The mental health crisis among teens has become a growing concern. One of the most common issues we hear from parents is the overuse of social media as well as the obsession with the internet (including their cell phones). Many teens will literally have tantrums if their parent even threatens taking their digital life from them — this leads to rage and can also result in destruction of property.
In a recent report by Science Daily, two-thirds of parents are worried about children’s increased time on devices, including overall screen time and use of social media.
This is impacting a teens’ overall health, including their physical wellness, sleeping and eating habits as well as their academic performance. We have witnessed rates of teen depression and anxiety spike over the past several years. Parents are struggling to find help as they are facing a lack of mental health services according to the report.
3 Ways to Limit Social Media and Digital Usage
Most of you realize the train has left the station as the majority of young have cell phones just about sewn into the palms of their hands. This doesn’t mean you are not in control–you are still the parent, and parenting is still required. As a reminder, you are their parent first.
1. Technology agreement. Most households have a cell phone or technology agreement, but it’s time to enforce it. Sit down as a family and revisit it. Review the screen-time limits, updated passwords, social media permissions, etc., and most importantly, what the consequences are if any of the rules are broken. If you don’t have one, it’s never too late to start.
- Family mealtime is for eating, not emails. Create digital detox time.
- Limit the notifications on their phones. Reducing these sounds can reduce anxiety and stress.
- Whatever social platforms your teen is on, are you also on them?
2. Buy a safe or lockbox. Does this sound extreme? Your teen’s mental health is a priority. In a Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), nearly 1 in 3 teen girls struggled with suicide ideation, up 60 percent from a decade ago. Place your teen’s phone in the safe/lockbox at the designated time (at night) for them to have a good night’s sleep. Studies have proven technology can affect your teen’s sleep and mental health.
- Encourage your teen to read books at night. An American Psychology Association study revealed that only 20 percent of teens read books for pleasure, while over 80 percent say they use social media daily. Twenge noted that “Being able to read long-form text is crucial for understanding complex issues and developing critical thinking skills.”
- Replace the phone with a book in the evening. Have a good selection of books available for your teenager.
3. Exercise, yoga, or meditation. It’s about disconnecting from screens and connecting with themselves. Not only does daily exercise (even jogging, biking, or walking) help reduce anxiety, sadness, and stress, but it also helps increase concentration and focus. With regular practice, teens will find that meditation, yoga, or any form of exercise provides a much-needed break from their busy lives and can be an effective way to improve their mental health and well-being.
- Start a daily routine for physical activity.
- If possible, join a gym.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
It’s not about asking your teen to forgo social media. It is about finding a healthy balance in life–one that doesn’t affect their life offline and especially their mental health.