Social Media

How Parents Can Use SEL to Help Kids Navigate Social Media

Social media use has become increasingly common among children. This is inevitable, as more than half of kids in the country now own a smartphone by the age of 11. And much of the activity that they do on them involve social media networks, from TikTok to Twitter. Because of this trend, it pays not only to monitor your kids’ social media use but also to guide them in navigating these platforms. Below, you can find ways of doing so, using what is called Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

What is SEL?

SEL is simply the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitude that can help people understand and better manage their emotions. With improved socioemotional intelligence, your children will be able to make responsible decisions, create meaningful relationships, and apply empathy in every action they take. This is important for a platform like social media, where there’s so much information available and so many people to interact with.

How to use SEL to help your kids navigate social media

Typically, SEL is embedded in the school curriculum. But as this centers primarily on the development of children, it can be applied in any aspect of their life, such as their social media use. For example, set aside time to talk about issues your children might have encountered online. Ask them about how they felt about these issues. As you allow them to be more open with their emotions, you encourage self-awareness. Consequently, they will learn to manage their emotions, including controlling their impulses.

Once they learn that their emotions are valid, they will be more considerate of other’s feelings, too. Those skills will be helpful as you teach them how to respect people online. After all, it’s not enough to simply tell them that they should not bully anyone without making them understand why. Let your kids place themselves in the shoes of those bullied, and make them realize that their actions, even though virtual, have consequences in the real world.

Also, if you find out that your kids are being peer pressured into following social media trends they’re not comfortable with, instill in them the ability to say no. Cultivate and support their skills and interests outside of the digital scape, like reading or cooking, so that they learn to detach from the online world, become confident in themselves, and develop holistically. Exposing them to a life beyond the screen will also help show them that their worth isn’t dependent on their social media presence alone.

What to do if social media gets too much for your kids

If your child seems to be going through drastic mood changes while using social media, for instance, or if they cannot put down their devices anymore, it might be a sign that you need intervention.

And if you find out that they’re the target of cyberbullying, they’re addicted to social media, or are experiencing other negative symptoms that are too much for you to handle, it’s important to understand that you can get help from mental healthcare professionals. Therapists and counselors are trained under rigorous human development and family studies programs that help them understand the relationships and experiences that shape children and their families.

Such programs allow students to pursue developmental tracks like youth development as well, producing professionals that are knowledgeable in proactive parenting strategies and healthy family patterns. This means that they’ll be fully equipped to help you both tweak your SEL approach in a way that will help you and your child navigate social media together.

If you don’t think traditional counseling is suitable for your child, there is such a thing called “art therapy.” Modern art therapists that have taken a masters in psychology, in particular, can be a great help for children who find it difficult to express themselves through words. They can even offer opportunities for you to bond with your kids through art. Ultimately, when it comes to seeking professional help, there are many avenues you can explore, so take the time to find one that you feel works best for your family.

In this age, it is important to raise well-rounded digital natives. To this end, focus not only on developing your children’s social and emotional intelligence but also on setting a good example for them, both online and in the real world.

Specially written for EquipOurKids.org
By: Rhyslinn Johannah

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The Emotional Intelligence Skills Parents Need to Teach Kids

Research has found that if someone feels empathy, even if it’s just from watching a touching video, it can make them feel more connected to — and generous toward — others. In other words, practicing empathy with your kids can help them grow up to be emotionally intelligent adults. Based on our 60 years of combined experience working with parents and their kids, here are some of the most effective ways to teach children empathy.

Read the full article

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Take This EQ Self-Assessment

1-Self-Awareness

  • What are my thoughts and feelings?
  • What causes those thoughts and feelings?
  • How can I express my thoughts and feelings respectfully?

2-Self-Management

  • What different responses can I have to an event?
  • How can I respond to an event as constructively as possible?

3-Social Awareness

  • How can I better understand other people’s thoughts and feelings?
  • How can I better understand why people feel and think the way they do?

4-Relationship Skills

  • How can I adjust my actions so that my interactions with different people turn out well?
  • How can I communicate my expectations to other people?
  • How can I communicate with other people to understand and manage their expectations of me?

5-Responsible Decision Making

  • What consequences will my actions have on me and others?
  • How do my choices align with my values?
  • How can I solve problems creatively?
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The Power of SEL

Social-Emotional Learning  empowers children to manage their own behavior in positive and productive ways, shifting control to the child.

This counters the “compliance model” widely used in U.S. schools, where adults hold all the power in classrooms and children are passive participants, not drivers of their own development and learning.

Being active in their own development is fundamental to children’s Emotional Intelligence learning, along with acquiring the ability to manage one’s emotions. Managing one’s emotions is hardly a given for a large segment of the population that, without this learning, is beset with remarkably high numbers of people suffering from anxiety or depression, anger issues, or high degrees of interpersonal conflict, violence and suicide.

In fact, most of us experience more emotional upsets and their consequences than we would prefer – in relationships, work, friendships, and in the everyday course of life.

This may be good for the bottom lines of pharmaceutical companies and therapists but is hugely costly in infinite ways to the common good and to the pocketbook of the society as a whole.

Neuroscience readily supports the positive effects of Social-Emotional Learning. Emotional reactions have been found to reside in the primordially-earlier lower brain around the amygdala while more sophisticated learning, thinking, and creativity occur in the later-in-evolution frontal lobes or “higher brain.” Brain scans show that when the lower brain is activated by emotional upset it lights up while the higher brain literally goes dark in activity.

The implications for students can’t be overstated – all learning stops while students are emotionally agitated, with their minds either distracted or full of negative thoughts about themselves, others or the situations they are in(Read more about Neuroscience.)

Conversely, academic learning takes place on a rapid scale once students are taught to manage their emotions and responses. Surveys of student and teacher satisfaction often soar into the 90 percentile after a school prioritizes Social-Emotional Learning.

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An important note: Social-Emotional Learning should not be confused with what educators call “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS),” a widely implemented system based on “carrot-like” tangible rewards.

Moreover, in uninformed reports, some EQ goals and subset practices are mistakenly taken for the entire complex of EQ learnings students experience. Examples are “violence prevention,” “anti-bullying,” “grit,” “resilience,” “mindfulness” and “growth mindset” practices – the latter a training to be able to take on challenges and failures as normal and educational in themselves rather than as obstacles and defeats.

One other note: Education is littered with competing terms for Social-Emotional Learning, among them “emotional literacy,” “non-cognitive education,” “character education,” and “ethical and moral development.” By whatever name, schools adopting such learning should include the core competencies explained here and their goal should be the other term popular with educators: “Whole Child Development.”

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A Short History of Emotional Intelligence

The concept of EQ sprang from the landmark work of Harvard Education Professor Dr. Howard Gardner’s 1983-published theory about the “multiple intelligences” that humans possess. Specifically, EQ falls into a category he defined as ”inter- and intrapersonal” intelligence.

Building on this, two researchers – then Yale psychology professor Peter Salovey (now president of Yale) and University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer – published an influential paper in 1990 introducing the term “Emotional Intelligence,” which Goleman cites in his work.

The term EQ over time often became coupled with the term “social intelligence,” meaning the ability to understand, empathize with, and influence the emotions of others.

From Goleman: “In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage those  emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure.”

Marc Brackett, Director of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Susan Rivers, protégés of Salovey, put it this way: “The process of integrating thinking, feeling, and behaving in order to become aware of the self and of others, make responsible decisions, and manage one’s own behaviors and those of others.”

Psychology Today dives in with this definition: “The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving….[and] the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.”

Youth-focused approaches that combine EQ development with other life skills have now come to be defined by the term Social-Emotional Learning by educators and in child development and psychology realms, as well as in certain business quarters that apply such learning to adults.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, the nation’s leading SEL practice, policy, and research organization, defines SEL as “the process through which children (and adults) acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

CASEL pointedly notes that for SEL to be highly effective it needs to “nest” and be practiced in all school environments by all staff, including integrated in academic classes and non-class activities, in community service by students, and with parents integrated at the school level.

CASEL believes that SEL, correctly implemented, is the platform and process for a potential revolutionary leap forward in educating the “whole child.”

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Keep Paying Attention to Your Kids’ Mental Health in This Pandemic

“For nearly a year, most of our children have been navigating the new, difficult normal: social isolation; deeply stressed parents; the effects of financial uncertainty; school from home — or from WiFi-equipped school buses if they don’t have internet. While Covid-19 itself has largely been sparing of children’s physical health, studies have shown it has taken a toll on their mental health, associated with an increase in suicide-related behaviors, experts say.”

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Pandemic Worsens Child Mental Health Crisis

“A bag of Doritos, that’s all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She’s 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn’t want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.”

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Children of Quarantine

“Starting on April 6, a bearded and earnest neuroscientist at the University of Oregon named Philip Fisher began to send a digital questionnaire — at first weekly, and then, beginning in August, biweekly — to a representative group of a thousand American families with young children. He’s curious about how they and their kids are doing. They aren’t doing so well.”

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Huffington Post Delivers New EQ Package

This recent Huffington Post article speaks for itself:

Our kids have had an exceptionally bad hand dealt to them the past few months. They’ve been separated from their entire social structure, their classrooms and all sense of normalcy. And parents have certainly struggled (to put it mildly) to keep up. So how can parents use this time at home ― whatever that looks like ― to teach their children other important life skills and foster their emotional intelligence?

HuffPo answers that question with a package of resources.

One part of the package outlines seven habits of highly emotionally intelligent kids. Those habits include

  • Fluency with emotions, theirs and others
  • Perspective taking
  • Gratitude

The package includes links to other relevant HuffPo articles kids’ emotional intelligence.

Also, don’t miss the gallery of 35 children’s books that teach empathy and kindness.

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