Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Self-harm, social media, go hand in hand.

People have always gossiped, whether they be young children, right through to those who should know better in a retirement home! It may be over the proverbial back fence, or in a cafe over a cup of coffee. One could say that it is part of being human. Today there is a headline in the NZ Herald about a young person who self-harmed, because of the new way of bullying---via social media. I have been employed for a few decades in a position whereby bullying in many forms is part of my daily life--for my clients.It used to take the form of 'dropped comments, or in your face verbal attacks right through to physical abuse. It would not be difficult to find literature, films or TV programmes that feature various forms of bullying, but something has changed. The pace and nature of bullying has picked up since the advent of easily accessible social media. For our teenagers, this happens mainly through Facebook and some of the other platforms that are being added form time to time. A day does not go past without yet another sad, depressed, angry or 'damaged' young person coming to my office, whether self-referred or accompanied by a concerned friend or adult, to try to make sense of what they have 'received' through their devices.Sometimes they have already attempted a form of self-harm and at others contemplated it. With these young people, someone, if not themselves has taken action and sought help. It is those who do not look for support, who I see as most endangered.Social media is a platform that is too easily accessible, too flippant in its use to express a feeling that in the past, could have been processed and with a little resilience, cast aside. When 'gossip or negative talk,' be it of a bullying nature or downright threatening is delivered via the push of a button, then the possibilities to harm are much more impacting. Parents, teachers and others, may notice their teen (or younger person) going 'into themselves, not eating and being generally 'out of character.' Once again, it is these observations that may prevent a more serious response.For those who do not 'talk to their parents or another significant person in their lives, that we worry about Some parents take the 'phone from their teen, hoping that such actions will save the day, but in many cases (you will not want to hear this!) it is not beyond the means of young people to have 'alternate access' to social media, be it with a secondary phone or that of a friend--plus using 'public computers,' sometimes at a school or library. What can parents do? Good communication and knowing what your 'teen' is doing, having a 'trust' that WILL be tested form time to time, knowing (in as much as you can) who the friends your offspring is associating with, having rules that are negotiated, rather than 'inflicted;' these are the basis for being prepared for the scenarios that will come the way of your teen, when they live their lives on the Net! Banning them may seem like a solution, but that is a bit like saying to your loved ones, that they cannot have a boyfriend or girlfriend while they are still at school. Think back to how YOU handled that one as a teen! IF YOU CAN NOT talk to your teen, then encourage them to talk to another 'trusted adult!' This issue re social media and cyber bullying is not going to go away. try to find out as much as you can, seek help. Ring Youthline or Netsafe and seek out other agencies who may be able to inform you of the pitfalls re SM. DOING NOTHING---is not an option.