Teen Mental Health & Social Media: New Year’s Resolution among Young Adults
Young adults are prioritizing their mental health, and the trend is trickling down to teens. Navigating the topic of teen mental health and social media can feel a little inspiring and a little scary. I have a tip that will help you and your teens improve your mental health in a few minutes today.
Teen Mental Health and Social Media
After a particularly busy and stressful end of 2022, one question I’m asking myself in 2023 is “What good is any of it if I’m too stressed to enjoy it?”
Apparently, I’m not the only one!
This article on Forbes says that nearly 50% of Gen Z said their New Year’s resolution is improving their mental health.
The article explains that the reason for the increase in awareness of mental health is likely because anxiety and depression in young people spiked during covid, and because it’s a trending topic on social media.
While this study looked at young adults ages 18 and up, this trend of prioritizing mental health has filtered down to teens as well, and that can be both positive and negative. One way the trend is growing is through social media.
Teens learn all kinds of things from social media, and some of those are wonderful! They learn new skills, learn about new ideas, and explore concepts that are different from their own cultures and experiences.
However, the algorithms can often create an echo chamber as social media sites offer more of what kids are already watching. The more they watch, the more that algorithm is set to not show other things. That means that too often kids are diagnosing themselves with mental health disorders, because they saw a meme with a list of symptoms and that same information was then reinforced over and over in different ways.
“Kids are searching for a community, and are using their current struggle with mental health symptoms as a way to find like-minded people, sometimes wearing their symptoms as a badge of pride or a shorthand way to explain themselves to others, Dr. Prinstein said.”NY Times: Teens Turn to TikTok in Search of a Mental Health Diagnosis
“Ms. Hawkins said it’s also important to help kids understand that ‘your diagnosis is not who you are — it’s a part of what you have.'”NY Times: Teens Turn to TikTok in Search of a Mental Health Diagnosis
Teens are prioritizing their mental health: that’s a little awesome and a little scary
So on the one hand it’s awesome that our young people are aware of their mental health needs, are seeking out help, and are having these conversations. On the other hand, we don’t want them to get wrapped in thinking their official diagnosis-or especially their Tiktok diagnosis- is what defines them.
So what do you do as a teacher, a parent, or another person who works with teens?
If you’re getting overwhelmed with all the statistics, the worry about kids on social media, and feeling like it’s all so big, take a moment to notice that in your body.
It’s good to be aware of these things, but your stress will not help the teens in your life destress or improve their mental health.
Here’s how you CAN help teens with their mental health
- Help kids and teens get enough sleep with less homework, later start times, exercise and more downtime.
- Create good mental health habits. This Psychology Today article offers 3 simple habits for helping kids feel happier.
- Have open conversations about social media. Be open and curious about what they are watching. Casually mention things like algorithms and the difference between real mental health diagnosis and TikTok symptoms lists.
If even that feels overwhelming, try this one simply thing you and all of the kids and teens in your life can do today in just a few minutes.
Breathe in for a count of 4.
Pause for a count of 4.
Breath out for a count of 4.
Pause for a count of 4.
On the pauses, really notice the stillness in your body and mind. You can pause for longer if that feels good.
You can do this practice any time of day or night, in any situation that feels stressful or overwhelming, for a few breathes or a few minutes.
It can calm your nervous system, and then you’ll have more space to decide how to respond, what to do, or whether to simply rest in the moment.
Try it right now and share it with a kid or a teen today! They’ll appreciate that you’re “trending” with prioritizing mental health.
Coloring is also a wonderful way to relieve stress. Check out the JBU Positive Vibes coloring and activity book!
When things are hard and you’re feeling alone, you might tend to hide. This can stem from embarrassment, feeling too overwhelmed to know who to reach out to, or the belief that you don’t have anyone to reach out to. But most people have been through hard things, even if it’s not the same thing you are experiencing. Most people are kind and willing to do what they can.
If you’re feeling like everyone is too busy, and like you would be a burden, remember that we are all in different seasons of life. Keep reaching out and you’ll find the person who is in a great season of life to help, and later when you’re in that season, you’ll help them or someone else.
You can start by asking for something small:Read More
Sometimes it’s as simple as asking, “Would I say this to someone I love?” when we’re thinking an unkind thought about ourselves. If the answer is no, reframe the thought to something more positive and then do something kind for yourself.
This can start with simply changing 15 minutes of your day.
12 Tips to Change 15 Minutes of Your Day
If the situation you are going through is not by choice, and especially if it is something traumatic, it’s totally normal to feel these feelings of loss in an even more profound way. You might be asking “Is this really happening? This can’t be real! (Denial)“ And then you may move to asking “WHY?! Who could do such a thing to another person? It’s not fair! (Anger)” And “What did I do to deserve this? If I did something different, could I go back and change this? (Bargaining)” Those are totally normal feelings and questions, and it’s ok to even wallow in them for a time (Depression).Read More
“I can’t do this anymore. “
I’ve said this more times than I want to admit.
It’s how I feel when I’m overwhelmed. It’s how I feel when I am afraid of the next step. It’s how I feel when I don’t feel in control of my situation. It’s how I feel when I think I’m the only one in a certain situation.
Yet, somehow I still do. Why and how? Because to stay alive, that’s what you do. You keep going even when it’s tough….These seven tips for getting through tough times are what I practice when I start to mentally chant, “I can’t do this anymore.”Read More