If you are a parent to a teenager, you will probably notice a screen glued to your child’s face. There are a number of reasons why teens can’t pull themselves away from their mobiles.
Firstly, they might fear that if they don’t go on social media, they will miss out on something like an event. If their friends discuss a post or video they have not yet seen they might feel left out of the conversation. Ever hear the acronym FOMO? Its short for fear of missing out, FOMO is an anxious feeling you get when you feel something interesting is happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.
Secondly, teens often believe their profiles dictate how they appear to their peers. The more likes and/or followers they have the more popular they feel. It can give them a physiological high.
And thirdly, teens communicate with their friends on social media because it is quick. Social media can also act as an escape from the world they live in. If a teenager is stressed, depressed or sad they may turn to social media to forget their issues, even if only for a short while.
How does social media affect teenagers?
Sadly, if a teen’s usage of social media is not monitored or restricted it can have some very severe effects on the child’s self-esteem. Let’s take a look at children and depression, child confidence and other challenges resulting from excessive social media usage.
· Depression – When a teen starts to feel inferior to their social media peers they can fall into depression. The need to fit in, stand out and be accepted by Facebook and Instagram counterparts can drive them towards emotional disturbance.
· Anxiety – Teens can be more curious about what others are doing than what they are actually doing themselves. The more time they spend on social media, the more they are inclined to fall victim to depression and anxiety as it can adversely affect mood and thought processes.
· Obsessively checking – Because many teens are so used to updating their statuses and checking-in their locations, they might always be looking for new updates from their peers to the point it becomes an obsession.
· Cyber-bullying – A cyberbully uses social media to communicate false, embarrassing and hostile details about specific users. Victims of cyber-bullying can end up with depression, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem and isolation.
· Low self-esteem – It is mostly teen girls who compare themselves to celebrities after spending time on social media. They might want to look just like the celebrity, but this can adversely affect their self-respect and dignity.
On the flip side, social media does bring with it some positives:
· Easier to make friends – With social media such a big part of people’s lives these days it has never been easier to make friends. The rise of mobile phones and social networks has made it almost effortless for us to connect with people.
· Fosters empathy – Many of us talk about ourselves on social networking sites. Your friends and peers will listen and help you deal with issues you might be facing.
· Speedy communication – As our lives get busier it is important to communicate with friends and family quickly. Social media makes this possible.
· Makes the world seem smaller – One of the best things about social media is that it opens up the whole world to you – family members and friends who live abroad or friends you haven’t seen since kindergarten. Social networking sites make someone’s physical location less important.
When do you know social media obsession is a problem?
Social media facilitates an environment in which teen girls in particular compare their realistic selves to the flawless and filtered online versions of others. This can have detrimental effects on their mental well-being and perception of self. Excessive social media use can cause feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life as well as problems with a child’s self-esteem. Teens who constantly compare themselves to others will end up with low self-esteem or a need for perfectionism. In extreme cases this can lead to kids’ anxiety, eating disorders and body image concerns.
What can parents do?
While social media is an important part of your teenager’s social life and creativity, there are some things you can put in place to avoid problems from emerging.
· Find out more about social media – Social media platforms are changing all the time, so it is important to keep on top of them. Perhaps chat with your teenager about which ones they like and get them to show you how they work. You should also check that their preferred social media platforms are appropriate for their age. Banning social media could tempt your child to check it out secretly or when they are not at home.
· Create a family media plan – Set up some written social media guidelines so that your child can use social media responsibly and safely. This agreement could involve the whole family and include the basics such as time spent on social media, whether it is okay for your teen to be on social media during meal times, homework time, etc and where they can use social media, such as in family areas of the house only.
· Keep your child safe - Your child should agree to not uploading or sharing unsuitable images or posts as well as personal information like phone numbers and location. Ensure also that your teen knows to block or report people they do not know or people who post inappropriate comments or content. Your teen should accept friend requests only from people they know to be who they say they are and have their accounts set to private. Make it known that when your child first wants to set up an account they can only do so on the condition that you have access to it.
· Engage with your teen – If you fear that your teenager is developing low self-esteem or has image issues as a result of social media, talk to them about the truths and reality of social media. Explain that celebrities and Instagram models have teams of makeup artists and hairdressers work on them before the photos are taken. The beauty of Google is that you can always source photos of the celebrity or model without all the glam. Show them these photos and explain to them that social media mostly reveals the good moments.
At Wings Wellness Centre we work with many children to improve self-esteem and confidence. If you have concerns about your child’s confidence we can help! Contact us