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Children’s Health Survey Not Surprising in Modern World

Children's Health Survey Not Surprising in Modern World_IMG_9325-1379

The University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital issued a press release in mid-April (2016) announcing the results of a brand-new survey detailing the state of children’s health. The results of the survey are not surprising given the modern world our kids are now growing up in.

Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted the survey of nearly 2,700 adults nationwide to gauge public perception of the health of children. They wanted to know if the same advances in medicine that have made children generally healthier over the last several decades have translated into positive perceptions among adults. Their survey produced mixed results.

Though I won’t go into all the details here, one of the things that struck me is that 64% of the respondents say kids are exposed to higher stress levels than they experienced growing up. Some 55% said that the emotional and mental health of today’s children is worse than previous generations.

The world is certainly a lot different in 2016 than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. But it is important for us to understand what is so different. Simply put, there are certain things about the human experience that have been common since the dawn of man – war, disease, poverty, etc. These are problems we were working on decades ago when today’s adults were kids. It is not that conditions today are more stressful than they were in the past, so what is it that’s making our kids so stressed and, subsequently, so emotionally and mentally unhealthy?

It can be summed up in one word: exposure. The digital age has introduced our kids to far too much stress by exposing them to a plethora of information they do not need to know. Our tendency toward overexposure starts the moment mom or dad purchases a young child a smartphone that gives that child instant access to everything that is wrong in the world. It continues by allowing children unlimited access to social media – which itself is a significant inducer of stress – and just about every other online medium kids wish to explore.

The information age has done, and is doing, terrible things to the mental and emotional health of children. Consider just a few examples:

  • Respect and Decency – There was a time when children grew up learning about common decency and respect for others. Social media has all but destroyed both. The result is that more and more kids are being subjected to rudeness, anger, abusive language, and on and on. No wonder they are stressed.
  • Narcissism – Few things are as damaging to emotional and mental health has narcissism. When people believe the world revolves around them, they are quickly disillusioned to find that life does not go as they had planned. Again, the digital world has created an environment for pathological narcissism that is making our kids miserable.
  • Helicopter Parenting – Helicopter parenting has been a problem for decades. But digital technology has taken it to a new level. Kids cannot breathe without mom and dad making sure they are doing it right. Children live under tremendous stress trying to keep ever-watchful parents happy.

We are raising kids whose mental and emotional health is suffering due to increased stress. It is not a good thing. We all need to step back and take a collective breath. Perhaps it is even time to disconnect our kids and get them back to the simple joy of being children. Doing so would go a long way toward improving their emotional and mental health.

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