Courageous Conversations: The internet and the youth’s mental health

Everyone's Child

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Social media is only a click away, making it easy for anyone. How does the internet impact a young person’s mental health?

“I spend a decent amount of time on social media,” Cameron Jordan said, a Missouri State University (MSU) student. “Kinda in between if I’m not really working on anything so maybe a few hours, maybe four, five plus.”

Jordan is a senior at MSU and admits social media can be a distraction.

“There are days where, yeah, probably could tone it back,” Jordan said. “Days where it’s a little overwhelming depending on what’s going on.”

he says the internet does give him the ability to connect with people, but it does have a negative impact as well.

“It’s time-consuming and it can be toxic, Jordan said. “People can be on there for attention, people can be striving for the wrong things and it can be empty, not as fulfilling if that’s what you’re using it for.”

People can also get the wrong idea from a post such as a violent message.

“I think that goes beyond the problem of social media, Jordan said. “If somebody’s seen a violent act and then thinking to themselves ‘I should go create a violent act’ I think that gets into a mental health conversation.”

Molly Six, a licensed psychologist at Burrell, thinks violent images online can give someone the wrong idea.

“I do. That’s actually another topic that’s come up with youth I’ve spoken to,” Six said. “One of the terms that’s often used a lot is triggered. So I think everyone can have a different response to it.”

Six said young people specifically may not properly filter what they see online.

“Maybe they’ve had an experience. Maybe they’ve been exposed to violence previously,” Six said. “That would be very triggering for them. It would be an experience they might feel like they have to process.”

She says processing that could lead to anxiety and sometimes trama. Parents are the first line of defense and it starts with a discussion.

“It could be an inspiring conversation,” Six said. “You could learn a lot about your kid through what they’re seeing and how they feel about what they’re seeing too.”

Brian Vega, a middle school councelor, has similar advise.

“Parents should always spot-check their kids,” Vega said. “What apps they’re on, they should always have all their passwords and usernames to any platform their kids are using.”

Vega also believes parents should have a contract with their kids.

“Where the child knows exactly what the parent’s expectations are and they both sign off on it and they review it periodically and make sure it’s being followed,” Vega said.

Vega says he has a contract with his son who is currently in eighth grade.

“I check in with him constantly about what he’s on,” Vega said. “We talk about it a lot. Therefore he’s more likely to show me what he’s doing. I do a lot of listening.”

Those conversations, according to Vega, are paying off.

“Observing, setting firm limits for him I think keeps him safer because it’s kind of a way out,” Vega said. “Maybe he would like to post something or his friends are pressuring him to post something and he could say ‘No my dad will kill me if I do that.'”

Six suggests parents try not to be judgemental when talking to your children about the internet because this will help lead to a more effective and casual conversation.

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