How to raise mentally fit kids in a tech-obsessed world

Despite the uphill battle parents face around social media and mental health, there is a silving lining.
Frances Haugen

Mental health takes a village

Parenting in a tech world: it’s not for the faint of heart. As Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen asserted: “very rarely do you have one of these generational shifts where the generation that leads, like parents who guide their children, have such a different set of experiences that they don’t have the context to support their children in a safe way.” The message’s clear: “we need to support parents.”

Also, numbers don’t lie. Until our kids reach their early to mid 20s, their brains are far from developed. That, plus the stark reality that self harm and suicidal alerts shot up by 143% during the first 3 months this past year. So the million dollar question remains: what’s a parent to do in this mental health crisis compounded by screens and social media?

It’s not so black and white

Probably not the answer you’re hoping for. On one hand, taking our kids’ phones away may strip away their social relationships and independence.

On the flip side, raising mentally fit teens in this digitally always-on world means parents need more help than ever. Read: not a weakness, but a strength…as this Facebook group “Parenting in a Tech World” of 150,000 followers suggests. Whether it’s the skillful open-ended questions you ask your kids when you suspect something’s off, or rallying their schools to host Mental Health Awareness Weeks and screenings of The Social Dilemma, the sky’s really the limit here.

Apparently, simple actions go a long way

Until the bigwigs get their regulatory ducks in a row, let’s keep on fighting the good fight. Fighting for our kids’ birthright: their mental health digitally and IRL.

  • Rally: Ask your schools to do more, like banning phones in the classroom, cracking down on cyberbullying or basic education on the dangers of social media.
  • Ask: Make this one a habit for long-lasting success. Start with questions like, “tell me about the best thing and the worst thing that happened to you this week” or “how can I support you better?”
  • Observe: spotting the non-verbal signs that your kid is struggling with mental health cannot be understated. Watch out for things like: decreased social interaction, a drop in grades, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and a change in eating to name a few.

Written by Tiffany Wen

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