Social media is becoming a huge part of teens’ lives
Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today’s teens. Any Web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life, and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs. Cell phone texting is also often considered “social media”, and is a big part of teens’ social lives today.
While some research shows that social media can actually help kids who struggle with social situations by enabling them to interact and relate appropriately with their peers when online, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media. Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviors, such as bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation, which have introduced problems such as cyberbullying, privacy issues, and ‘sexting.’ Other problems that merit awareness include Internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation.” For a list of the pros and cons of social media, click here.
The most important action parents can take regarding social media is to stay involved, not only in how their kids are using the technology, but in the technology itself. Just peering over your teen’s shoulder to check what is on the computer monitor is not enough. Parents need to understand how social media sites are designed to gather personal information, how to set the most stringent security settings, and how to navigate the sites themselves.
Additionally, here are four things that parents can do to help ensure the healthy and safe use of social media (including texting on cell phones) by your teens.
- Make rules around social media use just as you have made rules around television viewing.
- What social media sites will you allow your teen to use? What ground rules apply to the use of these websites? For a list of 14 ground rules for Facebooking teens and parents, click here.
- When and where is your teen allowed to use social media? Only on the home computer? On their Smart phone? How are you going to limit their use?
- How can you ensure that your teen’s use of social media does not interfere with his/her schoolwork? There is new research that shows that students who switch back and forth between homework and checking social media sites achieve lower grades.
- Talk to your kids about what is appropriate to say and share on social media sites. Online information and images can live forever. Tell your teen not to post any identifying information online. This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name, and anything else that a stranger could use to locate them. Click here for more information on this topic.
- Monitor your teen’s safe use of social media. Treat your teen’s online activities like you do their offline ones. Ask questions about what they do, who their friends are, and if they have made any new friends. Go online with them and have them show you their personal profiles. Make sure they have stringent privacy settings. Ensure that they make you or an adult family member you trust a “friend” on Facebook and other sites. As your teen gets older, you will likely want to allow him/her more privacy in terms of participating on blogs without having you see all of their posts. If you have spent the time with them upfront on the proper use and improper use of social media, this should not present a problem.
- Keep up on the research of the effects of social media on teens. New research is emerging that links the use of social media by teens to poor academic achievement and psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, a 2011 survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teens that spend time on social media sites are more likely to smoke, drink, and do drugs than teens that do not use social media.
The Choking Game
The choking game is a game that 9-16 year olds are playing where they purposefully cut off the flow of blood to the brain, in exchange for a few seconds of feeling lightheaded. Some strangle themselves with a belt, a rope or their bare hands; others push on their chest or hyperventilate. When they release the pressure, blood that was blocked up floods the brain all at once. This sets off a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is just the brain dying, thousands of cells at a time. It’s estimated as many as 250 to 1,000 young people die in the United States each year playing some variant of the Choking Game.
What types of kids are doing this and why?
The kids who are participating in this deadly game are generally high-achieving in academics, activities and sports, and don’t want to risk getting caught with drugs or alcohol. Some kids do it for the high, which can become addictive. Others do it because it’s “cool” and risky. Most kids who have died from this were active, intelligent, stable children who thought this was a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol. Most kids have no concept of their own mortality—they truly believe nothing can hurt them.
How do kids learn about this game and how to do it?
The practice is taught through word of mouth and through the internet. By one name or another, the Choking Game has been going on for well over 20 years. But the most recent use of bonds (ropes, belts) and the growing practice of playing alone have increased its deadliness dramatically. Other names for the Choking Game include Blackout, Fainting Game, Space Monkey, Dream Game, Suffocation, Roulette, Passout, Flatliner, California High, Airplaning, Space Monkey, American Dream, Funky Chicken, Tingling, and Gasp. To view examples of how the choking game is done, go to www.youtube.com and search “choking game” or any of the other names listed above.
What are the warning signs?
- Any suspicious mark on the side of the neck, sometimes hidden by a turtleneck, scarf, or permanently turned-up collar.
- Changes in personality, such as overtly aggressive or agitated.
- Any kind of strap, rope, or belt lying around near the child for no clear reason – and attempts to elude questions about such objects.
- Headaches (sometimes excruciatingly bad ones), loss of concentration, flushed face.
- Bloodshot eyes or any other noticeable signs of eye stress.
- A thud in the bedroom or against the wall – meaning a fall in cases of solitary practice.
- Any questions about the effects, sensations, or dangers of strangulation.
For more information, click here.