Have you heard about the rise of the narcissistic ‘screenager’?
According to Dr Sarah Conrath, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s Research Centre in the States, narcissism is on the rise. For many years, psychologists have been studying narcissism by surveying American college students. Narcissism, defined as extreme selfishness with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, is often measured as a lack of empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Studies show that media and technology are the main drivers in boosting our narcissistic ways. Social media in particular, with Twitter and the retweets, Instagram with the polished feeds and Facebook with the extended ‘Like’ and ‘Love’ options. We present ourselves in a way to be liked and to encourage praise which all exacerbates our narcissistic traits.
Apparently students are displaying 30% less empathy than those born 30 years previously.
So what can we do?
- Reduce screen time – we need kids to engage in life, not just the virtual life they are living through their screens.
- Read more books – this opens kids up to characters expressing and talking about their feelings.
- Do more together as a family – give your kids new experiences which are more exciting than getting a like on Facebook.
- Encourage your ‘screenager’ to join a team sport. This encourages them to be a team player and to think about the other members of the team.
- Actively listen to your children and model empathy when they show they are upset. Repeat what they are saying to you so they feel understood.
- If something upsets you, explain your emotions to your children. It is ok to show vulnerability in front of your children. They are not mind readers.
- Challenge your children to think about what it might feel like to be in another person’s place.
The rise of the mobile phone and social media are fairly new phenomenons, and we are yet to get to grips with how to deal with all the trappings that come with them. But this research shows we need to do something fast or else we will become a society full of selfish people who do not care about the needs or the greater good of others.
I have two boys, the eldest is five and my youngest is very nearly a ‘threenager’. I will do my utmost to stop them both becoming narcissistic ‘screenagers’ said for me it is a worrying thought!
Do you have a ‘screenager’ and are you worried about their lack of empathy? Do you think you are a ‘screenager’? Please share your experiences below. I would love to hear what you have to say on this topic.