Social media is rapidly changing the way we communicate. From staying in touch with everyone you’ve ever met on Facebook to sharing your opinions on Twitter and photographs of your life on Instagram, how people connect to each other is much different from how it was even five years ago. With younger generations growing up with social media, they may not be aware of the negative side effects too much social media can have on their mental health. Here are a few tips for parents to help their teenagers stay mentally healthy while using social media.
1. Set a Time Limit on Social Media
Make sure your teeanger isn’t glued to his or her smartphone or computer screen for hours at a time. Social media sites light up the pleasure and reward areas of the brain making social media usage potentially addicting (Los Angeles Times). Letting your child spend countless hours on social media is a surefire way to get them hooked on the Internet. Social media or Internet addiction can lead to social isolation, low self-esteem, depression, and even a lack of sleep (NCBI). To prevent this, set a time limit on social media, such as a half an hour a night for your child. This will allow him or her to still be able to connect with others on social media, but will prevent it from becoming a time-consuming habit.
2. Create Phone-Free Rituals
Don’t let social media take away family time. Creating special events or specific times of day when no one in the family is allowed to use their phone (except for emergencies, of course) will show your teenager that real life relationships are more important than scrolling through a newsfeed. For example, you can have phone-free dinners every night where everyone has to leave all electronic devices in a different room before sitting down at the table. You can also plan phone-free activities, such as going to the movies, going camping, or playing a sport in the backyard, where it would be difficult or impossible to use a cell phone.
3. Encourage Real Life Relationships
It isn’t good enough that your son or daughter texts and direct messages his or her friends; it’s important that he or she sees them in real life, too. Social media has made it easy to talk to anyone with just a tap of a button. It makes sense that more and more people don’t want to go through the hassle of making plans, getting ready, and going out. But face-to-face interactions are vital to everyone’s mental health (Psychcentral). Don’t be upset when your teenager wants to spend time with friends. It’s great he or she wants to be social. If you notice that your teenager is spending too many nights at home, try to encourage him or her to make plans. If your son or daughter is struggling to make good connections, consider helping him or her join a club, group, or sport.
4. Have a Serious Talk About Social Media
When it comes to social media, you should talk to your child about two things: cyberbullying and unrealistic depictions. Teach your son or daughter that you are a safe person to turn to if he or she experiences any form of bullying on the Internet. On the flip side, be sure to warn him or her that being a cyberbully will not be tolerated and in some cases, can warrant legal action. While the Internet may not be “real life,” it should be clear that your child doesn’t get a free pass to say whatever he or she would like to just because it’s the Internet.
Speaking of things that are not real life, teach your child that the lives people post on the Internet are usually nothing like the ones they are actually living. Sure, your teenager might see photos on social media of classmates going on fabulous vacations, visiting trendy restaurants, and posing for cute photos with their significant others, but chances are those aren’t realistic depictions of those people’s lives. People are not going to post about their boring day-to-day routine or the argument they got into with their significant other while taking those cute photos. Seeing how great everyone else’s lives look on social media may lead your son or daughter to feel bad about him or herself. Make sure your child is aware that most of what is posted on social media is not telling the whole story.
5. Educate Yourself on Internet Safety
This tip may not be directly related to mental health, but it will give everyone peace of mind if you are certain the whole family is as safe as possible while using the Internet. Learn about setting parental controls on your family’s computers and check the privacy settings on all of your family members’ social media accounts. Tell each family member to never post vital information such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, and even full birth dates online. Even with the best privacy settings, it’s never a good idea to make your personal information available on the Internet. To find out more about how to keep your family safe, visit this site on Internet privacy and safety.
Golden Takeaway: Social media is changing the way young people talk to each other. But too much social media can have negative effects on their mental health. Be sure you’re helping your teenage son or daughter stay as safe and mentally healthy as possible while using social media.
Subscribe to our e-newsletter for more mental health and wellness articles like this one.
Recommended for You