teen mental health

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.

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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? 

Stop.  Breathe. 

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. 

Box Breathing

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!

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