Digital health, and mental health
With so much discussion and activity around mental health and digital health issues, not only in the meetings and events industry but in society generally, I’ve been reflecting on the world of Generation Z and the new pressures that their lifestyle has brought on them.
I thought how different my childhood was from my son’s. Not just in terms of how I played with but also in terms of accessibility. The ‘instantness’ of everything, ease of travel, freedom of expression in terms of gender and sexuality.
I had a very happy upbringing, middle class in a nice area with great neighbours. We spent lots of time together, playing in the mud or in the den in the field. We had loads of games – tag, hopscotch, hide and seek, British Bulldog were among the favourites. Yes, we got into trouble sometimes but it was fun and we enjoyed many happy summer days. I think this equipped us to find our way in life, to understand people, to interact and be sociable. It all helped us to learn to use our imagination, to be creative and to adapt. All this helped to form us as adults.
My 18 year old son’s childhood, although very happy and secure, two loving older sisters and doting parents, has been different. He’s grown up with technology from birth, using a tablet and laptop as a toddler, with PS4 and an Xbox, his smartphone always in his free hand and music always in his ears. He smiles a lot, has great friends and is wonderfully kind. I hope I have equipped him to also be able to find his way in life, in his new world, to understand his generation and to be able to interact with them. I hope his mind is creative, and he will find his way as a happy, secure adult.
And that’s the important point. As older generations we can’t keep harping on about how much better it was back when we were kids. This is today, their reality, and they need a different upbringing from us in order for them to succeed as happy adults.
Generation Z and digital health.
Our Generation Z is going to live in a very different world to us, with different challenges to ours, different ways to communicate and interact. Physical challenges will be greater, life expectancy will be longer, mental challenges will be better understood and emotional intelligence is going to increase. Our Gen Z is growing up just the way they need to in order to cope in their world.
It’s not just an issue for them. As both parents and employers we need to understand the issues of their world. Particularly as there are now so many of them in the workplace. Here at Wyboston Lakes Resort, 33.2% of the team are under 25.
Social media and the internet will bring with it a new set of challenges to Gen Z. They will need to be strong both mentally and emotionally in order to create a happy, fulfilled, loving place online. Somewhere they want to be, and are clear on what they like and don’t like. A place that lifts them up and inspires them. A place where they can turn those away that step over their boundaries or behave in a way that feels unacceptable. Gen Z will need to create a place online that is real and to learn how to interpret those that are not real and see it for what it is.
It is not easy to master this new world. According to the BBC, extensive research by academics in the USA conducted in 2016 involving 1,700 people aged 17-32 found a threefold risk of depression and anxiety among people who used the most social media platforms. Reasons for this, they suggested, include cyber-bullying, having a distorted view of other peoples lives, and feeling like time spent on social media is a waste.
Digital health is an increasing issue for all of us, the more we engage with the online world. The secret to creating better digital health is to identify and follow best practice.
Things to Include:
- Create balance with the amount of time spent online, total immersion can turn into addictive behavior that is unhealthy.
- Choose your platforms to suit you and your values. Not all platforms are created equal and some will just not be for you, choose wisely.
- Choose your followers and friends carefully. Having friends and followers is what social platforms are all about, but don’t be consumed with numbers. The number of likes is not important, be your own number one fan.
- Know what you want and what you don’t want, know what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy. If something doesn’t make you feel good about yourself stop following, stop searching. Search for what inspires you and motivates you, walk away from negative, demotivating or fake posts.
- Create a happy safe place online for you and others. If this was everyone’s mantra the internet would be the best place to be, unfortunately Cybercrime is on the increase and is expected to grow rapidly with hackers getting better and better and the dark web harbouring the dark side of life.
- Virtual or Actual? With the advancement of VR there is a danger we can lose ourselves in what is real and what is actual. What matters and really doesn’t at all. Teach yourself to know the difference.
- Once in a while, have a detox. Some time away from all things digital. Give your mind space to re-focus, downtime is always good.
Our next generation of adults needs to consider and integrate this into their lives as part of their stress management and social behaviours. It will be in their own interests in order to develop into well-balanced, and adjusted, happy, future citizens.