By CHARLOTTE HSU
Published October 22, 2021
How can families help children and teens navigate the ever-changing landscape of social media — especially when many of today’s parents and caregivers did not grow up with these technologies as central to their daily lives?
UB faculty member Sourav Sengupta, an expert in child and adolescent mental health, says one way that trusted adults can support young people is by setting age- and developmentally appropriate boundaries. It’s not a matter of “teetotaling,” he notes. It’s about slowly teaching young people how to use social media in healthy ways.
“I think we are generally behind as adults in keeping up with our children’s social technology use,” Sengupta says. “While some parents of younger children identify as ‘digital natives,’ many parents became more active social technology users beyond childhood or adolescence.
“Our children will need to grow up to find a reasonable way to incorporate, tolerate and utilize social technologies in their lives,” he adds. “We really cannot afford to be passive in that process. We need to be engaged, which includes offering firm boundaries.”
In a conversation with UBNow, Sengupta, assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, and program director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship in the Jacobs School, provided some insight.
What are some ways that social media impacts mental health?
There is significant evidence for the negative social and emotional impacts of excessive social technology use. For example, there are concerns for increased social isolation, lower self-esteem, decreased participation in normative healthy activities, and decreased concentration.
On the other hand, there is also evidence to support adolescents utilizing social technologies to explore their identities, connect with peers and family, and learn more about their world.
How do generational gaps create challenges for parents and caregivers?
I think that many of us do not have meaningful lived experiences of what it means to be a modern child with so much access to such a broad range and depth of social, cultural and technological information, all the time.
For parents and caregivers who find themselves a bit overwhelmed, we may need to catch up a bit. Check in with other parents, spend some time interacting with the apps your kids are using. If you’re looking for a little primer, check out Common Sense Media’s Social Media resource page for parents.
Instagram has been in the news a lot lately. What are some considerations for this platform?
Instagram is a highly visual medium. It immediately grabs our attention at a very primal level. Combine that with the experience of getting (or not getting) ‘likes,’ responding to comments and constantly comparing complex experiences through pictures with limited context, and you’ve got a recipe for a highly stimulating, variably rewarding, intermittently toxic social experience for young people.
Instagram can really lend itself to the ‘curated life’ phenomena. If you see other users primarily posting about their most amazing positive experiences, it can give the impression that others’ lives are amazing while mine is ‘just OK.’ Teens can spend a significant amount of time agonizing over getting a post ‘just right.’ To me, parents’ supervision and potential concern over use may need to be proportional to the amount of time and energy an adolescent spends crafting the perfect image or comment.
What tips do you have for parents?
Think purposeful and pro-social. If young people are using social media to learn something new, interact with peers about a special event coming up, or directly connect with a friend or family member, these can be healthy ways for them to feel connected and engaged in their social world.
Limits are important. We know that spending hours a day on social media can put young people at increased risk for depression. One study showed that limiting use to 30 minutes or less per day was associated with decreased loneliness and depression. For teens, 30 minutes or less a day is a great goal but may feel far off for many teens and families. If you are pulling back, do it gradually and don’t be surprised by resistance. For younger children, strongly consider holding off on anything other than directly supervised use or video calls with trusted friends and families. And don’t forget, there should be a significant amount of screen-free time before bed.
Slowly grant increasing freedom as young people demonstrate they are developmentally prepared to handle that autonomy. It’s like how you’d approach helping young people gradually develop a healthy relationship with alcohol or rich foods or romance. Different families will have different values and priorities that inform how much and how often their kids will use these technologies, but we need to be involved. We need to (re)engage.
Familiarize yourself with the social technologies children and teens are using. You should be on their platforms as a friend or connection. There should be a clear understanding that you get to ‘vet’ what is being posted.
Talk to young people about digital safety. They should understand that they shouldn’t give away personal/private information to strangers. For teens, we need to discuss healthy emotional expressions and contrast those with exploitative or risky expressions they may come to regret. If teens are being too excessive or risky in their social media use, parents may have to be creative and persistent in finding ways to appropriately limit use. And if this is feeling too difficult, it may be time to check in with a teen’s pediatrician or consult with a therapist.
Lastly, work to be a good role model. Teens are going to find it difficult to listen to their parents about less screen time if adults in the household are constantly on their devices. Find ways to unplug and spend quality time together as a family. Not always easy, but always worth it.
Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …
Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.
Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.
Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.
Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.
Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.
Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.
— Yash Joshi (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021
5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android
Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.
You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).
You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.
While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.
We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.
Credit: buffer / app store
Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.
Credit: preview / app store
Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.
Credit: content office / app store
An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.
Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.
Credit: plann / apple store
You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…
Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.
Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters
From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.
It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.
TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.
I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones
More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.
People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.
A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said: “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.
“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.
“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”