Internet Safety and Mental Health

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Episode Description

In this episode of "Is It Just Me?", join our hosts Christy and Lucas as they delve into the complex relationship between the internet and mental health. With the digital age bringing information and social connections to our fingertips, it also presents unique challenges and opportunities for our safety and psychological well-being.

What to Expect

  • Understand how the internet can both positively and negatively affect mental health.
  • Learn how to keep your children safe online.
  • Discover ways to make your internet journey more positive and empowering.
  • Learn how to discern between reliable and unreliable online information.

About the Hosts

Christy Wilkie provides therapy for children and adolescents, ages 5-25, who have complex behavioral health issues. She combines her extensive clinical expertise with a belief in kids, and has a unique ability to find and develop their strengths. She works hard to be an ideal therapist for her clients, doing what is best to fit their needs.

Lucas Mitzel provides therapy for children, adolescents, and adults, ages 5 - 30. He believes building relationships with clients is the most important piece of successful therapy. He loves what he does because it allows him to walk next to people he would never have met had he chosen a different profession, as they work to make amazing life changes. He has the honor of meeting people at their worst, all while watching them grow into the people they’ve always wanted to be.

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Internet Safety and Mental Health

Featuring Christy Wilkie, LCSW, and Lucas Mitzel, LCSW, Dakota Family Services

Announcer (00:00):

This episode of, is It Just Me, is brought to you by Dakota Family Services, your trusted partner in mental and behavioral health, whether you need in-person or virtual care, the team of professionals at Dakota Family Services is dedicated to supporting children, adolescents, and adults in their journey to better mental health.

Christy  (00:21):

Disrupting life patterns and life routines that aren't serving you.

Lucas (00:26):

It's how we feel that keeps us going.

Christy  (00:29):

You can be a masterpiece in a work of art all at the same time.

Lucas (00:39):

Hey everyone, I'm Lucas.

Christy  (00:41):

And I'm Christy.

Lucas (00:42):

And you're listening to the, is It Just Me podcast

Christy  (00:44):

Where we aim to provide education, decrease the stigma and expel some myths around mental health.

Lucas (00:49):

Christy, is it just me or is the internet kind of scary?

Christy  (00:51):

I, you know, depending on how you look at it, I mean, it can be scary, but it can also not.

Lucas (00:56):

Well, what do you mean by that?

Christy  (00:58):

I think it depends on how you use the internet. I mean, I, I have seen the internet be used in many great ways, and I have seen it used in the opposite of that very hurtful, harmful ways.

Lucas (01:09):

I think that there's a lot of misunderstanding regarding the internet. I think that there's people who aren't anxious enough about it, and And then there's other people who are maybe a little bit fearful in an unhealthy way and think that there's, it's all just bad and we can't access it at all, or we shouldn't let our kids touch it or whatever.

Christy  (01:28):

And I think that comes from the things that you see are stories that, of where things went wrong.  But I always say this to people when it comes to anything that's causing anybody anxiety or fear that the things that you read are news, because they're not common. Like, we don't get the article that says 5 billion people use the internet safely today,  You know, like, that's not, that's not what it is. Or I think about people that are worried about car accidents. Like there's not a 547 cars made it safely to Bismarck, North Dakota. Like, no, you get the one car accident. And that's the news. And the internet is very much the same, where it's like, it's news because it's, it's, it can happen, but it's more rare than it is the everyday occurrence that's gonna happen to everybody in the whole world.

Lucas (02:12):

Right? Yep. And it's, so, it's not something that we need to be really terrified of, but at the same time, like how many times a week do we talk about the internet with people

Christy  (02:20):

Every hour of my life?  Is there is something about the internet that I am talking about For sure.

Lucas (02:25):

I have developed speeches for different apps And different websites for kids and what things to look out for. And it's something that, I mean, I had like three conversations this week about being safe on the internet and what that means and what that looks like. Yeah.

Christy  (02:39):

I probably even had more, and I've had more than that this week. Like literally every, every hour of my life. But also with adults. And it's not just kids, it's also adults. And we all have to be smart when we're using something that can reach as many things as the internet reaches.

Lucas (02:55):

And in this, in this day and age, it's even more important to be aware of what's going on because of how much access we have to technology. Right? Like we have it at our fingertips all the time with our phones, And now schools are giving laptops to kids and tablets And there's just, it's constantly there in your face.  And so we have to be aware as to what's going on. And on top of that, like when, when something hits the shelves, it's already outdated.  With how fast our technology is growing with websites updating all the time. There's a new app every single week that kids are starting to use or that other people are starting to use. And so it's really important that we are up to date on these things so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves, for our families, etc.

Christy  (03:37):

It's like what you said, we can't avoid the internet. Like we can't not have our kids using screens. And I think over the course of my lifetime, because the boys in this room are just telling me that I'm old as dirt, which is nice, but over the course of my lifetime, I've, I've seen several iterations of, you know, no screen time. Kids can't give any screen time to, you know, one to two hours a week or what. And it's just kind of had to change and grow. And I think Covid had a huge impact on screen time and our, I mean, we had to allow kids to use screens during that time. There was not another choice.  And so it's like we've kind of shifted and adjusted, and now you can't, you can't not have access to the internet and be, and have a screen. It's difficult.

Lucas (04:19):

Absolutely. And we could talk about different, the internet is so big that we could have this go on for like all day. We could do an all day  talk, talk on the internet. And so we're gonna have to try to be a little bit focused here, but

Christy  (04:33):

Good Luck,  Okay. We'll try, we'll try

Lucas (04:36):

To, to put that in perspective, the normal websites that we, we look at such as like Google or Facebook or Twitter is called X now, I guess those sorts of things. That only makes up 4% of the internet. If we go down into what's called the deep web, that's where we have the databases that schools have access to, or our electronic health records, some of the stuff that's more protected that the public can't access. And then we go into the dark web and that's the scary place. 

Lucas (06:31):

And there's a lot of security issues when you're going on there.

Christy  (06:34):

Do you know that you're in the dark web? When you're in the dark web?

Lucas (06:36):

You have to purposely go there. Oh,

Christy  (06:38):

Okay. So this is a very purposeful journey.

Lucas (06:40):

You don't just like magically stumble upon Okay. You have to like, seek it out and know how to get there.

Christy  (06:45):

Okay. Just 'cause I don't think a lot of people are probably super knowledgeable about the dark web and how we get there, but

Lucas (06:53):

 And don't

Christy  (06:54):

Be, you're not just gonna stumble into it. Right? Yeah,

Lucas (06:56):

No. If you're just going on regular websites, it's not like there's like this link that you click on, or like an advertisement Join the dark web. Okay. You have to know exactly where you're going.

Christy  (07:05):

It's Purposeful journey.

Lucas (07:06):

Absolutely. And just don't go there.

Christy  (07:10):

I'm not.

Lucas (07:10):

Not. So some of the most common websites that are being used, like worldwide, like include things like YouTube, Facebook, X or Twitter, whatever you wanna call it.  Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok. For kids, it would be in ranked order from top 10. It's YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Tumblr. Oh, I didn't even think that Tumblr was still being used.

Christy  (07:39):

That's still a thing. Yeah.

Lucas (07:41):


Christy  (07:41):

But you know, well, this is an aside, but this is what we do. I think that a lot of kids have parents that know that like the big five, that they're, that they're using, like they know the Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, even Visco. Like they, like parents know those. But if you wanna get away with something, you go on Tumblr 'cause I don't think anybody really knows what happens on Tumblr.

Lucas (08:01):

So it guess it's similar to Reddit that way. I would say like, we're not gonna be able to get to all of these today. If you are have questions about those things, we would love for you to a, email us and let us know. Like, if we didn't talk about one that you wanna talk about, let us know if that you have questions and we would love to talk about it in a future episode. Or we are gonna give you some resources and at the end of this to help you do your own research as well.

Christy  (08:25):

So, And our email address is, is it just

Lucas (08:29):

Very nice.

Christy  (08:30):

And so even if we don't answer it in a podcast, we'll email you back and get back to you.

Lucas (08:34):

So what are some of the, 'cause we talked about the very beginning that there's, there's both positives and there's negatives to social media. Because we're gonna focus on social media today. So what are some of the positives and negatives that you have seen? We can start, let's start with the positives. Sure.

Christy  (08:49):

I think I've, well, for one, I know on Instagram I've got a lot of graduating high schoolers. And what's really cool is that they can put like the college that they're going to in the year that they're gonna graduate. And it's like a roommate finder. Oh, cool. So, So you can all, like, that's how kids are finding roommates at their, at their colleges and kind of being able to, to have that connection with somebody before they go so that they already kind of know the person that they're going to live with. Which, I mean, I remember being terrified going to college and being like, well, I hope this person's not as gonna kill me in my sleep. You know, And so I, that's, that's super cool. I know, like, even like the, the groups of seniors in town, this, this is it's graduation season, so that's why it's on my brain. Like organizing class activities and organizing get togethers and that kind of thing is super cool. I love to see that. Being able to keep in touch with family and being able to share that back and forth is, is really neat. What have you seen?

Lucas (09:46):

So the, one of the best parts of social media in general is just having connections and being able to maintain those connections over time.  and distance, right? . So it can feel like you're not missing things with family that are miles and miles away that you don't get to see very often. Whereas before social media, which is, I barely remember that. 'cause You're old. I'm not <Laugh>, you're

Christy  (10:07):

Getting there

Lucas (10:08):

Though. I know. I don't wanna talk about it. Climbing the ladder. it's social media and I do remember a time before social media where we would just go months and months and months without really knowing anything.  And then we'd get together and we'd be like, oh my gosh, what happened? And now we don't really have to do that anymore. 'cause we just, we're constantly updated with things, which is nice To be able to keep that connection. There's a lot of wonderful sites out there and social media platforms that when used appropriately, can give you really good connections to people that you maybe never would normally in little niches that are specifically for you, that you may not have around you. So whether that be things that are maybe a little bit nerdy or <laugh>, like, I don't know anything about them, by the way. Yes. We do. Oh God. Or you are really involved with Peloton stuff. And you've made really awesome friends across the country With people that you never would've without this sort of social media platform.

Christy  (11:03):

So True. And I, and a lot of those connections have led to what they call our IRL in real life connections, where you, you finally meet up with these people and it's like, oh my gosh, you just have this, this connection with somebody that you never would've met with if it wasn't for that. But that being said, I'm also not just gonna go meet up with somebody in real life that I don't know enough about, you know? Like, and I think that's super important is that if you, I, I talk about kids because I think that's where the vulnerability comes with, with kids, is that their brains aren't completely developed. And so that they're just vulnerable by age. And I think that there's kind of a naivety sometimes that everybody is good and everybody is who they say they are. And every, everything is gonna be fine and it's gonna be great, and possibly eight times outta 10. That's probably true. But it's just taking the steps to make sure that who you're meeting is really who you're meeting and that it's not a dangerous situation that you're putting yourself in.

Lucas (11:57):

Absolutely. I've made some really awesome friends through video games, online video games And I met my fiance online through some social media platforms too And through mutual friends that way. And it obviously turned out really well, but it doesn't, I guess But there's some really awesome relationships that you can make online if you're doing it.  And there is definitely a way to do it.  And there's definitely a way to do it wrong.  We're gonna talk about those two. Some of the other just for the research out there, it's, it's very mixed. Whenever you look at these things, you're gonna, you could find a research article that says it's great, and then other ones that say it's bad.  And when it comes down to it, it's more about the quality of the usage rather than the quantity 'cause If you are excessively overusing social media, it's not gonna go well. But that's with anything. Right?  But if you're using it to strengthen relationships, if you're using it to develop those social circles, you're gonna have a big positive impact on your mental health when it comes to depression. So you're not feeling so lonely or down on yourself self-esteem as well. There's some research out there, both positive and negative and some different theories as to why this happens. But some say that through the object self-awareness theory.

Christy  (13:12):

Oh Dear. Here we go,

Lucas (13:13):

<laugh>,that anytime you are the object of focus of yourself, like that's gonna result in like lower self-esteem, which happens in social media.  So like, if you're looking at your, in your mirror , you might notice that you have a lower self-esteem because that's the focus is yourself or listening to a recording of yourself. I, yep. Yeah.

Christy  (13:34):

Not gonna do that.

Lucas (13:35):

Exactly. Or visiting your own page. 'cause When you're on social media, you're gonna see your own page and what you post on things. And so then you're gonna, it can impact your self-esteem negatively. On the flip side to that, there's a hyper personal model of behavior that would say, because you're putting your best foot forward typically  on social media, you're going to have a higher self-esteem with social interactions because you can plan it better. Whereas in person, it's off the cuff. You don't get to necessarily plan exactly how you're looking.  or, 'cause I think we've all gone to Walmart just quick to run there and didn't get really ready. And then you run into somebody that you really did not wanna run into and you don't look the best. And that that sucks. Yep. So there's a lot of different research out there that points to both. And I think that the takeaway from all the research is just everything in moderation.

Christy  (14:25):

But I think that's super important to keep in mind for people though, is like how much of social media is staged, right? Like, I mean, you, there's whole pages that are influencers in the wild where you can see how many takes they're, they're taking and, and what they're doing and how long it's taking them to get the perfect cut or the perfect picture or the perfect sunlight or whatever it is that they're doing. And it's, and it is really hard when you're somebody who's maybe who's got a little self-esteem issue, or if you're feeling depressed or if you're feeling anxious or isolated in some way, to not look at that and think, well, that's just, that was the first shot they took. And they just look like that effortlessly all of the time. It's, there's so much that goes into the curation of Instagram posts or Facebook posts or whatever. And, and I think when you're in the mindset of you're just kind of doom scrolling or you're just kind of scrolling and you're coming across all this and you're already not in a good spot and you're looking at what everybody else has that you feel like you're lacking, that causes a huge mental health concern because it just sometimes will make you not feel great about yourself. And you're comparing yourself to other people.

Lucas (15:35):

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Christy  (15:37):

That's what they say. Yeah.

Lucas (15:38):

That's one of my favorite quotes. <Laugh>.

Christy  (15:40):

I mean, it, we see this all the time with adults, with kids. I mean, with adults, it's kind of like, you know, they have this perfectly poised family and all of their kids are perfectly well behaved. Meanwhile, your toddler is screaming in the background because you gave them 1% milk instead of 2% milk. You know, and they probably don't know the difference between the two. And it's like, how my kids are terrible. And these, those kids look like angels. You know, it can make you feel like you're not as good of a parent or you're, or that you're doing something wrong when realistically two seconds after that picture was taken could have been a gigantic meltdown.

Lucas (16:13):

Absolutely. It was. That's actually, I saw this post on Instagram of this family who are very outdoorsy, and they, they took a picture and it was talking about, kind of bragging about how they, even in the bad weather, they go outside and then the next swipe was just kidding. We only lasted about two minutes And we're, we're going back home now. And so that is so true. Where you have this posed picture or whatever, and you didn't, you have no idea what built up to that picture, how many arguments that occurred.  what's going on inside of people's brains at that time. We are putting our best foot forward.  And it's, you look at that and it's like, oh wow. Everybody's so happy all the time. Why am I not happy? That's probably not what's going on.

Christy  (16:55):

No, not at all. And I think, I mean, the same happens with Snapchat. I don't know if people, I mean, the kids out there are familiar with Snapchat, and I feel like your generation of people, they're probably really familiar with Snapchat. I don't know that there's a lot of people that are familiar with how that all works, where there's stories and there's private stories, and then you can see locations. and I think the location thing I end up, we end up talking a lot about with kids and with adults, because they can see all of their friends getting together somewhere. And either they weren't invited or they, or they were and they decided not to go because whatever reason. But then they're watching it unfold in real time. Like when, when I was a kid and I didn't invite into a party.

Christy  (17:33):

Yeah, It happened once or twice that I didn't get invited to a party and I'm over it. Clearly, clearly I'm totally fine with it. But like, you just dealt with not getting invited, but you didn't have to watch it unfold in front of you.   And so now it's like if you're not invited to something or you had a prom date and then didn't get to go to prom or something happened, like you were watching it in real time happen in front of your face through stories and posts and whatever, and locations and seeing who's going where. And that causes a lot of distress for people, adults and kids alike. Yeah.

Lucas (18:04):

I will say this over and over and over, that it is harder being a kid or a college student with bullying  now than it ever has been. And that is because when before all of this, we could ex, we could have the bullying happen. We could have the bad experiences go home and escape it. , you can't escape it anymore. It's everywhere Snapchat, you're seeing all these things where you're getting left out, all these fun stuff. You're seeing your best friend with people that you should have been invited to as well. There's people who make fake accounts on TikTok or on Instagram or Facebook, and then they start harassing you and posting things about you, or making a fake account that is posing as you  and posting stuff about you people who hack into other people's accounts and mess with your stuff. You just can't get away from it as easily as you used to.

Christy  (18:51):

No, no. And, and people will repost it. And then once it gets out, it gets out to everywhere. I mean, we live in Fargo  Which is just a real big little city. And all of the schools are so connected, even though they don't know it. 'cause We've got, what, four or five high schools in town? Something math, something like that. Yeah, I know But it's like, if, if it starts in one school, it spreads to another school and it spreads to another school spreads. It's like wildfire. It is. It's wild fire. wow. That was bad But It's, it's not just a small group of 10 people who saw it happen. And it stops. There is this small group of 10 people, and those 10 people become 20 people, and those 20 people become 40 people.

Christy  (19:30):

I was in my office the other day, I don't know if you remember in Morehead, like the cars were starting on fire. What? like, and the Morehead High School, there were like, cars started on fire and then it caught like three or four other cars on fire. Nope. And I was watching it unfold in my office because a kid had it on Snapchat. And I was like, is this happening in real time? And they're like, And I was like, oh my gosh. And then, so then all of these snaps were coming in about what was happening, and it was all happening in real time. And I was like, is this how you live? And they're like, yeah, I, it's like, o okay, so we just know what's going on. Or if there's a fight in the bathroom, we know what's going on as soon as it's happening, which also causes a great deal of anxiety for people who are not wanting to be around that sort of behavior. So then it's like, okay, if I go into a bathroom, is there gonna be a fight in the bathroom? You know? And it, it just, it spirals.

Lucas (20:17):

And that's one of the big double-edged swords with how connected everybody is right now. Right? . So we, it's awesome. I'm focusing on TikTok for a second here. That we have the ability to have unfiltered to a point news stories from people who are experiencing things across the world And so now we have videos of what is actually happening. It's not filtered through a news agency. It's not filtered through anything. No. Like governments are getting control of it and like spinning a narrative. It's just this is what's happening. Raw footage, all the, which is really cool that we can have access to that stuff. , it's also really traumatizing. 100% percent to watch those things. And kids have access to these apps and are seeing this stuff unfold, and they're seeing things that maybe I wouldn't want my kid to see.  Uor maybe things that I didn't want to see today. Because I was not in a space to see that. And it's really important that we're taking care of ourselves during those times and making sure that you're having healthy habits and turning things off when you need to, whatever. But we keep talking about how there's all these positives and negatives about it. And it's really, that goes with all of it. It's all in moderation because it, it is a gigantic double-edged sword.

Christy  (21:26):

Well, and I, I think awareness is key, right? So like, if I'm having a day as I do from time to time, never

Christy  (21:33):

Every now and then <laugh>, every now and then I have a day. And on those days, like TikTok isn't my go-to, 'cause I do not have control of the information that's gonna be funneled to me through from TikTok on my for you page. I just don't have control over that. I pop it open and they're like, this is what we think is good for you. And I was like, ah, no, I don't, I don't wanna see that. Youtube shorts is the same. A lot of kids will go on YouTube shorts and they'll scroll YouTube shorts. You don't have any control over what comes up. Instagram reels is the same way. So like, if I'm not in a good space, if I, you know, am stressed out or anxious or whatever the case may be, I'm gonna go to the things that make me feel positive.

Christy  (22:10):

I'm gonna go talk to my running group On the internet. I'm gonna go talk to a a, I've had this group of girls from back when we were planning our wedding from all over the country, and they're, they're a safe place for me. So I'll go and I'll talk to them. I'm not gonna go and do something where I can't control the content. But that's me as a 44-year-old with a, eh, developed brain, kind of, you know, for the most part. And with the knowledge of wanting to protect my mental health, and I mean, I have self-awareness, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. My point is, is that a lot of kids or younger adults don't have that same impulse control or desire to protect themselves from whatever might come up. You know, it's like, it's a learned skill kind of. And so we have to help teach people how to do that.

Lucas (22:54):

Right? And TikTok is a, is a dangerous one in that, especially for people who have ADHD It is an ADHD person's paradise.

Christy  (23:02):

You don't anything about that

Lucas (23:04):

<Laugh>, whatever. And it's really easy to get stuck in one of those, as you call 'em doom scrolling, right? which is where you just kind of get stuck in this spiral of just continuously scrolling. and lose total track of time Yep. And things. But it's our, there's an algorithm that determines what you are going to see next. And the algorithm is based off of what you've liked, what you've commented on, how long a video you watch. So if you watch a video to its entirety, even if it's not something you're necessarily into, you're gonna be more likely to see a video like that in the future So it's really, really smart, unfortunately. And it can, like Christy was talking about, it can, it can give you things that maybe you're not wanting to see all the time. 'cause You just, you never know what's coming up next. Yep. And there's a, when it comes to also on TikTok, there's a lot of cyber bullying that occurs. , I have so many kids come in and talk about how there's somebody making a fake account  and trolling them, which is where you try to get an emotional response out of somebody by being mean

Christy  (24:06):

Under a pseudonym. Like Without like a completely, like, you don't know that that's who it is.

Lucas (24:12):

 And they might be posting about them. They might be commenting on their, their videos DMing them, which is direct message, or PMing, which is private message And it's, it causes a lot of distress. It does. In kids and, and adults. I've had many adults come in with the exact same thing.  doxing can occur, which is where your personal information gets released online. I've had multiple clients tell me that their home address was leaked out to thousands of people on Facebook and Instagram. And it's terrifying. 'cause You just, you never know who's, who's looking at it or who's going to do something with that information.  And so it's important to keep that protected as much as possible.

Christy  (24:56):

I also think being aware of what the TikTok trends are for yourself and for your kids. I know right now there's one, for example, that is about losing someone that, that you've loved. Like it's a, it's a really cute first picture and then you scroll and then it's a picture of those people without the person who has passed away. And if you don't know that, that song goes with that trend and you start scrolling and you are a person who has a loss or has, you know, as a survivor of, of loss, like that can trigger a whole bunch of emotions that just kind of come flooding back that you didn't expect to have that day. And there, there's some other trends on TikTok too that go with sounds, but being aware of what those are, I think is also important to know what you're getting into.

Lucas (25:39):

I think one of the, to flip it a little bit, to be more, a little bit more positive because Woo <laugh>, I love TikTok.

Christy  (25:45):

'Cause we're social workers And we're strengths based.

Lucas (25:49):

Absolutely. TikTok is a really cool platform.  because you can find common people with common interests that are sharing their love for something that you also love. And when you get put onto the, that branch of TikTok or that umbrella, you're gonna start seeing things of people that relate to you. And it's just, it can be inspiration. If it's artsy, it can be motivational. You're gonna, like, if I imagine you have a bunch of running TikTok, I do stuff come up, you know, I get a bunch of nerdy stuff. and

Christy  (26:21):

It's great. I had a kid the other day who was on Duck Talk.

Lucas (26:23):

I didn't even know that was a thing

Christy  (26:24):

Because they're ducks, man. <Laugh>, they just in ducks. And there's videos that are just ducks. Love it. I love it too. But, and that's kind of how niche TikTok can be. Where it's like, I mean, I don't, I'm I'm, I'm also on teacher talk, which is really interesting.

Lucas (26:39):

That's very interesting.

Christy  (26:40):

I Know. But I, it's all like happy uplifting stuff. Love usually Love it. That my for you page is like, we think you like this. And I'm like, you're  Tiktok, I do I do like this.

Lucas (26:49):

So there's a lot of positives. There's just, there's also some things to keep in mind too. And that's with that is with any website.  Period.

Christy  (26:56):

. Well, and I think I, it goes back to what I was saying before. Like, the majority of things that are happening are going to be fine. They're, it's good, it's positive. If you teach kids how to and, and adults, honestly, because adults are not safe from, from anything that happens on the internet. But as long as you're, you're, you're being smart and you're being safe about it, and you're taking the right precautions in the right places, and you are understanding yourself enough to know what you can and cannot tolerate on a day. I think that is, that is a huge part of it is like knowing, being very self-aware of, of where you are and not getting sucked in to something that you're not in a mental space for.

Lucas (27:33):

And don't be afraid to use that block button. Like in every single social media platform there is the ability to block people And you don't have to put up with anything. No. If, if they're not being kind or just they just rubbed you the wrong way, just block 'em.  There's,

Christy  (27:50):

I see that to people all the time because this is the other thing that happens is that sometimes we will have falling out with people and we don't remove them as friends. And it becomes more of a voyeuristic sort of thing where you're going. 'cause You just wanna see what they're up to. That is not healthy for people. If you, if you've had a falling out with somebody, I urge you, like remove them from your friends list in whatever capacity it is. It will be better for your mental health. But it's keeping them as a friend just because you want to see what they're up to. There's guess how much good comes from that? Zero. 0% Good. zero. None good. Zero good. So I mean, like really protecting your peace, honestly, which sounds like very cliche, but if there's something that triggers you, remove it.

Lucas (28:38):

That is a wild idea.

Christy  (28:40):

Don't stare at it and check it every day. Because that's what people do. They will check the Facebook pages of people that they hate to see what's going on. And that is not healthy for us.

Lucas (28:50):

Absolutely. <laugh>, if you don't wanna see them in real life.  Let's just take them off of the internet.

Christy  (28:55):

There's no bad blood. I mean if, and because there already is so like, just remove it.

Lucas (29:00):

What are you gonna lose? You already have anxiety, <laugh>, you already had a falling out.

Christy  (29:04):

You're gonna lose anxiety by removing somebody who causes it.

Lucas (29:09):

What are the common situations that you see either adults or kids, whatever . Just people getting into on the internet specifically when it comes to social media platforms.

Christy  (29:19):

I'm, I have a lot of people right now that are like between the ages of 18 and 24 and the dating that is going on and Oh And the like, again, good and bad, right? Like, I love that we have dating websites. You can meet somebody who's, who fits your morals and your values, and you kind of get a preview of who they are and they can state their intentions and their profile, whatever. That's great. But it's the, it's how do you know that you're talking to who they say that, that you're talking to? How do you go about meeting someone in a safe way that doesn't put you in danger or potentially put you in danger? And how do you deal with it if you decide that you don't like that person? Like there's, I, I am with a lot of people right now that are in that dating world. And again, like the 18 to 24-year-old, they're still kind of impulsive and they still are kind of dopamine chasing and you know, it's kind of fun and it's exciting. And I get that. But it's, there is a level of safety that has to happen because you could find yourself in a pretty shady sitch Wow. Look at me. Yeah.

Lucas (30:21):

Sitch. I'm sorry. That means situation for those of you that aren't just cool as Christy will

Christy  (30:27):

Trying, trying to be cool. <Laugh>.

Lucas (30:29):

It's working.

Christy  (30:31):

I tell you called me out on it Lucas.

Lucas (30:33):

I know I kind of talked a little bit about doxing. It was a thing that can happen. But there's also this thing called catfishing. Oh Which you were kind of alluding to when you were talking about we don't really know who people are Correct. On the internet. And this is a lot, one of the more common ways of catfishing is pretending to be somebody typically of the opposite sex to that person and acting interested in them and then convincing them that you have some form of a relationship with them and then getting money off of them or getting you, getting them to send you some or getting you to send them something. Sorry. And then once they get that they're either gonna keep asking for more and more and more, or they're just gonna ghost you, which means they just disappear.  without any trace These people are not who they say they are.  And it is both surprising and not surprising at the same time as to how many people can fall for that. Because after, afterwards they're like, how could I be so dumb?  But during it, like, they're good at what they do.

Christy  (31:31):

They are

Lucas (31:31):

Really good manipulators.

Christy  (31:32):

They are. I, I mean, I've self-disclosed that I've, I've met several people from the internet. I've got, I bet I've met hundreds of people that I initially met on the internet that I've gone on to meet in real life. And I've been catfished. One time it was a, a like a female friend who I'd been talking to, like, we'd been talking in a group for months and months and months and months and months. And all of a sudden it came to be where she and I were gonna meet up. And she's like, I have to tell you something. And I was like, what? And it just, they really commit to the bit.

Lucas (31:59):

And there's, there's a lot of reasons behind that as to why they might do it could just be that they're a really bad person.  There could be like some anxiety, so they hide who they are,

Christy  (32:08):

Or insecurity.

Lucas (32:08):

Insecurity. So then they get stuck in this lie, whatever. Either way it hurts. Whenever that happens. And there are ways to protect yourself. And one of the things that I tell people is you just, you never trust anybody on the internet until they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. And they need to go through a rigorous amount of tests. In order for that to occur.

Christy  (32:29):

I think the biggest, the biggest one that I hear all the time where like they'll say, well, I FaceTime them, I know that they are who they are. And that's maybe one level of a test because you don't know if there's someone else telling that person that this is what they have to do in order, you know, you just, you just don't know.

Lucas (32:45):


Christy  (32:46):

You Just have to be safe about it.

Lucas (32:47):

I've recently had some of my clients coming in and say that they get blackmailed by people. Oh, sure. So what happens, and this happens all the time actually, you'll have these random people add you on a social media platform. And what they're doing is they're mass adding people just to see who bites. And so then you add 'em back and they message you So that's the, that's stage two. And then you respond to them. And if you are interested in what they're saying, then they ask you for a picture of what you look like. And then what they do, or at least in this case, what they did is they photoshopped that image to be something really embarrassing So this one, they photoshopped, they made it an inappropriate image and said that they were gonna send it to all of their followers on Instagram. And if they, unless they paid them a significant portion of money. And this was terrifying For this individual, because not all, they were like, well, what are you gonna do if I don't? They're like, well, I will ruin your life and I will send this out to everybody. I will post it everywhere, whatever. And it's really terrifying depending on how knowledgeable you are of the internet and what could actually come out of that.

Christy  (33:51):

Well, and let's take a look at what happens when that happens. Right? So someone sends you a message like that and your brain goes into fight or flight mode.  You start sweating, you start being anxious, your brain stops functioning, honestly. Like, it just kind of stops. And so like that rational part of your brain is really hard to access at that time. So what it is, is essentially emotional manipulation. Because they know if they can put you in a heightened state of arousal, that you are more vulnerable in that state and that you're more likely to believe whatever it is that they're saying to you realistically, could this person ruin your life if it's a manipulated image? I mean, it would be, it would be terrible, but you could prove that it wasn't you. And it's like most rational people would be like, if you were in a rational state to be like, no, I'm calling the police.

Christy  (34:37):

 But when you, that's what they do though. They get you in this heightened vulnerable state where you're not able to have that rational thought and you're just able to be like, I just want the problem to go away. Because that's what your brain does. It goes into fight or flight. And it's like, I want to be out of this situation that is making me feel like this because I think I'm gonna die And so you're willing to do, I will pay you $800 to just make everything okay and I can be okay again. And it, it just is so sad that people take advantage of people in that way.

Lucas (35:05):

Yeah, It never stops at the 800 bucks, does it? They just keep going.

Christy  (35:07):

No, . Yes. And then you find yourself in a spiral and it's just, it's not good.

Lucas (35:12):

 There's some pretty key, like they all kind of use the same playbook when they do this. And there's some good tells as to if you're talking to a real person or not. One of the big ones is if they are presenting a certain way, but like the way, like maybe if they're presenting as like a very American cliche looking person, if you will But their English is not good. , that could be a really big warning sign. If they're really pushy about pictures or if they're really pushy about money or asking for things right away. That's also a huge red flag. Stop talking to them if they start asking for that. And if they are constantly, like, if they're spamming you with messages.  that's also a really big red flag to stop talking. This isn't a real person probably. Yeah.

Lucas (35:59):

'Cause there's also, we have such advanced technology nowadays that there's bots out there. So a robot that is just sending messages out and it has these pre-programmed message responses to you. And I've gotten these before and I don't even know what to describe it, but I like to mess with them And so then I, 'cause I can tell it's a bot right away. And so then I, I just start texting it back. Really Just crazy stuff that doesn't make any sense. And then it sends like this canned response back to me. Yeah.

Christy  (36:27):

Just an AI generated response.

Lucas (36:28):

Just like something it was gonna respond no matter what I said. And so it's just look out for those things and if you see that, just block the person. Don't talk to them. You don't have to be like me and try and mess with them, but in fact don't

Christy  (36:40):

Yes. I do think it's important on that note to also make sure that you're looking out for your elderly.

Lucas (36:48):

Oh, they're a huge target

Christy  (36:49):

Loved ones because they are also highly targeted because people think that they have money that they don't know how to use the internet, that they're easily manipulated and they'll fall into scams and whatever. So like, always make sure that the, the elderly people in your life or people that maybe aren't as internet savvy or maybe aren't as connected as you are that they're aware of those things. 'cause It can come, that can come in through even email, Facebook profiles, people hack those Facebook profiles all of the time. All the time. Oh my gosh.

Lucas (37:17):

My grandma has like 10 accounts I swear.

Christy  (37:20):

<Laugh>, she keeps getting hacked. Yeah, I know. But they always target like that population. It's like, leave them alone. I know. Let

Lucas (37:27):

Them live their lives. My grandma listens to this, so I'm sorry for making fun of you. <Laugh>.

Christy  (37:32):

Sorry Grandma.

Lucas (37:34):

Love you <Laugh>.

Christy  (37:36):

But it's, but it's true. I mean, they are, they're a vulnerable population. And so it's, it's just something to be aware of.

Lucas (37:41):

Another thing that recently came up was getting randomly added on Snapchat and people not realizing that they're, because for some reason it's the, or at least it used to be the default that snap maps is just always on for everybody.  rather than it just automatically being private.  Which makes no sense to me.  But it's fine. And so you add these random people and this person has just is really wanting attention from the opposite sex. Just like that. They crave that.  and like a lot of people do. And so Cool. This person messaged me. They must really like me or know me somehow. And so then they start messaging them They add them and as soon as you add them, now you've just given them their location. If you don't have that set to private, and as soon as you start sending pictures to them, now they have even more personal information about you. And what people don't realize is how easy it is to find more personal information about you. If I have a first name and a picture in a general location, I can find you so fast If I have your first and last name game over It, it is so easy to find people on the internet nowadays.

Christy  (38:49):

<Laugh>, why are you finding people on the internet like this?

Lucas (38:51):

I that's a different topic. Ubut,weirdo, I know I've done this with, with clients just to show them how easy it is with the information they have. A lot of people don't realize that if you message somebody on Facebook and accept the message, you have allowed them temporary access to see your personal information on Facebook. , if you are on TikTok and you are getting random messages by, from people, that's not normal. It's for kids, especially girls, it is not normal for adult men to message you random stuff from your videos.  That is a red flag.  block those people.  I just had this conversation this week. <Laugh>.

Christy  (39:28):

But again, that whole thing goes back to being emotional manipulation because when you are, when you feel like you're being pursued by somebody that you're also interested in, there is a level of rationality that just kind of leaves And you're, you're not making decisions based on exactly what your morals and values would tell you to do. You're doing it based on, well this kind of feels good, so let's just keep going with it. That's a dangerous place to be.

Lucas (39:52):

Absolutely. There's other, other things too, like never open a link.  that's been given to you by somebody you don't know.  it is really easy to send a link through what would be called like an IP address finder. And your IP address is your physical location that is determined by your modem or the internet connection that you have So if I know your IP address, I know where you live You can protect that using A VPN, but no, most people don't know what that is or have one So just be careful when you're opening up links. Be careful when you're opening up emails. Don't ever download something. 'cause There could be malware on it or a virus.  that could start stealing your information. 'cause That's primarily what they're going after is some sort of information to steal something from you. Yeah.

Christy  (40:32):

And I, I think the reason that we, we spend so much time talking about safety in this way is because a lot of people find themselves in our office because of the distress that's caused by something that's happened on the internet. And then that causes the mental health concern. And so then if it wouldn't have started on the internet, they wouldn't be in our office. But it's something like that is very, very distressing and traumatizing in a lot of ways depending on, you know, the, the nature and the severity of whatever is happening. So anything that we can do to help not get you in that situation we're gonna do. Absolutely. 'cause I mean, you and I say this to each other all the time, in a perfect world, we wouldn't have jobs.  Like in a perfect world, we wouldn't, nobody would need us Everybody would just be mentally healthy and bebopping around.

Lucas (41:17):

Sounds great.

Christy  (41:17):

I Know,  And I'd be like, cool, I'll go work at the golf course now You know, but it's just not the case. But we wanna do everything that we can to help you not put yourself in a situation where you are having to suffer some of this distress in any way. 'cause 'cause It is, I mean it is very damaging. We've seen that over and over and over.

Lucas (41:37):

I think, you know, we've talked, so a lot of social media platforms that we are more concerned with, like the, the messages that people might be getting or the dms or like trying to keep your information safe. But there's also, it's really good to monitor what your kids are viewing. So like TikTok, YouTube, all those things. Although there's a lot of really great information out there and it's, there's a lot of funny stuff and you can find really great connections that way. It's, there's also a component of, there's a ton of misinformation on TikTok and YouTube 'cause you can upload anything you want. Really. I know. Me personally, I can't tell you. Like I can't tell you, I wish I had a nickel for every single time I've had to talk somebody out of like an autism diagnosis or ADHD or just some diagnosis that they learned about on TikTok  that some random kid started talking about and now they think they have it.  or YouTube. There's a ton of misinformation. Like I remember during Covid times, there was a bunch of misinformation going on about covid all from YouTube that I was helping people sort through  and talk about because they were just terrified  Of these things.

Christy  (42:39):

And conversely, I mean, we are, we are just hitting the dialectics of all this all over the place. But conversely, I've had people that had no idea that they had ADHD until they saw a TikTok and they're like, oh no, oh no, this, I'm hitting all of these. And then they'll come in and they'll be like, do you think I have it? And I was like, Like you do. And I think that's been really powerful for some people if you're following the right talkers that are presenting the information in a, in a way that is reliable. Because there's people that have realized that they have anxiety and depression through TikTok. And I think that's amazing to raise mental health awareness and to raise self-awareness to be like, oh, it's not okay that I, like why am I hitting all the criteria that they're talking about?

Christy  (43:24):

And if that happens to you, by all means make, make an appointment with a mental health professional and get diagnosed. We'll do a diagnostic assessment. We'll take you in, we'll help you figure out what it is. Because a lot of times people are not cut and dried. Like you may have all of the symptoms of anxiety and it could actually be PTSD or you could have all the symptoms of, of ADHD and it's actually anxiety or vice versa. You know, and so you, you sometimes you just, you need somebody to come in and help sort through all of that because mental health is not cut and dry and it's very different for every person. Every person is different. Everybody experiences it different. And we really do a deep dive into every person that comes in and what this is for them.

Lucas (44:09):

Yes. And it's important to, 'cause there's a lot of people who will read like the dsm, which is our diagnostic and statistical manual, which allows us to it's all the diagnostic criteria, right? . And they can read them be like, oh, I matched this, this, and this. Well, what exactly does that mean or look like? Because lack of sleep, for example, is a symptom in a ton of different diagnoses. But it looks different and presents differently depending on what we're looking at here.   So that's where it's important to come to a trained professional to really tease out what's happening there. And things like TikTok and YouTube can give you really general information and great information to help start that journey But it's not the end all be all.  and I think it's important for adults to teach, to do some research on things and to make sure that what they're viewing, if they like it or dislike it, that it's good material or not true.  material. And then teaching our kids how to do that as well and to ask questions,  So that we aren't getting misinformation and being led down a path that we don't want to be led down.

Christy  (45:08):

And it's gonna sound a little cheesy, but hey, what's a Friday without a little cheese? But like, your story is important and the details of your story are important and your, your story is not the same as somebody else's. And so how that all manifests and that, how that all comes to be and the reasons why you maybe do or don't do something based on things that have happened to you in the past and people that you've had in your life and relationships that you've had. All of that comes together to help us figure out what's going on in your brain. And it's like, give your story some validity. Like your life is important, your experiences are important, and the way that you experience them is important. And I wanna know what that is, and I'm gonna help you figure that out. But it's like, all these generalities are great. Right? It's it like, it helps people kind of put themselves in a category, but who you are as a person and what is going on in your brain is very specific to you.

Lucas (46:01):

Absolutely. So I think like we keep going on these dialectics of like, it, there's some positive things, there's some negative things when it comes to the internet and social media in general. And I think that there's some really big takeaways here. And so, but the big question here is like, how do I know I'm having a positive Experience with the internet? Or do I need to step back? And I think it's important that we take those times to reflect after maybe we're done with an internet session or halfway through one. Like, am I like, is this making me feel better?  like, am I being fulfilled doing this? And if the answer is no, then maybe we do need to take a step back or then

Christy  (46:41):

Stop doing it. <Laugh>, then stop doing

Lucas (46:43):

It And if, but like afterwards, like if you're like, that felt awesome. Like, I, I loved that that was a thing that I did. And then maybe we keep doing it. Right? But that's great, but that's gonna be very subjective to the person. What is good for Christy may not be good for me. That's true. I don't know what that means, but we're gonna talk about it after.

Christy  (47:04):

We'll unpack that later.

Lucas (47:05):

 And so it's important not to project what is good for you onto other people. Also, it's good to maybe just, if somebody's questioning it, take a second and look at that for yourself. Right? Is this what is best for me?

Christy  (47:18):

 I think another huge thing is if, if you are avoiding or not going to real life events or real life meetups or things that you really enjoy because you'd rather be on the internet and scrolling and doing all those things and you're kind of neglecting things that are happening in, in your real life, that's also probably an indication that you're maybe wrapped up in something and that there's maybe some addiction happening. It that happens with addiction in general is that you Kind of figure out how to dodge your real life priorities and real life responsibilities to do the thing that you wanna do. And the internet really isn't much different. It's like if you're, if you are like, no, I have to sit here and talk to these people all day long, other, I'm gonna miss this because, and you're missing your nephew's graduation. Like, okay, no.  That's not Nope. Let's talk about that.

Lucas (48:07):

People who are dopamine chasers. or reward chasers. That's the internet is, is a playground for you. and so we gotta be, be careful because we could start diminishing our own relationships or responsibilities that we need to have done because we keep chasing this dopamine response.

Christy  (48:27):

What do you mean by that? Chasing dopamine? Because I know what that means, but I don't know what, everybody knows what that means.

Lucas (48:31):

That's fair. So dopamine is the reward chemical So whenever we do something really good or we are successful in something, you get a dopamine dump in your brain. And this is why when you are on the internet, or if you are playing a game and you get a reward, it feels good and you wanna keep doing it.  people who maybe have a dopamine deficiency such as people with ADHD. They are constantly seeking it because they don't have enough ever And it's law of diminishing returns, which is why you're gonna find people who have ADHD have a million different hobbies that they've tried.  because it never sat satisfies forever. Uhhuh . I know nothing about that. <Laugh>,stop looking at me that way.

Christy  (49:08):

I was not looking at you in any way. Yeah.

Lucas (49:11):

Whatever. Oh,

Christy  (49:11):

You perceived my look that's on you. Okay.

Lucas (49:14):

And so the internet can really suck people in. That's where the doom scrolling comes in. And you just, we gotta be careful of that and make sure that we are finding joy and rewards in other places other than just the internet. Because although the internet has really great things and can be really positive, if we use it in access, it's not going to be

Christy  (49:34):

And I think that dopamine chasing, I mean, that's really what people are doing on the internet too, when they're, when they're sending you messages that make you feel good about yourself and they're, if they're phishing you or whatever there is that that, that you're doing, like they're feeding on the fact that this dopamine is hitting your brain and you're losing a little rationality when it, when that's up there.

Lucas (49:53):

I, one of the big questions just 'cause we're, we're running a little bit short on time here, is that what sort of resources as a parent can I use to keep up with this stuff? Or like, look things up if my kid is asking me if I can go on this app or this website or whatever to make an informed decision? . And so I have a list of, or just some tips that I, I tell parents to do. And I'm sure you have some as well. , one of the two websites that I use when I'm, when I'm not sure about something is And then there's and that they review video games, movies, books, TV shows, internet websites, apps. And it gives like their own synopsis of what's all on there, what you can access.

Lucas (50:41):

They have like little rating scales and stuff. And then there's also on some of them, you can see what parents have said about it and then what kids have said about it. Be mindful that there are kids who are reviewing it So it, I have read some and I'm like that. Nope. That's, I don't agree with that at all. Another thing you can do is Google your questions. If you don't know what something is, look it up. Don't just take, don't take your kid's word for it. Even though they might be super trustworthy. Just go look it up. 'cause They may not have all the information either. Go on YouTube and watch somebody play a game. Go on YouTube and watch what you can do on this website or whatever. There's a, because there's a YouTube video for literally everything.  Another thing, and this is probably the best way to do it. Try it yourself. Go see what trouble you can get into on a, on a website.

Christy  (51:27):

Not that much trouble, but

Lucas (51:28):

Like, but not that much trouble. But like, just go see, just go play around on the, on the website, see what's all there, what you can do. If it's an app, go download the app. Make an account on it. And go see what's all on there.  you're never truly gonna know what you can do on something until you're doing it yourself. And then you can make an informed decision. Is this something I want my kids involved in or doing?

Christy  (51:47):

 I also, communication to me is the biggest thing. Keep the communication open with your kids in a, in a way that isn't going to make them defensive. Because if there's one thing kids don't want, it's their phone being taken away. Yes. And that honestly leads them to be more dishonest about what they're doing on their phone than what, because if, if they, if they think that you as a parent think that they're in trouble in some way, or that they're doing something wrong and it might get their phone taken away, they're not gonna tell you that because it is the worst thing ever for kids to get their phone taken away because then it creates a whole bunch of anxiety. 'cause They don't know what's going on. I mean, it is just a really frustrating situation. And so keeping the communication open with your kids, and even if they make a mistake on their phone, maybe that doesn't mean that you take their phone away forever, but you teach to it and you try to not get super upset about it, but make it an educational experience and be like, okay, let's talk about what could have happened if this, if this would've gone farther.

Christy  (52:46):

Or let's talk about if you're bullying somebody on, on a phone. Like, what, what does that look like to the other person? Like I'm just come more from a space of teaching because if there is some desperation that comes when kids don't have access to their phone and I, and sometimes that makes it worse. And so there's a line to walk there.

Lucas (53:03):

Monitoring of devices is also really common question that we get. And there's a ton of different websites out there that you can look up, but they are getting really fancy nowadays And they, there are some that like monitor the phone, that also monitor like texting and so it doesn't, it's not like sending you a list of all the text messages because that would be insane.  But it'll flag keywords. So if they're talking about things like suicide or drugs or,  whatever, like it's going to flag that text message, send it to you so you know that it's on there so then you can ask your kids about it. And you can put other keywords in there as well. But I would, and then there's other things too, like what the, there's one that monitors like location and stuff too. Life 360. Life 360. Thank you. that's a really popular one as well.

Christy  (53:48):

Yeah But I also think just making sure that your kids know that at any point you could come and look at their phone. That's enough for a lot of kids, honestly, that if, if, if they know that at any point they can be like, Hey, I want, I just wanna see your phone. I wanna see your contacts. I just wanna make sure that everything's, you know. Okay. Sometimes that's enough for most kids to be like, okay, I'm gonna do the right thing. Just the idea that somebody could possibly have access to their phone. That doesn't have to be super invasive if you know, you trust your kids or whatever. I mean, it depends on what works for each family, but sometimes just the idea of knowing, Hey, I'm gonna look at your phone from time to time Is enough.

Lucas (54:23):

Absolutely. And just keep talking about it. We always want to encourage you to ask the question, is it just me? You're likely not alone. And there is always a way to help. If anything we have talked about today resonates with you, please reach out.

Christy  (54:33):

Do you have a topic you'd like us to talk about? Message us. We'd love to hear from you at, is it just

Lucas (54:40):

And don't forget to share us with your friends and family.

Speaker 1 (54:42):

Thanks for listening to today's episode of Is It Just Me? To learn more or make an appointment for psychiatric or mental health services at Dakota Family Services, go to Dakota Family or call 1 800 201 6495.


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