North Star Youth Partnership

North Star Youth Partnership engages youth ages 11-18 through educational, recreational, leadership and service-learning opportunities. What started in 1997 as an educational program to prevent adolescent pregnancy in Yavapai County has expanded to 11 different programs serving youth in Central and Northern Arizona.

Friday, 07 July 2023

Ways To Help Your Teen Detox from Social Media

It’s no secret that teenagers are becoming more connected to their phones and social media and less connected to the world around them. Online safety is an obvious issue, but what parents may not realize is that overuse of social media can harm teens in other ways.

Tia Awumah is a Health Educator with North Star Youth Partnership, a program of Catholic Charities that provides learning and leadership opportunities to help youth be confident, make healthy decisions, and contribute positively to their communities. Tia interacts with middle and high school students every week and hears about the problems they face due to social media.

Social Media Pushes Perfection

Her students, some only in sixth grade, already feel pressure from social media to be “perfect.” The desire to dress perfectly, have perfect friends, and present as perfect on social media is leading teens to make unfair comparisons about themselves.

As a parent, it can be difficult to understand why this matters so much to teens. But the truth is that from birth, teens are exposed to unrealistic beauty standards dictating how they should look to be accepted by others.

Beauty Standards Affect Self-Esteem

These unrealistic standards are spread quickly through social media, where images are often edited and don’t represent what a real person looks like. Teens may not realize this and think that they’re expected to look this way. Students of Tia who compare themselves to others on social media say, “I look at myself and I think, ‘I’ll never look like that.’”

Parents may be surprised to hear that beauty standards affect boys just as much as they do girls. One male student went on a trip and noticed how men’s bodies were being represented in posters and advertising. He joked that he needed to work out more to meet these standards.

Encouraging a Healthy Body Image

You may not always know what your teen is doing online or how what they see affects their body image. But what you can do is challenge your child to go a few days without social media and use that time to do things they love. Support your teen by also participating in the challenge and lead by example.

Make certain times of day a no phone zone. When everyone sits down for dinner together, leave your phone in another room and focus on each other. Parents, you may be surprised to see that your teen enjoys getting the attention from you.

Spend time getting to know your child and their insecurities. We all have insecurities and acknowledging them can reduce their power over us. “I didn’t even know I had an insecurity until social media pointed it out,” is something Tia often hears from students.

The idea that anyone, anywhere can influence a child is concerning. But what you do and say as a parent is just as impactful. Set the foundation by talking positively about your child’s body and others’ bodies.

Tiauna Awumah is a Health Educator with North Star Youth Partnership. She has worked with youth in Arizona for almost four years. Tiauna has a master’s in psychology with an emphasis on life coaching from Grand Canyon University.

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