May 24, 2022
Nonprofit Community Health Center Director of Behavioral Health Iliniza (Nisa) Baty Shares Best Practices
As we celebrate Mental Health Month this May, Venice Family Clinic is providing a series of tips to help teens navigate social media in a mentally healthy and responsible way.
While it is well-documented that social media can negatively impact mental health, it also provides access to a wealth of resources, communities and information. And it is not going away any time soon: 90% of teens age 13-17 across the U.S. report having used some type of social media, and American teens spent more time than ever on social media channels during the past two years of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
First and foremost, ensuring teen safety on social media must be the main priority. Keys to safely navigating social media include limiting contact information in profiles and posts; never giving away personal information like current location, phone numbers or addresses; keeping private information private and never meeting up with an unknown person without a parent or friend present. They also include making sure that information is coming from reputable sources.
In addition to these guidelines for ensuring teens’ physical safety, Venice Family Clinic’s Director of Behavioral Health Iliniza (Nisa) Baty has provided the following four tips to help teens and their families use social media in a mentally healthy way:
“Identifying and engaging with people who benefit your mental health is key. Finding people who ‘fill your cup’ instead of draining your energy empowers us to feel stronger and more positive,” said Baty. As an example, she shares that one of her patients began teaching online Zumba classes when the pandemic began. The patient now leads both in-person and online community classes of likeminded exercise enthusiasts that have become support systems for those involved.
“Treat your body well and your brain will follow,” Baty tells teens. “Introducing a ‘digital sunset’ before a good night’s sleep can help improve sleep patterns and reduce anxiety. When you do use social media, take regular breaks to get outside and make sure to interact with nature and participate in physical activities. To promote well-being, hydrate regularly and sleep 6-8 hours each night.”
Ways to avoid isolation can include seeking more face-to-face time (even if through video chat), limiting digital notifications and restricting the number of hours spent online. And, as Baty points out, social media is far from the only avenue for help with mental health. Local community groups, clubs and sports teams are great outlets for improving mental health, and many schools offer counseling and programs to assist teens. Venice Family Clinic also offers a variety of services to serve teens and its other patients at several locations across Los Angeles, including teen counseling, LGBTQ+ support, substance use treatment and even programs like cooking classes, Zumba and yoga.
“Social media can be a great tool for gathering information, sharing ideas and reaching out to others when used responsibly.” said Baty. “By providing these tips, we hope to help teens and their families improve their mental wellbeing while navigating this digital landscape.”
About Venice Family Clinic
Venice Family Clinic is a nonprofit community health center that is a leader in providing comprehensive, high-quality primary health care to 45,000 people in need, regardless of their income, insurance or immigration status. Having recently merged with South Bay Family Health Care, the Clinic now serves an area from the Santa Monica Mountains through the South Bay in Los Angeles County. The Clinic has 17 sites located in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood, Culver City, Redondo Beach, Carson, Gardena and Hawthorne, plus two mobile clinics. Its comprehensive care includes mental health services, dental care, street medicine for people experiencing homelessness, vision services, substance use treatment, prescription medications, domestic violence counseling, HIV services, healthy food distributions, health education, health insurance enrollment, child development services and more. For more information, please visit VeniceFamilyClinic.org and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.