Social media is the new norm. Teenagers are brought up in a world that uses virtual reality for most of its social interactions. While social media has its benefits for e-commerce and bridging geographical gaps, it also has provided a new platform for bullying, depleting self-esteem, and other activities that are detrimental to teens and their mental wellbeing.
Social media is something that engages approximately 97% of all teens. Between apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and countless others, cyberbullying is becoming commonplace. Teens are usually bullied about things they have no control over like their physical appearances, socioeconomic backgrounds, and popularity among peers.
Being the subject of such negativity, despite not doing anything "wrong," takes its toll on mental health. Studies show depression can lead to misuse of drugs and alcohol. With teens having to face so many real-world issues, teen substance abuse isn’t nearly as uncommon as you’d hope.
Because of the influx of social media and how much teens use it, it is directly impacting their self-esteem and changing how they communicate. The teenage years are the formative ones when people experiment with communication styles. By communicating through a screen, today's teens are missing out on the experience of reading body language and understanding how their communication is being received. It reduces face-to-face interactions which can hinder learning how to effectively communicate.
Establishing and maintaining friendships is an integral part of growing up. Knowing how to communicate about the good as well as the bad things is an important part of learning. You have to be secure enough in who you are to be able to speak your mind about the things you may not agree with, but in a manner where you don’t hurt the people you care about. In order to know and understand how to communicate in that fashion, it has to be done in real-time. Communicating over texts or chat conversations over a phone or tablet deprives you of reading the emotions the other person may be experiencing even if they are not saying anything about them.
Developing effective communication is a skill that will serve you well in your life. Being able to learn the basics of such interactions, so you can grow and fine-tune your inter-personal skills, starts when you are a teenager. The same applies to dealing with adversity. Being a keyboard warrior is not only a false sense of security, but it also comes at the cost of the recipient’s self-esteem.
Social media also has other risks for young users. Not being able to self regulate how much time a teen is spending online can lead to very real addiction. Instead of healthy interactions, such as seeing friends in person, teens retreat to burying their faces in their phones.
Spending too much time online can lead to making poor decisions. Teens are vulnerable to the less desirable interactions the internet has to offer, such as bullying, sexting, and sending inappropriate photos of themselves to someone they don’t know. Pedophiles and other undesirable characters prey on trusting and unsuspecting teens. Low self-worth can make teens feel accepted by people who are looking to exploit them.
Spending time surfing the rest of the web is not nearly as detrimental to your teen as spending time on several social media sites. In short, the more sites on which your teenager actively engages, the higher the risk for depression and anxiety.
Understand the huge impact social media can have on your impressionable teen. Take an active role in limiting social media interactions and encouraging enjoyable activities away from electronics. Your teen may not thank you now, but the impact on their mental health will be something you’ll both appreciate for years to come.