SOCIAL MEDIA & TEEN MENTAL HEALTH
Teenagers are spending a lot time on social media and online: 45 percent of teens report using the internet “almost constantly.”
Unfortunately, all of this time spent on their phone can negatively affect their mental health.
For instance, research shows that eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to report being unhappy than those who spend less time. And social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are associated with increased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, poorer sleep, and a negative body image.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND ‘FITTING IN’
The reason why social media is so popular is because it is social. Teens are at a point in their lives when they want to expand their social circle and grow their friendships. And social media provides an easy way to do that. They can chat and share things with their friends and maintain a social media ‘profile’. Many teens consider having a strong social media presence as essential for their social status and to ‘fit in’ — especially when they perceive that everyone else is on social media.
But striving to fit in can come at a cost: According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 29% of teens feel ‘a lot’ of pressure to look good, and 28% feel ‘some’ pressure to fit in socially.
Examples of social media-induced stressors:
• Feeling left out: seeing posts about events to which they weren’t invited
• Digital ‘FOMO’: fear of missing out because they weren’t keeping up with the latest on social media
• Pressure to be liked: feeling like they need to post positive and attractive things about themselves or their life in order to get comments and likes from friends
• Feeling powerless: having others post things about them that they cannot change or control
• Discomfort from high levels of communication: feeling that a friend, classmate, or partner wants to text more than they are comfortable with
SELFIES & SELF-WORTH
Teenage girls in particular suffer from social media-induced anxiety and lower self-esteem as they struggle to take the perfect ‘selfie’. Almost half of teen girls admit that social media has made them feel bad about themselves because it sets unrealistic standards for how they should look.
Many adolescent girls are turning to apps that digitally touch-up photos of themselves. Constantly seeing retouched pictures on social media can take a toll of their self-worth and distort their body image, as they internalize impossible beauty standards and become dissatisfied with their bodies.
FINDING A BALANCE
So, should teens be forbidden from using social media and electronic devices?
It’s not that simple. Social media has plenty of positive effects on teens as well, so a balance is better than a ban.
Here are some tips and resources for parents looking to help.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
• Reduce and evaluate your own technology use. Experts agree that it’s the best thing parents can do to minimize risks for their children.
• Create a Family Technology Contract to clearly define what is acceptable electronic device and social media use, and what is not.
• Establish technology-free zones and hours in the house that apply to everyone. Areas can include bedrooms and the dining room. Examples of times can be after 9 pm, during family meals, or on car rides.
• Give your children your undivided attention when interacting with them. This shows that it’s not okay to be looking at a screen during conversations.
• Create a relationship of trust, communication, and transparency with your teens. Without this, they won’t speak up or ask for help.
• Help your teen build up a healthy self-esteem. That way they can handle unexpected things that can happen online.
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