Recent surveys show that 9 out of 10 American teenagers have a smartphone and many spend hours per day using it to watch videos, play games, and communicate via social media. As the use of smartphones and social media has become increasingly more common among teens, the impact of technology has also become an increasing concern among parents and those who work with youths. Perhaps this is even more true given the global pandemic, as the closures of schools as well as social distancing measures have led to limited access to in-person social opportunities.
The results of a New York Times survey of 7,700 high school students was released earlier this year, confirming what most professionals working with at-risk adolescents already knew: School and other community programs provide a feeling of connectedness and a buffer to what is happening at home for these teens. The pandemic removed these supports from teens with problem homes, causing them to feel less safe. In this article, Dawn Pflugradt and David Prescott look at the ongoing consequences of the pandemic, and what professionals can do to help alleviate these effects and improve outcomes.
In this most recent and very timely article, Alex Rodrigues addresses how professionals can respond to adolescents exposed to online sexual behaviors using the TEAMS approach. TEAMS is an acronym that spells out the steps that can help professionals prevent over- as well as under-reacting to these often complicated behaviors. Rodrigues also offers helpful resources for professionals seeking to learn more.
David Prescott explores both the uncertainty of the present times and what professionals can do for themselves and others. Even as the pandemic wanes in influence, answers are in short supply when it comes to at-risk children and teens. To this end, Prescott offer four areas where professionals can place their focus as we all move forward towards whatever the new normal might be.
In this issue, as part of her series on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), feature editor Connie DelGiudice brings us a touching and timely video documentary about children with incarcerated parents.
Apryl Alexander explains that for too long racial trauma has been absent from our conceptualizations of trauma, not just at the individual level but also as multigenerational and historical, rippling down across generations and through time. It is time for helping professionals who work with young people to acknowledge racial stress as the existential context of the lives of young people of color in this country.
Janet DiGiorgio-Miller offers examples of how she uses mindfulness-based techniques in her practice to address anxiety in children and adolescents, with the goal of building strengths that help young people manage anxiety and find ways to effectively cope with stress.
Russ Pratt points to an increase in the use of pornography by young people but reminds us of the importance of context in understanding and responding to this concern. Those contexts being, in part, the pandemic, providing everyone with far more “down” time than is usually the case, but in the case of young people, we must consider the context of adolescence itself—which has always been the time for heightened interest in, and curiosity about sex, while the current generation of teens also has the kind of easy access to porn that was never available to previous generations.
Mary Falcon’s article is actually a modified transcript of a Zoom conversation she had with the program director and clinical director of Safer Society’s mentoring program for at-risk children in rural Vermont. The title of the article, Broadening the Context of At-Risk Children’s Lives, describes the second most important goal of this program—the first being adding a modicum of stability to an at-risk child’s life through the steadfast and unconditional support of a mentor.
They discuss how their program enables young children growing up in dysfunctional and isolated families to experience positive social relations with others in the program and others in the community.
Family Psychiatrist David Keith tells us that there is no way to understand a child without understanding the child’s family context. To demonstrate that simple truth, he presents the brief story of a case in which a teenage girl had been, in his estimation, mistakenly diagnosed as bipolar when she was four years old and had been on and off medication ever since.