Using social media is a routine activity that research shows can benefit teens and adolescents by boosting their communication skills, elevating their connection to their community and even increasing their technical expertise. But how much social media is too much? And what is the fallout if your teen is obsessed with, or dependent upon, being online?
A study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the influence of social media on our teens cites that “Facebook Depression” is a very real condition—A direct result of spending immense time online, yet not feeling accepted by one’s peers. The psychological phenomenon, “social comparison,” marks comparisons often between the monotonous and dull moments of our teens’ lives with the bright and extraordinary posts showcasing their friends’ lives.
This condition may cause anxiety and depression in teens.
Other dangers of too much social media include cyberbullying [link to cyberbullying article here], sexting and exposure to potentially inappropriate content.
The Rise of Social Networking
It’s easy for teens to get caught up in a virtual world. Social networking offers an instant connection to friends and peers; it allows teens to reach out and interact without having to leave the safety of their room and it affords them a favorite way to procrastinate. The above study also found:
- Teen interaction on social networking sites is on the rise by 22 percent
- Teens log onto their favorite sites more than 10 times per day
- A generous amount of social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet
Should your teen take a social media vacation?
Because of the susceptibility to peer pressure and the lack of moderation, not to mention the dangers of social comparison, both teens and adolescents are at risk of developing anxiety and depression when surfing social networking sites. Online expressions are mimicking offline behaviors: bullying takes on the form of cyberbullying, cliques threaten privacy issues and sexual experimentation shows up on cell phones. Research on depression in teenagers has strong ties to Internet addiction and excessive social media exposure.
If you have concerns that social media may be a destructive force in your teen’s life, then a social media detox may be in order. Your teen should feel good after using Facebook. If, instead, they are feeling bad after even moderate use, it is time to reevaluate and step away from the keyboard.
Getting a Grip
There are several things a parent can do to lessen the likelihood of anxiety and depression descending upon their teen as a result of excessive exposure to social media. Here are several practical tips:
- Control the privacy settings
- Establish ground rules
- Learn your teen’s habits
- Place the computer in a central location in the home
- Warn teens from participating in questionnaires and giveaways
- Monitor the pictures your teen posts
- Set the example for safe social media use
- Limit the amount of time on social platforms
- Limit cell phone use
- Teach your teen about online reputations and online fingerprints
- Discuss internet use, thoughts on usage and online security dangers
If your teen boasts questionable behavior online or displays signs of depression and/or anxiety, stronger steps than the one’s listed above may be necessary. Wilderness treatment programs like the one offered through Pacific Quest can help. Call us for more information.