During a time of rapid innovation, development and achievement in our world, there is also a rapidly growing rate of depression and anxiety among young people. This increased psychopathology can be associated with overwhelming stressors many children may have in their lives that children even 50 years ago couldn’t be able to imagine. The underlying factor may not be so much what is going on in the world that is causing stress and therefore mental instability, but how young people are viewing the world and themselves. Young people are more likely to be stuck in a web of intrinsic thinking that can ultimately be detrimental to their well-being. It is not to say that intrinsic, analytical thinking is not a great quality to have; however, it is when an individual is constantly ruminating about worries and negative thoughts, that it becomes unhealthy.
So in a time when technology is totally integrated into the daily lives of young people, this intrinsic thinking is intensified. There needs to be a shift to a more balanced way of living, where children are expressing both intrinsic and extrinsic ways of thinking and acting. This is reflected in the revitalization of free play, which enhances one’s extrinsic motivations by physically acting them out. When children have the chance to plan and play on their own and with others without adult supervision, it gives them the opportunity to let their imagination wander.
This should be a fundamental quality of learning in the educational system. Today’s schools with their increased emphasis on play and self-directed learning through exploration and investigation will increasingly reflect the desired balance between intrinsic and extrinsic intentions. However, it is still a broken front of progress because there are institutional differences depending on location and demographics. In some cases, there is an expected relationship between teacher and student, in which the student must modify and cater to the teacher’s expectations to be rewarded through assessment.
So perhaps, if children and young people were able to express themselves in personalized ways in home and school environments, then this pervasive self-doubt could be diminished; this therefore, should decrease depression and anxiety rates.
By self-directed discovery through learning and playing, there is so much children can offer to their world and ours.
To learn more about this important topic, check out this very insightful and interesting article by Dr. Peter Gray.