Social Media and the Impact on Teens’ Lives
Social media is a considerable part of the teens’ lives today. As a parent, you may have been using social media for a long time, but you probably didn't grow up with it in the same way that your children have. Not only that, you most likely have a different relationship with social media and the internet, from how much of your personal information you reveal online to how many hours you spend online each day.
Parents naturally worry about social media and how it can impact their teens. Social media often plays a huge role in the lives of teens. It not only connects them with their friends but it is also a way for them to interact with the world, from their own peers to celebrities. The worries that parents have about social media are not completely unfounded. One survey found that 14 to 24-year-olds felt that social media apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram led to increased feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as poor body image and loneliness.
Some of the concerns that you might have as a parent of a teen may include:
- Missing out on in-person social skills due to indirect communication through social media
- Anxiety about communicating in 'real-time' - i.e. face-to-face or over the phone
- Imposter syndrome
- Unrealistic body image
- Grooming and inappropriate interactions
How Social Media Affects the Brain
Constant interaction with social media can even affect the brains of teenagers, which are still developing in significant ways. In fact, social media can even become an addiction for some. A UCLA study showed that parts of the brain were activated by social media 'likes', which can cause the person to want to use social media more.
Research has found that there may be links between social media and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Even sleep deprivation can be a consequence and/or risk for teens who spend many hours using social media and find it hard to put their phones down.
The Social Aspect of Social Media
Social media can have some benefits for developing social skills too, but it can also cause some teens to be more vulnerable to problems such as bullying, peer pressure, sexting, sexual harassment, or even grooming. In addition, social skills may be affected negatively due to not being able to see people's faces and read their expressions, as well as failing to learn how to respond quickly and in “real-time” and take risks, instead of mulling over everything they say or coming up with a “perfect” response.
Another issue that can arise from social media is feelings of envy and jealousy. People often use social media to only present the idealized version of their life, which can lead teenagers to feel that everyone else has a better life than they do. This can increase feelings of envy and jealousy, inadequacy, body image and self-esteem issues, and more.
How Parents Can Help
Social media is a big part of most teens' lives, so banning them from using it is unlikely to be effective. What is most important for parents is to protect their teens by establishing guidelines for usage. It is also wise to encourage open communication with your teen so that they know they can come to you with any problems they may encounter while using social media. This can help you and your teen to successfully navigate the challenges and pitfalls of social media together.