How Social Media Negatively Affects Teens
There’s no denying that social media is a constant in our children’s lives at this day in age. While there are certainly some positives to the networking channel (it’s an outlet to gain cultural and political awareness, stay connected to those you don’t see often, and even a means to foster some healthy new relationships), the perils of social media run rampant. Too often than not we see social media wreak havoc on true interpersonal connections and more so than ever, our teenagers are negatively impacted by the validations they seek to gain from this new form of communication. Dr. Allison Chase handles many cases where, teenage girls in particular, feel “deceived” by social media leading to stress, depression, and unrealistic expectations. There are various way in which social media can undermine girls and as parents it’s our job to counteract this.
Social media fosters unreal relationships:
You may have tons of Facebook friends or Instagram followers, but how many of the “friends” in our social circles are actually legitimate, positive relationships in our lives? Unfortunately, having tons of friends in the social world is far from enriching and can even make one feel more lonely. Instead of focusing on impressing the “friends” in your social circle, focus on cultivating real relationships in your life. Having less friends, but maintaining more meaningful relationships will bring about a more positive outcome.
Social media is not a healthy source of validation:
Posting and sharing on social media is less about connecting with your loved ones and more about seeking validation. Teenage girls crave recognition because positive recognition inevitably feels good. The more “likes” we get, the better we feel. However, this recognition is temporary and fickle. What happens when one gets no “likes” or a negative comment surfaces? Teenage girls with instability or self-esteem issues can be greatly affected by this.
Social media can lead to a negative body image:
It’s no mystery that teenage girls become obsessed with their bodies at a young age. Thanks to social media, this obsession is exacerbated by unrealistic standards. Idealized images from celebrities and friends invade the web. Social media plays a huge role in shaping the way teenage girls view themselves and their bodies, and negative, obsessive thoughts about appearance can lead to disordered eating habits.
What can you do as a parent?
Social media is here to stay, so how can we as parents counteract the negativity that it enacts on our children? Step one is communication. Actively ask your kids what they’re posting, how they feel, and who they’re connecting with. Also, encourage your children to pinpoint healthy sources of validation such as close friends, family, or teachers from the start. It’s imperative you stay aware. Know what your kids are involved in and be aware of the positive and negative triggers in their social lives.
Dr. Allison Chase is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Austin, Texas. She works with children, adolescents, young adults and families specializing in mental health issues, eating disorders, parental training and education, and family or team-based therapy.