August 28, 2017

iGen is going to be OK

An article in The Atlantic about smartphones destroying a generation of students made the rounds this month. Perhaps you saw it😳. The author, Jean M. Twenge, writes early on, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

Clearly, some teens are losing the game of social media. Some. But not all.

The data she references were questioned, and articles were written in response, like this one from JSTOR Daily. Others supported her findings. Social media was full of posts from concerned parents and teachers, and rightly so: Alongside these articles were others about the alarmingly high teen suicide rate, the number of students taking antidepressants, and the latest examples of bullying. Clearly, something is amiss. Clearly, some teens are losing the game of social media.

Some. But not all.

What winning the game of social looks like

Kids are winning at social in all different ways:

Why students are making such great plays

Some are winning because they realize that they’re living in a world where 57% of employers won’t interview a candidate they can’t find online, and 70% use social media to screen prospective employees. And job seekers aren’t just being rejected because of what recruiters find. “Cultivating your presence online can also lead to reward. More than 4 in 10 employers (44 percent) have found content on a social networking site that caused them to hire the candidate.” That’s right: Social media can help you get a job.

Winning looks like earning money to pay for college, playing for the college team of your choice, and connecting with positive role models.

Some are winning because they know that if they want to play college sports, their social media offense must be as good as their on-field defense: “Social media is the new way to show us coaches your likes, interests, and how you carry yourself,” explains Duke Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Derek Jones. “It’s the new way for us to interview you.” So, they’re taking control of their reputation and using social media for good.

Some are winning in order to pay for college. Live-streaming herself playing a video game for nearly 24 hours straight, Kaitlyn Richelle made $7,000 to help pay for medical school. “For a student with a shifting calendar each semester, a 9-to-5 job can seem impractical. Even night shifts can pose challenges… But some have found that streaming lets them build a job around the other commitments in their lives.”

And some, maybe, understand the power of the device in their pocket to connect them to anyone, anywhere, and that anything that can be used for evil can also be used for good. But that innate understanding is the exception to the rule. Most kids need coaches to win this game.

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How students learn to win the game of social

Just like players of any other game, students need coaches to teach them how to win at social. Parents, you are your child’s most important coach. What follows are three specific, practical ways you can equip teens to win the game that’s played on the biggest field of all: their phones.

1. Set high standards, and live up to them together with your child.

Standards are a little different than rules. They are a way to live, not just a way to behave. They are expectations of ongoing behavior that a group of people agrees to live up to. Parents must both set the standards and live up to them. Need ideas? Check out The Social Institute’s recommended social standards

2. Encourage your child to fill their feed with positive role models. 

Parents often focus on what their children are sharing, but students spend the most time consuming what others are sharing. Athletes like NBA star Steph Curry, U.S. softball star Valerie Arioto, and pitcher Mo’ne Davis are great examples of positive role models that kids should follow. Remember, you can’t be what you can’t see.

3. Talk with your child regularly about common social media experiences.

Nothing can replace good old-fashioned conversation, especially when it comes to something as important as your child’s reputation and future success (and not just as a student or employee, but as a person). Talk through “what-ifs” with your child so that they’re prepared when something goes wrong and when they have an opportunity to do something right.

So, iGen is going to be OK — if they have good coaches at home🏡, at school🏫, and in their feeds📱.