Home Mental Health & Well-Being Top Tips to Stop Your Child from Doomscrolling, According to a Mental Health Expert

Top Tips to Stop Your Child from Doomscrolling, According to a Mental Health Expert

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According to a new report by leading international health insurer AXA Global Healthcare, the average person spends 145 minutes on social media every day, and while social media can be a force for good, it can also impact young people’s health in negative ways.

Teladoc Health’s head of mental health and AXA Global Healthcare’s mental health expert, Dr Colin Preece, explains the pitfalls of social media and shares his expert advice for parents on how to spot the signs of a problem and help their child protect their mental health online.

Is social media a problem?

“Social media can be accessed anytime and anywhere and plays an important role in our lives,” comments Dr Preece. “While social media can be a safe and rewarding space, we’ve always seen the negative impacts that can come with it, especially on children and teens. Doomscrolling is a classic example of this.”

What is doomscrolling?

“Coined during the pandemic, doomscrolling is the urge to absorb bad news,” explains Dr Preece. “For some people, it can be a way to make sense of what’s going on around them. But social media algorithms can also feed doomscrollers with more of what they read and watch until all they have is a constant stream of negative news. This can keep them at a high level of anxiety for a long time, which could harm their mental health.”

How do I know if social media is harming my child’s mental health?

“If your child is struggling because of social media, they may show the following signs:

  • Significant mood changes, beyond what you’d expect from normal teenage mood swings
  • Isolating from friends, family, and activities they previously enjoyed
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Increasing negative self-talk and a tendency to compare themselves to others
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviours for follows and likes on social media.”

Four tips to help your child stop doomscrolling

Dr Preece has the following advice for parents trying to cut down on their child’s social media consumption:

1. Focus their attention on something else

It’s easier said than done, but directing your child’s attention to something else, preferably away from their phone or computer, will limit their exposure to negative stories. Encourage them to do something that makes them feel good instead.

2. Give them a time limit

It’s good to stay informed – that’s what news is for – but encourage your child to protect themselves from doomscrolling territory by limiting them to 10 minutes of scrolling per day. They can use wellness apps and use restriction settings on apps like Instagram to help them stay on time.

3. Seek out the good

Rather than reading about the bad stuff, why not encourage your child to watch something funny, read positive news, or listen to a happy podcast instead?

4. Practise gratitude

Provide your child with a journal where they can write down what they’re grateful for. They could start by making a list of three things or by cycling through their senses and listing something they saw, smelled, tasted, heard, or felt that made them happy each day. Or if writing isn’t their thing, perhaps work a gratitude session into your daily dinner times and share those good feelings as a family.

More tips for parents to help their children with social media health

“The most important thing is to make sure you have a culture of open communication with your child,” Dr Preece shares. “Creating a safe and communicative environment in your home can encourage your child to feel empowered to share any insecurities they feel with you and help you address how social media could be impacting their mental health.

“Try to stay up-to-date with social media functions yourself, even if it’s just for awareness. Understanding how your child can engage with the social media world will help you better educate them on considerations like online privacy and see past the veneer of the world presented to them.

“It’s also important to monitor how much time your child is spending on social media. You may never be able to control exactly what your child is engaging with online, but implementing house rules like phone-free mealtimes and keeping phones out of the bedroom at night can build some balance into your child’s digital routine.”

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