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On the Radar: TikTok Alternatives, Therapy-Speak, and How Social Media Breaks Impact Body Image

Searching for TikTok Alternatives as Ban Looms

What? In recent weeks, Congress and the Senate each voted to pass a bill that would potentially ban TikTok in the United States. President Biden has signed this bill, giving ByteDance (TikTok’s Chinese parent company) 270 days to sell TikTok or to have the platform prohibited on American app stores.

So What? TikTok influencers and ByteDance itself are suing the United States government to stop this law from being implemented. However, many Americans are already seeking alternative forms of social media entertainment, flocking to apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Triller, Zigazoo and Lemon8.

Now What? Parents should remain cautious of any app that your teenager may pick up in lieu of TikTok. Each of the aforementioned apps has its own version of the short-form videos popularized by TikTok. And each also has the potential to create screentime addiction, to expose your kids to inappropriate content or to introduce them to someone harmful online.

What Is Therapy-Speak? And Why Might It Be Harmful?

What?Therapy-speak” began as the language often used by licensed therapists and psychologists to help diagnose mental health conditions. Unfortunately, the phrase has gradually become synonymous with teenagers using social media to self-diagnose themselves online.

So What? Experts worry about the proliferation of therapy-speak on social media. It can cause teenagers to misdiagnose their current feelings as severe mental illnesses. It can also inadvertently cause people who have received legitimate diagnoses to be taken less seriously. And (since therapy-speak is often overused and misunderstood) it can discredit, confuse or undermine these important mental health concepts among teens.

Now What? Finding a group of people online who seem to feel the same way as you—who seem to get you—can be so validating, especially for teenagers. But you should urge your children to use caution when it comes to therapy-speak. Overuse and misuse of the terms can lead to further misunderstanding and miscommunication. And only licensed professionals in the mental health field should give legitimate diagnoses. So if you have children who suspect they have a mental health condition, parents should facilitate consulting a professional in order to receive proper treatment.

Study Finds That Breaks from Social Media Can Boost Self-Esteem

What? A new study from York University’s Faculty of Health found that “young women who took a social media break for as little as one week had a significant boost in self-esteem and body image—particularly those most vulnerable to thin-ideal internalization.”

So What? Although future research is still needed to verify this correlation, the authors of the study are encouraged by the results. In additional to curbing behaviors “known to have a detrimental effect, such as comparisons with others,” participants likely replaced their social media use with healthier behaviors, such as “socializing with friends, getting sleep, getting outdoors, getting exercise.”

Now What? As we noted last week, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and right now could be a great time to take a social media break. Encourage your teens to take advantage of the warmer weather by getting outside. Make a push for face-to-face interactions with their friends as opposed to screen-to-screen connections. And remind your kids that even if they “miss out” on something online, it will likely still be waiting there when they return. In contrast, the offscreen time they spend with family and friends is limited and precious.

Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.