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Social media use among adolescents is something that concerns us all, especially parents. Not all adolescent social media is bad. In fact, it is recommended that healthy social media socialization is possible and encouraged. Here, teens can find support, companionship, and emotional intimacy.
Still, there are dangers with social media. As a result, we are becoming more comfortable speaking up and reaching out. The U.S. Surgeon General’s recent advisory says what many of us already know:
Social media poses potential “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”
The basis of healthy social media use among adolescents
There are both obvious and not-so-obvious social media impacts due to the fact that some features on social media platforms are visible while many are not.
Each teenager, family, and community is unique.
The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes the threat that adolescent social media can create. As a result, they recently issued a health advisory with tips and recommendations for healthy social media use.
The rationale is simple: our children are still developing and require health habits and interactions to be healthy.
Although teenagers can be very capable of expressing themselves, adolescent development is gradual and continuous; they are still a work in progress. Importantly, their transition into adulthood begins with biological and neurological changes even before puberty is seen (usually beginning at 10 years old). Compared to late adolescence and early adulthood, the potential risks are likely to be greater in early adolescence (at younger ages) because it is a period of greater biological, social, and psychological transitions.
Some of the APA’s most important recommendations are below.
Limit hours of adolescent social media exposure
While there is no set amount of time suggested, social media use should not interfere with other activities, including offline socialization. Young people need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Technology before bedtime is shown to disrupt sleep. It is recommended that teens unplug at least one hour before bedtime.
Offer social media literacy training
By helping teens understand the dynamics of social media algorithms, training is needed to help them increase their positive use of social media and learn to interpret the accuracy of the information, how to avoid detrimental social comparison, recognize racism and sexism, how to avoid trolling and negativity, and how to build positive relationships online.
Limit social comparison processes
Research shows that online social comparison leads to poor body image, disordered eating, and depressive symptoms, especially among girls. To limit these negative impacts, girls need to be taught how to resist the pressures of sharing photos, judging others and themselves by physical appearance, and balancing their need for excessive attention. By having a positive support system in place, girls can prevent being psychologically impacted by feedback such as comments and emoji responses.
Limit exposure to cyberhate
Teens need to be taught how to spot cyberhate, pivot to more positive engagement, and heal from triggers. Critical thinking life skills, such as those that Sisterhood Agenda teaches with our A Journey Toward Womanhood Program will help a lot.
Prioritize sleep over social media
Teens need to be encouraged to go to sleep at a decent hour in order to function and be ready to learn in school. It is helpful to have a technology cutoff time that is at least one hour before bedtime. This sleeping guideline is helpful for both children and adults and helps to promote holistic health, in general.
We are still learning more about adolescent social media, social media addiction, and its impacts on all of us, especially young people. The more research devoted to this topic, the more we can understand adolescent social media and protect our children.
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels