FOMO and How It Might Affect Children with Attention Issues
What Is FOMO?
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, has become a popular term in American culture. The phrase is regularly referenced and was defined in a recent study as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent. FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”
FOMO and Social Media
FOMO has always been a part of adolescence, but social media has exacerbated it. Today, young students often check social media repeatedly, so they don't feel “out of the loop.” Many parents and educators worry about the implications of social media consumption and FOMO, but there is particular concern for children living with attention issues such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
FOMO and Children with Attention Issues
According to the Child Mind Institute, children with attention problems often have both "an abundance of attention and a wandering of attention. The problem is to regulate them." More often than not, when children with attention issues such as ADHD are in front of a screen, they experience what is called "screen sucking." Children with attention issues tend to become hyper-focused on the screen for extended periods of time. They find mobile devices and social media even more consuming than typical adolescents, and it is especially challenging for them to shift their attention to something else. For these children, FOMO can increase dramatically, leading to an increase in ADHD symptoms, depression, unhappiness, and even aggression.
FOMO and Happiness
According to Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics and author of Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think, when adolescents are caught in a loop of FOMO, they tune out the real world and their ability to form a sense of self. During adolescence, humans begin to find their sense of self, which is part of determining their sense of happiness. Professor Dolan explains that “happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to the most determines your happiness.” When adolescents are not as happy as they should be, their attention is misallocated— usually hyper focused on social media and mobile devices inside and outside of the classroom. This is especially daunting for students with attention issues as they find it inherently harder to pull away from the distractions of their mobile devices and social media.
Students Spend Mega Amounts of Time on Mobile Devices
Study after study has demonstrated that adolescents are spending enormous amounts of time on their mobile devices, even within the classroom. A study found in the January 2016 issue of The Journal of Media Education found that student usage of personal mobile devices has risen to an average of 11.43 times in a typical school day. This resulted in 20.9% of students being distracted by a digital device during class time. The respondents in this study admitted that this digital behavior causes a distraction that could hurt class performance. A 2015 Gallup survey found that the "ubiquitous presence" of smartphones in Americans' lives has been particularly evident among younger Americans. The Gallup survey found more than 7 in 10 smartphone owners, ages 18-29, check their device a few times an hour or more, and 22% admit to checking it every few minutes.
Mobile Usage and Students with Attention Issues
A study by NCBI has suggested that children with attention issues such as ADHD are especially vulnerable to the risks of excessive mobile usage, including FOMO. Girls with attention issues report an increase in symptoms of depression, and boys report more aggression when they are continually fed images on social media. These numbers have been steadily increasing since 2011, suggesting that these increases are linked to and exacerbated by a dependence on social media.
How Can Parents Help Decrease Dependency on Social Media?
While the science is still emerging, medical professionals agree that it is important for parents and educators to regulate the amount of time adolescents spend on their mobile devices. This is particularly true for children with attention issues as their symptoms can dramatically increase with excessive consumption. Give your child plenty of opportunities to create friendships and connections away from screens. Encourage them to take part in activities they enjoy so they can become part of more than one friendship group. It isn't helpful to simply tell your child not to be on social media. Instead, help them recognize when it's positive to be invested in social media and when it is not.
ChildNEXUS.com Team Member