Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, WhatsApp, and Twitter are only a handful of the platforms that have created the obsession with social media. As many as 22% of teens say that they have logged into their social media accounts at least 10 times per day. Many parents are concerned that their children are spending too much of, if not all, their time using different social media platforms. Although some parents may view their teen’s social media use as a result of the generation, it could have deeper roots. In the following blog we highlight some pros and cons of social media that have become most apparent in our work with adolescents. We invite you to share your thoughts and concerns in our blog.
The use of technology and social media creates a major distraction from the real world. Signing on to their accounts provides a quick diversion from what may be troubling them (at school and/or at home). By using social media, teens can avoid feeling isolated. Social media offers teens a space to connect and feel connected, an opportunity to express themselves and in turn feel validated and seen.
Facebook and Instagram, for many, have become a popularity contest around quantity of likes or comments. While this may seem trivial for an adult, it could seem detrimental for a teenage struggling to fit in. There has become a popularity contest among peers to get the most likes. Questions that often arise for teens: Are they going to be popular in school if their post only received a few likes? Is their popularity in real life determined by their social media likes?” Will they be teased or bullied based on likes? These anxious thoughts create an obsession with checking their status and likes continuously throughout the day.
It is without a doubt that social media allows people to connect with others from near and far. Even though this may mean that they are not having face-to-face interaction with people, they are still able to connect with others and express themselves. Many teens turn to social media to gain connections with others that they feel have similar interests, for example teens that identify as LBGTQ, may reach out to social media groups to feel connected and supported. Being able to express ones self is extremely important in the transition from adolescence into adulthood. Conflict between teens and their parents or peers may leave teens feeling that they have no outlet to express their thoughts; turning to social media, as a form of self-expression and connection can be an empowering tool for many teens that feel isolated and alone.
Before assuming your teen is just obsessed with social media, take a look at any other underlying factors. Have discussions about what is going on at school or home that may be bothering them. Engaging in an ongoing discussion around social media is important for gaining insight into your teen’s world. Take the time to show your teen that they have your support.