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Helping Teens Build Healthy Social Media Habits

How teenagers manage and use social media is a complicated topic. Sure, social media can be a valuable tool and resource. Many times, it’s where teenagers express themselves, develop their identities and connect with others. But it can also be the source of depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation and other mental health challenges. Major concerns are cyber bullying, sexual content, negative pressure and feelings of inadequacy and low satisfaction with life.

Ultimately, it’s up to the adults and caregivers in their lives to gauge appropriate Internet habits and practices on phones, tablets and desktop computers, remembering that every teen is different in terms of maturity and self-regulation.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 95% of youth say they have access to a smartphone, and the percentage who say they’re “almost constantly” online has reached 46%, roughly doubling over past eight years. The same study reports the top social media platforms among teens are YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. Their Facebook usage has dropped significantly, from 71% in 2015 to 32% today.

These numbers speak volumes: Internet and smartphone usage is a prevalent part of teenagers’ lives.

In addition to mental health and substance use challenges, Youth Mental Health First Aid (Youth MHFA) addresses the pros and cons of social media and how to reduce the negative aspects through proactive steps.

Parents, caregivers and First Aiders can:

  • Talk with children and youth about how social media impacts them and their thoughts, feelings and actions. A teenager who feels sad or upset after looking at social media might benefit from changing their social media feed to include more positive people and messages.
  • Make a usage plan. A usage plan a teen and their adult agree on can increase the chance of it working. Consider daily routines, maximum screen time allowance and how and when to take breaks.
  • Monitor usage. There are several apps available that have useful features for monitoring safety, cyber predators, screen time and more. Apps include Bark, Qustodio and Net Nanny.
  • Gather phones and tablets every evening and during homework time. With social media out of arm’s reach, teens can focus on homework and sleep.
  • Model appropriate technology use. Adults can demonstrate healthy use of technology and social media by putting devices away during meals and conversations and taking technology breaks as a family.

Symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress can take a toll on a young person’s life if not managed early on, making it vital to help them develop healthy habits when using devices and technology. Parents, teachers and other adults who work with children and young adults can learn more about how to support and talk with teenagers about those challenges by getting certified in Youth MHFA. Find a course and #BeTheDifference in a young person’s life.



Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA Manual for Adults Assisting Children and Youth. National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Pew Research Center. (2022, August 10). Teens, social media and technology 2022. the,and%20gaming%20consoles%20(80%25.

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