As a kid growing up in the 70’s there were very few things which I ever had to worry about.
When I’d be getting fed and when I had to go to bed. The 80’s followed and even as a teenager, the biggest pressure I really felt was exam time and whether my trainers and track suit were as cool as my friends.
We had no social media, very little in the way of home computers or home gaming systems, and even when they came along we spent very little time on them as our pleasures were found outside of the house spending time with actual human beings who were our mates!
Because of the above I’m one of those parents who constantly tells my kids to stop staring at electronic equipment and go do what kids do best – get muddy, ride your bikes, fall out of a tree or even go and play knock and run on the neighbours!
My memories of young childhood include hazy summer days making mud baths, riding bikes, throwing berries at neighbours windows and sharing bags of crisps with mates in the local park. When teenage years hit, all my best memories were still activities with mates outside of the house! Looking back, many were actually illegal or dangerous but hell, I’m still here to tell the storys!
And this is what me and wifey try to install in our kids, the fact that when they look back at their childhood memories, the hours spent sitting in the house playing online games or staring at an Ipad wont even register when they are adults, and they need to start MAKING special memories, you know the ones, where you look back and think “how the hell am I even still alive”?
So zoom forward to current times and our current situation. The introduction of the World Wide Web brought us unlimited access to the kind of information we want, at our finger tips, in our homes, in milliseconds!
If this concept was explained to somebody before the WWW came along this would have sounded like the most amazing and useful tool EVER! The worlds biggest library without having to move from your seat, or even opening a book! Instant information access for everybody.
So why the hell has it all gone soooo wrong?
Well as John Naisbitt explains it –
“We are drowning in information but starved for actual knowledge”
But what does this actually mean? Information is facts learned about something or someone, anybody can find information about a subject but the problem with information from the WWW or any other source is whether it is actually true or correct.
Knowledge is facts, information AND skills acquired through experience or practical application! So you have the facts plus you can actually back them up as you have experienced them.
As a fully mature, enlightened adult with a touch of common sense, we learn to filter out a lot of the bullshit that we see and read. Or, if we are unsure we will at least ask questions or do our own research (at least some adults do! It still baffles me with some of the absolute crap people just take at face value and share on social media, happy to spread their ignorance on other gullible members of the public! Anybody remember the Meme declaring walnuts as effective as Prozac for treating depression? Point made I think!)
So if adults can be confused imagine being a child and having access to all this information!
Now, bear in mind as children we may ask a lot of questions but we don’t really start to question the answers and really give them any thought until we are between the age of 10 and 14, so any answers we are presented with will be taken purely at face value.
Add to that, that information can come in any form from a simple question and answer to a photo shopped image displaying the latest so-called perfect body/lifestyle/clothing/hair style etc etc and you can see why kids are already starting to feel pressure to have the best, or be the best …….and start feeling insecure.
Zoom forward to the teenage years and although we start to question many things our belief system is already in place. So we have most of the above to deal with plus hormones, school/college/university and exam pressures, uncool parents that just don’t understand cuz they’ve never been teenagers, and normally very little money and the insecurities can soon turn to stress and anxiety and even depression.
But please, don’t take my word for it, take a look at the latest figures for child and teenage depression and the numbers are quite alarming if the NHS is to be believed!
The figures from NHS Digital represent hospital inpatients who were given a primary or secondary diagnosis of anxiety. In total, there were 10,499 such cases in 2015/16 – a rise of 42 per cent on the 7,375 cases the year before – and a tripling from the 3,047 cases recorded five years before. In 862 cases, anxiety was the primary diagnosis – meaning it was the main reason they were admitted into hospital for in-patient treatment.
And its not just the NHS that are claiming this as a huge problem –
The NSPCC last night warned that their Childline service has seen a 35 per cent rise in calls about anxiety from children in just twelve months.
From my angle, as a therapist and Hypnotherapist dealing with stress and anxiety issues, I am also noticing an increase in teenagers, or concerned parents of kids and teenagers, contacting me asking for information and prices regarding treatments that are available.
As if growing up wasn’t hard enough!
So as a parent what can we do to help? (I say help as there is no way to stop the future generation from using the WWW and social media, you may just as well add “outcast” to the list of growing problems!) The only thing we can do as parents is keep a close eye on our kids, actually LISTEN to them when they are ready to speak (whether you have time or not), support them when they need it, and hopefully instil a sense of positivity, creativity & social awareness, and also let them know there is help available to them out there if they really feel they may need it!
And as I tell my 10-year-old son all the time – when somebody tells you they can do this, or they own that, unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes, then question EVERYTHING!