Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Dr. Jim Schroeder about how to talk to your children about peer challenges.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth. We begin tonight with a walk through a hospital corridor and saying goodbye to a teenage boy who left this world too early. Let me emphasize before you watch this, the family of Mason Bogard has given us permission to present a small part of this video. You’ll see a small part of it here. It’s Mason being taken by staff at Deaconess Midtown Hospital to donate his organs.
Mason Bogard was 15. His death remains under investigation, but his mother says he participated in what’s called a choking challenge. The Vanderburgh County Coroner told me today the death will remain under investigation for weeks due to toxicology tests and witness interviews.
Dr. Jim Schroeder is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and families. And he has authored several books. And he is a parent, he is a father. Dr. Schroeder thank you so much for joining us tonight. If you could take the psychologist cap off for a minute, your initial reaction to what you just saw.
Dr. Jim Schroeder: Sadness, to be honest. I’m inspired by the fact that he will help others live on, but I, as a father, I can’t help but feel very sad that it has come to this point and the family has to cope with what’s happened. I think we all as parents, if you see that, you just kind of feel that run through you, so it’s difficult to step away.
Brad Byrd: And although Mason’s death has not been officially released, it will take time, it has renewed conversation about kids taking risks – how do we talk to our children about these games that are often imposed upon them by their peers?
Dr. Jim Schroeder: I think what we need to think about is having the conversations earlier than the crisis happens. And so what I would say to parents is don’t be afraid to have conversations with your younger kids, even when things seem kind of minor, even when the shows they’re watching don’t seem to be a huge deal, or commercials are kind of brief – to start the conversation before the crisis is a key to a lot of issues we face. But the other thing is allowing kids to take the lead when they come home with questions and I think our gut reaction is wow, I don’t what I’m going to say and I’m a little concerned about saying anything – but we would ask as a parent myself, is that when your kids come home with questions consider this: 1. It’s great they’re coming to you, and 2. How can we use this as a teaching moment to help them work through the things they’re wondering about themselves?
Brad Byrd: It’s so important, not only for the kids to listen to the parents, but the parents to listen to the kids. Why is it so enticing for children, especially those approaching their teen years, to take these risks on a dare? What triggers that?
Dr. Jim Schroeder: Two things parents have to know – 1. Especially when their going through those teen years, they’re going through a psycho-social stage of what we call role identity VS. role confusion and what we mean by that is it’s particularly important as teens to identify with what the peers that they might have as friends – kind of figuring out where they’re fitting in. So, things we see as irrational, for them, if it’s a means of fitting in, or a means of identifying themselves with other people, it might seem more enticing and we have to be understanding of that. The second thing we have to know is that their brain development is far from being mature. And far from being fully developed. Research has indicated that skills like impulse control and decision making and emotional regulation are really kind of at their high point in those teen years and even into those early 20s. Think about they really want to identify with peers, there’s a lot of development going on, and it makes it prime for these issues to occur.
Brad Byrd: And Jim as you know, one of the topics people don’t like to talk about is suicide.But there is a Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” and it has had an impact on the suicide rate, tell me about that, especially among those young people.
Dr. Jim Schroeder: Right, this was released in March of 2017. When it was released, there were a lot of questions and controversy – some said it was drawing a claim because it was allowing for conversations to happen, but many critics said they were concerned that the vivid nature and it almost glorified suicide could potentially promote suicide risk among teens. Well, a couple years later, researchers have come out with a large-scale study and although they can’t really attack causation into what happened, what they found was the month following the release – there was almost a 30% increase in suicide rates among kids ages 10-17. And even the months following, there was an increase that just could not be accounted for by any other factor that they looked at. Again, I think we have to consider as parents sometimes even educators we really underestimate the influence and power of media, especially for these kids, especially teens, who have a lot of development left to go.
Brad Byrd: And there is so much information in this – it’s just inundating kids and adults, but being a parent what is the difference between being a parent for a child and a friend for a child?
Dr. Jim Schroeder: It’s a challenging place and I think never is it more challenging than when some of the biggest threats for your kids come from within your own home. If you think about even 20 years ago, many of the threats came from the outside, but now with devices especially, parents are having to figure out how to navigate – my kid has access to, potentially, all sorts of things that I would not want them to have access to. The other issue that parents have to realize is it’s not just the content of what’s coming in, it’s the amount that’s coming in. The average teen girl, for example, will text or Snapchat or any of those kinds of platforms 4,000 times a month – they will send out those messages. So think about this: even if the messages going out are not of illicit content, you and I when we were going through high school, but the internet was not around so we had a lot already to do. But today’s teens are inundated with all sorts of communications and information and honestly, they’re struggling, struggling to know what to do with it.
Brad Byrd: Well, Dr. Jim Schroeder thank you so much. We’ll continue this conversation because this is such a fluid time that we are living in especially for our kids. Thank you so much. And you’ve got a lot of experience, you’ve got kids. So, you live it from both sides.
Dr. Jim Schroeder: Thank you.
(This story was originally published on May 8, 2019)