Helping Teens Deal With the Pressures of Social Media
Social media has become an inescapable part of life for most teenagers today. It’s almost compulsory for young people to be active on a number of platforms in order to keep in touch with friends and feel a sense of belonging with peers.
Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube have many benefits, but there are also negative aspects, particularly for teens. Constantly looking at pictures of others having a good time can make those who are struggling feel much worse. According to Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, “Teen social media use has been thought to be correlated with depression, anxiety, worsening self-esteem, and loneliness.”
The goal for parents is to make sure teens keep social media in perspective and recognise the importance of authentic, real-life connections. Here are some ways you can help your teen cope with the pressures of social media.
Talk About It
Communication is key when it comes to equipping students with the skills to deal with social media. Encourage your child to be reflective about their use of different platforms. Discuss how social media makes them feel, what it adds to their lives and what they don’t like about it.
There are some excellent documentaries on the subject which can help promote discussion. These include “The Social Dilemma” and “The American Meme.” Watch one together and talk about the issues raised.
Nurture Body Positivity
One of the reasons social media can be so insidious is because it makes teens feel bad about their own bodies. Girls are particularly vulnerable to this because they feel like they can never measure up to the perfect bodies they are constantly exposed to.
Help your child understand that many of these images have been photoshopped, and they are not a true reflection of reality. Encourage them to find self-esteem in other ways, and to focus on their health, rather than their appearance.
Promote Positive Content
While some of the content on social media is toxic for teens, there is also a great deal that is positive. Help your teen find good role models who embody the values you want them to internalise. These include young people who are travelling the world, promoting important causes and building something worthwhile.
Whatever your teen is interested in, there is bound to be an online community that shares this interest. When used in a healthy way, social media can expand teens’ horizons and help them feel connected to the wider world.
Introduce Screen-free Time
In one study on social media, 45% of teens said they were online almost constantly. Research has found that the more time young people spend on social media, the more detrimental it becomes to their mental health.
The pressure to be connected and always available is intense. Many teens suffer from ‘fear of missing out’ if they don’t constantly check their messages and feeds. You can help your teen navigate this by encouraging regular screen-free time. Ask them to put the devices away and take a walk together, watch a movie or go out for a meal. Time away from social media allows teens to recognise there is a world beyond their screens, and many other fun things they could be doing.
Teens need guidance and support to deal with the pressures of social media.