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Social Media and Teen Mental Health

Teens are glued to social media.  The fact is that teens spend an average of nine hours a day on their phones and computers looking at Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Unfortunately, recent studies have shown a direct link between increased social media usage and increased rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, poor body image, and suicidal thoughts amongst teens between the ages of 13-17.  The facts show that between the years 2008-2017, there has been a 47% increase in suicidal thoughts amongst teens.  This is bad news for our kids and these habits can have devastating effects on their mental and physical health.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems associated with social media and teens:

First of all, because teens spend the majority of their free time in front of their phone or computer, they are not learning healthy communication skills.  Friendship and relationships take time and energy.  Teens are not learning how to listen and how to express their feelings to friends and family members.  In order to have good self-esteem, it’s important to know how to express your feelings in a healthy way even when you disagree with someone.  Teens today are communicating via text messaging and are not learning these skills that they will need as they mature and enter the working world.  The more time teens spend on their phones and on social media, the less exercise and real social skills they develop.

Cyberbullying is also a huge problem in this social media teen world.    It is easier to be a bully and say mean things when you are alone and hiding behind your phone and you don’t have to see or listen to the person on the other end of the text.  Saying hurtful things to others is much more difficult when it is done face to face which is why there is increased bullying on social media.

Teens are suffering from depression and anxiety from constantly comparing themselves with everyone else.  Kids can take hundreds of pics to find the perfect one that is the most flattering for their social media pages.  It’s all about looking beautiful, cool, sexy, thin, being popular and showing off everything you do and have.  For some teens who may not be as fortunate as others, seeing all the designer stuff, the vacations, and all the pics of having fun with friends can make them feel sad or like they just don’t fit in because they don’t have what they think everyone else has.  This leads to more anxiety and loneliness.  The social media world is not reality but it certainly feels like it is to today’s teens.

There are things parents can do to try and limit the damage that social media can cause.  They can limit the amount of social media time allowed each day and set up “technology-free zones” to encourage family participation and social interaction.  Of course, the best solution to help your kids develop healthy self-esteem is to encourage them to participate in some type of activity or sport that they are interested in.  Once they find something they are truly interested in and enjoy, this will build their confidence and keep them from social media related mental health issues.  Kids need to be taught how to feel good about what they do not how they look or what kind of stuff they have.