Social Media Timeout: Helping teens take a break from devices

U.S. & World

(NBC) – For teens, escaping from social media is nearly impossible, but experts can offer some ways to help.

Debbie Dobbs, Executive Director of The Counseling Place, sees the effects of social media first hand at home and at work.

“It’s just a part of life now so it’s going to come up all of the time,” she said.

Counselors may intervene when children and teens fall into a dark place.

Police also call on them during possible suicide calls.

“They go into a group chat or direct messaging with others who may be feeling the same and then they just stay in that dark place and they don’t get out,” Dobbs said.

Experts say a negative comment, or a screen shot, or a video that goes viral, can have the same mental distress experienced by an adult who has lost of job.

That’s because teens lack maturity and life experience.

“Kids don’t see the future like adults do, so when they are miserable, they think they are going to always be miserable,” said Dr. Betsy Kennard.

That’s why psychiatrists say parents should talk with their teens openly about what happens on their social media accounts.

“It’s so easy to say ‘Oh, it will get better. You’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about that, it’s not a big deal’ and really, the kid, that invalidates their world view or their lens as you said. So really hearing them, helping them feel heard,” she said.

Parents should also talk with their child’s school if they suspect cyberbullying.

And parents should set stronger restrictions on their teen’s social media use, even if it’s not the popular rule at home.

“There are so many parents that say ‘That’s just the way it is now. That’s just the way it is.’ It’s the way it is because we let it,” Dobbs said.

According to the CDC, suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among children ages 10-18.

Young victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm according to this study.

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