How to Protect Your Teen’s Mental Health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 49.5% of American teens have had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives. More than 20% of those conditions have been severe. The internet and social media play a major role in these numbers.

A Pew Research Center survey indicates that one in six teens has had to deal with online abuse. That includes:

    • ➡ Name calling.
    • ➡ Having false rumors spread about them.
    • ➡ Receiving unwanted explicit images.
    • ➡ Being tracked by someone.
    • ➡ Having physical threats made against them.
    • ➡ Having someone share explicit images of them without their approval.

For many teens, online abuse can lead to feelings of isolation and despair, as well as serious mental health conditions. Understanding how the internet can negatively affect your teen’s mental health is critical. CyberGhost VPN is here to do our part to help you protect your teen online.

What Is Mental Health Awareness Month?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in America. It’s a time to speak up and share knowledge and information about mental illness. It’s also a time for compassion, and to help the millions of Americans affected feel hope and discover a path to healing.

If you think your teen is experiencing a mental illness, try talking to them. There are a number of national programs available for guidance and information. Some of these are:

You may also want to contact a local mental health professional for advice and support. Protecting your teen’s online privacy and personal information is another important step to promoting good mental health. That’s where CyberGhost VPN can step in to help.

Tip: The internet can be a great resource for information on teen mental health. However, you should always consult a mental health professional before making decisions about treatments or serious life changes.

Mental Health Challenges for Teenagers

Being a teen is hard. It’s a time of change, growing independence, and new perspectives. School, sports, clubs, friends, romance, social media, and the looming future – for many, it’s an exciting right of passage. For others, the pressure to succeed, fit in, or just be yourself can be too much. It can lead to various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

Teens are more vulnerable to stress and more likely to develop a mental illness than adults. The World Health Organization sites a number of reasons for this, some of which include:

    • 🚩Exposure to adversity.
    • 🚩Pressure to conform with peers.
    • 🚩Difficulty exploring their own identity.
    • 🚩Bullying.
    • 🚩Discrimination or exclusion.
    • 🚩Stressful home life.
    • 🚩Lack of access to support and help.

The constant scrutiny teens face online and via social media is another major stressor that can lead to mental illness. The stigma that often accompanies mental illness can add even more stress to an already crippling condition.

If you understand what affects teen mental health, can recognize signs of illness, and know how to seek assistance you’ll be equipped to help improve your teen’s mental wellbeing.

Teen depression infographic

Growing Up with the Internet

If you’re a parent of a teen, you were probably born in a time before the internet. Today’s teens have never experienced a life without it. A Pew Research Center survey reveals that 95% of American teens have a smartphone or access to one. That means most teens have the internet at their fingertips 24/7.

The internet is undoubtedly a useful tool that can help teens thrive. It provides educational resources, document sharing platforms, and video conference tools that keep teens connected to their peers and teachers. The internet also gives teens an outlet for self-expression, links them to like-minded individuals, and provides escape into things like gaming, music, and streaming services.

These are some of the reasons the web proved an invaluable resource for teens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While much of a teen’s online experience is positive, too much exposure to the internet can have a negative impact on their mental health. Media influence, online forums, and social media can alter a teen’s perception of reality and lead to self-esteem and self-image issues. It can also cause anxiety and stress around the need to conform or fit in. The internet also gave rise to an especially harmful phenomenon: cyberbullying.

What Is Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is digital bullying that happens when someone shares mean, false, or damaging content about a person with the intent to cause harm or humiliation. It often involves personal or private information. This can weigh heavily on a teen’s relationships and mental health. It can lead to academic struggles, emotional and physical pain, and in severe cases, even suicide.

Illustration of a boy in a hoodie sitting next to a laptop with negative iconography related to cyberbullying  

Cyberbullying can take place on any digital device. It often occurs via email, text, instant messages, online forums, and in online games. One of the most common places for cyberbullying is on social media.

How Social Media Impacts Teen Mental Health

Social media can cause self-esteem and self-image issues in teens. Teens often feel pressure to use popular apps, like Tik Tok and Snapchat, and to conform to what their peers are posting. Many fear exclusion if they don’t. This can lead to a variety of mental and behavioral health conditions, including Facebook Depression and Social Media Anxiety Disorder.

While most teens today don’t use Facebook, Facebook Depression is still a common disorder among them. Facebook Depression occurs when someone spends a lot of time on social media and feels worse about themself as a result. It can be triggered by the number of “friends” they have, feelings of isolation, sadness at seeing others together and happy, and more.

Social Media Anxiety Disorder is the need to constantly check your social media so you don’t miss out on what’s going on. It’s a digital, often more intense version of the fear of missing out (FOMO). Your teen may be suffering from this if they:

    • ⚠ Spend six or more hours a day on social media.
    • ⚠ Are distracted by social media while with family and friends.
    • ⚠ Neglect other aspects of their life, such as school or work.
    • ⚠ Constantly post or comment.
    • ⚠ Become anxious or nervous when they can’t check their accounts.

How to Increase Online Safety for Teens

Online safety can lead to better mental health for teens, kids, and adults. Being safe online starts with awareness and understanding. Make sure you and your teen are digitally literate, so they can recognize and avoid potential mental health risks without outside intervention.

Staying safe online requires a healthy relationship with the internet. Encourage your teen to limit their daily internet usage, and remind them that what they see online isn’t always real. The internet is full of misinformation. People also tend to prop themself up and only show the “best version” of themself on social media.

Remind your teen that everything they do online is traceable. ISPs track their IP address and log their activity. Websites monitor their interactions and habits. Social media posts and online comments live forever, even if your teen deletes them. There are even websites specifically designed to aggregate digital profiles. These profiles are most often used for marketing, but the fact they exist means digital stalkers and cyberbullies have access to your teen’s data.

How to Prevent Cyberbullying and Harassment

Visual of woman getting cyberbullied.  

You can’t prevent cyberbullying and harassment from online predators, but you can talk with your teens about ways to help avoid it, such as:

          • Think before posting anything you might regret later.
          • Avoid oversharing personal information online.
          • Keep account passwords secret, even from friends.
          • Log out of accounts on shared devices.
          • Set social media accounts to private and ignore messages from strangers.

As a parent or guardian, it’s important to transparently monitor your teen’s online activity. This will allow you to identify and address potential risks and discuss them openly with your teen.

If your teen becomes a victim of cyberbullying or harassment, coach them to not engage. Empower them to speak up, and report the incident to the appropriate authorities, including schools, local police, and the national Department of Justice.

If your teen is sent obscene material or misleading domain names, words, or images online, you should file a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). You can do so on their website at www.cybertipline.com, or by calling 1-800-843-5678.

How to Keep Devices and Online Accounts Secure

In addition to the above, another way to keep your teen safe is to ensure their devices and online accounts are secure. Here are some tips to help you do so:

  1. Use a firewall to add a barrier between your teen’s data and the outside world.
  2. Install antivirus software and anti-spyware on devices to prevent attacks.
  3. Update your teen’s devices to the latest versions, which include security fixes.
  4. Use encryption to secure your home network.
  5. Remind your teen to turn off bluetooth when not in use.
  6. Tell your teen not to use public Wi-Fi (unless protected by a VPN).
  7. Suggest that your teen uses Face ID or a complicated passcode on their devices.
  8. Use a VPN to ensure your teen’s privacy and prevent tracking.

Protect Your Teen’s Digital Identity with A VPN

You can also help your teen avoid cyberbullying and harassment by protecting their digital identity with a VPN. When you download CyberGhost VPN, we keep your teen’s identity anonymous and their personal information completely secure.

CyberGhost’s military-grade 256-bit AES encryption and state-of-the-art VPN protocols ensure your teen’s data remains private and that no one can track what they do online. This is even true on public Wi-Fi.

Public Wi-Fi networks are unsecure and are a playground for digital predators. That said, there’s no need to worry when your teen uses CyberGhost VPN. We provide a fully-secure public Wi-Fi connection and have an automatic Kill Switch to block all traffic if your teen’s VPN connection ever drops for any reason.

How else do we keep your teen safe online? Our headquarters are in privacy-friendly Romania, so we’re not required by law to track, store, or share online activity and personal data. In fact, we have a strict No Logs Policy, which means we never do. Even if authorities ask for it – which they can in many countries, including the US – we have nothing to share. Take a look at our latest transparency report to see how many requests we get and reject.

When you protect your teen with CyberGhost VPN, you can rest easy knowing their data is safe.

FAQ

Are teenagers more susceptible to mental health disorders?

Yes. Teens are generally easily influenceable. Adolescence is a time when kids discover themselves and build foundations for their futures. Many find friends and social groups who share their perspectives. Many also have support from their families and communities. Many don’t.

Sadness, loneliness, and self-esteem and self-image issues may evolve into serious mental health disorders if not addressed. Many of these issues stem from internet and social media usage. That’s why CyberGhost VPN is here to protect your teen’s online safety on every device they use. You can use up to 7 devices simultaneously on one CyberGhost account.

Is the internet bad for teen mental health?

The internet provides many positive resources for teens. These include educational tools, outlets for self-expression, and ways to connect with friends and their community. Unfortunately, it can also be a source of stress that leads to mental illness.

Messaging apps, online forums, and social media can promote messages and images that alter a teen’s perception of reality. That can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

One thing CyberGhost VPN can do to help is to keep your teen’s online data secure against internet stalkers. Contact our customer support team 24/7 by live chat or email to learn how we can help keep your teen safe online.

Is social media bad for teens’ mental health?

The Pew Research Center suggests that social media has a positive effect on the lives of nearly 80% of teens. That means it’s bad for the mental health of the other 20%. Social media can create and reinforce self-image issues, harm relationships, lead to addiction, cyberbullying, and more.

Talk with your teen and set social media ground rules to promote mental wellbeing. Know how to keep your teens safe online, and secure their digital identity with a VPN.

How can you prevent cyberbullying?

You can’t stop cyberbullying, but you can take steps to help your teen avoid it. Teens should try to avoid posting compromising content online. They should always log out of accounts on shared devices. If your teen is cyberbullied, teach them to not react or respond, and encourage them to speak up and report the incident.

One way to keep your teen from being cyberbullied is to make sure their digital privacy is protected. That’s where CyberGhost VPN comes in. We keep your teen’s personal information secure so you can rest easy. Try us risk-free with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

What are some healthy online safety habits for teens?

Online safety for teens starts with data privacy. Your teen should never share their account passwords with anyone, even friends. They shouldn’t share personal information online, like their full name, address, or phone number. It’s also smart for your teen to set social media accounts to private and not accept friend requests from people they don’t know.

Use CyberGhost to keep your teen secure online. That said, much of their online safety comes down to them and their behavior. Whether they’re on social media, gaming, streaming, or browsing the internet, they should always use good judgment and protect their digital identity.

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