This generation of teenagers have grown up with social media being readily available to them. Unfortunately, as it is being used at far greater rates than previous generations, the dependency and addiction of it has also grown. Below we will explore the dangers of social media for teenagers.
1. Pressure to be available 24/7
Social media these days can be accessed through apps on your smartphone. The constant notifications flashing up on your screen are a reminder that you are now able to contact anyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can create a dangerous ideal for a teenager, as they feel the pressure to be available constantly.
This may lead to overuse, and addiction of social media, as they feel the pressure to be ‘online’ or present all the time. Not to mention, they may feel the fear of missing out on what their friends have posted online too whilst they are away from their phones. This can lead to sleep deprivation, as teens spend hours at night scrolling through stories and posts. Teens need more sleep than adults too, so it’s vital for them to be able to switch off their phones at night.
When are teenagers able to switch off from this online world? When do they take a break for their own mental health and wellbeing? To be present in the company of those they are with, or to take time for themselves?
As mentioned above, the pressure to be available constantly can cause social media addiction. Another huge factor in why teenagers become addicted to social media, is due to ‘likes’ and interactions. ‘Likes’ are a form of digital interaction that a person receives on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
A research study at the UCLA Brain Mapping Centre, found that certain regions of the teen’s brains became activated by viewing likes on social media. This would then cause them to want to use social media more often. The study found that during the brain scans, part of the brain’s reward circuity was active when a large number of likes occurred on their photos. This area of the brain is the same area that responds when something amazing happens, such as winning a competition, or viewing a video or photo or someone that we love.
Some teens get extremely hung up on the number of followers, likes, and interactions they receive on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. So much so, it can really take up a lot of worries and space in their mind.
3. Anxiety and Depression
Teenagers still have a developing brain, and therefore they can be quite vulnerable. Teens are unable to self-regulate properly, and therefore will struggle to put healthy boundaries in place with social media. As we know, healthy boundaries are important in all aspects of our lives.
Social media hosts a whole array of difficult social situations to navigate. For example, peer pressure, sexting, trolling and cyber bullying. All of this can lead to anxiety and depression as teens have to navigate a minefield of stressors.
4. Comparing to others
This also feeds into anxiety and depression, as teens will go online and see a picture-perfect world. It’s hard for them to remember that social media is just a highlight reel for most people, and that filters also hide flaws. Instead, teens will go on and compare themselves against the seemingly perfect lives of their friends and peers. This will create even more pressure for them to recreate something equally as perfect, whilst feeling inadequate. That is, unless they get as many likes as their friends.
The feelings of jealousy and envy will be very present whilst scrolling through social media. The viewer will feel like the lives online are far more exciting than theirs, as they see all of the positive posts, or funny stories of bad situations online. It becomes incredibly easy for a teen to then believe that everyone else is happier, or luckier, or more exciting and social than they are.
5. Communication and escapism from the real world
Living in an online world is bound to then have an effect on a teen’s ability to socialise, engage and communicate in the real world. How many times have you been within someone’s company and they’ve been tied to their phone rather than listening to you? This can negatively affect relationships, as it becomes clear that they are not concentrating on the people within the real-life room. Dating and friendships may become harder to keep, or less authentic.
As teens escape more and more from real life into the social media world, mental health issues are soaring. Communication is so different online too, as you can’t really tell what someone means through words. You won’t be able to read expressions, or body language. Those who live their lives through social media, will miss out on the real wonders of in person relationships. This is one of the biggest, and saddest dangers of social media.
Are you worried about how much time your teenager is spending on social media? Does any of the above resonate with you? Get in touch with me, Tracy Kimberg, today to find out how I can help your teen with my therapy. We can work on creating healthy boundaries with social media and give you and your teen a brighter future.
If you would like more help and advice on your teen’s behaviour, check out my podcast ‘Waves of Clarity’.