How Social Media Affects Teens

How social media affects teens

Teens and Tech: Social Media Today

In today’s youth culture, it seems as if teens are permanently glued to their cell phones; constantly receiving beeping, buzzing and blinking alerts and/or social media notifications.

According to a Time Magazine article titled, “Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright,” today’s teens are, “The post 9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity… They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.”

With the rise of social media, being a teenager today is tougher than any parent could ever imagine. The Time article states, “It’s hard for many adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screens on their phones.” The article also quotes an American teen named Faith-Ann, who says, “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all. We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”

How Many Teens Use Social Media

For many young people, social media can become almost addictive. recently posted stats from a report by Common Sense that found:

  • 75 percent of American teenagers have social media profiles
  • 51 percent of teens visit social networking sites on a daily basis
  • More than a third of teens visit their main social networking site several times a day
  • 1 in 4 teens is a heavy social media user, using at least two different types of social media each day

Dangers of Social Media

According to the site, “Social networking plays a vital role in broadening teen social connections and helping them learn valuable technical skills. But what impact is all of this social networking having on young minds?” Teens’ developing brains are extremely vulnerable to so much time online, and because they often have difficulty self-regulating their screen time, risks increase which means they are more susceptible to peer pressure, cyberbullying and sexting. The parenting site also lists the most common mental health related issues teens can experience from too much social media use, which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Envy/Jealousy
  • Communication issues, or lack of socialization skills for teenagers
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Dependence

The Harvard Graduate School of Education has posted a research story titled, “Social Media and Teen Anxiety,” which features a 2015 study, “Pew study of teens, technology, and friendships” by Youth and Technology Expert Amanda Lenhart. The study describes other social media-induced stressors teens may experience, which include:

  • Seeing people posting about events to which they haven’t been invited
  • Feeling pressure to post positive and attractive content about yourself
  • Feeling pressure to get comments and likes on your posts
  • Having someone post things about you that you cannot change or control

Another researcher named Emily Weinstein, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found even more challenges impacting young adults, including:

  • Feeling replaceable: If you don’t respond to a best friend’s picture quickly or effusively enough, will they find a better friend?
  • Too much communication: A boyfriend or girlfriend wants you to be texting far more often than you’re comfortable with.
  • Digital “FOMO”: An acronym for Fear Of Missing O If you’re not up-to-date on the latest social media posts, will it prevent you from feeling like you can participate in real-life conversations at school the next day?
  • Attachment to actual devices: If your phone is out of reach, will your privacy be invaded? Will you miss a message from a friend when they need you?

Positive Effects of Social Media on Teenagers

Let’s face it: The reality is that the internet or social media is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is important to remember that teens experience social media in various ways, which means it’s not always negative. There are some positive effects of social media on teenagers today. According to the Harvard research, “The ability to raise awareness, connect with people across the world, and share moments of beauty can be empowering and uplifting for some. Many teens understand that the images they see are curated snapshots, not real-life indicators, and are less likely to let those posts make them feel insecure about their own lives.”  The article also indicates that teens for decades have faced developmental challenges, and most are not new. What makes today different is that the challenges are now featured in different spaces (such as social media) that can amplify them and shift their quality, quantity and scale.

how-social-media-affects-teensHow Parents Can Help Teens and Tech

For some parents, the thought of social media, or anything to do with technology for that matter, is a terrifying subject to discuss with their teens. However, it is imperative, as a parent or guardian, to create a healthy boundaries and open lines of communication with their teen about social media and technology safety.

The Time article quotes Megan Moreno, head of social media and adolescent health research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She notes a big difference between the mobile-social-tech revolution of the past 15 years and things like the introduction of the telephone or TV. Moreno says, “In the olden days, your mom told you to get off the family phone or turn off the TV, and you just did it. This time, kids are in the driver’s seat. Parents are mimicking teen behavior… They’re zoning out. They’re ignoring people. They’re answering calls during dinner rather than saying, ‘O.K., we have this technology. Here are the rules about when we use it.’”

So how can parents be a trusted resource for teens in need of support and guidance, when they themselves know very little about it, or are partaking themselves in similar behavior?

The Harvard research lists six strategies on how parents can help mitigate, without overreacting:

  1. Individualize your approach: If your teen seems irritable or overwhelmed by social media, pay attention to what specifically is causing those feelings
  2. Check in with your teen about what’s going on: Parents can and should help support and problem-solve with their teen, but they should also offer validation about how difficult these situations can be
  3. Don’t just take your teen’s phone away: Doing so won’t get to the heart of the social issue at play
  4. Set screen-free times: It could be every evening after 9pm, on the car ride to school, an occasional screen-free weekend, or longer stretches over vacations and camps
  5. Be good role models in your own use of tech: Being mindful of your own distracted habits of reaching for your cell, but also means rejecting the isolation that screen time can generate
  6. Work with your teen to set social media expectations: To help build consensus and get their buy-in; you want to get teens to put their devices down on their own, so that you are helping them build their ability to manage their interactions with and through technology


Just Say YES Parent Programs on Social Media

Most parents do not realize that their own voice is the strongest influence in their child’s life. Our Just Say YES parent programs are designed to equip parents with effective tools and strategies to strengthen that connection. It is important for parents to know how to discuss the realities and consequences of risk behaviors with their children before they face them, ultimately preparing them to deal with peer pressure and temptations for when they arise.

Audience members from all backgrounds will leave our parent programs with a better understanding of the topic at hand, such as social media safety, cyberbullying, etc., and will also learn: how to effectively connect and communicate with their child; how to identify signs of risky behaviors and assess their child’s actions; understand the importance of strong relationships within the family unit.

Contact us today to learn more about our social media programs!

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