It’s no secret that today’s youth face a challenge that is unprecedented in the history of humankind. While the millennial generation is the last generation that was born into the pre-Internet world, the generation that is now coming of age and growing into adulthood grew up in a wired world. So far, this is an experiment with unpredictable results: to be totally connected at all times, and never to be at a loss for any little scrap of information. While humans initially saw the Internet as a tool for the liberation and evolution of humanity, recent scandals – especially the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal – and studies on the effects of social media and depression/ anxiety are painting a different picture.
With this in mind, it’s important for parents to ask themselves: what can I do to help my little digital natives batten down the hatches and weather the storm? The short answer is: whatever keeps them grounded. The primary problem with digital culture is that it tends to get the brain running on overdrive in cycles of craving and aversion, taking teens out of the present moment and causing their young minds to run wild in hypothetical scenarios (how could I have done that better/ will I fail in the future/ am I good enough); mind patterns which are not, altogether, healthy.
Thus, it is important to encourage your young ones to take a break from their phones and devices one in awhile and focus on an activity that grounds them in the present moment: something physical that can result in a sort of meditative state. This will inevitably lead them to calm down and hopefully figure out what activities – and perhaps what kind of a career – help the assuage their darker feelings and connect with the moment.
What are these stupendous activities, you ask? Well, there are many; here are a few ideas to get you started and here’s a hint: they shouldn’t involve lit up screens:
Sports: While some people consider “jocks” to be unintelligent and brutish, the truth is that sports can be part of a well-rounded education and healthy development. Athletics encourage kids and teens to take care of their bodies, stretch and exercise, rather than sit in their bedrooms on their phones. Team sports can be strategic and life-affirming at best, and they encourage kids to get outside. So whether it’s tennis, football, or lacrosse, encourage your kid to get out there and play!
Music: Encouraging your child to join the music program (if their school has one), or signing them up for music lessons in your city is a great way to get them off their phone and into a meditative headspace. Performing music requires you to be present in the moment and coordinate your body with the instrument to produce the desired results. The more enthusiastic they are about performing music, the less time they’ll spend scrolling Facebook.
While reading – even on a Kobo or a Kindle, rather than on paper – can seem like an ancient, anachronistic art-form to a child, all they need is a cool English teacher to stumble upon a modern classic like Day of the Triffids to spark an interest. Reading is calming and therapeutic at its best, and might inspire your kid to become the next JK Rowling!