Care House Blog
Care House Blog
Posted by: Marena S.
February is Black History month. Each year African Americans come together to celebrate their achievements throughout history and the role they play in the United States. The origins of Black History month began in 1915 after the Thirteenth Amendment was passed and freed African Americans from slavery. A growing awareness of Black identity became prominent after the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington mark the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two life changing events in African American history. People like Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas, Malcom X, Andrew Goodman, and others all risked their lives to fight for racial freedom.
We are all created equal. Those were the words of a wise man named Thomas Jefferson, who had slaves of his own. You may think history is boring, that it’s in the past, and it doesn’t matter but it does matter. Every day we are surrounded by the outcomes that our history has chosen for us. Slavery still exists among us, racism is still spread by hatred and power, and people still chose to look past ideas like white privilege. If we don’t know where we came from how can we begin to understand the perspectives of others and why we chose to act the way we do? Still African Americans are denied equal rights. Still African Americans are subjected to being pulled over more often than white people are. Still African Americans hold a high number when it comes to mass incarceration. When will the discrimination stop?
When visiting the Museum of African American History in Detroit many concepts flew through my head. African Americans were put through things like slavery, lynching, close quarters in ships coming to American, whipping, sexual assault, physical abuse, and a number of others horrible events due to the fact that they were thought to be the “superior” race. White does not mean superior, we are all human and diversity brings culture. Culture brings new ideas and ways of life that we have never heard us. Culture can help us expand our mind and see things from a different perspective. The next time you have judgement on someone else’s culture remember this…. acknowledge other people differences and ask them “Hey why do you do it this way” and you might learn something new.
I would like to end on the note that modern day slavery still exists. Although it may not be as “Black and White” as it used to be, it is still prominent in this country and others. Myself and other staff members at Care House decided to attend a conference about Human Trafficking at Eastern Michigan University to become more educated on the subject. We learned that human trafficking does not just involve sex trafficking but also labor trafficking. It affects everyone and keeping children safe is our number one priority here at Care House. Please, if you are a victim of human trafficking or know someone who is, it is never too late to get help.
Posted by Emilie K.
February 1st, America’s National Freedom Day: a day to celebrate the end of slavery…or so we thought!
152 years ago on February 1st of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment banning slavery in the United States. On this day every year, we rejoice and reflect on America’s freedom. We promote and acknowledge all that our country has worked towards in forming a more perfect union. President Barack Obama selected January as Nation Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, ending with National Freedom Day on the first of February. While we must recognize the growth and progress that our nation has made, we cannot ignore many of those still trapped in slavery today. Before becoming an intern at Care House, I had no idea how prevalent slavery still is in America. I didn’t think slavery was still an issue. Boy, was I wrong!
Brace yourself for some disheartening statistics that you may not see in your everyday life—I know I didn’t! According to UNICEF, human trafficking subjects children, women, and men to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. This horrific practice can include prostitution, pornography, and sex tourism as well as labor for domestic service, factory or construction work, and migrant farming. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, with the highest numbers of reports coming from California, Texas, Florida and New York. In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received 7,572 reports of human trafficking cases. Of those reports, 2,387 (31.5%) involved a minor (under the age of 18) and 5,551 (73.3%) were sex trafficking.
When I was exposed to these statistics and learned of the traumatic experiences of those sold in human trafficking, I wanted to do everything and anything I could to help. But being only one person, how much of an impact could I really have? If you feel the same way I do, you’re not alone. Even by reading this post, you’re making an impact. Being educated and aware of these horrible acts is a great step in the right direction! Now share what you’ve learned and spread awareness that slavery is not completely eliminated. There’s a wide variety of resources on human trafficking and organizations to check out. Below is a short list of just a couple of the many resources you can access:
If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/ to learn more.
Posted by: Evelyn R.
(*In this post, the terms ‘parent’ and ‘primary caregiver’ are used interchangeably)
What is a Healthy Parent-Child Relationship?
Just like any other relationship, a parent-child relationship (PCR)* is impacted by each person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If both individuals have positive thoughts and feelings about one another and their behaviors are mutually respectful, it is likely that the relationship is healthy, functional and satisfying. In PCRs where at least one of these factors is negative or undesirable, there is a chance that the relationship is not stable and one (or both) individuals’ needs are not being met.
In some cases, the parent may not have the skills and/or tools to meet their child’s needs or they may feel overwhelmed and unable to manage their child’s behavior. On the other hand, a child might not feel safe or cared for if their parent does not respond appropriately and/or consistently to their physical or emotional needs. These are both examples of how a PCR may be unhealthy or unsatisfying.
In order for a PCR to be healthy, the child must have a parent or caregiver who is available, warm and responsive, reliable, and able to set appropriate rules/boundaries. The child also needs to feel cared for and safe with their parent. Each of these factors helps the child develop a healthy attachment to their parent. Research has shown that some young children who experience trauma may have fewer and less severe trauma-related symptoms if they have a healthy attachment to their primary caregiver; whereas, traumatized children without a healthy attachment are more likely to experience negative long-term effects of the trauma 4.
Benefits of a Healthy Parent-Child Relationship
The quality of the PCR often provides the foundation for the child’s development, which begins in infancy. In order for a child to develop normally, they need a healthy PCR. Children develop attachments to those who pay attention to them and meet their needs1. Therefore, when a child forms a healthy attachment to their primary caregiver, it suggests that the child’s needs are all being met, which then creates an environment that nurtures the child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Healthy relationships and interpersonal interactions in a person’s life help to regulate chemicals in the brain and brain function which also has a direct impact on child development 6.
In PCRs, the parent becomes a model for the child. The child observes how the primary caregiver responds to them and to other people around them. The child learns to adapt their behavior to suit their environment; therefore, children often repeat their parent’s behaviors, which may then be carried into their adulthood. Children with a healthy PCR learn how to form healthy relationships, to behave appropriately, and to take care of their physical and mental health. They also learn how to ask for support when they need it and they develop skills for coping with challenging situations, which helps build resilience.
Building a Stronger Parent-Child Relationship
There are many different ways that parents can strengthen the relationship with their child. Consistency and mutual respect are key aspects of a healthy PCR. Consistency can be created by developing a daily routine, setting (and following) clear rules and consequences, being available to the child, and regularly modeling healthy behaviors. Mutual respect may stem from maintaining clear limits and boundaries, and creating consistency in the child’s life. Parents can show that they respect their children by encouraging them to try new things, letting them explore and learn from their mistakes, and allowing them to exert independence in an age-appropriate manner 7.
All children can benefit from having someone that listens to them, praises them for their accomplishments, and recognizes their individuality. Kids and teenagers can connect with their parents during 1-on-1 time where they can talk and/or play together. Free play is one way that parents can use 1-on-1 time to bond with their children; free play can be as short as 10-15 minutes per day, and it involves allowing the child to choose the toy/activity while the parent listens and follows their lead. Teens may feel more connected to their parents when they are given time to talk freely about whatever is on their mind, as well as when they feel that their need for space is respected.
Parents can build a stronger relationship by taking short breaks when tired or frustrated, or by engaging in other self-care activities, such as taking a walk, reading a book, or getting a haircut. Parents can also seek out support from family members and friends. It can be difficult for parents to take care of their children if they are not able to take care of themselves first.
Role of the Parent-Child Relationship in Trauma
The quality of the PCR can have a profound impact on how a child experiences and responds to a traumatic experience. Many children with unhealthy PCRs do not feel safe and are unable to connect with or trust others, and they tend to avoid relationships 6. These childrens’ emotional needs are not met, so they learn that comfort in unavailable; therefore, they are less likely than children with healthy relationships to seek comfort after trauma, and as a result, the negative impact of the trauma may be greater and last longer 5.
Children with a healthy parent-child relationship prior to a traumatic experience have had their needs met, so they typically know how to seek comfort and can trust that their needs will continue to be met; therefore, they are more likely to seek comfort after trauma, and the impact of the trauma may be much less severe 5. In other words, the presence of a healthy PCR can help decrease likelihood of long-term effects of trauma 6. Many children with a history of unhealthy attachments still able to learn how to express their feelings, and that it is okay to talk about their experiences which can aid greatly in their recovery process. Kids and teens that receive counseling or other treatment related to the trauma tend to have a quicker and longer-lasting recovery if they have support from their primary caregiver.
Additional Information for Parents:
PDF – Parenting a Child who has Experienced Abuse or Neglect 3: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parenting_CAN.pdf
1Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants and children: Prenatal through middle childhood. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
2Best Start Resource Centre. (2012). Building resilience in young children: Booklet for parents of children from birth to six years. Toronto, ON: Best Start: Ontario’s Maternal, Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre
3Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Parenting a child who has experienced abuse or neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
4Chu, A. T., & Lieberman, A. F. (2010). Clinical implications of traumatic stress from birth to age five. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 6, 469-494. ProQuest. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.
5De Young, A.,C., Kenardy, J. A., & Cobham, V. E. (2011). Trauma in early childhood: A neglected population. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14(3), 231-50. ProQuest. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.
6Gil, E. (Ed.). (2013). Working with children to heal interpersonal trauma: The power of play. New York: The Guilford Press.
7Markham, L. (2016). Building a Great Relationship with Your Child. Retrieved from http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/connection/building-relationship
Posted by: Lindsey S.
Teach your children the anatomically correct terms for their body parts as soon as they start talking. It is important for your children to know the terms for their private parts because if something were to happen to them, they would be able to tell an adult.
Teach your children which areas of their body are private, including the mouth, that no one else should touch. Let them know that their body is theirs and they have a right to tell people not to touch them. If someone tries to touch their private areas, let them know it is okay to yell “NO” or “STOP,” to express they do not want to be touched.
Here is a helpful site with “10 Body Safety Rules” for you and your family to follow
This is another helpful link to body safety and sexual abuse prevention tips
Do some of your own research on body safety and sexual abuse victim warning signs. Contrary to popular belief and the idea of “stranger danger,” most sexual abuse occurs between victim and someone they know and/or trust. Do not leave your child alone with anyone unless you completely trust that person.
Learn warning signs of trauma and abuse. Some warning signs might include; Mood swings, self-harm, change in appetite, development of new fears, etc. Here is a website you can look at for more warning signs of abuse victims.
Encourage your children to be open with you and other trusted adults when it comes to talking about abuse. Let them know they can come to you about things that might happen that make them feel scared or uncomfortable. It is important they know that you will never be angry with them or hold them responsible if someone inappropriately touches their private parts.
Encourage your children to never keep secrets about bad or sad feelings they have. It is common that victims of abuse feel guilty. It is important they know they can come to you with any feelings they have and you will not be angry with them.
Posted by: Evelyn R
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD as it is commonly known, is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after a person experiences or is exposed to a traumatic event. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age, but not everyone that is faced with trauma will develop it; in fact, most people who experience trauma do not exhibit signs of the disorder. It is unclear why some individuals develop PTSD while others do not seem to experience any symptoms. Even though there are several aspects of PTSD that are unpredictable, including who develops which symptoms and why, two things are certain: treatment options are available, and there is hope for recovery.
What is trauma and where does it come from?
Trauma can be defined as “an experience that produces psychological injury or pain,” or that causes mental and/or emotional discomfort.1
Trauma can be experienced several different ways, which include:
Some examples of traumatic events include:
Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress symptoms can appear immediately following a traumatic event or they may not appear until more than 6 months after the event, if at all; however, if someone is going to develop symptoms related to the trauma, it will usually happen within 3 months of when the trauma occurred. In order for someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, their symptoms must have a significantly negative impact on their ability to manage daily life. There are 4 categories of symptoms used to diagnose PTSD:
Some commonly known re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts related to the traumatic event(s). Reminders of the trauma that cause a person to feel emotional distress and/or to experience physical symptoms, such as sweating or a pounding heart, are other possible symptoms.3
Avoidance symptoms consist of avoiding thoughts and feelings related to the trauma, and/or avoiding physical reminders of the trauma including people, places, activities, or objects. There are various ways that an individual may exhibit avoidance; some people might refuse to mention or talk about the trauma, some might become more withdrawn from friends and family members, and some people may pretend that the trauma never happened.3
Arousal/Reactivity symptoms pertain to how alert and responsive a person is to what is happening in their mind and body, as well as to what is going on around them. Increased irritability or angry outbursts following a traumatic event are common symptoms in this category. Negative changes in sleep patterns or ability to concentrate are also possible, as well as startling more easily, feeling “on edge” or constantly looking for signs of trouble, and engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior.4
Mood and cognitive symptoms have a negative impact on the individual’s emotions and thoughts. After a traumatic experience, some people have a hard time remembering parts of what happened. Many people who develop PTSD feel extremely guilty or shameful about the event, even if it was out of their control, and many people also report having inaccurate thoughts about themselves (i.e. “I am a bad person”) or about the world (i.e. “No one is trustworthy”). Additionally, some individuals begin experiencing negative emotions more frequently, and it may become increasingly difficult for them to feel positive emotions. Trauma survivors sometimes lose interest in activities that are usually enjoyable, and they may find themselves feeling more distant or detached from the people closest to them.4
Children with PTSD
Children diagnosed with PTSD experience many of the same symptoms as adults but, due to their age and developmental level, their symptoms are often expressed differently. Children may repeatedly reenact the traumatic event in their play, or they may begin to show less interest in their usual activities and spend less time engaged in play. Some children may become insistent on staying by their parent or caregiver’s side, and show distress when faced with separation from that person. Some children with PTSD may revert to behavior from an earlier stage of development, such as wetting the bed or forgetting how to speak. Other children may start acting out more with disruptive or destructive behaviors along with disrespect for the people around them.2
PTSD and Other Symptoms
It is not uncommon for individuals with PTSD to have other mental or physical health concerns. Some people who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder may have additional anxiety- or depression-related symptoms. There are some trauma survivors who experience challenges in maintaining relationships with friends or family, and some people may use drugs and/or alcohol to cope with the effects of trauma. Some individuals report having persistent physical symptoms stemming from the trauma such as headaches, stomachaches, or back pain. Thoughts of suicide are another potential symptom that may arise after experiencing trauma. Suicidal ideation should always be taken seriously; if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-237-TALK (8255).3
Some trauma survivors may experience only 1 or 2 symptoms of post-traumatic stress, while others report having multiple symptoms; symptoms may persist for several months or they may last only days or weeks. There are also some people who may not develop any symptoms. Everyone reacts differently to traumatic experiences, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to respond. Regardless of how you or a family member or friend might experience trauma-related symptoms, it is normal to be faced with challenges in coping and recovering from the trauma.
Researchers have yet to determine why some people develop PTSD while others do not. Despite this lack of understanding, some factors that may influence whether a person will present with trauma-related symptoms have been identified. Risk factors may increase a person’s chance of developing PTSD, but the presence of any risk factors does not mean that they will develop disorder. Resilience factors are believed to help protect a person from the negative effects of trauma, but their presence does not mean that the individual is immune from post-traumatic disorder.2
Some risk factors include: (1) childhood trauma, (2) having little/no support after the traumatic event, (3) seeing someone get hurt or die, and (4) history of mental illness.2
Some resilience factors include: (1) support from friends/family, (2) utilizing positive coping skills, (3) presence of self-esteem, and (4) having hope for the future.2
Treatment Options & Self-Care
Not everyone with trauma-related symptoms will need treatment to achieve recovery, but many do need that extra support. Treatment options for PTSD include medication, talk therapy (counseling), and alternative therapies. Some trauma survivors choose to ask their doctor for a prescription to help manage their symptoms. In some cases, a person may choose to take a medication, such as an antidepressant, for an extended period so that they can function in their day-to-day life. Other individuals may choose to take a medication just for the duration of talk therapy, because the medicine can help reduce their symptoms allowing them to place more focus on learning new skills and getting as much out of the counseling experience as possible.1,2
There are some individuals who to attend talk therapy sessions as their sole form of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly used types of talk therapy, and its purpose is to help individuals process the thoughts and feelings related to the trauma in a way that will allow them to create a more positive perception of the traumatic event(s). Talk therapy can be utilized in individual and groups sessions, and it usually lasts 6-12 weeks, but may extend beyond that depending on the person’s needs. Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and animal-assisted therapy, are also available, but information regarding the effectiveness of these less conventional therapies is still quite limited.1,2
Taking care of oneself is always important, but it becomes especially critical when faced with a traumatic experience. Self-care involves setting aside time for relaxing and using healthy coping skills to manage stress. Self-care is different for everyone, but one key aspect of it is to be patient with oneself while recovering from trauma. Self-care activities may include, but are not limited to writing in a journal, listening to music, engaging in physical activity, making time to get enough sleep, eating well, and attending a PTSD support group.1,2
National Institute of Mental Health - About PTSD https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
Help Guide - About PTSD, Treatment, & Finding Therapy
KidsHealth - PTSD - For Parents
TeensHealth - PTSD - For Teens
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
1 "The Definition of Trauma." Dictionary.com. Random House, Inc., 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.
2 "NIMH » Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.
3"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." Mental Health America. Mental Health America, 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.
4"What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?" What Is PTSD? American Psychiatric Association, 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.
1. Plan a route in advance.
(Trick or treating hours will be from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm in Macomb County)
To make Halloween Safety a priority, map out a well-lit route and have an emergency plan in place. In the event that a child gets split up from the group or lost, he or she will be more likely to know how to find the way back. Also, have a meeting spot along the route in case this happens. Make sure your child is always with an adult and knows the neighborhood. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight!
2. Trick-or-treat at houses with their lights on.
Children will be going door-to-door and interacting with neighbors they are unfamiliar with (its tradition!), but teach your child to first be cautious and to never enter a stranger’s home or car. If a house doesn’t have its porch light on, don’t waste your time. The kids will have more time to get candy from homes displaying the proper “We have candy!” signals, and you will feel better knowing you don’t have to take that risk.
Not all states have specific laws regulating sex offenders on Halloween. In the link posted below you can learn about different actions law enforcement have taken against sex offenders interacting with children on Halloween. "Operation Boo," "Halloween: Zero Tolerance," and "No Candy" are among some of the laws on the list.
Regardless, law enforcement is extra present on Halloween night, and are aware of the unique hazards. Many departments in Macomb County establish a Halloween task force and recruit volunteers to provide extra eyes and ears to ensure trick or treating goes safely and smoothly.
3. Check your child’s candy.
When sorting through candy at the end of the night, be sure to throw away any candy that is opened or not in its original wrapper. Every Halloween my siblings and I would dump our candy bags on the kitchen floor and sort, trade, and admire all of the candy we were going to eat. This was a perfect opportunity for my parents to see exactly what we were given, and an easy chance to spot unwrapped candy or anything out of place that should be thrown away. Although it is unlikely that anything will be tampered with, this really is important because it is better to be safe rather than sorry.
Remember to enjoy all of the fun that today brings! Being prepared and aware will make it that much better, and I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful day with family and friends!
Posted by Brittany M
Trauma can take many forms. There are many different causes of trauma and lots of different signs. Knowing the signs is especially important because there can be so much variation. The signs a person expresses can differ depending on their age, what they’ve experienced, and how they’re processing what has happened. By reviewing the ways that trauma symptoms may appear, we can better recognize them to help the people we serve.
According to the National Child Trauma Stress Network, signs of trauma can vary based on the child’s age. Signs of trauma can include:
1. In Children 1-5 years old
Very young children may have very loud or strong expressions of trauma, such as being aggressive, excessive screaming, crying, or seeking attention through positive or negative behavior. Other signs may be quieter but still troubling, like weight loss or loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping or nightmares, generalized fear, or bedwetting.
2. In Children 6-11 years old
School-aged children may have some of the same signs as very young children, such as bedwetting, having nightmares, and showing aggressive or anxious behavior. These older children may also:
3. In Teens and Young adults
Teenagers and young adults may have some of these signs:
So how can you help your child?
Be patient with your child’s healing process and recognize that it may take a long time. Tell your child that he or she is not to blame and explain that they are safe. Learn more about trauma symptoms and reflect on how your own past traumatic experiences may be affecting you. Recognize that trauma affects everyone in the family in some way and take steps to manage the stress. Find an appropriate mental health professional for your child and for any other family members if needed, including yourself. Find support where possible, including friends, family members, and community resources.
Click here for links to educational information and professional help:
To learn more, you can visit this page from the National Child Trauma Stress Network: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/parents-caregivers
The website provides lots of information and resources for professionals, educators, and families.
Posted by Lauren B
Unfortunately, in today’s society a lot of adults and kids are left confused about the definition and nature of what sexual abuse actually is. There have been a multitude of news stories in the past several months leaving people wondering: What is it? Is it just sexual intercourse? Does it include things leading up to intercourse? What if the victim is intoxicated? Does it go as far to include sexual talk and/or photographs?
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) provides this definition for child sexual abuse:
“Child sexual abuse happens when a child or young person is forced, or entice to take part in sexual activities. No matter the level of violence, and regardless of the child’s awareness of agreement to what happening, it is sexual abuse.”
This definition covers a number of things including, but not limited to:
At Care House, we see kids every day who have experienced sexual abuse in person or online, but don’t always recognize it as such. They will make comments like “I was almost sexually abused” or at times, not even acknowledge it was anything close to what they perceive as abuse. The reason for this is sexual abuse can be very confusing, especially for kids. When asked to describe abuse, a lot of people picture violent physical abuse, including punching and hitting, leading to a lot of hurt with bruises and broken limbs to prove it. Sexual abuse can present itself in this way, but doesn’t typically fit that description. A lot of time the abuser is someone they love or trust, who they would never anticipate to betray them. It’s a gradual process that often begins with the abuser gaining the child’s trust by befriending them, giving gifts, showing them special attention, etc. and ends in the taking advantage of the child, leaving them broken and confused.
As parents, it’s important to know and understand what sexual abuse is and create an open dialogue with your children about healthy relationships and body safety. They need to know that if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a situation to immediately tell a trusted adult who can help. Next week, we will be posting about the common symptoms of trauma and what signs to look for in your child.
In the meantime, check out NSPCC's website and PDF guide for more information on identifying and preventing child sexual abuse.
Posted by Lauren B on October 11, 2016
If you’ve watched the news recently or sat in a large public area for any amount of time, there’s no doubt you’ve noticed nearly every kid wandering around with their nose in their phones talking about catching Weedles, Squirtles, Pidgeys, and a slew of other creatures that you can’t hear or see in real life. For those that don’t know, Pokemon Go is a new app created by Nintendo that was released earlier this July and has taken this nation by storm. It allows "gamers" to catch virtual characters on their cell phone, using real-life maps and locations. I gave it a try the first week and wandered around with the other hopeful Pokemon trainers attempting to catch every Drowzee and Evee I passed, with quite the beginner’s luck! Being a 90’s kid, I have to admit it was a lot of fun running around, catching the Pokemon I had always dreamed of capturing as a kid; that along with the fact it created a talking point at work and nearly everywhere else I went. There’s been a big debate of whether this app has been healthy for society because it brings families and friends together and encourages us to get active, or if it’s detrimental to our society as we are getting further engulfed in a virtual world, creating more isolation than community.
Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, the more immediate concern is if and how these young and hopeful Pokemon trainers are being monitored while playing the game. I didn’t think much of it until I found my first “Lure Module” which is basically where someone creates a hotspot that attracts all the Pokemon…and naturally all the Pokemon trainers, young and old. As I sat there joking and laughing, I noticed kids walking around with no regard to the world around them as they were attempting to catch each new Pokemon that popped up on their phone screen. The first question I asked myself was, “Where are their parents?” and then thought to myself “We’re going to see one of these kids at Care House”
At Care House we see kids daily who have been victims of abuse, physical and sexual, and it is not uncommon for us to hear the situation where a kid or teenager was innocently using a social media app, was engaged in a conversation that seemed innocent enough, and the situation spirals downhill from there. With this new phenomenon, or as I call it, epidemic spreading, parents need to be informed on how to keep their kids safe on the internet with all the new social media apps, including Pokemon Go. This app in particular is not unsafe in and of itself, but it creates more opportunities for children to be alone, unsupervised and vulnerable to predators and perpetrators. There have already been several articles put out by a number of law enforcement agencies and news stations voicing their concerns about predators using these Pokestops to target victims and lure them to an unsuspecting place.
In New York a study was conducted that found the following:
I'm not saying this to scare you, but rather to tell you, as parents, it’s important to monitor your kids' online activity and supervise their social media interactions.
Here are three tips to help keep your kids safe on social media:
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Take the time to learn and know about the apps and "games" your kids are using on their phones and tablets. The list of social media apps is ever increasing and at times can be hard to keep up with, but do the research to familiarize yourself with how these apps work, along with the risks that come with each. Some of the common ones we see at Care House are:
2. TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In working with kids, it is apparent that most of them have little to no idea how dangerous social media can be. They don't comprehend how available their personal information is and how permanent it can become. They are unaware that other people can see their online activity and how this can impact their future. As parents, it's helpful to discuss real-life situations and consequences that have happened as a result of kids being unmonitored and/or not safety-conscious on the web. These types of stories can often be found on the news and can become a great opportunity for parents to spark a conversation with their kids.
It's also important to set rules and guidelines for your child on social media, whether this be limiting the amount of time they are on the computer or, depending on age, not allowing kids to have their cell phone, tablets, or computers in their room. These rules should be consistent, but not too rigid, still allowing kids to feel in control of making good decisions they can be proud to share with you.
3. TRUST, BUT VERIFY
Talking to most parents a common response is "Yeah, but my kid would never do that." or "That would never happen to my kid." Both of which may be very true statements, but how do you really know what is going on if you're not monitoring your child on the internet or on their cell phone? It's all too often that parents underestimate their child's curiosity and/or naivety because "they're a good kid."
This isn't to say parents should doubt or question everything their child does or tells them, or to become a hover-parent, monitoring every second of their child's internet or cell phone usage. Rather this is to encourage parents to have open eyes and open minds, keep lines of communication open between them and their child, and to be the parent in the relationship, protecting their child from potential harm.