Why Social Media Can Damage Your Teen’s Self-Esteem & How You Can Help
- August 25, 2019
- /Rebecca Klasfeld, LCSW
- /Media, Self-esteem, Social Media, Teen Counseling
- /No Comments
Facebook. Twitter. Snapchat. Instagram. Reddit. Smartphones. We may sometimes wonder how we ever lived without our phones and social media. However, more and more, we are also finding ourselves desperately seeking ways to live happily with them.
Studies correlate rising social network use with everything from higher body-mass indexes to increased credit card debt to lower self-esteem. A recent study conducted in 2019, with students in grades 7 to 10 found that social media sites drive us to compare ourselves unfavorably to others. And the most common result? Depression.
First, consider what you already know about the impact and influence of social media. Then, imagine what it might feel like for those who have never lived in a world without virtual likes, shares, and friendships. Our teenage years are already notoriously angst-ridden and difficult to navigate. The ages 13-19 already come with an increased vulnerability to emotional issues like depression. How is the pervasive pull of social media further complicating things for this demographic?
Also, according to a growing number of studies, the link between regular social media usage and poor mental health among teens is becoming more and more clear and alarming. In addition, the peer pressure to always be “available” is leading to poorer sleep quality which only serves to further threaten mental and physical health.
Back in the pre-Internet days of yore, teens hung out at malls, schoolyards, or on their stoops. This type of social interaction was a valuable time of learning and experimenting. Teens tried out, honed, or discarded skills—in real life. Most of all, this is how information about vocal inflections, facial expressions, and body language is parsed and stored. This is how our interactive personalities develop.
Thanks to all those cell phones, modern teens have more “friends” than ever. Thanks to social media, those “friendships” involve looking at a screen instead of looking into another human’s eyes. No matter how much texting or scrolling you do, you’re not learning about crucial social cues. Thus, you’re creating a truncated version of communication.
Consequently, this often translates into lost opportunities to build self-esteem through face-to-face interactions, including disagreements. No wonder so many teens are intimidated by the mere thought of a phone conversation!
For this generation of teenagers, future social negotiations (from job interviews to romantic relationships and beyond) spur anxiety. As a result, contemplating the act of talking things over and learning how to resolve issues “in real life” is enough to create a feeling of dread. How can anyone’s self-esteem blossom and thrive in such a scenario?
How You Can Help
Some simple realities to share:
Social Media = Business.
Perhaps the most obvious downside to the social media trend is the “popularity contest” aspect. We make posts to get attention. However, if that attention doesn’t come, we feel inadequate. A good first step is to educate teens about how advertisers and marketers can rig this game to keep them hooked.
Social Media is Not the Same as Real Life.
Every time a young person types the letters “IRL,” they are expressing an understanding that this isn’t real life. Rather, it’s a carefully orchestrated show. We edit out mistakes, doubts, fears, and failures. In real life, we deal head-on with such realities. And the result? Personal growth and deeper connections.
Social Media: Turn it Off.
Most importantly, there’s a concept going around called “digital sunset.”
This means we daily take time to stop checking emails and notifications to finally power down our devices. Teens and adults alike will do well to silence superficial social media and seek out each other for support.
So, does it seem that your teen’s self-esteem is unduly influenced by what he or she reads or sees on social media? Now may be the time to take action.
Talk to your teen. Encourage him or her to share the real-life concerns easily hidden behind selfies and tweets.
If you are concerned that your teen is showing signs of anxiety or depression, consider therapy sessions for tools to boost self-confidence and emotional awareness. Put social media in its place and help your teen rediscover his or her real-world worth.
Rebecca Klasfeld is a licensed clinical social worker in Boca Raton, Florida. If you are ready to believe in the vision of your best life, you are invited to call at 561-441-9933 or fill out the contact form and click send for a free phone consultation.