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Open Mind: Youth in a digital world

Open Mind: Youth in a digital world

“Oh, look who finally decided to join us in the real world.”

Is this something you’ve said to your teen regarding their use of technology?

Youth from YouthTALK, a youth-led mental health promotion and engagement program, have spoken up and claimed this can feel like shaming them for spending too much time on their phones or computers.

That feeling can be harmful to them and their mental health, relationship connections and communication skills.

Today, technology is the real world, and adults need to be able to connect and support their youth with that.

Balance and support are necessary to help kids engage and also set some limits themselves around their screen use.

We know that youth are staying inside more and for that reason they have turned to screens to do school, to work and to socialize.

Since the start of COVID-19, a study has been conducted and found that 75% of teens are now spending an average of 75% of their waking hours on screens.

YouthTALK members have created presentations surrounding social media and youth in a digital world.

They have provided tips and strategies for parents to be able to support their teens when discussing their technology usage.

These presentations are available upon request to groups and organizations. Please connect with this author if you are interested.

While we know that social media can have many positive benefits, like helping people stay connected, excessive social media use can sometimes lead to more isolation and loneliness.

In fact, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

Increased screen time can also affect a person’s sleep, physical health, memory, social skills, and productivity in a harmful way.

So what can you do if you are concerned about your youth?

Emma from YouthTALK states, “I am a youth, and it is important to listen to us, and not assume you know what is best and just bulldoze us.

Know the importance of setting boundaries with technology and social media. Teach youth to be self-sufficient and have understanding on their own.”

Not letting adults do everything for youth is key. As they get older, they become more aware of what they can and cannot do.

“Give us some time to play on our phones, give us time to scroll through it,” Sana adds.

Alisha, a YouthTALK mentor, suggests “express(ing) when you are uncomfortable with the amount of time we spend on our devices, and not make us feel guilty for it.

Instead, maybe take interest in what we like and ask us about it.”

Teach youth the importance of social media, both positive and negative effects.

Maxine says to “recognize our phones are not always a bad thing.” There are many great things technology and social media can do, but take note when it could become an unhealthy habit.

Help provide education as to the impact on their overall wellness, and not just, “this is bad, don’t do it.” Encourage healthy practices.

Supporting your teen in coping and self-care is important. You can help by providing different healthy techniques that the youth, and you, can put into practice.

This can help reduce stress, and increase overall mental wellbeing.

Just remember that you are not alone! It is tricky trying to navigate this new world with technology and social media that you may not be familiar with.

There are many supports and resources that can help you to support your youth.

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