Adolescent mental skills further squashed due to internet/video games
In my daily appointments and interactions with youth, I’ve seen the rise of anxiety, lack of confidence, and perfectionism skyrocket for adolescents. It happens when there is a lot of pressure to perform in the classroom and on the athletic field, however I would also attribute this to the average 6.5 hours a day kids spend looking at screens. Yes, that is 6.5 hours on average that our youth are bonding and socializing with a screen.
So what is happening to these precious minds?
- Screens pull kids out of having to deal with ‘awkward situations’. Awkward situations are something kids need to learn to deal with, otherwise when they arise during adolescence or in adulthood they won’t have the skills to deal them.
RESULT: Kids aren’t able to build confidence or learn how to deal with mistakes or losing.
- During adolescence is when our kids are most susceptible to pleasure-producing behaviors. The instant pleasure-producing, gratification that screens provide leave kids thinking that this is reality. They should be getting the same feedback from all situations and if not they panic.
RESULT: Kids don’t know how to deal with situations that are not pleasure producing and if they aren’t getting it, they’ve somehow failed. This is part of the root cause of the perfectionism I see in 85% of my clients. The parents (unconsciously) feed this cycle and we end up with kids who don’t know how to deal with anything less than optimal.
- Brain scans of kids who play video games 20+ hours a week show similar patterns to people addicted to drugs. The movie, Screenagers, talked about clinical internet/video game addiction. You get to watch the experience of Andrew, who dropped out of school and failed all his classes due to video games.
RESULT: The symptoms are the same as other addictions: obsessive thoughts, withdrawal, negative life consequences, and using the internet/video games to deal with stress, pressure and anxiety.
What are some solutions?
I think it’s too late for take-backs. You can’t take kids’ screens away nor can you not buy them. Why? We are in the age of technology. I know if I didn’t have my phone or computer I’d be left behind in my professional and personal life. I just don’t think it’s realistic to avoid the ‘awkward situation’. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
You are the parent and it’s important to start having conversations and communication around matters of life. Talk to your kids about the impact of the internet/video games on their development and mental state. Take your kids to see Screenagers and talk about the information in this documentary.
Make sure your kids understand digital citizenship – responsibility, ethics, and balance with regards to technology. They need to know what is right and wrong when it comes to using the internet. What is cyberbullying? What do you need to look out for when communicating with strangers? Which pictures are okay to post?
Work with your kids to set some ground rules internet/video games, i.e., limit usage. No cell phone usage after 8pm. In Screenagers, Tessa was not allowed to use her phone in her room. In the work I do with my adolescent clients around study habits, I suggest they study for 50-minutes and take a 10-minute break. They set an alarm for 50 minutes and then another for the 10-minute break to ensure they don’t get too distracted from studying. During this 10-minute break, they can check email, text, or social media. There are other reasons for this consistent cycle but it also allows them a reward for a solid 50-minute period of work time and something to look forward to.
You wouldn’t give a kid a car and not teach them how to drive or be responsible with the car. Why give your kid a phone or computer without teaching them responsibility?
Go see Screenagers
I saw a screening of Screenagers. It is a poignant short documentary on the impact technology has on our kids. “Award-winning SCREENAGERS probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director’s own, and depicts messy struggles, over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Through surprising insights from authors and brain scientist’s solutions emerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.”* If you get a chance I highly recommend you see it.
The development of a child’s or adolescent’s brain is so important to a successful life. Learning mental skills to cope and deal with everything life will throw at them should not be ignored. The pressures and demands of kids are so different now with the massive amounts of technology. Learn how to develop the skills to handle it!