21/07/2017 10:29 BST | Updated 20/12/2017 04:13 GMT

The Challenges Of Raising Teens In The Age Of Connectivity


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Some members of the generation born in and after 2000 have started to hit adolescence. Entering adulthood in the digital age is not quite the same as what former generations experienced.

Teenagers today belong to the most connected generation ever. The 2016 Childwise Monitor Report said 67% of UK children own a tablet and 63% own a mobile phone. Those aged 6 to 15 spend an average of three hours a day online.

Their brains are changing at a time the nature of family life and society has taken on a different shape. Britain is facing a growing threat from international terrorism and in talks of leaving the European Union for good. Progressive issues such as those involving gender, sexuality, and race are reaching worldwide attention. At a personal level, these young people are experiencing physical transformations that have effects on their mental and emotional health.

Many UK teens are feeling anxious, stressed, and depressed. The Guardian notes that they, particularly 15-year-olds in England and Wales, are the least happy lot among their peers in 42 countries. A separate report enumerates the reasons for these responses. Schoolwork and physical looks are top sources of pressure. Many other signs show teens are having it just as hard as their adult counterparts: from their general distrust of the government and reactions to Trump tweets to personal worries over student loans and job prospects to exposure to cyber bullying and body-shaming.

Though they can interact with anyone from the world primarily through social media and messaging apps, some admit to feeling bouts of loneliness. But the reason may be different from what most grownups think. Some teens believe they are not receiving enough attention from their parents. A simple "How are you?" often does not suffice. There is a term for this: parental isolation.

These are the realities that the young ones face day after day. But parents also encounter a new set of challenges brought about by the age of connectivity. The latter grew up when uninvolved parenting was the norm. This experience had led to the rise of helicopter mums and dads, a parenting style that has gained a lot of flak off- and online.

Given the kind of judgment that one can be subjected to these days and the imagined consequences on the welfare of their kids, it is not surprising to find parents who prefer a less intrusive approach. Still, parents are well-positioned to help teens navigate this transformative phase. A closer look is needed to recalibrate their approach in some areas. There is a call for some perspective change, too. One study found 7 in 10 parents worry about the decisions their children make. Half of them feel powerless to influence those choices. But 70% of the children said they see their parents playing a key role in their decision-making process.

It is important to note that the youth may exhibit their thirst for independence strongly during adolescence. For instance, reports reveal that UK teens love to create and share their own stuff online. But the reports also arrived at similar conclusions. Kids value their parents' advice and opinion in making major decisions such as university applications.

Further, to return to the trend of creating and sharing work among teens, these activities can be a route to experiencing rejection from other people. Maybe some guidance and establishment of accountability from their parents won't also hurt the digitally savvy youth.

The Guardian's succinct summary comes to mind, "the contradictions of connectivity are the real challenge for Generation Z and for society at large." Parents are expected to guide their teens in this tumultuous period of human development. But it is necessary to acknowledge that the context for parenting has also changed. There is not a single way to successfully lead a child throughout puberty.

Parenting is a dynamic process. One should expect to go through its joys and pains. There are also take-off points for those who want to enhance their approach, such as banding together, as in participating in a community of like-minded parents, and openness to experience, as in listening to opposing or new ideas. It is also of utmost importance to connect with the individuals who matter the most in the conversation -- the children.