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Setting limits and staying safe: Teens sound off on being 'Social-Network Smart'

FALLBROOK – Sabrina Hilce's social media account brings her many benefits, such as keeping up with family and friends around the world.

The San Diego County resident also recognizes there are dangers. "Random people want to get closer. There are requests that don't look right or make you feel uncomfortable," Hilce candidly volunteered.

She credits her parent's training and the cautionary experiences of others when balancing social media. "You feel bad when you're seeing your friends having a good time and you weren't invited. Then there's the time! Social media sucks you in!"

She's not alone. A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that 97% of teens use social media, with some 45% admitting to being online "almost constantly." A number of studies have linked increased social media use with higher levels of teen anxiety and depression.

When hours spent scrolling through posts began to affect his schoolwork, Baruch Murphy, 19, realized he'd become addicted. "It's instant gratification, the same as with any other kind of drug," said the Mountain View, California, teen.

Another online resource, though, helped both teens regain and maintain their balance: "Be Social-Network Smart," a free educational video on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses.

"Social media is a powerful tool that can accomplish good when used responsibly or cause great damage when it is misused," said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for the Christian organization. "Like any other powerful tool put in the hands of someone inexperienced, training is needed, not just for teens, but also for parents. We've made a real effort to provide resources on https://www.jw.org that will help people make smart choices when using social media."

Murphy made one of the tips from the video his own. "I have a rule: I only follow people I personally know," he said.

He also set alerts on his phone to notify him when it's time to close social media apps. "If you don't set limits, there will be no limits," he said.

Concerns for his privacy and the good reputation he's worked hard to build led 18-year-old John Joseph Gonzalez to opt out of social media entirely.

"In the 'Be Social-Network Smart' video, it said posting on the Internet can be like writing in permanent ink," said the Fort Myers, Florida, teen. "I never want to look back on one little post that wasn't the smartest and be ashamed."

John Joseph said steering clear of social media hasn't isolated him; it's made him more sociable – and happier too.

"It's forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me make real friends in person," he said. "Whether you have social media or not, it's just as possible to be a good friend."

Other free resources to help evaluate the impact of technology use on friendships, family life and more are available on https://www.jw.org, featuring content in more than 1,000 languages.

Submitted by Jehovah's Witnesses.

 

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