How can I help my teenager cope with extreme views on social media?

  • Many teenagers are very engaged with what’s going on in the world at the moment.
  • With social media and smart phones in their pockets, they have constant access to a huge amount of information. They’re seeing the same attention-grabbing headlines, global events and political movements that you are.
  • Because of this, some young people are very angry about the world and what is happening.
  • We’ve seen many young people expressing their frustration about climate change. Many are very passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit, or the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It can feel tricky to talk to children and teenagers about the news. You can help them to manage their emotions by having an open dialogue with them and showing an interest in their opinions.
A teenager sits on the sofa, looking at their laptop with a smartphone next to them

The impact of seeing extreme views online

  • Seeing lots of extreme views can leave teenagers feeling isolated, especially if they don’t feel as angry or passionate as their peers.
  • They might feel excluded or judged by people their age if they try to take a different approach.
  • It can also be hard for teenagers to get a break from the news when it’s filling up their social media feeds.
  • This can have a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing, especially at the moment.

Talking about extreme views

  • Try to speak openly and honestly with them about what is going on. This will encourage them to be honest with you, too, and feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns.
  • When discussing a subject, talk to your child about engaging in debate in a healthy and safe way.
  • Encourage them to think critically when they come across new information or opinions. It might help if you can explain to them what is going on and what the different views are. You could watch the news with them and discuss the stories together.
  • Young people see ‘fake news’ and false information on social media, too. It can lead to difficult conversations.
  • If you are concerned about a specific topic, you could do your own research and look at reliable sources. Try to remain calm and listen without judgement or anger when it comes up in conversation.
  • Show an interest in what your teenager is reading online. Ask how it makes them feel. You can also have a conversation about reliable sources of information. Encourage them to think about bias and why someone might hold a particular view.
  • Listen to their opinions. Instead of trying to change their mind, encourage them to consider other points of view. You could ask them to think about how their view might affect other people.
  • When you or your child comes across hateful speech or behaviour, try to challenge it. This might be as simple as explaining to your child that you don’t like that language or behaviour.
  • Encourage them to think what affect it might have on other people who hear or see it.

Having time offline

  • It is important for your child to spend time away from their screens and social media.
  • Encourage your teenager to spend time offline.
  • Discuss with your child a limit for time spent online.
  • Include them in the decision-making process by asking them to suggest a reasonable amount of time and coming to a compromise.
  • Doing sports and outside activities helps to boost mental wellbeing. Plus, the time will give your child a break from the news.
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