How Phones and Social Media Usage Impacts Youth Soccer

A great discussion between Dan Abrahams, Ben Freakley, and Larissa Mills; about the issues around phone usage and social media in sport, it’s effects on youth.

To begin with, it’s important we realize this is a societal issue, but like almost all issues we find in society, youth sports reflects these problems in it’s microclimate.

Research has found some alarming statistics where by 16, kids are hitting huge overall hours of usage, even as young as 4 years old the hours of usage is alarming.

  • Kids are brains are under developed, effecting ability to learn, where they cannot focus, are tired, and lack attention.
  • 71% have negative self-talk.
  • Social media platforms are a significant influence over youths.
  • 98% of kids 12 years and older have phones
  • Phones and technology have negatively effected movement and communication.

Phones have been identified as having a block on performance, this due to it’s effects on routine, and social medias comments and stories about performance being constructed by opinions. Children are now learning and developing cognitively at a slower rate than previous generations.

While an easy solution, but hard to accomplish, it is recommended that youth athletes post and leave – publish messages of positivity, leave, and do not engage.

Longer times on the phone have been shown to increase depression and anxiety.

There is potential for positivity, there are opportunities for learning through open lines of communication. To do this though, ‘look sideways’, look for inspiration and not comparison.

There are solutions to how we can support youth athletes, and the youth in general with the effects of phones and social media on the individuals growth and development, and mental well-being.

  • Create routines  around training (phones in backpacks, etc.).
  • Create daily routines (no phones in bedrooms, at the dinner table, etc.).
  • Setting boundaries on content (pictures, when pictures are taken, etc.).
  • Create protocols (inclusivity of all within groups, when is the phone used).

Habits reduces phone addiction and social media addiction

When discussing the use of phones and social media, use open ended questions for deep engagement on the reasons ‘why’ it’s better to be off the phone; bringing awareness of which voices are being involved with the youth athlete, i.e., self awareness of whose voice really matters. This will better support the buy in to banning phones at important times, this being those times spent at sports with team mates, and family events.

  • Interventions at sporting events (training and games) are key to engaging conversation, utilizing pre, during, and post activity breaks, to break down psychology into attention, intensity, and intent.
  • Squash ANTS (automatic negative thoughts)
    • Incorporate this mental skill into practice
    • Use social governance to support each other
  • Establish values early on, providing purpose to social media use and avoiding the clustered approach to scrolling through social media. Think big picture to refrain from phone and social media usage, framing and reviewing the day around:
    • What actions today will/did align with my values, behaviors, and goals?

Key Takeaways:

The brain takes 20 minutes to refocus after phone usage (smart watches are a real problem!).

  • Are you in a state to engage in learning if you are not focused from the start?
  • Without attention, intensity, and intent, learning is greatly compromised.

Support children/athletes to be their own person.

  • Move away from comparison as a context in both online and in-person identity models.
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