Teens Today: Physically un harmed, mentally at peril

Ever since 2011 when we started living in a parallel universe called Social Media, our lives and our teens’ lives have not been the same. Thanks to Social Media, our shared despair about our existence has increased. Student mental health is worsening from increasing demands of academic excellence from society and social approval from peers. And its on all for public display and commentary. Most of these stressors are leading to mental health issues. Like:

  • Fear of missing out caused by peers on social media
  • The need to constantly engage because of the ubiquity of the internet
  • The urgency to stay relevant with trends
  • Mostly self inflicted non stop information overload brought on by Memes and Breaking News Alerts
  • An increased awareness and occurrences of school shootings

Social Media Teen Angst: 

Exactly how does social media induce angst in teens? They’re being subjected to 300 times more data than just how much we were 10 years ago. They are under constant pressure to be available because of the ubiquitous nature of the internet. They feel the need to showcase every aspect of their lives – be it sports, academics or social leadership engagement via social media to stay relevant and popular.

Tweens (11-13 years) are the most affected by the spotlight syndrome. This is the idea that others care deeply about your appearance and actions – when infact everyone else their age is also too busy thinking that.

They also imagine that their experiences and emotions are unique to them alone. Both these aspects of tween life make them extremely self conscious making them appear as if they’re self centered. They spend most of their time preoccupied with others’ perception of how they’re living their life.

Society’s Ideal Teen: 

Is teen anxiety and stressors entirely self inflicted? Of course, not. As a society, we have created a definition of what a successful teen must look like. A successful teen has started a club at school, is part of a social action initiative, already created a couple of apps, has secured an internship for the summer, and taken a dozen AP courses etc etc. Right?

As such, teens feel dirty about themselves constantly because they don’t understand their own impulsive behaviors and mood swings. Add to that, teens are buckling under tremendous pressure with peer and societal expectations on them.

Current Teen Trends in Suicide: 

Today, Suicide is the leading cause of death among college children, traffic accidents being first. Can it get any worse than that?

Teens who are depressed, or do self harm or have suicidal ideations often create Finstas (Fake Instagram accounts) so their friends or parents don’t find out their true emotions. It’s upon us as parents to know our children’s online footprint. Please keep in touch with your child on a daily basis.
If you’re contemplating suicide, please know you’re loved, and there’s help. Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 | Georgia Crisis and Access Hotline: 1-800-715-4225 | National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

70% of American teens say anxiety and depression a major problem among their peers. – Pew Research Center, Fall, 2018.

Signs of Depression and Anxiety:

Children, especially teenagers, are extremely susceptible to anxiety and depression. Often, when parental expectations don’t match a child’s potential, anxiety, confusion, and dread can develop in the child. Many times, just one event can undermine a child’s confidence and trigger a spiral downward.
Children then start to rebel or defend their every action. After that comes social isolation and self withdrawal, as they retreat from the perception of not being able to satisfy their parents or receive attention from the “cool” kids at school. Slowly these conditions will manifest into panic attacks, self harm, social anxiety, social phobias, and other trauma related disorders.

Parents here’s how you can manage your own anxiety first.

An Upside to Fear:

In some situations, we tell ourselves stories that are not true. They’re called IRRATIONAL FEARS.

The concept of Fear is so fascinating for us because its our greatest motivator. We fear we won’t live upto our potential because we’re scared to do things on our checklist each day. But, enough about us. Reading about fear and understanding it helps us recognize that behind every perceived negative emotion in Teen behaviors, there’s a fear of uncertainty, a fear of vulnerability and a fear of letting go.

Teaching teens the lessons of forgiveness and self compassion can help them set realistic long term goals and enable them to feel better about themselves as they pursue them.

An Environment to Thrive:

The scientific truth is that teen brains are still evolving at their age and will continue to form until 24 years of age. So, agree with them about their excessive obsessions first and then try to reason with them next. They’re dealing with the loss of their nonchalant childhood as the real life of expectations and deadlines hits them hard. They don’t have the advantage of us adults who already know that no one is perfect.

There are so many ways to create a responsive environment at your home with your teenager. One of them is to tell your teen in no uncertain terms how much they mean to you and how much joy having them in your life brings. And the second is to understand that behind their anger is an overwhelming emotion of fear. Test or social media anxiety, or a breakup with a girl friend can be one of the many reasons.

There are skills that they learn from us when we show them we care – like coexistence, empathy, self-reliance, responsibility and assertion.
Our care and compassion towards them removes that barrier to learning – by removing them from conflict, disobedience and disagreement.

Let’s talk to our teens that other’s likes or non-likes need not determine their self worth. Let’s help them develop coping strategies and take back our collective self worth from the online “world”. Let’s begin that journey with our teens today.

Further Reading:

Combat teen screen time

Stress and emotions in teens

Gaining the trust of your teen

How parenting must evolve

Understanding teen rebellion

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 | Georgia Crisis and Access Hotline: 1-800-715-4225 | National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

 

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