Navigating Emotional Intelligence in an Instagram World

Social media is here to stay and is progressing at an alarming rate.  WhileFacebook is no longer considered “cool” for kids, SnapchatYouTube,Instagram and many more to follow are taking the preteen world by storm.  For a child to not have a cell phone today and access to social media can be devastating.  Yet, having a cell phone and access to social media can be incredibly dangerous to the emotional well-being of our children.

 I’m not talking about the strangers that lurk behind the dark web, but rather the peers of our children.  As parents blindly hand over cell phones and Ipads to kids before they can even write a complete sentence, our children are quickly becoming exposed to emotional dangers that did not exist many years ago.

I often hear parents say they have parental controls on their children’s phones, they limit their time on the phone, and their kids need to have one because they now take the bus to school. Whatever reason you choose for your child to have a cell phone and access to social media is your decision, but at least take the time to understand how to teach our kids to use this addicting piece of technology responsibly.

Middle school years are difficult and to add social media to the mix is like lighting a match and tossing it in a trail of gasoline.  Technology is addictive.  Let’s be honest, many of us adults are addicted to our phones.  How often are you checking emails, text messages, “likes” on your Facebook or Instagram?  Do you find yourself responding to dings and jumping up every time there is a text message alert?  These feelings we have when we receive a new message, a new follower, a new like become addictive and releases that feel good feeling in our bodies, the same feelings those addicted to drugs and alcohol feel.  If we as adults are experiencing this, just think how much more intense it is for our children.

Social media is not the culprit.  There are many good things that come from social media.  We as parents need to teach our children how to be happy with who they are first from the inside before exposing them to an abyss of the new “reality” their friends are creating online.

How is it that a 12-year-old has 900 friends online and yet sits home alone each weekend feeling depressed?  More and more celebrities and posting more risqué photos of themselves in the effort to produce more “likes” and clicks to their page.  Children are becoming more and more depressed in today’s world and don’t know how to feel good from within.  They are looking at outside sources and feel happy when they get a lot of likes on theirInstagram.  I recently read an article that if you don’t have at least 10 likes on a photo, it is worthless and you should delete it.  Who are making these rules?  What is this teaching our kids and society?

Beyond the “likes” cyberbullying is on the rise as is depression and suicide with children.  Rumors, rude comments, pictures of the victims captioned with nasty comments are becoming more common.

To protect our children is not as simple as taking away their cell phones and access to social media.   It goes much deeper. Quite frankly we can learn a lot ourselves, and that is through the practice of self-awareness and the awareness of others.

Emotional Intelligence is a key factor to teaching our kids self-love.  To love oneself is not egotistical, but rather a necessity to live a healthy life.  When we learn to love ourselves first, we are not giving power to others, particularly social media to have control over our happiness.

Emotional Intelligence consists of five main areas as discussed by Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence.”

Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and take accountability for it.  Being able to laugh at oneself.

 Self-Regulation – understanding how to respond vs. react in any given situation and controlling temper tantrums.

Motivation – having the desire to succeed beyond monetary reasons.  Having an inner desire and passion for work.

Empathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s situation and understand how they feel.

 Social Skills – the ability to be aware of others and build relationships.

When we teach our children how to practice and master each area of Emotional Intelligence, it gives them the ability to navigate social media with more confidence, humility and the ability to have more fun with it.  Too often adults and children are taking social media too seriously and personally.  If a friend posts an outing with another friend, those who are not Emotionally Intelligent begin to create scenarios in their minds as to why they were not included.  Social media most often does not give the backstory to a photo.

It is our own responsibility to decide how we feel.  This can be very difficult at times, but with the practice of Emotional Intelligence it is achievable.  If we begin to teach our children at a young age how to understand our feelings vs. emotions, we given them the skill sets necessary to navigate through life in a healthy manner.  The results will not come overnight but will do so with consistency.

One major lesson in life is not to take anything personally.  Hurt people hurt people.  When we learn that happiness is a choice and not determined by the action of others, life becomes simpler.  Instead of feelings of jealousy for what someone has posted, we learn to choose to feel happiness for them because of our own gratitude for life.

By developing a strong foundation of Emotional Intelligence in our children, we give them the ability to enjoy social media and not feel depressed by it.  We teach them to use it for good and not as an outlet to release inner pain by hurting others.  This is not limited to children but should be practiced by adults as well.  Trust me, you will live a more positive and engaging life.

Much love,
Inez xo