Helping Build Digital Resiliency
By Guest Blogger, Ashley Halsey
Parenting in the this fast-paced, technological landscape is challenging in many ways and so is growing up in this digital age. It’s an especially daunting task to maintain a healthy relationship with our digital-selves, limit social media time, and ensure we still have time for daily fundamentals like—eating, sleeping, face-to-face conversations, physical exercise, and the list goes on.
Think about this, the average age a child gets their first smartphone is 10-years-old. Like it or not, screen time is becoming a big part of their identity and it’s the ‘new normal’ for social interactions. So, in this whirlwind of Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, we must all pause and be mindful of the potential adverse effects social media can have on a young person’s mental health.
Social media in itself isn’t bad. But, our relationship(s) with it certainly can be damaging. Studies show a correlation, not causation, in the ways social media is affecting the minds of today’s youth. In the last decade, there has been a spike in smartphone use; 92% of teenagers and young adults said they owned a smart phone in one 2015 study (since the release of smartphones in 2007). In yet another study between 2010 and 2015, symptoms of depression increased by 33% and the suicide rate for young girls rose by 65%.
Many people—young people especially—are spending less time interacting face-to-face, and more time in the superficial world of likes, follows, and shares. It takes great skill to flip back and forth between these two worlds. Here’s information and tips for navigating the complexities of this space in an effort to help you and your child build greater resiliency.
Encourage healthy boundaries
Set some social media boundaries. Even when the intent of a social media platform is positive, excessive use can have negative outcomes. You can set time limits, give yourself permission to unplug, choose to only contribute in a positive way, and cut ties with people and/or organizations that are negative.
Have open conversations about mental health
Talking about mental health can be challenging, but making and taking that time to have open conversations about mental health is important. Ongoing conversations using the right language to talk about mental health illnesses break down the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage help-seeking.
Spend more quality time together
Create a time in your daily routine where smartphones and social media are put away and you experience face-to-face social connectedness—family dinner, game-night, hiking, or some other activity that is meaningful.
Empower your child
Teach them digital resiliency—how to engage with social media in ways that are healthy, identify when it’s affecting their mental health, and re-evaluate their relationship with social media, as needed. Also, to understand it will require ongoing vigilance on their part, and that it’s ok to regroup, ask for help, and take a break.
When parents and children work as allies, invested in making an ongoing effort to open up about our feelings and listen to each other—non-judgementally—it will help create a safe space where parent and child can thrive. And, in a world where the boundary between digital and real-life isn’t clear, it’s even more important to continually assess how it is affecting your mental and emotional health. If your interactions are not encouraging and uplifting, please acknowledge it’s time to make a change, and it is ok to do that.
Ashley Halsey writes professionally at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays. She works on many national projects concerning safeguarding in childhood, and is also a mother of two. She enjoys travelling and reading classical literature. Also, she blogs at Research Papers UK.
If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “CONNECT” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.