Wednesday, May 10, 2017

13 Reasons Why: "Shaming" No More

Over the past few weeks, there has been quite a bit of buzz regarding the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. Because of my interest in youth, my background in cyber bullying, and my years of advocating for victims of all kinds, I wanted to watch it. I did. Today's blog is not about the controversies surrounding the series or the pros or cons of it. It is about one behavior - shaming - which permeated the entire story-line. Many of our kids are navigating environments of shaming, both in their real lives and their on-line lives. It is our duty as parents, guardians, educators, health care professionals and anyone who cares about our kids' well-being to ensure..."shaming is no  more".

When most of us were growing up,we saw kids being made fun of. We "put down" other kids or played jokes on them. Or, we were the ones who were teased and taunted. At the same time, most of us were able to establish friendships and we learned about trust, loyalty, and mutual support. We cared for one another and wanted the best for each other. As I watched 13 Reasons Why, I was reminded how shaming, a type of bullying and cyber bullyinghas become a normative behavior. Our kids are exposed to it day in and day out. In fact, shaming is so prevalent, most kids don't recognize it as an abusive behavior. However, what makes shaming so damaging and dangerous are its insidious egregious effects. Incessant or re-occurring indirect or face-to-face shaming cuts at the core of an individual's sense of worth and value. Shaming  disgraces, dishonors, discredits, degrades, and defames another person. Shaming is humiliating and embarrassing. This is important -

Shaming is internalized as self-doubt and self-hatred. 
Chronic and on-going shaming can and will lead to a complete sense of 
worthlessness, powerlessness, and hopelessness.

Several students in the film appeared to be conditioned to and unaffected by the toxic ringers which were constantly thrown at one another. However, most of the kids, at one time or another, expressed their hurt in a variety of unhealthy ways. Some retaliated. Others buried their shame. Many students chose or continued to engage in unsafe behaviors to prove their worth even at the risk of further shaming. The main character in the film, Hannah, was shamed by her best friends, by some who called themselves friends, and  by anyone who felt like it because it was 'no big deal'.

And what I found so tragic was that Hannah didn't appear to know that she had every right to feel embarrassed, humiliated, and degraded. 

She didn't grasp that no one, including adults, can tolerate that kind of on-going trauma and emotional torture and feel good about themselves. 

We must understand that when no one steps up and calls out what is going on, victims will blame themselves. They will see it as a defect of self - not the fault of someone else.

As young people navigate through the stages of adolescent and teen years, their identities and egos are developing.They are vulnerable and they are fragile. They may put up a strong front so as not to appear to be weak or afraid, but  no young person can develop a strong sense of self or worth in the face of constant adversity, especially when it comes from their peers. In addition, with  24/7 online exposure to physical, social, racial, spiritual, ethnic and political  (etc.) shaming, our children are learning that it is an acceptable/normal behavior. For young people to think that shaming is just a part of everyday life  and that something is wrong with them if they can't 'toughen-up' is an indictment on our culture and on those of us entrusted with their well-being.

How can we help our kids? It starts with each one of us.

Parents, Guardians, and Youth

1. Whenever we see shaming, hear it, or become of aware it is going on, call it out. Say what it is is and explain how it harms another person. Do not remain quiet. By doing so, we are condoning the behavior.

2. Whenever possible, if  you are a bystander to shaming, step in and help.  Stand by the target. Stand up and support the individual in any way which is helpful. If nothing else, escort the individual from the situation. Stay with him or her until you are in a safe place.

3. Reach out to individuals who you know have been targeted. Even if shaming is not happening "in the moment", show this person what kindness looks like.  You  might be the only person that day who shows any concern or care for the individual.

Parents, Educators, Counselors, Youth Group Leaders and Advocates

4. Address shaming in your homes, curriculum, and in your practices. Discuss the word "shaming" and draw from examples in real life and on-line interactions.  Talk about how shaming "feels" and ways to work through it. (See resources below)

5.  If you choose to view 13 Reasons Why, do so first without your children. I believe the series can be utilized for teaching our children  about the harmful effects of shaming and helping them with a number of social behaviors and dangerous situations. Talk about the characters, their choices, and what could and should have been done differently.  Talk about the adults, including the teachers, counselor, coaches, and others and how their actions or lack of contributed to the culture of shaming. Talk about what they could have done differently.

These five protective steps are a start in the right direction! However, just as with any kind of cyber bullying or bullying, shaming  is not a cause. Shaming is a behavioral manifestation of a serious underlying issue. This is important.

Shaming is a symptom of the inability to feel empathy for another person.  

How can we help our  kids?  
We begin by teaching them kindness, empathy, compassion, and respect. 
We begin by modeling it.

Yes, we need to teach them and model the behaviors. We must address the root of the problem in order to change it. And this cannot be a "one and done" hour long meeting or assembly. This must be an ongoing curriculum and discussion. I'm going to leave you with some valuable resources which can be easily implemented into any advisory, homeroom, after-school club, counseling group, or church group or organization. These materials are free! I have read and studied each program thoroughly. As a former teacher, I highly recommend each one! Complete and thorough lessons plan are included within each. This is a teacher or leader's dream come true!

  • "Our K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum" www.commonsense.org                            Common  Sense Education - Howard Gardner,  Harvard School of Education   
  • "Words Wound: Delete Cyber Bullying and Make Kindness Go Viral"   www.cyberbullying.org    Cyber Bullying Research Center - Justin Patchin  and Sameer Hinduja  (Best suited for intermediate and middle school levels). There is a cost for the book, but not the Leader's Guide.
  • "Don't Laugh At Me" (K-12) Social Emotional Learning  www.operationrespect.com   Operation Respect - Peter Yarrow  This program is suited for all children, especially those who connect well with music, art, theater, and other creative venues.  
  • Another Way - a novel Tween to Teens by Holli Kenley  Another Way empowers young people through a process of helping them to discover and respect what is right and true for themselves AND what is right and true for others. Included in the book are discussion guide questions and tools for parents and youth. There is more information on my website.         



From Chapter 8 - Each One of You Matters 

Tyrell (High School Senior)  turned toward Rick (Youth Leader). "But what I think you're sayin' Rick is we cannot separate ourselves from our behaviors - we've got to remember that how we treat others can and does reflect on us. We can't control what other people do, but we can choose Another Way in how we treat other individuals as well."

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Shaming falsely elevates a broken character. 
Showing kindness further enhances a beautiful one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How To Tech-Protect Our Kids: 4 Must-Reads and an APP!

Parents and Guardians, every generation has it challenges. We certainly had ours and our children have theirs! However, there is something very uniquely problematic about raising children in this digital age. The emerging and ever-present scientific advancements which offer 24/7 communication and social interaction and supposedly are "connecting" us to one another more rapidly and efficiently are the same technological tools which are changing who we are and cultivating a "disconnect" with one another.


Although research is  mounting in support of "tech-effects" on our children, 
we also know that adults are not immune to many of the psychological, relational, 
physical,and behavioral consequences of passive and interactive time spent on screens.

Why is this so hard to believe? 
Why do we want to turn away from what is going on? 


This is important.  I think the first reason is because we - as parents - do not want to think we might be doing something which is contributing to the harm of our children! What responsible parent would do that? Of course, we wouldn't.  I want you to know that you are not responsible for changing what you don't know! And, most parents have no idea about the dangers of  passive and interactive screen-time on their children. So, don't beat yourself up. Don't become immobilized in your guilt. Don't bury yourself in denial because your friends aren't changing their ways. At the conclusion of this blog, I am going to show you... How To Tech-Protect Our Kids with 4 Must-Read books and an amazing APP! 

Get ready to get informed. And then, get ready to make healthy changes! 

When I was growing up in the 50's, it seemed like almost all adults smoked!  It was a social thing. My dad smoked, my parents' friends smoked, and many relatives smoked, especially at parties and celebrations. Although I remember my dad smoking mostly outside on our patio, there came a time when he wanted to quit. He talked about how it wasn't good for his health or for his children's. I remember how over the years, the cigarette commercials started disappearing off the TV. Then, the bill-boards came down. Eventually, health warnings appeared on the cigarette packs. Slowly, people's minds began to change as they became more informed. And, as more years went by, laws began to change protecting folks who didn't smoke from the smoke of those who did. I believe neither my parents nor the parents of millions of other children wanted to endanger their kids' health (or their own). They just didn't know any differently. Today, with health concerns mounting around our children's degree of access and exposure to electronic screens, we have no excuses.

 We just need to be willing to become informed.
We don't need to panic or  move from a place of fear.
We have solid information and seasoned experts to guide our paths.

The second reason why I think we want to avoid addressing screen-time usage is because we - as adults - are enjoying our screens as much as our children! Look around. Parents are connected to their devices as well! Also, every day there are new gadgets, faster phones, three-dimensional apparatus, more intriguing, seductive games, and so on. Our friends have the newest versions and we want them too! And so, this too is important. This too is hard. We - as adults - must face on own issues of tech dependence, social comparison (keeping up with Jones family) and other tech-related problematic behaviors. We must be willing to acknowledge them, change them, and model healthy face-to-face relationships with our children and with one another.

 No matter what the enticement might be, we must remember...
"Too much of a good thing is not always a healthy thing."


Are you old enough to remember when there were no fast food chains? Ok, there may have been an A and W Drive-In or a favorite hang-out burger joint! But, it wasn't until the emergence of McDonalds, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, and countless others that we experienced a huge shift in our diets, our routines, and even in our health.  Raising my daughter in the 80's and 90's,  I remember when health concerns first started surfacing about ingredients in fast-foods as well as in processed foods. As more information was released, I made necessary adjustments.  As a working mom, it was not always easy to make a home-cooked meal, but I made it a priority to make sure my daughter had healthful meals. I did not eliminate fast-food altogether. However, I was much more mindful as to how often we would get those yummy Big Macs and delicious fries! Over the years, many of the chains have chosen to make changes in their ingredients and to offer healthier alternatives to their menus! They have acted responsibly to the evidence supporting unhealthy practices and to the growing concerns of their consumers. As the consequences of over-exposure to screens continue to show up in our children's lives and our own, we - as parents - must to do same.

Becoming informed does not mean the eradication of popular practices.
It means becoming empowered to make the best decisions regarding their impact on our lives.


Protection means being informed.
Parents and Guardians, let's get started. Let's get informed! 

All of these resources are amazing! I've read each one thoroughly. Choose ONE to get started. Choose one which best suits your needs right now. Don't get over-whelmed with too much information at once. These are in no particular order - they are all great!

1.   "Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids" by Thomas Kersting

I love this book because it was written from  a father's perspective!  Tom is also a psychotherapist, a high school counselor, and a coach on his son's team! With a compassionate and convincing voice, this amazing father offers a concise yet powerful approach for parents/guardians to reclaim the health and well-being of their children.  I HIGHLY recommend "Disconnected"! (92 pages)

2.   "Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World" by Kathy Koch, PhD.

This is an extraordinary book because Kathy addresses the problematic "life-messages" our children are learning about themselves and the world around them as a consequence of their time spent interacting with technology. "Screens and Teens" is a faith-based family-friendly approach.  Kathy provides plenty of exercises to implement with our children as well discussion guides for families to reconnect in healthy ways. (237 pages)

3.  "Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan To End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Syndrome" by Victoria L. Dunkley, M.D.

If you are a parent who is raising a child who is overly anxious, irritable, hyper-stimulated, inattentive, and unfocused (and who spends time on screens) or  a counselor, educator, therapist, doctor (pediatrician) who is seeing a rise or dramatic increase in  ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depressive symptoms in your child or the children you work with, PLEASE read this book. These children "may" be medicated unnecessarily. These children "may" be misdiagnosed and suffering instead from "Electronic Screen Syndrome". "Reset" is a research-based clinically detailed analysis of the effects on children's overall well-being as the result of screen-time. Victoria, a mom herself, offers a ground-breaking "reset" program which is family friendly, providing a step-by-step process for restoring your child's health. I believe EVERY clinician or individual who is assessing children's health should read this book.  (317 pages)

4.  "Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - And How To Break The Trance" by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

I know the word "addiction" is a scary word. Don't let that deter you from choosing this book. If you, or your children, or other loved ones are spending a great deal of time "gaming" (video games) and are finding it problematic to stop or cut back ....you are not alone. Nicholas Kardaras describes how and why video games are designed to become "addictive" (as are other screen interactive behaviors) and he provides a myriad of proven strategies for recovering from screen addiction or reducing screen problematic behaviors. Having experienced gaming addiction personally, Dr. Kardaras speaks with a compassionate and caring voice. You will not feel judged! (246 pages)

Lastly, but just as importantly, I want to share with you a new APP - BOSCO - which is being launched as we speak!

What is BOSCO?  BOSCO is purely an awareness tool - not a control tool - and will only alert parents when its algorithm has shown that the parents' attention is needed.  This APP provides a fresh approach to digital parenting!

Because of my interest in cyber bullying and its impact on the well-being of our children and because of how vulnerable our children are to on-line predators and other dangers, I think this is a extremely valuable tool.  In the words of Enon Landenberg, Co-Founder of Bosco and father of three, "We imagined an alternative that would help us keep our kids safe without infringing on their independence." I highly encourage you to check this out!

In closing, I want you to know that these folks and countless others (as do I) care deeply about the well-being of our children. It is why we do what we do. There is no other motivation. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to them or to  me.  We are here to help and support you. I ask one thing of you...

Be brave....take a deep breath...and begin reading. 
This high-tech generation needs our best parenting...they deserve no less.

Please, don't hesitate to reach out ~
Join us on FB  Author Holli Kenley
Follow on Twitter Holli Kenley

For more empowering reads...


Tools for Protection, Intervention, and Prevention

 
Tweens - Teens - Discover, Define and Determine Your Real Worth!
                        

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