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Body image

Ways to have a healthy body image

Your body image is about much more than how you feel about your appearance. It’s also how you feel in your body, your sense of control over your body as you go about your day, how you think others perceive it and whether or not you believe it’s “good” enough. Keep reading to learn what shapes your body image and what you can do to have a healthier relationship with your body.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

What affects your body image?

Unfortunately, many people believe their bodies and appearance aren’t attractive enough. These thoughts can be formed by messages you receive from your family, friends, the media and other people. If you grow up hearing negative messages about your body or how you don’t measure up, you may internalize these messages and have a poor self-image.

The commercials, advertisements, TV shows, magazines and social media posts you see can affect how you feel about yourself. For centuries, the beauty and diet industries have tried to convince us that we’re not good enough and need to buy their products to look better.

These tactics make these industries a lot of money: The diet industry makes more than $70 billion each year by targeting people’s insecurities about their weight and size. The beauty industry brings in more than $100 billion.

How to improve your body image

Having a better relationship with your body doesn’t start with losing weight or changing your appearance – it begins on the inside. It’s about your willingness to question what’s being presented to you. Consider these three questions next time you feel like you don’t measure up to an Instagram influencer, celebrity or even a friend:

  • Is this image real? In many cases, photos are edited or filtered. Photoshopping images is standard practice in many magazines and advertisements. Apps that change your appearance – such as the size of your lips or eyes – and add filters are also popular. That means the selfie you see isn’t necessarily what that person looks like in real life.
  • Who decides the beauty “ideal”? The answer: You do! Your body and looks aren’t something that needs to be fixed. Trends come and go. Sometimes the “in” look is super curvy, while other times, it’s tall and thin. If you try to fit in with every trend, you’ll always be chasing something new.
  • Is this image attainable and maintainable? Each of our bodies comes with a genetic blueprint that determines our shape, eye color, hair color and height, among other characteristics. Suppose you can’t achieve your “ideal” image without extreme measures, such as surgery, a strict diet or expensive products. In that case, this image is most likely not in your genetic makeup – and it can be harmful to your mental and physical health to pursue it.

Once you’ve considered these questions, try these tips to improve your body image:

  • Clean up your newsfeed: Unfollow and unlike any pages or profiles that trigger negative thoughts about your looks. Instead, choose to follow people who encourage you to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.
  • Celebrate what makes you “you”: Write down 10 things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance. Maybe you’re really funny, a good listener or excellent at math. Post this list on your mirror where you can see it every day.
  • Avoid unhealthy conversations: If your friends or family members obsess over their weight, appearance or diet, you can change the subject. Ask them about a special event that’s coming up or the latest book they read. Or maybe you spend less time around these people. You don’t have to participate in the body talk of others.
  • Speak kindly to yourself: We all have an inner dialogue. Would you say to a friend the things you say to yourself? Probably not. It’s normal to have days where you struggle with your body image and inner critic. Be especially gentle with yourself on those days, focus on what you like about yourself and practice self-care.

You deserve to feel good about yourself, inside and out. By taking these steps, you can make big strides in having a healthier body image and relationship with yourself.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Resources

For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

National Eating Disorders Association

Dove Self-Esteem Project

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Cyberbullying and Digital Abuse

Cyberbullying

Technology is a great way to meet new people and to interact with your friends. But unfortunately, people can use the same tool that keeps us connected to bully or harass others.  While bullying isn’t new, with new technological advancements, we run into new issues with old problems.

Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through technology, like by phones or social media.  A bully could reach a victim through a group text, a messaging app, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or even through online gaming, the possibilities are endless.

Check out this video titled What is Bullying from AMAZE

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying comes in many different forms.  Below is a list of types of cyberbullying someone may see or experience:

  • Flaming – Online fights, name calling, and similar actions
  • Disparaging – Posts or messages that target someone.  This could include posts that target someone based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
  • Exclusion – Leaving someone out of a game or group chat, or any other social media activity.
  • Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
  • Trickery – Tricking someone into telling you something private and then outing them.
  • Impersonation – Pretending to be someone you are not.  Also known as Catfishing.
  • Harassment – Repeatedly sending malicious messages.
  • Cyberstalking – Continuously harassing and disparaging including threats of physical harm.

Important Facts

  • 59 percent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online (Pew Research Center).
  • Name calling is a common form of cyberbullying. Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of teenagers have been called names on the internet or through their cellphone.
  • A third of adolescents said that misinformation had been spread about them online (Pew Research Center).
  • LGBTQ students are at an increased risk of being bullied at school or online

 

Consequences

Cyber Bullying, just like traditional bullying, can have real world consequences for the bully, and the victim.  Some of the consequences of cyberbullying are as follows:

  • Legal Consequences: A person that bullies someone online could suffer legal consequences. This can be a legal gray area in your state.  Some states do not have specific anti-cyberbullying laws, but a perpetrator can still be prosecuted under other existing laws.
  • School Consequences: School policies and procedures may vary on bullying and cyberbullying, but there could still be consequences for these offences, including legal ones.
  • Mental Health: Bullying increases adolescents risk for depression, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and it can impact academics as well. For LGBTQ youth, that risk is even higher (Stopbullying.gov).
  • It’s hard to escape: With traditional bullying, a bully was not likely to knock on your door in the middle of the night, but with cyberbullying, a perpetrator can reach out and harass a victim 24/7, plus they have the ability to do this anonymously.
  • Content Posted is hard to get rid of: Hopefully, if you reach out to a media website or app, then they would be able to take down disparaging content, but considering the large scope of social media providers available, this could be a daunting task.  When something is posted online, then it is saved on the server of the website.  You no longer own the content you posted, and neither does a bully that posts content about you.  Large sites or apps are generally better about helping with reports of abuse than smaller ones are, so be cautious about what platforms you are part of.  These can be lengthy, but reading a company’s privacy policies can help you determine if that particular site of interest is right for you.
  • Future consequences: Anything you post online could be found and used against you.  So if you are bullying someone online, this could jeopardize future employment and educational opportunities.  In fact, a Career Builder survey found that 70 percent of employers admit to using social media to help them determine if a candidate is right for the job, 54 percent of employers reported that they decided not to hire a candidate because of their social media profiles, nearly half of employers check current employees profiles, with over a third of employers having sanctioned or fired a worker due to inappropriate content (prnewswire.com). For education, 36 percent of college admission staff searched their applicant’s digital footprints (Kaplan).

 

What you can do if you are being cyberbullied

Life is hard, especially for teenagers.  There is so much to worry about, and bullying can make all of that worse.  You have the right to be safe, respected, and you don’t deserve to be bullied or harassed, whether that be online or in person.  Consider the following information if you are dealing with bullying or cyberbullying:

  • Talk to a trusted adult. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, or any other trustworthy adult that you know.  These people can help you and help determine if you need to take additional steps.
  • Block, Document, and Report! Many sites have blocking features, and this can help alleviate the frequency of bullying instances. Document instances of bullying and contact the sites’ administrators. Some social media sites have divisions that investigate forms of abuse, including cyberbullying.
  • If you or someone you know is in an immediate risk of danger or harm, then call 911
  • If someone has committed a crime, then contact your local law enforcement
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or our crisis line

Additional Resources

  • Visit Stopbullying.gov for more information about bullying, laws, and additional resources for help.
  • Visit AMAZE for more great information on topics related to teenagers.
  • Visit our Social Media, and Sexting page for more information.

Digital Abuse

Technology allows us to stay connected.  Whether you are re-connecting with a lost friend from elementary school, video chatting with a partner that is far away, or making new connections with people that you’ve never met, technology allows us to reach out and touch people in ways that would have been impossible before these advancements.

While technology has done a lot of good in changing the dating landscape, it is important to think about some of the things that could go wrong online, particularly in a relationship.  Identifying potential problems will help you avoid these in the first place, will help you handle a situation if it happens to you, and will make you better equipped to identify signs of digital abuse in the relationships of those that you care about.

Digital Abuse is abuse that occurs through the use of technology such as texting and social media.  This often happens in the context of a dating relationship, but not always.  Unfortunately, digital abuse is fairly common.  1 in 4 teenagers that are in a relationship have experienced digital abuse or harassment (Urban Institute).  Digital abuse is a serious matter that may spill over into other types of abuse.  According to the Urban Institute 96 percent of teens that have experienced digital abuse have also experienced other forms of violence or abuse from their partners.

 

Digitizing Abuse Infographic

Check out this video titled Intimate Partner Violence from AMAZE

Signs of digital abuse

Knowing what digital abuse looks like can help you determine if steps should be taken to set boundaries, end the relationship, or seek further help.  Below are some signs of digital abuse:

  • Your partner sends or posts negative, insulting, or threatening messages directed towards you.
  • Your partner tries to control who you interact with online.
  • Your partner tries to get you to post content that you are uncomfortable with.
  • Your partner sends you unwanted sexual pictures, sends pictures of you without your permission, or insists you send them pictures.
  • Your partner steals or demands to be given your password.
  • Your partner constantly uses social media to keep an eye on what you are doing.

Your digital relationship rights

You have a say in what happens in your relationships online, just like you should have in person:

  • You have the right to control your own content. No one should try to force you into posting what you don’t want to post, to try to change or control what you say online, or to post unwanted content on your behalf
  • You can step away. Your partner should not pressure you into replying within a specific time frame, nor should they get mad if you choose to take a break from social media, or if you choose to delete your accounts all together
  • You have the right to privacy. Your partner should not pressure you into sharing your password with them.
  • You have the right to speak to whoever you want to. Your partner should not try to control who you talk to online, nor should they use this against you
  • You do not have to send any picture or message that you are uncomfortable sending
  • Lastly, you have the right to end any relationship that you are uncomfortable with and at any time.

Consequences

Digital abuse, just like any other form of abuse, can have serious consequences for both the perpetrator and the victim.  If a person is invading your privacy, hurting you, stalking you, harassing you, or doing other similar things, then there could be legal consequences for them.  Like mentioned in the Cyber- Bullying section, anything that is posted online is saved on the server of the website, so this information could be next than impossible to delete or get back, resulting in future consequences for the perpetrator, like lost educational or employment opportunities.  Those who experience teen dating violence are greatly impacted.  They are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, to use drugs and alcohol, to exhibit antisocial behaviors, and to think about suicide (CDC).

How to get help

If you are being abused in any capacity, then it’s important to seek help.

  • Talk to an adult. This can be a parent, an older sibling, a teacher, law enforcement, a counselor, a member of a religious institution, or any other adult that you trust and has proven that they are trustworthy.
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • If you have been hurt or a crime has been committed, then call 911 if it is safe to do so.
  • You can visit loveisrespect.org, call 1-866-331-9474, or text: LOVEIS TO 22522 if you are unable to speak safely.  This is a good resource for information, help, and to connect you with local resources.
Home / Teen / Media

Internet and social media safety

Internet and social media safety for teens

The internet can be a good thing: It lets you stay in touch with your friends, do research for schoolwork, connect with other like-minded people, play games, share your music or artwork, and stay up to date on the news and your favorite celebrities. But it can also have some downsides. Keep reading to learn more about how social media and the internet can affect your life and what you can do to stay safe online.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Potential risks of using social media

While using the internet has many benefits, it also has some downsides, such as:

  • Cyberbullying, which can increase the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Exposure to online predators
  • Distraction from schoolwork, sleep, exercise and in-person social activities
  • Privacy concerns, including the collection of data about you
  • Expose you to frequent advertisements and images that can affect your body image
  • Risk of being hacked or having personal information stolen

Staying safe online

Here are some tips to stay safe when spending time online:

  • Be aware that once you click “send,” your message or photo is in the hands of someone else and is no longer in your control. Even with videos or photos that “disappear,” people can still screenshot or save them and they may never truly go away. If someone publicly shares what you send privately, there’s no way for you to delete what they post.
  • Be mindful of the future consequences of what you post online. Many employers screen candidates on social media. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t want your grandparent to see it, or wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t post it.
  • If you are being bullied online, tell a trusted adult, like a parent, guardian, teacher, guidance counselor, coach or school nurse. Cyberbullying is harmful and can lead to anxiety, depression or self-harm.
  • Don’t accept a connection or “friend” request from someone you don’t know. For your safety, don’t email, call, agree to meet in person or send photos to them. Some people are dishonest about who they are online and are looking for people to exploit.
  • Never share personal information online, such as your password, location, social security number, age, address or phone number. Sometimes personal information is used in negative ways. If someone asks for this information, end the conversation and tell an adult right away.
  • Set your social media privacy settings to where only your friends can see your profile or account.
  • Know that social media sites have legal access to whatever you post and to access your location. If hackers access these sites, they can easily see what you’ve posted online.
  • Take regular breaks from your device. Too much screen time can affect your sleep, concentration and mental health. Put your phone, computer or tablet away for at least an hour or two each night, keep them on silent and turn off notifications. Be sure to make time for in-person activities with family and friends – doing so can help you feel more connected.

Using the internet and social media can be a good thing as long as you do so safely. By taking breaks, staying safe and making time for real-life interactions, you can protect your mental and physical well-being.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Resources

For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

Home / Teen / Media

Pornography  

Pornography: What teens should know

It’s perfectly normal to be curious about sex. This is what leads some people to look at or watch pornography. Pornography is any printed or visual material that shows explicit images or descriptions of sexual organs or practices. One report indicated that as many as 60% of teens have looked at porn to learn more about sex. The problem is pornography is far from an accurate depiction of sex – it’s just a fantasy. Keep reading to learn more about how watching pornography can affect you and your relationships and how to learn more about sex in a healthy way.
Need more info? Ask an Expert.

The problem with pornography

The problem with pornography is that it is not realistic and can lead to inaccurate ideas of what sex is really like. It’s a production or show designed to draw you in. Most people who are shown in pornography are paid actors.

In addition, many people in the pornography industry have had either enhancements done to their bodies (like plastic surgery) or have been photoshopped, making things look exaggerated compared to the average person. Watching or looking at porn can cause you to have a poor body image if you feel like you don’t measure up or fit that image.

It can also lead to unhealthy relationships. In heterosexual porn (between members of the opposite sex), women are often portrayed as objects for male satisfaction. Often, they may be shown in non-consenting roles. Consent is extremely important in all sexual relationships. And pornography focuses on sex, not the other essential aspects of a relationship, like respect and trust.

Healthy ways to learn about sex

Here are some healthier ways to learn about sex:

  • Talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, guardian, health care provider, . It’s good to ask questions – that’s how you learn.
  • Find a book or online resource, such as Centerstone, Sex, Etc. or AMAZE.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Resources

For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

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Sexting

What is sexting?

  • Sexting is when people share sexual message or pictures using electronic devices like cell phones, emails and social networking sites.

What should I do if I need help?

If someone is trying to pressure you to send a sext message. You need to tell someone.  Preferably a trusted adult, they will be able to get you in contact with the right people to handle the situation.

Remember! NO ONE has the right to pressure you to do something you are not comfortable with. When it comes to your body, you are the one who is in charge. Never let anyone make you feel like you have to put yourself on display to prove how you feel about them. If they really care they will respect you and your decisions. Check out more info in Consent.

How does sexting affect me?

Sexting can seem like no big deal right?  In a world where young people ages 15 to 24, have the highest rate of STI’s in the country, sending a sexual image via electronics seems to be the safest way to express your sexual feelings. No physical contact = no chance of catching an STI or getting pregnant, so it should be a win win.  Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Sexting can have some pretty harsh consequences too.

Before hitting send, remember that you cannot control where this image may travel. What you send to a partner could end up with their friends, online or in the hands of a sexual predator. Once that picture is out there, there is no getting it back. Even the social media apps that “delete” the image after so many seconds have servers that store everything posted on their site. Don’t forget people can take screenshots as well and save your picture without your knowledge.

Emotional consequences

  • Objectification/possible victimization
  • Loss of friends, bullying
  • Feeling sad, depressed, withdrawn
  • Thinking about or actually hurting self/others
  • Regret, loss of respect for oneself

Emotional consequences are rarely thought of in the moment. But what happens after you break up? Is it possible that the relationship doesn’t end well and they send your pics out to “get back at you”?  What about if they sent the images to everyone on their social media and your teachers or parents found out? We need to keep all of this in mind before we send any explicit picture.

Future consequences

  • Employment
  • College admission
  • Joining the military
  • Re-living the emotional consequences when old photos/sext messages re-surface
  • Future relationships can also be hindered by this.

Employers are looking for good, professional candidates to fill the positions in their company. Many businesses will search a person’s social media to get a feel for what kind of person you are and if you are what they want.  If you have nude images or pics of alcohol and drug use, you are not going to be very high on their list to hire.

Some colleges will also google you to make sure you are a good fit for their school.

What will come up if someone searches your name?

Legal consequences

If anyone involved is under the age of 18, this is officially considered child pornography. Legal consequences can vary depending on where you live. In some states it can be as much as a felony per picture for both the sender and receiver (even if you didn’t ask for the picture).  Checkout your states laws around sexting here: https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-laws

  • Federal prosecution under child pornography laws (that includes the picture taker, person in the picture, sender, receiver and anyone who is in possession or has seen the photo)
  • Risk of placement on Sex Offender Registry
  • Possible jail time
  • In most cases the penalty will be worse for the individuals who share or request the photo. This is considered enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct.

Things to consider before pushing send ….

Think about the consequences of taking, sending or sharing a sexual picture of yourself or someone else underage. You could get kicked off of sports teams, lose educational opportunities and even go to jail.

Never take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your classmates, teachers and family – to see.

Never forward someone else’s sex-related messages. It’s not funny, and it could land you in serious trouble.

Remember schools can punish students for sexting even if the students are not breaking the law and if all students involved are legal adults. If sexting leads to anything that disrupts school day such as bullying or bad behavior the schools can and probably will get involved

Report any unwanted sexual messages you receive to a trusted adult; this could be a parent, teacher, coach or any adult you trust with sensitive information.

Resources

Need more info? Ask An Expert