Thursday, January 13, 2022 (HealthDay News) – Does your teen stare at his smartphone all day? Experts say there are many things parents can do to protect children from the potential negative effects of social media.
Although there are positive aspects to social media, there is evidence that it can pose mental health risks to teens due to issues such as bullying, concerns about body image, and other social pressures.
“The reality is that social media is part of the world we live in, and it is not going away,” said Marie Radzik, MD, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Adolescent and Youth Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“We can’t just take off our children’s phones or computers. It’s about figuring out how we can guide them to use and navigate these tools,” Radzik said in a hospital news release.
Some signs of problems with teens’ social media include changes in moods, eating and sleeping habits, as well as isolation in their rooms. Radzik suggested that in such cases, parents might want to start a discussion about their teen’s use of social media by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
Instead of saying, “You use Instagram a lot and it’s bad for you,” try, “I noticed this and I’m really worried. Can we talk about it?” If your teen doesn’t want to talk at that moment, tell him you’ll be there when he feels ready.
“Berating will make the young man closed,” Radzik said. “Or sometimes parents search their children’s social media accounts and that can feel invasive. This approach has to come from a place of interest and concern, not something punitive or accusatory.”
Sarah Foyer, MD, a lead social worker in the division of psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said parents should check in frequently and pay attention to teens’ media use.
Parents may want to ask their teens how they use social media — do they share updates with their friends, follow some celebrity or influencer, or are they looking for some sort of advice or help — and how they feel when using it, Foyer said.
If you are sure about the impact of social media on your teen’s mental health, suggest that he take a break or even delete his account.
“There are some kids who can break the cycle, and sometimes it takes a parent to help with that,” Radzik said.
Before a child starts using social media, parents should set standards, according to Radzik.
“Giving children regular access to cell phones at an early age can be a problem,” she said. “I understand the need to use them sometimes, especially age-appropriate materials. But as parents we need to encourage curiosity about the world around them and use creativity tools rather than relying on social media all the time.”
To learn more about children and the media, see the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Source: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, press release, January 10, 2022