Social media

Using social media

For most people, social media has become part of their daily life. Your main social media of choice might be Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or other online message boards or communities. Social media can be a great tool and help people to be more connected, but there are also potential downsides.

Being mindful about how you use social media, and developing some good habits, can ensure you have a positive experience. There are also some specific rules and things that NZDF personnel need to be aware of - we cover those further down. And we've provided some resources to help keep kids safe when using social media.

  • Is social media hurting your mental health?
  • Can gen Z break free from social media addiction?

The dark side of social media

Social media can become unhealthy when people start spending too much time online. Increasingly we hear stories and read research about people feeling compelled to check social media all the time, to the extent that it begins to affect other areas of their life. Some social media channels can also lead to exposure to bullying and hurtful comments, with people seemingly willing to say things online that they might hesitate to say to someone face-to-face. And there’s also the possibility we’re the ones saying something we might regret. We may get drawn into (or start) an argument we can’t easily walk away from as it keeps calling us back, grabbing our attention from right in our pocket, wherever we are, day or night.

Another potentially harmful aspect of social media is when people post things that look better than real life ... or at least, better than my life. People often post the best angle, the happiest moment, the rosiest description of what's going on in their lives. Whether it’s about body image, life achievements, or relationship status, there are so many ways in which other people’s apparent good fortune can start to turn our own thinking against us.

The good thing is, you have the ability to control the impact social media has on your wellbeing, by taking control of the content you engage with and the amount of time you spend online.


  • Do you find it difficult to not use social media for an extended period of time?
  • Do you feel negative emotions when you're unable to use social media?
  • Do you feel negative emotions when you use social media?
  • Do you attempt to spend less time on social media, but fail?
  • Does your social media use have a negative impact on your relationships or work?
  • Do you get into arguments, or have other negative interactions with people online?
  • When you’ve been on social media, do you often feel worse about yourself, about the world, or about the future?
  • Do you use social media to avoid completing other tasks and activities?
  • Do you often spend periods of time thinking about using social media?


If you find yourself answering yes to some of these questions, you may find some of the tips below can help you form a healthier relationship with social media. If you find you're still struggling with your social media use, reach out to someone for extra help. And if those initial support networks don’t help, you can contact your GP to refer you to specialist help.

Top tips for healthy social media use

  • Turn off your notifications. This allows you to focus on the task at hand without your attention being drawn to a notification. You can change this for specific apps in your device settings.
  • Review the pages and people you follow. Do you feel good after viewing their content? If not, unfollow/remove them from your network. Learn how to block and mute people, and use it. This varies a bit from platform to platform.
  • If someone is behaving negatively towards you, consider muting or blocking them.
  • Pro tip: If you “mute” people who originally reply to you, you won’t get notified about subsequent likes on the negative post either. Game changer.
  • Set a rule for yourself - only ever be (realistically) positive online. Committing yourself to not being negative can put the brakes on the things that lead to online conflicts. Meanwhile, this will ensure you meet NZDF’s requirements too.
  • Limit your daily screen time allowance. In your device's settings you can set limits on the time you are allowed for specific categories of apps such as Social Media.
  • Change your screen to black and white. When you pick up your phone and notice this, use it as an opportunity for a mindful moment - do I really want to be doing this? This may help you break habits you’ve formed, and reduce the time you spend scrolling. You can change your device to greyscale in settings.
  • Declutter your apps. When you have 5 minutes to spare, go through your device and delete apps you haven't used recently.
  • Take a complete break from social media for a while. Put your device away and forget about what others are posting online.

NZDF - What you can and can’t post

When engaging in social media exchanges, be aware that you continue to be subject to either the Armed Forces Discipline Act or the Civil Code of Conduct. These govern our conduct in all situations and are equally applicable to the social media environment.

Defence Force personnel are allowed to use and belong to networks and social media platforms, but while speaking openly about their interests and other topics they must remember not to violate unit policy or the Civil Code of Conduct.

Breaching NZDF guidelines and the Civil Code of Conduct would include speaking negatively about supervisors, releasing sensitive information, or engaging unkindly with others. Even though personnel are in a ‘private’ space, they are still speaking through a public channel - and in doing so, they remain at all times representatives of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Your 'stay safe' checklist

Children on social media 

Children are growing up in a social media environment and are engaging with online content at an increasingly young age. As a parent, you can help your child be safe on social media.

There are some great guides that have already been developed.

Netsafe is a helpful resource for keeping safe online. The Online Safety Parent Toolkit is a collation of information to give you the skills you need in order to support your child.

Netsafe hosts information on specific social media sites:

Netsafe also hosts specific information on: