Most parents understand the importance of discussing online safety and security with their children, but may not understand how regular social media use can have a negative impact on mental well-being. Even innocent interactions can have a dark side. It’s time to take a deeper look at teen social media behavior.
Vitriolic political headlines (the bread and butter of Twitter) can make it seem as though the world is constantly ending, and the endless parade of self-congratulatory posts about job promotions, status updates regarding happy relationships, and photos of beaming babies on Facebook can be equally depressing at times.
To particularly impressionable minds, such as some adolescent users, it can wreak havoc on their psyche. Spending time on social media isn’t exactly the best idea when you are feeling particularly anxious or blue — and no angst is quite as fierce as teenage angst.
You can help your child develop a more positive relationship with social media, as well as maintain an overall healthier perspective, by starting a dialogue with them.
Research suggests that social media use has been linked to both anxiety and depression, and females are particularly vulnerable. In fact, teens who use more social media platforms are proportionally more likely to develop mental illness. While outright barring your child from social media use seems a bit extreme, you should at least discuss the issue with them.
Despite the very public nature of social media itself, teens may have difficulty opening up about their online behavior to family members. Nevertheless, with tact, you can open a channel of communication.
Two Practical Tips to Engage with Your Teen
Have your teenager track their social media usage. Ask them to note the reasons they feel compelled to use social media, if any specific posts had a strong impression on them, and how they feel after using it. While going through this information yourself may be an invasion of privacy, it can help them organize their thoughts and note trends about their online behavior.
Don’t be afraid to let your teenager be the expert. Ask for their help in setting up new social media platforms. When you let them demonstrate their knowledge about social media, you can help them lower their emotional barriers when it comes to discussing their experiences.
Preparing Your Child for Their Digital Future
When it comes to social media behavior, mental wellness is not the only concern. Everything from work to education is becoming increasingly digital. The etiquette you teach your child today will impact their opportunities tomorrow; they will need to be prepared to develop and maintain a positive online reputation. Whether they will need to impress future potential employers or simply make new friends in online classes, their online behavior can open (or close) many doors.
Stress that there is no true distinction between “real behavior” and “online behavior.” Explain that legal and social fallout that can follow what they do online, even if they believe that they are engaging with others anonymously.
By adopting the strategies listed above, you can begin to lower emotional barriers and engage in constructive discussions. Not only will this lead to a more positive mindset, it may safeguard your child from limiting their future opportunities.