Social Media can hurt our children’s mental health

Watch Dr. Sharon Saline, clinical psychologist & author, talk about how social media can hurt our children's mental health & how parents can find balance between screen-time and family-time.

By Dr Meghna Singhal

Social Media can hurt our children’s mental health

Dr Sharon Saline, a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years’ experience, is a top expert on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health challenges and their impact on school and family dynamics. Her book, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life, is the recipient of two highly-acclaimed awards: Best Book Awards winner by American Book Fest and the Gold Medal from Moms Choice Awards

In an exclusive conversation with ParentCircle, Dr. Saline explains that while there are a lot of benefits to technology and social media, they can be highly problematic for children:

• False sense of identity: Children get a definition of who they are through the social media posts. On social media people project aspects of themselves that they want others to see, and not who they are in real time, in real life. So children are developing a sense of ‘who I am’ through a fortified or false notion that they put of themselves on these sites.

• Lack of responsibility: Social media allows children to do or say anything without significant repercussions of being able to see in real time the effects of their words or actions on someone else. This is why cyberbullying is a huge problem.

• Anxiety and FOMO: Children start to worry about what they’re missing out on because of the idea in their still-developing brain that ‘life is happening out there and I don’t want to miss any of it’. That places immense pressure on them and leads to them losing their ability to be in the present. This affects their ability to relate to other children on a face-to-face basis.

• Mental stress. Children today grow up with media multi-tasking, which is not healthy for the brain. It makes them split their attention, and every time they shift from one task to another, their brain needs a mental warm-up. Because of the constant shifting, their brains get stressed out and release more cortisol, a stress hormone.

Watch the exclusive interview with Dr Sharon Saline here

She recommends the following strategies that parents can follow in ensuring a balance between screen-time and family-time:

  • We adults have to model for our kids how we want them to use technology. Which means when you walk in the door, put your phone down. When you pick up kids from school, put your phone down. Spend time with your kids when they are awake
  • If kids are doing homework after dinner, have family work times. Sit down at your computer- that’s the time for you to do your stuff- and they can do their work. And you’re working in parallel, so if they need you, you’re there and you can monitor them to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing
  • Screen-free dinner times are a must. And kids should not have screens in their rooms. After a certain time, phones should be turned over to the parents. It’s just really tempting, and kids also need to learn how to just be with themselves. If the phone is in their room, you can’t know if they are waking up at 2am and spending time on their phone
  • Have some family screen-free days, say, Saturday is our screen-free day. We are just going to be screen-free from 9 to 5. To cultivate face-to-face together fun and activity, so kids can understand how to use technology and balance it with other important pursuits.

About the author:
Interviewed by Meghna Singhal, PhD on 8 November 2019. Reviewed on 20 November 2019.
Dr. Singhal is a clinical psychologist and currently heads the Content Solutions Zone at ParentCircle. She has a doctorate degree from NIMHANS (Bangalore) and holds a post-doctorate in parenting from the University of Queensland (Australia).

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