The explosive growth of social media over the past decade means that it is now an ever-present part of our lives. Children are exposed to technology at a young age, and by adolescence, most of them are engrossed in digital and social media.
Social media has both pros and cons. On the plus side, social media is a lifeline to teens who feel ostracised or marginalised. They are able to reach out and connect with others who share and understand their plight. Researchers have also found that it is a powerful tool for building friendships.
However, even more than the benefits, social media has a negative impact on teenagers. We have listed some of them below.
Teenagers crave acceptance from their peers, and tend to feel depressed when this is not forthcoming. They care about their image about as much as politicians, and can spend hours crafting their online personas. Teenagers going through their social media feeds only see how great everyone is, which lead to them engaging in negative social comparisons. These comparisons can breed a sense of inferiority that gradually leads to depression.
Cyberbullying is rife on social media. Name-calling, spreading of false rumours and having embarrassing videos posted are just some of the types of harassment that teenagers face online. Teenagers who experience cyberbullying for a prolonged period end up with increased stress and anxiety as well as lower self-esteem and confidence. This can lead to feelings of depression and isolation. In drastic cases, this can lead to suicide.
Lack of Sleep
Today’s teenagers are online almost constantly. By being on social media 24/7, they can find out what their friends are up to at all times. They are also much more likely to check their social media feeds before bed, which affects their sleep. Research has shown that teenagers who spend more time on social media have more trouble falling asleep, and have poorer sleep quality. This lack of sleep can lead to insomnia and also, trigger depression.
Teenagers find it difficult to concentrate on certain tasks due to social media addiction. They use social media during lessons, while doing homework and even during mealtimes. This has an adverse effect on their attention span, which can affect their overall performance.
Decreased Physical Activity
There is decreased physical activity among teenagers who use social media regularly. This lack of physical activity means that their bodies do not release endorphins, also known as the hormones responsible for the feeling of euphoria or happiness. As a result, they tend to be moody and depressed most of the time.
Protecting Your Teenagers from the Impact of Social Media
Adolescence represents a period of heightened risk of developing mental disorders in teenagers. As much as it is the individual’s responsibility to self-regulate, it is also the role of a parent, or adult involved in a child’s life, to educate them on the dangers of social media. Here are some tips for protecting your teenage children from the impact of social media.
Talk to them
Spend quality time talking to them about their day-to-day activities. Show interest in the things that interest them, and they will reciprocate in kind. Building a healthy relationship with them can keep them grounded in the real world.
Teach your children the dos and dont’s of using social media. Instill social responsibility and internet etiquette in them. Educate them on the risks of oversharing online, which can lead to dangerous encounters. It is important that they become friends only with people they know, or at the very least, exercise discernment, and seek the advice of an adult where necessary.
Connect with your teenage children on social media. It is one way to keep track of their online activities and allows you to step in when you see something amiss. With that said, do respect their privacy and take care not to over-exert your presence online which might oftentimes, lead to their embarrassment.
Troubled teenagers are more likely to be negatively impacted by social media. Providing a loving and safe environment at home will allow your children to thrive both in real life and on social media. Setting a good example through your own online behaviour, and usage of digital devices also goes a long way to making sure that your children can navigate social media safely.