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This is part two of four in our series about social media and the effect on mental health. This particular article talks about social media and the effect on teens.

I’m old enough to remember having to wait until after 6 o’clock to ring my friends because it was cheaper to call then, I was lucky; others had to go to the local phone box to make a call.

Once we were in the house we switched off from the outside world and got on with our homework or read a book and never felt like we were missing out.

How do we teach our teenagers to know when to switch off and take some time out?

Scroll Free September can certainly help us to start conversations with our teenagers about the benefits and downsides of being connected to the outside world.

As parents it is our responsibility to help them (and us) to learn to recognise when enough is enough and to have the confidence to put boundaries around social media that are helpful and healthy.

Talk to your teen

Talk to your teen about the images that they are looking at on their social media feeds, have a conversation about how closely they represent real life.

The filtered reality

Encourage your teen to look at the world around them and see the differences in how people look and act in the real world.

Remind our teens that the celebrities that they are following are paid to advertise the products that they are wearing, they have professional photographers and make up artists around them and these shots will have taken hours to perfect. There will be 100’s of photos left in the editing suite that were taken with their eyes closed or with a dodgy smile.

Real world v’s online world

Observe your teen interacting with their friends, playing sport or just relaxing at home and let them know how nice it was to see them ‘in the moment’ enjoying themselves. Ask them how it felt and see if they can compare this to how they feel when they have spent the same amount of time scrolling through Facebook.

Remind them that success is not validated by likes

It is normal to worry about what other people think, but yourself worth should not be linked to how many likes you get on Instagram or how many followers you have. Encourage your teenager to look at their successes in the real world, like the time they helped their younger sibling with their homework or got that grade that they had been working really hard for.

Switch off before bed

It is well known that sleep is vital to the healthy development of the adolescent brain. Lack of sleep is linked to anxiety and depression and can lead to lower educational attainment.

However, persuading your teenager that leaving their phone downstairs at night will be good for them can feel like a power struggle.

Many teenagers will initially resist the idea. They may feel like control is being taken away from them, or they will be worried that they are missing out, they may even feel anxious and adversely struggle to sleep without it.

Talk through their usage

It’s important that you talk to your teenager before putting rules down, they may even have suggestions of their own that will help them feel empowered and make it more likely that they will stick to the rules.

Find out what they are actually doing on their phone, is it chatting to friends? Watching Netflix? Or simply scrolling through Instagram out of habit?

Once you know what they are doing it is easier to find ways of managing the change and reducing usage.

Lead by example

Your teens are more likely to go along with any new rules if they can see you are doing it to, lead by example. You could have a box that everyone puts their phones in at designated times, such as meal times and bedtime.

Help to get good bedtime routines for the whole family and stick to them. Encourage a bath or shower before bed and then maybe all agree on a programme you like to watch together or discuss a book they may enjoy and then have a set time for lights out.

Be prepared for the excuses

Be prepared for excuses as to why they HAVE to have their phone ‘I need it for my homework’, I listen to music on my phone to help me get to sleep’, ‘I use it as an alarm clock’. Don’t be swayed by these, help your teen to come up with solutions.

If you have any concerns about your child’s mental health and would like further advice you can book in for a free consultation.