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Mental Health

Is the internet making my kid socially isolated?

For some kids who are shy, not very secure socially, or simply interested in a topic their real-world friends aren't into, the online world can be a lifesaver. Some kids feel emboldened to experiment creatively, meet new people, pursue their interests, and try new things in a way they wouldn't feel comfortable doing in person. Your kid also may just be going through a phase or may not talk about his or her "real" friends.

But, if your kids are unable to make friends at school or through groups, if they can only find happiness online, and if they pursue the online world to the exclusion of in-person relationships and experiences, you might need to intervene. Even though today's kids socialize a lot online, they actually prefer face-to-face interactions. Consider whether these issues point to underlying issues that may have nothing to do with being online but might be signs of depression, being bullied, or other offline issues, and, of course, seek outside help if necessary. Also be aware that kids whose social lives revolve around the online world can be led into risky situations. Make sure your online-oriented kid understands that people can misrepresent themselves online, and that they should never give money, photos, or personal information to or meet anyone that they've only had contact with online. 

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.