• Jenny Christiansen

Social Media Sabotage

Part 2

A recent segment on Good Morning America with Dr. Jen Ashton discussed the suggested amount of screen time for a unique group of our population. Toddlers. Yes, toddlers! This report and others indicate that the use of electronics is just a part of life for most, if not all, children in this country.

The time spent on electronics increases with age. Their use encompasses everything from watching movies to playing video games and engaging in a continuous feed of social media messages. ABC News technology correspondent Becky Worley led a group of 10 girls from Northern California aged 13 through 14 through a social media detox.

All of the girls said they had a positive experience, and many said they experienced some rather unexpected consequences -- such as sleeping better -- when doing the cleanse.

Check out their responses, in their own words, below:

"I really had a great experience doing the social media cleanse," Serena Pillsbury said. "I fell asleep a lot quicker than usual so was better rested for the day. I also noticed I was more focused during homework, not preoccupied with what may be happening on social media," she added. "With that said, I did miss it."

For Hope Johnson, this was also the hardest part of the challenge, saying she felt like she "was being excluded from certain things and not being in the loop." "I felt this way because in class my friends would talk about something that happened over Instagram that night but I wouldn't be part of it," Johnson said.

Finley Simon said she felt some guilt for "not being able to respond to people," but that it felt good to take a break from the "pressure and stress" of social media, and added that she "would do it again."

Considering these young girls were challenged to a social media cleanse, it illustrates the high value placed on using sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Its use can affect our kids, whether we like it or not. Although social media is a powerful and sometimes useful tool, it does have a down-side, particularly for kids between the ages of 11-18.

The identity-forming season of the tween and teen years is one of discovery and growing independence. It is during this time of their lives when their curiosity, fun-seeking selves can become targets for unwanted contact. It may come in a negative form such as cyber-bullying or potential victimization by online predators.

The concept of self-worth is something a young person may not understand or comprehend its importance. They are in search of dignity, love, and worth, no matter where or how they grow up. Some young people are more vulnerable than others, but we must proceed with caution on behalf of ALL kids.

Building self-worth is one of the keys to thwarting off vulnerability. Social media will not give them a real and lasting sense of who they are hoping to become. Knowing how valuable they are in the world can and will make a difference.

Here are six self-worth building techniques:

1. Build a love sphere:

Make your home, classroom, or youth group a place to receive positive affirmation, no matter what mood they display.

2. Nurture skill sets.

Participating in activities they are interested in, want to try, or that they excel in reinforces this.

3. Explain the cycle of victory and defeat.

We all desire happiness. Young people must learn about the ever-changing landscape of each day. A bad day can rear its head, but a good one is coming.

4. Create a safe space to make mistakes.

Young people, at their core, do not want to disappoint people in their lives. Maintaining consistent expectations is essential, but mistakes will occur. They need to know that in light of errors, we still care for them. Learning from mistakes can ultimately be rewarding.

5. Model and teach proper mindsets.

It is powerful for young people to understand that a growth mindset is a driving force for action. Positive mindsets are fuel for both motivation and goal achievement.

6. Build trust.

The world is full of confusing messages and unrealistic standards. The words they hear need to come from parents, mentors, coaches, and teachers who want the best for them. We build trust by not just listening to what they "say" but hearing how they feel. A stranger can not do that.

When social media downsides meet self-worth strategies, the effects are powerful.

1. A desire for connectedness will occur when in meaningful relationships with people who want the best for them.

2. Self-expression is experienced by participating in activities they enjoy.

3. Feelings of loneliness will lessen when engaged in real, trust-based relationships.

4. Discretionary time is better spent doing things that grow and nurture their young minds.

5. A sense of reality will occur within the context of hands-on experiences rather than unrealistic and sensationalist means.

6. Positive, growth mindsets can minimize feelings of loneliness and depression because kids are working toward a desired goal.

We must take a stand against the dark side of social media, and those who seek to destroy the lives of our kids. A caring network of adults who are well informed, diligent, and vigilant is vital. An authentic and genuine sense of self-worth is not only powerful but a driving force in a youth's life.

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