Teens

Guest Post: Teens on Social Media

Today, we have a guest post from an awesome teen girl, Elizabeth, from Princeton, New Jersey!

Social media, which has become ubiquitous in today's society, feels to me both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, these networking sites, particularly Snapchat and Instagram, facilitate connections. I love that I can keep in contact with friends who have gone to college or who have moved away. Furthermore, I am addicted to the "Snapchat Discover" page- it's how I get all of my news! I think what's great about receiving information through this channel is that it comes in small doses; in the middle of a busy day, I rarely have ample time to read a long article, but the engaging, interactive nature of the Discover displays permit me, and many of my friends, to remain informed about topics that pique our interests.

My personal favorites are the Food Network, Cosmopolitan, and Refinery 29 stories.

Carly, a close friend and high school junior, summarizes the benefits of social media: "Social media allows me to stay in touch with family and friends and stay in touch with the world at large. Without it I do not believe I would be nearly as up-to-date on national and global issues as I am with it." In stark contrast, constantly being exposed to the "perfect" lives presented by celebrities and peers can not only lead to feelings of inadequacy, but can also be overwhelming. Among my friends, I am known as the girl who will delete the Snapchat app at least twice a month, because "I'm just so tired of it." (Am I the only one who finds maintaining streaks completely exhausting?!)

Gwen, a high school sophomore, concurs that social media can have detrimental effects, citing stunted social and communicative skills. Overall, sites such as Instagram play a critical role in the social hierarchy of our generation. "It's how I find everything out, which is both good and bad," says Bridget, also a high school junior. All of this is not to say that social media is some sort of evil construct designed to hone in on our insecurities and prey on our jealous instincts. However, it is to say that once in a while, it's nice to take a break. You can start by deleting Snapchat from your phone, like me, or take the full plunge and completely power down for a day. At first, it's definitely scary to be so disconnected, but it's so worth it. 

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for sharing your thoughts on social media. We hope to have you back on the blog soon!

Nicki Minaj Gives Back in Big Way!

With the rising costs of college, paying tuition, as well as all the other costs that come with it, college has become a huge burden for many teens.  However, a few lucky students just got super lucky with the help of rapper Nicki Minaj when she offered to pay some of their bills! A user on Twitter named CJ reached out to Minaj the other day asking for assistance after she tweeted about an unrelated contest. She told him as long as he proved that he got straight A's from school that she would help him out! Nicki also helped out 30 others. It's so great to see celebrities giving to those who really need the help. College is not always attainable for all because of the high costs. We love hearing these kinds of stories! It's just a reminder to always pay it forward when you can. Even if it's not money related, a simple smile on the street to a stranger can go a long way. It also speaks volumes on how stressed teenagers how to around paying for college and how difficult it can be to reach out. A simple reach out helped out 30 students. Social media has great advantages! So the next time you're thinking about holding off on contacting some via social media, don't think twice. You never know what the outcome may be!

Substance Use

Fair warning, this is a raw blog on my part. I hesitated to write this blog but I figured I need to put out there a very silent and deadly killer and its effect.

Background: 2 weeks ago, I lost a client to a possible overdose. I had worked with him over three years and he had been in recovery during this time  I worked with him through  some relapses. He had worked hard to change his life after many  traumatic and devastating losses in his life. He had turned to opiates and opioids at times, to the point he had become addicted before the age of 18. Sure, he had had injuries, but the doctors over prescribed, as he was very charming and convincing with his doctors.

His father, concerned, had contacted my client’s doctor to let him know of his concerns in regards to his prescriptions. The doctor, at the time, citing the confidentiality of all clients over 18, stated he could not talk to his dad. His dad, devastated, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining his concerns and his fear his son would die from opioid issues. The doctor, of course, never acknowledged receipt of the letter or anything to make the father feel recognized.

Fast forward to today: I was at a memorial service for my client with many other of his friends who were distraught. His father, of course, was devastated. The girlfriend, two weeks later, still in shock. Lots of memories were shared of how great he was and how his smile, intelligence, and humor, made everyone feel better for the moment. I was equally devastated, despite the professional distance. Why? I'm a human being who has feelings.

So the effect of substance use should be apparent based on this story but let me make sure I list them:

Family

Partner

Friends

Neighbors

Acquaintances

Colleagues

Professionals

Community

 

Yes community. We should all feel a sense of loss. It needs to be said that we are fighting a war against substance use, a war we are losing because of apathy: not my family, didn't know him, I don't know for a fact what he died from, he should have done something about it. I also see an increase willingness to experiment from younger teens. Why?

 

Apathy. We need to talk about substance use to our teens and the risks associated it. Not minimize it or ignore it. Parents know it's happening but don't want to set limits. So talk about it instead of limits. Open conversations, let others know of these struggles. It is the silence that makes our biggest accidental killer, substance misuse and abuse, the monster that no one talks about.


After all, think about the excuses to not talk about substance use. Would you do that about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes?

We're LIVE on GoFundMe!

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! The next steps for M.I.N.T. are to guarantee $4,000 so that we can bring M.I.N.T. to California + Austin schools, as well as apply for official nonprofit status. Anything that can be done will tremendously help us take our project to next level.

We've also offered some prizes to those of you that get your friends to give us a donation, too! Like a shopping trip with Alexa, a personalized beauty bag from Libby, and a personal coaching session with Steve. Getting AND giving back has never been easier!

Please share this link everywhere!

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! 

We're officially LIVE on GoFundMe! 

Watch our video too see more from Steve and Alexa, our founders, too!

Thank you all SO much for the help and support. We can't wait to continue this journey.

Sincerest regards,

The M.I.N.T. team

Social Media and the Brain

An interesting article we recently read on CNN...

Whether you're on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, What's App or Twitter, the way you communicate with friends today is changing.

Keeping in touch is no longer about face to face, but instead screen to screen, highlighted by the fact that more than 1 billion people are using Facebook every day.

Social media has become second nature -- but what impact is this having on our brain?

    Reward circuitry

    In a recent study, researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center used an fMRI scanner to image the brains of 32 teenagers as they used a bespoke social media app resembling Instagram. By watching the activity inside different regions of the brain as the teens used the app, the team found certain regions became activated by "likes", with the brain's reward center becoming especially active.

     

    Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time

    "When teens learn that their own pictures have supposedly received a lot of likes, they show significantly greater activation in parts of the brain's reward circuitry," says lead author Lauren Sherman. "This is the same group of regions responding when we see pictures of a person we love or when we win money."

    The teenagers were shown more than 140 images where 'likes' were believed to from their peers, but were in fact assigned by the research team.

    Scans revealed that the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain's reward circuitry, was especially active when teens saw a large number of likes on their own photos, which could inspire them to use social media more often.

    Peer influence

    As part of the experiment, participants were also shown a range of "neutral" photos showing things like food and friends, and "risky" photos depicting cigarettes and alcohol. But the type of image had no impact on the number of "likes" given by the teens. they were instead more likely to 'like' the more popular photos, regardless of what they showed. This could lead to both a positive and negative influence from peers online.

    Sherman believes these results could have important implications among this age group.

    "Reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive in adolescence," says Sherman, "It could be explaining, at least in part, why teens are such avid social media users."

    Read: What parents need to know when kids are on social media

    Social learning

    Adolescence is a period that is very important for social learning, which could explain why teens are often more tuned in to what's going on in their respective cultures. With the rise of social media, Sherman thinks we may even be learning to read likes and shares instead of facial expressions.

    "Before, if you were having a face to face interaction everything is qualitative. You use someone's gestures or facial expressions, that sort of thing, to see how effective your message is," she says.

    "Now if you go online, one of the ways that you gauge the effectiveness of your message is in the number of likes, favorites or retweets, and this is something that's really different and unique about online interaction."

     

    This is your brain on LSD, literally

    However, the study may not be applicable to everyone, according to Dr. Iroise Dumontheil, at Birkbeck University.

    "[The study] only has adolescents and so they can't really claim anything specific about whether it's adolescents who react to this differently compared to adults."

    Read: Teens spend nine hours a day using media, report says

    Changing the brain

    Dumontheil does, however, concur that social media is affecting our brain, particularly its plasticity, which is the way the brain grows and changes after experiencing different things.

    "Whenever you learn something new or you experience something, it's encoded in your brain, and it's encoded by subtle changes in the strength of connections between neurons," says Dumontheil.

    For example, one study showed that the white matter in an adults' brains changed as they learned how to juggle over a period of several months. "They found that if you scan [the brains of] adults before they learn how to juggle, and then three months later, you can see changes in the brain structure," says Dumontheil.

    Time spent on social media could, therefore, also cause the brain to change and grow.

    "We might be a bit less good at reading subtle expressions on faces that are moving, but we might be much quicker at monitoring what's going on in a whole group of our friends," says Dumontheil.

    So are these new skills a good or a bad thing? Neither, she says. "It's just a way we have of adapting to our environment."

    Meet Our Team: Cassell Ferere

    As M.I.N.T expands, it's quite important for us to find people who believe in our message. One person we met who made in impact almost immediately on us was Cassell. A Brooklyn photographer with a unique perspective and view on the industry, Cassell was a hit at our last talk in Brooklyn, NY. Welcome to the fam! Read his interview answers below. 

    1. What inspired you to be a part of M.I.N.T?

    I decided to be part of MINT because the message is something I stand firm in - not letting social media control aspects of my life mentally.

    2. Why are you interested in social media and it's effect on mental health?

    I'm interested because I have seen how social media has been changing the social dynamic for the masses - connecting everyone while isolating everyone, simultaneously. 

    3. Why is this so important to you?  

    I grew up on the cusp of the dotcom, digital, and social media era. And to witness it's effects as someone who was, at first, reluctant, has altered my view of the world as fragile.

    4. How is M.I.N.T different from other anti-bullying campaigns that are out there? 

    The focus on the mental effects of social media as well as the the resolves that can be met through the same channels that consume us.

    5. How does it feel to get out there and spread your message to teens across the country?

     

    I feel like I can be the medium between finding the real world and navigating the social media world for teens because of my position and will power to not be consumed by social media, but rather, using it to my advantage.

    7. Who inspires you as you continue to build MINT? 

    I think I'm most inspired by people and the life they live. It's evident to see how someone is living through social media but it's also evident that none can entirely live their live on social media. Those that try to are at the most risk of getting lost in the digital world. They forget the charm found in real world encounters. 

    8. What is the best advice that you received that has really helped you?

    "Sticks and stones may break my bones..." I like this phrase because it reminds me of how strong I can be when someone is trying to put me down.

    9. What are your goals for this year?

    I would like to become more open to the idea of being a voice for the people. Making my brand something people can relate to.

     

    10. Where do you hope to see M.I.N.T in 5 years from now?

    I see MINT having a dynamic effect on the youth culture, influencing the younger generation to be more adept with the realities of social media and its effects.

    Depression & Social Media

    Have you just read someone else’s status, seen someone’s tweet, or someone’s picture and got a little down? Are you feeling upset about the recent post of a friend or family member? Are you getting down or having trouble sleeping because of your social media use?

    One of the things that can be a side effect of the use of social media is the effects it may have on our mental health. One of the most common feelings that we can see is the fact that we get down when we see someone else’s post where they appear to have fun or other stuff that makes you feel “less than” that other person. It is a very common phenomenon but sometimes, we see so many things that do that to us that it affects us in a deeper way.

    We start feeling down about ourselves, which effects our self-esteem. We start thinking some negative thoughts about ourselves as we continue to compare our lives to what we are seeing on our social media and how it appears boring and unexceptional. We start isolating and start staying in bed, eating less (or more, depending on the person), and even start thinking if our lives are worth living? It is more common than you think.

    It is estimated that 20% of teenagers will develop depressive symptoms that meets criteria for the diagnosis. While this stat may seem low to some (1 out of 5), this has to do with meeting the clinical definition. It is common for many teens to have some of these symptoms but it cannot be underemphasized how often it is related to the social media bombardment that they receive. But let’s also be realistic about it.

    Previous generations were more isolated (no Internet) and had these symptoms in their lives also. They could, however, leave their social problems at school and go home and not hear about it.  With the advent of mobile phones, teens today cannot “Get away” from it as easily. It is important, however, to limit some social media use, not because it is bad, but what it does to their thoughts.

    Please also remember that a person takes on average 5 selfies before posting the “right” one (6 for girls, 4 for boys). The post you see is a snapshot of a moment and not the entire time of the event. Most posts are meant to raise the self-esteem of the person posting, not to put yours down. Most posts put the best foot forward and this may be the best they feel all day. And finally, life is lived face to face not on social media. Try those uplifting thoughts when you see something that brings you down.

    Guest Post: The Unexpected Parent Resource

    M.I.N.T is expanding! Looking to guest post for us or join our team? Email us at fashionlane@alifeinthefashionlane.com.

    Today, we have guest blogger Allison Koenig-Ford joining us. She's an English teacher in Florida, and an advocate for teens + mental health. She's an inspiration to all.

    Most people will tell you that after having a child, you will look at the world in a different way. I had always heard this and wondered if it was true, or just something people said like, “Middle school is tough, but just wait until you get to High School.” And then, “High School is tough, but just wait until you get to college…”

    Why do people tell us these things? I had always sort of resented it when people tried to warn me into being afraid. As a high school teacher, I tried my best to explain, rather than warn.

    I did have a child—a girl to be exact—and my perspective did change, quite a bit. What began to blossom after giving birth, was another birth. A powerful perspective…one that no one had ever warned me about.

    I began to look at my students with a new lens—focused and looking for answers.

    I thought about the expectations placed upon them, I watched as they struggled to find their way, and find their voice. I observed them when inspired and proud, as they shared with the class, a thought, an insight.

    With each snap-shot I thought about my daughter, Kennedy. I saw her in them. I was overwhelmed with what she might do in this world; the courage she might project. And on the opposite end of that spectrum, I feared for the labels which would undoubtedly stick themselves to her. So many children I meet have already allowed the label to introduce them, their ability, and their possibilities.

    I began to see many adults who were once children, still wearing these things. I am this or that. I have always been that way. I have to do it that way, because it’s what I grew up with. No matter if it gets in the way of being fulfilled, I must wear our labels, I must repeat cycles, because that’s just the way it is.

    Layers of insight were peeling back.

    I started looking at myself, noticing many things I had bought into once upon a time. And while this awareness was painful, it was also liberating.  The more I saw, the more I wanted to know. I wanted to know about the process of how we evolve, what that is like for this current generation, and what kind of power I hold against this machine. I got curious, challenged my own dogma, put on my own “thinking cap.”

    The product?

    I decided to write a book, to become a speaker, and to show up on another level.

    I asked over 500 teen girls to teach me. To school me on how to be a good parent, how to show up for my daughter with love, and on what is really happening within their hallways. We talked communication, honor, expectations, social media, body AND mind image, and so much more.

    This was the crash course I needed. It was touching, invigorating, and oh so eye-opening. They taught me a lot! But what I observed on my own was unmatched by any lesson I had ever learned as an Educator.

    I witnessed their confusion. How they were struggling with processing emotions, how they had bought into labels themselves, and how they needed great assistance in getting out of that whole mess. It was clear to me that they could identify a friction, but that they did not always have the tools to articulate and breakdown why it had happened, or how they might heal it.

    The good news?

    That’s what I love to do! Break something down, find the source, and come up with a solution.

     Teachers know how to do this, and they do it well.  We are always looking for that angle, that phrase, or that metaphor that does the trick. We are proactive thinkers. We are always trying to get ahead of any issues that many arise with our kids…and from their parents J

    Why are we so good?

    We have been burned. Our lessons have fallen flat. And we make so many mistakes in front of a very expectant audience, each day. It’s humbling. It can make you into an incredible study, if you let it.

    So here’s what they taught me about parenting—the Cliff’s Notes—as we all use them from time to time:

    If you thought college was rough, just wait until you become a Real Parent.

    *And I will NOT leave you with blank a phrase to scare you, as that is not enough, and never was.

    Real Parent World…

    Where you will need to find great patience and invest in the work. You will need to watch your ego in order to gain connection, and you will need to do your own work internally—for you can never expect anyone to do what you will not—unless you wish to foster resentment.

    You will have to prepare them for far more than Algebra and understanding Lord of the Flies. They need to learn to transcend that label, to honor themselves, to back away when that is threatened, and to get outside of a judgement. Invest in teaching them self-reliance, as we know statistically they will be outside of our company more than they will be in it, God willing.

    We must rise to the grand occasion—the great exchange. We have to teach and learn through it all--with them, and for them.

    They need us. They need us showing up and holding this type of space, so that they might hold it as well.

    Thank you Allison for the lovely post! Check out her blog here!

    M.I.N.T Takes Brooklyn

    Yesterday, our team took on Charles O. Dewey Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. It was a fun and interactive talk. We brought on a new panelist which added a new level of content to our talk. Meet Cassell, a Brooklyn based photographer who is an awesome and genuine person. A big part of hiring folks for this line of work is seeing the traits immediately of someone who is going to change the world. They have to be very good with kids, and not get intimidated standing up in front of a group of faculty + teens in a massive auditorium. You'd be surprised at how intimidating that can be!

    For this talk, we focused on trolling, body image and following your dreams. Trolling is quite interesting, and is becoming a huge phenomenon in the teen space. If you've never heard of trolling, the definition of trolling can be found here.

    We find at each school talk that many people hide behind their phone for different reasons. They may be scared to accept who they are, or may be insecure, and find the need to put other people down. People, especially kids, don't realize the harm that comes in the present and future from putting people down on the internet. The next time you feel poorly about yourself, or like you need someone to lift you up, simply text your friend, or start a thread on Reddit. You'll be so much happier talking to someone in person than you will be putting someone else down. 

    We promise!