How Social Media Affects Your Teen

Social Media and the Teenage Brain

While social networking brings a number of benefits, the risks cannot be understated. For developing minds, online social interactions are fraught with dangers that can jeopardize physical and mental well-being. If you are worried about the ways social media might be affecting your teen, learn what you can do about it.

 

Recognizing the Risks

Because they struggle with self-regulation and are especially susceptibility to peer pressure, adolescents are vulnerable to cyberbullying, sexting, Internet addiction and "Facebook depression." In some instances, these issues can promote serious consequences, including eating disorders, insomnia, self-mutilation and even suicide.

Research has uncovered some troubling facts about how social media affects adolescents, including:

 

Reduced overall well-being: According to a recent report from IZA Institute of Labor Economics, children between the ages of 10 and 15 were less content after spending an hour chatting on social networks. Dubbed "Social Media Use and Children's Wellbeing," the report blamed social comparisons, cyberbullying, and reduced real-life, face-to-face activities as the cause. It also found that teens spend an average of nine hours every day using electronic devices, much of which involves social media.

 

Sleep deprivation: Studies suggest that tablets and smartphones can promote sleep disruption among teens and adults. Because they emit blue light, these devices tend to disrupt melatonin in the body, leading to insomnia and shallow sleep. For teens, this can be especially problematic, since sleep is so important for proper physical and cognitive development. Poor sleep has also been linked to depression, poor school performance and low mood.

 

Depression: A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology indicates that teens tend to experience depression and low self-esteem after viewing other people's Facebook profiles. Dubbed "Facebook depression," this phenomenon appears to stem from social comparisons, where adolescents compare their humdrum moments with their peer's online highlight reels.

 

What You Can Do

While social networking plays a key role in broadening social connections, it has a very seedy dark side. If you're worried about your teen's involvement in social media, there are some things you can do to minimize risk, including:

 

  • Open a dialog, so your kids will feel more comfortable expressing their feelings.

  • Don't allow children under 13 to participate in social media.

  • Reserve judgment, or your kids will feel too nervous to approach you with concerns.

  • Set their privacy settings to the strictest level and use filtering software.

  • Create ground rules and consider monitoring their accounts.

  • Keep the computer in a central location where you can see interactions.

  • Monitor your children's habits and step in if things seem out of control.

  • Teach kids about the importance of online reputations and online risks.

 

When it comes to guarding against social media dangers, there are no easy answers. By staying involved in your child's life, however, you can minimize risk. Sometimes you may need to be the villain who takes away a tablet, other times you may be a shoulder to lean on. Whatever the case, make sure to keep a watchful eye on your child's online habits, while offering thoughtful support during difficult times.

 
Foundations Counseling provides guidance and support to help adolescents and families with a broad spectrum of challenges. Contact us today!