Social media can have both positive and negative effects on the teenage brain.
Young people, especially teens, are using social media platforms in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Your teen might use apps to connect with others or get advice for real-life issues. However, too much screen time can negatively impact brain development.
During pandemic lockdowns and school closures, young people relied on social media to socialize and learn.
While social media has both positive and negative effects on teens, they need to learn healthy ways to use digital media. The teenage brain undergoes many changes, and some apps can have addictive qualities that negatively impact teens.
Additionally, some content might be disturbing for teens to view. Violence, racism, pornography, and other content can traumatize teens. Teens can develop mental health issues if they cannot process this content.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Because the teen brain is still developing, teens may respond to stress differently than adults, which could lead to stress-related mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.”
Stress from disturbing online imagery, cyberbullying, peer pressure or social comparisons can be difficult for your teen to manage. Your teen can use social media for the good things while learning skills to shield them from the adverse effects.
Social media can cause low self-esteem in adolescents for many reasons.
Many everyday people, celebrities, and “influencers” on social media apps do not display a realistic view of their lives. Most people only post the best parts of their lives, like vacations, smiling selfies, or expensive possessions.
Young people might compare their own lives to what they see online. However, adolescents might not understand the full spectrum of life, including the ups and downs. They might not put social media into context as a window to only one part of a person’s life.
Social comparisons can be challenging for young adults and adolescents to understand.
Young people don’t have the experience to realize that life has ups, downs, and even “bland” middles. Most of everyday life might not be as exciting as people portray online. Teens might not understand a person’s online presence versus real life.
Teens might see their friends or celebrities posting vacation pictures, selfies, or sharing only good news. They might compare their lives to these posts without realizing that these posts are highlights and not realistic.
You can help your kids identify the good things in their own lives and talk with them about life “behind the scenes” on social media.
Remind your teens that people use filters on selfies or are only posting the best parts of their lives for social media “likes.” You can also monitor their social media use to see what kinds of messages your teen might be getting from these sites.
Teenage girls can develop body image issues due to the unrealistic depictions of beauty on social media apps.
Many apps, like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, have filters that can alter your teen’s appearance. They might compare themselves to the filtered image when posting selfies. These filters create unrealistic expectations of beauty.
In addition, celebrities and social media influencers might use these filters or post-professional photos of themselves as if they look like this in real life.
Teenage girls are especially vulnerable to body image issues due to these false comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Your daughter might spend time trying to perfect a selfie to get more “likes” on their apps.
Body image issues can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders.
If you notice changes in your teenager’s attitude, mood, or behavior related to body image, they might be spending too much time scrolling social media and making comparisons.
Teach your daughter about valuing themselves for who they are and not what they look like. Tell them what you love about their personalities, talents, interests, and skills.
If you compliment your daughter’s appearance, focus on choices rather than looks, such as:
You can also teach your daughter the difference between real life and social media. Remind them that celebrities often have professionals helping them with posts, even if the post appears “casual.”
Social media platforms can have both positive and negative effects on your teenager.
Many social media platforms are built around helping people connect with others. Teens used social media for a majority of their social interactions during pandemic lockdowns and social distancing.
Some of the positive effects of social media include:
Most of the negative effects of social media occur when kids do not put things into context. They might neglect dangers when posting information online or spend too much time scrolling on their phones.
Negative effects of social media include:
You can help your teen spend less time online and more time engaged in real life. Learn more about why they use social media and remind them that social media enhances real life but is not a substitute.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs online, by texting, or through social media platforms.
According to StopBullying.gov, “Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.”
Cyberbullying can damage your teen’s self-esteem. Teens might also not think about comments they make on social media that might hurt others. Meanspirited online comments can be just as hurtful as in real life.https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it
Sometimes, cyberbullying can cross the line into criminal behaviors, like threats or stalking.
If your child appears to lack confidence or has low self-esteem, they could be a victim of bullying. Whether online or in-person, bullying can affect your child’s mental health and, in extreme cases, can lead to suicide.
You can protect your child from cyberbullying with the following tips:
If you notice any changes in your child’s moods or depressive symptoms, let your child know that you see a difference. Kids might not feel comfortable talking to their parents about their mental health and self-esteem. It is best to be straightforward about what you’ve noticed.
Many parents wonder if they should give their teenagers a cell phone.
Most kids will want a cell phone to feel like they fit in with their peers. Cell phones can be helpful to keep kids connected to parents or have access to help when something is going wrong.
There is no right or wrong age to give your child a cell phone.
Whether or not you choose to give your teenager a cell phone is up to you. You might use a cell phone as a way to teach your teen responsible behavior. For example, you can give your teen conditions for cell phone use and have consequences when they break these rules.
If you give your teen a cell phone, keep the following tips in mind to help them learn to use their phone in a healthy way:
Cell phones can help your teen stay safe when they are in trouble or connect with others. However, some online activities can be dangerous or unhealthy for your kids. Be sure to teach them healthy and safe cell phone use.
You can help your teen stay safe in their online activities.
While social networking sites can have some positive aspects, they can leave your teen vulnerable to danger. Your teen can learn to use apps safely without giving away too much personal information.
Some dangers of social media include:
Teens can be vulnerable to dangers online. Since social media is often used for clubs, events, and other real-life activities, your teen cannot entirely avoid being online.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Children who spend time on social networks are at risk of becoming victims of online predators, cyberbullying, or exposure to inappropriate content.”
The DHS provides the following tips for online safety:
In addition, you can monitor what your child posts online to help them stay safe.
Kids might post things out of anger, angst, sadness, jealousy, or other emotions without thinking of consequences.
By teaching your kids safety tips and monitoring their online activities, you can help them stay safe online. Be open with your kids about their social media usage to keep them safe from strangers or seeing inappropriate content.
Teaching your kids online safety is one step in building a healthy relationship with cell phones and digital media. Your kids can also learn to set boundaries between their time online and real-life activities.
You can teach your teen to use social media in a healthy way.
Young people will need healthy habits to use the internet and social media. Using cell phones and other devices will be a part of your teen’s future in their career or academic pursuits. Even if your teen is addicted to social media, they cannot avoid it entirely.
If you are concerned about your teen’s online activities and would like to help them spend less time on social media, try some of the following:
The best thing you can do is teach your teen not to let social media distract them too much from real life. Social media apps can enhance real-life activities, but they should not replace them.
Teens and young people can become addicted to social media when their mental health and well-being suffer from too much time online.
Unlike drug or alcohol addiction, your child cannot “quit” social media. Too much of modern life depends on the internet. By teaching your teen to set boundaries with cell phones and digital media, you can help them develop a healthy relationship with their devices.
Social media can have a negative effect on your teen’s mental health. You can teach your child healthy ways to use digital media and cell phones. Sandstone Care is here to support teens with mental health and substance use disorders. Call (888) 850-1890
We understand taking the first step is difficult. There is no shame or guilt in asking for help or more information. We are here to support you in any way we can.