AMITA Health: Summertime Not a Vacation for Some Kids

Ever-Present Technology Means Bullied Kids Have No Relief From Social Media

HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL--(Marketwired - May 26, 2016) -  Kids today have no escape from a 24/7 online world of social media. Bullying, embarrassment and shame are available to them and their entire circle of friends and enemies all the time. One bad choice to share a picture or make a comment can be all over the world in seconds, with devastating effects.

"Think of the most humiliating thing that happened to you in middle school or high school. Now imagine there had been a video or a picture of it circulating all over your school that EVERYONE saw. Would your younger self have been able to handle that?" asks Mandy Burbank, LCSW, Therapist and Violence Prevention Coordinator for AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital. She asks parents this thought-provoking question to illustrate the difference between growing up then versus now.

For most parents, taking an inappropriate picture of themselves at a young age would have required a lot of work. There was film to buy and develop, which took time, money, and a car to drive you to the store, which may refuse to develop inappropriate pictures anyway. Many families were lucky if they could afford one computer and internet access was limited, if available at all. Technology was expensive, large, and time consuming; thus, there were many opportunities to rethink decisions as teens of the past were protected by slow, clunky technology. "The accessibility and speed of today's technology means that parents and kids can no longer count on the end of the school year as a welcome relief from playground bullying or other hostile environments occurring at school," explains Burbank. "In today's environment, even the promise of summer break isn't enough to spell relief." The news is full of stories about teens suffering from the consequences of their online behavior. Some of those stories involve the worst consequence of bullying: teens taking their own lives. Although many things contribute to teen suicide, bullying is clearly a risk factor. Given the recent rise in the suicide rate, which is at its highest level in nearly 30 years,1 it is critical to address the risks of this technology-driven world.

"The trends we are seeing at AMITA Health include challenges with social media and bullying, as well as overall problems in regulating emotions and emotional reactions," said Denise Styer, Psy.D., Clinical Director at AMITA Health Center for Eating Disorders. "Parents need to monitor the use of electronics and understand the impact of social media on vulnerable kids."

What does all of this mean? Today's parents are in uncharted territory. Previous generations of parents did not have to decide when it was appropriate for their child to own a smart phone or try to figure out if the American Academy of Pediatric screen time guidelines applied to using screen time for homework or just recreational use. They did not have to fight to stay up to date on the last apps or how teens are trying to hide apps from their parents.

In the face of such an overwhelming task, it is tempting for parents to throw their hands in the air, hold their breath, and hope those detrimental, life-altering consequences will never happen to their child. However, the experts at AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital offer these simple ways to engage with kids around technology:

Recommendations for Monitoring Technology Use

  • Bring technology back into public space. Keeping TVs, laptops, video game systems, hand held devices, etc. out of bedrooms. Require portable devices be turned into parents before bedtime.
  • Regularly engage your child in conversations about their technology. What apps are you using? Why do you like them? Be on the lookout for areas they do not want to talk to you about. Not sure about an app? The website is a great resource for app investigation.
  • Consider having your children sign a contract. Give them guidelines for use before giving them a device. One example: require children to provide all passwords for devices and programs.
  • Talk to other parents. They are a natural resource of strategies that are working for them which may work for you.
  • Try to avoid taking away the phone or device as a default punishment, especially for non-technology related issues. That device is very important to teens and knowing you'll pull for everything, all the time, may discourage them from reporting concerns to you.
  • Watch for changes in behavior or personality. If your child suddenly stops using technology, becomes secretive about technology use, or doesn't want to go to school, these could be signs of cyberbullying. If you suspect your child may be suffering from depression, or having suicidal thoughts, seek immediate professional help.

AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine offers a variety of programs for kids and their families. The School Anxiety Program, Self-Injury Recovery Services (SIRS), and the Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program are just some of the many ways that AMITA Health experts are helping students learn to cope with the challenges today's kids face. AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine also partners with local communities to offer schools and other groups specialized programs and trainings on Bullying, Relational Violence and Suicide.

About AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates, IL - The seventh largest behavioral health provider in the nation, AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital offers comprehensive behavioral health services from prevention and early intervention to treatment and aftercare. Located northwest of Chicago, AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient services with a mission to help individuals of all ages learn practical ways to manage mental health and substance abuse problems. Highly sub-specialized programs and services include treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, eating disorders, and self-injury. For more information, please visit or call 855.383.2224.



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Contact Information:

Contact Us:
Mandy Burbank, LCSW
Therapist and Violence Prevention Coordinator
AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates
Email Contact

Cecelia Horan, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Services
AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates
Email Contact

Denise Styer, Psy.D.
Clinical Director of Eating Disorders and Self-Injury Services
AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates