Growing Up Without Social Media

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A modern life offline

Two families grapple with social media’s impact on their teenage daughters. Kate Bulkeley initially thrived without social media but eventually needed Instagram for school activities. Gabriela Durham embraces her “outsider” status due to her social media abstinence, focusing on academics and dance. Jessica Reyes and Patricia Wu break down the story with mental health advocate, Rabbi Brandon Gaines.

Influence of the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic solidified social media’s role in teens’ lives, becoming a primary social space and identity-forming tool. While social media offers connection and stress relief, excessive use correlates with higher mental health risks. Both families established strict social media rules early on, leading to less screen-time conflict but also challenges in a digitally saturated world. Gabriela misses inside jokes and trends, yet feels liberated from online facades. Kate needed Instagram for school leadership roles, highlighting the clash between school policies discouraging screen time and the increasing integration of technology in classrooms. The Bulkeleys compromised, allowing Kate limited Instagram use for school purposes. Sutton, the younger daughter, witnesses the negative impacts of social media on her peers’ self-esteem and friendships.

What schools can learn from social media-free families

Schools are experimenting with phone bans to curb social media’s influence on students’ mental health and encourage face-to-face interactions. The long-term effects of these efforts and the evolving role of social media in teen life remain uncertain.

To learn more about Rabbi Brandon Gaines and his work, visit his website.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
At the heart of MHTN - America's pioneering 24/7 Mental Health TV Network - is our editorial team, a dynamic group of professionals united by a shared commitment to transforming the conversation around mental health. Our team is composed of seasoned journalists, mental health experts, researchers, and storytellers, each bringing a wealth of experience and a passion for advocacy.

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