Sydney mum fights harmful social media messages
Amid skyrocketing internet addiction, sexting and cyberbullying among teens, a new online offering will aim to meet the problems head-on.
Judi Prasser, 32, founder of self-worth programs All.u.re and Valour, has developed resources for school students who during the current restrictions and lockdowns are spending more time on social media than ever before.
The lessons at www.rediscoverallure.org are aimed at helping teenaged girls “navigate their lives through an incredibly tough and sometimes dark terrain”, says the Sydney mother of one who hopes to soon launch a version for boys.
“Thanks to technology and the 24/7 presence of social media hovering over their shoulders, teens were already facing an uphill battle when it came to developing a healthy view of themselves,” Judi told The Catholic Weekly.
“If this weren’t already hard enough, since the outbreak of Covid they have faced months of uncertainty, of not seeing friends and other key support persons, and healthy aspects of life such as team sports and after-school clubs replaced with more time alone in their bedrooms to engage in negative online behaviours.”
Judi says a reported 184 per cent rise in attempted suicide rates among Victorian teenagers in the past six months as the state faced repeated lockdown is just one indicator of the mental health risks her programs try to address by engaging young people and “sowing seeds of self-worth”.
All.u.re (a play on the words ‘all you are’) provides online lessons and interactive face-to-face workshops in self-worth, friendship, social media and mental health. Judi is now seeking to fundraise the costs of establishing a complementary online program for teenaged boys, named Valour.
“I think young men are crying out to be taught how to be good, authentic men and many are trying to live a good life,” she said. “When it comes to mental health, I think we have done a great disservice to males. There are many statistics of eating disorders and self-harm in young women which are truly troubling, but what is equally tragic is the mental health crisis in the demographic of young men.”
Daryl Castellino, assistant principal of Santa Sophia Catholic College in north western Sydney’s Box Hill praised the All.u.re program as “excellent”. “Self-worth, body image issues and appropriate social media usage are all topics that young women are facing in our culture and All.u.re addresses these topics in an engaging, life-giving way,” he said.
Katrina Alvir, secondary teacher at Tangara School for Girls, said the offerings enhance the work the school’s pastoral care program does on promoting self-worth, true beauty and the importance of growing genuine friendships.
“All.u.re looks deeper into the impact of social media and popular culture on all these important aspects of a girl’s life,” Ms Alvir said. “The girls come out of the workshops reflecting deeper, being inspired and wanting to make positive changes in their lives.”
Central to the programs is Judi’s Catholic faith. “Our niche is to be a small but crucial stepping stone to help young people along their journey of developing a loving relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said. “To reach them before they become ‘jaded’ or ‘switched off’ from their faith, to help them be convicted that they are worthwhile and lovable as they are, as they are then less likely to make toxic decisions in their lives.”
The fundraising campaign will also enable the growing organisation and its partner ChooseREAL to provide free ‘Teacher covid care packs’ including posters, cards, and chocolates, activity handbook and lessons.