Social Studies: The digital world and the toll on our children

Published: Nov. 6, 2019 at 9:42 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -Social media is a daily part of life for teens and constant posts on Instagram or Snapchat could take a toll on their mental health.

A lot of people use Instagram to share pictures and stories their day. Users can create polls and tell people “Ask me a question” but some young people are removing “Ask me a question” and typing instead “Drop your name for a rating”.

As a group of 8th graders explain, it’s the newest way to make classmates feel included or excluded.

“It kinda creates some drama really,” Chloe McHann, a student said.

The students say they’ve seen others become obsessed and depressed thanks to social media. A study published in September suggests that teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, aggression and antisocial behavior.

Therapist Calandrea Taylor says when teens come in for mental health counseling, social media is usually part of the problem.

“I ask often about social media because sometimes even in serious sessions, they can’t break away from their phones,” Taylor said.

Taylor says before social media, young people could refresh themselves after a bothersome event at school by going home. But now our phones are never too far away. She suggests parents create boundaries.

“We wanted to change the narrative of social media,” Jill Penick, an 8th grade English teacher said.

English teacher Jill Penick says a current assignment for 8th graders might be forcing some negative social media posts to the side and instead highlight random acts of kindness. The lesson is based on the book Stargirl which about a girl who is not accepted at school, but is finally noticed for her kind deeds.

“They perform four random acts of kindness and then if they can get a picture, they uploaded it into Instagram with the hashtag #stargirlkindness,” Penick said.

The 8th graders are having fun with it and coming up with their own ideas for acts of kindness with teachers. Penick says she’s starting to see a positive change with her students.

Taylor says when teens unplug the phone, they can suddenly plug into themselves.

“The more than I know about myself the better I can be in a social media environment and handle some of the things coming at me every day,” Taylor said.

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