Some parents can be authoritarian about social media, monitoring everything a child does online or even trying to keep teenagers offline entirely.
Others can be too permissive and pay no attention to what a kid is doing online or what effect social media might be having on a young person’s mental health.
“Neither approach is going to be helpful,” said Lauren Esselman, a family counselor at Youth Services of Tulsa’s Broken Arrow office.
Heavy social media use can be linked to sleep disturbances, depression, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and even suicide attempts, according to a presentation Thursday at the 2021 Zarrow Mental Health Symposium in Tulsa.
“It’s not going away,” Esselman said. “Young people are going to continue using it. The question is how can we encourage a more healthy engagement” with social media?
Nearly half of adolescent users see substance abuse on Tik-Tok, the most popular social media app for their age group, according to a survey that Esselman presented along with Mackenzie Jantsch, the family counseling coordinator at Youth Services of Tulsa.
And about one out of three adolescent Tik-Tok users see sexual content, with the same number encountering videos about self-harming or suicide, Esselman and Jantsch said.