OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A recent TikTok challenge encouraging students to threaten gun violence is prompting schools in the Kansas City area to ask parents to talk to their kids about social media.
Several districts sent home letters to parents last Friday, to raise awareness about the issue and the seriousness of making these kinds of threats.
Local mental health experts say it's a reminder of how crucial it is for parents to have open communication with their kids about social media.
Dr. Caroline Danda, a licensed psychologist, said hearing about a threatening message on social media can be very frightening for parents, but it's important for them not to transmit their own fears or anxiety onto kids.
"The best thing to do in dealing with social media, is to get really curious and to find out what your kids know, not in an interrogative matter, but just be curious," Danda said. "You might just say 'Hey I heard about this, what do you think about this?"
Danda warns against cutting off your child's social media completely because it's not realistic. She instead wants to encourage parents to figure out how to work with it.
"I’m a big fan of using news or articles to talk about what social media is or even watching the movie The Social Dilemma, to really get conversations going with kids so that they can actually be part of making decisions about using social media," Danda said.
In the world of COVID-19, social media platforms, like Snapchat, are some of the main ways teenagers communicate.
For Jessa Sparks, a freshman at Shawnee Mission East High School, there are plenty of pros, such as staying connected, but there are also cons.
"It's just you and a screen, so that's when people can say whatever they want, whenever they want, without having to actually say it to your face," Sparks said.
Sparks said she tries to limit her use of social media.
No matter the platform, there's plenty of potential for pressure, comparison and the negativity of the world.
Sparks said middle school and high school can be a difficult time, even without the pressures of social media.
She's been going to therapy sessions with Dr. Danda for several years now and wants her peers to know there's no shame in asking for help.
"I'm able to be more productive and to be happier and see the good in life rather than focus on the bad," Sparks said.