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Decoding Teen's Digital Lingo

By Ms. Janice Nass, LCSW

Does your teen “dox” or “swat”? Maybe they “vamp” or “vlogg”. The digital lingo of teens can look like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Download Common Sense Media’s (www.commonsensemedia.org) Digital Glossary for a description of what these and other “words” mean in the world of social media. By the way, “dox” is short for “dropping documents”. This term is used when someone maliciously reveals someone else’s personal information such as address, phone number, or private social media user name on a public site or forum. Among teens, “doxing” might be done in revenge when a romantic relationship ends. The vigilante hacker group Anonymous has been known to “dox” people to draw attention to an issue. “Swatting” refers to a particular type of prank that involves calling in fake police tips in an attempt to send a SWAT team to an individual’s home. As parents we often don’t think our teens would be involved in such activities – but they can and they do. Become as knowledgeable as you can about your teen’s digital world.

TEEN SOCIAL MEDIA ANXIETY: There is a new form of anxiety out there that many of our teens are experiencing. It even has a formal name – FOMO, also know as “fear of missing out”. With teens checking their Instagram or Snapchat messages sometimes hundreds of times every day, connecting with friends online is not the positive experience it was meant to be.

FOMO can take many forms. Sometimes it is the worry that a friend might be upset if you don’t respond to a message or post right away. It can also be feeling sad or left out if everyone’s posting pictures of a party or event you didn’t attend (or even worse, weren’t invited ). More often it is the sense of missing out on all the exciting stuff happening online if you aren’t connected every minute.

Although FOMO may sound like a silly acronym it has serious consequences. The need to always feel connected to others online can lead to poor sleep quality, anxiety, even depression.

Parents need to step in if they see their teens struggling, especially if their teens are stressed after being on the phone or if they are staying up too late texting. Here is how you can help:

1. Listen. It can be easy to dismiss FOMO as superficial but we need to acknowledge that for many teens social media is their social life. The more you show you care the more open they will be.

2. Don’t judge. Social media apps are the new landline phone where we spent hours. Connecting with peers (in any form) is part of normal child development.

3. Encourage your teen to have full “offline” lives. Help your teen participate in sports, clubs, drama, or volunteer work to help them weather the ups and downs of social media anxiety. It will help build your teen’s self-esteem that is often chipped away by social media posts.

4. Set limits. Phones need to be turned off before bed and stored outside of your teen’s room. Have your teens’ sign off during family mealtimes, family gatherings, etc. so that they can experience life not connected on a social media app.

5. Shift the focus. If teens are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to always keep up on social media, encourage them to focus on the creative side of apps and websites. Entering photo contests or building a portfolio can shift the focus to the positive.

6. Ask open-ended questions: Although we can’t and shouldn’t solve their problems for them, you can ask questions to encourage communication such as “What would happen if you turned your phone off for an hour? A day? “What are the pros and cons of using Instagram and other social-networking apps?” “What would happen if you unfollowed or unfriended someone who was making you feel bad on social media?” “Do you notice that you have better or worse reactions to posts or messages depending on how you feel that day?”ou will notice an inner transformation, a transformation towards joy

 

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