Teenage boy on his cell phone in his bedroom

Helping Teens’ Mental Wellness in a Digital World

Author: Sam Fabian
Published Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2020

In an effort to remain socially connected during the coronavirus pandemic, many teens are staying online for longer periods of time.

While there are real merits to FaceTiming with friends and family, the digital world can also add to the pressures and worries that many kids often feel. It can also negatively affect their mental health. Research shows that spending more than two hours a day on social media correlates with a higher chance of experiencing unhappy feelings.

Before COVID-19, experts would encourage everyone to strike a balance between screen time and face-to-face interactions. Today, that is nearly impossible as we need technology to stay connected.

To help families during this time, CHKD invites parents and their children, ages 11 and up, to register for a free, online screening of the documentary “Screenagers: NEXT CHAPTER” on Wednesday, June 3 at 6 p.m. Following the screening, parents can participate in a Q & A session with CHKD mental health professionals.

The film examines the science behind emotional challenges teens face, the interplay of social media, and most importantly, what can be done in our schools and homes to help them build crucial skills to navigate stress, anxiety, and depression in our digital age.

The documentary follows Dr. Delaney Ruston as she finds herself at a loss on how to help her own teens as they struggle with their emotional well-being. She sets out to understand these challenges in our current screen-filled society, and how we, as parents and educators, can empower teens to overcome mental health challenges and build emotional agility, communication savvy, and stress resilience.

Using her experience working with families, and her own daughter’s mental health challenges, Dr. Ruston discusses the following strategies that parents can use to support their teens’ mental wellness:

Validate your teen’s feelings – “Wow, you must feel really disappointed, sad, or angry.” instead of “Don’t worry, it will get better.”

Empower problem-solving – Don’t try to fix things for your teen. Ask them if they have any ideas or solutions they’d like to try.

Talk about your own emotions – Share your experiences of stress and how you were able to work appropriately through tough emotions.

Seek professional resources when needed – You do not need to know everything. Seeking professional help is important if your child is avoiding normal daily activities due to feeling worried, anxious, or depressed.

Sleep hygiene – This must be a priority in the home for everyone. Keeping phones and other devices out of the room at bedtime is important to set limits and provide a healthy sleep environment.

Prioritize face-to-face time – this may be very difficult to do today due to COVID-19, but certainly make it a priority for your immediate family at meals, game night, and having one-on-one time with your teen.

Teach the 3 Ex’s of worry (developed by author Lynn Lyons):

  • Expect – Recognize worry will happen and practice accepting it.
  • Externalize – Pull it out and personify it: “Hello, worry.
  • Experiment – Do the opposite of what the worry demands, which is attention. Pivot and focus on another activity or thought.

For more information about “Screenagers: NEXT CHAPTER,” visit our online event registration page.

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About Sam Fabian

Community outreach program manager Sam Fabian oversees parent education and outreach programs at CHKD. She coordinates CHKD conferences and special events and collaborates with community boards and coalitions. She also develops programmatic partnerships with local schools, recreation centers and clubs and civic organizations.