In today’s digital age, parenting comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to helping anxious children (and us adults!) cope with information overload from the internet and social media. Research indicates the omnipresence of screens and the constant stream of information can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in both children and adults, and that parents can help their kids strike a balance around accessing and engaging with these platforms, critically thinking about the media they consume, and managing anxiety.
Understanding the source of anxiety in children is a first step. The overwhelming content on the internet can create a sense of “information anxiety” where kids feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data. Parents can address this by fostering open communication, and ensuring their children feel safe discussing their worries. Additionally, setting limits on screen time and monitoring the content they consume can be beneficial in curbing the impact of information overload, though I understand the pandemic had a major impact on setting a lot of those limits.
It is also important to remember that parents serve as powerful role models for their children, and one aspect to that comes from how they consume media. It begins with setting clear boundaries and being mindful of the content with which they engage. It involves, but is not limited to, demonstrating balanced screen time use, prioritizing face-to-face interactions, and engaging in offline activities like hobbies or physical exercise.
Open communication and critical thinking when consuming media is another aspect to consider. We can encourage children – and ourselves – to question the accuracy and reliability of online information, working to differentiate between credible and untrustworthy sources, and talking about this openly. This not only equips children with essential skills but may alleviate the anxiety that can stem from misinformation.
In a world where information is abundant, parents can play a pivotal role in helping their children navigate the digital landscape, to build a healthier relationship with the digital world, and to build some skills necessary to manage anxiety effectively, ultimately helping to promote their overall mental health.
Looking for help navigating these challenges? Reach out! Psychotherapy and counselling may help.