As adults, it’s easy to see the attention-seeking behaviours of kids on social media. They are determining their self-worth based on how many likes or followers they get. An explanation of the damage this causes is not needed. What is needed is for adults to look at ourselves. We are teaching our children attention-seeking behaviours through our social media use.
Attention-seeking behaviours and social media go hand-in-hand. Self-worth and social media are also now intertwined, for children and adults.
Children today face a lot of issues due to social media that other generations never endured. As a therapist, it has broken my heart to see the damage social media has done to self-worth of children.
Bullying is done through social media. It increases the audience for bullies beyond anything preceding generations could ever imagine. The amounts of followers and attention children receive on social media is also a determining factor for self-worth. Please be aware that this is also the case for numerous adults.
Unmet needs of healthy attention for children translates into adults with unmet needs of healthy attention. Attention-seeking behaviours on social media have now become the ‘go-to’ for adults to get attention.
Keep in mind that most adults will not acknowledge their own attention-seeking behaviours on social media. Also, they most certainly will not be willing to see their social media use is teaching their children the same attention-seeking behaviours.
Facebook more so than Instagram has become the place for adults to thrust their attention-seeking behaviours into the world of social media for so many to see. Adults are using Facebook as a journal, a way to bash others and a way to promote a fictitious representation of their lives through attention-seeking behaviours.
By now, you are probably thinking about some of your ‘friends’ on social media. There are many adults who blatantly display attention-seeking behaviours on social media – those aren’t the people I’m necessarily talking about. So, who am I talking about and how are they teaching their children attention-seeking behaviours through social media?
Ways we teach children attention-seeking behaviours
- Taking constant selfies to post on social media.
- Posting almost every move you make with your children. Examples of this are every time you go out to eat with your kids, every time your kid makes a good grade, every time your kid says something funny – plus pretty much everything your kids do.
- Writing elusive posts in attempt for people to wonder or ask you questions about what you’re talking about. Examples of this are: ‘I have something so exciting, but I can’t share it with anybody yet,’ or memes and posts about others that are negative and are simply grown-up bullying.
Hopefully, you’re willing to truly look at yourself and how your attention-seeking behaviours on social media are teaching your children to do the same. Understand that, in the past, I have done most of the things I have mentioned before I was married and had a baby.
Social media and self-esteem
As a child, I didn’t get much healthy attention. Now, I can see that affected me in many ways throughout my life and with social media in the past. Condemnation is not my goal; I am merely hoping more people will take a look at the ways they are teaching their children attention-seeking behaviours on social media and tying their self-worth to social media.
Explanations of each attention-seeking behaviour is needed. I know adults who post multiple selfies each week. Again, I am not shaming those of you who do that. I am merely hoping you will take a look at the attention-seeking behaviours you are teaching your children.
Consider a co-worker walking through your office multiple times a week with a sign that says: ‘Look at me,’ or ‘Tell me I’m pretty.’ The sign is covered in glitter and tons of paint. The co-worker walks by every single person’s office holding that sign, waiting for somebody to respond to them.
Seems silly, right? That’s the equivalent of adults constantly posting selfies. Again, I was guilty of that in the past. So, I’m not shaming the attention-seeking behaviours. I’m trying to draw attention to it for adults to consider what they are teaching their children.
Attention-seeking with children
Now, number two in the list will probably get a lot of people riled up. A common defence for this will be that you want to share things about your children with friends and family members who don’t live close or you don’t see often.
I’m not saying you should never post anything about your children. What I am saying is that adults should take a look at what they might be teaching their children about what is important in life.
Most children are aware of parents posting their every move on social media. It is teaching them that nearly every moment in life must have an audience. Drilling even further down into attention-seeking behaviours of adults on social media brings me to a discussion of comments I often see on Facebook.
I often see comments telling others what a great parent they are and many times the comments are from people who have never seen the parent in person with their children. This directly relates to how adults’ self-worth can often be tied to social media nowadays.
Adults feel so good when receiving those comments and the comments make them feel special. Now, why is that a bad thing? It is teaching kids through our behaviours that our self-worth is tied to the opinions, actions and words of others. That is NEVER a good thing. We need to teach kids that self-worth comes from within.
If we don’t change our attention-seeking behaviours we are teaching kids on social media, it scares me to think about the lengths generations to come will go to in order to get attention.
Begging for attention
Shifting now to the ever-so-cryptic, elusive posts I mentioned in number three. To me, these are the biggest ways adults show attention-seeking behaviors on social media. Let me give you an example.
‘Please send me some good vibes because I have something super awesome that might happen, but I can’t tell anybody yet.’ To me this is equivalent to a little girl in elementary school telling one friend that she has a secret, but can’t tell that friend.
She hopes this makes her friend want so badly to know the secret. If that happens, she will get attention from the friend until she tells the secret. Now, keep in mind this an example of children. This is typical attention-seeking behaviour of a child and developmentally appropriate. As adults, we need to learn how to get healthy attention.
Teaching children to do this is important. Using social media as our attention-seeking platform, we should expect exactly what is happening with children now. They are learning that interactions on social media dictate our self-worth.
Now, let’s look at number four and see how adults use social media to bully. For example, I have seen people make posts making fun of others’ physical appearance, ethnicity among other things.
Obviously, there has been a huge increase in bullying with social media. Sadly, these kinds of posts give even more attention to the attention-seeking adult posting.
Social media and missing out on life
Have you ever been in the middle of an activity and thought about the post you were going to write? Do you think about the kinds of comments you might get if you post a new selfie? Are you posting multiple selfies each week, but tell yourself that you are confident with yourself?
Do you make multiple posts in a day to tell your ‘friends’ almost every move you’ve made, such as what you had for a meal, interactions with others, how you’re feeling for the day or whatever else you feel you need to post throughout your day?
Looking back, I realise how lonely I was when I was attention-seeking on social media. I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we would see the world is a lonelier place now more than ever. We are more disconnected from ourselves and others than we’ve ever been.
Social media falsely gives us a sense of belonging and connection to others. However, that is a slippery slope. In reality, we are not experiencing what our souls truly need. We need actual human connection.
When you put your phone away, reality can creep in. Taking a look at yourself to sit with your own thoughts is a difficult task. If one is able to do that, chances are that it is followed by them telling the social media world about it.
Think about how may posts you read like I mentioned above. How often do you post or read posts telling your ‘friends’ what kind of person you are or how you have done this or that?
Don’t pretend that you’re just posting and don’t care if you get any comments or likes. If that were truly the case, then what’s the point in posting?
Many people may react to this in a defensive way. They may refuse to acknowledge parts of this post that are true for them. Taking an honest look at yourself and behaviours is difficult to do. In fact, most never do because fear and vulnerability are hard to overcome.
I’ll leave you with one final question. How can we teach kids not to use social media to get attention and to define their self-worth if we are doing the same?
Mary Beth Fox is a licensed professional counsellor in Mississippi. She is also the creator of Not Good Enough Stuff.
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