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Helping Children and Teens Navigate Viral Social Media Trends

By Harmit Singh, MD February 13, 2023 Posted in: Mental Health

In this digital age, social media is a central part of many teenagers' and preteens’ lives. It's a place where they can connect with friends, express their ideas and feelings and where they stay up to date on the latest social media trends. 

From dances to challenges, teens are constantly engaging in these trends and creating their own content to share with their friends and followers. Viral trends can be entertaining and may range from harmless challenges like the "Mannequin Challenge" to ones that may even lead to meaningful research such as for ALS with the “Ice bucket challenge." Some trends may be inappropriate and offensive that led to many teens receiving backlash and even being expelled from school for their participation, while other trends can be dangerous and carry a risk of injury or death, such as the “Kiki Challenge” and “Tide Pod Challenge."

Impact of Social Media Trends

As a parent and caregiver, it's important to understand the impact of the viral trends that kids may be exposed to on social media and the constant peer pressure they are under to participate in such viral trends.

Mental Well-Being and Social Media Trends

Many of these challenges are centered around physical appearance and conforming to certain standards of beauty. They may feel pressure to create and share content in order to keep up with the latest trends. Not participating may lead to being ostracized by their peers. This may lead to a lack of individuality, loneliness and lack of sense of belonging. The constant need for validation and approval from others can negatively impact self-esteem and mental well-being. Other risks include cyberbullying, sharing inappropriate content, and the spread of misinformation.

Tips for Parents to Navigate Viral Online Trends and Peer Pressure

Here are some tips on how parents can help teens navigate the complex web of social media and viral trends:

  • Stay informed: Make an effort to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and social media platforms that are popular among kids. Viral trends can change quickly, and what is popular today may not be popular tomorrow.
  • Open communication: Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about any concerns or questions they have about viral trends. Be available to have open and ongoing communication.
  • Regular check-ins with your child about their online activity: Be aware of who they are following on social media and what trends their peers are following. Continue to have open, honest conversations about internet safety.
  • Listen actively and non-judgmentally: Encourage your child to share their thoughts and feelings about viral trends and listen to them without judgment.
  • Don't dismiss their interests: Show interest in what they are interested in and don't dismiss such trends as a waste of time.
  • Validate peer pressure: Validate the pressure they feel and their need to fit in. Assure them you are there for them and love them unconditionally.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear guidelines for your child's online behavior, such as screen time limits and content. Discuss with your child what is and isn't appropriate to share on social media.
  • Monitor the content: Keep an eye on their social media accounts and the content your child is consuming to ensure it is appropriate
  • Use it as a learning opportunity: Use viral trends as an opportunity to teach your child about the impact of technology, media, and internet culture on society
  • Encourage critical thinking: Help your child understand the potential risks and benefits of participating in viral trends, and help your child to think critically to evaluate the information they encounter online. Teach them to question the authenticity of sources and the motives of those who share viral content.
  • Provide insight about realities of life: The need to present their life as perfect online can lead to a sense of inadequacy and self doubt. It's important for parents to talk to their teens about the reality behind the photoshopped photos and perfect captions and that everyone has their own struggles and insecurities.
  • Encourage individuality and personal growth: It's important to remind teens that they should not base their self worth on the number of likes or followers they have. Instead, they should focus on their own interests and passions and not feel pressured to conform to the latest trends.
  • Encourage balance: Remind your kids that it's important to balance their time spent on social media and the internet with other activities, such as spending time with friends and family, exercise, and hobbies.
  • Model good behavior: Practice what you preach by being a responsible and respectful digital citizen yourself. Be a role model. Practice safe and responsible online behavior yourself and lead by example.

While social media can be a great tool for teens to connect with friends and stay informed on the latest trends, it's important for parents and caregivers to have open, honest and non-judgmental conversations with their children. By educating teens on the potential risks and encouraging them to focus on their own interests, parents and caregivers can help teens navigate the online world and make healthy decisions.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental well-being, visit chihealth.com/behavioral to connect with a CHI Health mental health provider. We offer in-person and virtual therapy sessions with our team of licensed mental health therapists.

We also offer a monthly parent education and support group

Harmit Singh, MD
Harmit Singh, MD

Harmit Singh, MD joined CHI Health Psychiatric Associates in August 1, 2013. Dr. Singh is fluent in three languages including English, Hindi and Punjabi. Dr. Singh enjoys cooking, cricket, listening to music and watching movies. He also likes spending time with friends.

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