Social Media and Mental Health

Ask The Psych Docs…

on September 2015 | in Health | by Dr. Weidenfelder & Dr. Arbus | [email protected] | with No Comments

Q. I have heard that social media can cause depression. I am worried about it be cause my child is always checking Facebook and Twitter, etc. Should I stop her from using social media? Please help

For better or worse, social media is here to stay. There are definitely some real emotional risks that could occur with social media so it is important to stay connected to your child and to talk about her online experiences. Based on my experience, many children report that they often feel bad when they see their friends ‘looking like’ they are having so much fun in their social media pictures. I often ask patients to think of the last picture they posted online. Were they selective about the picture they posted? Did they choose the one where they looked like they were having the most fun? Most people don’t post pictures of themselves looking bored at a party – the ones that make it to Facebook are the ones that look exciting and fun, even when a party is not fun at all. Many pictures on social media are less than spontaneous and often ‘posed’. Thinking of the kind of pictures you post of yourself can help you remember that others do the same thing. I always caution parents and teens about social media sites where people can post anonymously (for example: Ask fm). These sites are a set up for negativity and bullying, as it allows people to say things that they would not say if they had to identify themselves.

» If you do believe that you or your child are suffering from depression, consider seeking psychological help.

Q. My child is going to university soon and I am worried, because it is his first time leaving home. How can I help him prepare for school and manage my own anxiety about him leaving?

Starting College or University is both an exciting and anxiety provoking time for both teenagers and their parents. It is very common for teens to be both excited and freaked out at the same time. For a parent, letting go and allowing your child so much independence is often also overwhelming. Even the most resilient families can face challenges during the first year of College and University especially away from home.

There are plenty of strategies and tips to help both students and their parents navigate the first year and help make the transition to living apart a smooth one. The first step is to be prepared. There are many ways to help prepare you and your child before they even leave for school. Teach independent life skills before they leave, like how to do laundry, how to cook basic meals, how to do basic banking and make smart financial decisions, how to make a doctor appointment on their own. The more independent your child becomes, the easier it will be for you to let him go and grow.

Once at school, parents can help kids prepare by helping them learn about their new surroundings. As a priority, focus on the location of key points of interest on campus (e.g.: food, medical, lecture halls, dorms, banks, etc.). Being aware of the environment and knowing where all the amenities are located will help ease some early anxiety of finding yourself in a new place. Parents taking the tour will also help them visualize where their child will be and how to help if they run into difficulty.

It is also important to encourage your child to get involved from day one. The first week of school is an easy time to make new friends, join new groups and become involved in campus activities. Leaving your family and friends back home can be hard and leave one feeling lonely however, it is important for your child to stay active and be involved. Check-in with your child regularly, to ensure all their needs are being met adequately.

Dr. Kim Arbus, C.Psych. and Dr. Suzy Weidenfelder, C.Psych. are Clinical Psychologists and the co-founders of Vaughan Psychologists and Psychology North. They can be found online at To book an appointment please call 416-801-8889.

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