TECHNOLOGY AND TODAY'S TWEEN OR TEEN: IS IT HURTING OUR FUTURE GENERATION?

Technology advancement is a good thing and everybody knows it. Unfortunately, with the whole world more focused on tabs, phones, computers, TVs and social media, it makes you wonder just how much of a good thing it really is. In fact, parents are getting more worried about their children. They keep wondering whether these devices are good for their children, especially in the long run. Some parents would even say these children are stressed.

Yes, it’s true that these gadgets have helped to increase learning a lot. Teens and Pre-teens alike all benefit from them. Unfortunately, they seem to have taken over the lives of this younger generation. The aim of this writing is to give parents certain tips that can help them create a balance for their kids even as technology keeps advancing by the day. According to a lot of research, the present conditions of living for preteens/teens are becoming more stressful by the day. There are so many external factors creating a stressful environment. Some of these factors include increase in technology in a fast advancing society, all kinds of traumatic events, poor food quality, chemicals in food, social media, emotional issues, struggle to get through puberty, increase in expectations to learn, damaging political or social issues on the TV or the Internet and so much more.

Unfortunately, all these things are putting a lot of strain on the emotions and health of many, including the younger generation. They may walk around as if they have no worries but evidence is showing otherwise. One key thing about humans is how we deal with these stressful factors. In order to survive, we try to reduce or manage the effect of these stressors. For us to really understand this, we would have to look at what is referred to as the basal ganglia in our brains. According to Charles Duhigg in his book, ‘The Power of Habit’, basal ganglia registers every behaviour that has an associated reward. Overtime and with a lot of consistency, the brain manages to create a system of ‘wanting and craving’, based on the behavioural patterns registered by the brain.

For instance, a teenager comes back from school with the mindset that school was stressful. He immediately switches on the TV and is enjoying himself. The brain shifts from left to right, releases endorphins and then registers the school as stressful and the TV as enjoyment. This becomes a permanent fixture in the brain with repetition and overtime, the teenager becomes addicted to watching TV after school because his basal ganglia has registered it as enjoyment. When dealing texting and social media, the brain releases the hormone called Oxytocin, which is described by Paul Zak as the ‘moral molecule’. This hormone promotes love, affection, trust, empathy and reciprocity, all of which are necessary in a society.

According to him, being on Facebook or Twitter leads to spikes in oxytocin levels and this in turn supports the argument that social media is a major cause of depreciation in normal human interaction. With the spike in oxytocin, the body responds as if it is in a face-to-face interaction. Unfortunately, once the basal ganglia registers this after repetition, it becomes another addition. According to the talk given by Larry D. Rosen, PhD, California State University, titled, "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids," preteens/teens become more prone to depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders because of they are overusing technology and the social media.

He also pointed that out that there have been positive outcomes from social networking because some teenagers who are avid users of Facebook have shown tendencies to be more virtually empathic to online friends and contact. He also found that social networking through different platforms have helped introverted teenagers develop or improve their social skills. The following signals will provide the necessary guidance needed to help your teens and preteens:

1. Decrease stress for your own and other peoples- tweens and teens!

The normal thing for the body to do when it senses stress is to move into a survival mode. This is depicted as ‘freeze, then fight and flight’. For instance, in the state of fight, the teenager would most likely go for violent games or movies while in the flight state, he would most likely go for TV programs that would dull his senses. When there is no sense of stress in the atmosphere, the person is calmer and more open to relating with people one on one and face-to-face. Humans have always lived and thrived by relating. So creating a stress free environment for yourself and your preteen/teen will help promote better human relations.

2. Make time to be emotionally present and connect with a tween or teen

This is one of the best ways to deal with teen/preteen issues. Parents and every adult should try their best to be emotionally available. If you are lost in your own world, how would you be able to connect with someone else, let alone a teenager? So make time to play, laugh, dance, play games, etc. Get involved and get them involved.

3. Third: Anything in moderation is OK.

If your preteen/teen is presently lost in social media or technological gadgets, you must control your first instinct to pull them away or seize the gadgets. You will end up causing more damage if you go with that option.

Remember it’s already registered in the basal ganglia. So if you tackle them like that, they will find something else to replace the wanting and craving. What you need to do is gradually draw them away from those gadgets. Employ subtle means to catch their attention without making them feel threatened. You can ask a seemingly innocent question like “I’m wondering what this social media thing is about, would you mind telling me about it sometime?’ Throw that in and walk away without pressing them. Tell them you are available if they feel like hanging out or just talking. Try not to ask direct questions. Teenager will most likely open up when hanging out casually. Once they start to respond, you can subtly introduce more things to do with them. Before you know it, they won’t be so glued to their gadgets.

Conclusion

The best thing you can do for them is to let them see you doing what you are asking them to do. Don’t be hung up on your own gadgets or stuck in your own world if you don’t want them to do the same.

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Try to monitor their activities without being creepy or overly protective. Just be available for them when they need you.

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