Social Media Day

June 30th is Social Media Day – which is a time when we can recognize both the positive and negative impact it has made on our world. 

This day was first launched by Mashable on June 30, 2010, and it was meant to show how social media has been used all across the world to connect us.

Over the years, social media has become a form of communication and has been a platform that family, friends, and peers have used. Whether they share posts, photos, and videos about their lives. 

It has been a useful tool where we can share opinions with others, stay informed about news or trending topics, and keep up to date with one another. And teens as well as younger kids are increasingly participating on social media platforms.

For teens, social media can have the same benefits of connection, community involvement, finding like-minded people, and enhancing creativity through sharing art or music.  As most teens will tell you, they feel left out if they cannot participate in this arena with their friends. 

However, it is also important to acknowledge how social media can affect mental health and wellbeing and to be aware of some of the dangers.  This includes self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, social media addiction, and low-quality sleep. It can also result in feeling left out or feeling inadequate.  Very few people, teens or adults, put their worst life moments out for all to see.  We share the highlights.  And constantly viewing people’s good times can lead us to forget that these posts are just one facet of life, that also has sadness, pain, and stress.  It can create an unrealistic expectation for what their everyday life should be like.

We can help children and teens to understand the issues associated with social media and to approach it with an understanding of how it works behind the scenes.  Teaching our kids positive social media use is an important skill.  But if anyone has ever tried to have these conversations with their children, you quite likely were met with defensiveness, anger or denial.  Social media and connection to friends become so powerful that they do not want to hear anything negative or are scared you will take it away.

Psychology Today had a recent article by Sophia Choukas-Bradley Ph.D. that offered some suggestions for starting the conversation with your child.  Read her full suggestions here

Don’t lecture–it puts them immediately on the defensive and they may just tune you out.  

Ask open-ended questions.  Use the questions to find out more about what they like about social media.  Let them be the experts and help them explore their thoughts through open-ended follow-up questions.

Practice active listening, instead of proving your own point.  You aren’t really listening if you are planning what you will say next and your child will feel that.

Validate their feelings, don’t dismiss their concerns.  Don’t reassure them or discount their feelings.  They feel them even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Try reflecting back on what they said in slightly different words.  Validating their feelings will help make them feel safe to open up more. 

Keep talking, don’t give up.  Sometimes the talks will go well, but they won’t always go smoothly.  Addressing these issues is an ever-evolving process.

Another idea is to watch movies or documentaries about social media and then discuss it with your kids. 

The Social Dilemma A shocking look at the inner workings of social media companies as well as the algorithms they use to keep us engaged and scrolling.

Screened Out  The film addresses tech addiction in the modern age. Filmmaker Jon Hyatt and his family take the viewer on a journey through the life-changing effects of screen addiction, how the tech industry hooked global consumers and its impact on our lives. See the trailer here

For more resources, check out the links below. 

Just How Harmful Is Social Media? Our Experts Weigh-In

The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?

The Power of Social Media