Mental health issues with children and young adults – particularly anxiety – is widespread. Studies link social media to the problem and the need for support and understanding grows.
Last year, Brainspace published an article on the emotional brain. I remember discussing the idea with our writer and editor, Holly Bennett, realizing it was a difficult topic to work into a kids’ magazine. We worked with the Ontario Brain Institute to find the expertise we needed for our research and to pinpoint what makes a child’s brain tick and why. It isn’t easy to cover brain science and the social effects of emotions in an article that will appeal to kids 8-14. It’s likely why the topic is rarely broached for a young audience. But when anxiety and the brain are put into context in a very concrete way, it can help. One of our young readers had an “aha” moment in realizing that her brain has emotional triggers that cause physical responses. She emailed her response to the article. “I read the Emotional Brain story in Brainspace,(…) I get it and my nervous feelings kind of make sense now.” Kids should be clear on how the brain processes emotions. Understanding – and visualizing –the brain’s function to cope, express, and manage emotions can help open the curtain on mental health. Coping – or not coping – with emotions is scientific. It is very real and can be overwhelming.
Does unplugging help?
Adults encourage kids to spend less time on devices. Is it realistic to claim that issues disappear when phones and game boxes are powered down? The reality is, devices are a permanent part of our children’s lives. A reliance on devices for social interaction, education, entertainment, and connection to their world is intense. A healthy attitude towards social media and digital tech that has entrenched itself in our children’s lives is necessary. Forced unplugging can, in fact, have an adverse effect. For some, it may trigger even greater anxiety with feelings of isolation. What can we do to support children?
Help rationalize the difference between real life and the “highlight reel” in social media.
Social media effectively normalizes celebrity status and wealth to create #goals that are beyond reach for the majority. Discussing financial literacy and asking what wealth means to your teen is a conversation starter.
And Educate Some More
Today’s parents are ground zero for how to support digital native kids. It brings a whole new world of parenting problems. Brainspace‘s regular column “Digital Natives” is researched and written by a young writer who is a digital native. Rory Kilheany helps our young readers understand the internet, social media, the ups, the downs, the pitfalls, and the benefits of the greatest influencer in their young culture and essentially, their daily lives.