Long before the advent of social media, the teen years were already considered to be a time of insecurity and awkwardness.
The desire to be unique clashes with the desire to belong and feel accepted. Romantic crushes become all-consuming. Bodies change dramatically. The need to begin shaping an adult identity looms. Let’s face it; growing up is a messy process.
But the rise of social media has added even more anxiety and self-doubt to this time. Teens are already insecure about so many aspects of themselves. Social media can easily magnify those discomforts and cause anxiety
As mentioned, teens have always dealt with discomfort and doubt about their personal appearance. From body shape and size to hairstyle to fashion choices, teens are well aware of what’s in and what’s not.
With social media, they often end up comparing themselves with way more people than they ever could before. And they’re comparing themselves to curated images and presentations—not reality.
Social media also makes it easy for your teen to know when they have missed out on something. They know that they haven’t been invited to an event when they see friends sharing photos that don’t include them. Your teen may wonder if they were left out on purpose or if their friends have rejected them.
Teens can also feel enormous pressure—too much pressure—to continually be logged onto their accounts. They want to be sure their friends know that they’re paying attention to their status updates. Likewise, they feel like they need to stay active, or their friends will lose interest.
Cyberbullying is one of the darker aspects of social media. Unfortunately, social media makes it easy for teens to bully each other.
A teenager’s peers can publicly shame and humiliate them online. They can be the target of cruel, unkind comments which are conveniently veiled by anonymous user names.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see how social media can create deep anxiety in an adolescent. Unfortunately, cyberbullying can even lead to suicide.
What Can You Do to Help?
Paying attention to your teen’s usage of social media is a first step. Set a good example of screen use yourself.
Find a way to establish regular communication with your teen about social media. Help them think critically about what they see portrayed. They should learn that it’s ok to question what they find online.
Help them unplug. Consider setting time limits for screen usage and no phone zones at home (dinner table, bedrooms, etc.). No, this probably won’t be easy. But be creative in how to draw them away from the allure of social media and into more personalized activities. Finding a way to build their self-worth, apart from the opinions of others, is vital.
While unplugging, help them create real, in-person connections. When humans come together to relax, have fun, and laugh, the benefits are profound.
Social media isn’t all bad, of course. Teach your teens how to use it as one tool of many when it comes to creating and maintaining connections. It can certainly be useful to keep in touch with friends and family. It’s a great way to stay connected to a community.
Social media can provide inspiration and hope. Shy kids may feel more comfortable reaching out online and communicating via instant messaging. This approach can help them with friendships.
If your teen is suffering from anxiety, whether related to social media or not, please reach out to our office.
Be aware of changes in their behavior, and be mindful of how they can handle stress on their own. Early intervention can help set your teen up for a more meaningful, productive future.
For more information about anxiety click here.