Teens Are Missing Out on Social Development—But They Don’t Have To Be

By Jacob Posten, Strategic Communications and Development Intern at LookUp Technology has created boundless possibilities in recent years, allowing us to unlock our creative potential and tackle old problems in new ways. We’ve made great strides in the medical field, gained more information about environmental waste, and used data more efficiently than ever before. Its effects haven’t all been positive, though: Gen Z is experiencing unparalleled social isolation and a regression in emotional intelligence. As more and more socialization among young people moves to online platforms, the ever-important nuances of face-to-face communication are lost in translation. Kids growing up in this digital age can experience almost everything through a screen. Whether they’re sharing a laugh, catching up on each other’s lives, or getting into a heated argument, social media is where teens usually talk. What happens, then, when conversations become too emotional or complex to work out through a series of Tweets or text messages? Oftentimes, the conflict results in both parties walking away angry at each other without having fully communicated how they feel or what the other person can do to fix the issue. The process of emotional maturation is more difficult now than ever. Instead of learning to cope with their problems in direct and healthy ways, young people have learned to avoid conflict by blocking their friends or scrolling through their phones searching for some easy form of instant gratification. That being said, not all hope is lost. Here are a few key actions you can take right now to promote positive emotional development in children: 1. Advocate for face-to-face communication when possible. Especially now, this is easier said than done. However, there are still ways to facilitate this kind of interaction virtually. A video chat through phones or computers allows for better transmission of messages—including facial cues, tonal shifts, and body language—than social media does. 2. Teach kids how the platform impacts the message. It’s easy to engage in an argument on Twitter or Instagram, but conflicts using such platforms can easily spiral out of control. When this happens, the information is usually too complex to be conveyed properly through social media. Rather than escalating a complicated conversation on a limited platform, it’s more effective to move the conversation to a platform built for higher-level communication. Face-to-face is best, followed by video chat and phone calls, with written text coming last. 3. Encourage them to write about their thoughts and feelings. There’s no better way to explore how you really feel about something than to write about it. This is especially effective in conflict resolution, as it gives time to cool off and come to a deeper understanding of one’s emotions in order to explain them more effectively. Though times may be strenuous, there are still things we can do to grow and make progress toward being better versions of ourselves. Consider taking the time to talk to teens in your life about how they can improve their relationship with technology and the world around them. You might find yourself learning a thing or two as well. ___ Jacob Posten is a rising senior studying marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He currently works as a Strategic Communications and Development Intern at LookUp, writing web content and developing marketing strategy. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends and cooking new recipes.

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