More is not necessarily better, specifically in the case of a new study showing that having over 300 “friends” on Facebook causes stress in teens. How and when should parents step in when it comes to these social media concerns?
The research from Montreal researchers, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, involved 88 teens ages 12 to 17 and analyzed the subjects’ levels of cortisol. It found that teenagers with over 300 Facebook friends had higher stress levels, although support in the form of likes and encouraging comments decreased their stress hormone.
The depressive effects of high stress levels, according to lead author Professor Sonia Lupien, can occur later on. “"Some studies have shown that it may take 11 years before the onset of severe depression in children who consistently had high cortisol levels,” she warned.
So what can parents do now that the genie is out of the bottle – and their children are also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and may already be experiencing social media stress?
The answer becomes even more important: a recent CNN study discovered that even for parents who try controlling their children’s social media activity, there is a gap between what they think of the kids’ posts and how the kids are actually feeling.
Sixty percent of the parents underestimated their kid’s loneliness, worry, and depression, while a glaring 94 percent underestimated how much fighting is happening on social sites.
According to experts, here are some steps parents can take:
- Sign up for the social networks teens are on. Follow your children and talk to them on that medium. When there are signs of being upset, talk to them – the report showed that kids whose parents were more active in social media networks they’re on were less probably to stay upset about matters online.
- Spend time on the same social sites. See their workings and the effects they possibly have on your children. “It is really reinforcing to a middle-aged mother, so think how it feels to a young person,” said University of Texas child clinical psychologist Marion Underwood of getting Facebook likes.
- Help teens have a healthy perspective of their likes, comments, and shares. Educate your kids about trying not to keep score. "Don't sweat the small stuff. Don't worry if you're not tagged. Don't count likes. Don't exclude other people,” said sociologist Robert Faris of University of California Davis.
- Encourage teens to put their phones down every so often. Recommend doing something else, such as shopping, heading outdoors, and having fun in numerous other ways. Jay, age 13, saw her grades going up once she traded her phone for other activities more often. Like other kids, she thought she could “totally multitask” until she put her phone away. “[A]nd I’m the happiest person I could be right now,” she said.
Photo: Fernando Butcher | Flickr