The risks associated with social media are regularly reported in the media, and you may have experienced some of them already yourself or with your kids. A new study (Primack et al., 2018) adds important research to the discussion, finding that negative experiences on social media are significantly correlated with increased depressive feelings (a greater effect than positive experiences have in the inverse direction).
Among over 1,000 students between the ages of 18 and 30, the study found that each 10 percent increase in negative experiences was correlated with a 20 percent increase in the likelihood of depressive symptoms. In lay terms, study participants reported that negative experiences on social media led to more depressive symptoms. Considering such research, how can parents use this information to help their teenage children?
The study in question focuses on adults, but parents addressing social media use with kids — especially teens — can prevent problems later. Teenagers, of course, are a mercurial bunch, caught in a life stage fraught with hormones, identity struggles, and intense social pressures. Many (or most?) teens won’t want to talk at length with their parents about some of their negative feelings, so parents must figure out a way to connect with them about this issue in a way that doesn’t feel too intrusive or emotionally threatening.
Some parents manage the dangers of social media by either requiring that the children include them in their network or by disallowing social media use altogether. What I have found in my clinical work is that telling a child “no” often has the opposite effect: it causes secretive behavior and a mix of resentful or angry feelings. Rather than over controlling kids, the key is to teach kids the best possible lessons so that they don’t feel compelled to engage in unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors. (If social media use increases negative feelings, that behavior is ultimately self-destructive.)
– Seth Myers
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