The 2023 srsly Student Team, made up of over 40 Chelsea High School students, tackled your frequently asked questions, comments and concerns around social media (and you might be pleasantly surprised).
Q: What age should I let my child be on social media?
A: 12-14 depending on which platform and level of parental supervision.
Q: Why are kids always on their phones?
A: It depends on the kid. For most of us, phones are the way we stay involved, communicate with friends, get news (sports scores, upcoming events, global news), etc. So the amount of time you as an adult would usually split between a newspaper, tv, phone call and scrolling, a teen designates that time solely to their phone since we utilize it as a multi-purpose device for all of those.
Q: How should parents interact with their kids on social media?
A: Trying to positively interact with us through social media can be an insightful look into our world. You might learn way more about us than you think. Be ready and willing to have open conversations, be transparent with your concerns and expectations, and talk to us up front about your worries so we can understand your expectations, rather than experience consequences we didn’t realize existed. We want your support, to know you love us.
Q: How does the number of likes and followers affect mental health?
A: They can make us question our worth and compare our numbers to those of our peers. However, some platforms have started eliminating like counts, which can help minimize the negative impact. It’s important to check in with us about how we’re feeling in regards to our social media presence, if we’re struggling with self-esteem, and to leave the door open for future conversations.
Q: Is social media rooted too deeply in self-worth?
A: It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Start having conversations about true self-worth at a young age. Teach us that what we think of ourselves is what matters, not external approval, before we ever encounter social media. This starts when we’re a toddler! Teach us to be proud of ourselves, to value being a good person rather than valuing an online image we’ve created for approval.
Q: Does social media make teens socially inept?
A: The honest answer is no. While we may rely on it as a primary form of communication, or substitute certain in-person interactions for digital, it can also be a gift to those who have social anxiety. It allows us to communicate, share, enjoy friendships, and can even be the foundation for where a friendship starts, or help us to stay connected with long distance friends when friendships at home aren’t going great. It helps make our world feel a little bigger, rather than just what's in front of us.
Q: Do teens trade real socialization for social media?
A: Rarely. Since it’s our main form of communication, it usually just facilitates the initial connections, social planning and long-distance connections. It IS important to be aware that we may feel the need to project an image of ourselves through socials that aren't authentic for fear of rejection. If you’re concerned this is what your child is doing, address the root cause; support them in building their confidence and spending time with others who value them, rather than jumping into criticizing them for not being their true selves online.
Q: I’m concerned with my teens safety online. What can I do to make sure my teen is safe?
A: Let us know that just because we bring a safety concern to you, you won’t freak out. If we expect you to take away instagram just because we shared a creepy message with you, we won’t bring it to you at all. However, if we know we can share a concern, have an opportunity to tell you the steps we already took in addressing it, and have a calm conversation about what support we need to handle it in the future to prevent it from happening again, we’ll come to you every time. We want to feel safe with YOU, so we can tell you when we don’t feel safe online.
Q: Do teens feel safe on social media?
A: It depends. If we haven’t received support from adults in teaching us HOW to be safe from the start, we learn through trial and error. For some of us, this may end up okay. For others, this can be risky and feel unsafe. Role modeling how you approach online safety as an adult and verbally expressing the steps you take can help us feel prepared when we get to the age of being old enough to be online ourselves.
Q: Do teens feel addicted to social media scrolling?
A: If we’re overwhelmed by our to-do list, really stressed and need to escape, or just bored and lonely, then we can get into a rabbit hole of scrolling. This is where as parents, we need your help in identifying and addressing the root cause of WHY, rather than just scolding us for the symptom (scrolling).
Q: Do teens get “FOMO” from social media?
A: FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out”, is usually rooted in something deeper. Maybe it's concerns around people approval, social rejection, or disappointment that we’re not able to do what our friends are right then (maybe because of money, time, transportation or rules). Social media can create opportunities for this, but more than likely, we’re going to hear about that “fun” thing anyway, whether that’s through text or at school from a friend. Maybe it’s a relationship gone bad, a friend who’s not loyal like we thought they were, the realization that someone didn’t include us, or just being overwhelmed that we have so much on our plate we missed out on something fun. So if we mention experiencing FOMO because of something we saw on socials, it can be a chance for you to process it with us, and realize our disappointment might be because of something deeper.
Q: Do people use social media to bully each other?
A: Yes, but not any more than they bully each other in person. On social media you can block people. You can unfollow them. You can actually have some control. In person, in school, we don’t get to block them. Who we’re with from 8am to sometimes 10pm during the school day is out of our control. We don’t get to choose the amount of time we spend with them. So at least online, we can choose to not give that person access to us.
Want to hear more of what our students had to say? Click HERE to read all about it!