There was once a time when social media was actually an asset—an interactive platform where individuals from all cultural and social backgrounds could connect, engage, and discuss. But when an asset becomes an obsession, things are bound to go south. That’s exactly what’s happening with social media and teens in recent times.
Social media was for the longest time a source of enjoyment and amusement for teens where they could candidly share notions and opinions along with bits of their private lives as they deemed fit, but somewhere down the line, it became a pressure, a compulsion, and a coerced activity that needed a lot more pondering than ever before. It suddenly involved extensive thinking on what pictures to post, what caption to write, and how to interact with peers for hours on end. On top of that, the obligation of being online 24*7 on social media became exorbitant for teens’ mental health without them even recognizing that. Adults not being able to grasp the concept of social media as well as teens just added to the harm the system posed for the young teens and their mental health.
Teen mental health is an incredibly delicate topic that needs to be approached with the utmost meticulousness and awareness. Social media plays a rather noteworthy role in teen mental health. When emotions start to get governed by the number of likes, comments and followers, it’s safe to say an addiction is penetrating in the brain.
How does social media adversely impact teen mental health?
Some of the immediate consequences of social media are unsupervised screen time, lack of concentration, cybersecurity concerns, etc. Although some far fetched but long lasting impacts of social media on teen mental health are –
In recent years, the terms social media and teen depression have become inextricably linked. Persistent conversations and gossip online infuse the mind with enough to mask the deficiency of real, face-to-face communication. When social activity is reduced, loneliness increases, increasing the likelihood of teen depression.
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 when teens are curled up in blankets, partaking in discussions behind the screens of their phones, isolating themselves from the real world gradually.
Being active on social media contributes to an assemblage of anxiety issues. Missing the opportunity to respond instantly, failing to post on social media every minute of every day, and being unable to reply to each comment or message, amount to anxiety-inducing activities.
Social media consists of a diversity of people with varied opinions, teens tend to subject themselves to these notions, leading them to perennially wonder what others think of them, their pictures and their posts. Another tremendously serious anxiety factor that no teen can ever be prepared for is cyberbullying – trolling, slut shaming, fat shaming, and harassment. That can wreak irreparable havoc and chaos in a teen’s developing mind.
3. Personality Problems
Interacting, engaging, and meeting new people on social media can essentially be a good thing but only if it doesn’t totally replace one-on-one conversations. (Read this blog – Social Media and Teens – The Good and The Bad to know both sides of the concept). When online interactions oust face-to-face communications altogether, then social media feigns a pressing menace to a teen’s character, personality and communication skills.
Semantic communication barriers are highly ubiquitous in online interactions. A text message more often than not fails to disseminate the accurate tone of the sender, prompting eminent misunderstandings and miscommunications. Facial expressions don’t leave anything to assumptions which is not the case with text messages. Friendships and relationships suffer tremendously because of wrong interpretations of messages.
Apart from all these mental health problems, to understand more about teens and how they operate, here are 7 Common Problems and Issues Teenagers Face Today.
How has social media wrecked the sleep cycle of teens?
When the last thing teens do before turning in and the first thing they do after arousing is the same activity, it’s highly likely that the teens are becoming slaves to their social media. Their sleep cycle is botched owing to the incessant inspection of mobile phones to check their social media accounts and if anything has changed there in the last 5 seconds. Teens who spend hours scrolling through social media experience not only sleep deprivation, but also extreme lack of concentration, insomnia, emotional regulation, hyperactivity, and a low immunity. Sleeplessness makes the body weak and prone to infections & diseases.
Does social media foster a Culture of Comparison in teens? If yes, how does that affect their mental health?
Teens no longer need parents to compare them to other kids, all thanks to social media, teens are perpetually comparing themselves to other teens. Envy and jealousy can be a starting point of absolute disarray in a teen mind bringing about great distress to teen mental health. Healthy comparisons have ended with the advent of social media, where every teen just aims to be better than their peers.
What teens fail to comprehend is that social media is a highly deceptive platform where only the exhilarating parts of lives are highlighted, laying aside the difficulties and challenges in the dark for no one to see. So when teens compare and cultivate a sense of envy, they’re scrutinising only the good parts, which is not the truest, most genuine form of life. Everyone is going through hardships we know nothing about. All this jealousy and envy sometimes give rise to brutal bullying and trolling which can seriously affect teen mental health on social media
Is banning the use of social media by teens the key?
Prohibiting or forbidding the use of social media is not a solution at all. The answer lies in the responsible and regulated use of social media by teens. As parents, you should never stop asking the question : Why are our teenagers more stressed than ever before, and what can we do to help them?.
How can we as parents and guardians safeguard the teens from the shackles of social media?
Executing changes to ensure a sound teen mental health at an early stage is particularly momentous. Some ways in which that can be done are –
1. Set Limits – Set an explicit time and limit for them 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. Check their accounts – Now, this can easily go in the wrong direction with the teens. Checking their social media accounts every once in a while, like twice a week is crucial, but inspecting them every second of every day can prove to be overbearing, which may lead to other concerns like them being untruthful to you.
3. Explain the teens – Elucidate them in length about the concepts like cyber bullying, harassment, trolling etc. Explain to them why doing a certain thing is absolutely wrong and may immensely hurt the people involved. Also, educate them on what is and is not appropriate to share publicly on social media.
4. Inspire one-on-one social interaction – Now this is very important. Encouraging them to go outside and hang out with kids their own age is an extremely important step in building one’s personality and mind. While we’re on the subject, this can be a helpful read- Ten Ways to help Your Teen develop Self-Esteem and Confidence.
For teens to have sound mental health and a strong character, they need to be forthcoming in initiating one-on-one conversations. The importance of community is unparalleled, this blog talks about The Importance of a Community for Teen Empowerment
Why is talking to the teens about social media extremely important?
Don’t refrain from talking about social media, in fact, talk blatantly and a great deal about it. Talk to them about your own social media habits, the things that you learned and explored while you were at it. Share with them valuable experiences and guide them through managing their own social media accounts. This will help them fathom the concept with greater clarity.
Teen mental health is as much, if not more, the responsibility of parents as it is of the teens themselves. Parents and guardians need to be very meticulous in looking over the teen’s social media accounts and their social media habits.