This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent & Teen Communication
Throughout the pandemic we’ve relied on technology for school, work, and socializing. The increase in technology use has created concerns about our teen’s mental health, physical well-being, and social skills. I’ve heard parents contemplating a summer digital detox but there are better ways to support teen technology use and mental health.
3 Ways to Support Teen Technology Use and Mental Health
I recently hosted a webinar about Teens, Tech + Mental Health for the Center for Parent & Teen Communication. Together with Michael Robb of Common Sense Media and pediatrician, Hina Talib, M.D., we discussed how to ensure safe, healthy online spaces for teens. Some new findings related to teens and digital media were shared that may surprise you.
Here are my biggest takeaways about how we can support teen technology use while prioritizing their mental health.
Understand How Technology Can Be a Coping Mechanism
There are benefits and drawbacks of technology, especially when it comes to social media. However, a recent report by Common Sense Media found social media has been a lifeline for maintaining social connections during the pandemic.
Of the 14-22 year old social media users surveyed:
- 53% said social media has been very important for staying connected to family and friends
- 43% said social media makes them feel better when they’re depressed, stressed, or anxious
- 17% said it made them feel worse.
While social media may contribute to mental health issues, our teens rely on it and digital health tools to take care of their own mental health.
It might surprise you to know:
- 85% of young people go online to look for health information
- 40% used it to look for people with similar health concerns
- 86% of those who connected with a health provider online have found it helpful
As much as we might want to criticize social media, it’s important to understand that it allows our teens access information and resources. Technology is part of our lives and screens are everywhere. Digital tools can be used to facilitate healthier living and strengthen family bonds.
For more tips to help your family balance the risks and rewards of social media, read:
- Social Media and Mental Health: Tips for families of older kids and teens from Common Sense Media
- Finding Reliable Health Information Online from Center for Parent & Teen Communication
Use Technology to Foster Connections and Relationships
It may surprise you to know connections we’re forming using our smartphones and social media are NOT coming at the expense of in-person and real bonds.
A 2018 study shared by the Center for Parent & Teen Communication revealed that minutes spent posting, liking, and sharing don’t take away from actual time spent with close friends and family. Another report found digital contact actually enhances friendships.
These results demonstrate technology can be used to create meaningful connections, develop relationships, and keep conversations going.
The Center for Parent & Teen Communication say that while children need to be aware of inappropriate online activities, social media makes the majority of teens feel more connected to their friends. They’re also more connected to us as we cheer them on in the digital age.
Connections in the digital age are just as important to our teens as in real life ones. It’s important to remember that digital tools can foster connections with family and friends. These relationships are critical for short-term and long-term social and emotional development.
There’s No One Tech Solution That Fits All
What’s right for one family doesn’t work for another. Make the rules that are right for your family about screen use, social media platforms that are allowed, and who your kids are connecting with through digital tools. It’s important to hold your kids accountable to your rules instead of what works for friends, neighbors, and other family members because every family is different.
Before working with your kids to determine effective solutions, take a critical look at the role technology plays in your life. Be honest with yourself to determine if you have a healthy balance with media and technology before insisting your kids do the same.
For tips to help you and your teens manage your digital lives, check out these resources shared during our panel and my past posts about this topic:
- Healthy Children Family Media Plan from HealthyChildren.org
- Family Digital Wellness Guide from the Digital Wellness Lab
- Being a Digital Age Role Model from Center for Parent & Teen Communication
- Be a Role Model: Find a Healthy Balance with Media and Technology from Common Sense Media
- 10 Tools That Will Help You Take Charge of Your Digital Life
- How to Talk to About Digital Wellbeing with Your Teens
- How to Teach Your Kids to Unplug in Favor of Digital Wellbeing
View the Recording of the Teens, Tech + Mental Health Webinar
For more tips and resources to help your family navigate the topic of teen technology use and mental health, view the full recording of the webinar below!