| Screentime

5 tips for combating FOMO

| 31 Aug 2022

Your child stares into a smartphone and keeps on scrolling. They do not seem that amused. There seem to be traces of discontent on their face. You try to engage with them, but they don’t seem able to tear their eyes away from the screen. Do you know the reason behind such behaviour? Perhaps your child is dealing with FOMO, the fear of missing out.

Your child stares into a smartphone and keeps on scrolling. They do not seem that amused. There seem to be traces of discontent on their face. You try to engage with them, but they don’t seem able to tear their eyes away from the screen. Do you know the reason behind such behaviour? Perhaps your child is dealing with FOMO, the fear of missing out. 

The internet may help us with entertainment, education, communication, creativity and more. But sometimes, the emotions we feel online are far from pleasant: envy, anxiousness, and even self-contempt. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a never-ending cycle: being on social media can make us panic that we are missing out on life, but when we put our phones down, we may fear that the online world moves too quickly for us to catch up with it later. The unpleasant feelings evoked by FOMO affect adults and children alike and are often underlain by a lack of confidence and even some form of frustration with our lives. Do you know how to combat the issue? Here are some tips. 

1) Build your child’s confidence

When a child observes their friends online, they may feel excluded from the fun activities others indulge in. Following specific influencers may also make your child believe that not having enough money or material possessions stops them from being fully content. Such emotions may stem from the child’s general view of themselves and their life. How to combat such a mindset of inferiority? Please continue to support your child in building their confidence and sense of self. Let the kid pick their interests and perhaps encourage them to join hobby groups. In these, children may communicate face-to-face with their friends and overcome the fear of being left out. Inspiring kids to focus on the process rather than the results may also help them build self-esteem. For instance, they may enjoy art but dislike the results of their artistic efforts – ensure them that what matters most is that they want the activity itself. This can help them appreciate the process and embrace the overlooked moments of joy that often don’t make it into social media feeds. 

2) Renovate their views on “normality.”

When we only see the best of others’ lives online, our perception of normality may shift. Our everyday existence may grow to feel dull. Even as adults, we often must remind ourselves that the moments captured online are just selected bits and pieces of a more complex reality in which not everything is perfect and glamorous but also problematic or ordinary. This concept may be even more challenging for children who spend much time online. How can we remind our children and ourselves of the fragmentary nature of social media? Here is one experiment that may help: 

Together with your children, use your phones to document your life for a given period (it may be a day, a week, or even a month). After that, sit down and discuss the pictures you took. Why did you take them? Were you genuinely content in those moments? Compare your happy-looking photos with reality and discuss what happened behind the scenes – do the pictures capture the emotions you felt? And are there some memorable moments that you did not photograph? The experiment’s goal is to remind the children that although photos can be an excellent medium for remembering some pieces of your life, they cannot capture reality as a whole. 

3) Make social media a feel-good space 

Some may believe that combating FOMO means leaving social media altogether, but that is not necessarily the case. Getting rid of social media may be unrealistic and even unreasonable. Instead, our children should focus on the aspect they can quite easily influence – the content they consume. The online world they enter through their platforms largely depends on their choices. Accordingly, if social media makes them unhappy, they don’t have to sit back and accept the negative emotions – they can make operational changes. Ask your child whether there is anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable. You both go through your profiles and talk about how some of the people you follow affect you. This can help the child comprehend their emotions – many children may experience FOMO, but they are unaware of it because they are unsure how to explain and classify their feelings. 

When you share your experiences with FOMO, you demonstrate that this issue may affect all of us but can also be discussed and combated. If you or your child follow anyone that evokes unpleasant emotions, such as anger, sadness or the feeling of being excluded, talk about the possibilities of eliminating such influences. You can either unfollow the accounts or mute them, in which case the person on the other side will not even know about your actions. Emphasise that even though certain statements may invoke negative feelings, it is always better to unfollow these profiles rather than write hateful or mocking comments to their posts. 

4) Indulge in phone-free activities

Phones are not our enemies, but putting them away every once in a while may help us exist in the present moment. Come up with an activity your child enjoys, discard your phones, and enjoy each other’s company. Ideally, please include your child in the planning and let them introduce some of their ideas on how to spend your time together. The psychologist Jarmila Tomková explains: “When kids are the creators or co-creators of activity, they are much more motivated and involved. Being a co-creator also aids their sense of competence and agency, which may support their self-esteem and thus help to prevent or eliminate the risk of FOMO.” You may plan a hiking trip, do some sports, visit a museum, or play board games. During the activity, talk about the experience. Does your child enjoy the activity? If not, what can be done differently? 

These moments are also ideal for practising mindfulness. Check-in with your senses: What do you see? Can you smell anything? Can you name five things you can touch right now? You can include a game during which you will try to guess what you are touching while keeping your eyes closed. Speaking about feelings and practising mindfulness can help you actively experience offline reality. Lastly, don’t focus solely on family activities. You can also organise an event where your child can meet up with their friends and enjoy the feeling of being included. Some parents tend to take their children home from school immediately after classes, limiting the time they share with their peers and making them feel isolated and alone. Community activities may directly help your child with preventing or overcoming FOMO.

5) Practice self-care

When a child sees the seemingly perfect lives presented online, they may easily forget about their happiness. Working with gratefulness may help them reset their self-perception and appreciate their reality a bit more. How can you practice gratitude with your child? Each evening, you can share what you are thankful for that day –considerable accomplishments or simple realities (such as a fantastic walk with the dog or a sunny afternoon). You can also encourage your child to write a diary in which they record the highlights of each day. The older children can do so alone, while the younger ones may enjoy creating such a diary with their parents or siblings. If your child decides to write their journal in the evening, the activity can be a great tool to avoid using smartphones directly before bedtime. Children can occasionally create a list that focuses on what made them feel negative emotions, be it sadness, fear, nervousness, etc. 


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