Generation G(oogle) - children, anxiety and the web?

I noticed on Facebook the other day a meme came up on my feed that read, “Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” And it got me thinking about the power of Google in our lives and in particular the lives of our children, the access it affords them to the wondrous and unknown, that generations before us could only have dreamed about. There is much said in the media and taught in our children’s schools about the dangers of inappropriate, unsupervised access to the Internet. We are all too aware of social media trolls, cyber bullying and online predators but what of the seemingly harmless websites our children visit and the hidden impact they can have?

I recently was with a 9 year old child who was excitedly telling me about her forthcoming family holiday to Darwin, when I noticed a shadow cross her eyes that immediately dampened her enthusiasm. I enquired what was going on for her and she explained that she had Googled the weather in Darwin for their arrival date and had discovered a chance of stormy weather. This particular little girl had been seeing me for anxiety, so even the seemingly innocuous bureau of meteorology website was a potential source of stress for her. Her fear of flying was already significant and now she had 14 days to worry even more about it. And understandably, why would any parent feel alarmed if they walked past their child on their ipad pouring over a weather forecast!

Another adolescent explained to me that his fear of spiders had got so unmanageable he wanted to pull out of the school camping trip. He was totally perplexed by his fear, as he said when he was younger he loved arachnids, surfing the net for all manner of information and images. Together we nutted out that this was possibly the very thing that had enhanced his fear. After all 20 years ago it would not have been easy to watch close-up footage of a tarantula’s fangs being milked or a massive spider devouring a bird but today it’s just a few clicks away. This young man had scared the wits out of himself with his own fascination.

The internet is an entrenched part of our children’s lives so we need to find ways to keep engaged with what they are looking at, in the same way generations before us tried to monitor their children’s exposure to film and television. You just have to Google Infant Internet Games to see how young our children are being enticed – I got 8,420,000 hits! So I guess we better get used to it and accept that younger and younger children will be exposed. Let’s just keep our eyes on their screens and continue to communicate about what they are interested in so harmless exploration doesn’t tip over into dangerous over exposure.

(Specialising in working with children & adolescents, Megan Rees, works from her practice The Grove Counselling, located in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda East) Please contact us if we can be of any assistance.

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Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV