Social media is a whole new world for the parents of current adolescents. The different platforms seem to appear and become outdated in a matter of months, so staying current is a challenge. Teens use social media to communicate, build relationships, show off the different things they do in life, and have an outlet for their fluctuating feelings. It’s no wonder social media is so important to them!
Parents have a lot of concerns around social media, usually stemming from a very healthy place of understanding the flaws of this new outlet. Typically, parents are concerned with the amount of time their teens are on social media accounts, what they’re posting, and how it is affecting their self-worth and sense of value. Other concerns include:
- Immense pressure from the sites
- Trying to have a perfect social life
- Desiring to have perfect looks
- Seeing false standards
- Cyber bullying
- Distraction from productivity
- Social media keeping them from human interactions
- Not being comfortable having in person interpersonal communication
These concerns are valid and being swept up in social media can lead to a host of mental health concerns that aren’t always understood immediately. Some teenagers can have depressive symptoms or experience anxiety from the expectations and images that they see. However, there are also instances when social media has an amazingly positive impact on someone’s life. It may be the only way they connect with people who share their interests. It also can be a great way to stay current with ever changing trends so that they can engage with peers at school.
Sometimes it can be hard for parents to know what to do when they have concerns over their teen’s welfare and mental health around this topic. Taking away social media would lead to rebellion but ignoring the issue doesn’t seem effective either. Sometimes the best next step is just having a casual, low pressure conversation about why the teen likes social media and how they benefit from it. Being curious shows your child that you are interested in them, even if the topic isn’t something they would volitionally bring up.
After you have successfully had that conversation, you may have a chance to ask how they feel after using social media. They might not answer honestly, but they may gain some insight just from the question. This can give them a chance to notice if and how their mood shifts when they are on Instagram or Snapchat. If you have concerns over mental health issues that are impairing their academics, family life, or social life, feel free to reach out to a professional for additional support. Social media may be exacerbating an underlying issue that could be helped through professional counseling.
This blog was written by Sarah Carter, Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #6982. Sarah is supervised by Brent Robery, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #100423