Wellness Center, PMS to screen ‘Like’ social media documentary on Feb. 16

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the Wellness Center Support Committee, Piedmont Middle School and the Wellness Center will be co-hosting a screening of “Like” for PUSD students and their families at the Alan Harvey Theater in Piedmont starting at 7:00 p.m. The 50-minute documentary is focused on educating families about the impacts of social media and is accompanied by a toolkit they can use to navigate this complex digital landscape. 

The documentary screening was the brainchild of Amy Sharp, one of two full-time counselors at Piedmont Middle School (PMS). “We reached out to the Wellness Center Support Committee because we saw a lot of stuff come up with PMS students around social media during the past year,” she says. “COVID really increased their dependence on digital communication, and we were seeing instances of unkind and hurtful comments on digital platforms. The primary concern was that our students didn’t understand the harm being caused.”

The Wellness Center Support Committee (WCSC), a group composed of Piedmont parents, responded immediately. “PMS Counselors have front-row seats to the social-emotional challenges of our kids,” says Laurie Misra, a former intern therapist at the Wellness Center and current co-chair of the WCSC. “When they identified better education around the use of social media as a top priority, we wanted to help. Thankfully, due to the generosity of our community, we were able to.” 

While educational opportunities such as the “Like” documentary screening are important, they are just one component of the Wellness Center’s mission. The main focus of the center, located behind the library at Piedmont High School, is to provide free mental health services to Piedmont Middle, High and Millennium students. The support provided there is in high demand — so far, students have visited the center well over 1,000 times this school year. 

The Wellness Center’s model is simple yet highly effective: Intern therapists meet with students for various needs, ranging from relationship challenges to academic stress, depression and anxiety. Under the supervision of two licensed Psychologists, six intern therapists provide mental health support to Piedmont students, meeting once or twice for some or weekly with those who request it. Sharp points out that all three PUSD secondary schools appreciate and rely on the partnership with The Wellness Center. “It’s a team effort to support our student’s mental health,” she says.

Sharp says that the outreach by the Wellness Center Support Committee has also been incredibly helpful for the PMS counseling team. “They have been really proactive in reaching out to PMS to ask us how they can help – it empowered us to say “yes, this is what we need.” She highlights the importance of this educational opportunity for parents as well as teens. “Parents don’t always know how to support children in this new digital world they’re entering,” she says. “The film offers kids and parents tools they can act on.”

And as middle school students make their first foray into the complicated world of cell phones, texting, and social media, timely education is crucial. “Many middle school students are navigating the digital world for the first time. Educational opportunities like this can help them think about how social media use can shape their lives, hopefully leading to more agency around their behaviors,” says Misra.

As Max Stossel, Head of Education and Content for the Center for Humane Technology, says to teens in the film: “These devices are not designed for you…you are not the customer, you are the product being sold here…are you really using technology or is technology using you?”

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