Raising Kids in a Technological World Shenae Osborn, LMSW, MA
I often find myself looking at my kids, on their phones or computers and think back to when I was a kid when we played out on the street with the other neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on for the evening signaling it was time to go home for the evening and have dinner with the family. This reflection leads to a sadness that children today rely on technology to build relationships and converse. Social media has given us many advantages especially when it comes to education and international connections but as a social worker, I worry about the mental health of our kids and how social media is making a negative impact. Kids these days are more easily exposed to inappropriate, potentially harmful, content, cyberbullying which has been linked to increased “depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts”, decreased focus and less, much needed, sleep which can have an adverse reaction in their growth and development.
A “Pew Research Center’s 2018 survey of U.S. teens determined that one in six teenagers have experienced at least one of six different forms of abusive behavior online:
Spreading false rumors (32%)
Receiving unsolicited explicit images (25%)
Having their activities and whereabouts tracked by someone other than a parent (21%)
Someone making physical threats (16%)
Having explicit images of them shared without their consent (7%)
The survey found that 90% of teens believe online harassment is a problem for people their age.”
As a protective yet flexible mother, I have found myself having to rely on monitoring apps like Our Pact so that I can “spy” on my child. It feels intrusive yet, unfortunately, necessary. It adds just another task to our long daily list. As much as we try to raise our kids to be smart about their decisions, it seems that kids who have not had as much parental support or positive role models can have a strong influence on their peers. Furthermore, as I prepared for today’s blog, I contemplated the posts we see go viral. Many of them have something sexual about them, even when they are simply dancing, have profanity, or someone is doing something stupid where they can really hurt themselves. Rarely do we see positive influences, words, and actions go as viral. People are curious and intrigued by the “forbidden” because it offers an “attempt to feel fulfilled and more empowered than the next person in our sphere of influence.”
As parents, we can only do our very best to raise our kids with an awareness that will protect them as they become more independent. Speaking to our kids, even when they really want nothing to do with us (hell teen years!) is important. I want my kids to know that I am there even when they really don’t want me there. Getting a therapist for your child is always a good idea so that the kids have an unbiased, non-judgmental, confidential person to talk to especially when they do not want to talk to a parent or guardian. Helping your kids to find healthy extra- curricular activities where they can be part of a positive group is also a good way to keep them distracted from technology and have really, in-person, conversations. Technology and social media isn’t all bad but it shouldn’t take over our lives. As for me, I am just going to keep trying to open conversations with my kids and not feel so “butt-hurt” when they don’t want me around. As a single mom of three boys, it’s not but I’m blessed to have really great family and friends to support this journey.
2. Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental health: Statistics, Tips & Resources https://onlinedegrees.unr.edu/online-master-of-public-health/impact-of-social-media-on-youth-mental-health/
3. Why are we fascinated by the forbidden: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/O-zone/why-are-we-fascinated-by-the-forbidden/
4. Photo by Wilfred Iven