What social media overuse might be doing to your teen
Scrolling on social media is something many of us do for hours a day, even though we know we shouldn’t. But this common behavior can be harmful – especially to teens, who are prone to social media overuse.
Brittany Peters, MD, a psychiatrist who works with adults, children and adolescents, explained how social media overuse can affect a teenager’s mental health and how parents can protect their kids.
Is using social media unhealthy for teens?
“Social media use is not all negative,” Dr. Peters said. “Teens use social media to connect with peers and find others with similar interests. It can be a medium for self-expression and exploring aspects of their identity.”
However, use of social media does not come without risk.
“Teens may not understand what information is safe to share with others,” she added. “They may be exposed to cyberbullying or inappropriate content. Social media use can be difficult to regulate. Also, hours spent scrolling social media can interfere with time that should be spent on self-care, such as sleep, exercise, eating, or in person socialization.”
How can parents help teens use social media responsibly?
Teenagers need guidance regarding use of social media including rules around what information is appropriate to share, how much time should be spent using social media and how social media use will be monitored.
Here are some steps she recommended for parents:
- Talk to your teens about friending or following their accounts so you can monitor their posted content.
- Set expectations about when social media can be used and when it can’t. For example, require them to put the phone away while eating meals or until homework or chores are completed.
- Familiarize yourself with the privacy and sharing features on social media apps to limit access to personal information. Make sure their location services are turned to “off.”
Why it’s important to encourage direct communication
Modern teens do much of their communication via text and social media which limits development of social skills by reading in person verbal cues and facial expressions.
“Learning to effectively communicate is an important skill that is further developed in adolescents, and this can be limited when communication occurs exclusively over electronic devices,” Dr. Peters said. “Parents can help with this by modeling behaviors such as putting devices away during meals and conversations and giving their teens their full attention when engaged in discussion.”
Also, get teens involved in activities they are interested in that don’t involve screens such as sports, music or volunteering.
If you are finding it difficult to establish and enforce rules around social media use, ask your pediatrician for guidance or seek the help of a mental health professional.
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