If you know a teen or a tween, you know that there is only one thing more vital than oxygen, the essential, ever-present, possibly broken screened cell phone. It has become the primary mode of communication and connection with the world at large for the overwhelming majority of kids. If you were still clinging to the hope that we would somehow teach our kids how to make eye contact, shake hands, read body language, and use the phone book or library to figure the world out, I have news for you. The white flag has been raised. Take a moment. Deep breath, read on when you are ready.
This is not another article on what the effects of social media or the internet in the hands of a 12 year old will be in the long run. That’s a different article. This article is about how Edmond Family Counseling of Edmond, OK has used the current technology climate to message teens about suicide prevention, public safety, education, health, community through its BeEdmond App. The app, a free download on both Apple and Android platforms, gives kids over 40 connections to public and private agencies and community partners. Content is an aggregate of information designed specifically for areas where teens struggle including suicide hotlines, college planning, bus routes, job postings, even places to volunteer. Most organizations listed feature their social media, videos, email addresses, and often the option to, yes, text questions or get help. The app creates an environment where kids can safely learn to be proactive when encountering obstacles.
The fact that many of the resources are local is also important. Most experts agree that the closer to home the help is, the more effective the result. The World Health Organization in a recent report indicated that school and community based programs focusing on resiliency and coping skills were the most effective types of policies a community could provide to reduce teen suicide rates. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/168843/HEN-Suicide-Prevention-synthesis-report.pdf Indeed, with proper training, teens can learn to use the Bee App to identify issues and discover where there may be help. The same WHO report points to social isolation as a significant risk factor. The BeEdmond Twitter handle, https://twitter.com/beedmond1 is an effort to connect teens and the community in real time.
Word is spreading about the new way to reach out to teens. A recent series of newspaper and TV articles about the BeEdmond App seem to have tapped into a discussion on how to best help teens live safely and develop the resiliency they will need to operate in our larger, more complex maze of digital information, starting with some of the most vital resources.http://m.news9.com/story.aspx?story=29456474&catId=112032
So, what is next for Edmond Family Counseling and the BeEdmond app? “It is a two way discussion, says Kathy Matthews, MEd, communications/development coordinator for the not for profit agency. The kids let us know what they need, we update and refine the information according to that. “Currently, we have kids using the app to register to take their driving test and keep up with high school sports through the associated Twitter feed. The concept can be easily adapted for other communities. Any community can have their own Bee App. We have licensed it so we can take the effort wide. It is just another way to help.”
You may want to check out the Edmond Family Counseling website or BeEdmond.com to learn more about the project.