THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA & SOCIAL ANXIETY
Face to Face Playdates Are a Thing of the Past
There is no doubt that the dynamic of social and face to face interactions has changed over the past decade. The existence and popularity of social media and smartphones has both connected us on a whole new level, and disconnected us on another. Children and teens growing up with access to Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and other social media sites and apps are reaching out to people in a whole different way than before. You can reach a larger “audience” from home and make “friends” much easier than before social media, but at what cost? Face to face “playdates” are becoming a thing of the past, replaced with FaceTime and gaming with headsets and mics from separate places.
Because of this disconnect, and the lack of time spent in the company of others, kids are forgetting how to interact. Children are losing the ability to walk up and say hello to new people, and fewer and fewer are learning how to shake hands when introduced to an adult. With the regression of generations of social cues and social “rules” how will this look 20, 30 or 50 years from now? How will relationships be formed when all communication is through private message or text? How will true feelings be known when there is no available “infliction” in a text message?
Handling Classroom Anxiety
When social anxiety translates to the classroom environment, you may feel helpless or frustrated, but having a few tools in your arsenal to help handle the situation will keep you cool and collected. The next time you notice a student struggling, try one of the strategies below to diffuse the situation:
- Breathe: Getting the child, or the whole classroom to take some deep breaths will be your greatest ally. Reminding an anxious person to breath, to slow down the breath and heart rate, and to still their body and mind can release their fight or flight response.
- Orient: When in the midst of an anxiety attack, a person typically draws inward. Asking the student to find three items of a certain color, or to tell you 5 things they see in the room will bring his or her head up, releasing the tension in the neck and spinal cord, send signals to the brain that they are okay, and will bring their focus back to the present moment.
- Distract: Distraction is a tool that parents and teachers are very familiar with, especially if a student’s anxiety is causing disruptive behavior. Giving the child a seemingly mundane task can help to center them, ground them, and bring their focus from within to the task at hand. It can also involve a repetitive motion, which is often soothing when nerves are frazzled.
- Get outside: If you can bring the class outside for a walk around campus, a game, or to do an activity, the change in environment may help disperse the anxiety. During this time, you may find yourself with a moment or two that you can speak directly with the child while the others are playing. Take that time to ask questions and discuss how you can help.
- Establish communication: Discuss an anxiety issue with the student, parents, principal, school counselor and any other teachers involved. Establishing a united “front” against the anxiety, with emphasis that you are there to help the child, should help get all involved ready to face the issue together.
WORK TOGETHER FOR A BETTER DAY
Although every anxiety attack or bout of social anxiety is different, the body’s response system and the fight or flight tendencies are nondiscriminatory. Our ability to self regulate is often not fully developed when still growing up. Having an adult who can help you find the tools that work is crucial to working through these issues in and out of the classroom. Implementing these strategies, as well as any others recommended by the child’s physician or psychiatrist is just one way to make every child’s day a little less scary.