Experts say that children are growing up with more anxiety and lower self-esteem.


Fast reading

Some experts worry that teens are becoming more anxious and have lower self-esteem due to social media and texting. There are important differences in socializing online. Teenagers lose sight of things like body language and facial expressions to a greater degree. This can lead to more misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It can also make talking in person feel more intimidating. In real life, there is no time to craft the perfect answer. We cannot make sure that our look is exactly what we want to project. If we have a disagreement, we have to know how to respond in real time.

Another big problem is that it’s quite common for kids to feel bad about themselves when they see everyone on the internet looking perfect. Teens often try to make up for this by sharing photos that make them look perfect too. So when their identity on social media doesn’t match how they really feel, they can end up feeling worse.

Peer acceptance is extremely important to teens. It’s easy to get carried away by counting how many likes they get on social media. Teenagers can end up taking hundreds of photos, looking for the one that others like the most. And if the likes don’t come through, it may feel personal.

Parents can help by setting a good example of how to use technology. Try to give children your full attention when you are with them. If your head is often tilted toward a screen, you’re sending the wrong message. Set tech-free zones and hours in the house.

To help build self-esteem, get kids involved in something that really interests them. When children learn to feel good about what they can do, rather than what they look like or what they own, they are happier.

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Many parents are concerned about how exposure to technology might affect young children developmentally. We know that our preschoolers are gaining new social and cognitive skills at an impressive rate, and we don’t want hours glued to an electronic device to stop them from doing so. But the adolescence
Generally, the period between puberty and legal adulthood. By some standards, this includes the teenage years, ages 13 to 19.

it’s an equally important and rapidly developing period, and too few of us are paying attention to how our teens’ use of technology (which is much more intense and intimate than that of a 3-year-old playing on a cell phone) their dad) is affecting them. In fact, experts worry that social media and texting, which have become so essential to teenage life, are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem.

Young people report that there might be good reason to worry. In a survey conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health, 14-24 year olds in Great Britain were asked how social media platforms impacted their health and well-being. The survey results found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness.

Indirect communication

Teenagers are experts at staying busy in the hours after school and long after bedtime. When they’re not doing their homework (and when they are) they’re online and on their phones, texting, sharing, trolling, scrolling, you name it.

Of course, before everyone had an Instagram account, teens kept busy, too, but they were more likely to talk on the phone or in person when out at the mall. Although it may have seemed like a lot of meaningless meetings, what they were doing was experimenting, testing skills, succeeding and failing in hundreds of small, real-time interactions that kids today are missing out on. For their part, modern teens are learning to communicate mostly while looking at a screen, not another person.

“As a species we are very attuned to reading social cues,” says Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect. “There is no doubt that children are losing very important social skills. Somehow, texting and communicating online isn’t that it causes a nonverbal learning disability, but it does put everyone in a context of nonverbal disability, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest types of verbal reactions become invisible.

Reduce the risks

Certainly, speaking indirectly creates a barrier to clear communication, but that’s not all. Learning how to make friends is an important part of growing up, and friendship requires some risk-taking.

This is true for making a new friend and it is also true for maintaining friendships. When there are issues to deal with, big or small, it takes courage to be honest about how we feel, and then listen to what the other person has to say. Learning how to effectively cross these bridges is part of what makes friendship fun, exciting, and also terrifying. “Part of healthy self-esteem is knowing how to say what we think and feel, even when we disagree with other people, or if it feels emotionally risky,” says Dr. Steiner-Adair.

But when friendships develop online and through texts, children do so in a context that is stripped of many of the more personal and sometimes intimidating aspects of communication. It’s easier to keep your guard up when you’re texting, so the stakes are lower. You are not hearing or seeing the effect your words are having on the other person. Because the conversation is not happening in real time, each party may take more time to consider a response. No wonder kids say calling someone on the phone is “too intense” – it requires more direct communication, and if you’re not used to it, it can be scary.

If children don’t get enough practice relating to other people and meeting their needs in person and in real time, many of them will grow into adults with anxiety about our species’ primary means of communication: talking. And of course, social negotiations only get riskier as people get older and begin to experience romantic and work relationships.

Cyber ​​bullying and impostor syndrome

The other big danger that comes from children communicating more indirectly is that it has become easier to be cruel. “Kids send all kinds of messages that they wouldn’t even think of saying to someone’s face,” says Donna Wick, EdD, a clinical and developmental psychologist. She notes that this seems to be especially true of girls, who generally don’t like to disagree with their friends in “real life.”

“You hope to teach them that they can disagree without jeopardizing the relationship, but what social media is teaching them to do is disagree in more extreme ways that do jeopardize the relationship. It’s exactly what you don’t want to happen,” she says.

Dr. Steiner-Adair agrees that girls are at particular risk. “Girls socialize more to compare themselves to other people, particularly other girls, to develop their identities, which makes them more vulnerable to the disadvantages of all this.” She warns that a lack of strong self-esteem is often to blame. “We forget that relational aggression stems from insecurity and feeling bad about yourself, and wanting to put other people down to make yourself feel better.”

Peer acceptance is important to teens, and many of them care about their image as much as a politician running for office, and to them it can feel that serious. Add to that the fact that kids today get real survey data on how much people like them or how they look, through things like likes. It’s enough to make anyone’s head turn. Who wouldn’t want to look “better” if they can? So kids can spend hours carving up their online identities, trying to project an idealized image. Teenagers sort through hundreds of photos, in tremendous anguish over which ones to post online. Male teens compete for attention by trying to one-up each other, pushing boundaries as much as they can in the already uninhibited online atmosphere. They make gangs against each other.

Teenagers have always been doing this, but with the advent of social media they face more opportunities and pitfalls than ever before. When kids go through social media posts and see how great they all look, it only adds to the pressure. We’re used to worrying about the impractical ideals that digitally airbrushed magazine models give our kids, but what happens when the kid next door is airbrushed too? Even more confusing, what happens when our own profile doesn’t really represent the person we feel we are inside?

“Adolescence, and particularly the early twenties, are the years when you are very aware of the contrasts between who you appear to be and who you think you are,” says Dr. Wick. “It’s similar to ‘imposter syndrome’ in psychology. As we get older and more proficient, we start to realize that we’re actually good at some things, and then we feel that gap hopefully narrowing. But imagine that your deepest, darkest fear is that you are not as good as you seem, and then imagine that you need to look perfectly good all the time! It is exhausting”.

As Dr. Steiner-Adair explains, “self-esteem comes from the consolidation of who we are.” The more identities we have, and the longer we pretend to be someone we’re not, the harder it is to feel good about ourselves.

Stalk (and be ignored)

Another big change that has come with new technology, and especially with smartphones, is that we are never really alone. Kids update their statuses, share what they’re watching, listening to and reading, and have apps that let their friends know their specific location on a map at all times. Even if a person isn’t trying to keep their friends up to date, they’re never out of text range. The result is that children feel hyperconnected with each other. The conversation never has to stop and something new always seems to happen.

“Regardless of what we think about ‘relationships’ that are had, and in some cases, start on social media, kids never get a break from it,” says Dr. Wick. “And that, in itself, can produce anxiety. Everyone needs a break from the demands of intimacy and connection, alone time to regroup, replenish, or just relax. When you don’t have that, it’s easy to become emotionally drained and fertile ground for anxiety to breed.”

Likewise, it’s surprisingly easy to feel alone in the midst of all that hyperconnectedness. For one thing, kids now know with depressing certainty when they’re being ignored. We all have phones and we all answer things pretty quickly, so when you’re expecting a response that doesn’t come, the silence can be deafening. The silent treatment can be a strategic insult or just the unfortunate side effect of an online teen relationship that starts off strong, but then fizzles out.

“In the old days, when a boy was going to break up with you he had to have a conversation with you. Or at least he had to call,” says Dr. Wick. “These days, he could just disappear from your screen, and you might never get to have the conversation about…what did I do?” Children are often left imagining the worst of themselves.

But even when the conversation doesn’t break down, being in a constant state of alertness can lead to anxiety. We may feel that we are being left out and ourselves leaving others out, and our human need to communicate is also effectively delegated in that way.

What should parents do?

Both experts interviewed for this article agreed that the best thing parents can do to minimize the risks associated with technology is to first reduce their own consumption. It’s up to parents to set a good example of what healthy computer use looks like. Most of us check our phones or email very frequently, either out of genuine interest or nervous habit. Children should be used to seeing our faces, not our heads bent over a screen. Set up tech-free zones in the house and tech-free hours, when no one uses the phone, including mom and dad. “Don’t walk through the door when you get home from work in the middle of a conversation,” advises Dr. Steiner-Adair. “Don’t walk through the door when you get home from work, say a quick ‘hello’ and then ‘just start checking your email.’ In the morning, wake up half an hour before your children and check your email at that time. Give them your full attention until they walk out the door. And neither of you should be using your phones on the way to or from school, because that’s an important time to talk.”

Limiting the amount of time you spend connected to computers not only provides a healthy counterpoint to the tech-obsessed world, it also strengthens the bond between parents and children and makes children feel more secure. Children need to know that you are available to help them with problems, talk about their day, or give them a realistic perspective.

“It’s the mini moments of disconnection, when parents are too focused on their own devices and screens, that dilute the relationship between parents and children,” warns Dr. Steiner-Adair. And when kids start turning to the Internet for help or to process what’s going on in their day, you might not like what’s going on. “Technology can give your kids more information than you can and it doesn’t hold your values,” says Dr. Steiner-Adair. “He won’t be sensitive to your child’s personality and won’t respond to your questions in a developmentally appropriate way.”

Additionally, Dr. Wick advises delaying the age of first use as much as possible. “I use the same advice here that I use when I talk about children and alcohol: try to get as far as possible with nothing.” If her son is on Facebook, Dr. Wick says you should befriend her son and monitor her page. But she advises against checking text messages unless there is cause for concern. “If you have a reason to be concerned, then that’s fine, but it has to be a good reason.” I see parents who just spy on their children. Parents must start by trusting their children. Not giving your child the benefit of the doubt is incredibly detrimental to the relationship. They have to feel that their parents think they are good kids.”

Outside of online services, the best advice to help kids build healthy self-esteem is to get involved in something that interests them. It could be sports or music, or taking computers apart or volunteering, anything that sparks interest and makes them feel safe. When children learn to feel good about what they can do, rather than what they look like and what they own, they are happier and better prepared for success in real life. That most of these activities also include spending time interacting with peers face-to-face is just the icing on the cake.

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