Digital Safety Alliance | Nicklaus Childrens Hospital

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The Best Way to Help Kids (and Parents) Adjust to the Digital World
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Dr. Azaret

By: Dr. Marisa Azaret
January 5th, 2024

We live in an increasingly digital world. The impact in our lives has been so fast, intense, and in many ways unpredictable, that parents, educators, pediatric professionals as well as children feel ill prepared to address the many challenges. The impact, although many times positive (promoting community engagement, allowing friends and families to stay in touch) also brings a long list of concerns…negative impacts to health outcomes, child development, family dynamics, personal safety and emotional health, among others.

Parents feel vulnerable, confused, and overwhelmed, in many cases, because of their lack of knowledge and understanding of the complex relationships between social media and the behaviors and wellbeing of their children and teenagers. Learning how to navigate the ever-changing digital world is a true challenge for many parents and caretakers, even more complex as their children begin to gain independence.

In most of my interactions with teenagers we take time to explore their digital life. Many realize that they do have a problematic media use that negatively affects their wellbeing and particularly their self-esteem. They want to stop the cycle, but they don’t know how to do it, they don’t possess the necessary tools to break the addiction. Helping them regain control of their lives – to make sensible decisions – is the responsibility of the adults in their lives.

Many parents feel anxious, doubtful, paralyzed and yes, burned-out, a consequence of multiple demands and mounting stress. Many might be searching without rest for the perfect response to the multiple digital challenges, and dangers. One of the most important tools at our disposal is open, honest communication with our children. Regarding us, parents, it is imperative to understand that there is much to be learned about the ever-changing digital world, there is a learning curve with many possible mistakes, but it is important to remember that we, parents, are the role models our children need.

Change is almost always accompanied by fear and reticence. The digital world and all its complexities represent a major change in our lives. We have the tendency to resist, to avoid and to ignore changes. A healthy adjustment to the changes brought by the digital era is crucial for personal and family growth and resilience. Staying informed, building strong connections with our children and always seeking opportunities for learning and growth are key factors.

We’ve compiled a list of helpful resources for parents and kids related to digital safety, which have all been independently vetted by our panel of experts. You can check it out here.

Dr. Marisa Azaret is Director of the Department of Clinical Psychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.