By Amy Williams, June 28, 2017

Summer is here! For many teens, the unstructured days of summer break often mean hours spent lounging around scrolling through social media or vegging out in front of the television. In fact, the average teen spends around 9 hours every day consuming some form of media. Did you know there is a strong correlation between social media usage and increased rates of depression or anxiety in our children?

The Link Between Depression, Anxiety, and Social Media

According to the PEW Research Center, 92 percent of teens go online every day. This is a concern because social media use may be harming their self-esteem and confidence as children experience

  • cyberbullying
  • fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • pressures to keep up with friends
  • unrealistic expectations

In addition, youths may place too much value on their number of online friends, comments on posts, and likes on social media at the expense of building strong real-life relationships.

As our children heavily rely on digital communication, they use social media presence to measure worth, popularity, and their value among peers. Teens actively monitor who sees their posts, who shares their photos, who is left out, and how posts can portray a “perfect” life, leading to how a child perceives him or herself. This can result in sadness and learned helplessness, then to psychological disorders including phobias, depression, and anxiety.

An estimated 2.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. Other surveys have found approximately 1 out of 3 teens exhibit classic symptoms of anxiety disorders. Many experts believe these numbers underestimate the true prevalence because many of our kids will not report or seek help for their depression or anxiety. According to a report from the Child Mind Institute, only 20 percent of teens experiencing a diagnosable anxiety disorder will receive treatment.

8 Teen-Friendly Summer Activities

To help combat the negative influences of social media this summer, let’s encourage our children to moderate their social media intake. To help them find a healthy balance, suggest alternative ways for your teen to enjoy their summer break.

Volunteering. Get kids involved to enrich the lives of others and accomplish something worthwhile over the break. (Did you know we have a Teen Speaker program in Massachusetts? We train teens to speak publicly about their lived experience to inspire their peers and spur help-seeking. Teens outside Massachusetts can share their stories through video!) Encourage teens to engage in activities such as helping elderly neighbors, walking dogs at the shelter, reading to residents in nursing homes, running recycling drives, working in soup kitchens, stocking food pantries, or even coaching younger teams in sports, debate, robotics, and more. The possibilities are endless!

Becoming an Entrepreneur. Many teens want to get a job and make money. Unfortunately, laws strictly limit employment available for teenagers. Instead of waiting for a certain age, foster them in creating their own business now. Whether it is mowing lawns, babysitting, crafting, or selling produce at the farmer’s market, children can learn valuable life skills running their own enterprises.

Joining a book club. Over the summer most children experience a learning loss of two months. Prevent this seasonal regression by enjoying a good book with them and encouraging conversation about what they got out of the book. Find reading groups through local bookstores or libraries or start your own!

Taking a class. Summer is a great opportunity to explore a vast range of topics: coding to painting, small engine repair to cooking, accordion playing to zoology! Contact local libraries, extension offices, state parks, community colleges and vocational schools, gyms, and local professionals (such as artists, photographers, painters, or gardeners) for a variety of class options for your teen.

Getting outdoors. The average person spends 90 percent of their lives indoors. Not surprisingly, there is mounting evidence that being outside in green spaces is beneficial for our kids. Teens can benefit from the vitamin D, improved concentration, and physical activity as they walk the dog, visit the beach, or hit the skate park. For family bonding time, consider camping, fishing, or kayaking.

Developing their green thumb. Encourage them to pick out new vegetables or varieties of flowers to plant and cultivate. Besides taking in fresh air, children gain a better understanding of where food comes from, the value of work, healthy eating, and reducing carbon footprints.

Joining a gamer’s group. Whether it is building a toy model, strategy board games, or trading card games, many comic book or gaming stores provide places for game play and organize tournaments. Many of our sons and daughters enjoy gaming and the camaraderie provided from fellow gamers.

Hosting friends. Provide teens with an ideal outdoor hangout at your home by helping your teen build a fire pit, create an outdoor theater, or set up hammocks in the shade. This will give them a safe place to meet and you will get plenty of opportunities to know your child’s friends.

Wellness Resources

Families for Depression Awareness offers many resource for families and teens to address wellness

If you have further questions please direct them to Program Coordinator Arielle Cohen, Ari@familyaware.org or 781-890-0220


Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. @AmyKWilliams1