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Helping Teens Navigate Social Media the Healthy Way

Helping Teens Navigate Social Media the Healthy Way

From hashtags and handles to filters and followers, social media has become a significant part of a teenager’s life. In fact, more than 90 percent of teens, aged 13-17, are active users of social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Being active on a social media platform can have many benefits for youth such as connecting with friends and family, finding new people with like interests or activities and having a venue to display their creativity. However, social media can expose teens to a laundry list of potential risks, for example:

  • Unsuitable Content: Access to inappropriate or harmful posts, fake profiles or dangerous people.
  • Cyberbullying: One in three children have been cyberbullied through a social media platform.
  • Oversharing: Giving away too much personal information.
  • Privacy Concerns: Including exposure to excessive advertising and collection of personal data as well as hacking and identity theft.
  • Life Interruption: Interfering with sleep, exercise, homework or other activities.

The Toll on Self-Esteem

Few teens know a time without social media—charting the path to be brought up in a world of unrealistic standards. These impossible standards can eventually take a toll on your teen, particularly their self-esteem.

Teens curate their lives to show only the best of the best, forgetting the “behind the scenes”

struggles, efforts and other “boring” aspects of everyday life.

They build their self-worth on the number of likes, comments and shares they receive for each

post, feeling bad if they get too few. They can feel left out or excluded when using social media, leading to feelings of loneliness, and may even begin to doubt themselves and their lives when they see their classmates and friends post pictures of fabulous vacations, perfect bodies and expensive tastes.

They judge themselves and their lives based on those in their social network circle, seeing the perfection of others as confirmation that they are doing poorly in comparison.

Avoiding the Social Media Trap

While social media can take its toll, it does not have to be viewed as a villain. Here are five ways parents can help their teen reclaim a healthy relationship with their social network(s):

  • Model Good Behavior: Your teen will watch what you do and replicate those behaviors, so make sure you abide by the same rules you give your teen. Also, promote a good self-image, avoiding negative speak about yourself and others to instill confidence in your teen about both their outward and inward appearance.
  • Check In: Talk to your teen about what they are seeing in their social feeds and how they feel about it. Asking a question such as, “Do you feel better or worse after looking at social media?” can help you gauge whether these connections are helpful or harmful.
  • Unplug: More than 65 percent of parents are worried that their kids are spending too much time on technology. Try taking a family break for a few days, giving everyone, yourself included, a mental health break from the daily check-in with social media. Take stock of how you all feel to determine if a break should become a regular thing. Additionally, you should consider setting screen limits, such as at the dinner table and before bed.
  • Set Boundaries: Talk to your teen about what content should, and should not be shared, on his or her social media account(s) along with which social media networks they can use. This should include ensuring their privacy restrictions are turned on to limit access to personal information and instructing your teen not to share personal information such as full name, address, telephone number, social security number, passwords, bank or credit card information and more.
  • Use Parental Controls: Only half of parents use parental controls and other content filters. Although you may trust your teen to use social media responsibly, there are still ways for individuals to access your teen. Always monitor their online activities and create your own profiles on the same channels you determine they can use.

Bottom line, not only can social media create connections but also it can act as a gateway to larger issues such as low self-esteem, which can ultimately lead to anxiety, depression, and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

It is important to stay connected to your teen, both on screen and off. If you suspect your teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, we can help. To learn more about our behavioral health programs and services, or to make an appointment, call 440-816-8200.