A survey was conducted by a society for public health for 15-29-year-old children’s and Adults on how social media platforms impacted their health and well being. The survey results found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all led to increased filling of depression anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.

Many parents worry about how exposure to technology might affect their children’s developmentally. We know our teachers are picking up new social and cognitive skills at a stunning pace, and we don’t want hours spent glued to an iPad to impede that. But adolescence is an equally important period of rapid development, and too few of us are paying attention to how our teenagers’ use of technology much more intense and intimate than a 3-year-old playing with their Parents iPhone is affecting them. And experts worry that social media and text messages that have become so necessary to children’s life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem

Cyberbullying And Imposter Syndrome

You hope to teach children’s that they can disagree without jeopardizing the relationship, but what social media is teaching them to do is disagree in ways that are more extreme and do jeopardize the relationship. It’s exactly what you don’t want to have happened.

Adolescents have always been doing this, but with the advent of social media, they are faced with more opportunities and more traps than ever before. When kids scroll through their feeds and see how great everyone seems it only adds to the pressure. We’re used to worrying about the impractical ideas that photoshopped magazine models give to our kids, but what happens with the kid next door is photoshopped, too? Even more confusing, what about when your own profile doesn’t really represent the person that you feel like you are on the inside?

Adolescence and at the early twenties, in particular, are the years in which you are acutely aware of the contrasts between who you appear to be and who you think you are. It’s similar to the ‘imposter syndrome’ in psychology. As you get older and acquire more mastery, you begin to realize that you actually are good at some things, and then you feel that gap hopefully narrow. But imagine having your deepest darkest fear be that you aren’t as good as you look, and then imagine needing to look that good all the time! It’s exhausting.

Self-esteem comes from consolidating who you are. The more identities you have, and the more time you spend pretending to be someone you aren’t, the harder it’s going to be to feel good about yourself.

The other big danger that comes from kids communicating more indirectly is that it has gotten easier to be cruel. Kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face. Some people note that this seems to be especially true of girls, who typically don’t like to disagree with each other in real life.

Lowering Risks

If kids aren’t getting enough practice relating to people and getting their needs met in person and in real time, many of them will grow up to be adults who are anxious about our species’ primary means of communication talk. And social negotiations only get riskier as people get older and make romantic relationships and employment.

But when friendship is conducted through online and through texts, kids are doing this in a context stripped of many of the most personal and sometimes intimidating aspects of communication. It’s easier to keep your self-guard up when you’re texting, so less is at stake. The child or adult is not hearing or seeing the effect that your words are having on the other person. Because the conversation isn’t happening in real time, each person or party can take more time to consider a response or reply. No wonder kids say calling someone on the phone is “too intense”  it requires more direct communication, and if you aren’t used to that it may well feel scary.

Certainly speaking indirectly creates a barrier or problem to clear communication, but that’s is not all. Learning how to make friends is a major part of one’s life as growing up, and friendship requires a certain amount of risk-taking as well.  This is true for making a new friend, but it’s also true for maintaining friendships. When there are problems that need to be faced big ones or small ones it takes courage to be honest at the same the courageous about your feelings and then hear what the other person has to say without disturbing the other person. Learning to effectively cross these bridges is part of what makes friendship fun and exciting, and also scary. “Part of healthy self-esteem is knowing how to say what you think and feel even when you’re in disagreement with other people or it feels emotionally risky,”

Indirect Communication

As a species, we are very highly attuned to reading social cues. There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.

Teens are masters at keeping themselves occupied in the hours after school until way past bedtime. When they are doing their homework (and when they are not doing) they’re online and on their phones, texting, sharing, trolling, scrolling, you name it. Of course, before everyone had an Instagram account teen kept themselves busy, too, but they were more likely to do their chatting on the phone, or in person when hanging out at the mall. It may have looked like a lot of aimless hanging around, but what they were doing was experimenting, trying out skills, and succeeding and failing in tons of tiny real-time interactions that kids today are missing out on. For one thing, modern teens are learning to do most of their communication while looking at a screen, not another person.

What Should Parents do?

The best thing parents can do to minimize the risks associated with technology is to curtail their own consumption first. It’s up to parents to set a good example of what healthy computer usage looks like. Most of us check our phones or our email too much, out of either real interest or nervous habit. Kids should be used to seeing our faces, not our heads bent over a screen. Establish technology-free zones in the house and technology-free hours when no one uses the phone, including mom and dad.

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