What Harm Does Social Media Addiction Cause?

Do you wonder if your teenager is spending too much time on social media? Are you aware of the mental health risk of social media overconsumption? Does social media addiction contribute to substance addiction? Given the dominant role of social media in young people’s life, parents should be better informed about its effects on youth wellbeing.

How Much Social Media Consumption Is Too Much?

Like other types of addictions, social media addiction is a behavioral disorder characterized by an uncontrollable and compulsive urge to use social media despite experiencing its negative impact on emotional and mental health. Addictive social media use may lead to mood shifts, social avoidance, relationship conflicts, and a range of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. People also experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting social media.

The mechanisms of social media addiction in the brain are also similar to other addictions. Social networking provides a dopamine-inducing environment, the same neurological circuitry that produces pleasure gives reward to more frequent and prolonged social media use. For these reasons, social media use can be addictive psychologically. For example, neuroscientists find that getting a notification or a like on social media can make the brain receive a rush of dopamine and form a positive reinforcing reward system,

Too much social media use happens when individuals over-depend on them to relieve stress or loneliness. They end up engaging more and more. In social life, they tend to isolate and withdraw. As a result, people ignore real-life relationships, work or school responsibilities, and even physical health. For example, some young people stay up late on social media, which may cause sleep disorders.

How to Identify Signs of Social Media Addiction

Parents should watch out for the following signs of behavior in their teens and adolescents which might point to social media addiction: Have they been spending a lot of time on social media, including late into the night? Do they frequently feel the urge to access social media? Has their use of social media caused relationship problems with family and/or friends? Did they try to reduce the use without success? Are they developing mental health issues?

While social media platforms offer a lot of benefits to young people, like access to new things and connecting to peers, too much use can increase negative emotions. The negativity surrounding breaking news about violence and crimes can be compounded when the world is synced together. Many young girls are also increasingly challenged by the perfect body image of peers on social media, leading to depression and eating disorders.

What Is the Relationship Between Youth Mental Health and Social Media Use?

Teens and adolescents are at a developmental phase longing for social approval from their peers. Many experience a kind of anxiety to fit in. Social media may aggravate it by creating a fear of missing out on social happenings. When young social media users see images of events to which they were not invited or fun activities they were not able to attend, there tends to be an intense fear and anxiety of being left out. This can take a toll on young people’s self-esteem. It also causes them to constantly check on social media platforms in order not to miss out on anything.

Social media is not only potentially depression-forming but also habit-forming. Young people who spend three or more hours a day on social media platforms are at higher risk of developing mental health issues. Because their brains and social skills are still developing, this problem can have lasting impacts. In recent years, new trends of online bullying and harassment add more harm to young people, sometimes causing suicide attempts.

How Should Parents Advise Their Teenagers?

Parents can affirm that it is only normal for young people to want to connect and communicate with peers. This trend seems inevitable given the wide availability of smartphones and information technology. Parents still need to remind teens and adolescents that the online social world may pose many risks to their mental health. It is important to introduce the topic of emotional and mental health to young people, just as how physical health is emphasized in the home and at school.

Parents are in the best position to help boost their children’s self-esteem. Affirm their individuality and help them understand how one’s self-worth should not be determined by what their peers think. Parents should plan healthy events that enrich and support teenagers’ self-confidence. Encourage young people to spend more time with offline friends and build meaningful, mutually affirmative connections.

Parents can also help them develop healthier habits such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and consistent sleep patterns. The best way to lead them into a balanced lifestyle is to model one. Parents themselves should show moderation in all things, including the use of social media and communication technology. 

Social media overconsumption and addiction has been common among young people these days. Not many parents are aware that social media addiction can rewire the brain to the same addictive patterns as substances. It can also worsen youth mental health problems and put them at a higher risk of substance use. Parents need coaching on how to intervene and reverse addictive behaviors in youths. Working with a professional interventionist can help. At South Florida Intervention, our trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults overcome all kinds of addictions. We know how to work with young people and their families in personalizing intervention, treatment plans, and relapse prevention plans. Depending on your needs, South Florida Intervention offers a range of services, from recovery coaching and parent coaching to sober escorts and case management. We are here to help. Early intervention is key. Call us today at (202) 390-2273 to learn more.