Almost every teen today has a social media account and is glued to it for most of the day! Twelve and a half years is the average age when a child creates a social media account for themselves. Research suggests that teens who are addicted to social media have a high chance of experiencing mental health issues such as hopelessness, isolation, and anxiety.
A common scenario for most American parents is taking their teen on a drive where they see their son or daughter take multiple selfies on the phone and post the same on Snapchat and Instagram. Things don’t stop there! They constantly check their accounts for likes, comments, and other posts and evaluate their lives based on them.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shares that close to 90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 stay logged in to their social media accounts for almost 9 hours a day. Such unhealthy use of social media needs to be addressed by parents so that their children live wholesome and healthy lives.
In this article, we will shed light on how excessive use of social media can affect teen mental health and how parents can address this situation.
The Negative Impact of Excess Social Media Use on Teens
The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology published an experimental study to understand the connection between teen well-being and social media. A group of students was directed to reduce their social media use by 10 minutes daily, and another group was asked to continue with their daily browsing of Instagram and Facebook.
The group that restricted its social media use found that they felt reduced signs of depression and loneliness compared to the other group. Other deleting social media benefits include less comparison of oneself with others, reduced anxiety, increased focus, and, overall, a balanced state of mind.
Parents need to know how excessive use of social media can make their teens lose mental stability and balance. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Online Harassment and Cyberbullying
Both of these acts can be categorized as intentional and repeated harm via technology — that is, through social media platforms and messaging apps. It comprises extortion, threats, humiliation, and embarrassment. Victims who are harassed and bullied online often face mental health problems like excess tension, depression, and social anxiety. In an extreme situation, the teen can even commit suicide.
According to the Pew Research Center, a huge section of the young population in the United States witnessed cyberbullying in 2022. There have been instances where students have faced online bullying after a compromising photo, eventually leading to suicide.
Research highlights that teens who spend over three hours on Instagram or other social media platforms have a high risk of anxiety and depression. It occurs from a sense of self-inadequacy and peer pressure, which makes them feel that their life isn’t as perfect and exciting as others. It demotivates them from developing a sense of purpose that is exclusive to them, as they constantly compare themselves with what they see on social media posts and reels.
Gen Z has come up with the term ‘FOMO,’ which means the ‘fear of missing out’. Even though it is used rather humorously, the impacts can range from severe to extreme. From new fashion accessories to fad diets, teens often get attracted to all that they find exciting online and want to be a part of it. And if they aren’t able to, they feel they are missing something vital, which results in acute anxiety and affects their way of thinking and being.
Negative Body Image
Everyone has a unique body image. However, teens seem to be at war with themselves for not being size zero or thin enough, as per social media standards. Influencers who promote a specific body type and look often make the teen mind go down a negative spiral. To achieve unrealistic body shape and size, teens often develop unhealthy eating habits, bulimia, or anorexia. They don’t quite seem to look into their natural body structure and improve it in ways that will work in their favor.
The Parental Intervention: What Can Parents Do?
Recently, there have been several initiatives to ensure that parents know how negatively social media can affect their teens. The Nicklaus Children’s Hospital near South Miami contacted parents to ensure that they keep their kids secure from the dark side of the online world and social media use, so it doesn’t affect a teen’s mental health and self-esteem. Hence, parents must intervene and take proactive measures.
First, parents must recognize that their teen is using social media excessively.
According to Tru Lawsuit Info, it starts with endless scrolling, facing sleep issues, getting increasingly obsessed with what others are doing, and not interacting much with family and friends. There are times when teens react to specific posts with an emotional outburst and find it challenging to keep calm. It is necessary to address these signs, or else it can cause extreme mental health issues.
For starters, parents need to speak with their teens and understand what is going on in their headspace. In most cases, there is a feeling of ‘lacking’ or a sense of feeling ‘less’ than others that promotes such unhealthy addictions to social media. Parents need to have that conversation with their teens and understand how to fill in the void that they have within. Heart-to-heart conversations and teen counseling can help to a huge extent.
In conclusion, parents must keep a close eye on their teens to ensure that they aren’t getting too attached to social media. There are times when teens have a poor quality of life when they compare themselves with everything that they see on Instagram or Snapchat. Additionally, using social media for over three to five hours a day can ruin their focus and also affect their academic life. Parents should look into the matter and take steps to curb social media use among their teens.