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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield - Teen Mental Health in the Digital Age



Social media is everywhere in our lives, both as a connection hub and an avenue for information dissemination. We go through class works with scholarly articles found on Google; make friends and sustain connections through Instagram or Linkedin; and follow our dearest celebrities on YouTube. Social media is unarguably a useful tool that we may not be able to live without in the modern era. Yet, as most products in our world appear to have good and bad, it is important to navigate the negative impacts of social media too, especially for youths - one of the largest groups of social media users. How is the internet affecting us mentally? How should we navigate the digital world? To address this complex landscape, we've compiled insights from Mayo Clinic Staff and Dr. Sheila Modir, a pediatric psychologist at CHOC, to guide teens and caregivers in safeguarding mental wellness while staying informed. Read on for a complete guide to social media usage for teens.


Statistics

To navigate the problem we need to first understand the impact of social media. Mayo Clinic emphasizes the significant role social media plays in the lives of teenagers, citing a 2022 survey revealing that 35% of teens use platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat several times a day. While these platforms offer connectivity, they also pose challenges to mental health, varying from person to person based on online activities, screen time, psychological factors, and personal circumstances.


There are various potential positive and negative effects of social media on teens' mental health. Healthy use involves creating online identities, connecting with like-minded individuals, and accessing support networks, which can be crucial to safeguard teen’s mental development. However, unhealthy aspects of the internet may include distraction from essential activities, exposure to biased information, and the risk of cyberbullying.


What Can We Do?

Here are some tips suggested by professionals to guide youths and caregivers to use social media responsibly:


  1. Check-in before clicking:Before engaging with content, assess your mental state to ensure you are in the right headspace to consume potentially distressing material. Being mindful of your news intake allows for selective viewing.


  1. Educate yourself about yourself:Understand your social media limits and be aware of how specific content impacts you physically and emotionally. Recognize cues from your mind and body as valuable signals.


  1. Curate your content consciously:Choosing not to view graphic or distressing imagery doesn't signify indifference. It demonstrates an understanding of emotional boundaries and allows for engagement in alternative, meaningful ways.


  1. Advocate offline:While the internet informs, offline actions make a tangible impact. Support causes outside the online world through direct actions, volunteering, or utilizing artistic talents for advocacy.


  1. Limit your exposure:Set time limits for social media use and take digital breaks to avoid excessive screen time. Establishing a structured social media plan with your family can help manage online time effectively.


  1. Be aware of misinformation:Pause and fact-check if something induces stress. Verify information using trustworthy sources to ensure accuracy.


  1. Practice a mindful moment:Balance online time with mindfulness or meditation to remain aware of your online habits and decompress afterward.


  1. Seek social support:Utilize social media to connect with friends and family for support, joy, and shared interests. Communicate emotional boundaries to foster respectful online interactions.


  1. Find ways to disconnect and distract:Occasionally take breaks from digital devices and engage in alternative activities, replacing screen time with hobbies or enjoyable pursuits.


With the new technological breakthrough of AI, it is without a doubt that this digital age is in an ongoing process of expansion. It is only becoming more important to reassess personal limits and practice mindful choices amidst a social-media-heavy lifestyle. We hope this blog can provide some helpful insights regarding how teens and individuals can navigate social media responsibly, and maintain a healthy balance that nurtures one’s personal well-being. 



Writer: Coco Zhu


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