Tag Archives: #teenanxiety

iFear: Cell Phones & Social Media in a Brave New Era

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Becky Mansfield over at Your Modern Family wrote a somewhat chilling piece on the extent to which cell phones and social media have altered a generation – in the not-so-good ways every parent fears – called “The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids.”

Reporting on empirical data presented through a number of mediums, notably Dr. Jean Twenge’s research and the findings she presented in her recent book, iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us., Ms. Mansfield helps break down some alarming information in an easily digestible, if uncomfortable, way.

Without mincing words, Dr. Twenge has found that spikes began occurring in teen/tween angst, depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleeplessness and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide in 2012, the same year the first iPhone was released. Since then, the numbers are getting worse, not better. Here’s a summary per the above article of a few related stats:

1 in 5 children has mental health problems

The article does offer coping strategies to parents, but if we as adults have a somewhat unhealthy relationship with all these new gadgets, one can only imagine how hard it is for younger people to navigate these waters without a considerable amount of difficulty. This is doubly true when it comes to bullying. Imagine having your least desirable enemies armed with the ability to follow you remotely to your bedroom through social media on a daily basis. Where does someone’s “safe place” become in an age when we are always connected?

As if anyone needs more proof of how serious this problem is, the article from the NYT I wrote about from October 11, 2017 (@simonwilliam: “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety“) is still on the website’s most popular emailed stories – 11 days after it went up, a longevity I’ve not seen before on that site’s page.

Ultimately, the onus lies on us, as parents and adults and mentors and teachers, to lead by example. But that’s easier said than done. High-tech gizmos aren’t going anywhere, and the world is only becoming more interdependent. Suddenly those fears our grandparents had that our parents’ minds were being poisoned by the gyrations of Elvis Presley and the absolute lack of decorum that the Beatles displayed (with shaggy hair!)seem like such Leave It to Beaver-like problems now.

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Anxiety, Not Depression

 

“Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”

On the heels of World Mental Healthy Day, The New York Times has followed up with an informative article about the disorder which doesn’t get as much “play time” in the headlines as its more infamous sibling, depression, but is deadly nonetheless.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has published a well-researched article titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Anxiety?” and the answer, though never easy to pinpoint for any one specific person, is sometimes more obvious when looking at entire groups of people. As Mr. Denizet-Lewis writes:

“For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances.”

And for those who think that those raised in affluent families have it any easier, he adds this:

“Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”

Not surprisingly, one thing that ties all young people together – rich and poor – is the anxiety brought on by social media. As one college student put it, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities. Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

It’s disconcerting to learn how so many men and women, boys and girls, suffer from anxiety to the point that they shut down. When I was living in Korea, a lot of the people I knew from other countries would dismiss the heightened state of anxiety there as “Koreanness,” what was euphemistically called a “bballi, bbaali (quickly, quickly)” culture. But it’s not unique to Korea, nor does it only affect teenagers fighting to get into university.

It would seem that many of us are having a tough go of it in modern society. However, according to the article, there are certain things we can do to alleviate the pressure. While these activities are sometimes easier said than done, they include mindfulness techniques, art and equine therapy, and exposure therapy (facing your fears).

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when stress/anxiety starts building in my life, the best thing I can do is unplug from social media and, even more importantly, sit down and read a book. That one single act, I think, is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to mollify the Demons of Angst and Anxiousness.

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