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Dr. Lynn Margolies
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Teen Digital Stress: What do parents need to know?

by Dr. Lynn Margolies


The latest findings on digital stress and teens from the 2015 Learning and the Brain Conference: The Science of Character, Boston, MA.

The good news:
…Most kids are turning to adults for help when it comes to cyberbullying. But they are alone, and do not turn to adults when it comes to other common online stressors. Many adults are unaware of the other significant issues in the digital world that affect teens’ moods and states of mind moment to moment, challenging their ability to cope.

Common digital stressors that are a significant part of teen’s lives in which they do not turn to adults:
• Feeling barraged by the sheer number of messages as well as other digital demands. Kids can feel overwhelmed by text blasts, for example, through being included in group chats and various chat platforms. Many teens also experience ongoing pressure e.g., a sense of high social stakes and time commitment, to carefully maintain their digital profile/reputation and get “likes” on their posts, for example, Instagram.
• Feeling pressure to comply with sexting, often as proof of trust, or access to their account passwords (even from friends).
• FOMO - fear of missing out. Feeling left out when seeing photos of their friends posted in real-time looking like they’re having fun (though in talking to the teens in these photos, things aren’t always as fun as they appear).

Dr. Margolies’ tips:
• Be aware that teens are embedded in an online world and don’t diminish or devalue it.
• Show non-judgmental interest in having them teach you about something they are involved with digitally on their phones. This only works if you don’t have another agenda such as spying at the same time.
• Take their dilemmas and stressors online seriously.
• Do more listening than talking even if the solution or “right thing” seems obvious.
• When they seem receptive, offer help by thinking through things with them and letting teens take the lead in problem solving.

Weinstein, Emily C. (2015, November). Social Minds and Social Media: Teen Digital Stress and Cyberbullying. Paper presented at the Learning and the Brain Conference: The Science of Character, Boston, MA.

Relevant Articles:

Being a Wise Ally

Parenting Teens: 7 Important Questions with Answers that Sort Truth from Fiction

Protecting Teens from Danger: Tips and Advice for Parents - Part 2

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