Growing Up in a False Reality.

Kids today are out of touch with themselves, others, and the world around them.

Many people are focused on reducing screen time for children; I’m one of those people. The health risks are enormous for our kids, in a variety of ways, from their vulnerable, undeveloped eyes to their growing bodies and minds. And while I am the first to advocate for schools and parents to limit the amount of time our children spend on digital devices, per se, I am also growing increasingly convinced that our emotive relationships with these machines – which correlates to screen time – needs more exploration. What psychological needs are these digital devices filling – and what price is being paid when they dominate our lives?

Not long ago, I reluctantly signed up for a social media account, recognizing the efficacy of that medium for instantly reaching large, targeted audiences. Because I was pursuing the passage of specific statewide legislation, the timeliness of the messaging was important to me, to educate stakeholders and mobilize political support as quickly as possible.

With nearly the same speed that my messages were being sent, my own need to know how my messages were being received, emerged. It was remarkable how quickly I felt compelled to look at my hit count or check for messages. Hit that bar and get that pellet. No pellet? Hit the bar again. Ah. Pellet. Good pellet. Hit the bar. How many people reacted to my message? That’s it?! Send another message. Get another pellet.

It quickly became evident that I was drawn back to the computer with growing frequency, and increased emotional investment. If my message was well received, I felt validated, vindicated, and smart. And if my message was ignored, it was certain proof that no one cared about the things that interested me most, and I felt isolated.

This, from a grown woman, with a lifetime of professional communications and technology experience.

So I can hardly imagine the emotional roller-coaster that many children are now experiencing. It’s very easy to see how cyber-bullying has become such a crisis, since our children’s self-esteem is now hinging on uncontrollable virtual approval, and invisible, shifting, unpredictable digital feedback. The validation we all crave is now seemingly only available to our kids in an artificial way. Even their grades are impersonally emailed to them – no more dirty looks or pats on the back from their teachers.

How uncomfortable, and insecure, then, our children must feel. Whatever approval kids may receive from one another is fleeting, fickle, and unreliable. “Friends” are not real friends. And any embarrassment is amplified, shared universally, and inescapable.

What used to happen and be forgotten in a week when we were kids, now lingers and taunts. A cell phone snapshot can persist online forever, and humiliate a child for years. There is no escape, no relief, no place to hide. It’s cruel. How damaged will this generation be, from the stress of performing for each other, to avoid being “unfriended”? Social media is a sneaky little medium, that hurts. The girl at the lunch table doesn’t yet know she’s the target of criticism by the other kids at the same table.

Read the full article at Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/mental-wealth/201705/growing-in-false-reality