Digital Security, Addictive Behavior and Mental Health

Hi, my name is Erin Hellmuth. I have had the privilege of meeting some but not all of you. Thank you for your tireless service to our community.My husband, Charley, and I have lived in Coppell for 10 years. We have dedicated our lives to supporting kids and families. Through my husband’s work as a youth pastor in two local churches and my work as a volleyball coach and our combined effort to serve our community through our children’s schools, we have the privilege of knowing 100s of families in our community. We have the distinct privilege of not only celebrating life’s joys with these families but also in walking through the darkest times with students and families on a daily basis.

As a master’s degreed social worker, I regularly see my service to the community through the lens of human development and the health of the family and community system. One of the most pervasive and widely accepted theories on human motivation is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You may remember it from a Psych 101 class but it is the theory illustrated by a pyramid of levels. It goes something like this: basic needs / safety / social /esteem / self-actualization. When I hear talk of the Transformation that is underway I hear the goal as “self-actualization” or “realizing one’s potential.” This is the greatest of human goals and education is one of the primary means of achieving this goal. The foundational levels of “basic needs” and “safety” are often referred to as “primitive needs”. These needs MUST be met in order to move toward the higher levels of motivation and the ultimate goal of self-actualization.

I’m here tonight to address some concerns I have regarding the safety of our children. In previous generations safety was defined primarily in terms of physical safety. However we now widely accept a much more complex and layered view of human safety (mental, emotional and physical safety). You can identify this view of safety in our talk with young people about online predators, cyber-bullying, etc.

In recent months, I have been made aware of multiple troubling exposures to unsafe and unhealthy content in our beloved schools. The parents of students in each of these situations have expressed feeling dismissed and did not feel that these situations were taken seriously and that very few (if any) adjustments were made to prevent this from happening again with their child or any other. This has caused me to step up in the best way I know how to address these issues.

I would like to point you to a fabulously informative website called http://www.Fight the New Drug.com. This non-religious organization explains in plain language the neuroscience behind porn exposure and porn addiction. Neuroscience shows that the brains response to pornographic material mimics the brains response to cocaine.

Dr. Drew of MTV and CNN fame has spoken recently about the drug of choice for this generation of teens: Porn. Dr. Oz has recently done a show about the rapidly increasing rates of porn addiction among teens. I share all of this with you to demonstrate that the problem is real. I do not present this to you as a moral problem but rather as a mental health problem. In mental health circles this is one of the fastest growing areas of study.

It is both Naïve and irresponsible for us to take this lightly. When addressing my concerns with the school district in private meetings and through the Parent Advisory Committee on Technology that I am honored to co-chair, I regularly hear comments like, “sometimes kids have to learn the hard way.”

On Monday night at the board workshop I heard an administrator say “we have to let them stumble so that we can build the safety net.” This is exactly the OPPOSITE approach we need to take to provide a safe and healthy learning environment.
Before ANY effort to further our 1:1 initiative and when evaluating our current technology usage, we MUST improve our safety net and fix the problems that have been identified.

Please consider the work of the Parent Advisory Committee on Technology. Parents have worked in partnership with the schools to not only identify the problems but provide workable solutions endorsed by IT professionals on the committee.

My investment in these issues over the last 6 months is not just about my own three children. It is about my deep love for the kids and families of this community and my desire to see Coppell continue to be one of the best places around to raise a family.

It is our collective role as a community to protect and guide the next generation. The responsibility falls on the parents, the schools and the community at large.

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