Children and young students who constantly use phones and computers tend to be more nervous in face-to-face conversations. There is no proof that an increased use of technology in the last years has led to a greater prevalence of social anxiety. By the way, educators have an important role in teaching students how to properly use technology, giving them a balance and options with their devices, both academically and socially, so that they won’t lose their social skills while enjoying technology in the right way.
Social anxiety, also known as SAD or Social Phobia, is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. Children and teens with this kind of disorder feel a persistent discomfort during social and performance situations such as school and athletic activities. They also have an excessive fear of all those situations such as parties or concerts, even if they are commonly considered as enjoyable and funny.
Social Anxiety is a chronic disorder that does not go away on its own. People who experiment social phobia live with the constant fear of being negatively judged and evaluated by the others. Students with SAD are worried that they may do something embarrassing or weird in the eyes of who contemplate them.
But let’s get clear: being a shy or quiet student does not mean to suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder. Some of the problems associated with SAD include poor school performance, low confidence in social situations, troubles in developing and maintaining friendships, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse. It can be developed suddenly after a stressful or embarrassing experience, but even slowly over time. In any case, the support of a professional psychologist is needed to identify the problem.
If you are a teacher or an educator and you think that a student may be experiencing Social Anxiety, the first thing you should do is to alert both the parents and the school counselor immediately. Then, to help him manage his condition, you can try to follow 5 simple but effective interventions, even with the help of technology:
Students who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder are often pleasers, and this comes from their extreme fear of failure. To allow them to determine if they are completing an assignment correctly, and to help them understand your expectations, you should offer them clear directions, placing them in written form so they can follow all your rules and instructions step by step, in any moment. You can embrace laptops, tablets, smartphones and even video games as educational tools to help students visualize complex topics in a new way.
If you notice a student is experiencing Social Anxiety, you should pay particular attention not to sit him near distracting, rowdy, or judgmental students. On the contrary, encourage him to sit near people who are focused on learning and increase the chance of working together on the same task. You can organize in-class projects carefully selecting with whom the student with SAD will work, eliminating the embarrassment of being the last student picked by the other classmates. Let your students work on a tablet so that they can share the moment (and even the information) or encourage them preparing a digital presentation they will then expose together at the rest of the classroom. This will help students with Social Anxiety overcome the fear of public speaking because he will “perform” together with a reliable colleague.
Teaching students with Social Anxiety Disorder about mindfulness can help them focus more on problem-solving and less on worry. Mindufulness consists in a psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Teachers could implement this kind of training in their lesson method, in order to help students to increase their learning skills. Furthermore, mindfulness will be an added value also for the rest of the classroom, so it can be a great idea to organize collective lessons about it.
In terms of technology, there are many online platforms, websites and apps – some are even free – that can support teachers in using these activities inside their lessons.