In today's digital age, it's nearly impossible for kids to avoid the internet, social media, and technology. Technology and the internet have become an integral part of our lives. While these tools can be valuable for learning and connecting with others, they can also take a toll on teenagers' mental health. That's why I'm so passionate about educating others when it comes to digital wellness. We need to equip our tweens and teens with strategies to exist alongside of technology, strategies that will help their overall mental load with an "always on" culture. As a parent, you may be concerned about your tween or teen's excessive use of technology and its impact on their mental health. That's why it's essential to promote digital wellness, which refers to the practice of maintaining a healthy balance between technology use and other aspects of life. Here's why digital wellness is critical for tweens and teens' mental health:
Promotes Mindful Technology Use
Digital wellness practices, such as unplugging before bedtime, taking regular breaks from screens with exercise or the 20-20-20 rule, and being present in the moment, help teens become more mindful about their technology use. What are you doing online? Why? What's the goal of being online right now? How do you feel? By doing so, they can learn to use technology intentionally and not as a way to avoid dealing with real-life problems.
Reduces Screen Distraction
Spending too much time on screens can lead to distraction, which can affect teens' focus and ability to learn. Digital wellness practices can help teens learn to balance screen time with other activities, which can improve their attention span and overall productivity. Learning about various tools to help with solo tasking is key for many tweens and teens, which will also help reduce the anxiety that can come with feeling overwhelmed.
Promotes Positive Self-Image
We know that social media and the internet can put pressure on tweens and teens to compare themselves to others and feel insecure about their appearance or abilities. It can make tweens and teens feel like they need to compare themselves and strive for an unrealistic standard of beauty or success. They are inundated with images constantly. By promoting digital wellness practices like self-care and mindfulness, teens can learn to focus on their own well-being and develop a positive self-image. Instead of socially comparing themselves in unhealthy ways, they can learn how to remain mindful with self checks, resilience and checking in with their own feelings after being online.
Improves Sleep Patterns
It's no secret that excessive screen time, especially at night, can disrupt tweens and teens' sleep patterns and lead to insomnia or sleep deprivation. This can play a vicious cycle of constantly being in sleep debt, which interferes with emotions, school and family life. By encouraging digital wellness practices like unplugging 30 min to 1 hour before bed, tweens and teens can improve their sleep quality, which can have a positive impact on their mental health. Start small, and make it a family thing. It's so much easier to start new tiny habits when you break them down into manageable tasks, and with the support of those around you.
Enhances Social Connections
While social media can sometimes cause negative feelings and conflicts, it can also be a valuable tool for building and maintaining social connections. Our tweens and teens whole lives can be found behind that black screen. Even ours, as adults! They go through a lot with each other, they're finding their voices and they are going to have hiccups along the way. That's part of life. Encouraging teens to use social media and technology to connect with friends and family can help them feel more connected and supported, which can boost their mental health. Try being supporting of their friendships and even ask questions about what they do with their friends online.
Provides Access to Resources and Support
The internet can be a great resource for tweens and teens who need support with mental health issues or personal problems. However, it's more important to know if they are coming to you or their close friends, versus taking random information online and using that to help themselves. There are so many great apps for meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and so forth. There's also a lot of positive intention apps, such as Daily Haloha. By promoting digital wellness practices like safe online behavior and responsible use of technology, teens can learn to navigate the internet safely and find the resources they need to get help. But we need to show them what these resources are.