As an adult, you may not fully understand the pressure put on teens by social media, unless you yourself are on social media constantly. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram may look harmless from a distance. In small doses, they probably can be. When teenagers spend too much time posting and commenting, however, emotional problems may occur. That’s why it’s a great idea for teens to have easy access to a no-judgement zone where they can take a time out from the pressures of social media.
The trouble with too much social media
NBC News recently reported the results of a four-year study that examined the effect of social media on British kids between the ages of 10 and 15. Conducted by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, the study focused on things like cyber bullying, over-sharing and social comparisons. Noting a marked decrease in actual face-to-face human interactions among adolescents who spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other digital outlets, the study concluded that even one hour per day on social media sites reduces a kid’s satisfaction with real life by a whopping 14 percent.
Psychotherapist Tom Kersting notes that parents can’t just disconnect their kids, because “It has become more than just a part of life; it’s now a way of life.” Doctor Carole Lieberman adds, “Parents need to fill teens’ time with more productive, structured activities, from music lessons to sports, so that teens have less time to go on social media.”
Over-sharing can lead to horrid feelings of regret and embarrassment. To a teenager, those are some of the worst feelings of all. Talk to your child about oversharing and offer good advice about limiting what they expose online about their life.
How to tell if your kid is stressed
Teenagers can be naturally moody creatures with emotions that run the gamut. If you notice their outlook becoming increasingly dark, talk to them. Ask what’s going on and wait for an honest answer. Don’t judge. Just offer a kind ear and your understanding. Then suggest they take a walk, pet a puppy or otherwise do something that has nothing to do with being connected with the Internet.
Peer pressure valve
Any time your kid is doing something IRL, or in real life, they’re probably shedding the stress they accumulated on social media. Encourage your teens to take part in convivial activity that involves face-to-face interaction. Encourage them to do things without ever taking their phone out of their backpack or pocket, say education experts at The Sun.
Any kind of physical exercise, such as walking, running, swimming and playing sports can boost feel-good chemicals and relief the pressure of social media. Art projects are great stress relievers, too. Download a creative art app on the Google App store and watch your kid’s eyes light up as their cares melt away.
Remind your kids that not everything they think, do and eat needs to be made public on social media.
Leo Wright is Dad to a 6 year old, and a part-time step-dad to a 17 year old. He writes about parenting, family and a variety of lifestyle topics in his articles.