There is a fine line between ensuring your teen understands how to use technology and creating a healthy online presence vs. providing their psychological and physical health remains intact.
Most parents are aware of this but find it challenging to manage without being helicopter-parents or, on the flip side, coming across as blaze about it.
Let’s take a look at some facts about Social Media Addiction.
Research has shown that adults and teens check their phones up to 150 times a day. That is alarming statistics, but many teens and adolescents exceed this statistic!
For today’s teenagers, social media platforms are their “hangouts.” The places where they stay in touch with people, get to know people not in their circle, stay updated on social events, or communicate and express themselves. It’s the norm for them but, being consistently aware of the negative impact that obsessive social media interaction can have is critical.
Exceeding the above statistic is referred to as process addiction. Meaning that an individual compulsively uses social media. Being an active social media user has a specific effect on our brain, leading to psychological and physical addiction.
Process addiction reveals itself in behaviors and can be characterized as overly concerned about social media, being driven by an uncontrollable urge to check and use social media, devoting so much time to social media that it impairs other vital areas of life.
It becomes a reliance on social media to feel good and gain acceptance. Teenagers, young adults, and adults who suffer from social media addiction can’t quit this behavior despite suffering losses in friendships and relationships. Furthermore, it gives rise to decreased physical social engagement and harms the individual’s health.
Several studies have shown a direct link between social media addiction, mental health issues, negative body image, and low self-esteem. It comes down to some teens and young adults who have a perception that social media is an essential coping mechanism to relieve stress, loneliness, or depression.
For these teens, being overly active on social media platforms provides “a reward” or “validation” that they lack in real life. Self-esteem and popularity are measured against the number of “likes” on posts and the number of friends or followers on their social media accounts. The long-term damage of this depends on other people’s opinions. Not having enough friends or followers or not receiving sufficient “likes” on a specific photo or post will leave them feeling depleted of validation, acceptance, and overall happiness.
Sadly, social media addiction goes beyond a teenager’s own social media account and the challenges or victories they believe they face there; advertisements and celebrity lifestyles portray an “unattainable” lifestyle which stirs up feelings of envy and leads to depression as they measure their existence to what they see displayed and it’s not as “perfect.”
Not only celebrity content creates havoc with their well-being, but also being excluded from social gatherings and seeing photos of friends who were invited, or not being tagged in a specific order by friends and peers at parties where they were having a good time may leave them feeling rejected, not good enough, betrayed or isolated. The detail of posting, tagging, and the content on social media platforms have become a playground for teens not to distinguish between reality and fantasy, or what is essential and what is not.
Cyberbullying is another negative aspect of social media. Name-calling, spreading rumors, and harassment amongst teens and young adults is a major influential factor that increases feelings of social anxiety, isolation, depression, and loneliness.
I want to come back to my opening statement that there is a fine line between using technology and platforms effectively and managing your teen’s ability to remain healthy in mind, body, and spirit. If you are concerned that you may be faced with a social media addiction in your teen, here are some of the most common signs to look out for:
- He/she spends the majority of their “free time” thinking about or using social media;
- He/she feels restless, anxious, or sad when they aren’t using social media or are not able to access it;
- There is a neglect of responsibilities like household tasks or school work;
- He/she becomes irritable when they participate in “family time” as it is taking them away from their screen time;
- He/she engages in less physical social interaction with their friends or attending social events;
- There is a definite sign of decline in their health through a lack of sleep, social stress, anxiety, or symptoms of eating disorders;
- School performance declines;
- He/she is showing feelings of depression, irritation, sadness, anxiousness, powerlessness, hatred, aggression, anger, and low self-esteem;
- He/she prefers to communicate with friends and family through social media rather than in-person;
- The need to share every detail of their lives through excessive posting on all platforms;
- Feeling low when they are not getting enough likes, retweets, or views on their profiles; or
- They constantly check in on social media when they are with family or friends.
It’s imperative that you share your concerns with your teenager should you sense that there may be an addiction to social media or that they are spending an excessive amount of time online. As parents and caregivers, it’s our responsibility to create an awareness of the negative impact social media addiction has on their emotions and health. Take the time to discuss with them and agree on how to implement a digital detox that will slowly wean them off social media.
As with all addictions, prevention is better than cure. There are a few simple practices that you can implement to help your teen or young adult to cut back on-screen time.
- Enforce a time limit to reduce screen time;
- Turn off notifications so they don’t check their phone each time they receive a message;
- Change your home router settings to limit usage;
- Delete some social applications and groups;
- Implement rules whereby phones are not allowed at certain times like the dinner table, at restaurants, before bedtime, etc.
- Please encourage them to spend more time outdoors, with friends, or attend social events.
Suppose your teen or adolescent’s life is severely affected by social media and struggles with addiction, it recommended that you seek professional help. There are underlying reasons, triggers, and beliefs connected to their overuse of social media.
A therapist, counselor, or life coach can help them cope with their addiction’s potential causes and can emotionally assist them with their social anxiety, stress, and feelings of isolation.
Please reach out to me should your teen or adolescent require emotional support.
Debbie Hartmann, Life, Relationship and Teen Coach @ My Kind of Life Coaching.