Humans are communal creatures that crave deep bonds with others. Being socially linked with others can relieve stress, restlessness, depression, promote self-worth, establish community, and ward off alienation. However, many parents worry whether the bonds made by their children and teens online are meeting their kid’s social needs and where they need to draw the line when it comes to setting expectations for social media use in 2022.
Our blog today reviews some of the positives that you can find for your teen’s mental health online.
The Rise of Social Media
Technology has unquestionably led to the current way young people relate and interact with one another. Some platforms in particular, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok, provide several ways for our kids to connect with their friends, crushes, family members, and others across the globe who share their interests. Social media has demonstrated its ability to be an incredibly healing resource because of the surge of connectedness it provides with one another.
While we sometimes view it as entirely separate, social media platforms often function as an expansion of our offline life. Sharing interests with friends, creating profiles with photos and videos, and building a supportive network are just some of the ways we can engage online. Beyond the connection it provides with people we know, social media platforms also offer our teens opportunities to learn from professionals and influencers sharing helpful tips.
The Future of Social Media
While many parents worry about the negative effects of social media, there are some positives to keep in mind. As a generation raised on the internet, young people usually are more comfortable discussing topics online that may be trickier to handle in real life. Digital health interventions, especially for teens with depression and anxiety, have produced very positive signs. In fact, 47% of individuals under 21 recognized that it is simpler to disclose their mental health problems online.
As accessibility to technology advances, young people will become even more media literate, allowing them to build knowledge about themselves and the world around them and effectively avoid online risks (such as being exposed to inappropriate content).
Some teens who have encountered extreme disconnection—through addiction, loss, grief, trauma, or other ways—can regain connections with extended family members and forge relationships with the greater global community to reinforce their sense of belonging.
Other Positive Aspects of Social Media
Social media platforms allow young people the opportunity to:
- Communicate and stay up to date with family and friends around the world
- Find friends and communities; network with new people who share similar interests or ambitions
- Join or promote worthy causes on critical issues
- Access 24-hour mental health services
- Find an outlet for creativity and self-expression
- Discover sources of valuable information and spaces to further their learning
In addition to these positives, many therapists are showing up in the online space, using social media tools to spread their message, build their platform, and cultivate courage in young people to ask for support.
Creating Social Media Boundaries for Your Teens
While it’s true that social media can be a good thing, it’s still important to provide the guardrails that will help your teens stay on the right track. The older they are, the more freedom they should be allowed to set their own boundaries, so long as they are following through with their other responsibilities in the household.
It should also be said that just because you print out a list or have them sign a contract doesn’t mean that your teens will automatically fall in line. Teens are curious about whether you mean what you say, and will test those limits—it’s in their nature.
While there are a number of boundaries that may make sense for your family, we think that these are two considerations that can be universally applied.
- Create straightforward boundaries – things can get complicated very quickly once you allow a complex system to determine how long they have access to technology, and it may be best to stick with a certain number of hours a night or weekend that are forfeit for the next 24 hours if they don’t log off or return the device to you within the requested window of time. This puts responsibility back into their hands, and can help teach time management.
- Talk to your teens about who they’re following – rather than necessitating a “full access” rule, recognize that there are better ways to encourage conversation with your teens about what the algorithm has chosen for them in their TikTok, Instagram, or Youtube scrolling. Discover who they follow and why, and what captures their interest. You may suggest having them follow or subscribe to mental health accounts, body positivity feeds, or inspirational messaging.
Of course, the rules that your family puts in place will need to make sense for your teen, and while this is not an exhaustive list of boundaries, the point is that you need to consider the messaging that you’re placing on social media and whether you’re harnessing its power for good. There are many positives to be found in the world online, and it’s important to embrace them as they become foundational parts of your teens’ lives.
At PURE Health Center, we have specific resources and therapy made for teens. We are also on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Connect with us on social media or on our website to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists!