Peer pressure has always been there for individuals when they head into middle school and beyond. Preteens and teens are now experiencing something very different than generations before them. The world of social media is a reality which can add more extreme peer pressure into the mix. Thanks to this, everyone who works with teens needs to be cognizant of what is happening in their social media landscape. Together we need to monitor trends, challenges, and more.
The Tide Pod Challenge
Teens being challenged to do things which are not smart by their peers is nothing new. Schools and families have had to deal with teens snorting Smarties, ingesting a spoon full of cinnamon, eating a banana followed by a two-liter bottle of soda, and many others. Thanks to social media documenting these stunts, adults are more aware of what children may be trying. Enter the recent Tide Pod Challenge that is sweeping through the country. This challenge dares teens to put the Tide Pods into their mouth, which is the last place they should be.
These laundry pods contain a highly concentrated form of the detergent. Initially, they can cause burns in the mouth. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) warns that if the concentrated chemicals are ingested, it could cause a multitude of problems. Teens could be faced with seizures, pulmonary distress, respiratory arrest, coma, and possibly death. In the first two weeks of 2018, more than 40 reports of exposure to liquid laundry detergent pods were made to the AAPCC for 13-19 year-olds. More startling is that more than half of those were deliberate.
Social Media Tracking and Safety
Teens do not have fully developed prefrontal cortex regions of their brains. This means that they may still do not have a firm grasp on long-term consequences via cause and effect. They may be impulsive and participate in challenges like this simply to gain peer approval. Social media makes it even easier for them to find a funny video on YouTube which is popular and try to replicate it.
In the new age of social media, adults need to be on top of things. Counselors in school need to listen carefully to what they hear from students. All adults in school must watch social media references to schools to see if there are challenges taking place with their students. In addition to this, school counselors and social workers should work together with others to create ways to inform and education not only students but families on the dangers.
Make sure there is a space for students to go where they can get information. A bulletin board in an office with information for students to gather facts. School websites could also have resources for safety, reporting information, and where to go for help. In addition to this, PTA or similar groups may want to help and sponsor an information night for teens and families. It would be a good time to reach out to members of the community to come in and talk about the true dangers of social media and impulsive challenges like the one mentioned.
What has your school done to get the word out about these tricky topics? Please share in the comments what has worked and how you would improve communication in this area.
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