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.
Featuring Lucas Mitzel, LCSW, Therapist, Dakota Family Services
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind.
Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Lucas Mitzel. Lucas is a therapist on the Fargo campus and provides outpatient therapy for children, adolescents, and young adults. Lucas, it's great to have you on mind your mind. Our topic is internet safety. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do. Why is this work important to you?
Well, this work is important to me because I want to help as many people as I can. And so if I can assist one person and help them become a better version of themselves or be the person that they can be that makes everything worth it.
Again, our topic is internet safety. And first question up, I know internet safety has been a buzz for parents for a long time, just because with COVID and all the other stuff that's going on, it just seems like there's way more activity on the internet. So what are the dangers of the internet?
Well, it's a really, really big topic. I did a talk on this for about three hours at the North Dakota Mental Health Counselors Association conference this spring. I'm going to try and keep it short for this, but I would, I like to start with just an analogy. If you take the internet and you think about it like a firearm, a lot of people are raised around firearms, especially in the North Dakota area. I was always taught that you respect a firearm. You learn what it can do, but you don't necessarily need to be scared of it. If you replaced firearm with the internet, you teach kids, you teach others, what the dangers are of it. That if you give it to somebody without any knowledge of how to use it, they could hurt somebody or themselves.
Education is the biggest piece here that we need to work on with our families, with our kids. And that's what I hope to do. If you look at the percentage of pornography on the internet, there's astounding rates. 90% of children between the ages of eight and 16 have viewed pornography. Most of the time it's unintentional. Most of the time, it is from peer to peer. 90% of kids between the ages of five and 17 use computers. At age five, we have 25% of kids using computers. And that was in 2001. So, looking at what we use today, especially during this pandemic and the quarantine, I imagine that rates are probably upwards to a hundred percent all the time. The internet is...you have three types of internet, or three levels.
When you look at the internet, it's kind of like an iceberg. So, you have the surface of the iceberg, which is a lot of the websites that we use such as Google, Facebook, the normal websites that everybody looks at. The deep web constitutes of medical records, databases things that you use a lot of times in college to get information. The dark web, that is where you would have a lot of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking or human trafficking. I actually have worked with kids who access the dark web. They buy drugs from like California and they ship them over here to North Dakota and then they will distribute them themselves. And they figured all of this out using the dark web. The dark web constitutes about 96% of the internet, which is insane. And a lot of it is stuff that we just don't even know about. Going back to pornography just a little bit. Age of first exposure is around 11. When you look at the top 100 sites visited in 2020, six of them were pornographic websites. And the top one was seventh overall. So 47% of families report pornography being a problem in their home. And it leads to significant family issues, whether that be between marriages or just conflict in the home in general with parents and kids.
I would Google dark web because I have no idea, but younger generations, those that are more adept at getting online and doing different things pretty easy. So that brings me to what websites do I need as a parent to be aware of.
I would argue you need to be aware of all of them, but if you take even the most, but seemingly benign websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, it is really important for parents to be aware of everything that you can do on those platforms. Facebook is known as the largest social media platform. I mean, almost everybody has a Facebook nowadays. But a lot of people don't realize that you can do video chatting on Facebook, that you can add almost anybody. There's a phenomenon known as mass ads where, and a lot of people have experienced this, where you get an invite from somebody who you don't know. And if you were to do some digging and look into that, that person who added you, they have very few friends, and it makes no sense how they would even know you.
Lot of times, kids don't know this. And so, they'll just add people to add them. And this can cause a lot of issues. And that's where you have people who are looking for kids, who are wanting to hurt kids, or just have followers for whatever reason, adding people. And so kids need to know about these things in order to prevent these people from having contact with your children. A lot of people don't realize that you can message anybody on Facebook and if you message back, they can actually see your profile. So, telling kids that, you know, you need to, you can only talk to people that, you know, be careful with who you're adding. With Instagram, a lot of the same stuff. But there's also a thing called Finstagram with an F and that's a fake Instagram account.
This is where kids will make an Instagram, that they're okay with their parents seeing and that's the one that they'll add their parents on and their relatives. And then they'll have an actual Instagram account where they will share things that they don't necessarily want their parents to see. So making sure you are aware of what your kids are doing, what websites are on, what email addresses they're on. It takes 30 seconds to make a new email address. Just being aware of what's going on with that. Twitter you can message people too. A lot of people don't realize this. You can find anything on Twitter and just follow them. You don't even have to follow a lot of people to be able to view the material. There's a lot of pornographic material on Twitter, along with Instagram and Facebook, that people aren't aware of.
There's a website known as onlyfans. And that is where people will take pictures of themselves typically in a pornographic way. And will sell that to people. And that website is advertised everywhere. People will advertise their only fans accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, which we'll get to in a little bit, Tik TOK Snapchat, which are some of the most popular, some of the most popular apps that kids use nowadays. Only fans is everywhere right now. This is a really big thing. It's joked a lot about and the parents don't know that this is what's going on. If you look at Reddit, as I mentioned earlier, they call themselves or they used to call themselves the front page of the internet. And Reddit is basically a website where you have a bunch of small communities known as subreddits, and it's just people sharing their shared interests.
It's a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. So there's a really great resource out there. So if you're really into crafting things or specific hobbies, you can find a whole community of people that share your passion or share your hobby. And so then you can get more information and more resources that way. It's fantastic. However, there are pages and pages and pages and pages of inappropriate material on this website. And it's not moderated. Well, they say that it's moderated, but it's moderated by volunteers of each subreddit. So it's not really. If it violates a rule of that subreddit, those moderators in air quotes can take it down. But a lot of people don't. There's a chat slash message feature that allows you to communicate with anybody on the site, as long as you know, or have seen, their username.
And this is pretty unfiltered. So, there's pretty much anything that you can do on there. Omegle is having a resurge right now, and that's a free online video chatting service. You can get matched with random people online and you can video chat with them face-to-face. You have no idea who you're going to be matched with. You have no idea what they're going to do. It's considered anonymous, but on the website, this is a direct quote from their website. It says, "Predators have been known to use this site. Please be careful." So, the website itself tells you that it's dangerous. These chats are unmoderated. Nudity is often shown. People who just show up on the video chat are naked, performing sexual acts, and the highest population of users are typically kids just trying to be goofy or silly.
And then they see things that they just can't unsee. People's ASL is often asked on here. So, when you go on the chat, they'll say ASL question mark. And that means age sex location. So, they'll say, 15 slash M, which means male, or F means female, and then their country. And if you're in the United States, typically they use their state. So right away, predators are asking where like, how far away are you, what sex are you and what age you are. And a lot of times, if you're a female, cause it's typically male-dominated on these websites looking for females, if you're a female, they'll stick with you and they'll want to chat with you. If you're male, they'll press next. At any point during the chat, you can press next and end the call. But that's just a taste of some of the websites that are out there that are popular right now, among kids.
As a parent, listening to this podcast of Mind Your Mind with Lucas Mitzel, you're like we're just pulling the internet. We're pulling the plug at home. We're just not going to be, be a part of that. So as a parent, are there apps that I could use that would help me alert me as to what my kids are doing? You know, like they have stuff to hide it from me as a parent. Are there things that I can use to kind of subvert that and get around it and know what they're doing?
Yeah. There's a lot of different monitoring services that you can use. Some of the big ones right now are...there is one called Bark. This has got really good reviews. It monitors internet access on the computer and on your phone. I'm going to mispronounce these, quiz studio, Q U S T O D I O. Net nanny. Those are two other internet monitoring services. For phone monitoring, you have bark, kid bridge and web watcher. These are some of the higher rated ones. Most of them take a subscription, but like with bark, a lot of them can actually monitor what kids are typing too. So they can, you can put in key words, such as suicide or self-harm, and you will get a message notifying you that that was typed which allows you to really pay close attention to what's going on. I will urge parents though, that just because you have a monitoring device does not mean that you need, you get to be lazy because I promise you that there is a way to get around every single one of these things. And kids are really smart and they have friends that are really smart and they want to get around these things sometimes. So don't stop asking questions. Don't stop talking, don't stop having conversations with your kids, and providing them education. Educate them about just general internet safety, who you share information with, which should be typically nobody, t be suspicious of people that you don't know on the internet, teach kids to follow their instincts. I would download the apps or go on the websites that your kids are going on so that you can see for yourself what it's like. That's the best way in my mind.
And don't just have the one and done conversation. It should be a continuing monologue, continuing conversation with your kids, because things are changing. I mean, you were talking about stuff and I'm like, I was up on some of that and the rest of it, I'm just lost. So, I'm glad I have an adult child now and not have so many worries that many of the parents do well. That was just a lot of great information about internet safety and really appreciate you sharing this with us. It's an episode of Mind Your Mind that you can go back and listen to over and over, pause it, write down information. If you need to just get to know this stuff as a parent, because it's so important to protect our kids, even when they don't know they need protection, they need protection. So, before we wrap up, though, I always had that one last question for all of our guests. And that is what do you do Lucas personally, to mind your mind?
Yeah, I think that that's a really important question that we need to continue to discuss especially as COVID continues. One of the best things is to have a routine. And so making sure that you take the time during your day for yourself to do what you need to do to be the best version of yourself for your, for your family, for your work. And that looks different for everybody, but I try and take as much personal time as I can from work, or I try and just do things that I find fun around the house
As a new parent that is taking care of a child. Good job. All right.
Thank you, Lucas. I appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to Mind Your Mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to Dakota Family Services.org.
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