VENICE, CA – Navigating social media can be difficult at any age, especially for teenagers living in a pandemic. The Venice Family Clinic shares some tips to help teens handle social media in a healthy and responsible way during Mental Health Month in May.
- Include limited contact information in profiles and messages
- Never give out personal information, such as current location, phone numbers or addresses.
- Keep private information private and never meet an unknown person without a relative or friend present.
- Be sure that the information comes from reliable sources.
In addition to these guidelines for keeping teens physically safe, Venice Family Clinic Director of Behavioral Health Iliniza (Nisa) Baty has provided the following four tips to help teens and their families use social media d in a mentally healthy way:
1. Find and interact with your tribe. Social media allows us unparalleled access to people and groups with whom we share interests. Teenagers can take advantage of these connections to create networks of people with similar hobbies or activities. With millions of people creating new groups every day, it’s easier than ever to find a group of people who like the same things and want to connect – whether it’s an online book club, from a bunch of like-minded aspiring chefs, a cadre of dedicated hikers, or something else entirely.
“Identifying and engaging with people who benefit your mental health is key. Finding people who ‘fill your cup’ instead of draining your energy makes us feel stronger and more positive,” Baty said. As an example, she says one of her patients started giving Zumba classes online when the pandemic started. The patient now leads in-person and online community classes of like-minded exercise enthusiasts who have become support systems for those involved.
2. Learn and try new things. Social media can offer teens windows into new information and experiences — from games, recipes and dance trends to DIY tutorials on how to fix a hole in the wall or build a compass. Online experiences have also become commonplace during COVID-19: virtual concerts, podcasts, seminars and classes are great opportunities for teens to boost their knowledge and self-confidence.
3. Always apply best practices and use social media in moderation. In addition to exercising caution and following best practices for safe social media use, teens should limit their time using social media and screens to improve their mental health.
“Treat your body right and your brain will follow,” Baty tells teens. “Introducing a ‘digital sunset’ before a good night’s sleep can help improve sleep patterns and reduce anxiety. When using social media, take regular breaks to get out and be sure to interact with nature and to participate in physical activities. To promote well-being, hydrate regularly and sleep 6 to 8 hours each night.”
4. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other IRLs. The most important thing, says Baty, is not to let teens use social media to isolate them. “Social connection is absolutely vital for adolescent mental health,” says Baty. “We have all experienced increased social isolation since the onset of COVID-19, and social media can be a great tool in bridging that gap, especially for teens struggling with issues they may not be able to. sharing at home. But connecting with others in real life is essential for deeper well-being.”
Ways to avoid isolation may include seeking more face-to-face time (even over video chat), limiting digital notifications, and restricting the number of hours spent online. And, as Baty points out, social media is far from the only way to get mental health help. Local community groups, clubs and sports teams are great outlets for improving mental health, and many schools offer counseling and programs to help teens. Venice Family Clinic also offers a variety of services to serve teens and its other patients at multiple locations in Los Angeles, including teen counseling, LGBTQ+ support, addiction treatment, and even programs like cooking classes, Zumba and yoga.
“Social media can be a great tool for gathering information, sharing ideas and reaching out to others when used responsibly,” Baty said. “By providing these tips, we hope to help teens and their families improve their mental well-being while navigating this digital landscape.”
About Venice Family Clinic
The Venice Family Clinic recently merged with South Bay Family Health Care. The combined organization now serves 45,000 patients at 17 sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood, Culver City, Redondo Beach, Carson, Gardena and Hawthorne, as well as two mobile clinics and an extensive street medicine program for homeless people.
The clinic provides integrated care by creating a one-stop health care system that offers multiple services, often in the same locations and at the same time as primary care appointments. These services include dental care, addiction treatment, mental health services, vision services, child development services, health education, prescription drugs, domestic violence counseling , HIV services and health insurance registration. For more information, visit VeniceFamilyClinic.org.