top of page

Nobody knows what I'm thinking, right?

Processing Thoughts Privately

Until the age of about four or five, children don’t know that their thoughts are their own. For example, if they keep their favorite toy inside a wooden chest, they assume that their friend who comes over for a playdate, knows that the bear is inside the wooden chest, so they’ll guard the chest.

As children grow older, they realize that their thoughts are their own, and that other people have private thoughts that are their own. Adolescent egocentrism sets in around age eleven and can last until age eighteen. Sometimes referred to as “an imaginary audience,” it’s the feeling that everything they do is on a stage for all to see and whatever perception they have of themselves, must be what others think of them as well. Ironically, even though adolescent egocentrism exaggerates insecurities, kids start putting EVERY thought out into the world for everyone to know! 

Increasing from childhood to adolescence, there’s an increased sensitivity to rewards and punishments. This makes sense of why adolescents are such big risk-takers, and getting more “likes” on a picture they post online floods them with euphoria…but not getting as many likes as someone else is devastating. Pre-teens are willing to risk the devastation because the reward of the “like” is so intense for them.

Even with younger children, there is an expectation to have a constant online presence that takes over the regions of the brain involved in self-control. This can create problems while they are learning to navigate relationships. If they have access to social media, whatever issues happened at school follow them home in the cyber world. The challenge grows when, instead of sitting down and talking through their relationship problems, they air complaints on social media! One of the draws of social media is the ability to “write” our thoughts down, but unfortunately private thoughts become public.

Having a diary helps us process our thoughts about situations and people. Journaling is a powerful tool for hashing out how we feel in a moment, a place to “cool down” and time to gain perspective- if it’s done privately.

A nice list of "to-do's" for your son or daughter;

  1. Give them an old fashioned journal

  2. Ask them to delay before hitting “send,” Could you feel differently tomorrow?  

  3. Ask, “Could someone use this against you?”

  4. Do they know how to ‘unsend’ a text?

  5. Would you say this in person?

Instead of running the risk of hurting others by processing a personal thought online, write it down on paper. Sometimes our kids need that gentle reminder that what we post online never goes away, even if our feelings about a situation or person do. Many social media platforms such as ‘BeReal’ make it harder for kids by pressuring them to post quickly to keep their "streak"—without thinking of the consequences.. 

I remind my kids that when they post online, to be prepared for someone to try and use it against them. I also remind them that employers research their candidates' online activity, and 57% of them have rejected candidates for jobs because of something they found online. Physical journals give our children time to look inward and grow through trials, not outward for unaccredited validation and judgment. 

In our "Let's Get Real" program, kids learn to find validation and stress relief from real-life activities. They make the following commitments...

* I will use technology to show kindness and respect.

*I will give priority to real life relationships.

*I will choose healthy activities to handle stress and boredom. 

*I will choose to balance my day. 

*I will remember that not everything online is real

Join us at White Ribbon Week, we have tools to help you keep your children safe while online!

25 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page