It's no surprise that teen suicide is growing at an alarming rate. Today's youths have far more struggles with depression, anxiety, loneliness and low self-esteem. This is due to the high impact of social media (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat). Many teens who are affected by social media find it difficult to express their feelings or have no one they feel comfortable speaking to which creates an inner explosion of mixed feelings.
Parents, maybe you are aware of some of the apps your teen is using or not sure how they are spending their time on their phone. According to a recent interview by The Pew Research Center, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram are among the most popular apps used by teens today. 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and about 45% of them are constantly online every day. As a therapist, I have seen the hidden dangers of using social media and how it can impact the mental health of adolescents.
Here are some strategies to use to help your teen establish a healthier relationship with social media.
1. Learn the Apps and terminology of social media.
Parents, learn the terms, such as "streak, swipe, subs, bitmoji, F4F, meme, ghost followers, etc". Be observant with the terms your teen is using to discuss what they're doing on social media. It's okay to ask your teen questions about something you don't know regarding social media. This may be a great way to build a bonding relationship with your teen and learn of any challenges they have with using social media. You can use this as an opportunity to educate your teen on the use of safety on social media and ensuring their accounts are private.
2. Observe their interaction with their friends.
Social media allows teens to connect and engage with their friends and express themselves on a social platform. However, social media is a place where teens can be found comparing themselves to filtered images on the internet or engaging in drama filled behaviors. Does your teen spend more time engaging with their friends on social media resulting in gossip and drama? If so, your teen may need some guidance on how to create healthy peer relationships.
3. Provide emotional support.
Does your teen use social media as a place to vent their frustrations? Sometimes, your teen may not have a peer group they feel comfortable sharing their frustrations with and result in expressing how they feel on social media. Teens are constantly looking for spaces to feel validation and acceptance. Parents, it's important to monitor this behavior closely to see if your teen needs to consult with a therapist to develop coping strategies.
4. Establish social media boundaries.
Social media can contribute to your teen's mental health and feelings of anxiety and exhaustion may pop up. Create a schedule that will ensure your teen isn't using social media excessively. You want to make sure your teen isn't using social media as a distraction from completing tasks, such as homework and chores. You can help your teen by creating alternative activities that do not require technology, such as dancing, painting, art, cooking, board games, reading, etc.
Remember, there are some pros and cons to social media. Establish a list of pros and cons with your teen to teach them how to navigate their successes and challenges with social media. If you are finding yourself frustrated with your teen usage on social media, please feel free to give us a call. Our therapist specializes in helping teens build executive functioning skills and getting back on track!