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Mental Health Awareness Week – A blog by Kirsty Knowles

A blog about mental health awareness by Kirsty Knowles

Ok in line with Mental Health Awareness week I decided to focus on a topic which is close to my heart, I am a mum to an impressionable 14-year-old boy which is extremely fun… sometimes…ok now and again… ok occasionally when he reverts to be a friendly individual!

This 14 year has all the techy gadgets that are the norm with teenagers these days an iPhone, iPad etc, although I will add I am not a huge advocate of my teenager having every gadget under the son and do put limitations in place.

Anyway, I digress I started to think how differently being a teenager is these days and what impact social media has on his mindset.

Image is so important to these teens projecting a perfect life on social media is something adults and teens alike are striving to do daily. As a parent some questions that worry me are… Is my son going to be capable of maintaining human contact – what happened to having a conversation? how is this going to affect my son when he is a mature adult? Is he going to be capable of expressing emotion without the help of an emoji? Is he going to be able to sit and read a book without picking up his mobile every second of every day? all these questions I have no answers to yet!!

I did some research and a few stats that came to light and were interesting and worrying:

  • A survey of young people conducted by the London-based Royal Society for Public Health foundthat social media sites such as Instagram, which primarily focus on people’s physical appearance, are “contributing to a generation of young people with body image and body confidence issues”.
  • “Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,”said Professor Margaret Duffy, who co-authored the report. But if it’s used “to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship – things that cause envy among users – use of the site can lead to feelings of depression”, she adds.

 

All very worrying right? social media can lead to body issues, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, loss of reality the list goes on and on. So as parents what do we do we can’t remove our children from all social media platforms (we can, but I’m sure they would find a way). It has become part of our culture and everyday life – now we must consider putting limits in place. My son isn’t allowed his mobile phone or tablet after 21.30 at night and he must put this outside his room. He doesn’t need to go to sleep, he has options – he can read a book!

I monitor what he is doing on social media I have access to all his passwords and randomly spot check to ensure that he isn’t getting himself in any tricky situations, however above all honesty and transparency is crucial I educate him what social media is about; how life can sometimes be portrayed differently using social media then what is reality. I explain to him what cyberbullying is and the new phenomenon called “Facebook depression” which is basically when someone defriends you or online bullies you (yep scary right it has a name). Thankfully he doesn’t have access to all social media platforms yet, but the time is coming and my time of trawling through boring posts and messages between him and his friends is going to get longer and longer.

Above all else I am trying my best to find a happy medium. It’s not all doom and gloom with social media our teens and young adults can access company information, potential employers, learn about different cultures, build and maintain a large support network from their own bedroom. These are all really positive, we just need to teach them how to use it for the good of their mental health and not get sucked into the negative.

So, in answer to my initial question in my opinion it’s about education, it’s about not allowing your child to take this seriously, it’s about respecting their privacy but also being on hand to support and engage them in other things our lovely big world has to offer.

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