It’s never been easy to raise a child, but with the addition of something as widespread, ever-changing and topical as social media, parents can feel as if they’re always playing catch up. According to Verywell Family, 51 percent of teens use social media sites daily. With so many adolescents on social media, it’s important for parents to understand the potential impact that social networking can have on teen mental health.

Social Media and Mental Health

First, parents need to understand the connection between social media and teens in regards to mental health. Essentially, constant use of social media can cause teens to compare themselves to their peers. Peer acceptance is incredibly important at this age, and social media is a way of gaining this acceptance.

According to Psychology Today, one in five teens feel worse about their own life when using social media. With constant comparisons and pressure, social media use can contribute to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and insecurity if not used responsibly. It can also increase risks for anxiety and depression.

What Parents Can Do

While not all social media is bad, it’s clear that having quick and easy access to the lives of others comes with its fair share of detriments. It doesn’t mean that teens should never use social media. Rather, parents can take action to encourage safe and responsible social media use.

Stress the Importance of Face-to-Face Interactions

Parents should make an effort to talk and interact with their teens to remind them of the joys and nuances of face-to-face conversation and interaction, some of which can’t be duplicated when communicating through a screen.

Parents should encourage friendships to develop outside of social media. While social media can be great for communicating with friends, it should not be the means for making friends. If adults notice their child is frequently talking to a friend online, encourage them to hang out face to face. Sports and social activities are great for developing meaningful relationships offline.

Set a Good Example

Some parents have just as many social media profiles as their kids, making it even more important for both adolescents and adults alike to understand the effects of social media on mental health. For that reason, parents should model good behavior and remember to interact with people without using an electronic device as a medium. It might seem as if teens are constantly glued to their phones and tablets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see their parents doing the same thing.

Ask Them Questions

Sometimes, the best way to figure out how social media is impacting your kids is to ask them outright. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask their teens how they feel when they use social media, and why they feel that way. A simple conversation can be just the realization or wakeup call teens and adults alike need to reduce or disconnect from social media.

There are certainly risks associated with social media use. If you notice that social media is negatively impacting your teenager’s life, take action. It may be as simple as limiting screen time. In some instances, professional help may be necessary, especially if you notice signs of depression, anxiety or suicide. Mental health experts can help your child improve their self-esteem, while providing you with tools to develop open and honest communication with each other.

Author's Bio: 

Desiree Patton is a Media Correspondent for Pyramid Healthcare, Inc., a provider of treatment for adults and teens suffering from addiction or substance abuse, as well as individuals with mental health disorders. Our locations in western, central, and eastern Pennsylvania allow us to provide comprehensive care across the entire state to people with behavioral health issues.