The Need for Youth to Disconnect

January 12, 2015

According to Buzzfeed’s highly scientific analysis of me, the following describes my personality:

  • Of all the Disney princesses, I am most like Mulan.
  • According to my wardrobe and coffee brand of choice, I am NOT a hipster.
  • The Emoji that best describes me is the one of the dancing twins. 
  • I identify most with the characteristics of American cheese.

I am not sure what to think about these results. Part of me thinks, “Yep, most of that is correct, but really, of all the wonderful cheeses out there, American?!” Remember when we used to take those Tiger Beat quizzes as youngsters? And as young adults, we could always rely on the sound data obtained through the quizzes found in Cosmo. Media psychologist Robert Simmermon told Huffington Post that when we engage in these quizzes, we are looking to simplify the world around us. We are looking to be categorized and reaffirm who we are as interesting people. In other words, we are looking for a sense of ourselves. This got me thinking. How do today’s youth assess themselves? How does technology influence their sense of self? And, how is technology exacerbating or alleviating the perils of growing up?

While pondering these questions, I discovered two fantastic sources of information that help bring some answers to light. The first source is an in-depth study provided by Common Sense Media.  Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children. Their published study followed a first generation of teens who went through their entire teen years with Facebook and other social networking sites. The study highlights how the teens think technology and social media has affected their social and emotional lives. Some no-brainer data revealed that teens were avid, daily users of social media. Among 13- to 17-year olds, texting was the highest percentage of technology used. But, the most surprising bit of information revealed that most teens preferred face-to-face communication and that social media and texting can interfere with that. Some teens said that they wish they could disconnect more often and that people around them would as well.

My second source of information that sheds light on the need to help our youth disconnect and protect interpersonal relationships is Catherine Steiner-Adair’s book The Big Disconnect. Insights and advice are given to help parents navigate the stressors of technology and bring face-to-face interactions back into the family. I am happy to say that the book is not a gloom and doom read. Yes, it does highlight the dangers of overuse and reliance of technology, but it also provides insight on how families can become sustainable by turning technology into a family ally.

We are excited to welcome Catherine Steiner-Adair to Oak Hill School on Tuesday, February 24, at 6 p.m., as the next speaker in the Common Trust Speaker Series. The event is free and open to the public. I hope fellow educators and parents throughout the Nashville community will take advantage of this opportunity to hear how modern technology presents unique challenges in communicating with today’s youth, as well as ways to help manage family life and relationships in the digital age.  

See you there!

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