Thursday, February 16, 2023
Good morning, MindSite News readers! In today’s parenting newsletter, we revisit a federal study on the pandemic’s toll on youth mental health, which we first reported on yesterday. The rates of mental health problems among youth are being described as “unprecedented” and “shocking,” with the new analysis of federal data highlighting the alarming rates of violence, trauma and hopelessness faced by teen girls.
In other news, a consolidated lawsuit charging social media companies with harming kids is in the pretrial litigation stage in a U.S. District Court in Northern California. Also in this issue, Massachusetts is testing a plan to safely unite kids with psychiatric crises languishing in the ER with their families. And you can find the Washington Post’s advice on how to deal with loud bickering from the kids that wakes you up in the morning, along with a roundup from the digital magazine Fatherly of 10 movies that teach truly “awful” parenting and discipline.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg will be back in a few weeks. In the meantime, send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Alarming rates of violence and trauma facing teen girls in the U.S., federal data shows
Teen girls are caught in an “overwhelming wave of violence and trauma” and are experiencing levels of hopelessness, sadness and suicidal thoughts that have never been seen before, according to an NBC story on a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rates of trauma are high for all youth, but they are at record levels for girls and LGBTQ+ youth. According to survey responses, nearly one in three girls considered suicide within the past year – a startling 60% rise from the previous decade – and 18% of girls and 22% of LGBTQ+ youth faced sexual violence within the same time frame, according to NPR. More than 10% percent of teen girls also said they’d been forced to have sex. In addition, over half of LGBTQ+ teens said they’d struggled with their mental health, and one in five reported actually attempting suicide during that time. “That is just an overwhelming finding,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. Speaking to NPR, she added, “So, not surprisingly, we’re also seeing that almost 60% of teen girls had depressive symptoms in the past year, which is the highest level in a decade.”
American youth are in an undeniable mental health crisis, reported the Associated Press, which reported on a recent CDC analysis of data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The results “reflect so many decades of neglect towards mental health, for kids in particular,” said Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer at the American Psychological Association. “Suicide has been the second- or third-leading cause of death for young people between 10 and 24 years for decades now.”
The crisis is compounded by a shortage of mental health providers to address youth needs, reported ABC News. President Biden said he planned to support more mental health providers in schools during his State of the Union address,since schools are on the front line of students’ mental health every day. Moreover, he said that developing safe and useful digital mental health tools to engage teens outside of social media is on his agenda.
Not surprisingly, children’s mental health tops the list of parents’ worries, according to an article by CNN. Forty percent of American parents are very to extremely worried that their children will be enveloped by depression or anxiety at some points, a new survey from the Pew Research Center finds. Bullying was next on the list, with 35% of parents stress worried about that. Concerns also varied by race and economic background, with three in 10 Black parents fearing their child might be shot, with only one in 10 white or high-income parents expressing the same dread.
Litigation against social media companies under consideration in US District Court in Northern CA
Don Grant, a psychologist who primarily treats children with digital-related mental health issues, told Scroll.in that such problems are becoming increasingly common in his line of practice. “It’s like every night, kids all over the country sneak out of their houses and go to play in the sewers under the city with no supervision. That’s what being online can be like,” he said. “You think just because your kids are sitting in your living room they’re safe – but they’re not.” One parent, Laurie, filed a lawsuit against the parent companies of Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook for sending her 12 year old’s mental health into a tailspin. “Before [she used] social media, there was no eating disorder, there was no mental illness, there was no isolation, there was no cutting, none of that,” Laurie told Context about her daughter, who she is struggling to get help.
The big issue with social media apps rests around parental consent and control – or the lack thereof, really – and the endless scrolling to which kids engage apps that are addictive by design. Laurie, for instance, thought she did everything right by taking away her daughter’s phone at night. Unbeknownst to her, however, her daughter had found the confiscated cell phone and created nearly a dozen social media profiles, all by easily bypassing parental consent and control measures. She’d stay up late most nights scrolling and told her mom that she learned how to self harm by watching videos on TikTok.
Laurie, who used her first name only with Scroll.in for privacy reasons, is represented by the Social Media Victims Law Center, a firm co-founded by trial lawyer Matt Bergman. In late 2022, “80 similar federal suits from 35 different jurisdictions were consolidated together and are now being considered by the US District Court for the Northern District of California” in pretrial litigation, according to Scroll.in.
However, such litigation faces a significant challenge: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives big tech a significant protection by providing immunity for website platforms in regard to content posted by third parties, or users, of the site. In one such example, a Pennsylvania court wouldn’t allow a lawsuit against TikTok to proceed, reported Scroll.in. In that case, a family sought to sue on behalf of a child who died by accidental asphyxiation after doing the so-called “blackout challenge” widely shared across the site.
Fatherly on bad parenting lessons from the movies
Have you heard of The Parent Test? It’s a reality show that explores different parenting styles by following 12 families that agreed to be put under different parenting stressors to show the benefits of their child-rearing approaches. It’s billed as a competition — think “which style is best?”– but ultimately serves as a jumping off point for thoughtful conversation on how to raise happy, healthy children into confident, happy adults who can care for themselves.
This list from Fatherly, on the other hand, is all about what to watch for fun or entertainment – but definitely not for advice on parenting. The title of the article says it all: “10 Movies That Teach Awful Lessons About Discipline and Children.” In fact, for the “worst of the worst” examples of parenting and discipline, check out the movies on their list, which each include a running commentary from Dr. Lauren Knickerbocker, clinical psychologist at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Health. The films run the gamut from releases in the 1970s to the 2010s and include major hits like “Home Alone,” “Matilda,” “Elf,” the Harry Potter series, and “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
What to Do About Two Sons Who Bicker — A Lot
Our advice columnist, Dr. Barbara Greenberg, is taking a break for a few weeks, so we are turning to some other parenting advice we enjoy, which appears in the Washington Post.
In this column, Meghan Leahy, “a parenting coach, author, and mother of three” and Post writer Amy Joyce answers questions about parenting. In this transcript of a reader Q and A, you can find Leahy and Joyce’s advice for parents on several issues, including how to help a 9-year-old develop more self-control and this one — our favorite — about how to help two young brothers stop bickering in the morning before school when they wake up (long before their exhausted parents do). Here’s the parents’ question:
“Our 6-year-old and 10-year-old boys wake up every morning about an hour and a half before we do. They play, get dressed, and make their lunches. But they also bicker–a lot. My husband and I are always woken up by shrieks and screams, and after usually working late at night, we need the extra sleep. We tell them to stop, ask them to separate, but nothing works. It happens every morning, and we’re sick and (literally) tired of it. Any advice? Thanks!” Here is the advice columnists’ answer, which begins by noting that bickering aside, the fact that the boys get up and “play, get dressed and make their lunches” is pretty impressive.
In other news…
Massachusetts is testing a diversion plan to get children languishing in emergency rooms during a psychiatric crisis out of the hospital and back home. The goal is to halt the practice of “boarding” — which often has teens in ER beds for weeks or even months waiting on help — by connecting them to partner organizations that provide intensive counseling to adolescents and their families. “We would love to have more opportunities to get these diversions with more families,” said Meri Viano, associate director at the Parent Professional Advocacy League in Massachusetts. “We’ve seen in the data and heard from families that this has been a great program to get children in that next place to heal faster.”
Counseling includes safety sweeps of homes to decrease youth risk of self-harm and lessons on how to better manage intense emotions and avoid risky behaviors. Better yet, diversion programs offer a much cheaper treatment option to families, and seem to be providing a little relief to overworked mental health providers, reported NPR.
In a related item, kids on Medicaid who visit ERs for a mental health problems often get no follow-up. The Feb. 13 issue of Pediatrics reported that out of 28,000 U.S. kids discharged from ERs for a mental health crisis, only about half had a follow-up health care appointment within a month, according to HealthDay. More than 25% were back within six months.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.
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