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Ask the expert

Q: My 15-year-old son spends a lot of time using social media, but he admits he's quite lonely. Should I make him reduce the time he spends on his tablet?

A: Dr Jennifer Lau, an adolescent mental health psychology researcher at King's College London, says: "Loneliness is increasingly becoming a problem among teenagers, with a recent report saying six out of 10 teens sometimes feel lonely. It's a very complex issue and one we should take seriously, particularly as parents.

"Reducing the time your son spends online may not solve the problem. In fact, the same research found there may be benefits to spending time online, with some young people saying they were able to meet people from around the world with similar interests.

"However, if your son is spending all his time online, you should encourage him to spend more face-to-face time with friends. If he feels disconnected from his peer group at school, you could suggest he meets people in new environments.

"These different experiences could help to build his confidence and expand his social circle.

"A part-time job or joining a sports team are great places to start, or why not encourage him to check out a programme like National Citizen Service, a youth empowerment programme where young people from different backgrounds are challenged with team-building activities and workshops.

"Teens often return with a surge in confidence, and a group of friends for life."

  • For more information about the National Citizen Service, visit www.ncsyes.co.uk

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Belfast Telegraph