YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are well-known social networking sites for young people, most of whom are regular users. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, 80% of students ages 7 to 12 visit social media sites daily.
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An education consultant investigated the impact of social media on youth mental health. She mentioned that more research is needed to determine how social media and mental health are related. However, his research indicates that almost half of youth who use social media for two hours or more a day are likely to have early warning signs of mental illness. For example:
- Feel lonely and depressed
- Fear of missing an event, ignoring the latest trends or not achieving personal goals;
- Feel anxious when comparing one’s life to the idealized one conveyed by other users of such a networking site;
- Describe unrealistic expectations about the topics of body beauty and body image;
- Suffer or witness cyber bullying and online harassment;
- Suffering serious disturbances in the quantity and quality of his sleep.
“To help kids and teens build a healthy, safe relationship with social media, they need to be shown how to use these powerful tools responsibly.”
The author claims that the threats of confiscation of phone or other portable device are ineffective in empowering youth in their use of social media. Rather, it offers parents some strategies to get young users to think critically and moderately:
- Set a good example by setting aside devices during meals and conversations;
- Practice taking social media breaks at home;
- Discuss social media interactions with youth and avoid criticizing their responses
- Encourage critical thinking by asking questions (eg, “What are we not talking about in social media?” “Are people exactly the same as they are online, do you think?”).
Finally, the author suggests that parents know the details of the accounts of their children or young teenagers and let them gain a little more privacy online when they have demonstrated that they demonstrate responsible behavior at all times.