Tag

social media

Cyberbullying and Autism Spectrum Disorders

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By Yvonne M. Asher, Ph.D. 
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

I recently had the opportunity to attend a webinar by Justin Patchin, Ph.D., one of the foremost cyberbullying researchers. I have used his work myself in designing both my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation research, so it was wonderful to hear him speak. He began with a story about his childhood and some of the rules he was taught – don’t meet up with strangers that you meet online, don’t get into anyone’s car if you don’t know them well – lessons I was also taught as a child. These are the kind of rules that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often crave – black and white, clear, no middle ground. The online world, he argued, does not allow for such stark and rigid rules. Rather, he says, it calls for “guidelines.” Working with children with ASD, when I hear “guidelines,” I think, “grey,” “fuzzy,” and “it depends.” These can be some of the toughest situations for an individual who is not neurotypical.

I think he’s right. The online world is fast, fluid, ever-changing, and highly dependent on specific circumstances. It calls for the kind of flexible thinking and evaluation of context that kids with ASD are so often challenged by. Yet, as the adults parenting, educating, and supporting these young people, these are exactly the skills that they need. The online world is not going anywhere anytime soon, and it is not likely to slow down either.

Cyberbullying is one of the difficult online phenomena to manage, as youth who are bullied online are most frequently also bullied in “real life,” usually at school. The bullies are often peers they know and must see on a regular basis. For children with social challenges, navigating bullying that is occurring across settings is an especially difficult task. And the solution is not to take away technology. Now more than ever, children need access to technology for homework, classwork, enjoyable peer activities, and hobbies. Where does that leave us?

Unfortunately, Dr. Patchin did not give any practical advice for how to support individuals with autism around cyberbullying. I think that one important starting point is to help these individuals learn to check in with themselves. Time and time again, I hear from students, “I’m not really sure what was going on, but I think they were being mean.” (In fact, I hear this from children who are decidedly not on the autism spectrum, especially when bullying is occurring by older peers.) Bullying is hurtful (intentionally so), and recognizing that hurt is an important first step. Once children and adolescents identify that something is hurtful, adults can help and support them in navigating through the situation.

Whether bullying, cyberbullying, or a misunderstanding, it is important for adults to listen carefully when children come to us with social concerns. In addition, we must have a solid understanding of the online world in which students are living, learning, and engaging. Social media shifts rapidly, with new platforms becoming wildly popular in a matter of weeks. Working with youth requires us to keep as current as we can, making certain that we understand the “ins and outs” of each platform. It is also incumbent upon us to ensure that all children and adolescents (not just those with an autism diagnosis) learn guidelines that will allow them to safely make their way through a constantly evolving world of platforms, apps, and services. Safety online is as critical as safety in person.

 

About the Author

Dr. Yvonne M. Asher enjoys working with a wide range of children and teens, including those with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, learning disabilities, attention difficulties and executive functioning challenges. She often works with children whose complex profiles are not easily captured by a single label or diagnosis. She particularly enjoys working with young children and helping parents through their “first touch” with mental health care or developmental concerns.

Dr. Asher’s approach to assessment is gentle and supportive, and recognizes the importance of building rapport and trust. When working with young children, Dr. Asher incorporates play and “games” that allow children to complete standardized assessments in a fun and engaging environment.

Dr. Asher has extensive experience working in public, charter and religious schools, both as a classroom teacher and psychologist. She holds a master’s degree in education and continues to love working with educators. As a psychologist working in public schools, she gained invaluable experience with the IEP process from start to finish. She incorporates both her educational and psychological training when formulating recommendations to school teams.

Dr. Asher attended Swarthmore College and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She completed her doctoral degree at Suffolk University, where her dissertation looked at the impact of starting middle school on children’s social and emotional wellbeing. After graduating, she completed an intensive fellowship at the MGH Lurie Center for Autism, where she worked with a wide range of children, adolescents and young adults with autism and related disorders.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

To book an appointment with Dr. Yvonne Asher, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Modern Parenting – Part 3: Sarahah, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Oh My! Navigating the Wide World of Apps

By | NESCA Notes 2018

 

By: Jacki Reinert, Psy.D., LMHC
Pediatric Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellow

I recently had the opportunity to co-evaluate a young woman in high school who was recently suspended from school due to ongoing peer conflicts with classmates on a social media app called Sarahah. What initially started as an innocent question soon escalated into an online battle, fueled by a misunderstanding and magnified by an impulsive decision to post a verbal threat. Since that time, Sarahah has popped up in my social media feeds, particularly among parents, educators, and therapists on Facebook. Well-intentioned adults are scrambling to learn more about the app, how they can protect their children, clients, and students from the dangers of yet another social media platform which promotes anonymous bullying. This phenomenon highlights the significant and misguided, albeit well-intentioned, approach adults use to conceptualize social media and adolescent usage. It is March 2018, and Sarahah has been unavailable for download on iTunes for approximately two months. Teens have already begun to move on to the next app, while adults are only more recently learning about the obsolete app.

Some common misconception adults have about social media is that they need to know each of the apps that teens are using, an impossible feat considering the speed with which they become popular, trend on iTunes, and quickly become a relic of the past. As digitally competent adults, we are better served by understanding the types of social media apps teens use, how to talk to kids about which apps they should steer clear of and why.

Generally, there are four types of social media apps that are currently trending, moving adolescents away from typical texting to new social platforms. The first are new texting platforms, which include WhatsApp, KikMessanger, Telegram, and GroupMe. These types of apps allow teen to group chat for free in virtual “private chat rooms.” Live streaming group chats are also popular because they allow multiple people to participate in a group “FaceTime” experience. Apps that offer these experiences are HouseParty, Live.ly, and Live.me.

Microblogging is another popular social media platform which allows teens to quickly post relevant information. Examples of this are classified into platforms such as Twitter or Tumblr, which allow teens to share text, GIFs, and videos, and photo-based microblogging, such as Snapchat, Instagram, and the now-defunct Vine. Of these, photo and video-based apps are more popular.

Lastly, there has been a huge shift from identifiable users to anonymous platforms, which include Yik Yak, Saraha, Spillit, Secret, Whisper, and AskFm, as well as meet-up and online dating apps. These apps include Monkey, Meet.me, Omegle, Yubo, and Tinder. Apps that promote anonymity are arguably the most dangerous, primarily because people (adults and adolescents) are more likely to say things online that they would never say to someone face-to-face, increasing cyberbullying. In a nationally-representative sample of 5,700 middle and high school students, the Cyberbullying Research Center found that over the last ten years, 27% of students had been cyberbullied at some point in their life. Further, anonymous social media apps and increased incidents of cyberbullying have been linked to multiple teen suicides around the globe.

As I mentioned in a previous post (http://www.nesca-news.com/2018/03/modern-parenting-part-2-what-are.html), talking to teens about their digital footprints is the first step in opening a social media dialogue about expected behaviors when using social media as a member of an online community, and the ramifications associated with engaging with others online. As a social media consumer, I have found CommonSense Media to be the best spot to access relevant information about not only apps but also other types of media, including movies and video games.

Research conducted by CommonSense Media highlights misconceptions about age-appropriateness for apps; they often compare what parents think is an appropriate age for specific apps, what kids think, and what the specialists think. For example, Snapchat is one of the most popular apps currently used by teens. Parents think it is appropriate for kids ages 14 and up, while kids think ages 12 and up is okay. CommonSense Media recommends users ages 16 and up. What about Instagram? Parents, 14 and up, kids say 12 and up, and CommonSense Media? Ages 15 and up.

So, who’s right? When is it appropriate for a kid to use Instagram? A one-size-fits all approach is likely to mismatch kids, particularly those who may have complex cognitive or social-emotional profiles, with the appropriate social media platforms. Join me next week to learn more about how to start social media conversations with kids, pitfalls adults can make, and when to seek advice from a professional.

Read the rest of this series:

Modern Parenting – Part 1: A Heartfelt Series of Social Media Tips

Modern Parenting – Part 2: What are Digital Footprints and Where Do They Lead?

 

About the Author:

Dr. Jacki Reinert is a Pediatric Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow who joined NESCA in September 2017. Dr. Reinert assists with neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments in the Newton office and will join the Londonderry office in March 2018. In addition to assisting with neuropsychological evaluations, Dr. Reinert co-facilitates parent-child groups and provides clinical consultation. Before joining NESCA Dr. Reinert worked in a variety of clinical settings, including therapeutic schools, residential treatment programs and in community mental health. She has comprehensive training in psychological assessment, conducting testing with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged adults with complex trauma.

 

To book a consultation with one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Modern Parenting – Part 2: What are Digital Footprints and Where Do They Lead?

By | NESCA Notes 2018

 

By: Jacki Reinert, Psy.D., LMHC
Pediatric Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellow

In this week’s Modern Parenting blog, let’s talk a little bit about all of those footprints you have been leaving around.

Do you remember that photo you shared on Facebook last week, or that status you “liked”? Chances are high that you don’t remember which photo or what status I am referring to, but fortunately for busy parents whose memories are fading, the Internet never forgets. As a social media consumer, your digital footprint is a literal trail of all the “stuff” you leave behind when you utilize the Internet. Your digital footprint is more than just your Facebook profile or Pinterest board; it includes comments you have made on social media platforms, that scathing Yelp review you left for a restaurant, Google Voice calls you have made, apps you have utilized, and emails you have sent.

Whether we like it or not, our digital footprints matter. Students’ acceptances to Harvard were rescinded last year (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/6/5/2021-offers-rescinded-memes/) following a commonly-utilized practice of looking at potential students’ social media accounts (Kaplan, 2016). College admissions officers aren’t the only ones looking at social media; perceived misbehavior and racially insensitive comments made by individuals who serve the local community are also being reported and for many this has resulted in disciplinary action such as being fired (http://www.wdtn.com/news/local-news/springfield-employee-fired-for-racially-insensitive-social-media-post/1034324069).

When was the last time you Googled your name? Your child’s name? That Instagram user name? A useful way to track your digital footprint is to routinely Google your name, and doing this with your child is a great way to open up a dialogue about social media and Internet use. Google your full name, your nickname, your maiden name, and your most popular social media user name to see what pops up. The information found in your Google search is part of your digital footprint. A quick and easy way to monitor what content is highlighted online is to establish a Google Alert. In order to do this, go to google.com/alerts and enter in names you want to track. Select “Show Options” to narrow your alerts to specific platforms, locations, and the frequency of your alerts.

Another simple way to maintain your own digital footprint, as well as assist your children in cultivating their own, is by utilizing privacy settings whenever possible, and Facebook (FB) is a great place to start. To begin, click on your FB profile, and notice those three little dots at the bottom right of your cover page? Click on “View As” and voila! You can view your profile as a stranger sees it. What do you notice? Are your photos visible? All of those memes you’ve shared, are they visible as well? Teaching kids to do this is an easy way for them to have autonomy over their profiles and can establish a teachable moment where you can further discuss what they want to project out into the world.

Read the rest of this series:

Modern Parenting – Part 1: A Heartfelt Series of Social Media Tips

Modern Parenting – Part 3: Sarahah, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Oh My! Navigating the Wide World of Apps

 

 

About the Author:

Dr. Jacki Reinert is a Pediatric Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow who joined NESCA in September 2017. Dr. Reinert assists with neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments in the Newton office and will join the Londonderry office in March 2018. In addition to assisting with neuropsychological evaluations, Dr. Reinert co-facilitates parent-child groups and provides clinical consultation. Before joining NESCA Dr. Reinert worked in a variety of clinical settings, including therapeutic schools, residential treatment programs and in community mental health. She has comprehensive training in psychological assessment, conducting testing with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged adults with complex trauma.

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Modern Parenting – Part 1: A Heartfelt Series of Social Media Tips

By | NESCA Notes 2018

By: Jacki Reinert, Psy.D., LMHC
Pediatric Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellow

Prior to entering doctoral studies, my family and I had the opportunity to live overseas for two years. After spending most of my childhood in New England, complete with family vacations to upstate New York, my limited world view left me ill-prepared for the splendor and, at times, sadness of raising our two-year-old without the loving support of our extended families in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. To bridge this gap of time and space, I often looked to social media as a window into the lives of family and friends.

First came Facebook, where old high school colleagues, current English-speaking expatriate comrades, and family could follow our adventures. Then, with the new sensational “Instagram”, I found myself snapping away, first of myself, my son, and of course the Eiffel Tower, quickly followed by Francophiles, family, and new friends. My follower stats quickly climbed and I enjoyed sharing well-cultivated images of perfect macaroons, baguettes, and yes, images of my son, who, thanks to a sweet face, curly hair, and blue eyes, certainly garnished a lot of “likes”. Hashtags embedded into my photos drew strangers in search of #paris, #perpetualtourist. Social media was my connection to family but in my eagerness to share, I never thought about the potential negative outcomes one might experience through sharing photos of their child.

For those of you who do not dabble in Instagram, users have the option of following people and liking their photos. For those with public accounts, users can look at another user’s feed (pictures) without following the person. If someone “double taps” your picture, they “like” it and you are notified. At the time, I saw no harm in having a public account with a small group of followers (375 people) until someone liked a photo I had posted of my son, someone whose name I did not recognize. After clicking on the person’s name, I was horrified to find multiple images of my son in this young girl’s account.

In 2014, a community of teenagers began “baby role playing” which consisted of taking (or stealing) other people’s images of their children shared on social media sites. After capturing the image on their own phones, the teens then rename the child, create fictional information about the child, and engage in reciprocal conversations with other role players. In the comment sections below the images, users have the opportunity to have conversations with one another, pretending to be the child and/or the parent. While some of these users used the images in seemingly innocent ways, others shared photos of children naked or breastfeeding.

After the images of my son were stolen and used for #adoptionrp, I made my Instagram account private. I also stopped posting photos of my son’s face on all social media platforms. I deleted any pictures on Facebook and asked family members to do the same. Over the past four years, we have collectively abstained from sharing images of our son and now our daughter.

Research suggests that by the age of 2, most children in the United States have an internet presence (BusinessWire, 2010). For some children, like Mila and Emma Stauffer, who have over 3.7 million followers on their mother’s Instagram account, social media has led to profitable income.

For our family, it has led to many awkward requests of, “Can you please take down that photo?” and has fostered an interest in learning about social media, digital footprints, digital citizenship, and media literacy. In this series of blog posts, we will delve into the world of social media and address how parents and professionals can talk to kids about social media.

Read the rest of this series:

Modern Parenting – Part 2: What are Digital Footprints and Where Do They Lead?

Modern Parenting – Part 3: Sarahah, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Oh My! Navigating the Wide World of Apps

 

About the Author:

Dr. Jacki Reinert is a Pediatric Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow who joined NESCA in September 2017. Dr. Reinert assists with neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments in the Newton office and will join the Londonderry office in March 2018. In addition to assisting with neuropsychological evaluations, Dr. Reinert co-facilitates parent-child groups and provides clinical consultation. Before joining NESCA Dr. Reinert worked in a variety of clinical settings, including therapeutic schools, residential treatment programs and in community mental health. She has comprehensive training in psychological assessment, conducting testing with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged adults with complex trauma.
To book a consultation with one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.