Teens@Risk: The Dark Side Of Smartphones & Social Media

Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Your teen’s smartphone may not be as smart as you would like it to be. Teens today are presented with a world that did not exist that long ago. Giving your child a smartphone can introduce risks that you may not anticipate.

When teens open various apps such as KikMeetup or even Facebook, they could be inviting predators into their lives without realizing it. This can introduce cyberbullying, sextortion, blackmail and relationships that can become lethal. Yes, that means it could threaten their safety and ultimately their life.

Recently I was interviewed by a reporter who knew of my work with adolescent girls. In the article ‘Sextortion’ of girls can make smartphone as lethal as a gun, I’m quoted:

“It’s a very vulnerable age. They need attention. They are trusting. They want to feel loved,” Maleski said. “They also may feel like they’re in an adult relationship, so they feel mature and that they can handle it.”


9 Ways To Help Teen Girls Find Their Voice


Whoever said being a 14 year old girl is easy probably hasn’t been a 14 year old girl!  The struggle she has to go through to find her True Self and still be accepted can cause many a teen girl to lose her voice.

The article How Can We Help Young Girls Stay Assertive, describes research on adolescent girls “losing their voice” resulting in low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness. This phenomenon can cause teen girls to feel like they don’t belong, leading to isolation, even self-harming thoughts and/or behaviors.

Anyone who is a parent of a teen girl, a counselor or teacher accepts the job to help them feel more secure and to speak up for themselves! Here are some suggestions to help. The first five are from the article. The last four are from my work with teen girls:

1. Encourage her interests. Support her in her pursuits, whatever they are.  Linda Hoke-Sinex, Indiana University Bloomington, says, “When she [the teen] has an area in which she feels confident, it can act as a touchstone to build confidence in other areas of her life.”

2. Point out pressure from social media. Unrealistic media images and the pressure on women to look and act in certain ways is constantly in young people’s faces. Girls may be subject to brutal criticism or bullying on social media because of how they look or act. Unless parents monitor interactions on social media they might miss communication that contributes to corrosive self-doubt.

3. Watch your own talk. Dr. Mendez-Baldwin of Manhattan College says, “Sometimes, women inadvertently send messages to their daughters by focusing on their weight and their appearance. [They say] ‘Oh I need to lose weight’ or ‘I don’t look good’ or ‘I need to get Botox to remove these wrinkles,’ and then that sends a message to the girls that they need to focus on their appearance and that their self-worth is connected to their appearance.”


5 Questions to Help Figure Out: Who is My Family?


While we do not have a choice of the family we are born into, we can choose the people we call our family.

And that is okay!

Last night I was at dinner with my Dad and he introduced me to a man who he has known for a long time. As I talked with this man I noticed that he seemed sad. He was not sad about his life choices, he was sad about not having a relationship with his family. He felt betrayed by his family.

This left me thinking: What is family? Is it your “crazy” Uncle that makes everyone at dinner squirm and leaves you with your anxiety jumping from a 2 to a 10 within a matter of seconds? Or is it your best friend who calls and leaves you a voicemail, knowing you won’t pick up, because they know your day is filled with stress, but just wants you to know they are there for you.


What Can I Do To Stop Cutting?

4469573193_b4b4d04691Editor’s Note: The self-injurious nature of cutting is so alarming that people, even professionals, shy away from it. And yet there is a real need to address the reality of cutting head on, illuminate the whys of cutting and get everyone involved expert help. Explore What’s Next has tried to do just that in this series of articles about cutting. In this article, Kate Maleski, LCSW, Explore What’s Next therapist, offers eight helpful ideas if you are cutting and want to stop.


Why do I feel so much pain? Why am I like this? Why can’t I be more like them?

These are some of the questions that have lead people to think: I deserve pain and I want to physically feel pain. You may find yourself hurting yourself because you feel like nothing else works. Cutting doesn’t heal your pain…


5 Ways to Break Out of Winter Into Spring!

5970115488_583f929819Editor’s Note: Today we lost an hour! That would be totally  unacceptable except that going into Daylight Savings mode is a sign that Spring and Summer are just around the corner despite the crazy weather. After this endless winter, especially for those of us in the Deep North, I can really use Kate’s post on how to break out of those bad winter habits!


This morning I woke up to chirping of the birds and I thought “we are almost there.” The past week I have really been noticing the days seem longer which has showed me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This winter has really left me feeling sluggish and I am ready to make some changes. Here are a few ways that have worked for me!


Social Anxiety: When It’s ME against the world…

Anxious teen

Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Kate Maleski, LCSW-R


Picture this… A high school freshman trying out for the softball team. She is anxious, surrounded by new faces, new school and longing to be accepted. If only she could make the team maybe starting a new school wouldn’t be so scary. She would already be “a part” of something.

At the end of tryouts names are posted and this girl’s name was not on the list.

That girl was me.

Teens can often feel alone in a very BIG world which can be the cause of social anxiety. In grade school and high school I remember feeling like I was fighting to survive.

Hoping I don’t blush. Sweating, feeling nauseous, worried that I would have to carry on a conversation and no words would come out or even worse, the wrong words! Sometimes I thought: How am I ever going to live through this day, let alone the rest of the year!

EVERYONE HAS SOCIAL ANXIETY! OK not everyone, but a LOT of people have social anxiety! Different people just show it differently.

Here are some tips to help decrease your anxiety:


For the Holidays: Change can be Empowering!

Christmas SasquatchEditor’s Note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW-R and EWN psychotherapist.

For some finding and creating emotional safety may not come easily or naturally. You may not have grown up with a loving supportive family or learned how to stay connected to your own heart. It may take some time and effort to find that safe emotional place during this holiday season.

Holiday time can stir up memories of loss, turmoil, regret and you find yourself faced with emotional chaos. It is very important to nurture your own emotional strength.

One way to help with this is to make your own memories. This year is the year to do something different. Whether it is bringing a new dish to the table or something small you can do to change things up.

Follow your heart and start some new traditions. Introduce some new activities, try a new recipe, or go someplace you’ve never been before! You can choose to embrace the change of traditions, especially if some of them weren’t all that meaningful for you in the first place.

You can hold onto the past that is important to you but also create your own new memories for your present and future. This may allow you to find a sense of strength and safety when faced with any holiday stress.

You can be responsible for your own safety and happiness by following your heart and making changes.

Below is one of my favorite poems showing that change can be empowering.

“There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk”

An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, By Portia Nelson

Chapter One

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.

I am lost…I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend that I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep whole in the sidewalk. I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,

My eyes are open

I know where I am

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

Photo courtesy of Photo Dean via Flickr

6 Helpful Tips for the Parents of Troubled Teens


Editor’s note: In this busy world with all its pressures it is easy to lose sight of how we interact with our teens. Sadly, sitting still and focusing on what they have to say, just for the sake of being with them, can seem like one more stressor. 

This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist. Here Kate provides some practical, do-able tips for any parent who wants to be closer to their teen. 


Sometimes you have tried in EVERY possible way to help your adolescent and you still see them and your relationship suffering. You feel mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted and don’t know where to turn. Here are a few steps you can try to increase communication and your adolescent’s self-esteem. When nothing seems to be working…..

1. Be involved. This means being present. Turn off your phone, close your book, be close to them with no distractions and be with them. When you give half of yourself then you are telling your adolescent that they are only worthy of half of you. Let them talk. Don’t just be involved when it’s convenient for you.

2. Listen more than talk. If you don’t listen to your adolescent you will never understand them. Ask open-ended questions to help allow for more communication. “I would feel terrible if that happened to me. Is that how you felt?” Try not to react or judge. Nod as they talk to show that you hear what they are saying. Hearing is different than agreeing.

3. Be Realistic. If your adolescent comes to you with a problem be realistic. Encourage them with positive yet realistic words of encouragement. Don’t try to turn them or the situation into something other than what they are presenting to you.

4. Use a sense of humor. Nothing in life is that bad that you can’t make it better with a laugh. Being an adolescent isn’t easy. There are a lot of moments when crying or yelling seems to be the only possible solution. Help them to learn to laugh at life. There is nothing better than a good laugh to make you feel better.

5. Love. Say it. Show it. Love and accept your adolescent whoever they are. Recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to pursue their talents and enjoy success on their terms rather than yours. Don’t point out faults. They already know them. This world is challenging and they need to hear, feel, and sense unconditional LOVE from you.

6. NEVER give up! Repeat steps 1 through 5 as many times as needed. Your teen may not be convinced at first. It can take a while for your genuine focus to get through. Then they will know that you are there for them and won’t judge.

I also encourage the adolescent girl in your life to join my group this fall: Girls In Charge. It is designed to help teenaged girls feel empowered and learn to feel good about “ME”!

Photo courtesy of Steven Shorrok, highersights, via Flickr

5 Ways to Cope with the Anxiety of Starting Something New

DSC03852-1Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist.

The weather is changing, school buses are present, you may be staring a new job or project. Changing an ingrained habit like overspending and/or overeating, you may feel a pit in your stomach and think….am I ready for this?

Summer has come to an end and it’s time to get programmed again. As with changes in the season, there will always be changes in your life. Recently I was faced with a lot of change; new city, new job, new house and faced with anxiety because of the unknowns. Change can be exciting for some but terrifying for others.You may be scared about leaving familiar ground and taking the chance on something unfamiliar. It’s important to find the joy in starting something new.

Your mind is racing and you are questioning everything in your day and you haven’t even gotten out of bed. Realize that you are starting something new and it is normal to feel worried. Look at it as an adventure and a challenge rather than adding stress in your life.

Suggestions that may help:

1. Keep in contact with something safe. You want to have something familiar that feels good when faced with anxiety. Even if it includes having your favorite coffee, or picking up takeout once a week from your favorite restaurant, or just meeting with an old friend.

2. Challenge negative thinking. Take a few minutes to develop a different relationship with your thoughts and feelings. Instead of judging yourself think about the new possibilites you are giving yourself.

3. Breath it out. A lot of times when feeling anxious you hold your breath. Don’t hold your breath, focus on your breath. Bring your thoughts and breath together moment by moment.

4. Allow for worry time. Accept the worry rather than running from it.Talk about it but don’t let it overwhelm you. When feeling anxious during a time that is not designated “worry time” jot it down and save it for later.

5. Learn to relax. What is your outlet? Yoga, exercise, reading, cooking. Using a healthy outlet will help your body relax and not focus on your anxiety.

These are the skills I have used recently with my new adventures. Remember, if you don’t push yourself to try something new you will always be left the same place.

Teen Girls! Join this Group & Feel the Power!


Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist. Here, in her first EWN blog post, she announces the formation of a much needed support group for adolescent girls.


Do you ever find yourself thinking… I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough? Sometimes the biggest challenge in life is just being you. It’s hard to know who “I am” with everything and everyone constantly getting in the way.

I know that I often think to myself “I am the only one who feels this way.” Trust me, you are not the only one. It’s nice to see that others feel the same way you do. That’s why I am so thrilled to announce that in October I am introducing in Buffalo a group that I loved to lead in Cleveland . This group is designed to help adolescent girls feel empowered and learn to feel good about “ME”!

Ok…let’s talk about what you’ll get out of group.

1. “Who am I”? It may sound like an easy question but if you really think about it I bet it’s taking longer to answer than you thought. Maybe you are still asking yourself “Well, what do you mean?” It’s important to think about who you are and not focus on how others view you.

2. Really tough stuff. Gossip, friends, boys, bullying, clicks, fitting in, peer pressure, clothes, body image, school, imperfections, family. This is all a part of life and can be EXTREMELY overwhelming. Let’s talk about it and break it down so we can cope with this tough stuff together!

3. Overcoming negative thinking. Have you ever found yourself thinking “Nobody understands me! I always get picked last! I know she doesn’t like me! I will never feel better!” Those are some pretty tough thoughts that would make ANYONE feel bad. Changing your thinking can change your mood.

4. “Where do I go from here?” That’s easy….UP! Group allows you to be yourself in a safe environment where you will learn that you are not alone! You will learn ways to COPE with stressful events and thoughts and you will make some pretty great friends!

And remember most of all…

“It’s not your job to like me…  It’s MINE!” –Byron Katie

I’m Kate Maleski, LCSW. Questions? Give me a call at 716.880.5689 or email me at kate@explorewhatsnext.com and we’ll set up time to chat about group and other stuff that could help you feel less alone.

Photo courtesy The Hamster Factor via Flickr

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