In today’s world, people can connect with one another instantly. Those links can take people virtually anywhere in the world. Despite all these relationships, kids are feeling more and more alone. It’s hard to understand why when you are looking in from the outside of your children’s digital world.
Let’s change that perspective for a moment and look at the world of social media and technology from your children’s point of view. It might be lonelier and more melancholy than you think, which is exactly why your children need your guidance and support.
When you were a kid, drama at school stayed at school. Now, kids can text, post, and comment about the day’s events at any time, day or night. Screens shield online bullies from face-to-face confrontation, making it easy to say or post comments they may otherwise avoid. Empathy is eliminated and arguments can escalate quickly.
Cyberbullying has become an epidemic that affects kids and teens all over the world. Cyberbullying is the act of harassing someone through electronic means such as social media, texting, video chatting, and email.
The lack of interpersonal connections combined with cruel words in a very public setting often leaves digitally connected kids feeling extreme loneliness and isolation.
Not only can the lack of interpersonal connections cause depression in kids, it can also lead them down a path where reality is hard to distinguish from the imaginary.
Fake accounts on Instagram are a prime example of blurred reality. In an attempt to be themselves or someone else, some kids create fake accounts where they can show an alternate version themselves. “Finstas” (fake Instagram accounts) are dedicated to acting silly or portraying a false persona.
Fake accounts can cause a great deal of stress for some kids, especially teens, as they experience unnecessary pressure to uphold an unrealistic image of themselves. A fake account makes it easy for kids to let their guards down, but it also opens the door for cyberbullies and other digital predators.
Many kids already feel social pressures in school, but trends like “Finstas” can amplify the pressure to look perfect, have the most followers, and post inappropriate content to feel socially accepted online.
Having a fake account with goofy pictures or rebellious behavior can also cause problems because people can screen capture and publicize these images, just like taking a Snapchat screenshot.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Social Institute, 80 percent of teens admitted to capturing a Snapchat screen shot and sharing it with other friends (Today). To learn more about Finstas, read the full article from Today.
For some kids, the digital world can often seem more real than the actual world around them. When these lines of reality become blurred, kids need reminded about the importance of protecting their real-life digital footprint.
What You Can Do
Talk to your children about their social media accounts and their purposes. Make sure you are aware of what your children are posting and how they are interacting with others on social media. Set boundaries. Explain proper Internet etiquette to your children and help them learn to promote dignity and integrity during online interactions.
Remember that the best way to teach your children to effectively communicate online is to model that same behavior. Discuss your concerns and listen to theirs.
Be honest and real. Inform your children about the dangers of online social interactions but be gentle in your delivery. Explain that social media often portrays an unrealistic image of people and society.
Teach them how to navigate cyberbullying. Government resources such as stopbullying.gov can help you. Keep yourself educated on new technological trends so that you can help your kids make the best choices.
Limit and monitor time spent on devices. Do activities with your children that help to strengthen interpersonal bonds and eradicate the stress of everyday social pressures. Go for a walk together, play cards, build a puzzle.
Unlimited screen time can lead to dependency and anxiety when the device is not nearby. Disconnect from your own devices in order to connect with your kids. You will be surprised just how much your kids, and you, still love a good board game.
Build your children up. Tell them every day that they are amazing. Say how proud you are of their accomplishments and be specific. Express how much you love them. The more you build up your children, the harder it will be for others to break them down.
How do you stay connected with your kids? Leave your suggestions and share your experiences in the comments section below.
Nicole Thompson is the 6-8 English Language Arts Lead for Lincoln Learning Solutions and has been with the company six years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master of Science in Instructional Leadership, with certifications in English and Communications. Nicole is married with three children and has a spunky golden retriever named Cinder. She sings at local churches and volunteers for the Butler County Humane Society, writing animal biographies and social media posts, and working fundraising events.