There is no denying that social media is a prominent part of society in today’s culture. After every major event or holiday, there is a need for a photograph that is Instagram-worthy. Social media is now a part of everyday life. It is a part of how our children and teenagers are raised.Things that parents didn’t have to think through 15 years ago are now a conversation at the dinner table. “What applications are safe?” “How long should we let our children be on their tablet, laptop, etc.?” “How do we help our children use social media safely?” “How is social media effecting our children?”
Parents are often aware of the need to limit screen time for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers because of the quick development that is taking place during these years, especially cognitive development at this age. However, adolescents are also developing rapidly and sometimes we forget that their use of technology can intensely and intimately affect them.
There is a wide array of issues social media has created for teenagers living in today’s culture. Though not every individual will experience these teenage problems, it is definitely something to be aware of when considering issues related to teens and social media.
Three Common Problems Related to Teens and Social Media
It is common for social media to easily become a teenage problem. Three teenage problems I will cover today are an increase in feelings of depression, anxiety, and negative effects on communication skills.
Social Media and Depression
Research is growing in the world of social media and evidence is emerging that there may be a link between social media and depression. Recent studies have shown those who spend more time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms have been shown to have higher rates of reported depression than those that spent less time on these platforms. These studies show evidence for correlation, but not causation. However, various reasons lead us to believe that social media plays a large role in this rise of depression.
There is a lack of physical presence when we spend most of our time on social media. Today, teenagers connect with their peers more times electronically than they do in person. Not only are they connecting less in person, but there is also a larger platform for bullying and comparison to happen.
On social media, people present their best selves. This can lead other teenagers to think their life is less glamorous, fun, or worthy than their peers. It is also an easy place for bullying to take place. Many people can hide behind screen names and hurt people because they feel safe behind a screen. It becomes a very vulnerable place for our teenagers.
Due to these things and more, we can see why more teenagers are struggling with depression than generations before. They are more widely exposed to hits to their self-esteem daily, even as much as hourly. However, there are ways to minimize these negative effects.
Since research shows us a correlation but not a causation, we cannot say that social media use causes depression. However, we do have enough warning signs about the use of social media with our teenagers to prompt us to look at how we can minimize these affects.The easy answer to too much social media time is to “unplug” from social media completely. However, that is pretty unrealistic for our teenagers. They do maintain a large part of their life on social media, so taking it away completely could have opposite the desired effect. But, checking in and having open communication with our teens about their social media use is a good idea. We can also aim to limit their use to help build in-person communication skills.
The first thing that I suggest is to model good technology and social media use. After that as parents, we can reinforce those skills for our teenagers. Maybe as a family, you implement a no-phones policy on Sunday nights because Sunday nights are family night.
During this time, you guys can build relationships with one another and check in with your kids. This can help reduce the effects of social media on our teenagers’ mental health and help reduce the risk of feelings of depression.
Social Media and Anxiety
Similar to depression, research is finding an increase in teenagers who identified with being anxious as the rise of social media has continued. Though the evidence does not suggest causation for anxiety from the use of social media, there is a correlation between the two. It is easy to see why, when we look at the ways social media is being misused by adolescents.
Social media has become somewhat of a lifeline for teenagers. It is where they connect with their peers, learn about recent events, and spend a lot of their time. Teenagers can easily average more than 4 hours a day on social media. Teenagers have become emotionally invested in their accounts and quickly can find their entire identity in their profiles.
A lot of teenagers admit to the pressure they feel to have the best caption for their posts, and the perfect edits to their perfect posed photo. It takes time and effort for them to keep up with the correct culture for each platform as well. As this pressure builds we see teens starting to feel anxious.
On top of the need to meet the unspoken standards of each social media platform, there is also the pressure to live up to each person’s profile. The game of comparison quickly sneaks in and we see our teenagers’ self-esteem drop and anxiety rise to meet the heightened lifestyles they see on social media.
Social media portrays the best of each person’s lives and makes teenagers believe they need to feel that way at all times. Teenagers also begin to fear what others will say if their pictures and posts aren’t perfect or receiving enough likes. This creates a cycle of anxiety for our teenagers. They are constantly trying to keep up with the next bit trend.
One way to combat the increase in stress is to increase mindfulness in your teenagers and even in your home. Mindfulness is a technique for bringing us back to the present moment without any judgement. It can help us steady ourselves, slow down, and see what is happening around us.
It also allows us to take a second and be able to identify how we feel in those moments. In turn, mindfulness helps to regulate emotions and stress. Ultimately, it can help bring attentiveness and contemplation into our teenagers’ life.Mindfulness is a skill that your teenager can learn and use, but it is also a way of life and can be extremely beneficial for the entire family to practice. Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation, but it is also more than that. It is being in the present moment.
Mindfulness is training our brains to be constantly aware – to feel the ground we are standing on, hear the birds around us, and live in the surround spaces. Using mindfulness skills, including mediation, can allow our teenagers to pull themselves out of the world of social media and back to the present moment.
There is a lot of power in doing things as a family and demonstrating to our kids how we do something. One way to practice mindfulness as a family is to establish social media breaks. Go on a family walk twice a week without social media and talk about what you see around you. Do yoga together or go for a hike.
During these times, make sure to notice what is happening in the moment and set up a schedule that works for you and your family’s needs. Other skills for your teenager to practice are deep breathing, grounding, mediation, guided mediation, mindful coloring, walks, and yoga.
Social Media and Communication Skills
Another common problem we see in our teenagers and social media is a loss of direct communication skills. Sometimes this can be missed because teenagers are professionals at keeping themselves busy after school and as parents, we do not see them at school.
On top of personal social media use, many schools now use technology during the day. Our teenagers are constantly flooded with indirect communication and are often not taught or do not use direct communication skills. They are accustomed to texting, communication via social media and pictures, rather than talking to their peers.
Ten years ago teenagers would go to the mall, the movies, a fast-food restaurant, or a park with their friends. This seemed like mindless time, but they were actually learning in real time during these interactions.
They had to try new skills like ordering food, talking to a sale associate or simply communicating with another human being. This was an integral part of communication development which we have seen decrease since the introduction of social media.
When teenagers do not experience this in-person learning they do not learn the skills to read social cues, which is a huge part of communication. This can create a problem for our teenagers as they grow up and find themselves in jobs and spaces where direct communication is needed.
It is a teen problem that has been easily missed because in everyday life they seem ahead because of their incredible technological skills. However, they are missing the skills needed for direct communication including body language, facial expressions, and even vocal reactions that can sometimes seem undetectable.
How do we, as parents, ensure our teenagers are building the needed skills to communicate in our world using direct communication? Not only does indirect communication effect how we speak to others, but it can also affect our ability to make friends. Having the appropriate skills to make a friend and to maintain that friendship can come down to how well our teenagers directly communicate.
Once again, a big part of the solution is for parents to decrease their own use of technology and social media. When parents set a good example, their children see and take note of it. Taking the time to have intentional conversations without technology in the way will help immensely.
Establishing and keeping a technology-free zone in the house or technology-free hours when no one uses social media or technology at all, including mom and dad, will help our teenagers learn appropriate boundaries with social media and begin practicing and learning skills for direct communication with others.
This boundary not only helps develop good technology and social media boundaries, but it also strengths the parent and teenager bond. Spending that time getting to know your teenager and building a sense of security for them.
As a parent, encouraging our teenagers to spend time with their friends doing activities that do not use social media or technology is a great way to continue the development of direct communication.
There is no doubt that the world of technology and social media is rapidly growing. It has become a part of everyday life and an integral part of learning and even businesses. However, with the increase in social media we have seen a correlation with the increase of several teenage problems. We have mentioned a few and looked at some solutions for each of these problems.
We looked at the increase of depression and anxiety in teenagers and we looked at the decrease of direct communication skills. Social media holds a large portion of our teenager’s time, and the pressures surrounding having the perfect profiles creates a tough environment for our teenagers.
Christian Counseling for Teenage Problems
However, there are ways we can encourage and help our teens through these problems. A great way to help our teens fight depression due to social media is to encourage them to establish a time to “unplug” from social media – encouraging them to participate in an activity without social media that they enjoy and brings rest form the pressures.
With anxiety, parents and teenagers can learn and utilize different mindfulness skills to decrease the feelings of anxiety. Mindfulness brings us back into the present moment. Finally, parents can both model and set up times where intentional conversations happen in order to help their teenagers develop the appropriate direct communication skills such as body language and facial expressions.
Some teenagers will struggle with depression and anxiety surrounding social media and the above suggestions might not be enough to meet their needs. Counseling is a great way for teenagers to have a safe space where they can be heard, process their emotions, and build skills to help lessen the pressures surrounding social media use.
They can also use the skills they learn in counseling to manage their anxiety and depression so that moving forward they have the skills to handle other difficult situations. If you feel like your teenagers may benefit from counseling, I would love to chat and see if there is some way I can help.
“iPhone”, Courtesy of Sara Kurfess, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Eliott Reyna, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hangin’ Out”, Courtesy of Eliott Reyna, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Group of Friends”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License