Digital media use can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health. Literature reviews show an increase in mental health disorders has at least a correlation between social media use and these disorders1,2. This is because digital media use can cause fear, anxiety, depression and lack of emotional-regulation skills3. If we use digital media with intention, we can protect our mental health. Protecting our mental health is an important step toward achieving digital wellness.
- Keep devices out of bedrooms. Allow technology use in places where you, the parent, can monitor it. At night, keep devices close to you. Tweens and teens have been known to track down devices in the middle of the night. The draw is that strong. Establish bedrooms as a place where adolescents can disconnect from devices and decompress.
- Establish a “People Come First” rule around device use in your home, car and school. Create a “cell motel” and collect devices during events in your home. Face-to-face interactions improve feelings of well-being and mental health.
- Encourage kids to be bored and tolerate discomfort by implementing regular times and places to disconnect. Avoid using devices to distract your children and don’t allow them to turn to devices when bored. Teach them how to deal with stress and boredom, and how to behave appropriately in a restaurant. Boredom is part of life and helps kids build resilience, creativity and patience.
- Be tech-intentional and encourage deliberate use of technology. Teach adolescents how to use social media with intention. Have a game plan. What am I hoping to get out of this social media session? What will I do if I start to have negative feelings about myself? Who can I talk to about this? Choose to engage as opposed to responding to alerts. Give kids words, “Now I am going to check my texts.” “Now, I’m going to do something else.” We know it’s corny, but it works.
Listen to our podcast Supporting Youth in Achieving Digital Wellness: Mental Health and Relationships with Adrienne Principe, founder and executive director of Turning Life On, and Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, a clinical psychologist, school consultant and author of "The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age".
- Haidt, J., & Twenge, J. (2019). Is there an increase in adolescent mood disorders, self-harm, and suicide since 2010 in the USA and UK? A review. Unpublished manuscript, New York University.
- Haidt, J., & Twenge, J. (2019). Social media use and mental health: A review. Unpublished manuscript, New York University.
- Hoge, E., Bickham, D., & Cantor, J. (2017). Digital Media, Anxiety, and Depression in Children. Pediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758G