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According to research released by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation earlier this year, many young people want to disconnect from social media – but FOMO won’t let them.

Otherwise known as ‘fear of missing out’, FOMO seems to be the driving force behind young people’s social media use. As part of the survey, headspace asked 3107 young people what keeps them online. The results revealed that 51 percent have thought about logging off social media, while 44 percent agree that the content they see is more often negative than positive.

But almost a third of young people surveyed say they feel an urge to use social media more and more despite the negative impacts, because they way to keep up to date with news and current events.

Reflecting on the survey results, headspace CEO Jason Trethowan reiterates that social media isn’t all bad.

“It can be used to connect with others, as a creative outlet, to learn new things and to pursue interests,” says Jason. “Overall, 41 per cent of young people we surveyed said the information they can find on social media is empowering, and two in five reported social media is also a good place to meet new friends.”

Social media has also given young people the opportunity to find their voice; 44 percent of young people surveyed agreed it is easier to express their opinions online than in person.. 

“However, the amount of content and the kind of content on social media can be very overwhelming,” Jason says. “The more time young people spend on social media, the less time they have for other important parts of life. It’s also the reasons they’re choosing to use social media that need to be addressed.

“Young people thinking of logging off might experience a fear of missing out on news, popular culture or conversations with friends. They may also worry about how going offline could impact their status or influence. It’s similar to the feeling young people might experience if they missed out on a party or social event.”

Then, there’s the matter of young people comparing their own lives to the ‘highlight reel’ they see online. 

“The research shows us young people are aware of how social media can impact their mental health now and into the future, with 55 percent of survey participants agreeing the content they post today will impact their job prospects and relationships going forward,” says Jason. “They are telling us that they are aware of the risks and they want to switch off. 

“But that’s easier said than done when most platforms are designed to keep us scrolling.”

So how can we, as parents, help our children break the scrolling cycle? headspace has shared the following tips for becoming more social media savvy…

Clean your feed

Go through your feed and explore what’s making you feel good and not-so-good. Some questions to think about include, ‘Do the accounts you follow make you feel good about yourself and your life?’, ‘Do they annoy or upset you?’ and ‘Do you experience unhelpful thoughts or feelings when you’re scrolling through?’.

If you do, try unfollowing or muting those accounts. Take a break from them and see how that makes you feel. You could also spend time building a positive feed by finding online communities that make you feel good, following accounts that inspire you (in non-appearance-based ways) and following accounts that help you explore your interests/passions.

Find balance

We’re often on our phones these days, checking, replying or posting. It can get overwhelming trying to keep up and FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a real challenge for many people. We might log on for a moment, to check one thing, then hours go by and we’re still there. These platforms are designed to keep us there, wanting more. Some things to consider:

  • Notice and track how much time you’re spending on social media
  • Set limits for yourself (Apple and Android have built-in tools that can help)
  • Unfollow accounts that take up too much of your time or are making you feel bad about yourself
  • Turn off notifications
  • Limit the time you spend on social media before you go to sleep
  • Leave your phone outside your bedroom so you’re not tempted to check
  • Use an alarm that isn’t on your phone
  • Tell your family and friends you’re slowing down/taking a break

Addressing cyberbullying

Unfortunately, in an online world, lots of people experience cyberbullying. This can include mean and hurtful posts, people spreading nasty rumours or sharing photos to make fun of or humiliate people. If the posts are based on someone’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientations, disability or gender, it’s discriminatory and this is unlawful in Australia. 

Anyone who has experienced cyberbullying knows how hurtful it can be. If it’s happening to you, know you’re not alone. There are things you can do and ways to get support:

  • Don’t respond – responding can make things worse
  • Screenshot the evidence in case you want to report it to eSafety/have a record for later
  • Report and block to the site it’s happening on
  • Consider changing your privacy settings
  • If you’re under 18, and you’re having trouble getting the content removed, report it to the team at eSafety.

Click here for the full article on the headspace website.

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