Digital Dimensions: Technology’s dual role when young adults get stuck

Generation Z is the first fully “digital native” generation. It is also struggling to achieve traditional milestones of independence — securing employment, living independently, completing higher education, and choosing a career.

Understanding the role of digital technology and social media in developing resilience and perseverance in the face of challenges or setbacks can help us leverage these tools to effectively support young adults on their path to independence.

Key points

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Positive aspects of digital technology for Zoomers who have stalled

Digital technology offers numerous benefits that can aid young adults in overcoming failure to launch. These include

  1. Educational opportunities: Online courses and resources provide accessible avenues for continued learning and skill development. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy allow young adults to acquire new skills, gain certifications, and pursue their interests at their own pace.
  2. Remote work prospects: The increased availability of remote work has opened up new career possibilities. Young adults can explore freelance work, remote job opportunities, and entrepreneurial ventures without the geographical limitations that once constrained previous generations.
  3. Social connections: Technology facilitates social interactions, allowing young adults to maintain relationships and form new connections. Virtual communities and support groups offer a sense of belonging and can provide emotional support, reducing feelings of isolation.

Negative aspects of digital technology for Zoomers

Excessive reliance on digital technology can contribute to the delay in achieving independence:

  1. Screen time: Excessive screen time can lead to procrastination and reduced productivity. Young adults may spend significant hours on entertainment and social media, neglecting responsibilities and real-world interactions.
  2. Social media addiction: The addictive nature of social media can create a dependency, where young adults constantly seek validation and dopamine hits from likes and comments, detracting from real-life achievements.
  3. Virtual interactions: While online interactions are beneficial, they can sometimes replace face-to-face socialization, leading to weakened social skills and increased anxiety in real-world settings.

Social media: curated reality vs. authentic identity

Social media platforms play a significant role in how young adults form their identities. They curate their online personas, sharing highlights and achievements while often concealing struggles and failures. This curated reality can create a distorted sense of self-worth and increase pressure to conform to perceived societal standards.

Social media: pressure and anxiety

The constant exposure to others’ successes can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and stagnation. Young adults may experience anxiety and depression when comparing their lives to the seemingly perfect lives portrayed on social media. This comparison culture can hinder motivation and exacerbate the symptoms of failure to launch syndrome.

Practical tips for young adults

  • Digital detoxes: Regular breaks from digital devices can help reset priorities and reduce dependence on technology. Setting aside specific times for screen-free activities can foster healthier habits.
  • Mindful use of social media: Use social media intentionally. This can include setting limits on daily usage, curating their feeds to include positive and educational content, and engaging in meaningful interactions rather than passive scrolling.
  • Leveraging technology for skill-building: Utilize technology for self-improvement. Online courses, virtual workshops, and educational apps can provide valuable skills that enhance their independence and career prospects.

Recommendations for parents and caregivers

  • Open communication: Maintain an open dialogue about the impact of digital technology. Encourage discussions about healthy usage patterns and the potential pitfalls of excessive screen time.
  • Model healthy behavior: Parents and caregivers should model balanced technology use. Demonstrating a healthy relationship with digital devices can set a positive example for young adults.
  • Support skill development: Encourage and support young adults in using technology for productive purposes. This can include enrolling in online courses together, exploring remote job opportunities, and setting joint goals for skill acquisition.

Jane — a success story

Jane had been living at home and working occasional retail jobs despite having a degree from a top university and marketable skills.
She participated in a digital detox program and was able to overcome social media addiction. With improved mental health and motivation, she decided to enroll in multiple online courses for web design. She started her first professional job and gained financial independence while living at home, eventually securing a full-time position that allowed her to move into her own apartment.

Learn to leverage immersive digital experiences for growth

Digital technology and social media can wield a dual influence on young adults experiencing failure-to-launch syndrome. While these tools offer remarkable opportunities for education, work, and social connection, they also pose risks of addiction, procrastination, and anxiety. By fostering a balanced approach to technology use, therapists, parents, and young adults can harness the benefits of digital tools while mitigating their potential downsides.

Mindful engagement and strategic support can help young adults navigate the digital landscape effectively and embark on a path toward independence and fulfillment.

We are here for you

Our experienced team at Launch Psychological specializes in helping parents support their young adults through this critical life stage. We provide comprehensive assessments, personalized therapy, and practical strategies to navigate the digital landscape effectively. By understanding the unique pressures and potential of technology, we empower young adults to build resilience, perseverance, and the skills needed to thrive in today’s world.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your family turn digital challenges into opportunities for growth and success.

Resources

Haddock, A., Ward, N., Yu, R., & O’Dea, N. (2022). Positive Effects of Digital Technology Use by Adolescents: A Scoping Review of the LiteratureInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192114009.

Imjai, N., Aujirapongpan, S., Jutidharabongse, J., & Usman, B. (2024). Impacts of digital connectivity on Thailand’s Generation Z undergraduates’ social skills and emotional intelligence. Contemporary Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.30935/cedtech/14043.

Limone, P., & Toto, G. (2022). Psychological and Emotional Effects of Digital Technology on Digitods (14–18 Years): A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.938965.

Scott, D., Valley, B., & Simecka, B. (2017). Mental Health Concerns in the Digital Age. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 15, 604-613. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-016-9684-0.

Small, G., Lee, J., Kaufman, A., Jalil, J., Siddarth, P., Gaddipati, H., Moody, T., & Bookheimer, S. (2020). Brain health consequences of digital technology use
. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 22, 179 – 187. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.2/gsmall.

Launch Psychological, led by Dr. Kieran Ayre provides discreet, insightful, psychological support for young adults struggling with the transition into adulthood as well as athletes, executives, and professionals who need help getting unstuck. Launch Psychological is proudly based out of Morristown, NJ and offers in-person and online appointments. www.launchpsychological.com