside of a committed, mature relationship such as marriage. Things to know, at minimum include:

  • Are they aware that they are required to support a child until age 18?
  • The average cost of basic care of raising a baby to age 18 is about $1,100 a month.
  • Parents of young men may be responsible for that cost in child support if their child is under 18 and has a child.
  • Once a pregnancy occurs, men have no rights when it comes to determining decisions about the pregnancy.

Check out “Men, Babies and the Law”, part of TPP’s 8th grade curriculum for more information.

Are teens prepared to say no to sexual pressure?

Are you surprised to learn that 85% of students do not say “NO” to unwanted sexual touch? Did you know it only takes 7 times of doing something before a habit is formed? What most of us don’t realize is that small habits can put us at big Risk. Habits, by definition cause you to react without thinking –it’s an automatic response. The TPP curriculum teaches young people how to begin getting into the Habit of using Assertive Communication. This means using direct, honest, firm communication while respecting yourself and the other person in situations large and small.

Assertiveness is one of the most important skills you can teach and use for success throughout life. Studies have shown that teens who are assertive are: less likely to be bullied, better at communicating, more confident, less stressed, more responsible and better able to resist pressure from peers. Remember, teens learn best by watching others, so role modeling being assertive can be a parent’s greatest influence in their child’s life.
These are 5 ways we can teach young people to be assertive:

  1. Teach kids to identify feelings and use a range of feeling words
  2. Reinforce the different communication styles (passive, assertive and aggressive)
  3. Teach youth how to express feelings in a positive and respectful way (“I” statements) – see example below
  4. Role model assertive behavior
  5. Recognize and praise assertive behavior

Assertiveness does not come easy to everyone but is vital to a person’s well-being and helps them take care of themselves.

“I” Statement: 

I Statement

For more information, watch this short YouTube video: Teach Your Teens it’s Okay to Say No

Can 6th graders handle a cell phone?

That is a question that has been asked since cell phones became a part of everyday life. So what’s the answer?

Imagine that the average guest in your school could electronically ‘find’ a child on the Internet? Most responses are doubting. Adults will say ‘kids are smarter than that’ or “I taught them to keep their information safe’. Kids will tell you that they are always ‘safe’, or more likely ‘I am not stupid”! But safety isn’t as obvious at it might appear when it comes to the Internet.

In ESC’s Digital World program for 6th graders we put this concept to the test with an activity called “6 Click Challenge” (NetSmartz). As a guest in the classroom, the instructor has access to students’ first names, as many people do. On day one, the instructor asks for a couple of volunteers who use social media frequently, and ask what their favorite social media platform is. The fun begins the next day when the instructor shares with the volunteers and the other students what information they found out in just ‘6 clicks’, or searches. Of course no personal information is shared! Students are completely shocked when the instructor tells them what kind of dog they have or their little brother’s name!

We have found that students DO keep very personal information off the Internet and social media. However, they do not (and at younger ages cannot) think critically about how ‘basic information, posts of less-safe friends, common pictures or snaps, and friending habits can be combined to ‘find them’ electronically. And just as importantly, studies show that bullying behavior, changes in self-esteem, and even mental health and attention span can all be affected by children’s social media and Internet use.

To find more information and safety tips check out our Digital World content and view this YouTube video: Keeping Kids Safe and Secure Online.

What do our students REALLY learn from TPP?

This past week our instructors were at Cardinal High School in Middlefield delivering the final lesson of our TPP program. We became curious about what exactly these kids retain during their years in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. We compiled a survey asking the kids that exact question…” what do you remember most from TPP over the last 6 years”? We were able to send this survey to them electronically through our new texting program called Simple Texting. The possible choices included various games we played, stories they heard, and the ‘face’ of TPP; BOB (Body on Board) shown below. BOB represents all the parts that makes us who we are, and most importantly how every decision we make can affect each part of us (or BOB in this case). Thanks to our survey, we learned that this fun but simple decision making tool stuck! BOB won with an overwhelming 32% of the votes. This is great news for all of us because it means that what we are doing is working! These young adults are retaining many of the skills and perspectives they get from TPP for several years, and remember the most important part of the program, BOB!!! Explore our website to learn more about Bob and other activities we do in the classroom!

 

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New study says teens’ decisions to have sex are influenced by parents… Say Whhaaat???

There are a lot of factors that go into a teen deciding to becoming sexually active or not.
Everything from peer pressure to social media, to their religious backgrounds, but what may surprise a lot of parents is that they may have the strongest influence of all. Many parents may believe that their kids are “tuning” them out when they sit down to have the birds and the bees convo, but according to The National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy (NCPTP) that is just not the case. In their recent study, nearly 40% of teens pointed towards their parents as the number one influence on their sexual behavior. Parents rank in the top 2 for more teens than that, and the younger the child, the stronger parental influence! So the short answer is, THEY ARE LISTENING.

The question of “WHEN” to have these discussions always arises, and the short answer is- it’s never a one-time talk. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where your kids feel comfortable coming to you to ask questions on any relationship, developmental, or personal topic from the moment they are old enough to understand.

Both parents need to be open and honest, and do their best to keep these lines of communication open, even though the most fearless parents often become tongue-tied with these challenging topics. One of the most important things TPP instructors have heard from kids is that if children feel as though they will be punished for their curiosity, or honest questions about sex and relationships, parents can kiss the opportunity to talk goodbye. Kids need to feel safe in talking to their parents about anything.

Learn more about societal influences in the Digital World section of our website and check out how TPP Programs navigate sensitive topics and questions.