Is Social Media a Threat to Your Teen’s Wellbeing?

RALEIGH, NC — If you have read my previous posts, there are similarities in each as I believe there is a need to raise awareness and focus on prevention and intervention. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, prevention means prohibiting something from starting or preventing someone from doing something. Intervention interferes with the outcome of something that is already in progress.

As someone who works with students, parents, teachers and administrators and is a youth and parent advocate, a former class mom, concerned parent and PTA President. The most used phrase I heard from parents was “I didn’t know”. My goal with these posts is to raise awareness among parents and guardians of a problem and how to prevent or control it! This post is the first in a series on protecting our youth and parents online.

NC Center for Safer Schools (CFSS) director Karen Fairley was a panelist at a recent webinar on school violence. One of the challenges she addressed during the webinar was the spread of social media among youth. Fairley said administrators and teachers need to be engaged, but it all starts with parents, who play a “vital role” in school safety. Principal Fairley also spoke to the Parent Advisory Commission about the CFSS’ focus on creating a positive school climate. The most important area is eliminating bullying in schools and the social media that fuel bullying. Cyberbullying is bullying on online platforms.

As one of the research focus group participants put it best: “When you argue on social media, something so small can quickly become something so big.” According to the youth surveyed, four social media functions escalate conflicts: comments, live -Streaming, image/video sharing and tagging.

  • Comments allow social media users to reply publicly to content posted by others. It allows people outside of your friend group to “heat up” online conflicts.
  • Live streaming can quickly attract large audiences to watch conflicts in real time.
  • The majority of social media apps are image/video sharing apps. Users can share photos and videos with each other publicly or privately.
  • Tagging allows social media users to interact with an account when they mention it in a post or comment. On most social media channels, tagging notifies the recipient and links to the tagged profile.
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Young people often try to avoid social media violence. Focus group participants discussed four approaches to doing this: avoidance, de-escalation, calls for help, and bystander intervention.

  • Avoidance means exercising self-control to avoid conflict.
  • The de-escalation strategy includes attempts by those involved to slow down a social media conflict as it arises.
  • Asking for help means finding a trustworthy source to help you.
  • The spectator intervention strategy was most effective offline, away from the presence of an online audience.

The youth who were part of this focus group believe that social media conflict is a threat to public health. They described multiple experiences of going online with no intention of fighting and being drawn into an online conflict that resulted in gun violence.

Social media networks offer valuable support to our teenagers as they are an integral part of many teenagers’ lives. Social media allows teenagers to create online identities, communicate with other teenagers, and engage in social networking. While social media can offer valuable support, we need to make sure our teens are doing it in a safe way.

School safety is a group effort! Let’s start a parent-guardian circle together! Visit me every first Monday of the month from January 2, 2023 Project Arrow FB. This will be our online meeting place to share information and resources that support healthy youth and parents. This group allows participants to suggest topics for discussion and ways to engage our teens in the dialogue.

In the meantime, here are some steps we can take to encourage responsible use of social media and limit some of its adverse effects. Consider these tips:

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Protect your teen by:

  • Defend yourself against bullying, gossip and spreading rumours
  • Set reasonable limits for rest, homework, and electronic device use
  • Let your teen know about your plans to review their social media accounts and have regular conversations about their use and opinions
  • Parents, listen carefully to what your teens are saying


Having trouble with social media? If yes, how can I help?

Gale McKoy Wilkins is a wife, mother, grandparent and family life coach. She is the founder of Project Arrow, an evidence-based, peer-to-peer and leadership program that teaches middle, high school and freshman year students how to manage trauma and crisis through life coaching. It is the first life coaching organization in the state to be funded by the Department of Public Instruction and the first to implement life coaching in a school.