Some people think that family ties will bind, however your DNA ties and the strategies your parents gave you aren’t strong enough to hold together when the seduction of social media beckons – and the unintended consequences for our children can be very serious. There’s a new Bogeyman in town when it comes to social media and kids.
Dr. Jared Balmer, a contributor to the FamilyIQ clinical advisory board, member of the Joint Commission Youth Advisory Council, and leader in the field of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, delivered some extraordinarily troubling statistics in his July 25, 2012 presentation hosted by Mark Hobbins, FamilyIQ founder [If you are interested in viewing the presentation, please Opt-In on the form below]
Dr. Balmer’s presentation, The Four Headed Monster sites a report in the AMA Journal of September 2008 that states:
“following a steady two decade decline, between 2003 and 2004
we see an 18% increase in suicide rates in youth under 20 years of age”
Balmer goes on to deliver a terrifying projection and the link between social media and kids:
“Today experts who work with youth across the nation believe that anxiety and depression will be the #1 cause of mortality in adolescents in the next 20 years. As professionals race to discover the source of this frightening prognosis, research suggests that social media may be the culprit.”
The #1 cause of teens’ unintentional death in 2007 was motor vehicle accidents (70%) according to Child Health USA 2011. As horrific as this 2007 statistic is, it is even more difficult to fathom that in the year 2030 suicide will become the #1 cause of death in adolescence, giving credence to Balmer’s belief that,“ a cell phone is more damaging than a driver’s license – the boundaries are far more difficult to chart!”
Social Media and Kids in the Digital Playground
This week you received more information on your smartphone than your grandparents received in their lifetime. In 2012 the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population of almost 7 billion claims cisco.com, a world leader in Internet networking since 1986.
Clearly social media and kids with mobile communication will become the norm, not the exception, as more than 90% of the US population are already mobile subscribers. Our kids are growing up on a digital playground that we barely recognize. How do we supervise this new playground without appearing as either luddite or loon?
Can we link social media and kids and suicide?
While the social media and kids and suicide connection seems preposterous the research seems to hold water. New studies show that the brain is not fully developed until age 25 when a huge proliferation of cells develop late in the teen years. Until that time, the chemical soup of puberty, hormones, and high drama create a Bonfire of Emotions making teens particularly vulnerable.
Neuroscientists have confirmed that teens do have brains, but they’re wired differently from adults. Dr. Beatriz Luna, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh pioneered neuro-imaging studies focused on the adolescent period because this is the time when individuals show the greatest vulnerability to psychopathology and to mortality due to risk-taking behavior.
“As the chemical soup percolates without the benefit of executive function, teens are in the midst of identity formation and have an inordinate need for acceptance which is hyper-stated with technology: texting, internet, and the necessity for lots of “LIKES”. This hypersensitivity for acceptance drives the desire for intimacy – but it’s not about intimacy, it’s a desire for acceptance.” explains Mark Hobbins, founder and president of FamilyIQ.
This perfect storm that goes on in a teen’s mind has many possible consequences:
- Teens have an inordinate need for acceptance
- Teens are hypersensitive to feelings – it becomes a crisis when someone didn’t say hi
- Teens desire for intimacy – this is not about intimacy, but rather acceptance
- Teens desire for thrills – this is not sexual, but focuses on extreme behaviours like piercing, tattoos—this is all caused by the “blasting, re-wiring and re-modelling” going on inside
- Teens desire for getting attention changes their behaviour – in their language and they way they dress
- Teens have an inability to cope with stress – and can fall into dangerous behavior. According to Hobbins, 50,000 to 60,000 kids a year fall into the danger zone
- Teens and their “foolish in the moment” can have negative long-term consequences, for example, how long will a “sexting text” remain digitally?
Hobbins has made a 25 year career of helping families and began his career as the co-founder of a treatment and intervention company, during which time he saw a sad dilemma play out in the lives of tens of thousands of families who had to place their children in treatment programs.
The cause and effect of social media and kids
Dr. Balmer explains that to be socially attractive, we must look people in the face and to carry on an effective conversation demands an innate ability to read and interpret non-verbal language. With social media and kids, the opposite is true, teens buried in texting, online games, Facebook and the “LIKE”, become isolated and disembodied because their conversations are not real and their virtual friendships are without real assets. Self-esteem plummets creating historic levels of anxiety and depression in adolescence.
Dr. Balmer warns us not to believe that intelligent kids are immune to these pitfalls.“This is phenomenon is all about a child’s emotional IQ and social age – brilliant kids can be social morons and flock to social media for acceptance, where as many so-called popular kids may use it less having found their peer groups in the real world.”
Actively involved in the treatment field, FamilyIQ’s Mark Hobbins also added,
“Here we are on July 25, 2012 and all the psychiatric hospitals for troubled adolescents in California are full!”
Supervising the Digital Playground for social media and kids
Technology and digital communication has become the tsunami that washes over each of our intricate lives. To assume that as a parent we can simply eliminate the risk by forbidding exposure is not realistic; to allow ignorance of the medium to interfere with our parenting values is unacceptable; and to continue to parent they way we were parented limits the impact we can have with our children.
We’re cheating our kids if we don’t educate ourselves about how to set boundaries, develop strong relationships, and instill enduring family values before the teenage alien lands in our household. Parenting today is far more complex than imparting the simple life skills of yesteryear. We’re required to be more imaginative and more creative to get and keep our children’s attention and build a foundation of responsibility. We have such a short time together and time races on.
Consider this: 1 Exabyte = 1 Billion Gigabytes and took 2003 years to evolve
- So what is a Gigabyte? It is a multiple of the unit “byte” for digital storage and represents a billion bytes. From the start of time to 2003, the world accumulated 5 Exabytes of data.
- In plain speak, consider those birthday greeting cards that, when opened, play Happy Birthday. The computing power in that card, exceeds the world’s combined computing powering 1953, which would have taken up multiple floors in a high-rise office tower.
- 1 Exabyte in 2010 and took 2 days to accumulate
- 1 Exabyte 2013 will take about 10 minutes to accumulate
We can’t hold back the world to protect our children, but we can make sure we learn the parenting skills to appropriately supervise this digital playground. Don’t minimize the power and influence you can have with your kids.
“Make a deep connection with your kids before their teens and don’t be afraid to be different and set clear boundaries. Parents need to be on their A Game,” urges Hobbins, “To protect and nurture their children through dignity, style and class and explain this perfect storm before it happens”.
Sadly Kids don’t come with a manual
Raising responsible children and nurturing a great family, the two most important skills in life, are the least taught and trained; however, we fill our lives with classes and courses to better our careers, cooking, capital, castle, character, cheerfulness, charm, charisma, company, and clout. Social media and kids is a relatively new phenomenon, none the less parents can be empowered to face these new challenges with the proper parenting tools.
Kimbal DeLare, another a contributor to the FamilyIQ clinical advisory board who has worked with troubled teens for over 30 years said, “When dealing with families in crisis, 99% believed that this would NOT happen to them and suddenly, things were not as good as they thought they were, and in that moment they realized they didn’t have the skills they needed.”
After all, you don’t know what you don’t know . . . we’d like to share that information with you. Let’s get started. Opt-In (on the form below) to view Dr. Balmer’s WEBINAR PRESENTATION
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