The lion’s share of modern day communication happens online and for that, thanks to the hundreds of apps available. Whether it is news or videos, blogging or education, social media or gaming, entertainment or social movements – a lot is happening online, all the time.
In fact, social media apps have become the new ‘hangout’ zones for virtual citizens. After all, we live in a connected world and enjoy being online. But that may not be always good for tweens and teens as they are still too young to process all the information download happening. This may lead to stress.
Stress is not uncommon in our physical lives. We get stressed by our education, career, relationships and the environment. The same happens in the digital world. In the physical world, our responses to stress are primarily venting, having face-to-face spats or ignoring the issue. Not so in the digital world. In the virtual space, stress may arise from different causes and the repercussions may take on a viral form.
Why do children get stressed by social media? The common causes are:
- Peer pressure: THE most important reason for children being online is to connect with their friends. And to keep this friendship alive and kicking, they often blindly copy the group leaders, even if they are not comfortable with what they are doing
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Teens, especially girls, have a competitive spirit when it comes to online presence and don’t want to be ‘the last to know’ so, they end up spending a lot of time online
- Keeping up with the Jones’: The same competitive spirit leads kids to spend hours posing and selecting the perfect pics to share online or seek approval from strangers. This is risky, as negative comments online can harm self-confidence
- Excessive sharing: When kids share a lot of their private information on social media, they leave themselves vulnerable to hacking, as well as opening themselves up to contact from inappropriate individuals online
- Cyberbullying: Most kids have witnessed or experienced some forms of cyberbullying and often end up as either perpetrators or victims or mute spectators. In all cases, this is a disturbing occurrence
- Lack of screen time limits: Lack of digital balance can have psychological effects and so digital usage rules are a must
- Lack of empathy: When children are not taught to respect others and their traditions, they do not develop empathy and may end up bullying those with differing views and lifestyles
- Exposure to inappropriate content or people: The wrong connections and information are a big source of stress
- Online spats: Differences crop up, leading to squabbles and heated exchanges. It gets complex when this is done in a public forum and strangers join in
- Disturbing global news: The slew of violent news often creates negative tension in the minds of youngsters, leaving them feeling confused and belligerent
Parenting plays a major role in helping children learn how to tackle social media stress. As parents, you know your children the best. Yes, even teens.
Observe them and if you note any change in their social media habits or general behaviour, talk to them. The earlier you start having frank one-to-one conversations, the easier will it be for you later. But before that, you may need to modify your own response to stress and learn to control your reactions. That way you will teach them a very important lesson without having to use a single word.
Help your kids fight social media stress:
- Accept differences: People are different and will have different opinions. Accept the differences and respect their values
- Be discerning: Life isn’t a bed of roses for anyone, so don’t let profiles fool you. Don’t judge someone by their bio and pictures
- Practice tact: When things get bitter, the decent thing to do is to agree to disagree and walk away. If you don’t react, it doesn’t mean you are the weak one; it means you are smart enough not to get provoked. However, if the meanness gets out of hand, be the strong one and report and block account
- Practice digital balance: Limit screen time and have good friends in the real world who will always stand by you
- Be aware: The world will have both good and bad and growing up means learning to understand and accept this. Maturity is being able to stay true to values. Wisdom is knowing which is bad and avoiding it
Say goodbye to stress and lead a healthier and happier life online. Apply your values from your physical life in the digital one and practice STOP.THINK. CONNECT. And don’t forget! Use McAfee Total Protection on all connected devices to protect what you value the most.