Social media, screens, smart phones: Is it all so bad for our teens?

Love it or hate it phones, social media and the digital world is here to stay.

There is no avoiding it.

We all need the connectivity that has been created over the last 30 years.

This is an education piece. The importance comes in helping our pre teens and teens  how to live with and develop good habits when using these brilliant advances in technology.

Forty percent of 10-11 year olds are spending at least 30 hours a week on their cell phones. Nearly two days worth of screen tech time.

All of this often comes without learning, guidance and instruction. As parents we often cross our fingers and hope for the best while checking occasionally.

Would we hand our car keys to a 17 year old without a few lessons first?

The introduction of phones can cause havoc with friendship groups, group chats, constant checking and FOMO particularly those at the end of primary school going up to secondary school. 

But.. can you even begin to imagine a pandemic without the the wonders of the digital world?

No working seamlessly from home, no classrooms on Zoom, no digital meet up with old friends, no online quizzes and a constant fight over who was using the landline to make a call. 

But. We know it isn't all good. What are the pitfalls? How do we help guide our young people?

Self esteem in our young people can take a big hit very quickly.

Sleep disturbance when it is crucially needed for the adolescent brain, living in a constant state of comparison and measuring up against others many of whom are filtered.
Not feeling good enough, pretty enough, muscly enough.
Feeling inferior or inadequate.
Comparing instead of connecting in an online world.
Chasing validation.
Chasing likes.
Feeling insecure about our value when our posts are not liked or shared. 

We spoke with mountain biker and social media influencer Jess Strange @velomejess about what we should all be doing to develop good habits. 

It’s easy to fall into the social media black hole where you find yourself scrolling for hours catching up on what all your friends and celebrities are up to. Even though social media is a fantastic tool for communicating with people, learning new skills and for getting inspiration, it’s essential to take control of how we use social media, and how often. To help prevent you from falling into the social media black hole, here are a few of my top tips for healthier social media habits.

1. Follow Inspiring Accounts 

You have the control to follow and unfollow whatever accounts you like. Of course, friends and family go without saying, following those your closest with is a great way to show support for one another!

Outside of your social circle, think about what kind of things you enjoy, like animals. I love cats, and they make me happy, so I follow a couple of cat accounts because I like to see cute fur babies in my social media feed. So, if someone inspires you or posts content which makes you feel good, then definitely give that account a follow.

Remember, the analytics know the type of accounts and hashtags you follow and will send you targeted posts in your feed that are related to those subjects. We don't recommend following hashtags for this reason. 

Jess has some favourite accounts to follow on Instagram/Facebook: HOW PeopleThis Girl CanGo ProCats All DayWild Live PlanetShextreme

2. Post Positively

Social media helps connect us with the whole world, so why not use it to spread positivity. Celebrate your achievements, days out with friends, your loved ones and show off some creativity with your posts.

Always ask yourself, “would I like to see this post?”. If you’re unsure about posting something, ask someone to take a look for you or better yet, sleep on it and see how you feel the next day. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no rush! Consider your posts and the people who may see them; you never know who you could inspire online, so it’s great to set a good example. 

3. Be Intentional and Get Creative

It can sometimes feel like you have to post on social media, perhaps because you haven’t in a while and you’re worried people will begin to unfollow you, but that’s not the case. Try not to post for the sake of posting something, after all; it’s all about the quality of your posts and not how many you post.
Whenever you leave a comment, like a post or follow an account, be intentional and meaningful with your actions. Giving someone a “👍 ” is not as meaningful as commenting, “Well done, that’s amazing!” and it takes only a fraction more time. 

4. Turn off and Tune out

Phones, computers and tablets are never too far from our reach, but to have them beep and vibrate at you for attention can get really distracting. It’s time to retake control and be in charge of your social media notifications. I’ve turned my notifications off so that I’m not distracted when I’m working or out with my friends. Doing this allows me to check my notifications when I want to, and not when my phone tells me to! 

5. No phone before bed

It’s very tempting to get into bed and think, “Ooooo, I’ll just check Snapchat”, but we all know that it’s never a quick check. It’s important to try and wind down naturally to sleep, which is why using your phone before bed can give you a bad night’s rest as your head is full of social media stimulus! Try and have a good half hour or better still an hour before bed without screens. Have a bath, read a book, chat to your family and get ready for the next day screen free. 

6. Block out the Negativity

Unfortunately, social media can be a negative place where people mindlessly spread bad vibes.

The good thing is that we have the tools to help combat this; Delete, Unfollow and Block.

Your social media account is under YOUR control.

You decide who to follow, who to talk to and who not to talk to. If there are any accounts that you don’t like, who post negative comments or make you feel bad in any way, you have the tools to stop seeing their content. Remember, your profile is yours to manage, to inspire others with and to share your adventures on so don’t let anyone else's negativity or nastiness interrupt your great work. 

7. Take a Break

It may sound impossible, but it isn’t!

Taking a good break from social media once in a while is brilliant for clearing your head and reconnecting with the real world.

Go on, give it a try and see how you feel afterwards. Start with 12hrs, then try 24hrs and every so often, take a good break from your phone and spend that time doing something you love.

Challenge your family. See what else you can do with that time together. 

Jess is a mountain biker and social media influencer @velomejess. The HOW People run workshops, courses into Year 6 in schools plus their signature membership for teenage girls. 


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