Helping Teens with TBI Use Social Media Appropriately

[Dr. Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa] First of all, I urge parents to keep close supervision on their teens with their computers and electronic devices after they've been in the hospital for a brain injury. That's the best mechanism because it's done on an individual basis. I think if teens are injured later in their teen years, they may have earned the ability to do that independently, and parents might have to take a step back and say, "Okay, since you were hospitalized, we're just going to help you follow this for a while until you get back to where you were." In our program, those topics come up all the time. What happens is, one of our peer coaches will say, did you— We do current events, and I started doing this because that kind of information is in the news all the time—"Did you hear about the teen who got arrested for this?" So we talk about what is appropriate, so that is discussed in a current event discussion. The way our program is structured, we can't possibly monitor that after they leave us. With our Facebook group, we have seen some teens displaying things on their pages that we contact their parents—we always go back to their parents and let their parents know when we see that. I think parents are the best to help them in the long term. Unfortunately for teens in college whose parents aren't with them, that monitoring system isn't in place and in that case, it has to be monitored by their peers. One of the teens told us he had been sending way too many text messages. We asked him what that meant, and he said, "Well, my friend told me I was sending 100 text messages a day to him since my brain injury." And he said, "He told me that wasn't right." So we were thrilled to hear that he was listening to his peers. And he said, "I did it because I forgot when I texted him." So one of the peer coaches said to him, "Oh, well you can see on your phone how many texts you've sent." But he sent so many that it had disappeared from his screen. So I think parent supervision is key for that. When you're in college, your peers will tell you whether it's right, and unfortunately if the behavior persists, the law is going to tell you it's not right. As much as we want to avoid that, it's not always possible.

Posting an inappropriate message on Facebook or inundating friends with texts can be social media pitfalls for any teen, especially those with a brain injury. Dr. Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa talks about how parents, especially, can help.

See more video clips with Dr. Haarbauer-Krupa.

Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa

Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa, PhD has 30 years of clinical experience in brain injury and has developed various pediatric rehabilitation programs. She is a researcher/speech pathologist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and adjunct faculty, Department of Pediatrics, Emory School of Medicine.

Posted on BrainLine July 2, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Lara Collins, BrainLine.