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Helping Youth Avoid the Summer Social Media Surge

Blue Shield expert provides tips for caring adults to help youth balance screen time and other activities.

In today's digital age, young people spend more time than ever glued to screens. While technology has its benefits, excessive screen time can have detrimental effects on mental health, physical well-being and social development. According to Blue Shield of California’s “BlueSky Youth Mental Health Survey,” youth report spending an average of 5.6 hours per day on social media platforms alone, leading to concerns about the impact on their overall health and happiness.

Paula Ambrose, who leads the BlueSky youth mental health initiative at Blue Shield, emphasizes the important role that caring adults play in helping youth strike a balance between screen time and other activities.


"Heading into summer is another great time for parents and caregivers to talk with young people about screen time and social media," said Ambrose. “Today’s youth are digital natives, so some adults might feel like teens know more than they do about the safe and healthy use of technology. Guidance from a caring adult is invaluable and it’s not just about setting rules; it’s also about leading by example, putting our own tech down, being present and engaged.”

Here are five tips from Ambrose to help young people avoid the “social media surge” this summer:

  • Encourage offline connections: Encourage young people to prioritize face-to-face interactions with friends and family. Suggest activities such as outdoor adventures, game nights or community service, which can help build relationships beyond the digital realm.
  • Lead by example: Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy screen habits. Limit your own screen time and prioritize spending time with family and friends. You can also invite teens to explore interests and hobbies beyond screens – whether it's sports, arts and crafts, gardening or community service, encourage them to pursue activities that foster personal growth and fulfillment.
  • Set healthy boundaries: Collaborate with teens and young adults to create a family media plan that outlines expectations and limits for device use. Designate specific areas of your home, such as the dinner table and family rooms, as tech-free zones. Make these spaces for activities such as reading, board games or simply enjoying each other's company without the distraction of screens.
  • Stay informed and engaged: Keep yourself informed about the latest developments in the apps and social media platforms your children are using. Encourage open dialogue about their online experiences and provide guidance on navigating social media safely and responsibly. Discuss topics such as online privacy, cyberbullying and media manipulation, and empower them to make informed decisions about their online behavior.
  • Promote self-care: Encourage teens and young adults to prioritize self-care and mental well-being. Activities such as exercise, mindfulness, journaling or creative expression can help them manage stress and maintain balance in their lives. Provide resources and support for seeking help if they are struggling with mental health issues or online pressures.