The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a major surge in social media usage among teenagers in addition to other age groups. Although social media has been a life-saver during the pandemic when it comes to being updated with health-related information and other news from reliable sources, killing boredom, loneliness or taking a break by consuming light and humourous content, spending too much time on it can have a deleterious effect on the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers. There can be harmful consequences of over-use including poor sleep, irritability, stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty in concentration. Therefore, it becomes important to unplug from time to time and engage in productive and recreational activities. Mental health experts and psychologists share their opinions on how excessive social media use is affecting adolescent minds.
LIVING A VIRTUAL LIFE CAN HARM THE HEALTHY STATE OF MIND OF TEENAGERS
For most adolescents, more time spent at home during the pandemic has meant increased hours of being glued to a screen. While social media can prove to be an invaluable tool, living a virtual life can harm their healthy state of mind. Heavy social media dependence has been linked to emotional issues like negative wellbeing, low self-esteem, experiencing feelings of depression, disturbed sleep patterns, and an impaired attention span. Bothering yourself with the feelings of the thousands of your social media followers can indeed make you feel anxious. It is a common sight to witness teenagers constantly scrolling their phones. Parents need to be mindful of this activity since it tends to keep the brain on high alert, averting the child from falling asleep and can destroy the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel tired. Parents must ensure to shorten the time spent on virtual mediums by engaging the child in mind-boosting activities like concentration games, breathing exercises, or brain-body coordination workouts. A pause in social media usage can help them connect with their real life, making them emotionally happier and healthier. The younger generation seems to be the hardest hit by the pandemic. Hence it is more important than ever that they can access support with their emotional health during such critical times.
Kanchan Rai, Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Coach, Founder, Let Us Talk
MODERATE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IS AN ENABLER OF HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
It has been well established that human beings are social creatures and the ongoing pandemic has made most of us crave a social life. Studies suggest that boredom and loneliness are strong predictors of social media use among teenagers. It helps teenagers self-regulate emotional mood states, feel aroused when they are bored as applications such as Instagram, YouTube, etc. provide entertaining content, it also helps boost self-esteem among them as 66% of Indian teens feel acceptance on social media. Studies also suggest that during the Covid pandemic, browsing through social media and interacting with friends help teenagers reduce their feelings of loneliness. Teenagers in India are spending the majority of their online activity on Instagram or YouTube and consuming humour-based content to feel happier. However, the problem arises when the time spent on social media exceeds the four hours per day limit. It has been noticed that with excessive use, 70% of teens share sensitive information about themselves, and 66% of teens experience some amount of cyber-bullying. Psychologists and researchers agree that excessive social media usage during this time is also causing discontentment in physical appearance, reducing levels of happiness, leading to anxiety, depression, and even lower self-esteem among teenagers. Thus, impacting the mental health of the youth.
The best way to thus manage the harmful impact of social media is by limiting the use of social media and including exercise as a part of one’s daily regime. The time spent on social media should not be more than four hours per day, parents should understand if their child is feeling anxious or upset and even help them improve their self-esteem by reminding them that social media is not real, it is simply a virtual world. In certain cases, professional help must be sorted. Moderate and controlled use of social media is an enabler of healthy relationships, when it becomes excessive and addictive it becomes a deterrent to positive mental health.
Dr Prerna Kohli, eminent Psychologist, Founder, MindTribe.in
PARENTS SHOULD SAFEGUARD THEIR CHILDREN FROM SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTIONS BY ENRICHING THEIR ENVIRONMENT
The challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic created tremendous turbulence through all walks of life. The global lockdown led to the shutting of many important physical settings, one of them being schools. The schools were operating online, allowing the children an increase in the usage of mobiles, laptops, computers, and other electronic gadgets. As the parents also went online with their occupation, they were unable to provide supervision concerning the amount of screen time and the content watched by the children. With the provision of interesting social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp, there is a constant urge and impulsivity in the children to post or watch the content on these social media sites. This excessive usage is likely to bring up issues like body image concerns, peer pressure, cyberbullying, exploitations, low self-esteem and many others.
Here comes the responsibility of the parents to supervise their children. They can divide this into two categories, mandatory and recreational. Since mandatory cannot be avoided, recreational usage can be altered. The parents must fix a time discussing with their children regarding the usage and should also make verbal contracts with them to make them feel responsible. Positive and negative reinforcements can be applied by the parents. Being friendly will help them open up with the kids. The possibility of exploitative content available on the media should be conveyed by the parents.
Further, a cognitively stimulating environment will help them avoid engagements in such platforms. We often blame our children for using the internet but as parents, it is important to safeguard our children from such addictions by enriching their environment.
Prachi Kohli, counselling psychologist, Apollo spectra hospital, Karol bagh
WHILE TEENS HAVE ACCESS TO NEW MEDIA, THEY MUST BE MADE AWARE OF THEIR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AND THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS
The Covid pandemic has impacted the lives of children from toddlers to teenagers in a major way. They seem to spend more time at home due to restrictions; learning is happening on screens, chatting with friends and peers is also happening on various social media platforms. While social media has become a major medium of entertainment, flaunting one’s skills and looks, it has also turned into a major source of information for teenagers who spend their major time on phones or laptops. However, they need to know that no child can have a personal social media account before 13 years of age. They must refrain from sharing their friends’ pictures or content. Bullying can happen on social media and teenagers need to be aware of that. For any news, do not refer to social media rather perform a detailed search on their own as the information on social media can be personal views and may not be reliable. While our teenagers have access to this new media, they must be made aware of their rights and responsibilities and their legal implications.
Dr Himani Narula, Developmental Pediatrician and Co-Founder, Continua Kids