Blog

How to Ease the First Day of School Anxiety

Aug 13, 2019

Young girl sitting outside of school with backpack reading a book

With a pit in my stomach, I sat quietly in the back seat of my parents’ car as they drove me to school. Anxious, a bit afraid, and excited too, I imagined in my head just what it would be like. Would I make friends? Whom would I have lunch with? Would I feel stupid or smart? Would I fit in? And were my clothes up to my classmates “standards?”

I was on my way to UCLA, a freshman moving into the dorms.

We often think of those “first day of school jitters” as something our preschooler, kindergartener, or middle schooler feels; however, the unknown produces anxiety for all of us. Whether you have young ones beginning their school journey or a seasoned “first day of schooler,” it is important to understand that much of this anxiety is deeply rooted in the same place — “will I be OK?”

7 WAYS TO HELP WITH FIRST DAY JITTERS

With this understanding, we can help kids of all ages and stages with much of those first day of school nerves. Here are seven ways how to help them deal with first day of school anxiety:

1. REMAIN CALM AND CARRY ON

This is advice best heeded by all parents of kids of all ages! Begin managing your own anxieties of sending your child off to school. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Perhaps you are afraid that your child will not belong, will not measure up, will not behave or will not be safe. Some of our own adult anxieties are rooted in our own school experiences or back to school anxiety. Examine what might be going on for you.

2. RUN RECOGNIZANCE.

Many anxieties are exacerbated by last minute rushing. Talk through your child’s needs for school in an organized and calm fashion. Work through the lists and the lists of requests sent home by school teachers and administrators. Spend some time thinking through the school logistics with your child that might involve things like transportation, lunch, clothing, school supplies and schedules. Planning ahead, and preparing them for school in small degrees, means being planned before the very last minute.

3. PLAN AHEAD

With map and schedule in hand, visit the school with your child and school friends in tow. Whether it is casing out the playground, the lunch room, the front door of each classroom, or it’s a well-planned visit with school counselors and tour guides, preliminary preparation can be helpful to you both.

4. ENGAGE YOUR CHILD IN THE PLANNING.

Most therapists understand that when someone is engaged in the process, they are less likely to be afraid of the unknown. Ask children what they might need from you in emotional support or in practical planning. They may come up with some wonderful ideas and their ideas will come back to them during the day when they are most anxious.

5. WONDER WITH YOUR CHILD ABOUT THEIR NERVOUSNESS

Open-ended questions are most helpful in exploring what might be underneath their jitters. Sometimes kids worry about the classroom bully, the advanced level of work, or of being away from you. Talk about their worries and help brainstorm what kind of practical or emotional aid would be helpful.

6. FIND POWER IN “THE BLANKEY.”

Linus, from the famous Peanuts cartoon, helped parents everywhere appreciate the magic of a security blanket. Sending something special with your child to school can help connect him or her to home. A stuffed animal or blanket for the preschool nap; a favorite trinket for the school cubby; a note in a lunchbox in elementary school; a carefully chosen backpack for middle or high school; family pictures for the dorm room – mementos such as these can help ease jitters during the day.

7. CELEBRATE THE END OF THE DAY.

I arrived home to the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies at the end of every first day of school for as long as I can remember. It is a tradition that I have carried on with my own family. My mother knew that I would be more willing and eager to get home and share about my day, my concerns, and who was in my class over a plate of cookies, which beats the hounding of an anxious parent every time. Create a simple celebration ritual for your child that helps create security.

Your empathetic gestures and loving words will connect to your child’s fears and experiences. Don’t diminish those feelings or tell them not to worry. Don’t punish them or threaten them for feeling the way that they do.

Rather, engage in open, understanding conversations about what might feel helpful to them. And if either one of you continues to feel unhappy or overwhelmed, be open to exploring outside resources with your doctor, therapist, or school administrators. Remember, if you are positive and at peace, those feelings are more likely to transfer to your child.

 

Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD

Dr. Charlene Underhill Miller, a psychotherapist in Southern California, working with parents, couples, and families. She is a frequent and popular speaker to community groups, a professor, a wife, and mother

Does Your Child Have Social Media FOMO: Fear of Missing Out?

Jul 23, 2019

Teen girl sitting outside using social media on smartphone

The sounds are all too familiar. A ping, a chirp, a pulse; a fun ring tone or a simple vibration for a text, a tweet, an Instagram post, a Snapchat picture. Hard to resist looking; hard to resist responding. We have all become Pavlov’s dogs. The bell rings and we salivate – or at least jump to look at who is reaching out to us. Kids – and parents, too – are suffering a new kind of social anxiety—one that I call “Twitter anxiety, Snapchat insanity, and Instagram depression.”

Many are becoming obsessed with how many “likes” their post has, whether an Instagram photo includes them, whether a friend will text us back with the kind of speed that makes us feel as though we are important to them. Social media can be both “a-social” and “anti-social.” We have to take control of it so it doesn’t take control of us.

If these currents are difficult for us as parents to navigate, imagine how vulnerable our children are to feeling left out or misunderstood. Kids need to learn how handle posts and tweets with balance and maturity and to avoid undue anxiety when notifications come in – and especially when they don’t.

As parents, we need to help our kids deal with FOMO – the “Fear of Missing Out.” Below are five areas that you can work with your child help reduce social media anxiety.

  • Empathy: We parents still remember the times when we were not included in a gathering (we may still feel the familiar sting when it happens today). This the experience of “missing out” is a reality for many of our kids. When they seem anxious about a text not coming in or photos of an activity they are not in, help them find words for their concern and plan an alternative way of communicating with their friends. If they are sad about missing out, lend them a non-judgmental ear and give them some space to talk about their feelings.
  • Strategy: Sometimes the anxiety with social media is driven by practical needs—homework, extracurricular activities, sports practices and gatherings. If they are anxious about a homework question or details about getting together, prompt them to actually place a phone call! Know what alternative resources are available to your child for school-related questions through the school’s website, teachers’ emails, and newsletters. If a gathering is purely social, that may be a time for you as a parent connect with the other parents to facilitate communication and help confirm plans.
  • Limits and Boundaries: Most kids have difficulty with impulse control. Help them manage this by agreeing on some family limits on social media that also apply to you! Turning off the phone and social media will be hard at first, but it will help curb the incessant checking. You and your kids can let friends know that calls and texts cannot be answered after a certain time. Unplug. Corral the technology for a certain time in a designated space. Including yours! It’s OK.
  • Be Informed: It is very difficult for parents to stay current with trends. Kids are often using new apps before their parents even know they exist. Educate yourself about what is popular with our kids and their friends. Become aware of is posted so you can be empathetic to your child’s experiences, whether they be good or painful. Recruit an ally in the form of an older nephew, niece, or friend who is connected to your child through social media to keep a look out on what your child seems to be doing and experiencing in social media and to help you stay abreast of what is really going on.
  • Model: Model healthy social media behavior with your children. Don’t text and drive; don’t exhibit “Facebook Envy” by comparing your mundane life to the seemingly more glamorous lives posted by your friends. Create opportunities to talk about FOMO – those feelings of being left out – and work with your child to make plans for shared activities and face-to-face conversations they can have with their friends. In the end, a fun time actually spent with a friend will do far more for your child’s self-esteem than a day spent nose to the screen.

It’s a long battle, so be tenacious. But also be empathetic to their losses even if they seem trivial to you. Be a model in how you handle your own social habits and disappointments. Be mindful that anxiety is real and can take one over. Help your child learn to take positive social actions rather than living life responding to a ping and a ding!

Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD

Dr Charlene Underhill Miller, a psychotherapist in Southern California, working with parents, couples and families. She is a frequent and popular speaker to community groups, a professor, a wife and mother. www.underhillmiller.com

How to Speak the Language of Adolescence?

Jun 18, 2019

One major difference between you, as a parent, and your teenage son or daughter is the major shift in communication with the inclusion of modern technology.

Modern technology – phones, computers, tablets, smart watches and social media – has evolved faster than we know what to do with it.

As parents, we now have to understand this vehicle of communication so that we can give our teens the tools they need to communicate effectively.

It’s no surprise that teens today use their devices as a “go-to” means of communicating.

Communication is Transitioning

You may not prefer that, but that’s the reality! This shift has produced a whole new communication style that we can embrace in order to effectively communicate and maintain strong connections with our teenagers.

How often do you hear your son/daughter say they “talked to a friend for hours”, when in fact it was all through text or social media? I’ve worked with many teenagers who report increased confidence and comfort in texting to initiate conversation rather than talking in person. There can be benefits to this type of communication but it’s important to remember, communication is only partially complete with words alone.

Upwards of 90% of communication is non-verbal – not what we say at all but how we say it – emotion is communicated through non-verbal cues including tone of voice, inflection and body language. This leaves much room for misinterpretation.

Teens are in a constant state of transition. They live between childhood and adulthood.

How do we help to blend these two worlds and make this time most comfortable for everyone? Meaningful, face to face interactions are still important and valued by teenagers. Some of the work is finding and making the most of those opportunities while embracing and learning what role technology plays for your son or daughter.

One major difference between you, as a parent, and your teenage son or daughter is the major shift in communication with the inclusion of modern technology.

Tips to Decipher Your Teen

Consider the following suggestions that I’ve seen work positively with some of the families in my practice:

  • Use technology to help you communicate more with your teens. Send them funny texts; let them share with you an article or video they found and liked on the internet. Watch it with them and laugh with them!
  • Teens are more emotionally mature and capable of more mature conversations than their younger selves. They will respond positively when treated with respect and spoken to directly. Remember you can use more “grown up” language with your teens and trust them more so you can explain why certain rules and boundaries are necessary.
  • Be available when they are ready to talk. This is a tough one. It may not always be when you’re ready to talk. Let’s be honest, it rarely is! A consistent complaint I hear from my teenage clients is their parent is a “nag” and “doesn’t let it go” or “preaches too much”. I often suggest to these parents that they break down difficult conversations. For instance, open up the conversation in a non-threatening manner, gauge openness to discuss and ask when would be good time to check back in with your son/daughter to talk some more. This approach provides opportunity for your teen to think about how they feel, too, before responding, remembering that teens are wired to respond more impulsively.
  • Regular family dinners are so important. Agree as a family (parents included!) to put all electronics away during that vital time to reconnect after your busy day. Regular family dinners are so important.

Most importantly, remember that your teen is always looking for mentors to admire and look up to. By embracing the new technology-enriched generation, you’ll provide an expressed interest and investment in their life.

It is our role to meet our kids where they are and help them to navigate the many conflicting messages they receive, both in their internal and external worlds.

Annemarie Lange

Annemarie Lange is a licensed professional counselor in the Philadelphia area that utilizes mindfulness and meditation to help her clients deal with a variety of challenges.

MAKERSPACE!

June 11th is Kick-off Day! Kid Friendly Zone! Makerspace will be open on Tuesdays during the summer from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Only 1/2 a block away from the Dillon Public Library, the address is 35 S. Idaho.

MAKERSPACE: Arts, Crafts, Painting, Legos, Kinects, Building, Constructing, Computer Programming, Robotics, Drones, Movie Making and MORE! Sponsored by UM Western and Dillon Public Library.

Wanting to Volunteer? Call 683-4544

 

SUMMER READING PROGRAM!

Kick-off will be June 6th at the Dillon Depot Park!

A UNIVERSE OF STORIES is this years theme! The Museum of the Rockies Planetarium will be set up. Moon Crafts and there will be several stations with plenty of information to get your summer started! Come sign up, get your reading log, and your Summer Reading bag! See you there!

When Friends Become “FRENEMIES”

By Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD
I remember the humiliation, even though it was long ago. As the lunch bell rang at school, a friend distracted and tied me to the tether ball post with a belt -and then left, laughing. He was a friend that thought it was funny, but it was mean. Thankfully, a teacher found me; my “friend” suffered consequences and was forced to apologize.

Many students report having been bullied – amazingly, most of them by “friends.” One study states that the risk of cyber-bullying is seven times higher among current or former friends or dating partners than among those who had never been friends or dated.

Bullying is defined as persistent physical, verbal, or emotional acts that create an imbalance of power which can have lasting effects on the victim (Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 2010). From 2002 to 2011, researchers reported the percentage of students involved in incidents of cyber-bullying ranged from 10% to 50% (Bullying Statistics.org, 2009; Kowalski et al. 2012), and girls are twice as likely as boys to be victimized.

Times are different now that bullying has gone virtual. My playground humiliation was observed and addressed. But students today are subject to humiliations that go viral through social media such as texting, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Yik Yak, Twitter, and gaming chat rooms. Even though it may be very public among kids, it may be invisible to caring adults outside those social networks.

Cyber-bullying has exploded within the last decade, with parents and school administrators trying to stay ahead of ever changing technologies that kids often use differently. Whether the harm is caused by teasing gone out of control or by malicious intent, a victim never thinks it’s “just a joke.”

The effects of cyber-bullying are very much like when the school yard bully physically beats kids up or abuses them to their face. Cyber-bullying also leads to higher absenteeism and higher rates of depression. In one important way, cyber-bullying is different: sometimes the perpetrator remains anonymous. When this happens, the victim’s feelings of stress and powerlessness can increase dramatically.

Here are five ways to help you and your child deal with a frenemy:

1) Educate yourself.

Staying up with the latest form of social media is difficult. Chances are your child will not really want you to become informed. Sometimes it’s easier to get oriented to the latest platforms by one of your kid’s friends or someone else you know of that generation.

Asking your child or a peer to teach you may offer you an inroad to communication. “So, do you know anyone who has been bullied over these sites?”

Use empathy and caring language like, “Wow, that’s got to be embarrassing! How does something like this stop? Has this ever happened to you?”

Parent Reflection:
How do I feel about learning the kinds of social media that young people use? Am I
inclined to assume that “cyber-bullying will never impact my child?”

2) Stay connected.

It is crucial that parents stay in touch with one another. Create a “village” of support where information and concerns can be exchanged.

Schools are often aware of the cyber-bullying and inappropriate content going viral. Stay in communication with school administrators who often share their latest concerns about bullying of all sorts. Take that information home to your child.
“Do you know what I heard at school today? I heard that someone posted some awful pictures about someone you may know.”

Your child now knows you have some awareness and you’ve created an inroad for discussion.

In the rare event that your child “friends” you on social media, you will become privy to much of what is going on. In the more likely event that your child doesn’t let you anywhere near their social media, you may want to enlist your child’s older siblings, cousins, youth leaders, or coaches to keep a watchful eye as your child’s social media “friend.”

Parent Reflection:
Who can teach me about my child’s social media world? Who in my “village” can help keep a watchful eye on my child’s online activity?

3) Educate your child.

Talk with your child about the how “bullies”- virtual and otherwise – target their prey. Stress to your child the importance of watching out for their friends and make sure they know where to go and what to do if they see someone else being victimized. “Be a buddy, not a bully,” should be a mantra they know.

Parent Reflection:
What would be my reaction to my child and what would be my reaction to my child’s bully if I were to find out that bullying is taking place? What might I say that would help my child feel that I have his or her interest at heart and that I will neither over nor under react?

4) Pay attention.

As our kids grow, a wider range of kids move in and out of their lives. Watch closely your child’s mood from day to day. Don’t assume your child is simply “going through a phase” if she of he starts to show signs of increased difficulty at school, heightened depression, anxiety, psychosomatic illnesses, truancy a desire to stay home, a sense of helplessness, or suicidal thoughts and gestures.

Parent Reflection:
Do I write off my child’s mood to adolescence? Am I reacting to misbehavior rather than taking time to wonder what might be causing the misbehavior? What creative methods can I use to engage my child in conversations about what seem to be sensitive subjects?

5) Intervene.

School districts have policies in place to deal with bullying and malicious online behavior. If you suspect that your child is the brunt of such behavior, help him or her talk about it and assure your child that help is available, and that others can be
advocates. If serious, report the abuse to your school and potentially to law
enforcement. And then help your child build boundaries between them and the bully – physically and online. If your child is exhibiting anxiety, paranoia, depression and suicidal thoughts and gestures, make sure your child is seen by a local mental health professional.

Parent Reflection:
If my child does not want me to tell the school authorities or otherwise get involved, what would be the consequence if I were (or were not) to discreetly do so anyway? How would I confidentially discuss my child’s experience with those who are in a position to help stop the bullying.

6 Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

Apr 03, 2019

Sad teen girl with suicidal thoughts

Being a teen is tough and as a parent, the day to day mood swings, likes, and dislikes of your teen can be dizzying to keep up with. With all this going on, it’s important for parents to keep an eye out for more serious signs that their child may be having suicidal thoughts and are in need of a lifeline.

Whether a parent has heard it before or not, nothing brings about more fear for a family when their child runs off screaming, “I wish I were dead!” Screams that perhaps began in tears or angst over a family argument, relentless bullying from so-called “friends,” or a progressive tumble into a deep depression.

Parents, and others, might be tempted to look the other way, writing off the behavior as “typical teenage rebellion” or as “a kid who just needs attention.” Needing attention is exactly what this child needs and sometimes they don’t know how to best let you know. The warning signs of suicidal risks and what you can do about them are important to understand as dealing with them early on is key to healing.

Learn how Net Nanny can help filter the Internet to keep your teens safe.

What Parents Need to Know About Teen Suicide

The thought of teen suicide is a nightmare for many parents but the reality is that parents need to be thinking about it and paying attention to their teens. According to the Population Reference Bureau, teen suicide is now the second leading cause of deaths in teens, just behind accidents, with 10 out of 100,000 teens dying by suicide each year. This is a scary fact, but parents should know that prevention and intervention are two ways that they can help their teens.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System reported that in 2017, 17.2% of high schoolers reported considering suicide, a number that has increased 25% since 2009. Teen suicide is a growing problem and there are numerous reasons that a teen might resort to suicide as an extreme solution. The question that remains however, is what can parents do to prevent teen suicide by identifying and addressing patterns that may indicate suicidal thoughts?

The seriousness of teen suicide can’t be overlooked and here are 6 warning signs that your teen might be having suicidal thoughts:

  1. Withdrawal from Usual ActivitiesWhen kids who have been typically interested in their social life and extracurriculars begin withdrawing from friends, activities and family gatherings, it is important to wonder what might be going on for your child. Sometimes withdrawal is a sign of depression which is a leading cause of suicide.
  2. Depressed MoodSymptoms of depression can include, but is not limited to, fatigue and decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and helplessness, notable changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia or excessive sleeping, notable changes in appetite such as overeating or appetite loss, and persistent sadness. It is also not uncommon for those who are depressed or suicidal to ignore hygiene and personal appearance.
  3. Frequent Outbursts of AngerTeenagers typically have mood swings, all of which need to be addressed. Mood swings that may be more concerning are those that seemingly come out of nowhere and without understandable context. Some of these mood swings may come with threats of violence and self-harm, expressing their sense of hopelessness in an aggressive way. Mood fluctuations between extreme anger or manic behavior and irregular or depressed mood may be signs of bipolar disorder or other mental illness.
  4. Current Family Difficulties or Traumatic Life EventsChildren and teens often experience their parents’ marital conflict or divorce as life altering and traumatic. Hopelessness and helplessness often begin within that child when these difficulties go undiscussed. A death of a loved one or even a family move may leave a child feeling lonely and ignored and sometimes their way of coping is to withdraw or to become angry.
  5. School DifficultiesStudents who contemplate suicide sometimes tell a friend or write about it in school essays. Their feelings of hopelessness may come from a variety of school experiences. Academic pressure from parents or from schools may feel insurmountable especially when the message is that the student is not “good enough” unless they have a perfect score.

    Bullying is a pervasive school problem that students often do not disclose because of shame and embarrassment. Adults may minimize the effects of bullying, but students experience the trauma of such harassment on a daily basis. Currently going beyond name calling and shunning, cyber bullying with mobile devices takes the harassment to a viral level. Students are subject to physical and sexual threats, altered Instagram posts, group humiliation and rejection sometimes accompanied with bribes in order for the bullying to stop.

  6. Self-InjurySometimes the cry for help appears in more hidden, but destructive, ways. Self-injury often begins as a way of self-soothing, with some students report that cutting, or self-mutilation, is a way that they still see if they can feel.

    Substance use of alcohol and drugs temporarily numbs the pain. Food binging sometimes begins as a way to “swallow” the pain while purging is a way to “express” it. And sometimes the student feels as if they can “disappear” or stay in control through restricted eating or anorexia. A disregard for one’s own life can also appear in careless behavior such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or maintaining destructive and abusive relationships.

Depression and Suicide

Untreated depression and anxiety in teens can often to lead to suicide because it’s hard for teens to find the help that they so desperately require. Sometimes depression and anxiety can be difficult to identify for both teens and parents; the teenage years are volatile enough and a serious case of depression could easily be written off as a moody teen. Even more, teens might not be able to accurately vocalize that their mental health is suffering, if they can even identify that that is the source of their unhappiness.

Depression and suicide have a lot of the same symptoms and warning signs such as:

    • Emotional changes
    • Low self-esteem
    • Loss of interest in usual or social activities
    • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
    • Social isolation
    • Poor academic performance and increase absences from school

Bullying and Suicide

Bullying and cyber bullying can also play a role in suicidal thoughts and suicide. In fact, the link between the two is so strong that Yale University reported victims of bullying in it’s various forms are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide.

Now that so much of our lives are online, kids not only have to worry about bullying at school and social activities but this bullying can continue online, at all times of day, easily broadcast to every person they know. For teens, this means it can feel inescapable and lead to feelings of shame. And according to dosomething.org, only 1 in 10 online bullying victims will report abuse to a parent or trusted adult which is another reason why it’s critical for parents to pay attention to the warning signs.

Social Media and Suicide

Not only is all that time that teens are spending online and on their phones leading to increased cyber bullying, but it’s also leading to teens playing the comparison game and constantly thinking they are not enough. As a teen, everything feels incredibly important and powerful and this really is true for the effects that social media can have on their mental health: cyber bullying, comparison traps, and social isolation can seriously and negatively impact our teens.

Encouraging healthy amounts of screen time, addressing social media FOMO, and reminding your teens that you are available as a resource can help ensure that your teen remains in a healthy headspace.

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Teen Suicide

Knowing tips about how to prevent suicide is the first place parents and others should start if they notice changes in their teen and their behavior. Having this knowledge and the right resources can help you prevent teen suicide.

  • Pay AttentionAs tempting as it is to look the other way, denial will not help your child. Notice the changes in your child’s appearance, mood, and academics. Trust your gut and use a little detective work—talk with their school counselor, network with other parents who might be “in the know,” check their grades and homework, look in their backpacks and room, and use an Internet filter to keep them safe while they’re online.

    Find an opportunity or an open door to talk with them. Try saying something empathetic such as “I’ve noticed you’re not really yourself these days. It seems like something is bothering you. I’d like to talk about it with you if you’d like.” Be prepared for a shrug, an outburst, or getting blown off. At least you’ve said something. Keep saying it with love and without accusation; don’t try and talk them out of their feelings or minimize their experience. As difficult as it may be to understand or comprehend, listen for the message underneath their behavior.

  • Seek HelpIf your child exhibits signs of depression, anxiety or feelings of helplessness, it is important that you seek assistance. Ask your doctor or school for a referral to a good mental health professional to assess the emotional changes. Be open to family therapy and open to what your child is saying about their inability to cope.

    Be courageous in hearing that they may have thought about ending their life. Work together to make small and significant changes in their daily experience to help elevate their mood, keep them safe, and intervene where necessary. Sites like Help Guide are helpful online resources for teens and parents.

  • Create a VillageYou will need support as a parent; spend time with friends who may understand your angst because they have teenagers too. Reach out to school counselors as they may have their pulse on the academic environment and school day. Involve your network who may be connected to your child; perhaps older siblings or family members are connected to them in cyberspace where they may be able to educate you and fill you in regarding your concerns.
  • Talk About ItDon’t be afraid to ask your teen (or anyone else) if they are so hopeless that they feel ending their life is an option. People who receive support from caring friends and family and who have access to mental health services are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses than are those who are socially isolated. Ask your teen what you can do to be helpful.

    Keep your own stressors in check and examine whether or not your expectations are exacerbating your child’s issues and be realistic. One conversation is just a beginning; keep up the conversations as there is no easy fix. It is not helpful to tell your child “why don’t you just find other friends,” or “how about we redecorate your room?” These are not harmful statements, but the conversation cannot end there.

How Parental Control Software Can Prevent Teen Suicide

Parental control software may not immediately come to mind as a tool parents can use in preventing teen suicide, but it can be incredibly valuable.

Teens contemplating suicide often turn to the Internet when they’re not finding support or answers in other areas of their life. It’s a place of anonymity and there are plenty of sites and people that not only provide information on teen suicide, but encourage it. A teen with less than stellar mental health might begin searching things like “I feel so alone” or “am I depressed” and these searches alone should be enough to tip parents off that there is a bigger problem than your teen just being moody. Those searches might later escalate to ones like “ways to self-harm without a knife,” “how to commit suicide,” and “easiest way to commit suicide” all of which provide a staggering number of search results on Google with upwards of hundreds of millions of hits.

Paying attention to changes and serious warning signs of suicidal thoughts in real life is incredibly important but parents shouldn’t overlook the significance of their teen’s online activity.

Teens go through a very turbulent and emotional time in their development but hopefully their difficulties do not emerge as suicidal thoughts. Spending time with them doing things they like to do, talking with them about their day and your day, and encouraging them to find some safe social connection is good for all teen… and it’s good for you too.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255 for more resources.

The Hidden Dangers of Twitch

Mar 18, 2019

A few years ago, if you had asked someone, “what is Twitch?”, they might have broken down the exact definition of a sudden movement, but if you ask someone today who knows even the slightest about video gaming culture, they would explain that it’s a social streaming platform and video gaming community.

Twitch has been around since 2011 and is the world’s leading social video platform and community for video gamers, nerd culture and creative arts. Close to around 10 million people gather every day to just watch and talk about gaming with over 2 million unique live streamers. Twitch is continuing to expand rapidly, even Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook stated, “video gaming is a mega trend, almost as big as mobile” and with gaming still on the rise, this only means more opportunity for video gaming live streamers and their audiences.

Despite it’s growing popularity, Twitch and it’s user-generated content is not always the safest platform for kids. Live streaming is naturally unpredictable, which is part of the appeal for many viewers, but this makes it difficult for parents to monitor what their children are watching. Additionally, some of the features that Twitch offers may also give parents a reason to pause.

Learn more about setting parental controls on your child’s devices.

What is Twitch?

Twitch is an interactive, streaming platform owned by Amazon with its primary focus in video game streaming. In addition to video games, Twitch also features content focusing on music, other creatives, and lifestyle, meaning there is something for everyone on this growing platform. Twitch users can watch anything from video games, to music festivals, professional sports, and tv shows.

Twitch users have the ability to create their own content or they can enjoy Twitch as viewers, tuning into their favorite live streamers and channels. For those interested in live streaming, anyone is able to go live and can start making money from their viewership through Twitch’s affiliate program.

Twitch prides itself on an interactive community which is why it has spent the last few years expanding it’s content and promoting its chat and live streamer support features including Twitch bits, that act as virtual currency and allows users to tip their favorite streamers.

In today’s world, live streaming services like Twitch, Youtube, Facebook, and Periscope are more than just technology, it’s a way to connect and interact. These platforms are all about cultivating and empowering a community of fans and creators, all while making the experience fun and inclusive for participants.

Twitch 1

 

Why are Video Gamers Live Streaming?

We live in an age where social FOMO (fear of missing out) is highly contagious because of today’s technology and our accessibility to see what others are doing, and video games are no exception. People want to be involved and want to keep up with their friends and live streaming platforms, whether you’re watching or live streaming, can be an avenue to doing so. But let’s break down the reasons a little further:

Live Streaming is Recreational

For many, Twitch is recreational and acts as a hobby. Had a long day at work? Hopping on Twitch to watch hilarity ensue as two siblings play a horror video game together is a great way to relax. In this way, Twitch brings value to both the audience and the live streamers as it’s a shared interactive experience. Viewers get to watch something they’re interested in and the live streamers get to create content that they’re passionate about. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Live Streaming is Marketing Friendly

Interested in building your own brand? One way to do that is to start live streaming something that you’re extremely passionate about. After a while, you might have a small following that could expand in no time with the right effort and dedication. Before long, you could have a few thousand followers with advertisers and endorsement deals knocking on your door. This is the business model that many live streamers try to achieve and it’s a growing one at that.

Live Streaming is Trendy

Being “in the moment” seems to be what’s trending as of late, with YouTube, Instagram and even Facebook all integrating live streaming in some way or form. It’s an unedited, authentic look into the live streamer’s daily life – seeing someone in real-time without fancy edits, graphics or post production. As a result, we tune-in to watch, especially if we can relate or connect with the content or live streamer’s personality.

What Does Twitch Offer to Audiences?

It may seem like only the live streamer benefits from using the Twitch platform, but that’s not always the case, as there’s also a lot of hidden values for users from watching live video game streams.

Justifying a Purchase

A lot of video gamers use Twitch to weigh their options before making a purchase. If a popular Twitch live streamer tells their audience that a game is terrible, it is likely that their audience won’t waste their time buying the game. Alternatively, if a live streamer says that a game is amazing, then the audience won’t hesitate to buy. This very powerful influence is the reason why video gaming companies are interested in Twitch, and even offer top Twitch streamers free products to test and show to their audience.

Spectator Sporting

E-sports, also known as Electronic Sports, is a form of competition involving video games and its significance and popularity are growing. Think of it like the Olympics of video gaming, the top rated players all over the world go head to head. It’s nothing to underestimate as companies, CEOs, celebrities, and athletes are getting in on the action by sponsoring these elite video gaming teams.

With the E-sports community in high demand, Twitch offers a way to view the entire experience. Whether it’s a tournament or a gaming convention, viewers will have a way to watch their favorite professional gamers compete.

Experience

Twitch isn’t just limited to video game streaming. Video gaming is the content most associated with the streaming giant, but there are many other uses live streamers and audiences alike use the platform for, such as:

  • Watching User-Generated Programming
    Streamers can program and broadcast their own shows, segments, talk shows, and other unique content. It’s like a network of entertainment, catering to all sorts of interests without the hassle of commercial breaks.
  • Twitch Creative
    Twitch has a dedicated section for all things creative. Remember watching Bob Ross painting happy clouds? Just as many parents and kids grew up watching Bob Ross fill a canvas, Twitch users can watch live tutorials of favorite or new artists at work. This includes a variety of streams involving composing songs, cooking meals, drawing, painting, and more.
  • Events
    Ever wanted to experience Comic Con, the biggest comic book convention, hosted in San Diego, live? Or how about Wizard World, the biggest pop-culture convention in gaming? From press conferences to convention center activities, Twitch allows users to watch major events live, from the comfort of their own home.

Is Twitch Safe for Kids?

Due to it’s exploding popularity among younger audiences and young gamers, Twitch is definitely a platform that parents will want to pay attention to. When it comes to concerns on the streaming platform, there’s a few to consider as it can leave children vulnerable to inappropriate content and online predators.

Live Streaming

Whenever live streaming is involved, parents should be cautious as the content isn’t edited and anything could happen. Unfiltered language, inappropriate imagery and more could be shown as there is no delay between what is happening live and what your child is shown on screen. Spam, scams, violent, obscene, and sexual content are all prohibited in Twitch’s community guidelines but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

On the flip-side, parents should be aware if their child is live streaming or if they wish to. According to Twitch’s terms of service, users must be 13 years of age or older to use and stream on Twitch, but this doesn’t always prevent younger users from using the platform. Live streaming at any age can pose risks that both parents and children should be aware of.

Twitch Chat Moderation

Twitch’s chat feature can become chaotic and almost useless on more popular streams with higher viewership, as everyone is typing at the same time in an effort to interact with their favorite streamers. Because these chats get so out of hand on bigger channels, it often becomes a yelling contest filled with cyberbullying, hate speech, and more.

As a live stream goes on, users are encouraged to comment and interact with streamers, but as an audience grows so does the chat, which quickly becomes inundated with comments. Some users take this as an opportunity to use foul language and harass others. When this happens, the moderators on Twitch can’t keep up with the overloaded chat and many of the commenters go unpunished. Seeing as these chats aren’t perfectly moderated, parents should be able to judge whether their child is ready for this platform or perhaps consider co-viewing with their child.

Twitch also offers direct messaging, a private conversation between two users, and whispers. Twitch whispers are a way for users to interact privately in a public group chat. By typing “/w” into a chat, followed by the username that you want to communicate privately with, only that user will see your message in the group chat.

Twitch 2

Source: Twitch.tv

 

What Parents Need to Know About Twitch

Twitch is a growing platform that isn’t going away anytime soon. Whether your child is live streaming or watching, it’s best to take some precautions to ensure that it is a safe an appropriate experience.

If live streaming, make sure the game your child is streaming is age-appropriate as well as ensuring that your chat is monitored so you don’t invite any unwanted attention.

If your child is mostly watching other gamers live stream, the best thing to do is to research the people and channels that your child watches and ensure that they are watching streams that are age-appropriate. Even then, it is not completely possible to constantly keep an eye on your child’s tech use so it may be helpful to use a parental control software to manage your child’s screen time and limit the amount of time they spend on websites like Twitch.

While Twitch can be risky for younger kids, proper understanding of the platform and some ground rules can allow teens to enjoy live streams from an array of topics. That being said, it’s important for parents to understand that Twitch does encourage users to connect with strangers and that everything on site will not be kid-appropriate.

Keeping your kids safe online is tough, especially with more and more sites incorporating live stream features, but being able to monitor your kids’ online experience as well as having open discussions about internet safety are great first steps towards safe and healthy internet use.