Vernon Coalition discusses youth and social media

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  • From left, Lindsay McAloney, Rebecca Dorney, Annie Colonna, and Conor Brennan attend the evening Social Media and Youth Vernon Coalition meeting.

  • PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKILindsay McAloney describes the "Pledge to Pause Before you Post" initiative at the Vernon Coalition meeting.

VERNON — The Vernon Coalition discussed Social Media and Youth — both negative and positive aspects, Jan. 10, at their monthly meeting.

Vernon Coalition Coordinator Rebecca Dorney explained the world population is 7.6 billion, with 3.5 billion internet users, 3 billion active social media users, and one in three Internet users under 18 years-of-age.

According to an article she reviewed, “Five Things to Know about Kids & Their Screen Time,” studies suggest the following five points could lead to an addiction of screen media — for both adults and children:

Is it hard for my child to stop using ______?

When my child has a bad day, does it make my child feel better when using ______?

My child's ___________causes problems for the family.

The amount of time my child wants to use __________keeps increasing.

My child sneaks using ______.

Dorney also discussed the CDC study of the rise of mental health issues. She said, between 2010-15, there has been a 33 percent increase in teens experiencing depression; 23 percent rise in teen suicide attempts; and 31 percent surge in teens who died by suicide in five years. Suicide, she added, is now the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of ten to 24.

She continued, research is showing a correlation between increased smartphone use and depression — as teens spent more time online, they were more likely to display at least one suicide risk factor. It is not only about the time, Dorney added, but also the content — much good exists on social media and the internet.

Dorney said, several key elements of social media are: 1. Cyber-bullying; 2. the perception of picture-perfect lives; 3. social isolation (major risk factor for suicide/depression) — kids cannot talk to each other without a cell phone; and 4. sleep deficit.

She also discussed the recent CDC: “Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices: 2017, with evidence based solutions, and what communities can do to help defeat suicide through the Strategic Prevention Model.

Already, she continued, the Vernon Coalition uses the Strategic Prevention Framework, with seven evidence-based strategies which help community level change for any topic.

The coalition creates protective environments, Dorney said, through community based policies to reduce excessive alcohol use, through promoting: connectedness, peer norm programs, asset development, community engagement activities, coping and problem solving skills, family relationship programs, parenting skills, plus identifying and supporting people at risk,

Another new initiative, Dorney said, which the Vernon Coalition is writing into their 2018-19 action plan is: “Pledge to Pause before you Post.”

VTHS Theater Director Lindsay McAloney explained, the positive spin of social media is people love to share something. The plan currently, she continued, is to allow kids at athletic, academic, and community events to choose from different colored paints and make a hand print on a big banner, signing their name below, taking a picture of themselves holding the wet hand, and posting, “I've taken the pledge to pause before posting.”

She reviewed other ideas: developing a Facebook Page — following the journey of growth and including adults as positive role models for their kids — where elementary students bring hands home for parents to take the pledge, post, and return for each school's ever increasing banner.

In addition, McAloney said other brainstorm ideas might be: wrapping town hall with “Pledge to pause before posting banners,” skiing down a Mountain Creek slope with banners of people who have joined the pledge, “That we could fill a ski mountain with the people of Vernon pledging to pause,” hang a banner over the Mountain Creek overpass numbering Vernon Township residents who pledged to pause and be a town of kindness, businesses posting giant colored hands in windows, possibly donating paint, with people pledging not to knock businesses before first calling, along with police and fire involvement.

McAloney emphasized, “We don't have the right to go bashing. Greatness can come out of a good thing, and we need to harness that.”

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