Fear of Missing Out, and Not Even Trying…

-Donna C. Moss

Dear Folks, I’ve been off line a few days with a family emergency.  In that time I was interviewed for a radio show called “Emotions R Us” about how vulnerable normal teens are in this day of news feeds and violence and social media.  What I explained to my host was that we are used to assessing kids with pathology: be it depression, panic or anxiety, etc.  But I am finding now that pathology is not in them but in us.  Our society has become poisoned by alienation, rage and revolt.  So that an A student is now shaking with fear during a test because she is afraid of getting shot.  So that the captain of the football team is paralyzed to apply for college because football kids are crazy.  So that an 11th grader stopped looking at colleges because her parents are tapped out.  This is how we live.

It becomes easier to simply avoid your life.

Avoidance reinforces more avoidance.

If you don’t try to make friends, meet new people and have new experiences from the age of teen and young adult you get trapped in a cycle of stagnation.  You fail to individuate.  You are stuck at home.  You develop a lingering depression.  You become glued to your phone.  You wake up when you’re 28 and say, wait, I forgot to grow up.

Here’s what you can do right now to stop hiding in your room.

  1. Get outside.  Even once a day.  Vitamin D is good medicine from the sun.
  2. Get some exercise, even a simple stretching routine will do.
  3. Get get your sleep cycle regulated, even on the weekends.
  4. Get a hobby that you can do anywhere, anytime, whatever it is.  Having a passion makes you interesting.
  5. Do one new thing, and report back.  Even if it sucked, at least you now know what you don’t like.
  6. Break it down: if you have to go somewhere, map it in your head.  Each step will become easier.
  7. Dare to love and be hurt.  It beats the alternative of loneliness and isolation.

You can use CBT, DBT and basic tricks and tools for this Halloween to stay calm and centered.  Called, “Taking in the Good,” you can train yourself to be more compassionate first to yourself and then to others.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Trick or Treat, hide or be hidden, first be real.  You can thank yourself right now.

What is the “Right Age” for Kids to Use Social Media?

5 rules for teaching young people use technology with dignity and respect

What is the “right” age for youngsters to begin texting and using social media? As the Mom of two young daughters and an educator on bullying prevention, I field this question frequently. Truly, there is great debate on the subject among professionals, along with a whole lot of hand-wringing by parents. As adults, we are all-too-aware of dangers online–both from anonymous predators and familiar “frenemies” who use the internet as a weapon. Indeed, social media sites are ripe for cyberbullying. Kids (and adults!) feel liberated to post cruel messages and taunts online without the discomfort of having to say to a peer’s face.

As with most aspects of child-rearing, there isn’t a simple one-age-fits-all guideline for starting to use social media or texting. From “safety” and “convenience” to the ever-urgent “all the other kids have them” rationales, ultimately, each family will make their own decision about what is “right” for their kids. In this day and age, almost every child will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.

So, while I do not offer black and white answers to parents as far as “right ages,” what I do offer are suggestions for teaching kids how to use technology in ways that reflect family values and respect the dignity of their peers.

1. Choose Your Words Carefully

If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t send it via text or the internet. Technology makes it too easy to say things that are impulsive or unkind. Also, the person reading your message can’t see your expressions or hear your tone of voice. Sarcasm and humor often get lost in translation on the ‘net, so avoid their use. Type carefully as well; avoid using ALL CAPS since they make it look like you are angry or YELLING.

2. The Internet is Not a Weapon

Don’t gossip about other people while you are online. Your words can be misinterpreted, manipulated, and forwarded without your permission. Plus, it’s not fair to talk about people when they can’t defend themselves. Likewise, social media sites should never be used to strategically exclude peers who are “on the outs” of a peer group or to “de-friend” a person after a fight.

3. Who is this Message For?

What happens in cyberspace stays in cyberspace—forever! Though you may think you are sending your private message or photo to a single recipient, keep in mind that it can be cut, pasted, and forwarded to an infinite number of people. Never post a photo or message that you wouldn’t want “everyone” to be able to view.

4. Kindness Matters

Be kind and do not ever use email to say ugly, nasty, or mean things about anyone or to anyone. ANYONE. Ever! Stop and ask yourself, “What would Mom think if she read this?” Post accordingly!

5. Take it Slow

In this world of instant messaging and constant contact, you may be tempted to say whatever comes to your mind in a given moment. Don’t do it! Slow down and think before you post whatever thought, comeback, or reaction is on your mind–especially if you are feeling an intense emotion like anger or sadness. Wait until you have had a chance to think things through and cool your head before you post a message that can’t be taken back.

Signe Whitson is an author and international educator on bullying prevention, crisis intervention, and child and adolescent emotional and behavioral health.  For more information or workshop inquiries, please visit www.signewhitson.com and check out Signe’s latest book, 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools.