• Dr Sharon Furman-Lee

Meet our Youngest Teens - Gen. Alpha

Dr. Sharon Furman-Lee

"Mommy, I want to invest in the Stock Market." These words came out from my son's mouth one evening during dinner. I was shocked and didn't know how to reply. I felt so proud of him, but at the same time, I wanted to check if he even knows what the Stock Market is.

"How do you know about the Stock Market?" I asked.

"Jake from class told me all about it," he said.

Both my boys are Gen Alphas (early 2010-mid 2020). Gen Alpha is also called Generation Glass. They were born to a world of screens, likes/dislikes, friending and unfriending on social media, YouTube videos that teach you anything you wish for etc. Gen Alpha are the children of Gen Z (1997-2012), the Millennials (1981-1996), and some of the younger Gen X (1965-1980) people who became parents late in their 30s and 40s).

"While the traits that come to define generations often don't start to manifest until their members' adolescence or early adulthood, it's possible to identify certain notable features of Generation Alpha at this point" (Bologna, 2019).

Here are some of the characteristics and concerns of Gen Alpha:

1. They are smart!:

One of my friend’s daughters is five years old. At the age of 3, she taught herself the alphabet and numbers. Many children from Gen alpha teach themselves anything they want by finding "How to" videos on YouTube. Some learn new languages; others learn computer programs, and more. My boys even taught my husband and me (and we are tech-savvy ourselves) a few new things. Concerns: They can also learn harmful things. It's especially dangerous for teenagers who are curious about new things. For example, teenage girls who want to become skinny like the models they see on YouTube can easily get tempted to lose weight fast by vomiting. They can watch videos that guide them along the way and give them suggestions on how to hide it from their parents. But not only girls are in danger. Many teenage boys watch videos that teach them how to create drugs from things they can find at home.

What to do: Download Apps that can help you monitor what your children watch on YouTube, write in emails, text with friends, and the content on their social media. I recently purchased a great App called "BARK”. It alerts me about weird behaviors that my boys do or get on all of their devices, as well as Google Chrome. I chose not to hide the App from my children so we can openly have conversations when something does not look or sound good. The App is not for parents to spy on their children but to help them monitor their children online. I told them that the App is not because I don't trust them, but because I don't trust others, and I want to protect them. They don't like it, but they have no choice, and they accept it. In the first two days, I received alerts about texts my younger son wrote and used inappropriate words. He didn't mean to write something terrible, but I had to explain to him that if the other parent sees this, he will not have the chance to explain what he meant. He understood and promised to think twice next time before using anything that might look or sound bad. But let’s not fool ourselves, our kids will continue to make mistakes and it is our job to guide them the right path.

Be aware that once your teens are 13 years old and over, they will most likely get ways to get you off their track, and you might lose control of their electronics completely. That's why it is so important to start monitoring them early and have many conversations with your children about protecting themselves. Read one of my articles called "The Secret of Getting My Teen Motivated" and get some ideas of how to build trust with your children in a way that keeps the communication positive and with no judgment. I recommend that you avoid talking about them directly, but rather talk to them about something you read or heard as an example that leads to what you want to talk about. 2. They are low maintenance:

They don't need special entertainment. They can stay in their rooms with their computers and cellphones for hours without interrupting us, their parents. They occupy themselves with video games, YouTube videos, Tik-Tok, Texting friends, and many other ways through technology that haven’t even been developed yet.

Concerns: Depression and anxiety! Life on social media doesn't always fit reality. When we look at other teenagers dancing at a party and enjoying themselves, we feel terrible about ourselves as we are stuck at home alone. When we put a picture on Instagram but receive only a few likes from friends, it directly targets our self-esteem, and then we feel lonely. These examples are only a few of many that can hurt your teen's self-image, and it is one of the causes of depression among teenagers.

What to do: Research shows that visiting new places makes us happier and healthier people. Dr. Santos claims that there is a connection between novelty and happiness. He says: "Novel stimuli tend to activate regions of our brain that are associated with rewards." Dr. Aaron added that going to new places you had never been before has an extensive association with positive emotions.

So, help your teens get out of the house and accumulate good experiences with them. Take them out on hikes and family trips (it is essential to go on trips that involve only the immediate family). Enroll them up in afternoon activities (even online classes can be a great way to take them away from social media for a bit). Arrange meetings with friends their ages. And of course, if you think that your child is depressed, speak to your family doctor and do anything you can to understand and help them out of this situation.

3. They have friends from everywhere in the world:

Yes, that's true. Gen alpha's world has no borders. They can connect to others anywhere and whenever they want. If I can't go to sleep in LA, someone in Europe must be awake. It seems that they are never alone. They communicate with other people through video games, Social Media, and Apps.

Concerns: I can't entirely agree with researchers who claim that Gen alpha doesn't have social skills. They do, but most of their interactions with others are through screens. They learn how to express themselves through watching gamers, YouTubers, and other influencers they follow, but they lose body language and social cues that you can't see through the screen. Isn't it weird that so many children these days are evaluated as being on the spectrum? Autism is real and it is something that the entire family needs to take seriously and find professionals to help them guide the child. In my experience there are people who cannot socialize with other children their age in person. Could it be that they just don’t have practice and support in socializing face to face?

What to do: Socialize them from a young age and follow all of my suggestions in number 2. Watch them closely when they interact with others and if something goes wrong, redirect their behavior by speaking about it at home and giving them options. Understand that the only way to interact and influence your child's behavior is through positive talks.

I can continue writing on and on about Gen Alpha as I have 2 of them at home. But, this article is already too long, so I will keep my other ideas for later.

Please feel free to share with me and others your thoughts and ways of coping with the new adolescence that we are raising at home. I am sure many of you have great ideas that we can all learn from, and I want to hear about it…

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