how social media affects teens
Teenage girls are especially vulnerable to these negative effects. There has been a steady increase in anxiety, mood disorders and lowered self-esteem in girls. There is the pressure to be perfect, take the perfect selfie, have the perfect pose, with the perfect group of friends. Girls fear if they don’t meet this higher standard, they may not get as many likes or retweets or shared photos. Their sense of self-worth becomes entangled with how the social media world views them. This is also true of boys, just to a lesser extent.
Teenage boys and girls alike are more likely to “socialize” in their rooms, while trolling social media, instead of hanging out at a friend’s house. Social and interpersonal skills are being impacted by the isolation that social media perpetuates. There is less face-to-face contact, no eye contact, no having to read a person’s body language or interpret what their tone of voice is saying. Teenagers are struggling to communicate effectively, largely because most of their communication takes place on a screen. And because most of their communication takes place on a screen, teenagers are more at risk of using intimidating language or passive aggressive tones.
The increase in social media use is also creating more feelings of depression in teenagers. The constant 24/7 connection can become overwhelming. If you post or tweet something that is “ignored” or not responded to quickly, many teenagers will become anxious and depressed. Kids are often left imagining the worst about themselves. Depression can also be connected to on-line bullying, intimidation, or feeling left out. Teenagers decreased amount of sleep or “good sleep” due to the 24/7 nature of social media also leads to an increase in mood disorders.
So what can parents do? First, role model appropriate social media use for your teenagers. Curtail your own consumption. Limit phones during family engagements, like meals, church, birthday parties, etc. Establish tech-free zones and hours when no one is on their phones, for example, a family movie night. These actions will help to strengthen the parent-child bond and will make your teenager feel more secure. Second, make communication with your teenager a priority. Not the mundane “how was your day”, but honest and vulnerable communication. Third, know the social platforms they are on and monitor them. Monitoring means yes, sometimes invading their privacy. The choices your teen makes online have real life consequences, so trust me when I say they will thank you one day.