Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bullying in the Age of Facebook...A Scary New World

I remember going to a summer hockey camp back in the mid 1970’s; 2 weeks of being on the ice an average of 6 or so hours a day with lots of other activities including tennis, swimming and flag-football games to fill the summer days of a bunch of 10-18 year old boys.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it…

Well it wasn’t.

You see I was one of the 10 year olds; low man on the totem pole, so my life was pretty rough.  I was picked on and bullied fairly intensely, and I spent many nights crying in my pillow. But I was lucky, the leader of the camp was a nice gentleman who took me under his wing, and allowed me to escape. He would invite me over to his faculty apartment and I had quiet evenings away from what seemed like hell. By the end I even learned to really enjoy myself. In retrospect what I went through was really just a normal amount of “boys being boys”, and in many ways was a learning experience for me, but at the time it seemed pretty bad.

The big difference between my experience and what happens today? I was able to get away, to escape. I wasn’t hounded 24/7. There was no Facebook, no mass texts, no internet. Think back for a bit; imagine if those bullies you faced in middle school had access to your entire life. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it. As adults we just can’t imagine it, but the reality is our children live it everyday. For those who compare what we went through as kids to what’s happening today, I say you are at best being na├»ve, at worst cold and unfeeling.

I made it through that hockey camp unscathed. My hope is that you pass the this blog along to friends, professionals and kids so they can see what cyberbullying is all about, and more kids can make it through school the same way.

The article below gives some great insight into the cyberbullying world, and has some great advice at the end.  We need to ALL stand up against this.


Cyberbullying versus Traditional Bullying
When joking crosses the line. Published on May 14, 2012
by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C. in Teen Angst

  Just how different is traditional bullying from cyberbullying? Studies are beginning to show that the way youth bully online is a lot different from traditional schoolyard bullying. Teens may think what they are posting or texting is just a joke, but if you're on the receiving end it may not be all that funny. In fact, if the "joking" is repetitive, it could cross the line into bullying, more specifically cyberbullying.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics cyberbullying is the "most common online risk for all teens and is a peer to peer risk." According to a study released by the University of British Columbia cyberbullying is a big problem, even more common than traditional bullying. About 25 to 30 percent of the young people surveyed admitted experiencing or taking part in cyberbullying, but only 12 percent said the same about traditional bullying. To top it off, 95 percent of the youth said that what happened online was meant to be a joke and about 5 percent was actually meant to harm someone. So, what makes cyberbullying so different from traditional bullying?

In traditional bullying you're usually working with a bully, victim or bystander but that's not the case in cyberbullying. In fact, it's not uncommon to play multiple roles such as cyberbully, target and witness. Previous research indicates that cyberbullying is rarely pre-meditated like traditional bullying, where the bully plans his or her line of attack. In many cases cyberbullying is done impulsively and not planned out like in traditional bullying where the bully pre-meditates the next attack. Also, traditional bullying has the following characteristics that may not be present in cyberbullying cases:

•a need for power and control
•proactively targeting the victim

So, just what is cyberbullying? By definition, it's the deliberate and repeated harm inflicted through the use of cell phones/Smartphone's, computers/tablets, and other electronic devices (including Wi-Fi gaming devices). It's an easier way to bully because unlike traditional bullying it doesn't involve face to face interaction. Teens can become desensitized to a computer screen, and say or do things they wouldn't do to a person's face. The computer desensitizes teens and decreases the level of empathy they feel toward the victim. Plus, when they can't see the person's reaction to what they post or text they may not know if they've gone too far.

It appears that today's youth don't equate joking around with bullying. Even though they do it jokingly it can cut the receiver deeply. By definition a joke is something that is suppose to but here's the magic question "who's laughing?" Ask any teen who's been cyberbullied and they probably won't see the humor in the situation. Plus, when something is posted online, it can be humiliating. That old saying "www" means the "whole world's watching" holds true and cyberbullying victims know it. Bottom line is cyberbullying hurts.

Just Imagine...

You get a text from a friend to check out someone's page, you go there and see degrading posts and a crude picture of you in a swimsuit that had been Photoshopped. Following the posts are a string of lewd comments. You start getting text after text from people, some you don't even know, saying mean things about the post. It feels like the world is laughing at you only you're not laughing. You dread going to school the next day because you have to face all of these people. Your stomach is churning and your head is pounding. You pray it will just go away, like it never happened. "MAKE IT STOP, Make It Stop, make it stop." screams through your mind. You have just entered into the world of a victim. What may have started as a mean joke crossed the line into something more severe, cyberbullying. Scenarios like this are just one example of how some teens are misusing technology.

Young people can quickly spread a rumor through texting, taping an embarrassing incident and posting it on YouTube, or uploading pictures or unkind comments on social networking sites. There are many different avenues that can be used to cyberbully. The key to decreasing cyberbullying is educating today's youth to think before they click. One wrong click has the power to change someone's life forever.

Teaching teens to protect themselves online is very important. I compare learning how to drive a car to teaching teens how to use technology. Here's my logic, odds are you wouldn't turn your teen loose with the keys to the car if they haven't been properly trained or educated to operate a vehicle Why? Because it's dangerous! He could kill himself or someone else. Well, we should realize that the wonderful cyber world also possesses dangers. The internet highway can be dangerous if teens post inappropriate material, bully, give out personal information to strangers, etc. So we really need to educate our teens about how to use technology appropriately. Just as you probably wouldn't toss the car keys at an inexperienced teen and tell him to go take a spin, you shouldn't place a Smartphone or any other electronic device with internet capability in his hands without making sure that he knows how to use it properly.

Let's help our teens realize that feelings do exist in the cyber world, manners do matter, and most importantly, there's a real life person on the receiving end of the messages... A person who laughs, cries and hurts, just like we do. Please help teach our young people that what they do and say to one another off or online does make a difference.

Teens can use these tips to protect themselves online.

•Tell a trusted adult if you're being cyberbullied.
•If you know someone who's being a cyberbully tell her/him to knock it off, if they don't report it. •Contact host/site providers if inappropriate material is being posted on their site.
•Save all evidence if you're being bullied online. Don't delete without keeping a copy for yourself. •Don't respond to rude messages.
•If someone angers you, wait, don't fire off a rude comeback. It'll only make things worse.
•Don't share personal information online.
•Protect your username and password. Don't share it with friends.
•Don't open anything from someone you don't know.
•Keep privacy settings on your computer. Secure your information.
•Choose your friends wisely.
•Only accept close friends on your social networking sites.
•Don't post anything online that you wouldn't mind your parents seeing.
•Most importantly, treat others as you want to be treated. Think before you click. Look at what your posting or uploading and ask "Would I want someone saying or putting that about me online?" If the answer is "No" then don't do it.

While the internet can be fun and super cool it comes with responsibility. Have fun with technology just take heed and exercise caution when using it. A joke is meant to be funny but not at the expense of another person's feelings. Young people joking is one click away from cyberbullying.

Monday, April 23, 2012

How one Independent Educational Consultant helped a few families; 4204 times..


It sounds like a pretty benign number, but to me 4204 it was pretty amazing, you see 4204 was the number of texts I sent and received last month. Now certainly there were quite a few to and from friends and family; for example I remember a rather amusing exchange I had with my 16 year old daughter when we on a basketball trip together, but many of them were to and from therapists, parents, and clients; in short many of them were team texts.

What is a team text you ask? Well, that’s a legitimate question. To answer that you need to know that so much of what I aspire to do is to develop a team approach to working with my families. I incorporate therapists, teachers, coaches, and family friends; anyone who will help me paint a picture. Included in that team, of course, are the parents, and the kids (disclaimer, I refer to all of my clients as kids, I know it’s not right, and most likely not politically correct. Maybe for the over 18 year old kids I should use the phrases young adults, or persons of emerging maturity – yes I just made that up - but I don’t, sorry) So a team text is a correspondence between/amongst the team to help share information. It may be as simple as a change in time of a weekly call, or it may be as significant as updates from a transport agent or therapist. In any case, the immediacy of these team texts really helps in putting out a metaphorical fire or perhaps allows a Mom or Dad to sleep a bit better knowing their child is safe.

You see when we are retained by a family, I always tell them a variation of the phrase; contact me at any time, phone, fax, email, and yes, text. Many of my fellow IEC’s cringe at this, but I feel it’s important. If you have read my blog before you know that I use my role as an IEC as a modified case manager and it’s in that role that I often team text. I feel it’s imperative that the families know that they have me in their corner, and I have found that while they will never replace face to face or a phone call, these texts really help many families.

It’s a scary time for a lot of the families who hire us, and I like to think that doing some case management; spending lots of time on the phone listening to insights and offering advice and, yes, being available when they need me, makes this tumultuous time a little less scary for everyone.

Oh, gotta go…you guessed it, just got a text!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Renew Magazine - How to protect your teenagers from substance abuse | Renew Everyday

By Dr. Karen Khaleghi

The death of Whitney Houston cast a brief light on the phenomenon of parents partying with their children. It certainly has not been the focus of the conversation, but it has provided a crucial “teachable moment” on an issue that needs to come out into the light.

In working with those suffering from addiction, being a parent and conducting parent education talks over the past 22-plus years, I would like to share my take on the motivations on why parents party with their kids.

“It’s like we’re more friends than parent and child.”

As kids grow up and become increasingly independent they establish their own life with friends. Some parents do not want to see their kid go off without them, so they seek instead to become part of the group. When the group parties, then the parent parties. This is based on the parents’ needs not the kids’.

“I can teach them how to hold their liquor.”

I regularly have had parents tell me they feel it is best to teach their children how to “hold their liquor,” and the only way to do that is to drink with their kids. This can also include smoking marijuana and, rarely, includes the use of other drugs.

“They’re going to drink anyway; it’s safer for them to drink at home.”

These parents don’t want to worry about their children drinking and driving or otherwise getting into trouble when they are out with their friends. Instead, they provide alcohol at home, believing it is better than having their kids trying to buy alcohol on their own.

“They’re just more fun to be around.”

These parents feel their kids are more enjoyable to have around at family get-togethers when the kid also has a buzz going. One mother told me that her teenage daughters were unpleasant to have at family dinners but became much more fun to have around when the kid also had a Margarita or shot.

“But it’s prescription …”

It is a fact that we live in a culture that likes its pills. Ads on TV and the financial profiles of drug companies substantiate this reality. Parents can serve to reinforce this mentality or teach another approach. For the most part, a parent with a medicine chest full of pills will have a child who develops pill use; and this use may start off as relatively harmless but lead to a pill addiction.

It is also essential to understand that addiction is frequently a generational problem, and for recovery to occur it is important to understand what has occurred to make it a recurring family dilemma.

Keep in mind that kids don’t need parents to be their best friends; they need parents to provide guidance and structure. With each parental dilemma, it is helpful to ask yourself if the action is in the service of the child or the parent. Understand that, through parenting, you are sending messages, and much of this is subtext. For example, if you drink with your underage children, you are letting them know that underage drinking is acceptable and that laws and social rules are acceptable to break.

Take the issue of drug and alcohol use from an objective perspective. It is very helpful to start with a look at all the issues surrounding alcohol and drug use and in that you are teaching you kid a decision tree approach to a complex issue. In doing this you start with the facts … just the facts, and work your way out. For example: the legal age for drinking is 21; what are the legal consequences for someone drinking before the legal age for both the kid and the parent? So, you are discussing consequences for their action and at the same time the parent is reminding themselves of the consequences for their decisions.

Approach the use alcohol and drugs from health and safety first perspective. If you believe that it is inevitable that you kid will drink or take drugs establish an agreement about how situations are handled. For example, you can state that you will be the bad guy and that if they are faced with a peer pressure situation you can take the fall: i.e., my parents will take away my car, ground me for life, etc. Further, you can tell your kids that while you do not condone them using, you want to be called if they get themselves into trouble and that whatever consequences they will receive will go better if they call home for help, for a ride, when things feel out of control, etc.

And understand that your kids watch every move that you make … even when you think that they are not listening or watching. Know that if every social event you have involves alcohol your child is learning that socializing involves alcohol. If you find yourself saying things like: “It’s been a rough week, I deserve a drink, “It’s been a great week, let’s go get drinks,” or “I am so stressed; I need a drink,” you are in fact teaching your kid to sooth, celebrate and relax by drinking. And similarly with pills — if you turn to pills to alleviate stress, or depression or sleep difficulties then you are by example setting up that pills are the answer.

Parenting is complex and can call on all the patience, wisdom and self sacrifice you can muster at the same time it is the most rewarding endeavor in life.

Dr. Karen Khaleghi is director of education and co-founder of Creative Care Malibu.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"I'm sorry, Just What is an Independent Educational Consultant?"

It is a scene which has played out countless times for me over the years. I have the opportunity to exchange business cards with someone; after chatting for a bit they look at my card, and I watch their brow furrow more and more quizically as they read over my information. Eventualy the inevitable question comes: ”Just what is an Educational Consultant?”

While some of my colleagues may get frustrated by this question, I feel that for those of us in a relatively young (and rapidly growing) profession, we need to accept it. A case in point; last week on a tour of some adult rehab facilities, I ended up spending time describing the job of an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC).

I started, as I always do with my professional membership in IECA. I explained that being a member of IECA meant I had the highest professional standards, the broadest network of professionals and the support of a national organization. I went on to say that IECA is a large organization (900+ members) yet it is really organization about people and relationships. I also spoke of program visits, education centers, and advanced training. While they were appropriately impressed, I could tell that I was losing focus of what (in my opinion) an IEC really is. So I decided that I needed to tell them a story; a story I have told many times in the last 3 years, but it’s one which I feel epitomizes client/consultant teamwork.

Below is a letter written by one of my client’s parents, I wish I could tell you that I told their story this eloquently, but I can’t; what I can tell you that I don’t tout myself this much in my version of the story. Honestly, you can take my name out and insert any IEC...we all do the same thing...Also, while I’m in confession mode, I think I butchered the story a bit, but I think they got the drift…

So here is John’s* story, as told by Mom…

We knew in our hearts months before we came face to face with our 14-year-old son's activities, that we were entering into unchartered parental waters when it came to dealing with his unacceptable behavior. There was confusion and total terror not knowing what had happened to our wonderful, charming, smart, funny, pleasant son…and why.

Grounding him and serious monitoring of his every waking hour left us feeling exhausted from sleepless nights and emotionally sick from our never-ending suspicions. However, even these measures proved inadequate, because as although we were good, involved, and loving parents, we didn’t know what was happening. We were on a quest to find the right answer, but helpless and lost. Our dilemma was compounded by the fact that few of our social peers shared our zero tolerance toward drug and underage drinking policies. Close friends wanted to help, but didn't understand what it's like once your child begins to act out, and the "fear factor" of your child's survival enters your home.

At a critical moment, with police having just left our home, our son barricaded in his room, and our anniversary evening plans canceled, we received a life line from a friend of a friend. This man shared with absolute honesty his experience with his son and how an educational consultant, Bar Clarke, had helped him find his first glimmer of light in the tunnel of fear and darkness. He suggested we call Bar and went on to say that Bar saw his family through his son's therapeutic wilderness time and placement in a residential aftercare program. At the time of his call to us, his son was back at home attending college and was on a good life track.

This Good Samaritan was our introduction to educational consultants and we feel lucky that we did not have to interview ECs and flounder through this process. We had enough to worry about with our son, without the added stress of depending on an unknown EC.

Our son was on the young side and the thought of sending him away was heart wrenching and overwhelming. Bar was patient, informative, and never once pressured us to take action that we were not ready for. We were totally honest with Bar, our son's school administrators, and with ourselves. Our goal was to get help for our son, keep him safe, maintain our own sanity, and hopefully get him through 9th grade. Bar understood and supported our goal. He "hung in there with us" through many, many challenging moments and frantic phone calls. Six months after our first conversation with Bar, and a week after our son finished 9th grade, our son entered a wilderness program that Bar helped us find. Bar was an integral part of our family's very positive experience with our son's 11 week wilderness time.

Bar's familiarity with wilderness programs, working therapists, and therapeutic residential programs has been a tremendous component in our son's recovery and return to us from the dark side.

Working with Bar on an individually tailored process, we learned that your EC must tune in to you and your child, and interpret what each of you needs to be successful. The EC must understand the uniqueness of each child and family dynamics, and work within these parameters in an attempt to help the entire family. Not an easy task.

Bar's reputation with RTCs afforded our son the opportunity to attend a unique high school program that might not have otherwise accepted him. It was the right school for our son, and we never would have found it without Bar’s expertise.

Our son is our miracle child - he's flourishing, and his wonderful sense of self, humor, and desire to succeed is back. I am not sure we would be where we are today without Bar’s role in this process.