Social media plays an important role in the individual and social development of children and teens. It helps expose them to new ideas and information, and offers convenient ways to build communities and connect to support groups. But it can have a downside, too, explains John Piacentini, PhD, ABPP, UCLA child and adolescent psychologist and director of the UCLA Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support (CARES).
“The same technology that can help a socially awkward child safely practice connecting with peers can also make kids feel isolated,” Dr. Piacentini says. “Social pressures, heightened through social media, can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.”
To determine if social media may be negatively affecting your child, ask yourself: • Are they using their device in secret or lying about device use?
If so, it may be time to implement some resilience strategies and set boundaries around social media usage. If negative behaviors persist over a period of time, or cause serious anxiety or physical or social problems, seek professional help.
It’s important for children and teens to learn who they are and what is important to them — outside of social media. Parents can help by encouraging their kids to think about what makes them happy and their goals and values.
“Communicate openly about their strengths, social connections and fears to help them feel more resilient in the face of online disappointments,” Dr. Piacentini says. “We cannot shield kids from everything but we can create healthy environments for them at home and at school.”
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