There are three metaphorical poisons that produce a deadly cocktail for teenagers in the 21st century.
1. Our toxic 21st century definition of success that is based on achievement, money, appearance, fame and power. This creates a culture whereby we are constantly comparing ourselves with others and it can make teenagers feel inadequate, inferior and powerless.
2. This malignant definition of success is powerfully reinforced by social media and our addiction to electronic devices with its virtual world that’s creating less time for meaningful human relationships.
3. An education system that values academic results above life skills and the emotional wellbeing of the child. This is a train wreck no longer waiting to happen, but already in motion. We are driving the car as fast as we can towards achievement, but we don’t have enough time to stop and put petrol in the car, let alone service it. We need to educate the person in its entirety, by preparing them for a happy and successful life. Emotional wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of education, not an afterthought.
A Teenager’s Biggest Challenge
I recently asked a 16-year-old boy at one of our ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers’ courses to think about the greatest challenge he was currently faced with. Without a moment of hesitation, he immediately answered, social media. I asked the boy to tell me more. He said, “well, it’s so hard not to spend most of my time on it because it’s so addictive”. All his peers in the group agreed. He was right. Our brains are wired to connect so it’s very difficult to turn away from something that’s stimulating it. In this blog, I want to focus on poison number two – our addiction to electronic devices.
Is it an Addiction?
You and I know that the seductive and constant beep is addictive? It’s like an iPhone Pavlovian Ping, isn’t it? Teenagers are eating, sleeping, showering and exercising with their phones. I don’t think addicted sums it up. Every aspect of their lives needs to be photographed and documented. On permanent IV, or permanently attached. The problem is it’s unfulfilling – it leaves them feeling empty and depleted. Even worse, there is evidence to suggest it rewires the brain to makes us less adept to real human connection. Many teenagers are spending more time in the ‘online world’, than the ‘real world’. There is even a new term for this ‘Continuous partial attention (CPA) is the process of paying simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, but at a superficial level. Linda Stone who coined this term explains more about it on this webpage:
What about Sleep?
Oxford professor, Russell Foster, stated that more than half of British teenagers are sleep deprived. Getting sufficient amount of sleep enhances emotional wellbeing and can improve academic performance. Yet, no ‘lessons’ of its importance are provided to teenagers. A digital awareness study found that 45% of teenagers in the UK are checking their mobile phones after they have gone to bed and 94% of the time they are on social media sites. This means that these teenagers are going to school tired and unable to concentrate. A common problem, is that teenagers are either over-working, or hooked on technology, or both. The affects can be devastating.
Are they Trapped?
Their smart phones are not making teenagers happier, wiser, or more closely connected to the people that matter most to them. Many teenagers say they would feel stressed about missing out if they did not check their electronic device before going to sleep.
Stanford psychology professor, Kelly McGonigal, states, “teens don’t just feel addicted they feel trapped. They find it almost impossible to unplug and renew themselves.”
Teenagers are bloated with information from their online world, but starved of real world wisdom.
United Education Group