Talking with Teens about Mental Health in an “Always On” World

A teen girl on the phone.

Tweens and teens are on a constant rollercoaster of emotions, and the hormonal changes don’t help the situation. Most parents can vividly remember their own teen years and what that time was like, but they didn’t have the challenges today’s kids deal with. In this always on world, too much communication can be damaging to young kids, especially if it’s negative and/or threatening. Are you worried about your own child? If you think your teen is struggling with mental health, know the signs and talk with them.

Our Communication Culture

A teen girl on the phone.Anyone can reach out to someone else in one instant. It occurs every second of every day, especially among teens who are overloaded with TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, DMs, voicemails, emails, text messages, and YouTube. In fact, many report that they are  on one or more of these platforms “almost constantly,” according to a 2022 Pew Research Center report.

Teen insecurity hasn’t changed over the decades, now it is exacerbated by social media and the constant daily comparison to others. To make matters worse, not only might children face in-person bullying in school, today’s teens must also grapple with “cyberbullying”—willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices

More than 30% of young people aged 12 to 17 have been bullied online, and young people who experience cyberbullying are at a greater risk than those who don’t for both self-harm and suicidal behaviors. Yet, alarmingly, only 1 in 10 teen victims will report this bullying to a trusted adult, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.

Signs of Emotional Distress in Teens

Is your tween or teen just being a “teenager” or is something more serious going on? For  example, if your child is wearing long sleeve shirts in the heat, it may be a way to cover up cutting or other types of self-harm, or a struggling teen may suddenly resort to drugs and alcohol to cope with or avoid difficult situations. Here are some other telltale signs that your child may be in emotional distress or struggling with their mental health. 

  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • No interest in usual activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Poor school performance and absences
  • Less attention to hygiene
  • Signs of self-harm
  • Anger and irritability

What Can a Parent Do?

Talk with your teen one on one. Take them out for lunch or find time away from the rest of the family. If they are showing any of the above signs of distress, tell them you are concerned about their behaviors of late, and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Ask if anything is bothering them. If they don’t respond right away, make sure to leave the door open and let them know you are always ready to listen. Give them every opportunity to talk. Maybe let them know that you get depressed sometimes too, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Ask if they would like to talk to someone else.

Additionally, watch for any talk or signs of suicide, even if they appear to be joking. Don’t hesitate to call the Suicide & Crisis Help Line at 988.

If your child refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong, or if you become more concerned, there is always helpContact Foresight Mental Health. Our therapists are specially trained and experienced to help teens and parents cope with the difficulties of adolescence in positive ways.