Author: Nathaniel Dawson
For nearly every teen with a mobile device, social media is a way of life. It stimulates the brain’s reward system and releases dopamine (a chemical that is associated with gratifying activities like food, sex, and social interaction.
While it may seem perfectly okay to indulge in social media, the nature of these platforms is such that both kids and adults can’t help but get addicted, which eventually leads to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia.
Let’s uncover the impact of social media usage on teens’ mental health.
Social Media and Mental Health: How Our Favorite Platforms Are Destroying Teens’ Mental Health.
The Problems We Face
Social media is now an integral part of adolescents’ lives. According to Pew Research Center, 85% of adults and 97% of teens aged 12-17 in the United States use one social media platform such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Youtube.
Youtube is the most popular media platform among youth with 95% percent of teens using it, while 75% use Snapchat, 72% use Instagram, 67% use TikTok, and 32% use Facebook – an all-time low for Facebook which recorded 71% just seven years ago.
This puts a high number of the population at heightened risk of developing anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-harm thoughts, and suicidal tendencies.
But if the risks are clear, and the disadvantages proved, why do teens and people, in general, continue to indulge in social media?
Human social developmental needs are practically solved by social media’s offering; developing an identity, gaining new friendships, and affirming a social status by “staying in the know.” For example, it’s typical adolescent behavior to draw identity inspiration from icons of pop culture.
These social media outlets significantly negate teens’ mental wellness, drawing attention from important things, disrupting sleep patterns, and exposing them to bullying, peer pressure, rumor spreading, and irrational views of the lives of other people.
Sustaining existing friendships is another reason why teens stay committed to social media. Teens view these popular platforms as spaces to “hang out” and connect with friends they don’t get to see all the time.
Teens can suffer from the fear of missing out on what everybody does. If all their friends are on social media, and they aren’t, there’s the fear of missing out on trends, invitations, and friendships. Teens also visit social media to find some sort of validation. When evaluating others’ social lives, they tend to make comparisons like “why didn’t my post get liked but this person’s did?” or “Did I get as many likes and comments as a person?” People search for validation in their internet lives to make up for where they lack in their real lives.
Tips For Parents and Teens
Explain the dos and don’ts (For Parents)
Encourage your teens to partake only in the right social media behavior. Explain to them what’s okay to post and be clear about what’s harmful. Discourage them from revealing information such as their full names, phone numbers, addresses, specific location, and destination plans.
Remind them to distance themselves from acts like gossiping, rumor spreading, defamation, and bullying. Emphasize the importance of appropriate internet behavior and the dangers involved with sharing personal and sensitive information online.
Encourage In-person relationships (For Parents)
Remind your teens that what goes on in everyday social media settings is only virtual communication. Encourage and (if necessary) help them out in creating and maintaining healthy face-to-face relationships and communications.
This can be helpful for teens suffering from social anxiety disorder
Enforce reasonable limits
One of the most effective ways for you to ensure your teens are using social media the right way is by creating a family social media plan. This plan has to work with the unique characteristics of each family member, and should clearly define what appropriate and inappropriate social media use is.
Explain to your family how to avoid allowing social media to get in the way of their regular activities, meals, learning, and sleep. Encourage a nighttime routine that excludes electronic media use, and separate mobile devices from teen’s bedrooms.
There’s no better way to go about this than by setting an example the whole family can follow.
Avoid social media negativity traps
This isn’t only common among teens and adolescents but adults too. The tendency to fall into a loop of positive or negative habits when they have been repeated for long enough. Both cycles of positivity and negativity reinforce themselves, that’s why it matters to identify where you stand and how to improve on it.
A study conducted by the National Center For Health Research proves that most young people post only beautiful and happy moments on social media, which reinforces their positive loop. While, those suffering from self-esteem issues are found most posting negative content online, which reinforces their negative loop.
Social media does have its benefits, like helping youths develop online identities, partaking in healthy social networks, and aiding socially excluded or disabled teens and adults to experience valuable support from online communities.
But when left unchecked, social media can do more harm than good in our lives, – most especially in the lives of teens and young adults.
As a parent, strive to enforce a functioning family social media plan to ensure healthy mental health for the members of your home.
Social media serves as a medium to share your thoughts, feelings, and highlights of your life, and it is up to you to decide whether the lives of others will interfere with your wellness.