Around seventy percent of teenagers own a smart phone, and around half of these have a social media presence. Ideas are changing about the impact of social media on mental health: it may be a safer, easier world in which to interact for shy
youngsters, but for others it increases feelings of anxiety and depression. The digital world is part of lives, and it seems here to stay, so let’s get used to making online socializing a positive, rather than negative, experience.
Respect: Think carefully about your posts, showing respect for yourself and others. Never post pictures or comments that may damage reputations. Do not post in anger or as retaliation and be wary of online bullying. Protect other people’s personal information, happiness and security, as well as your own.
Online Reflection: All your posts reflect the person you are and the values you hold. Only share information you would be happy for your grandmother, a scholarship committee, or a future employer, to read. If you do post something you later regret, go back and delete it, and make amends with anyone you may have offended.
Security Savvy: Ensure you’re up to date with security settings and discuss them with parents and friends, making your page as private as you want it to be. Think who you are allowing into your life: do you really know them? Can you trust how they will use the personal images and information (eg your street, regular bus route, school) posted online?
Stand up to Cyberbullying: If you are bullied, save messages, keep evidence, and talk to someone about it – a trusted adult, parent or teacher, or even the police. Report to the site operator. Block the person. Do not respond or retaliate.
Time Management: Restrict yourself to a certain amount of time per day, setting a timer to go off when
‘time’s up’. Avoid receiving alerts outside the allotted time and restrict the number of devices you receive alerts on. Switch off when doing homework, as switching between activities increases the time taken to get things finished, reduces work quality, and decreases information retention. Turn all devices off overnight.
Screen Friends: You don’t have to accept every friend request. How well do you know the person? What will they have access to? Consider culling friends every so often: have you had any meaningful contact in the last few months? Do you agree with the things they post? Are your online friends people you would choose to spend time with in person?
Personal Contact with New ‘Friends’: An area fraught with danger (even for adults!). If you do decide to meet up with someone you have met online, make sure you do so in a public place, tell your parents where you will be and at what time, and take a friend / parent with you.
Perspective: What you see online is a one-sided representation of how people want to be perceived.
Real life is filled with all kinds of experiences, good and bad… and many not worthy of a status update. Ask yourself, asking “is reading this having a positive or negative impact on my mood?” “Is this a worthwhile use of my time?”
Connection: This is not about download speed, but how comfortable and close you feel to the people you call friends. It is far better to have fewer friends, who are true friends, than to have hundreds of friends who don’t know how to cheer you up when you are feeling low.