My son recently became a teenager, and part of raising a healthy teenager is making sure that positive people in a positive environment surround them. We will do almost anything to make sure that our children are not allowed to "be corrupted" by the wrong crowd.
But did you know that the most toxic environment your child will ever deal with in San Diego, is already influencing them more often than you, their martial arts instructors, or even their friends? If you guessed that this toxic environment is in the palm of their hands- you are right- we are talking about social media and smartphones!
Since 2007, suicide among teenage girls has doubled, let me say that again- DOUBLED! Boys are no exception to this trend, and have reached the highest levels of self-harm in the last 20 years! While this is a multi-faceted issue, many experts agree that the increase and permanency of social media in our children's daily lives plays a significant role:
1) Online Bullying. Seeing the pain on someone's face when you hurt them is a natural inhibitor to harm. Most of us are not wired to hurt other people. The anonymity of the internet has changed this landscape and allowed the worst parts of us to run free, without the consequence of seeing the pain that is inflicted.
This unfortunate consequence of free speech allows not just bullying, but mob mentality to surface against our teens, often from the isolation of their bedrooms in the late hours of the night.
2) Image of Perfection. No one posts about their hardships- only their highlights. Our teenagers grow up comparing their real life, to the highlight reel of their friends, celebrities, and influencers. Studies continue to show the more time a teen spends on social platforms such as Instagram, the less happy they are about their real life.
Who can blame them? It's hard to be satisfied with your home/school life when pictures of everyone else's vacation are bombarding you, much less being happy with your self-image while scrolling through pictures of would-be models.
So what can you do? Social media is not going anywhere, and as part of teen-culture, it is unrealistic to shelter them from this forever. But you can limit the addictive hold that it has on your family. Consider introducing the following action steps to your daily lives:
1) No phones in the bedroom. Keeping phones in a completely different room allows for deeper periods of rest, and allows your brain to recover from blue-light overload, as well as the constant stimulation of social media.
2) restrict phones anywhere that you need to get a task done, such as homework. Did you know that studies show just by having a phone in your pocket, that your brain's capacity to function on a task is reduced by 20% because that 20% is needed just to ignore the addiction to check it! So next time you go to martial arts, soccer practice, or whatever- leave the phone in the car!
3) Set an unplug technology time. Spend an hour every day with your phone and electronics turned off. Utilize this time to have dinner with the family, play a board game, or take a walk outside.
4) Unplugged day. Get your family in the habit of having one day per week without social media or electronics. Use this time to read a book, play outside, or sit and talk! Pro Tip: Since weekends are your teens' first time to connect, try to only have an unplugged day on the weekend during a special occasion, like a family vacation or day out.
5) Talk to your children about real life. Your teens mustn't take on the burdens of adulthood too early, but it's also essential for them to know that it's normal not to be happy all the time! Talk to them about some age-appropriate struggles you are having, and let them see how you work through them. This not only permits them not to be perfect but allows them to practice different coping mechanisms.
6) Get exercise. Electronics are addictive, and it is no accident- they are designed that way! Help your children get adrenaline rushes through the hard work and endorphins of a martial arts class or other activity; that way, their brain is not reliant on the stimulation of video games or youtube videos. This will not only help them break the addiction but allow them to develop the self-esteem that only comes from hard work.
It is a new and exciting world for our teenagers, although it can be sometimes dangerous! Now more than ever, it takes a village to raise a child, and we are so grateful that you have allowed us to be part of your circle of influence. If you would like to get your child enrolled into classes, or have any questions, please don't hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org