Sharron's perspective on how we became so lonely as a society.
Loneliness has become a huge issue in our society. Remember when children would play with other children in the neighborhood and your parents had to scream at you to come inside at the end of day for dinner? We used to play games in our neighborhoods with the children and the parents and everyone knew each other. Families would sit outside and talk with each other and neighbors really cared about each other. Don’t get me wrong we had neighbors that we did not get along with, but when you are kids outside playing we did not let them worry us.
Issue #1 - Screens are Isolating
Nowadays children come home from school and go straight into their rooms, playing games on their computer or looking at social media on their phones. According to the Federal Highway Administration only 61% of American 18 year olds in 2021 had a driver’s license compared to 80.4% who got their driver’s license in 2018. What is going on in this world and why are we becoming so isolated?
Issue #2 - Materialism as a priority
As a society we have become more materialistic, less involved in what happens in the community with less political engagement. As a society money and power have become a priority leading people to work crazy amounts of hours, accumulating more stuff believing that the more money and power they have, the happier they will be. How sad, because the research and science is not telling us that.
"Statistically, there are less teens getting their driver's licenses than even a few years ago." – Sharron Frederick, LCSW
Issue #3 - Changes in Family Structures
Another factor is that our family structures have changed. People are having fewer children, families are moving away from each other and there is an increase in divorce, leaving many people without partners. According to the American College of Pediatricians families are spending less time together than in previous generations, with family dinners declining over the last 30 years down to 30%.
Remember, children are learning their social cues from their parents and other significant adults in their life. If the adults are so involved in their phones, the children are going to learn the same way of behaving.
Issue #4 - Multi-tasking = Disconnection
Lastly, remember the good ole phone that hooked up to the wall and you had to stand or sit there and just talk to the person without doing a million other things. Nowadays, children very rarely talk on the phone when they have social media, the internet, texting or emailing as a way to communicate. Instead of using our voices our fingers have started to do all the work, while having meaningless conversations and showing pictures about what we had for breakfast!
If we want socialization we just get on the computer and start playing video games with friends, whether real life friends or our virtual friends.
Parenting Tip: Loneliness Leads to Anxiety
I remember a child came to me for social anxiety. I informed the parent that he needed to engage more in communication, starting at home by having family discussions, family dinners and game nights. This child spent every waking moment on either his phone or social media and when I asked him what he did on the weekend he said I just get up and play video games all day long. Well I thought that I really got through to this parent about the importance of communication within the family, so I was so disappointed when I left for lunch and just happened to see the family walking down the street. Yes you guessed it, her son was walking while on his phone, my heart just hurt for him.
So How to Fight Against These Society Shifts?
So what do we do? I believe that the way we interact with our children at home is crucial in helping them with their own social connectedness. Get them involved in activities outside of school such as clubs or youth clubs at churches.
Have family dinners, family game nights and parents - get off your phones! As adults we can get to know our neighbors, volunteer, join clubs that are in line with our own interests and hobbies and become interested in our community.
Instead of texting someone, pick up the phone and take time to talk without any distractions.
If you know an elderly person in your neighborhood, get to know them and offer any help they may need. Put yourself out there and become more involved.