In the past few years, advances in technology have had major impacts on the physical and mental health of children and teens.
Whereas family members used to all sit down together at mealtime, the current disconnection has caused parents to lose touch. They have no real, intimate personal communications with their kids.
Dr. Lisa Strohman suggests looking at technology use the same as you would a treat such as chocolate cake. Sure, you'd love to have it every day (multiple times a day), but that wouldn't be healthy for you and it will have consequences. Parents need to introduce balance when it comes to devices and media use. For example, implement text-free Tuesdays where you all do something to communicate face-to-face, such as playing a board game.
Another huge issue that technology has brought about is that of online harassment, or what we now call cyberbullying.
It's very difficult to escape from this type of bullying. Even if you use typical tactics to block or "unfriend" a user, there are ways for the harassers to get through. Recently, an 18-year-old took her own life after having to endure months of attacks via anonymous predators.
If your teen or pre-teen seems withdrawn, newly introverted, or is having obvious mood shifts, don't be afraid to approach him or her and ask the hard questions, such as "Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?" Oftentimes their feelings are such a big burden, they may feel relieved to let it out.
Emerging acronyms make it easier for kids to bully other kids without parents necessarily knowing what's going on. Lisa shares just a few of the more popular ones:
KYS: Kill Your Self
KMS: Kill My Self
182: I Hate You
DIRL: Die in Real Life
FUB: Fat Ugly Bastard
Some of these are in jest, but such messages could be interpreted by certain kids as truth. Those kids are part of a vulnerable population, and anonymity can allow for more aggressive attacks.
As a parent, if you come across a seemingly "secret code," a simple Google search will likely give you information on what it means.
One piece of advice Lisa gives both kids and parents is to resist the impulse to respond on social media. Commenting on a Twitter or Facebook post can be like adding gasoline to a fire. Don't assume that others have the same mindset as you. Be cautious about who you're interacting with online. Someone who posts vicious claims probably doesn't have the same moral compass as you.
It's a new world we live in, but not all hope is lost.
Listen in as Dr. Strohman joins Dr. Friedman to explain the impact technology has on your teen (and family dynamic), as well as how you can combat the negative and foster the positive.