How Social Media Affects Teenagers
Taking photos of our food, posting “stories” during social hangouts, watching vlogs, and “tweeting” our feelings — these are just some of the most common things that people do online on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 51. As long as you have a gadget and are connected to the Internet, you’re free to do whatever you want.
Social media is like a merger of different virtual worlds. It facilitates the sharing of ideas and information through online communities and platforms. Moreover, it features user-generated and personalized content that may be shared publicly and privately. These websites and applications allow people to share anything and engage with anyone they want.
The ability to post photos or videos in real-time makes it engaging. The goal of social media is in its name — to allow people to become more social, to connect with anyone, anywhere, any time.
Although anyone can access social media, teenagers are its primary demographic. In 2018, the Pew Research Center surveyed teens in the United States. The results show that around 97% of teens aged 13-17 use social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Furthermore, the same respondents said that 45% are constantly online in their social media accounts.
Reasons Why Teenagers Use Social Media
Social media is associated with creating and maintaining social connections through phones or computers. Here are the most common reasons highlighted by studies on why teens use social media.
Fear of Missing Out
Social anxiety is heavily linked to the use and engagement with different social media platforms, and most young adults are susceptible to the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO refers to the constant feeling of wanting to be connected with peers. It is rooted in the social anxiety and stress from having to check one’s online presence from time to time.
Nowadays, teens tend to maintain more online connections than friendships developed in school. Most trends that teens follow usually come from what they see on the Internet. They also constantly keep track of their friends’ lives through posts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, because not knowing what’s been going on makes them feel left out.
Social Comparison and Validation
Creating a social media account can give confidence, and it sometimes defines one’s social status. According to research, teens who are virtually accessible prove that they can afford internet services and smartphones. Furthermore, teens use social media to know their worth as a member of a social group. Gaining likes and comments makes them feel accepted and praised by other people, friends and strangers alike.
Dopamine: Social Media Alters Brain Chemistry
Dopamine, sometimes referred to as the “feel-good” hormone, is a neurotransmitter and brain chemical that influences mood and emotions. It is a “chemical messenger” of the body that allows a person to feel, think, and react.
Research proves that the use of technology and social media can significantly affect a person’s brain chemistry. Successful social interactions allow the brain to release more dopamine. This is why people feel satisfied when receiving social media notifications. In return, these hormones also push people to keep engaging in online communication through various social networking sites. These are a few small ways how social media affects teenagers.
Impacts of Social Media on Teenagers
Spending time online makes teens cling to their phones. Although social media can be beneficial to form friendships and social connections, it can also be detrimental when used irresponsibly. The possible negative impacts are reduced academic performance, attention-seeking tendencies, physical and mental health problems, social media addiction, and substance use.
- Poor Academic Performance
Getting hooked to social media can reduce students’ academic performance, since they might spend more time and effort maintaining their social pages than reading their schoolbooks. Moreover, it affects their time management skills. Instead of doing homework, they might waste a lot of time interacting with others. Excessive use of the Internet lowers someone’s concentration and attention span, making it harder to focus on their school requirements.
- Seeking Constant Validation
For a teenager, getting likes, comments, and shares usually mean being accepted and validated. Not getting enough engagement might cause someone to develop social anxiety, and a constant need for validation sometimes leads to feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, and discouragement.
- Physical and Mental Health Problems
Constant use of social media exposes teens to risks relating to physical health. Long screen times make them stay awake late at night, and this disrupts sleep patterns. Too much social media can also lead to eating disorders, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.Furthermore, social media can damage one’s mental health. Often times it leads to adolescents needing teen mental health treatment. Not only does it alter the structure of the brain, but it also affects a person’s mood, emotions, and behavior.Teens are at a higher risk of getting cyberbullied by other social media users. They are prone to personality disorders and mental health problems, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, panic disorders, low self-esteem, inferiority or superiority complex, and depression.
- Social Media Addiction
The goal of social media is to make a person stay online as long as possible, and the feeling of “craving for more” can be considered a social media addiction. According to a study by Harvard University, using social networking sites “lights up” the same parts of the brain that also get triggered when using addictive drugs. This can often lead to depression, where the adolescent’s parents will seek out a therapist or teen depression treatment program.
- Drug and Alcohol Use
The portrayal of illicit drugs and alcohol on social media platforms heavily influences someone’s perspective, especially if they are a teenager. Most mainstream movies and music tend to glorify and normalize these substances, making teens feel that they are “cool” by using them to fit in.
What Can Parents Do to Lessen the Negative Impacts of Social Media?
In order to do something about your teen’s social media addiction, you must first know more about their situation. Once you know why they are constantly online, you can intervene to lessen the negative impacts of social media on their health.
- Communicate. Let your teen tell you about why they use social media. Make them feel that you are trying your best to understand them, despite the generation gap.
- Understand the pros and cons of social media use. Despite the negative impacts of social media, it also has its benefits. Do some research if necessary, and discuss the pros and cons with your child.
- Monitor your child’s social media consumption. Make sure that your child uses social media apps appropriate to their age. Google Play Store and Apple App Store show the recommended age of users, and you should check them before installing apps on your child’s phone. In addition, set time limits if you deem it necessary.
- Think of alternatives. Some teens use social media because they cannot spend enough time with their families and need attention. Think of alternative activities that you can do with your child, like painting, listening to or making music, watching movies, playing with pets, hiking, beach outings, and more.
- Seek professional help. Too much social media consumption may lead to addiction. Keep an eye out for the signs and seek professional help as early as possible. Not all families have open communication, so it can get awkward to suddenly sit down and talk about what’s going on in their teen’s mind. In those cases, the child might be more comfortable talking with someone they don’t know, like a professional.
What Can We Do for You and Your Teen?
Teens are at high risk of being affected by social media. Studies have proven that they consume these online resources the most and for the longest periods. We know you are concerned with your teen’s well-being, so we are here to act on these issues. At Key Transitions, we seek to mend social media addiction and all other teen addiction treatment. We prevent its symptoms as quickly as possible. Social media can be addictive, but we can help your teen by working together. Get in touch with us today.