What to do when your child’s FOMO spirals out of control

What to Do When Your Child’s Fomo Spirals Out of Control

For those of you that don’t know what FOMO stands for, don’t fear you have missed out. FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is not actually as new age as your average 15-year-old might think. 

Staying connected

Teenagers haven’t changed much over the generations, except that they now socialise or “hang out” online, rather than in shopping centres or at the local park, partly due to parental concerns about personal safety. So instead of gossiping and doing all those adolescent behaviours in real life, they now watch it happen in real time on a screen.

To be on social media is to feel connected to their peers. And just like in real life, events and interactions online can go pear-shaped rather rapidly. The difference is, though, if you are a teenager and you go offline for an hour, suddenly you have missed the biggest dust-up or fight of the year, and on the social outer.

Social media gets a pretty bad rap from health professionals across the world, but what is so bad about staying connected? After all, it’s a hard-wired human response to stay connected.

Online affecting offline

In fact, there is a dedicated part of the brain, the amygdala, part of the limbic system, specifically designed to detect whether our lives are in danger. Now, it’s quite ridiculous to suggest that missing out on a Snapchat or Facebook Messenger event is life threatening but it triggers the same flight or fight response in our brains.

Jealousy issues aside, our newfound need to be connected every waking moment is causing other psychosocial problems, particularly within the adolescent set. Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett, who specialises in adolescent psychology is seeing more and more cases of ‘FOMO’ related stress and anxiety.

“I am seeing many young clients who are in a state of vigilance with difficulties living in the present moment and it is this state of living that causes social and emotional problems such as anxiety and stress.

“Basically, social media is opposite of mindfulness in our youngsters, and in particular, girls are struggling with feelings of personal inadequacy, and difficulties living in the present,” Ms Corbett said.

Recent research from the University of Chicago found that social media is even more addictive than cigarettes and that getting your fix is equally as urgent to social media users.

Ms Corbett’s professional advice is: “Instead of trying to quash the urge completely, adolescents and those struggling with social media should embrace the need to be connected without letting it control your life.

“Learn to curb the overwhelming drive to be connected online and redirect it to communicating in real time with real people,” she said.

Practising mindfulness

Practising mindfulness is another way to counteract some of the unwanted stress caused by social media. A few easy ways you can put this into practice are:

  • Enrolling your child in an extra-curricular activity
  • Encouraging face-to-face socialisation (as this also helps build their adulating skill set)
  • Limiting internet times or allocating phone free time whilst going for a walk together.

Parents might even find this allows you to reconnect with your child who in a blink of an eye will have left the fold for good.


This article was written by Danielle Corbett, Clinical Psychologist, Psychology Consultants, Newmarket.

For more information on Danielle Corbett and the team of Clinical Psychologists at Psychology Consultants visit psychologyconsultants.com.au

Words by Danielle Corbett/Image by Adrian Sava

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