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How teens can navigate social media in a healthy way | Are you okay?

Leaked internal documents from Facebook confirm the company’s subsidiary, Instagram, uses algorithms that increase body image issues for teen girls.

SEATTLE — How can parents help teens navigate social media in a time when social media has become so prevalent in daily life?

Dr. Jennifer Pfeuffer from Bastyr University’s Department of Counseling and Health Psychology studies the effects of digital media on people. Leaked internal documents from Facebook, now Meta, confirm the company’s subsidiary, Instagram, uses algorithms that increase body image issues for teen girls. 

Pfeuffer said psychologists learned from the leaked Facebook documents and parents can too.

Limited social media use can be helpful for teens in two key areas. First, social media can connect kids who may be ostracized for being different from groups of people who understand them. Second, Pfeuffer said social media can be a great resource for information and learning like TikTok recipes or chess clubs, birding, etc. But, she said, parents need to supervise and coach their kids on how to navigate the social media world.

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Beyond social media, Pfeuffer warned there are implications for all of us being on camera all the time. Some call it the "Zoom effect." With more video meetings and classes, social scientists are seeing a rise in eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

Her best advice is to keep communication and learning in person when possible and be aware that online communication goes beyond what you see on the screen.

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