Is my teen obsessed with social media? Is your teen always checking their social media accounts? Social media addiction is real.
For years experts have talked about drug addiction or teens addicted to alcohol — however in today’s digital world we are facing young people that are literally attached to their devices — specifically, their social media networks. This is being considered an addiction.
Scrolling and checking through your social media feeds has become an increasingly popular activity over the past decade.
Although many people don’t have a problem with overuse, there is a small percentage of users that have become addicted to social networking and engage in excessive or compulsive use.
Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.
Warning Signs of Social Media Addiction
Like most things in life, engaging in social media in moderation is not harmful. It’s about finding a healthy digital balance without overusing it that it effects your emotional wellness.
The negative effects to consider are:
- Develops low self-esteem. This can be prompted by the false reality of online life. The incorrect perception that others’ lives are better than yours, or as many teens do — living for “likes,” for gratification of their self-worth.
- Increased isolation and/or loneliness. Is your teen becoming withdrawn. Not leaving their bedroom, staring at their screen 24/7?
- Depression and anxiety. This is another sign your teen is becoming addicted to social media. They could be developing FOMO (fear of missing out) when they’re not online, in addition to their low self-worth with the compare and despair thinking while online.
- Social anxiety disorder can start to develop. Is your teen suddenly self-conscious of themselves, worries about embarrassing or humiliating themselves, maybe they fear interacting or talking to strangers? This is also when school avoidance can start.
- Disrupted sleep patterns. Is your teen no longer able to sleep well? Waking up, nightmares? This can be very unhealthy.
- FOMO. Fear of missing out (as listed above), which actually can lead to more social media activity. Sadly, this is very real and causes anxiety, stress and depression in young people.
- Poor school grades, underachieving. Was your teen once a straight A student and now their school performance is slipping or even failing?
- Ignoring relationships in real life. Have they stopped hanging out with their friends? Dropped out of their favorite activities or participating in their hobbies? Not attending family functions?
- Unable to (or reduced ability) to empathize with others. When people are constantly digitally contacted (without eye to eye contact), they lose their sense to have compassion and empathy towards others.
- Lack of physical activity. This can lead to poor eating habits, hygiene and other physical health concerns.
5 Ways to a Healthy Digital Social Media Life
The truth is social media will always be a part of our lives, especially your teen’s life. There are many positive ways to use social networking, for example, when your teenager needs to showcase their athletic ability to colleges or their volunteer work for a potential internship. The key is finding the right balance of digital life for emotional wellness.
In order to have a healthy digital life, the entire family needs to be part of the plan. Reality is, teens want limits. In a Screen Education survey, 26 percent of teens said they wished that someone would impose screen time limits. It’s never too late to start.
1. Smartphone contract. If you don’t have one, it’s time to create one. List your teen’s responsibilities, and limits, the consequences, and your responsibilities as the parent.
2. Limit notifications on smartphones. All those dings, rings, buzzes and sounds are added triggers that set off stressors. Have your teen choose three apps (or whatever you are comfortable with) for sounds. The others they can manually check periodically.
3. Create daily device-free time. Whether it’s dinner time, before bedtime, or one to two hours in the afternoon or morning, develop a schedule when no one is staring at screens.
4. Lights-out, screens-off. Technology is affecting teens’ sleep and mental health. It’s up to parents to remove their phones from the bedrooms. You are a parent first. Simply asking them to turn it off is not the answer.
5. Respect. This generation (sometimes) needs to be reminded about old-fashioned respect. If you are with others (family, friends, in a store, checking out, at a restaurant, or any activity that involves others), have respect for the people around you. Don’t engage on your devices (which is usually social media). That is digital-free time.
Most importantly for parents, which isn’t listed, since most know this already, is to lead by example. If your teen watches you texting and driving, you are basically giving them the green light to do the same. So think twice about your own cell phone habits—your kids are watching.
Read: Mental Health Crisis Climbing Among Teens (Pointing at Excessive Screen Time)
Read: Why Removing Your Teen’s Devices Doesn’t Work
If you are struggling with your teen that is addicted to their devices and you have exhausted your local resources (phone contracts, removing devices, local therapy, digital detox plans) — it may be time to learn more about the benefits of residential treatment for teen help of internet addiction. Contact us for more information.