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Talking to Your Teen About Instagram and Mental Health

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Parenting is hard enough without adding in the dangers created by the online world. Gone are the days when parents could control what information reached their children. Changing the channel or putting the newspaper away is no longer an option. And even if you can restrict your teen’s Internet usage, you can’t always control what they access through their friends.

As quickly as you’re learning about websites and smartphone apps, new ones are being created. Even if you are familiar with the Internet and social media, you likely didn’t face growing up with it as such a potentially significant influence in your life. The teenage years are challenging enough to navigate as teens try to determine who they are and how they fit in the world. It’s not surprising that there’s a link between Instagram and mental health. At Thrive Treatment, we understand how social media affects today’s teens, and we are here to support you as you learn more.

Why You Should Talk to Your Teen About Instagram and Mental Health

Beyond loving your child, the most important thing you can do as a parent is maintain an open communication line. What may seem obvious to you may not be as clear to your teen. Your teen may not realize how much photo editing is done before many photos are posted on Instagram. They may believe that their body should look like the digitally manipulated bodies they view in their social media feed. Talking to them about these unrealistic images can help maintain a balance between their use of Instagram and their mental health. 

Additionally, we know that much of social media is unregulated. Therefore, your teen needs to understand what to do if they are harassed online, receive unsolicited messages, find images of themselves being shared without their consent, or are the subject of rumors. Just as you help your child understand how to navigate the in-person world, so must you help them to navigate the online realm. Talk to your teen about social media etiquette. Offer them examples of what to do and what not to do. Above all, remember that your social media use serves as an example to your teen and structure it accordingly.

While it is essential to talk to your teen about the dangers of social media, it’s also important to recognize that you may not be able to eliminate its influence on your teen. For that reason, you’ll want to discuss engaging with social media in a healthier way.  Encourage your teen to incorporate strategies such as:

  • Taking periodic breaks from social media
  • Turning off notifications
  • Unfriending, unfollowing, or muting those who do not show respect or who make your teen feel bad about themselves. 
  • Tracking and limiting screen time
  • Leveraging social media use 

While most adults and teens can moderate their social media use, some cannot and develop an anxiety disorder known as social media anxiety disorder. Similar to other anxiety disorders, the symptoms of social media anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Stopping to check social media in the middle of a conversation
  • Spending more than six hours each day using social media
  • Lying about the amount of time spent on social media
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Failing in attempts to cut back on social media use
  • Neglecting or losing interest in school, work, and favorite activities
  • Experiencing severe nervousness, anxiety, or withdrawal symptoms when not able to check social media
  • Having an overwhelming desire to share on social media feeds

Maintaining an open line of communication with your teen about their social media use can help you gauge how they feel about it and alert you to any potential problems. 

How Thrive Treatment Can Help Your Teen

At Thrive Treatment, our treatment approach blends modern and traditional practices. We can help your teen by integrating relational and behavioral therapies and holistic, medical, and psychiatric interventions. Located in beautiful Santa Monica, we will develop an individualized plan to help your teen through any mental health disorders, including addiction, during inpatient treatment and beyond. We’re also here to support you in understanding the treatment and your role in the process as you support your teen. Contact us today so that we can partner with you and your teen to find a way forward. 

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