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By Megan Lottes, LSW, Nov. 5, 2018 –

You don’t have to look very far these days to find a preteen or teen glued to their phone texting and scrolling through social media.

Like many things, social media has advantages and disadvantages. It breaks down geographical barriers, allows us to stay connected to family and friends all over the globe, and facilitates communication.

Unfortunately, however, it has also taken a toll on today’s youth.

For most teens and preteens, it is difficult to remember living in a world without technology.  They cannot imagine a world without the internet, which allows them to use apps and social media.

According to the website psycom.net, the average age that kids get their first cellphone is 10 years old, with nearly 40 percent of kids having a social media account by age eleven.

Today’s kids feel the need to constantly share everything they experience.  For them, responses to their online posts, such as “likes” and comments, are taken very seriously.

As they scroll through various social media apps, they see unrealistic standards of beauty and materialistic possessions. They start to compare their lives to others. Because of what is seen on social media, preteens and teens may alter their appearance, engage in negative behaviors, and accept risky social media challenges to gain attention in the form of “likes,” comments, and number of followers.

Research reported on childmind.org, as well as many other sources, shows that heavy social media use has been linked to increased depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem among kids. It prevents the development of some social skills and direct communication skills.

Preteens and teens spend more time connecting on social media instead of building social skills and having conversations in person; therefore, they are not learning how to read body language, facial expressions, or vocal infections.

Social media may also become a major distraction and lead to lack of sleep and poor academic performance. If technology use is unmonitored, kids may stay up late without their parents realizing they are not asleep. Ultimately, it is difficult for kids to unplug from technology at all times of the day.

So what can parents or caregivers do to help?

  1. Conduct some research. Whether it is by talking to teachers, talking to other parents or doing your own research, find out what the most popular apps are and how they are used.
  2. Establish technology-free zones in your home, such as the dinner table, and technology-free times such as before bed. Collect phones, tablets, and computers before bedtime.
  3. Don’t always trust the pictures kids post. Just because your child posts a lot of smiling “selfies” might not mean that your child is truly happy. Social media tends to be a “highlight reel,” displaying mostly the positive aspects of kids’ lives. Always check in with them to see how they are really doing.
  4. Last but not least, encourage your kids to talk to you and let them know it’s safe to talk to you. Let them know you love them and how proud you are of them – unfiltered and unedited.

By Heather Miller, LCSW, Courier & Press, Oct. 17, 2017 –

“Why did Jack score two goals and I didn’t score any?”  “I’m terrible at soccer.  I should just quit.”  “Everyone else in my class knows how to do this math problem but me.  I’m awful at it.”  “You just don’t understand.”

And so it begins… I have a tween.  With this new label comes a noticeable change in my once easy-going, happy, confident child.  New emotions have set in as well as constant comparisons between my tween and classmates, teammates, and friends.

Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines a tween as a boy or girl who is 11 or 12 years old.  The tween years serve as the transitional years between being a child and becoming a teenager.

With this transition comes uncertainty as to what defines the tween.  This uncertainty manifests in various ways such as tears, angry outbursts, and more seriously, depression and anxiety.

Parents and caregivers are often caught off-guard as to how to help their tween navigate this stage of life.  Following are some tips for helping parents and tweens not only survive these years, but to use them to strengthen relationships.

 First, remember to validate and acknowledge the tween’s feelings.  Give permission for your tween to be sad or angry.

This will assist the tween in feeling comfortable with sharing various emotions with adults.  Additionally, this simple acknowledgement will help the tween trust the adult by knowing their feelings will not be laughed at or dismissed.

During this stage, tweens are attempting to define themselves.  Often this is done by ranking their abilities compared to others.  No matter what the tween is comparing, he or she will always find someone who is better than them.

Adults can help by directing praise and compliments toward character traits rather than abilities or accomplishments.  Praising a tween for getting a B in math will likely be followed by the response, “but so and so got an A.”

Focusing on the traits that resulted in the tween earning the B will assist the tween with recognizing the positive traits he or she possesses.  In this situation, stating, “You showed a lot of patience when learning the new material in math.  It would have been easy to give up, but you continually gave it your all,” will bring the focus to the traits of patience and perseverance rather than a letter grade, which serves as a ranking system.

The most important factor in helping your tween is to be available.  According to World of Psychology, it is imperative to give your tween options to communicate their feelings to you.  Allowing your child to choose whether to talk face-to-face, by text, or by calling you about emotions and situations will increase the likelihood of your tween coming to you with concerns and for support.

If you find that your tween is experiencing more serious emotional outbursts or is becoming increasingly withdrawn and isolated, additional assistance may be needed.

Contacting your school’s Youth First Social Worker with these concerns can result in early intervention.   Early intervention by a professional is beneficial to help tweens learn coping skills before the emotions become too intense and overwhelming.