The impact of social media on young women’s mental, physical, and emotional well being is a topic that’s becoming more and more important with each passing year. How does screen time affect mental health? Body image? Social connections? And those questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this discussion.
Enter: Darby Fox, MSW, a child and adolescent family therapist that spoke separately to both Sacred Heart students and parents in the second installment of our Speaker Series hosted in conjunction between the Leadership and Wellness sub-committee of the Board of Trustees and the Parents’ Association (check out the recap of our first Speaker Series event with Lisa Damour, PhD, here).
Mrs. Fox has over 25 years of experience in the field of child and family psychology and recently published a book called Rethinking Your Teenager: Shifting from Conflict and Control to Structure and Nurture to Raise Accountable Young Adults. She serves as a pro bono mental health consultant on the boards of Brunswick and the American Red Cross and has worked with at-risk children through Horizons and the Open Door Homeless Shelter.
Sacred Heart school psychologists Drs. Melissa Otero and Lisa Schwartz introduced and moderated the discussions. Mrs. Fox was able to come in person for both the Middle and Upper School presentations, making the event even more impactful for students.
Let’s be frank: technology is something that isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and Mrs. Fox understands that. However, during her talk with both the students and parents, she explained the importance of limiting adolescents’ time on social media and screens in general in order to improve mental health, real-life relationships, and overall feelings of self-esteem.
Mrs. Fox explained how excessive technology use negatively impacts one’s emotional state, sleep patterns, attention, ability to focus, learning and multitasking, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills. When listed out like this, it’s obvious that tech affects a lot! But what can we do as parents, teachers, mentors, and even peers to control some of these negative effects?
Mrs. Fox has the answers. Setting time limits on screen time, taking time to disconnect before reconnecting by simply placing devices in a separate room for 30-minute intervals, and (for the parents) checking up on your kids to make sure they’re sticking to the plan is all crucial.
Mrs. Fox left all of her audience members with two main takeaways: for one, if it’s not in person, it doesn’t count. Humans are able to understand, learn, and empathize in situations in which they can pick up cues from the other person, which is why arguing or even praising via text doesn’t get the same emotional message across. Secondly, if you’re unsure if you should say something on social media, think of these three questions: is it true? Is it nice? Is it necessary? If you answer “no” to any of these, chances are it’s better to say nothing at all.
Mrs. Fox’s presentation ties in with the Living Our Mission’s Leadership and Wellness committee, which seeks out innovative and effective ways to nurture our community both in body and mind. Parents: If you missed the virtual presentation or want to view it again, go to “Wellness” resources in the parent portal to view the recording. And stay tuned for an announcement of the next Speaker Series installment, coming soon!