Does Your Child or Teenager Have FOMO?
In 2013, a new word was added to the Oxford Dictionary: FOMO, an acronym that means fear of missing out. FOMO is a form of social anxiety characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.” It is a real and increasingly common phenomenon that is causing significant stress and anxiety amongst children, teenagers and adults everywhere. FOMO can be so intense; it can be likened to an addiction. In a recent study, up to 45 percent of US teens reported they are “near constantly online” with YouTube and Instagram being the social media sites of choice.
Many teenagers believe FOMO is a form of social connection and in order to be accepted, to be liked and to belong, they need to be connected 24/7 because something much more interesting, more important may be happening e.g. friend broke up with boyfriend, someone got a new car. Sadly, they do not understand the detrimental impact this constant comparison has on their mental health and well being. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “comparison is the thief off happiness.” Comparison is really all about conformity and competition, there is no room for self acceptance, belonging and authenticity, the message is, you need to fit in and stand out, to be like everyone else, but better (Brene Brown). The reality is that our teenagers are crafting their lives around others and are ensnared in the belief that everyone else’s lives are better and happier than his/hers. Ironically, despite having hundreds of online friends and staying connected, teenagers are reporting how lonely and isolated they are feeling, and this disconnection only increases feelings of inadequacy, depression, sadness, anxiety and not belonging.
Consequences of FOMO
Research has found a very real correlation between the number of hours spent on digital technology and higher levels of stress and depression. In a recent poll, 60 percent of teenagers said they felt worried when they found out their friends were having fun without them, and 51 percent said they felt anxious if they did not know what their friends were doing. Other problems include:
- Incessant fear and worrying about missing out results in children/teens missing out on own life, family time
- Low self-esteem and loss of self worth and self identity
- Increased risk of eating disorders, self harm
- Pressure to use drugs and alcohol, smoke marijuana/cigarettes, vaping to keep up with friends
- Sleep problems
- Distracted driving, pedestrian accidents
- Late assignments, poor academic performance
- Engage in unsafe and risky behaviours e.g. social media on-line challenges such as Blue Whale, Fire Challenge, Car surfing Challenge
What Can Parents Do?
- Talk with kids about FOMO, what it is and how it is affecting his/her life
- Discuss that many images/posts on social media are fake, incorrect, photoshopped and the reality is very few kids have “perfect lives”
- Agree, as a family, to turn off all devices before bedtime, dinner, movies, etc.
- Explain that kids/people only post nice, happy, fun pictures and comments and rarely post the negative aspects of their lives
- Encourage your kids to talk about why they fear missing out and what do they think will happen
- Together, talk about confidence, self worth, values such as respect, kindness, understanding and help your kids to set goals for the future
- Try not to be judgemental or make disparaging remarks about other kids/adults your child/teenager may like/look up to. Instead ask why he/she likes someone, what is good
about them, his/her values etc.
- Explain to your kids that they have limited time each day and cannot be everywhere and do everything
- Review possible strategies to help your child/teenager relax and be mindful e.g. journal, express gratitude, reframing negative thoughts or comments
- Be aware of sites and chat rooms your child/teenager visits. Talk about cyber security and safety
- If your child/teenager presents with emotional/mood problems set up appointment with Physician for assessment.
- If FOMO is seriously impacting your teens mental/physical health, schoolwork, family relationships, consider contacting agencies who offer Social Media Addiction support and treatment
- Be wary of time you spend on social media, consider implementing a family social media detox
- Talk with other parents/school about setting up a social media detox for teen and friends
Benefits of your Child/Teenager Going Off-line
- Reconnects with the real world
- More free time
- Restful sleep
- Better performance at school
- Improve mood, more relaxed and less anxious
- Stop feeling so competitive
- Conquers his/her fear of missing out
- Protects his/her privacy
- Stop obsessing about past events e.g. ex boyfriend and new girlfriend
- End the comparison cycle
- Connect ‘face to face’ with family and friends
- Opportunity to pursue a hobby, participate in after school activity
- Begin being present and living in the moment
In my next Blog #37
I will discuss histrionic personality disorder in children and teenagers