Las Vegas Sun

July 26, 2021

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Digital life comes with risk

Young girls are especially vulnerable to social media’s emotional pitfalls

Social media dangers

Social media can improve access to personal and expert health information and social media users report being more emotionally supported, but 7 in 10 young people say they’ve experience cyber bullying.

Dr. Carli Snyder

Dr. Carli Snyder

‘Screenagers’: Documentary film screening and discussion

Girl Nation is partnering with the Temple Sinai Las Vegas to host the local premiere of “Screenagers,” a documentary explaining how spending time online deeply affects young people. The event is free and open to anyone in fourth grade or older. The film offers parents advice to guide their children to a more balanced life in the digital world.

Dr. Snyder and Rabbi Malcolm Cohen will hold a Q&A session after the screening on topics such as online bullying, sleep, internet use, internet addiction and how a teen’s self-esteem may be tied to likes and comments on posts.

Girl Nation will accept donations to support such community events and the Girl Nation Scholarship Program that aids financially challenged families to enroll their daughters in workshops.

• Date: Thursday, Aug. 31

• Time: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., film at 6 p.m.

• Where: The Adelson Educational Campus,9700 Hillpointe Road, Las Vegas

• Registration and information:

• Watch the Trailer:

A quarter of teens in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, and 3 million between the ages of 12 and 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Time spent on social media is considered a risk factor for mental health problems. The platform is too new for there to be scientific consensus on its effects, as studies alternately point to self-image and eating problems and benefits in terms of personal relationships and political engagement. But it has been shown to function like an addiction in teens who get fixated. The likes and comments release dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical that triggers after experiencing positive actions like a mean workout or achieving a goal.

Some have theorized that social media will soon surpass alcohol and drugs in terms of addiction, and negative outcomes tied to excessive or unhealthy use of the tech appear to affect teens regardless of gender, race or economic status.

Negative body image is one of the larger concerns that motivated Las Vegas-based Dr. Carli Snyder, a board-certified clinical psychologist specializing in youth issues, to found Girl Nation. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping girls ages 8 to 15 build and maintain self-confidence.

Girl Nation hosts several workshops that teach young women what’s real and what’s Photoshopped, as well as how to maintain self-worth beyond looks, build strong female friendships, stand up to “mean girls,” be vocal in the classroom and learn healthy social media habits.

“Living in Las Vegas and just living in our society, so much is about how girls look, and to be a certain size, and to look a certain way,” Snyder said. “There’s such high expectations, and I think some of these expectations are completely unrealistic. It leaves girls feeling less than and not good enough.”

Those real-life pressures often translate to the virtual world, she said. Sometimes the “mean girl” won’t tag another girl in an Instagram post, a seemingly small slight that can spiral.

So Girl Nation tries to reach girls before high school, setting them up to enter their late-teens with the confidence to weather and challenge such treatment by peers. The program offers a weekend half-day workshop or a six-week after-school class designed to create a safe environment to help girls open up to one another. Completely restricting social media is unrealistic, because that’s how the younger generation connects, but it’s time to teach youths how to navigate the online world in a way that’s healthy, Snyder said.

Topics covered in both classes include self-esteem, the pressure to fit in, girl-world relationships that teach conflict resolution, online drama, self-respect and self-worth, yoga and nutrition, acts of kindness and community engagement.

“The overuse of social media impacts all teens,” Snyder said. “Peer acceptance and an image-obsessed thought process is at its peak for teenagers, especially young girls. When teens develop self-esteem, their risk for depression and anxiety decreases dramatically. At Girl Nation, we teach girls how to have a healthy relationship with themselves and with their peers. Once this foundation is in place, they can absorb social media with a different perspective.”

Help teens balance social media and social life


The United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health recently released #StatusOfMind, a study revealing social media use and positive and negative effects on young minds. Here are some takeaways on both sides.

Did you know?

Research suggests heavy users — spending more than two hours per day on sites like Facebook and Instagram — are more likely to report poor mental health

• Sit down with your child and explain the benefits and consequences of social media.

Positive aspects include staying in touch with friends who move, exploring new interests and celebrating personal milestones.

Negative aspects include cyberbullying and ill-advised posts that can influence whether you’re hired for a job.

• Try putting tech in quarantine overnight. Snyder suggests that a family gather devices such as cellphones and iPads and charge them all in one room at a certain time, ideally an hour before bedtime. Studies indicate that devices can affect physical health, as light from screens can interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which can cause poor sleep and increase susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

• Encourage teens to choose an active alternative. Snyder suggests enrolling your teen in a physical activity such as a sport, where he or she can build self-confidence, learn to work collaboratively and be outside — all of which can improve mood.

• Set aside family time. Spend time together without the interference of technology. It could be as simple as walking the dog to the park or going out to lunch; some families even put their phones in the middle of the table, and whoever reaches for a phone first has to pick up the bill.

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