Digital devices have been a part of the lives of today’s children and teens since the day they were born. Unlike many adults, this generation may be more comfortable on social media platforms than they are in the real world. As smartphones, tablets, and computer screens become the norm, it is important to recognize signs that your teen’s social media use can be causing mental health issues and possibly social media addiction.
What Is Social Media Addiction?
Social media addiction is when a user becomes so overly concerned with social media that they develop uncontrollable urges to use the platforms and devote an excessive amount of time to being on social media, resulting in a negative impact on other parts of their life.
Much like other addictions, social media addiction is a result of the dopamine inducing power of “likes” and “views” on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. These interactions stimulate the same neural activity as addictions such as gambling. The reward you get for logging on keeps you coming back more frequently.
Your teen’s social media use may seem like a harmless distraction. However, with 92% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 online on a regular basis and 75% of teens accessing the internet on their cell phones, which ends up being a lot of access to a convenient source of dopamine gratification.
Signs Your Teen May Have an Issue
Too much social media use can result in low self-esteem, increased feelings of unhappiness, isolation, and other negative mental health issues. These can be a result of teens comparing their lives to the curated versions they see on their preferred social media platform. Frequent anxiety issues can evolve from “fear of missing out” when they see pictures and stories of events in which they were not included.
This can become a problem if your teen uses it as a coping mechanism to relieve loneliness, stress, or depression. If you are concerned your teen may be too reliant on social media, ask yourself these questions.
- Does your teen spend an excessive amount of time thinking about, talking about, and planning their time around social media?
- Does your teen seem to have more frequent urges to log onto their account?
- Is your teen unable to cut back on their social media usage?
- Does your teen use social media to avoid dealing with real life?
- Does your teen become agitated if they are unable to use social media?
- Is your teen’s use of social media negatively impacting their performance at school or work?
If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, it may be time to have a talk with your teen.
How You Can Help Your Teen
There are ways you can help your teen learn to become less reliant on social media. The most important step is to have an open conversation about social media usage and the problems that can arise from spending too much time there. Stay informed about the number and types of social media platforms your teen uses. Consider designating screen-free zones in your home such as the dinner table or keeping phones out of bedrooms. Some families have even implemented a whole day, such as Sunday, to be cell phone free days. Lead by example; prioritize real-life interactions and set aside family screen detox times. If you still have concerns, seek out professional help.