Social Media’s Toll on Relationships

Today, adolescent mental health disorders are escalating at an alarming rate. 1 in 5 youth experience a mental health challenge. Disorders such as depression and anxiety have risen as much as 30 percent since 2005, leaving researchers asking: “what has changed?” Some studies have pointed to the ill effects of excessive social media exposure and its role in the fundamental breakdown of interpersonal relationships.

“Instead of talking to friends and family about what is going on in their lives, we just keep up on social media,” said Canopy Children’s Solutions Outpatient Therapist Caleb Cauthen. “We as a society aren’t connecting like we used to and our relationships are suffering as a result. As social beings, we need those healthy connections to thrive”.

One study published by Clinical Psychological Science reported that increased use of social media correlates to an increased risk of feeling sad or hopeless and increased thoughts of or attempted suicide. This could be in part from the false perceptions that everyone’s life is exciting and perfect according to social media, which can have a detrimental effect on young self-esteem. The rise in cyber-bullying and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) is also believed to have increased rates of anxiety as well as depression.

“People often use social media as a way to display the best parts of their day,” said Cauthen. “We don’t typically share about our struggles because that makes us vulnerable. If all we see on social media is perfection, it is easy to begin to think our life isn’t measuring up”.

Social Media’s Toll on Relationships

Social media in and of itself is not bad, however, using social media in place of personal relationships is not only bad, it can be dangerous. We need these close relationships to fall back on during crises and without shared experiences and regular interaction, the foundations of these relationships fall apart. Personal bonds are sources of encouragement, belonging, support and comfort and without them, life can feel hopeless.

While social media is certainly not going away anytime soon, there are some things we can do to help strengthen relationships and build stronger connections to protect from these feelings.

  • Encourage your teen to “clean up” her social media. Help her realize that QUALITY is more important that QUANTITY. Remove social media distractions and focus on the relationships that translate to real life—the people you see, talk to, interact with.
  • Encourage face-to-face social interaction. Have your child join a club, get involved in a church youth group, get a part-time job—encourage to be around peers who he can bond with over shared experiences or common interests.
  • Monitor your child’s social media accounts. It is the parents’ responsibility to know what is going on in their child’s life, including what he posts, sees and is involved with on social media.
  • “Check-in” on your teen’s mental health. At least once a week, take a few minutes to sit down, undistracted, and connect with your child.
  • Teach your child self-validation, that he is more than the number of followers he has or the amount of likes received in a week. Teach him to look at the big picture and to find the positives he brings to his own life.
  • Take social media breaks. Institute rules about social media and technology during meal times to encourage conversation and connection; take a social media vacation while on vacation—long or short, give yourself a break from comparisons and the mental “burden” that come with social media.
  • Lead by example. If your child sees you on social media all the time, she will follow your example.
  • Be vigilant. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, reach out, press in, let her know you are there.

If you notice your child withdrawing, acting out of character, losing interest in activities, or participating in risky behavior, be aware these are potential signs of depression. If you think your child is struggling emotionally, seek professional help. Don’t wait.

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 edition of Parents & Kids Northeast Magazine. To find more articles and resources, visit their website at www.parentsandkids.com.  

This feature was submitted by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

 

Test for Success

Grades are important, they help determine college selections, scholarship eligibility, and can guide future careers. One-third of all teens experience anxiety, particularly leading up to midterms, finals, ACTs and SATs. As parents, you can help ease children’s anxiety while encouraging them to do their best.

“Parents should support their children academically; however, some parents will add to the pressure a child already feels,” said Stephanie Moses, MAMFT, Outpatient Therapist for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Children need the freedom to be children while acknowledging their academic responsibilities. It’s about balance.”

Preparing your child for strong academic performance begins at an early age. Instilling a love of learning through books, puzzles and academic play shows your child that learning is important. As a child grows, adapting those learning skills helps to support them in school and shows them you are equally engaged in their success. Ways to support these skills include practicing spelling words in the car, reviewing fractions while baking cookies, or reading a chapter in a book together before bed. Establishing strong study skills early is also important so that a child is accustomed to balancing school and other responsibilities. Well before a child reaches high school, these skills should be well-established. However, parents still play a critical role in their reinforcement, especially around busy test seasons.

Time management. Encourage your teen to develop a study schedule. Remind them that subjects where they excel will require less time than those where they may struggle and to budget time accordingly.

Conducive environment. Help your teen identify a setting that supports productive studying. Find a peaceful place without distractions that will help your child focus.

Encouragement. Offer your child an encouraging word when you check in on their progress. Checking in also helps you gauge burnout when a teen may need to take a break or move to another subject.

Perspective. Some teens thrive under stress but if stress negatively impacts them, give them perspective. One test or one grade isn’t going to impact their lives all that much. Reassure your teen that it will be ok, regardless of the outcome, as long as they do their best.

It’s ok to ask for help. If your child needs help, seek out local resources such as ACT prep classes, tutors or study groups. Also, if your child can’t control their stress and anxiety, schedule an appointment with a local therapist to help them develop positive coping skills and give them an opportunity to work through their stress.

Stay healthy. Ask your teen to join you for a bike ride or take a walk together. Provide nutritious meals and snacks that fuel their body and their brain. Remind your teen they need adequate sleep to properly focus and retain information. Drink lots of water and boost your immune system with daily vitamins to help stay well during test seasons.

no stress

Celebrate small victories. Did your teen complete their report on the Greek Classic The Iliad? Did they score an 89 on their Trigonometry test? Did they just come home from their first time taking the ACT? Then celebrate! Go out for dinner and ice cream, watch a movie, grab a cup of coffee or go shopping together. These opportunities tell your teen, regardless of the outcome, that you are proud of their efforts and you support them no matter what.

While it is important that we support our children’s goals and push them to reach their full potential, we must be cautious not to push beyond their limits. Remind your children that if they do their very best, that’s all you expect. It is our jobs as parents to support our children in failure and success.

By Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions