Are Instagram “influencers” influencing your kid

By Katie Mest

We’ve already taught you what an influencer is (http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/what-is-an-influencer-and-whats-it-got-to-do-with-your-tween/). Influencers are either celebrities or ordinary people who are paid by a company to promote its products on social media.

Maybe what you don’t know are all the harmful products and practices that are popping up on your teen’s social media timeline as a result.

The big player in this game is Instagram. It works well for the influencers (and companies) because of its flashy pictures and cleverly worded captions. It screams “if you use this product, you too can have an Instagram profile as flashy or a body as perfect” as this person.

Well, Instagram recently released some news. And this going to 100 percent affect your kids.

 Soon you and your kids will see more influencers that you aren’t even following. That’s because soon brands will be allowed to promote their influencers’ posts and project them onto the screens of the young and impressionable.

 In a way, this is nothing new. Instagram already has sponsored posts that show up on your feed in between pictures of your friend’s cat and your coworker’s beach vacation. But now these will be labeled “paid partnership.”

Hey, we know you’re already worried about the kind of material your kid/pre-teen is taking in when they spend hours upon hours in front of their cell phones. So here’s a quick list of some products and ideas that have shown up on your kid’s timeline because of influencers.

Flat Tummy Tea

As the name suggests, this company wants you to believe that by drinking this tea, you will lose weight quickly and easily. A few of the Kardashians have come under fire lately for promoting this product. The company sells lollipops, shakes, and supplements as well as tea.

At this point, many experienced social media users know that Flat Tummy Tea is not only not effective, but it’s dangerous and unhealthy, but these are high school and college students. Younger kids may not be up on this kind of promotion. I think the products either “curb hunger” or “help with digestion,” which means to me maybe they make you sick.

Many influencers don’t actually try the product. They just post a picture with a caption that the company told them to include. Read more about Flat Tummy Tea’s Instagram empire here.

See also: any product that claims to be healthy while making you cut weight crazy fast.

YouTuber Logan Paul visiting a Japanese suicide forest

Yes, you read that correctly. Logan Paul posted a YouTube video of himself in the Aokigahara. This is a forest in Japan where many people go to take their lives. Regretably, he showed a body he had come across while filming.

To make matters worse, he kept the same attitude of his other videos and made jokes along the way. If you want to read more about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/01/02/youtuber-logan-paul-apologizes-for-showing-body-in-japans-suicide-forest/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b3cd12d5162e.

Using natural disasters to gain or keep attention

When wildfires broke out in California, many influencers took to social media to send “thoughts and prayers” to those affected.

While the captions might have matched the situation, some of the photographs definitely didn’t, such as selfies or perfectly posed, professional photographer pictures. It was a way for the influencers to stay on top of a trending topic while also gaining likes from being “sympathetic.”

So what can you do?

  1. Research. If your teen wants to buy something that they saw promoted on social media, do your own investigation before purchasing. Look up reviews. If it’s something that will be ingested, like a supplement or diet tea, check the ingredients and find out what’s really in it. Also, look for any possible side effects.
  2. Talk. Ask your kid what kinds of things they’re seeing on social media. How do they feel about them? Do they think the influencer actually uses the product or just gets paid to post about it? Open up the conversation so they know that those influencer reviews aren’t always truthful or thorough.
  3. Be present on social media. Not in a snooping way. But it won’t hurt to make your own account just so you know what’s going on in that social media universe. Follow news stations. Follow celebrities. Get a glimpse of what your teen is seeing on their screen.

Here are more helpful links:

Stress impacts your tween, too. Help them through it with these tips.

By Katie Mest

Everyone experiences stress, and each person deals with it in his or her own way. But does your tween know how to handle the stresses of life?

Stress is how the body responds to outside factors. This can be any kind of decision your body has to make.

We often think of stress as the way we feel when our boss hands us a large number of tasks to get done in a short period of time, or when we have to get our house cleaned before guests arrive. It’s overwhelming, frustrating, and overall exhausting.

So how does your tween deal with the stress in their lives?

Homework. Tests. Maintaining relationships. Any kind of pressures.

They feel it, too. So it’s important to talk with your tween to make sure they have healthy coping mechanisms for tough times.

Here are some ways to help your tween manage stress.

Understand how their bodies react to stress.

This could be increased heart rate, inability to focus, difficulty sleeping, etc. These factors can be extremely counterproductive to dealing with whatever is causing the stress in the first place. Knowing the signs of stress on the body ahead of time can help them process the situation.

Help them know what is in their control and what isn’t.

 Putting off that paper until the last minute will only lead to a stressful night, but planning to get it done ahead of the due date will provide time to go over it again and not worry. Free time is necessary to relax so the body can deal with conflict when it arises. If your tween can control what’s in their schedule, evaluate with them whether they are taking on more activities than they can handle.

Practice positive talk.

Stress can lead to negative self-talk, such as talking down to oneself and telling yourself you aren’t good enough. It leads to convincing yourself you aren’t capable of finishing it and can hinder your productivity for a decent amount of time. If this seems like a lot for an adult, think of how it is for a tween.

Find a relaxing activity.

One thing I’ve learned from my mom is that exercising and getting fresh air helps me get out of my head and get back to rational thinking. When I would get overwhelmed with work or overthink a situation, she would go on a walk around the block with me and talk things out. I could get out of my room and into a new environment, and it always left me in a better state of mind to take on my problem. You could try activities like exercising, meditation, listening to music, stepping away from the cause of stress for a little, taking deep breaths, etc.

One thing to remember is that the biggest way your tween learns how to handle difficult situations is by watching you.

So what do you do? Curse at it and yell? Or problem solve in a calm manner?

For more information on managing stress, visit the National Institute of Mental Health and CincinnatiChildrens.org.

Links to related content:

The Top 3 Viral Challenges from the Past Year

By Katie Mest

Everyone likes a good challenge, your kids included. When a dare is involved, kids have no choice but to step up to whatever challenge they’ve just been confronted with – innocent, funny or extremely dangerous.

2018 brought more dangerous ones than anything else. Here are the top 3 and the lessons they’ve taught parents and caretakers.

The Drake “In My Feelings” Challenge

The “In My Feelings” Challenge had kids walking along the passenger side of a car dancing the choreographed steps to the Drake song. Most times, the car was rolling along with no help from acceleration, so the speed was close to nothing. While it could have been mostly harmless if kids chose to do the challenge in an empty cul-de-sac or a quiet street, many accepted the challenge at stop lights and on regular-traffic, two-lane roads. (link1 and link2)

The Danger:
  • Putting themselves in the way of passing cars
  • Not slowing the car enough and injuring themselves getting out
The Lesson:
  • Any challenge involving a car is mostly dangerous, especially when the passengers/drivers are barely legal or not legal to drive the vehicle.

Tide Pod Challenge

This challenge needs little explanation at this point. Earlier in 2017-18, kids decided to start eating Tide Pods. Toxic laundry detergent. It’s not necessarily new that kids ingest things they shouldn’t. But the U.S. poison control centers had 10,000 calls because of the pods in 2017 alone. (link)

I confess, when I was in middle school/high school, many kids were eating mouthfuls of cinnamon and choking when their mouths got too dry.  They also tried the “Chubby Bunny” challenge. They stuffed their mouths as full as they could with marshmallows. Many people ended up choking or throwing up.

The Danger:
  • Using a poisonous substance
  • Using items for something other than their intended purpose
The Lesson:
  • Even though your tweens are growing up and you don’t think you have to remind them not to eat unsafe items…
  • …remind them not to eat unsafe items.

Zoom Challenge

This is when the subject sits on the ground, motioning like they’re shifting gear in a car, and a second person pulls their legs, so they speed away out of the frame. (link1 and link2)

The Danger:
  • Pulling the subject so hard they smack their head off the ground
The Lesson:
  • It looked harmless on the surface, but having someone else in control of your body will likely result in injury at some point in time.

2019 is looking a little more promising when it comes to challenges.

So far, we’ve seen the “What the Fluff” Challenge, confusing dogs by “disappearing” behind a blanket; the “Snoot” challenge, making a hole with your fingers and having dogs stick their noses in it; and the “Trash Tag” challenge, encouraging people to take before and after pictures of an area of nature filled with trash and cleaning it up.

The moral of the story is not all challenges are bad, but analyze the challenges you see popping up on your social media and ask yourself (a) would my kid try this, and (b) do I want them trying this.

But remember, many times your kid will see a new viral challenge before you do. Encourage them to practice commons sense and think about the consequences of their actions.

For a little bit more from us on pop culture and social media, try…

Is a busy kid a happy kid? Studies say maybe not.

By Katie Mest

The world is moving faster and faster, and it has definitely changed since you were a kid.

As soon as children reach the teenage years, they go from all the leisure time in the world, with planned snack breaks and scheduled play dates, to no free time whatsoever. The moment they walk through the middle school doors, they are pushed to join clubs and activities that will help them on their journey to their dream college.

The only catch is that while they need to maintain their grades for their higher education ambitions, they also need: the right extracurriculars to complement their future majors (as if they would know what those might be as an incoming middle schooler); sports teams to stand out on college applications; teacher relationships for recommendations; and so on …

You get the point.

They need diversity in their interests, but consistency to show these interests are real and not just being used to build a resume. They have to do everything they can – but there is still only 24 hours in the day.

From Me to You

I‘m comparing myself to my peers constantly. I can’t help it.

Especially when I do particularly bad on an assignment. I can’t help but peak at my neighbor’s paper to see how they did. This isn’t exactly something I’ve just recently picked up.

I had a lot of overachievers in my high school. The kind that are now at Ivy League schools pursuing the many varieties of engineering degrees. It’s hard to be around that much success when you aren’t physically, mentally or intellectually capable of that same success.

So what am I supposed to do?

I overcompensate now by overworking myself. Can I join a new club? How about get another job? If I can’t get that summer internship I want, I can at least make some money.

But, I’m realizing, I need to be able to stand out with the talents I was given. But it never feels like enough. It always feels like I need to be doing more.

But there are still only 24 hours in a day.

I never consider it an option for me to drop one of my tasks, even in my most stressed out times.

And here’s my point. More likely than not, your kid is in the same boat.

The Facts

A UCLA survey of college freshmen found that incoming students at four-year colleges and universities spent half as much time socializing in their final year of high school as those who entered college in 1987 (that’s you, parents!) Kids today are spending more time keeping up with the busy day-to-day schedule they’ve created for themselves.

There are some negative effects to this, such as developing high amounts of stress. And maybe your kids are making decisions based on anxiety, rather than any real interest in the activity. Or, maybe you’re taking control of your kid’s after school activities. Are your decisions based on anxiety about their future? (For an article with a balanced view, try this: 2013 New York Times article.)

Importantly, I just had to do a little bit of research to turn up some surprising facts. Kids today are too busy to maintain even the basics of what you held down at 16, i.e. a job. About 60 percent of teens in 1979 were employed. About 34 percent of teens today have jobs, according to Business Insider. And that number is projected to go down even further.

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

Can’t teens even be motivated by money?

Well, maybe. But there is something more important. College.

Kids today are not only competing with the best and brightest in their school, many of whom are applying to the big Division I and Ivy League schools, but they’re also competing with just many, many more of their peers. More high school grads are going to college (and many, many fewer are taking STEM or trade jobs – which is a problem we’ll discuss another day.) Dr. Lauber has told us that when he went to college, only 50% of this high school peers in his small town went to college. Now, its more than 80%. Nationwide, college applications and college attendance has sky rocketed. In 1990 there were around 12 million undergrads. Today , there are 20.8 million (National education stats.)

Maybe this is all starting at too early of an age. I believe today kids want to know how they stack up in their classes. And with each new grade level, there is an even fiercer competition.

Quick question: have your “future plans” for your kid seeped into their “KID years?” Do they have to have perfect grades, two or more extracurriculars and a squeaky-clean record. If your kid thinks this, are they handling this pressure well?

How you can help

OK. I’m not a parent. So just ignore what I’m about to write if you want. But I want to be helpful if I can. So here is a quick summary (of what other people have written) about “what you can do about this.”

  1. Keep a family planner. Encourage your child to have their own planner to keep track of assignments and after-school activities. But also keep one at home in a place you and your child will see every day, such as a bulletin board in the kitchen.
  2. Talk through commitments with them before they decide to join. This saves a lot of stress in the long run. Are they joining because they want to? Or because they think they should? Is it worth taking that time away from homework and other obligations?
  3. Make goals for each new activity. For sports and clubs, the goal might be to “always enjoy the work they’re putting in.” If they stop enjoying the activity, it might be time to re-evaluate spending time on it.
  4. Prioritize with them. Add some perspective to which of their activities deserve the most attention when life gets busy. With school work, sports practice, a club meeting and an after-school job all in the same night, things can get hectic. which should they do first?
  5. Make sure they have time to themselves each week. Not time just with friends. Not just time with family. Time alone. Reflection periods are necessary to the recharging process for kids (and you too, parents!) Let them play music in their room, or veg out on the couch at least some time each week.
  6. And talk with them. How are they doing? A quick check on a car ride home, or maybe while gathering the laundry can make a real difference and alert you to things you want to respond to further.

To learn more about the inner struggles your child may be facing when it comes to Instagram, read our other blog post here.

Or check out this one on cyberbullying.

Some more links:

https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z-teen-jobs-2018-5

New York Times article on over-scheduled children

Today’s technology makes your child’s FOMO even worse!

By Katie Mest

What’s FOMO?

FOMO is the feeling that everyone else is a part of something you’re not. FOMO is the “Fear Of Missing Out”.

It’s all your friends hanging out without you, maybe because you declined to go in the first place or maybe you weren’t even invited.

Parents, does it feel like your child is spending more time at their friends’ house than at yours? Does it seem like they value the opinion of their friends more than your parental advice?

That’s natural. Kids pull away from their parents and look to their peers for acceptance.

FOMO is nothing new. Why are we bringing it up now?

Because your kids are more connected now.

They make plans with their friends in their group text and can see the progression of the plans before their very eyes. If they decline to attend the plans, they are now sitting on the sidelines as the rest of their friends excitedly chatter along, blowing up the phone of those who opted out.

“But they chose not to go”, you say.

Sometimes kids want to be responsible. (Yes, it does still happen.) They know studying for the big test will benefit them more than seeing the newest blockbuster.

Sometimes they can’t go without a choice. Family obligations, sports practices, after school jobs. Maybe you even grounded them from going out. Many times, plans with a big group of friends just don’t fit in the schedule or the budget.

The point is, even if your child isn’t there in person, they still see what’s going on. That little thing called social media that keeps your kids glued to their phones all day is the king at creating FOMO.

Snapchat stories. Instagram posts. The group text. They are all constant reminders of the event your kid diddn’t attend. The fun they’re missing out on. The inside jokes they won’t be a part of because “you had to be there to understand.”

Check out this link for a teenager’s perspective on FOMO.

FOMO can make people (of any age, not just teenagers) anxious. We get low self-esteem from constantly seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to sit at home while it seems like everyone else is doing something exciting and Instagram-worthy.

You’ve definitely experienced it, too.

Come on, parents. You’ve had your friends ask if you and your significant other want to join them for dinner. Maybe a sporting event. And you’ve had to remind them that being a parent means you can’t always go somewhere at the drop of a hat. So you politely decline because it’s easier than figuring out who’s going to watch the kids and the pet. Then you come across your friend’s pictures of the dinner or game on Facebook and you feel a twinge of jealousy because they found someone else to take your place.

F. O. M. O.

But it’s constant for your kid. Their friends post way more than your friends do. And, of course, their teenagers. So they’re not always as polite about it as grown ups are.

They said “no” to plans. How can you help relieve some of the FOMO?

These tips might help.

  1. Distract them. Keep them off their phones while the plans are going on. If they’re studying, encourage a snack break and use the time to catch up with them about what’s going on in their life.
  2. Sit down with them and reinforce the idea that they won’t always be able to drop everything to go have fun. Remind them of the reason they can’t go out, like maybe sports or homework. This reason will be more beneficial to them down the line than whatever their friends chose to do that night.
  3. In the same manner as #2, have a real adult conversation with them if the problem is finances. Finances is a tricky topic to talk about with kids and teenagers. They are most likely still depending on you for the money they use to go out. Maybe they’re too young to realize that you have actual expenses that don’t allow for you to give 50% of what you make to your kid’s entertainment fund. It will get easier as they get older. Start teaching them how to manage their own money, and they will quickly learn how easy it is to spend money on frivolous things when more important things need your attention and earnings – and yet they can’t do that.

More great information on FOMO can be found at:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-fomo-impacts-teens-and-young-adults-4174625

If you like this article on DecodingTodaysYouth.com, check out the harm Instagram is causing your teens.

In a world of perfectionism, Instagram proves large self-esteem crusher

By Katie Mest

Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.

What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?

The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).

For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.

The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.

Until your searches get the better of you.

Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.

The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.

I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.

I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.

And I’m not the only person who thinks like this.

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I don’t look like her, so I must be inadequate.”

And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:

“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”

Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!

But I digress.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.

Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.

You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:

1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.

2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.

3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.

4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)

5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.

The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.

For more information about Instagram and social media pressure, check out these links. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/instagram-can-lower-self-esteem-make-you-unproductive-heres-how-to-break-away/articleshow/66130212.cms

For more of our commentary on social media, check out http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/cyberbullying-or-cyberbullied/

Or

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/finsta-a-fake-instagram/

Stressed and Depressed: Checking In On Your Child

 By Katie Mest

Parents: Here’s my story.

Sitting alone in my bedroom, I finally allow myself to release all the tension and built-up stress from the longest day of my week. It’s days like these that make me sometimes question my ability to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

Thursdays are rough.

I wake up for my 8 a.m. class, which sometimes is immediately followed by a meeting with our project team. Luckily, I usually have approximately an hour or so to get lunch. From 12:30 to 3:15, my back-to-back classes occupy my afternoon, and after that I go to work…until about 11 p.m.

That’s just the skeleton of my Thursday.

In any free moment, I’m trying to finish the homework that inevitably did not get finished for that day’s classes. During downtime at work, I try to get a head start on the next day’s work, which never actually happens because there’s no downtime at work. For dinner, I pick up any unhealthy but quick meal I can get that won’t break my already low bank account.

None of this factors in walking time from academic buildings to my house (10-15 minutes depending on the building), which adds up at the end of the day.

All of this results in me coming home exhausted and delusional, only to bawl my eyes out at something small like accidentally knocking my glass of water off my nightstand.

It’s difficult. It’s draining. But it’s not unusual for someone my age.

Though my high-stress situations didn’t start until college, some students start experiencing them in high school or even middle school.

I know a good amount of people who regularly have mental breakdowns from the pressures of school. Some are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Some regularly see a therapist. Many would say that they have at some point felt overly stressed and depressed.

Some, however, deal with their problems alone, which is why it’s extremely important that you as a parent recognize if this is happening to your child.

The Facts

Anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of children between 13 and 18 years old, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and can also occur with other disorders, including depression and eating disorders.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States.

If you suspect your child is getting overwhelmed with school, reach out. Acknowledgment on your part can go a long way.

BUT, you must be patient. Each case is different, so what you may have heard worked for someone else might not work for your child.

What Can You Do?
  1. Validate their emotions. It’s extremely discouraging to breakdown over a series of events when our peers are thriving doing the exact same things. Recognize and remind your children that they are doing their best.
  2. Look for symptoms. ASCD gave a great list of what to look for:
  3. Don’t stigmatize the situation. It can be a complicated topic to discuss, but the last thing you want to do is make your child feel like their emotions are something they have to hide from others. More people are going through this than you think.
  4. Encourage your child to reach out. To you. To a friend. To a teacher. Get them talking.

 

For more information about depression and anxiety, click here:

National Institute of Mental Health

To learn more about problems facing your teen, read up on the world of sports gambling:

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

A Parent to Parent website about drugs: http://PtPDrugFree.com