Social and emotional learning is a hot topic on social media, in health circles, and even in schools, and kids are expressing interest in emotional wellness practices as a result. Now, parents are flocking to sensory games, toys, and products marketed to improve or soothe their child’s stress in a playful format.

A range of tactile stress toys for kids have hit the market to address early onset anxiety for young gen Alphas. The new toy category, called “fidget therapy,” is reminiscent of the playful fidget spinners but marketed with the intention of stress relief for young consumers to hit, punch, pinch, and squeeze when they need to.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that children’s mental health is of great concern. 40% of parents in the US are “extremely” or “very” worried that their children will struggle with anxiety or depression at some point, according to a report on the study by CNN. Mental health is currently the greatest concern among parents, above bullying, kidnapping, and dangers of drugs and alcohol, and NHS data in the United Kingdom indicates hospital referrals for mental health crises in children rose 39% in a year.

Some experts believe the rise is reflective of the amount of time gen Alpha spends online. “I would be foolish not to acknowledge the many connections between today’s overwhelmingly online culture and mental health problems,” NHS counselor Lily Jo wrote in a feature for The Independent.

Insights and cultural strategy group Cassandra, by Big Village global advertising, data and technology, released the Gen Alpha: Generation Infinite research report in July, which indicated 55% of 7-12 year-olds use social media. According to the report, mental health awareness weighs on gen Alpha: 59% agree that mental health is a big issue, and 62% say their school should focus more on mental health education than physical education.

"Generation Alpha is the most socially aware generation we have studied,” Cassandra Senior Vice President Kathy Sheehan said in a press release. “Between living their most critical years in terms of development through a global pandemic and carrying the weight of previous generations and their decisions on their shoulders, they are coming of age in an infinitely complex world full of infinite challenges.”

After witnessing looming threats of climate change, experiencing lockdowns and fears from the COVID-19 pandemic, and balancing media cycles online, generation Alpha is certainly suffering from a mental health crisis. Luckily, the generation also has an interest in combatting anxiety and bettering their emotional wellbeing; something brands should keep in mind when engaging with these young consumers.

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