We’ve all seen it by now: a group of teenagers out at a food court in the local mall, sitting in a booth together but not speaking a word to each other as they all have their faces glued to their cell phones.
I’ve always wondered what they’re doing on their phone while sitting next to their friends. Are the texting each other? Are they “liking” each others posts? Or are they “communicating” with another friend while ignoring the ones who are right in front of them?
And what effect does this have on their social development?
As you would expect, the news is not good. Today’s teenagers are reporting higher levels of anxiety than at any other time. Not surprising, the increase corresponds almost perfectly to the increase in smart phone usage. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. The numbers are staggering: from 50 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2016.
Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services.
Consider those numbers when combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring in the fall, when children return to school. It’s no surprise to many school officials, who point to the increase in expectations and academic pressure inflicted on our students.
And the there is us, the parents. Mental health experts say today’s culture, where parents overprotect their children to the point the child never earns confidence because she has never failed at anything, and thus never learned that she can survive failure and learn from it.
No, our culture (that means us!) has put an abundance of importance on being “happy” and, even worse, giving out the appearance of being “happy” at all times. We give into it, even though we know that just isn’t what being human and being a part of our collective experience means.
But it’s not all lost. We Smartmamas can do a lot to counter the anxiety producing pressure on our kids. For great advice, you can’t miss with tips from an article by Amy Morin in Psychology (you can find the link below) entitled “What Mentally Strong People Do”.
Among the excellent advice: limit screen time for your kids! Ms. Morin warns that all too often, devices can become an unhealthy escape. For our family, that means absolutely no devices are on when we are in the car, even for long trips. I want my children to be comfortable “being in their own heads”, being comfortable with silence, and being comfortable with being bored. No, it hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been that important to me. Let us know what ways you limit screen time in the comments.
There are other great tips for parents, most of them can be summed up in two words: back off! Let kids fail, let them be hurt, let them be bored, just mainly, Let Them Be!
But don’t let them “be the boss”. That’s your job. We’ve all seen the syrupy sweet mom on the playground pleading with her child to “share the toy” so all the kids can play, only to give up because her child refuses. And then she simply smiles and makes an excuse. Game over.
Let’s not give in to these pressures we parents face! We are Smartmamas, after all. We can watch our child be excluded from a party (hearts breaking inside, of course), but outwardly letting our child know that he is loved and he WILL get over this social rejection. And he will be stronger and more resilient for it. And in the end, isn’t that more important?
For more great tips, please check out Morin’s blog: