Handling Social Media Stress – Pointers to Share with Your Teens

The lion’s share of modern day communication happens online and for that, thanks to the hundreds of apps available. Whether it is news or videos, blogging or education, social media or gaming, entertainment or social movements – a lot is happening online, all the time.

In fact, social media apps have become the new ‘hangout’ zones for virtual citizens. After all, we live in a connected world and enjoy being online. But that may not be always good for tweens and teens as they are still too young to process all the information download happening. This may lead to stress.

Stress is not uncommon in our physical lives. We get stressed by our education, career, relationships and the environment. The same happens in the digital world. In the physical world, our responses to stress are primarily venting, having face-to-face spats or ignoring the issue. Not so in the digital world. In the virtual space, stress may arise from different causes and the repercussions may take on a viral form.

Why do children get stressed by social media? The common causes are:

  • Peer pressure: THE most important reason for children being online is to connect with their friends. And to keep this friendship alive and kicking, they often blindly copy the group leaders, even if they are not comfortable with what they are doing
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Teens, especially girls, have a competitive spirit when it comes to online presence and don’t want to be ‘the last to know’ so, they end up spending a lot of time online
  • Keeping up with the Jones’: The same competitive spirit leads kids to spend hours posing and selecting the perfect pics to share online or seek approval from strangers. This is risky, as negative comments online can harm self-confidence
  • Excessive sharing: When kids share a lot of their private information on social media, they leave themselves vulnerable to hacking, as well as opening themselves up to contact from inappropriate individuals online
  • Cyberbullying: Most kids have witnessed or experienced some forms of cyberbullying and often end up as either perpetrators or victims or mute spectators. In all cases, this is a disturbing occurrence
  • Lack of screen time limits: Lack of digital balance can have psychological effects and so digital usage rules are a must
  • Lack of empathy: When children are not taught to respect others and their traditions, they do not develop empathy and may end up bullying those with differing views and lifestyles
  • Exposure to inappropriate content or people: The wrong connections and information are a big source of stress
  • Online spats: Differences crop up, leading to squabbles and heated exchanges. It gets complex when this is done in a public forum and strangers join in
  • Disturbing global news: The slew of violent news often creates negative tension in the minds of youngsters, leaving them feeling confused and belligerent

Parenting plays a major role in helping children learn how to tackle social media stress.  As parents, you know your children the best. Yes, even teens.

Observe them and if you note any change in their social media habits or general behaviour, talk to them. The earlier you start having frank one-to-one conversations, the easier will it be for you later. But before that, you may need to modify your own response to stress and learn to control your reactions. That way you will teach them a very important lesson without having to use a single word.

Help your kids fight social media stress:

  • Accept differences: People are different and will have different opinions. Accept the differences and respect their values
  • Be discerning: Life isn’t a bed of roses for anyone, so don’t let profiles fool you. Don’t judge someone by their bio and pictures
  • Practice tact: When things get bitter, the decent thing to do is to agree to disagree and walk away. If you don’t react, it doesn’t mean you are the weak one; it means you are smart enough not to get provoked. However, if the meanness gets out of hand, be the strong one and report and block account
  • Practice digital balance: Limit screen time and have good friends in the real world who will always stand by you
  • Be aware: The world will have both good and bad and growing up means learning to understand and accept this. Maturity is being able to stay true to values. Wisdom is knowing which is bad and avoiding it

Say goodbye to stress and lead a healthier and happier life online. Apply your values from your physical life in the digital one and practice STOP.THINK. CONNECT. And don’t forget! Use McAfee Total Protection on all connected devices to protect what you value the most.


Are third party apps for you?

What are third party apps?” asked my mother with a frown.

Wow Gran! You are becoming pretty cyber-savvy!” commented my incorrigible offspring and added, “Wherever did you come across it?

Why, your Mom shared a post on Facebook about being cautious while using third party apps. I have been searching for a while but can’t find one. So, what are they and how do I delete them?” The last part was evidently directed at me.

I’m secretly proud of my social media savvy Mom, who has amazingly knit the extended family together by tirelessly searching for long-lost relatives and adding them to family groups and keeping the conversation alive with her daily quips and queries. So, her question jolted me awake to the fact that there are many out there in the digital world who do not have a clear idea about risky apps and how to avoid them. An explanation was definitely in order.

What are third party apps?

The apps in your devices are either developed by the OS provider or the device maker and are called native apps. These abide by the strict rules set by the vendors regarding security, quality, authenticity etc. But there are many apps that are created by developers other than these. Some of these apps are available on official app stores and as they adhere to the rules of legitimacy, security and quality set by the app stores, they are comparatively less risky.

Side-loaded apps are those whose developer/source are unknown. The developers have more freedom; they can develop free or ‘cracked’ software (like OS, movies etc.) and gain faster market reach. Some users too like to access third party apps to maintain anonymity and privacy. These include apps that let you watch movies for free or get the latest OS without paying a penny.

Some third party apps are not directly downloaded but are connected to other services or apps (like photo editing apps). These too, are risky as they have access to sensitive information through the main service or app. Think about all the apps you have given permission via Facebook to access your info and you will get it!

Why are they risky?

As the developers of third party apps are not under the control of the OS owners, they can have lower security levels. This enables advertisers and hackers to insert malicious codes within the app.

Also, to install such apps, the users have to enable “unknown sources” in the device security settings. If it’s an iOS device, it has to be jailbroken to allow the installation of third party apps. Thus making the device vulnerable to attacks.

How to check app authenticity?

  • Check the developer and source- If they are not from your OS or device vendors, they are likely to be third party apps
  • Analyze permissions sought- If the apps seek permission to access several files unnecessarily, ring the warning bells! E.g.; Why would a weather app require access to your contact list?
  • Read reviews and download stats: Go through user reviews and see the rating it has received and issues with it. A quick check of the download count will also offer a clearer picture

How to disable apps on your device?

On your Android phone: Select – settings > device > Apps > All. The default or native apps have been installed by your device vendor. Scroll down and select those that you do not want to keep anymore, are  not in use, or consume a lot of space, data or need too many permissions. Then click on the “Disable” button.

On your desktop or laptop: Go to control panel > programs. Check all the installed programs. If they have valid developers like HP, Apple, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, McAfee etc.; then they are from your vendor or services you have purchased. Review programs or apps whose developer is either unknown or seems suspicious. Google them to know what they are used for. Your kids can be of great help as they are usually very knowledgeable about apps. My kids are my go-to people for all tech doubts.

On Social Media: Check account settings and delete apps that can access your account, if you don’t need them

Cybersafety tips:

  1. Check app security levels even if its available in a valid store
  2. Secure all devices with a licensed comprehensive security solution
  3. Do not forget to Secure all your internet connected devices – smartphones, tabs, PC, Macs and gaming devices as well
  4. Don’t give in to temptation and download apps and extensions to get free alternatives to paid apps
  5. Review app, permission required and developer source. When in doubt, don’t download!

It is very important that you and your family stay aware and updated about new apps in the market and related risks. Remember even bonafide app stores may have malicious apps.

Since device and data security are a priority, let’s be a little more be app-conscious!