The pervasive influence of social media on the lives of Generation Z is undeniable, with up to 95 percent of young individuals aged 13 to 17 using various platforms. Surprisingly, even children as young as 8 to 12 years old make up a staggering 40 percent of social media users, despite the age restrictions in place.
Concerns about the detrimental impact of social media on mental health, particularly among teenagers and young children, have escalated to alarming levels. In response, the advisory on social media and youth mental health offers crucial insights and actionable recommendations to protect the well-being of today’s digitally connected generation.
Here are five valuable tips from the advisory that can help teenagers navigate social media while safeguarding their mental health.
Cultivate awareness of potential mental health challenges for yourself and your friends.
A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics over a three-year period revealed that adolescents who check their social media accounts at least 15 times a day are at a higher risk of becoming hypersensitive to social feedback. This hypersensitivity, caused by developmental changes in the adolescent brain, can have lasting detrimental effects on mental health.
Encouraging open communication and empathy among peers is essential. Stress the importance of seeking help when needed and recognizing signs of mental distress. Support your friends in reaching out to trusted adults or mental health professionals whenever they feel it necessary.
Establish boundaries between your online and offline personas.
Remember that social media should complement your social life, not replace it. It is crucial to allocate screen-free time during the day, especially during meal times and before bedtime.
Creating this distinction allows you to separate your real-life identity from the persona you project online. Building genuine relationships and connections outside of social media can significantly combat the distress often perpetuated by the online world, breaking the vicious cycle.
A recent study on the impact of social media likes and feedback on adolescent mental health warns that excessive social media use can lead to increased body image concerns, self-objectification, social comparison, envy, and cyberbullying. Fostering real-world connections helps mitigate these risks.
Develop healthy habits regarding privacy, fact-checking, and screen time.
Research conducted in 2021 suggests that early teenagers’ beliefs about privacy are intricate and multifaceted, as they navigate the delicate balance between privacy protection and social connectedness.
Recognize that you have control over how much information is accessible to others, including corporations. Be mindful of the risks associated with sharing personal data with entities online. Educate yourself about the privacy policies of your preferred social media platforms, and if needed, seek guidance from a trusted adult who can help you navigate the terms and conditions.
It’s important to remember that not everything you encounter on social media is factual. Don’t be swayed by others’ opinions without critical thought and fact-checking. Develop your own perspectives while respecting those of others. Cultivating these critical thinking skills will serve you well as you mature.
Exercise caution when sharing personal information online.
Oversharing on social media carries significant risks for adolescents, including cyberbullying, online shaming, and identity theft. A study published in Psychological Reports in 2022 revealed that boys tend to overshare more than girls, with higher levels of oversharing associated with anxiety, attention-seeking behavior, and social media addiction.
To protect your privacy and avoid negative consequences, be mindful of what and how much you share online. The study’s findings highlight the importance of thoughtful self-disclosure online and emphasize the need for young people to consider the potential psychological and security implications of oversharing.
Speak out against cyberbullying and seek support from trusted adults.
Experiencing cyberbullying can cause significant emotional distress and have long-lasting effects on mental health. Remember that being a victim of cyberbullying is not shameful, and it is crucial to take action against it. If you or someone you know is being cyberbullied, don’t hesitate to speak up and confront the behavior, whether it affects you directly or others.
Seek guidance from a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or counselor. They can provide support, intervene effectively, and offer guidance to address the situation. Additionally, refrain from perpetuating hurtful content about others and report offensive material when encountered. Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected online.
Empowering young individuals to protect their mental health in the face of social media’s influence is vital. By implementing these strategies, adolescents can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to make informed decisions, seek support when needed, and prioritize their mental well-being in the digital age.