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Recently, I came across an article about digital stress and its effects on teenagers. Working in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, this is often a topic of concern for teenagers and their families.
More now than ever, teenagers are constantly connected to their peers through cell phones or computer internet access. For adolescents, communication is an integral part of their social experience. This can lead to positive interactions for the adolescent but it has the potential for negative ones as well.
To help explain digital stress and how parents can help, I enlisted the help of Dr. Mari Radzik, Coordinator of Mental Health Services at the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult medicine.
“What I’ve seen in my practice over the years is how pervasive the online social media experience is for youth. Now that Facebook has moved into parents use, adolescents have moved to other social media sites such as Snap Chat or Instagram. Our youth today would much rather text or social network on their phones,” Dr. Radzik said.
This type of connection with friends and significant others is often easier to hide from parents and caregivers and could leave the adolescent vulnerable to the effects of digital stress.
Digital stress is stress caused by negative interactions in emails, texts, social media, chat rooms and forums. Based on their research, Weinstein and Selman identified two types of digital stress and six stressors. Type 1 is seen as an expression of hostility, meanness and cruelty. It includes the following stressor types:
Type 2 encompasses stresses related to navigating closeness in relationships. This includes:
Common signs that your child maybe experiencing digital stress include the following:
Dr. Radzik suggest the following ways to help your teen prevent and overcome digital stress
Providing an ongoing open line of communication with your teenager will encourage them to report negative experiences to you. However, sometimes your teenager may not feel comfortable sharing this information. In these cases, parents should be aware of any changes in your child’s behavior, mood, social interactions and school performance.
Open discussion about the stressors that can occur from the use of cell phones, social media and other online interactions will enhance the coping of children and adolescents with these now important methods of communication.