3 Essential Tips For Any Parent To Promote Positive Mental Health In Children Who Use Social Media.
It’s a fair statement to say social media and technology now plays a massive part in our lives, especially with the younger generation.
The way we connect and communicate with others has shifted hugely from the days of sending letters or meeting in person. If you ask anyone born before the birth of the internet, they would argue that this change has been for the worse.
Despite these views, social media is here to stay, but the question on everyone’s minds is how does it affect our mental health?
"For young adults and teenagers, they have become reliant on these ‘hits of dopamine’ to lift up their sense of self.”
In this article, I hope to break down some common issues that social media use can cause and provide you with 3 essential tips to help manage it uses with your children.
1. Can you have too much of a good thing?
Well, in this case, the answer is yes, you can.
It cannot be denied that Social Media does a fantastic job in allowing us to connect with people around the world. The question is, how much is too much? I am sure many of you can picture the scene, a family sitting down for a meal and yet nobody is talking because they are using their phones.
“They continuously DEMAND your attention, and if we don’t check, it makes us ask the question…. what are we missing out on?”
The most significant impact this will have on younger generation’s mental health is that using social media too much may disrupt the time they have to take part in activities that have been proven to help promote positive well being such as being active and sleeping.
Many young people often will stay up too late at night on the phones, and not thinking of the damage it will have on their health. There is plenty of evidence to show that the light produced from these devices can and does disrupt sleep patterns.
For further information, go to this article from Harvard Health.
As a parent, this can be difficult to manage, but, in my experience, the best solution is to implement a specific set of rules that limit the times when your children can use the phones.
Good starting points are no mobile phones at the dinner table and making sure phones are not kept in the bedrooms in the evening after a particular time. A good tip is to lead by example. You will have initial resistance, but once the habit is in place, it will have a significant impact on your children’s wellbeing and your own.
2. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Social media allows us to share our lives for the whole world to see. Our young children will see celebrities appearing perfect, with their airbrushed reality and not understand this is not the real person.
Social media encourages us to share details of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. Commonly we frequently only share the great things because we want others to like us.
Carl Rogers, the father of person-centred counselling, explored the idea of this external locus of evaluation. This theory explains how many people operate from a frame of reference that they evaluate their worth based on an external sense of acceptance. It is developed during childhood through conditions of worth based on approval from those closest to them through what they can “offer” and continues to be a factor through the rest of our lives.
In our modern age of social media and technology, this external locus is forever present in how we use them. These platforms are designed around the idea of external acceptance of likes and comments. For young adults and teenagers, they have become reliant on these ‘hits of dopamine’ to lift up their sense of self.
Sadly, unless the core of social media changes, we will never really change the effect these have on our young people’s mental health. There have been some changes from Facebook, though, as they have been experimenting in Australia by hiding publicly the number of likes we have on our posts on Facebook and Instagram. It’s early days and time will tell if this will have the desired impact.
“It promotes a mindset of instant gratification and again is designed to give us that hit of dopamine that makes us feel good.”
My top tip is not to worry about how social media works, but how your children feel with external acceptance. You can help build their resilience by assisting them in understanding that no matter how much they try, not everyone will love them. An excellent place to start is by having conversations about how people manipulate their audiences with selective photographs and language. They must understand that what they feel internally of themselves is what matters most.
One of the common downsides to putting yourself out there on the internet is the likely hood to be the victim of cyberbullying and trolls increases. You can help build their resilience by having honest and open conversations with your children about bullying, how they might feel around it and promoting positive ways to manage these negative behaviours.
3. You have got to be in it to win it!
There was a time when Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat was just an idea, and no one knew of them. They have grown to become a worldwide phenomenon that has engulfed how we interact with the world. As there use has increased, so has the feeling that unless you're using them, then you're missing out.
They have been designed around the idea of promoting this idea of ‘missing out’. They often use constant notifications, annoying pings to remind us of their presence. They continuously DEMAND your attention, and if we don’t check, it makes us ask the question…. what are we missing out on?
In the mind of a young person, this can lead to long term harmful behaviour. It promotes a mindset of instant gratification and again is designed to give us that hit of dopamine that makes us feel good.
This bombardment of information and desire to get your attention can distract us from ourselves and lead to ‘overwhelm’. We must have a moment to switch off from external sources and be at one with ourselves. By shifting that locus of evaluation internally it helps to build positive self-esteem.
Another tip to help you manage the effect of this on your children is to consider adjusting the setting of these notifications on their mobile devices and applications. Most people are unaware that you can change what you want to be notified by and when.
An important feature is DND or Do Not Disturb. DND allows you to set your phone to stop notifications at certain times but still allow important people to contact you. Click the links to help you set these up depending on if you have an Android device or Apple device
Social Media is here to stay
I hope by reading this article, you have come away with a better understanding of the possible impact it can have on your children and some ways to help them manage its uses.
Social media is not within itself an inherently negative thing and has changed how we communicate with others. You can easily argue that social media has had a positive impact on many people’s mental health as it has allowed them to connect with their loved ones and share their lives. Like all things in life, a little of a good thing can do you good, but when you overindulge, it can lead to harmful habits and behaviours.
If you want more information or have any concerns for your children, I suggest you have a look at the website www.thinkuknow.co.uk as it gives parents great tips on how to manage their children’s use of the internet and the possible issues that can arise.
Who am I, and what do I do?
My name is David Breaker, and I am a certified life coach based in Medway in Kent. I work with clients and business owners who are lacking purpose or passion in their lives. I have personal experience of lacking purpose, suffering from poor mental health and have years of experience of working with people to positively improve their mental health and wellbeing.
For more information, please feel free to look at my website at www.breakthroughlifecoaching.life and book a free consultation today!