By Chris Starr, Oak Knoll School
Is social media bad for teen health? It doesn’t have to be. That was the key takeaway following a talk with Upper School students by social media expert Bailey Parnell. Parnell is the founder of #SafeSocial and CEO of Skills Camp – a company that offers soft skills training to businesses and educational institutions. She presented students with some very compelling risks of social media addiction and its effects on mental health – especially with young women – but also offered advice on bringing balance to your online self by maintaining balance with your offline self.
In summary, here are her five steps towards #SafeSocial behavior. Complete details, along with advice, resources, assessments, and media can be found on the #SafeSocial website.
- Build Awareness and Understanding. Parents, students, and educators should be well-informed and aware of the latest social media tools, features, and concepts.
- Moderate Your Consumption. Just as with any addictive substance, “users” of social media should audit their diet and consumption and be reflective of their daily social media habits. Do I want or need social media? Do I genuinely enjoy social media or do it because it’s what everyone else is doing? Am I using social media in a way that adds value to my life?
- Build Offline Skills. Parnell’s research has shown that this may be the most important strategy for safe social media use. How individuals feel at any given point prior to getting online determines how they will react to the online content. Improving soft skills offline – such as mindfulness, self-confidence, grit, time-management and optimism – translates into more positive and productive use of social platforms.
- Model Good Behavior. Your behavior online is visible to the world. Think twice before making a snide comment about a celebrity photo or burying your head in your phone when in the company of impressionable siblings or younger students.
- Hold Responsible Parties Accountable. Advocate for better governmental regulations. Press the social media providers themselves for more ethical behavior and less selling of your attention to advertisers. Start meaningful discussions with peers, parents, and educators.
As Bailey Parnell concludes on the #SafeSocial website, “Eventually, we can’t blame others for our addictions and issues. We must learn how to practice #SafeSocial for ourselves.”
Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child is a Catholic, independent day school in Summit, New Jersey – coeducational from PK to grade 6; and all-girls in grades 7 to 12.