If your children are active on social media, keep an eye out for the adverse effects so you can detect a mental health problem and prevent harm before it’s too late.
Cyberbullying. While most social media platforms have established policies to prevent cyberbullying, it still happens, causing a toll on self-esteem and mental health.
Some common signs parents can watch for include withdrawal from family and friends, loss of interest in hobbies, nervousness about attending school, and frustration or anger after being online.
If you are a parent, be sure to monitor your child and note any differences in behavior. Encourage conversation and assure your children they are not alone and that you are there for them.
High screen times. High screen times have been linked to irregular sleep patterns, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance. While technology and social media remain a constant in our lives, there are easy ways to keep screen time under control and give your children a break from social media.
Consider making your dinner table a phone-free zone, setting daily limits on social media apps, and mandating that phones need to be kept outside of bedrooms to prevent late-night or early morning scrolling.
Poor self-esteem. People often share a perfect, inaccurate version of themselves. When scrolling endless posts of perfection, it’s easy for a child to compare themselves to others and create unrealistic expectations.
Still, when kids put themselves under a microscope and compete with unrealistic beauty standards thanks to filters, it can negatively impact their mental health. Ask your children about filters and the latest trends on social media. Have fun with it but also be sure to discuss reality versus fiction.
Signs of suicide. Monitor your child’s activity and look for posts that express loneliness, guilt, pain, or anger. It may be difficult to spot a concerning social media post, but noticing a small sign can save someone from distress or worse.
It can be tough to distinguish if a post or comment was made in jest but if you sense something is off or see something potentially alarming, say something. If you are worried about the well-being of an individual on social media, don’t hesitate to check in to ensure they are safe.
If you have cause for alarm after speaking with them, act. Many schools have behavioral health services available for students and families.
Despite the challenges, a healthy relationship with social media is possible – keep an eye out for the ones you love by being mindful of social media’s warning signs. If a post gives you pause, act.
Southwest Behavioral & Health Services partners with school districts to place behavioral health professionals and clinicians directly on school campuses, increasing access to care.
These professionals are trained in providing counseling services to children and helping parents understand the warning signs of problematic social media use and suicide. They are also trained in helping parents understand the strategies adults and children can use to help prevent suicide.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8 or text HELLO to 741741.
Marlee Seymour, MC, LPC, is with School & Community-based Counseling Services North for Southwest Behavioral & Health Services. Information: sbhservices.org.
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