Dangers of Social Media to Teens' Mental Health
Do you have a teen child who is constantly connected to social media? Are you worried about the negative effects of social media on his or her mental health? Your concerns are justified because although social media use has become increasingly popular and its use is almost ubiquitous, especially among adolescents and teens, overuse has dangers. Like other compulsive behaviors, social media use might become a psychological addiction. What's worse, social media use also increases young people's access to illegal drugs.
The Ubiquity of Social Media
There are obvious reasons young people like to use social media — they can freely communicate, make friends, pursue hobbies and interests, and share ideas and opinions. Young people need this kind of socialization venue, especially when it breaks down geographical boundaries and connects them with other young folks from around the world. The promises of social media are tempting for young minds who are excited about new things.
The percentage of young people who report using social media has been on the rise, as shown from usage rates of the three most popular social media platforms among teens: YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. These platforms also tend to use more visual tools, such as instant video clips. With the widespread use of smartphones, teenagers now tend to spend a few hours on these social media platforms each day.
Researchers have found that adolescents who use social media more than three hours per day may be at higher risks of developing mental health issues. The positive effects of social media on teens, such as social skills, self-confidence, and strengthening relationships, can be counterbalanced by some negative impacts that may leave lifelong mental health issues.
Negative Impact on Youth Mental Health
One of the reasons young people may experience negative effects of social media is due to the prevalence of abusive behavior online. Many have experienced cyberbullying, rumor-mongering, violation of privacy, and online harassment. Some experience the flattening of relationships in the real world.
Usually, people have ways to regulate and moderate the use of social media so it does not take over their lives. However, the hyper-speed of information flow on social media and young people's physiological susceptibility often turns social media use into a kind of rat race. They feel that they need to check social media platforms at least once every hour to avoid feeling left out of a conversation or feeling anxious. Some even coined a phrase: FOMO, the "fear of missing out." However, it has actually become a kind of anxiety disorder
Social Media Anxiety Disorder
This condition is similar to many other types of social anxiety disorders. People experience symptoms such as the compulsive need to check social media from time to time, over-using, lying about the over-use, social withdrawal, neglecting or losing interest in other favorite activities, nervousness, or withdrawal symptoms when not checking social media. There is also an overwhelming desire to share on feeds. For many teens and adolescents, this social media anxiety disorder is also accompanied by classic symptoms of depression. Many have negative self-images themselves.
Long-term obsessive use of social media also happens because parents and educators have long ignored its impact. When young people develop attention deficiency, depression, compulsion, or hyperactivity disorder, they always tend to look for other causes in the environment. Many parents set no boundaries for their teen children's use of social media, and when symptoms of mental illness show up, social media addiction has always eluded parental attention.
Recovering From Social Media Addiction
Parents are first in line to be educated about this form of addiction, its symptoms, and its long-term effects. They ought not to take a radical approach such as eliminating social media use, for that tactic is likely to be met with great resistance. The problem is not social media per se, but over-use of it. Parents should be guided by the principle of healthy use of social media. For example, parents can have a conversation to set limits on the time spent on social media. To make up for that social time, they can plan healthy activities with their children, making them realize and appreciate the building of meaningful relationships.
Parents should also catch what is happening inside a young person's world. Be aware of your teenager's emotions when media consumption makes him or her doubt about self-image. Educate your child on how "social comparison" is not a way to connect with one's true self. Remind them that social media always makes people and things "look" better than they are in real life.
Parents can also reach out to professional interventionists who can coach teenagers on how to overcome feelings of inadequacy or insecurity caused by their social media addiction. Young people must be taught that what they see on social media often does not reflect reality. Interventionists can also evaluate a home environment to make sure that parents set up exemplar role models when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.
Do you have a teen child who is constantly hooked to social media? Are you worried about the negative effects of social media on his or her mental health? Your concerns are justified because although social media use has become increasingly popular and its use is almost ubiquitous, especially among adolescents and teens, overuse is dangerous. Like other compulsive behaviors, social media use might become a psychological addiction. What's worse, social media use also increases young people's access to illegal drugs. Maybe it is time to consider working with a professional interventionist. At South Florida Intervention, our professionally trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults recover from a range of addictions. We know how to work with young people and their families. Apart from recovery coaching and parent coaching, we also offer detailed case management for each young person. Early intervention is key, and we are here to help. Call us at (202) 390-2273.