With today’s teens increasingly glued to their smartphones and devices, FOMO is emerging as a genuine worry for parents. A teen educator and a family and relationship psychotherapist examine how the “fear of missing out” can affect adolescents and offer guidance for parents looking to assist their children.
Teenagers can be challenging to understand at times, but fortunately, there is a plethora of resources to aid parents in navigating the sometimes tumultuous journey of raising a teenager. FOMO, also known as the “fear of missing out,” affects numerous adolescents today, but there are strategies available to assist them in overcoming it.
What is FOMO?
While you may have recently heard this phrase, it has been in existence for a while. The term “fear of missing out” was first used in 1996 and was later added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The concept is precisely what it sounds like: experiencing anxiety or apprehension about not participating in a social event.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a sensation of unease that an interesting or exciting event may be happening elsewhere.”
The concerns triggered by FOMO, such as “are they spending time together without me?” are often validated through social media. Although social anxiety was a worry before the advent of social media, this particular sense of inadequacy has grown into a more significant issue for this digitally connected generation. Modern-day teenagers are dedicating more time to their smartphones and devices than ever, and they may feel inferior to their peers if they are not present at a gathering or concert.
The impact of FOMO on teenagers can be significant due to its prevalence on social media. For example, observing photos and posts of friends or peers enjoying an event or activity on social media can trigger FOMO, leading to problems such as low self-esteem, self-doubt, and other difficulties. In addition, studies and personal experiences have demonstrated that the fear of missing out can be overwhelming for teenagers, leading to anxiety and a reduced self-concept.
These consequences can affect their mental, social, and physical well-being.
According to research, one of the main triggers for FOMO is social media. The 2015 National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey found that teenagers who use social media heavily feel their relationships are stronger. However, it also revealed that the same group of teens are more likely to feel burnt out, experience FOMO, and be concerned about the number of likes on their posts if they spend more time on social media.
According to Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist specializing in family and relationship issues and a FamilyEducation Expert, FOMO is a phenomenon that can develop at a very young age, even in preschool and kindergarten. While social media may appear to bring teenagers closer together, it can actually cause them to feel more disconnected from one another.
In her experience treating teenagers at her 90210 practice, Dr. Walfish has observed that anxiety is a common issue for many of them, which is rooted in their inability to communicate and connect with their parents or other family members. This leaves them feeling lonely and isolated as if they are adrift in a vast ocean of competing demands and pressures, such as academic expectations, conflicts with peers, and unexpressed emotions like anger, hurt, and sadness.
Signs to be Aware of
Being aware of the signs of FOMO is crucial for parents and guardians, as it can have serious consequences for teenagers. According to Joe Lent, a licensed professional counselor and assistant professor of psychology at Bethel College, some of the symptoms of FOMO in teens may include mood swings, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and a general feeling of restlessness. They may also engage in risky behaviors such as dangerous driving or spending excessive amounts of time on their phones.
However, it’s important to recognize that these behaviors are often a manifestation of deeper feelings of anxiety and disconnection from their peers.
If you suspect that your teenager is struggling with FOMO, there are steps you can take to help them manage their emotions and cope with the pressures of social media. Please encourage them to take breaks from technology and engage in activities that promote face-to-face interaction, such as sports or clubs. Help them develop healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, or talking to a trusted friend or family member.
By providing a supportive and empathetic environment, you can help your teenager navigate the challenges of adolescence and emerge as a confident, well-adjusted adult.
How to Help Your Teen
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above in your teenager, they may be struggling with FOMO. It’s important to approach the topic with sensitivity and empathy, as simply limiting their social media usage may not be the most effective solution. Joe Lent, a licensed professional counselor and assistant professor of psychology, suggests engaging your teenager in an open and honest conversation about the root cause of their anxiety – feeling disconnected from the present moment.
By encouraging your teen to be fully present and engaged in their current reality, you can help them overcome the fear of missing out and embrace the joys of living in the moment. This may involve teaching them mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, encouraging them to pursue activities that promote engagement with the world around them and fostering open lines of communication with your teen. Hence, they feel comfortable expressing their fears and anxieties.
Ultimately, by working together with your teen, you can help them overcome FOMO and build a stronger, more fulfilling sense of self.