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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Educators to host virtual workshop on dangers of social media: ‘They’re trying to use our brains against us’

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

Too much sharing can be a bad thing, especially when teens are doing so on social media.

That’s one of the messages local educators will share during a one-hour virtual workshop Tuesday night covering the effects of social media on brain development.

“Avoid the Overshare: Social Media Effects on Student Health and Safety” is a cooperative venture involving Spokane Public Schools, the Mead School District and the Northeast Washington Education District 101.

Panelists include David Crump, director of mental health services for Spokane Public Schools; Staci Cornwell, the mental health and threat assessment coordinator at Mead; and Steve Schreiner, the technology and learning coordinator at NEWESD 101.

The workshop, which begins at 7 p.m., will focus primarily on setting boundaries on social media and encouraging youth to reduce exposure to potential danger.

“There are a lot of positives to social media, and there are also some safety concerns,” Crump said. “It’s a great way to connect with friends and have that social interaction, but at the same time we have to have discussions about the rules.”

The anonymity of social media makes it easier for others to take advantage of teens, up to and including grooming and human trafficking, Crump said.

For those reasons and others, Crump said it’s important for parents and guardians to be able to talk to their children.

“It’s a sensitive thing, and social media does help in broadening the world view, but we have to be careful of exposing our information to others,” Crump said.

“A phrase that I’ve tried to live by is that we are often married to our phones and social media, but sometimes that marriage isn’t the healthiest,” Crump said.

Cornwell said she’s troubled by social media’s effect on teens’ anxiety levels, which can lead to depression and even suicide.

The action of posting photos or comments is a stress-inducing exercise, Cornwell said, because many students seek validation through social media. If a post receives only a small number of “likes,” the student will feel embarrassed and take down the post.

Cornwell’s advice: Post for yourself, not for the approval of your peers. She also urges families to turn off vibrations and sounds, thereby reducing the compulsion to reach for the device so often.

Cornwell said she is particularly troubled by social media platforms that “are trying to get you addicted” by withholding some “likes,” then releasing them in batches to create euphoria.

“They’re trying to use our brains against us,” Cornwell said.