As human beings, we are naturally attuned to socialisation. Recently there has been a considerable change in the way our teens communicate and socialise. Gone of the days of walking and talking, gone are the days of gravitating to the shopping centre for hours to just hang out and converse. Now our teens isolate themselves more than ever as they hibernate in their rooms with their head buried in ‘social media’.
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Social media is quite a quandary for our kids. There is little social about social media. It perhaps needs to be labelled ‘stalking media’ instead. When on social media we watch, follow, sometimes comment, but we don’t have conversations, we don’t discuss. We may instead say something or comment on someone’s post or comment. This is far from communicating. Our kids are now nonverbal communicating disability. They are missing out on the many quests to read body language, facial expressions, vocal reactions and learning empathy from comments posted. All this is the necessary communication skills we learn for life. We learn all of it as a child and a considerable amount as a teen once we become more in tune with others.
Teens are isolating themselves, texting, following, watching while believing they are social. In fact, research now tells us our teens are the loneliest group in our society. Hard to believe isn’t it? The impact this is having is an increase in anxiety levels, depression and loneliness. Many teens can quickly become ostracised from their friends, leaving them feeling so alone and lost. The teen’s self-esteem can plummet, and they feel worse than ever without knowing how to change it or what to do to feel better.
Our teens are so involved in the media world, many normal developments are being missed. They look at themselves, feel their fears, see their flaws and feel so alone. Teens look at these social media facades and feel something is wrong with them, they are not perfect or have this perfect life like all these other have. What a con it is.
Parents must also set an example. If the parents are buried in their devices, on social media or playing game after game, they are condoning this behaviour to their child. The child learns to believe this to be normal. It isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy. It is damaging.
It can damage family relationships, prevent communication, fail to teach skills to the child and disconnect each family member. The anxiety this escalates in the teen is enormous and can lead to self-esteem issues because they are continually worried, feel disconnected and remain isolated. Teens are supposed to have a connection with their parents, siblings and friends, albeit strained at times as teens. They are learning who they are, what they are, the direction they want their life to take. This is huge for any developing brain.
Parents can take positive steps to support their teen and help them increase their self-esteem and lower their anxiety level that social media places upon them:
1. Lead by example, put your device away and concentrate on your family communication
2. Try to always have a family meal together. Sit together, talk, laugh, ask questions to find out what others are up to and what they have been doing
3. Put some time aside to talk one on one with your teen, be curious about their life, ask about their friends, plans, upcoming events
4. Trust your teen and refrain from continually asking them ‘gotcha’ questions
5. Give your teen responsibility, they love the trust you place in them
Helping your teen to build healthy self-esteem includes to encourage them to become involved in something that may interest them. It could be sports, music, or volunteering; any activity to take them away from computers and social media. Find something that sparks an interest as this gives them confidence in them-self. It is important these activities involve spending time interacting with others face-to-face. Often we find great value in something the whole family or a parent and teen can both do together. When our teen can learn to feel good about what they can do instead of how they look to others, they are happier and better prepared for success in real life.
Always make sure they know you are there for them, to talk, listen, hug and believe in them. This supports them through these turbulent years of development. They will come out the other side.
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