How to Help Your Teens Avoid the Pitfalls of Social Media – Hope 103.2

How to Help Your Teens Avoid the Pitfalls of Social Media

By Clare BruceTuesday 19 Dec 2017Hope Mornings

Listen: Collett Smart chats to Katrina Roe on helping teens have a positive time on social media.

Teens are talking to strangers regularly online, their sleep patterns and self-esteem are being affected by social media, and parents need to become more aware of their childrens’ social app use.

Those are some of the main findings of a new study from the Australian Psychological Society, called the Digital Me Survey.

The survey, of more than 1000 Australian adults and 150 teens, found teens are now spending more than three hours a day on social media—with some logging in up to 50 times a day. Snapchat is the app teens log onto most frequently, followed closely by Instagram.

And nearly 8 in 10 teens display “high mobile phone involvement”- which is pretty close to addiction, including behaviours like reaching for the phone for no reason, inability to reduce their use, and a fear of being without their phone.

Adults aren’t immune either, with more than half of those aged 18 and over suffering the same problem. While Australians have an overall positive experience with social media, it’s the findings about stranger contact, and the lack of parental awareness, that’s most worrying to experts.

Parents Have an Important Role to Play

Many teens are being contacted by, or making contact with, complete strangers in Facebook. Four in every ten teens have this experience at least a couple of times a year, while 15 per cent say stranger contact happens every day.

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And 60 per cent of parents don’t know about it, because they’re not monitoring their children’s online activity. For psychologist and parenting expert Collett Smart, that’s the most troubling finding.

“I find anecdotally with parents I work with, that if their teens are doing well with social media, their parents are actually engaged and monitoring it,” she said.

“Teach them to always engage with their peers and use social media to enhance their relationships, not replace them.”

She urges parents to become more involved with what their children and teens are doing online: “Monitoring and talking is not the same as spying and stalking. You just have to be around, and chat with your teens about their online life.”

Ask them about conversations they’re having online, and the potential consequences. Discuss with them how they feel about certain posts. And limit their time online.

“Talk to them about the stats that say once you get over two hours of connection on social media, that’s when we see the poor mental health issues arise,” suggests Collett. “Get them outdoors, make sure there’s a balance, that they’re playing sport too. And keep reiterating that the person in front of you that you’re talking with, is more important than the person on the screen.

“Teach them to always engage with their peers and use social media to enhance their relationships, not replace them.”

She said parents need to practice what they preach too.

“We need to model for our children. We can’t say ‘don’t look at your screen while you’re talking to me’, and then we do the same.”

Social Media Stealing our Sleep and our Joy

young woman on bed using mobile phone

Most teenagers (three in five) and two in five adults, are staring at the stimulating, glowing world of social media, immediately before they go to sleep. And almost as many are checking their apps as soon as they wake up.

They may not realise it, but it’s affecting their health.

Other studies have found that people who spend more time on social media are more likely to experience sleep problems and symptoms of depression.

Social media and technology are also impacting our self esteem, with two thirds of teenagers feeling a pressure to look good, and adults very concerned about their appearance too, especially those using Instagram.

“Almost half [of teens] feel like others are living the dream and they’re not,” Collett said. “Three out of five teens feel like they need to feel validated… they feel really down when somebody doesn’t respond to a post. And we have a whole lot of teens feeling excluded when their friends put things online about their social activities.”

Make Your Social Media Experience Positive

Overall, Aussies have an “overwhelmingly” positive experience with digital media according to the study, because it entertains them and connects them with friends and family.

The Australian Psychological Society has developed some posters with tips for keeping your online life healthy. They are “8 Tips for Thriving in the Digital Age” for adults, and “10 Tips for Teens: Thriving in the Digital Age”.

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