WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA?

There are still many positive outcomes of using social media, but there are also risks to your health from participating in this world.

RISKS INCLUDE:

• Comparing yourself at an elevated rate
• Feeling more anxious
• Feeling more depressed
• Feeling lonelier
• Feeling more envious or jealous
• Feeling stressed or frustrated
• Feeling Overwhelmed
• An inability to focus
• Addiction
• Seeing traumatic or violent imagery
• Harassment and cyberbullying
• Phishing Scams
• Internet predators and catfishing

MOST AT-RISK GROUP:
PRE-TEENS & TEENAGERS

Similar to the other risky behaviours like drinking and drugs, the younger you are, the riskier they can be.

WHY ARE TEENS SO AT-RISK?

ELEVATED SOCIAL
COMPARISON

Teenagers are at a (VERY natural and normal) stage of life where peer-to-peer comparison increases in an effort to understand their identity. Now there’s highlight reels, social media is directly tied to you, it doesn’t turn off, and it is quantified for everyone to see.

UNDEVELOPED
BRAINS

The brain is not fully developed until around 25-years-old. In fact, some suggest teenagers experience the same rate of cognitive growth and self-development as toddlers.

NOT MUCH EDUCATION
ABOUT #SAFESOCIAL

There’s little education for youth about safe social media use, potential risks, and strategies for success.

FEWER SOCIAL
SUPPORTS

Parents, educators, police officers, and other traditional forms of social support did not grow up with social media. Therefore, they were conditioned differently and might not understand the language or issues deeply.

POSITIVES TO SOCIAL MEDIA

At the same time, we often tell people, and especially youth, they have to be on social media to participate actively and successfully in society.

SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE GREAT FOR:

• Communication
• News consumption
• Class participation
• Creating company culture
• Job search
• Personal branding

IF ABSTINENCE IS LESS OF AN OPTION, HOW DO WE PRACTICE #SAFESOCIAL?

5 STEPS TOWARDS
#SAFESOCIAL

Though there are many risks associated with using social media, there are also a lot of benefits.

COMMON BENEFITS

• Connection
• Community
• Learning
• Empowerment
• Staying aware
• Humour
• Inspiration
• Motivation
• Entertainment

SPOILER ALERT: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU’RE FEELING OFFLINE

1 2 3 4 5
STEP 1

BUILD AWARENESS
& UNDERSTANDING

Just like alcohol or sex, we need to make sure everyone is speaking the same language when it comes to #SafeSocial. 

If we all understand concepts like “highlight reels”, “social currency”, “FOMO”, or “DMs” and what we expose ourselves to on social media, we will be better able to spot issues when they happen (see: power of suggestion). We will also be more equipped to discuss them.

If the terms already mentioned confuse you, we got you covered! Try reading our Glossary of #SafeSocial Terms & Acronyms.

HOW DO YOU LEARN A LANGUAGE?

IMMERSION

Immerse yourself in it by signing up for accounts yourself. The best language learning happens when you’re surrounded by it.

TALK WITH PEOPLE WHO
SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

Ask youth or other active users what they’re doing and why. Listen actively and non-judgmentally. Ask them to show you a thing or two.

FORMAL
CLASSES

Take formal classes either through traditional institutions like Seneca College’s “Social Media Strategies 101” and Algonquin College’s “Introduction to Social Media” or through alternative education like Udemy’s “Social Media Fundamentals for Beginners” or Media Smarts’ “The Parent Network: Social Media and Your Kids Workshop”.

INFORMAL
LEARNING

Do informal learning such as what you are doing here! Start with our resources section. You can also always Google “social media for parents” or “social media for beginners”. The links are endless, but you might come across things like Instagram’s digital well-being initiative, Psychology Today’s “Parent’s Guide to Social Media Use for Kids”, or Common Sense Media’s, various posts about the basics of social media.

PARENTS
& EDUCATORS

You have a duty to learn what’s happening here. Even if you want to abstain from social media, you must learn the language so you can educate the youths in your life on safe practices.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS & ACRONYMS
STEP 2

MODERATE YOUR
CONSUMPTION

2A. Ask yourself the important questions. Many of us know how to enjoy a bottle of wine or a bit of cannabis safely and healthily, but have you ever had this conversation about social media?

It is important that you audit your social media diet, be intentional, and make sure what you’re taking in is good for you!

Start by asking yourself these reflective questions. Imagine how you might answer if it were alcohol or drugs we were discussing.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Am I consuming social media because I want it or because I need it?

1

Do I dislike social media but ‘do it anyway’ because that’s what’s “normal?”

2

Do I use social media because I genuinely enjoy it?

3

Do I make sure that what I’m consuming is genuinely positive or adding value to my life?

4

Have I ever been peer-pressured into it or peer-pressured others into using it?

5

Has anyone ever made me, or have I ever made anyone else, feel uncomfortable for choosing to abstain from having social media altogether?

6

Have I ever let social media consume my life or harm relationships with others in my life?

7

Have I ever overdosed on social media and spent too much time there/did not remember what I did?

8

Do I consume responsibly and safely?

9

Am I addicted to social media?

12 STRATEGIES FOR MODIFYING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA USE

2B. Take steps to modify your social media experience. Once you’ve answered some deeper questions about your social media use, you’re ready to start taking the appropriate steps for YOU. Your solution needs to be specific to you.

What might bother someone else might not be a problem for you, and therefore, their solutions might not work for you either.

This list could go on forever, and we’d love to hear your #SafeSocial strategies as well. Download the PDF version here.

Make it Mindful

  1. Try Mindful Scrolling©

    Instead of speeding through your social media feed, choose a feed and go through each post on your chosen feed thoughtfully (try at least 5). Look at the photo for more than 1s, read the caption, and consider who is sharing it. Ask yourself questions such as:

    • Do I actually like this piece of content? Does this bring value or a benefit to my life?
    • Do I not like it, but physically ‘liked / double-tapped’ it anyways?
    • Do I know the poster?
    • Do I like the content the poster generally shares?
    • Should I unfollow this person to remove this kind of content from my feed?

  2. Elastic Band Trick

    Put an elastic band or hairband around the centre of your phone. You will still be able to answer phone calls easily, but everything else (i.e. texting or social media) will require you to have a mindful conversation with yourself about your intentions.

Audit Your Social Media Diet & Clean Up Your Feeds

Mindfully go through your social media feeds, who you follow, and what they share. If they do not bring you joy, a laugh, connection, learning, or another positive experience, unfollow them. Sometimes we have to unfollow our friends. That’s okay. This is about what YOU need to be well. They can still be your friends IRL! Just tell them you’re following artists and comedians now.

Track & Manage Your Time

Use things like Apple’s “Screen Time” or an equivalent to get a sense of your current usage rates. Here is a list of apps that help people limit their mobile or social media use. For example, apps that block notifications temporarily, remove blue light, track usage, send helpful reminders to you, etc.

  • Cold Turkey boosts your productivity and reclaim your free time by blocking distracting websites, games and applications.
  • Offtime is an application for both iOS and Android users that helps you balance digital devices in your life by eliminating distractions, lets you spend time with the people you care and enables you to be more aware of yourself.
  • Moment is an application for iOS and Android devices that gives you back your stolen time through short, daily exercises and use your phone in a healthy way so that you can be present for the parts of life that matters most.
  • Flipd is an application for iOS and Android devices that helps you spend your time well and helps you celebrate all of life's big and small mindful moments.
  • Space is available for Android, Chrome and Mac users and is a personalised behaviour change programme designed to help millions of people find their phone/life balance.

Avoid Distraction & Improve Focus

Use things like Apple’s “Screen Time” or an equivalent to get a sense of your current usage rates. Here is a list of apps that help people limit their mobile or social media use. For example, apps that block notifications temporarily, remove blue light, track usage, send helpful reminders to you, etc.

  • Self-Control App: is an application for MacOS that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, email, or anything else on the Internet for a period of time and doesn't let you back in until the time expires.
  • Freedom gives your back your stolen time through short, daily exercise.
  • Forest is an application for both Mac and Android users that helps you stay focused on the important things in life whether you are working at the office, studying at the library or spending time with friends.
  • AppBlock is an app for Android devices that helps you block distracting applications temporarily on your device so that you can stay focused in school or at work.
  • Focus Me is an application for Windows, Mac and Android that functions as a website blocker by helping you break free from distractions and unleashing your productivity.
  • Cold Turkey boosts your productivity and reclaim your free time by blocking distracting websites.

Tailor Your Privacy & Security Settings

By taking time to set your privacy and security setting, you help ward off harassment and unwanted interactions. You also help create psychological safety for yourself. For example, do you know how to do these things?

  • How to make your accounts private.
  • How to limit who sees each post.
  • How to block or report people.
  • How to block comments with certain words in them.
  • How to turn off location tags.

If not, we have compiled links to how to do it for each of the following platforms:

Set & Prioritize Offline Time

Set dedicated time to put the phone/social media away such as at the dinner table, when you sleep, or Sunday mornings. Prioritize the offline relationships because they have been shown to be more valuable and impactful.

Try a Digital Detox

For a set length of time - let’s say 30 days - and take a break from social media completely (eg. giving it up for lent, leaving your phone at home for a weekend, deactivating your accounts until exams are over, using the focus apps from above, etc).

Try the “Analog” Versions

If you’re really trying to curb your smartphone/social media addictions, you want to try and remove as many temptations as possible. For example, you may be going on to answer an email or set a reminder, but then you see an Instagram notification and end up in a hole. Try removing the temptation by using the analog versions of phone apps:

  • Anything that has a desktop/web version, try that first.
  • Alarm → alarm clock
  • Calculator app → a physical calculator
  • Notes / Reminders apps → paper/lists/journals
  • Camera → a digital camera
  • Health apps → Fitbit or other health-only tech
  • Banking/travel apps → website versions, calls, or branch visits
  • Phone app → okay… maybe keep that one. Who has a home phone anymore?

Develop Offline Hobbies

It’s easier to avoid temptation when you are busy doing something else. Try joining a spin gym, pottery class, camping, DIY, cooking, exploring, etc. Here’s a giant list of hobbies and another of low-cost hobbies. As an additional bonus, they will make you a more interesting person!

Create Goals & Execution Plans

Our research showed that people who had long term goals, and were actively working on them, compared themselves less and had more positive experiences on social media. Similar to #8, if you’re working on something you’re passionate about such as building a business, writing a book, meeting your weight-loss goal, or graduating from school, you will have less time for social media.

Join Our Weekly #SafeSocial Support GroupTime

This is a recurring meetup for anyone to join. In this group meeting, you can feel free to share some of the problems you're going through with social media, addiction, and mental health. You may also ask any questions you have. Sometimes there will be 2 people (you and a member of our #SafeSocial team), and sometimes there might be 10. We ask that you join via video and be open-minded, compassionate, and kind. We're here for you.

Register

Turn to the Mental Health Experts

If it’s getting to the point where you can’t handle it yourself, call in the experts. There are many services that help with mental health and addiction as well as a few that focus primarily on tech-related issues.

Mental Health Services

Kids Help Phone
24/7 free confidential professional online and telephone counselling and volunteer-led, text-based support to youth across Canada.

National Helpline
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Canadian Mental Health Association
The CMHA provides advocacy, programs, and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) was founded in 1987 in response to the frustration and sense of isolation experienced by parents and their children with ADHD.

Sidran Institute
Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute, Inc. is a nonprofit organization of international scope that helps people understand, recover from, and treat traumatic stress (including PTSD), dissociative disorders, and co-occurring issues, such as addictions, self injury, and suicidality.

HelpWhenYouNeedIt.org
The site has over 350,000 listings of both private and public resources near you that are ready to help in terms of food assistance, housing assistance, healthcare assistance, mental health services, legal assistance, and financial assistance.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders.

MentalHealth.gov
MentalHealth.gov provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information and aims to educate and guide the general public, health and emergency preparedness professionals, policy makers, government and business leaders, school systems, and local communities.

eMentalHealth.ca
eMentalHealth.ca provides anonymous, confidential, and trustworthy information about mental health, and where to find help, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

MediaSmarts
Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy. They help children and teens develop the critical thinking skills they need for interacting with the media they love.

Online Mental Health/Therapy Apps

Inkblot Therapy
They match you with certified therapists and coaches based on your needs and preferences, and counselling takes place from the comfort of home via video.

National Helpline
Connect with a licensed therapist from the palm of your hand. Online therapy.

Canadian Mental Health Association
An online portal that provides access to behavioral health services such as online counseling and therapy services through web-based interaction as well as phone and text communication.

Online Mental Health/Therapy Apps

reSTART
They match you with certified therapists and coaches based on your needs and preferences, and counselling takes place from the comfort of home via video.

Paradigm Malibu
Connect with a licensed therapist from the palm of your hand. Online therapy.

The Centre: A Place of Hope
Licensed treatment facility providing whole-person care for addictions, depression, trauma and other life challenges such as internet addiction.

STEP 3

BUILD THE
OFFLINE SKILLS

This may be the most important step. The schlarly research about social media and mental health is pretty inconsistent. Some found there was indeed an issue.

Others found social media improved the mental health of their participants! However, when people felt envy or compared themselves more, then it was always a bad situation. 

This means it is less about the networks themselves and more about who you are offline when you go into using. 

“100% of my participants experienced positive feelings as a result of using social media as well. How they felt going into it was the most important thing.”
Bailey Parnell

If you often looks around and think “I wish I looked like that” or “why can’t I afford vacation”, social media will amplify that. But, if you practice #SafeSocial, you will be able to have moe positive experiences too.

Your offline soft skills make it so you can handle the online world in a healthy way. Courtesy of our sister company, SkillsCamp, we’ve even given you some downloadable activities to start today!

7 OFFLINE SOFT SKILLS TO BUILD

SELF-AWARENESS

…so you know your baseline, likes, dislikes, stressors, and can proactively manage them.

Download our self-awareness reflection exercise.

It’s paired with our self-confidence reflection and we recommend doing them at the same time!

1

SELF-CONFIDENCE

…so you feel secure in your offline life and relationships and don’t feel obligated to ‘like a friend’s post’ or post yourself. You don’t feel peer pressured to participate or get jealous of other peoples’ highlight reels.

Download our self-confidence reflection exercise.

It’s paired with our self-awareness reflection and we recommend doing them at the same time!

2

STRESS-MANAGEMENT

…so you are able to predict what will stress you out and manage it as well as react in healthy ways when it occurs.

Download our “14 Tips for Managing Stress”.

3

RESILIENCE

…so that when you inevitably have those feelings of sadness or stress, you are able to bounce back and thrive.

Download our “Stress Drivers” activity. 

4

TIME MANAGEMENT

…so you understand how you’re spending the only commodity you can’t get back, and you can decide if you want to be budgeting it that way.

Download our “168h Audit” activity.

5

MINDFULNESS

…so you don’t find yourself wasting time mindlessly scrolling on these apps, but rather are actively consuming valuable content.

Scroll up to Step 2B and try our Mindful Scrolling© or click here to try these mindfulness/calm apps and services.

6

OPTIMISM

…so you are better able to assess how good and bad things that happen in you relate to you.

Download our “Switching Into Optimism” activity.

7

WHAT IS SKILLSCAMP?

SkillsCamp is a soft skills training organization, and our sister company also owned by Bailey Parnell.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SKILLSCAMP
STEP 4

MODEL GOOD
BEHAVIOUR

It will be hard to teach others about #SafeSocial if you yourself are not practicing it. It’s possible you’ve taught them behaviours you did not realize. They might not know any other way.

Are you a good #SafeSocial role model?

TAKE THE SELF-ASSESSMENT
STEP 5

HOLD RESPONSIBLE
PARTIES ACCOUNTABLE

Like with any other risky behaviour, we need many parties to come together in the solution for #SafeSocial. We can all do more to ensure sure we and others are using social media safely.

GOVERNMENTS

CAN DO MORE

We regulate all other risky behaviours and all other forms of media. (Eg. Companies selling cigarettes or alcohol are not allowed to advertise on children’s television, yet the same company can target 13 year olds on Facebook with vaping and pharmaceutical advertisements).

SOCIAL MEDIA
COMPANIES
CAN DO MORE

We believe if they are making money off of our addictions and eyes, they have a responsibility to make sure people know how to do it safely. (Eg. Kind of like an alcohol company donating to a M.A.D.D. campaign, perhaps these companies should fund #SafeSocial education in schools).

EDUCATORS

CAN DO MORE

We should be having #SafeSocial conversation 5 years before conversations about safe sex because that is when they are getting online – 9 years old and earlier.

Start By Checking Out Our Page For
Educators

PARENTS

CAN DO MORE

This is now going to be a hard part of parenting. Even when we’re tired and the kid is screaming, and it would just be easier to give the kid an iPad, sometimes they just need to be bored and figure it out.

Start By Checking Out Our Page For
Parents

WE CAN DO MORE

Eventually, we can’t blame others for our addictions and issues. We must learn how to practice #SafeSocial for ourselves. If you are reading this, you have likely taken the first step.

SELF-COMMITMENT FORMRESOURCES