How Understanding Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence Can Boost Her Self-Esteem in the Digital Age

While there are a variety of positive effects of children using technology in their day-to-day lives, there is a negative side effect many parents may not think of: Technology can cause a lack of self-esteem in kids. Here are three easy things parents can do to limit screen time and boost kids’ self-esteem in the digital age.

Today, technology seems to transcend generations. Even as baby boomers mourn the loss of simpler times, they continue to rely on cellphones and social media as an integral part of their everyday lives. However, when it comes to the dangers of technology, the rising generation should draw the most concern. We may all live in the digital era, but our children are the ones growing up in it.

Screens and cyber-interaction continue to manipulate childhoods, posing considerable risks to a child’s self-esteem. As more and more kids turn to video games, streaming devices, and social chat networks, their actual social interactions—crucial to developing a healthy level of self-esteem—are becoming less and less frequent. 

The good news lies in a child’s malleability. By understanding a child’s emotional intelligence or EQ, parents can work on tactile ways to boost their children’s self-esteem during the years when they are the most vulnerable.

One of the biggest obstacles children face is dealing with low empathy and a lack of impulse control. These key areas of EQ are very influential to how a child will fare socially, as well as his perception of himself. For example, empathetic people are able to recognize how their own actions affect the emotions of others, which can help immensely in navigating social situations, such as making new friends or solving a conflict. While adults have had plenty of experience dealing with other people, children are just beginning to understand how to operate in social situations. Unfortunately, technology has made it very difficult for children to have sufficient face-to-face interaction with their peers, resulting in lower empathy.

Low-impulse control is common in children, and as they get older, they their impulse control increases. But as technology enables immediate satisfaction—whenever we want something, we can have it almost instantly—it is becoming even more difficult to nurture patience in a child. As a result, low-impulse control can affect a child’s self-regard and even elevate her perception of herself to an unrealistic level. For example, if children become comfortable with the fact that they can get anything they want, they will struggle to understand basic rules of respecting one another and putting others’ needs before their own. This can result in fewer personal relationships and successful social experiences, which are critical to maintaining a healthy self-esteem.

Here are some useful tips for parents to help boost their child’s self-esteem: 

Practice the (New) Golden Rule. Take the “treat others as you’d wish to be treated” mantra one step further. While your child understands the basic “good” vs “bad” treatment of others, he may struggle with how his own actions play a role. Acting out a few scenarios with your child or simply being more direct about how his behavior affects you and your partner will encourage him to start empathizing with others. Watching TV or playing with a cellphone only shows a child how her actions result in a consistent, positive response (pressing a button will turn something “on”, change the channel, etc.). People are not as easy, and it’s important that you have your child experience real cause-and-affect scenarios. 

Instill patience as a virtue. Teaching a stubborn child to be patient is no easy feat, so opt for a more subtle approach. For example, playing more board games in which each player must wait his turn can ease your child into practicing higher impulse control. Legos are another great way to build patience with friends, or even as a solo activity. In fact, while it’s important to teach your child how to play with others, independent play can also help her figure out how to manage her impulse control without getting easily frustrated or overwhelmed. For the next arts and crafts session, leave your child to tackle the project alone. Many times, other people in a room can pressure a child and make him feel more rushed or impatient. The peace and quiet will let your child focus on the task and work through it step-by-step.

Increase (real) social interaction. Limit your child’s interaction with cellphones, apps, television, and streaming devices as much as possible. These distractions make it easier for a child to avoid socializing with others, and make it harder to develop interpersonal relationships in and out of the classroom. During playdates, try suggesting that your child and her friends to do an interactive activity that encourages them to work as a team, such as a scavenger hunt or relay race. Plus, sports such as street hockey, baseball, soccer, and football are instances in which kids not only get to play with each other, but also may get into altercations and have to work them out face-to-face. Having your child engage in activities that need the cooperation of others will emphasize the value of others’ emotions to your child.

As renowned cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” While its influences may seem unstoppable, technology should not control how our children think, feel, and interact with others. We must focus on the ways we raise and nurture our children in spite of technology, not because of it, to reclaim the purpose of childhood and create a better tomorrow for generations to come.