The contrivance of social media was, for most users, an exciting way to share information, communicate and connect with diverse people from all over the world. It was a virtual world, completely separate from reality. They were smoothly able to differentiate between the two, enjoying the uniqueness of the former while making sure not to lose touch with the latter.
But a small yet highly consequential percentage of social media users were reported to be addicted to the platforms, mostly teenagers. Gullible teenagers who find it difficult to fit in the real world find escape in the virtual world, entirely losing sight of what’s actually real, accelerating social media addiction among teenagers.
How do you spot a teen who is addicted to social media?
1. Virtual World vs. Real World – An addicted teen will always prefer the virtual world to real life. They would have an overwhelming urge to continuously participate in the online community while completely ignoring the world outside their screens.
2. The Notification Pressure – Teens addicted to social media are so captivated by followers, views, likes and other people’s opinions of them that they unknowingly bind themselves in the shackles of social norms, forgetting sense of freedom and candidness. They’re persistently checking their social media accounts for a new like or a new follower or any new activity that would extricate them again from the tragedy that is the real world for them.
3. Yearn For Virtual Connections – Teens who are addicted to social media prefer virtual connections and relationships to real ones. They’re more complacent with people fraternising with their virtual personalities as it makes them feel in control and safe.
4. Need To Be Liked – Teens who are addicted to social media go out of their way to meticulously design an online life that appears enticing and fascinating to other users. They’ve a desperate desire to be liked by other people on the internet. They’re constantly looking for validation via likes, comments and followers on their social media accounts.
What are the impacts of social media addiction on teen health?
Social media addiction affects teens both physically and psychologically. Apart from that, teens face multiple interpersonal difficulties, which makes it strenuous for them to sustain relationships outside of cyberspace.
1. Negative Impact on Interpersonal Relationships – Social media addiction causes relationships to fall apart. Being on the phone all the time, worrying about online presence can seriously sabotage a teen’s relationships with the people around them who are waiting for them to put the phone down.
2. Decrease in Productivity – Teens with social media addiction tend to put their entire curiosity and mindfulness into establishing a worthy virtual presence, disregarding the day-to-day responsibilities and other critical jobs fundamental for their growth.
3. Decrease in Academic Performances – Teens addicted to social media neglect pivotal things like education, school, grades, and participation. Their academic performances deteriorate as they find it extremely challenging to engage in anything other than social media. Just like any other addiction, the withdrawal from social media addiction is exceptionally laborious.
4. Dissatisfaction with Life – Social media addiction comes with a desperate need to compare yourself with others. What teens fail to recognize is that virtual life is perfectly equipped to hide anyone’s flaws and issues in order to highlight the good and appealing parts. When teens compare their lives with those of others on the internet, they lose value for their own lives and their uniqueness.
5. Stress & Depression – In recent years, the terms “social media” and “teen depression” have become inextricably linked. When social activity is reduced, loneliness increases, increasing the likelihood of teen depression. The continuous comparison augments low self-esteem, eating disorders and self harming behaviours as well.
6. Social Anxiety Disorder – When teens are employed in round-the-clock discussions and interactions online, they begin to lose the confidence to uphold conversations outside of their phone screen. Being an indispensable member of social gatherings plays a consequential role in building esteem, confidence and character. Social media puts a stop to all that, gradually bringing about social anxiety disorder.
7. Cyberbullying – With a voice, teens also get a lot of opinions and almost no accountability. Social media can be an extremely hurtful place for teens when they’re bullied based on how they look, act or conduct themselves by other teens. Cyberbullying can have such life threatening impacts on impressionable teens, triggering suicide or self-harm.
8. Blurry Vision & Disturbed Sleep Patterns – Sleep deprivation and vision problems are some of the physical health issues that also come into play owing to social media addiction in teens. They are always feeling lethargic & worn out without actually doing anything purposeful.
9. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Apart from the back and neck problems that the constant use of social media causes, there’s a much more serious disease that addiction can develop. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by repeated movements of the hands and arms compressing the median nerve at the carpal tunnel.
How do you help a teenager who’s addicted to social media?
1. Restricted Use of the Internet – Set an explicit time and limit for the teens to operate their social media accounts so that social media doesn’t impede their studies, meal times, sleep times or other requisite social activities. Striking the perfect balance should be the end goal.
2. Monitored Use of the Internet – Checking the social media accounts of teens to a certain extent is imperative. Adults need to be aware of their teens’ social media activities and engagement in order to guide and usher them.
3. Turning off Notifications – Notifications from social media websites don’t let you forget their existence, irrespective of your persistent efforts. Turning off all notifications can really help with the anxiety to respond immediately and then lose yourself while scrolling endlessly.
4. Inspire One-On-One Social Interaction – Encouraging teens to go outside and hang out with other teens is an extremely important step in building one’s personality and mind. For teens to have sound mental health and a strong character, they need to be forthcoming when initiating one-on-one conversations.
5. Sit Them Down – Sit them down and talk openly with your teens about social media and its various aspects. Explain to them integral concepts like cyberbullying, harassment, addiction, etc. Explain to them why doing a certain thing is absolutely wrong and may immensely hurt the individuals involved.
“Comparing your real-life experiences with someone’s perfectly designed social media posts is not fair to the beauty that is your life.”
– The Emissary
Social media addiction in teens, if not identified and structured promptly, can wreak havoc in their lives. The addiction can affect them and the people around them in such a dangerous manner that coming back may be impossible. It’s the bounden duty of parents and guardians to oversee their teen’s social media habits, counsel and mentor them suitably.