5 Ways Social Media Has Increased Anxiety & Depression for Kids Today

There has recently been a lot of coverage about how social media is negatively affecting today’s youth. Late last year, the cover of Time magazine was titled, “Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent”. Clearly, the advancement of technology is something that impacts us all. Time’s article highlights how modern technology, virtual reality and over-stimulation are some of the more meaningful reasons why anxiety and depression have become so prevalent among teens.
If you’re worried that your teen is addicted to social media and uses it define themselves, this article is for you.

Below you’ll find 5 ways social media is affecting kids and what you can do about it.

  1. Working HARD to maintain an online identity
    The article highlighted a teenager with 17 Facebook accounts. Can you imagine the time and effort it takes to use that many accounts simultaneously? Let alone, remembering all of the details of your new online personality. What people see online is what others want them to see.People who are dedicated to crafting a new personality online are able to create a “made-up” version of themselves; keeping up this façade is draining and can ultimately cause feelings of “being a fraud” and lead to self-loathing and deep personal insecurity.

    When your teens see these “perfect lives” and “beautiful people” it can cause them to feel anxious and depressed because their lives don’t measure up.Feeling less-than is a common theme amongst teens throughout the modern era and it continues to get worse! If we truly want to evolve as a society we need to learn to be vulnerable. When your children are allowed to share their insecurities and fears without judgment or anger they can develop into their best selves.
  2. Stuck in a world of likes and dislikes
    Anyone who uses social media knows that it can be very addicting. Part of the addiction is related to how many likes (which is really attention) one gets on a certain picture or topic. Our ego is validated by this function which causes us to feel good and get caught in the addiction cycle or trap of wanting more and more validation.

    It also works the other way. If we don’t receive the likes we were expecting or receive unkind comments it can lead us to feel anxious or worry. The more that pattern continues and the more your teen reaches out to get kids to like him online and receives a contrary message, the greater the likelihood depression will follow.When your teen relies on outside opinions for his or her identity, there’s a greater risk for problems ahead. To find happiness, your teen must get past this dependency and find real-life sources to fill up his or her life. Real connection and feeling that you belong can help to loosen the hold of this addiction.
  3. Self-Soothing Habits
    Does your teen have a hard time regulating their emotions? In layman’s terms that means can your teen respond to their feelings in ways that are socially responsible, at times delaying gratification until it’s appropriate? And certainly that doesn’t mean 100% of the time, but more often than not is a good benchmark. Kids that have trouble regulating their emotions often get angry easily and lash out. They have outbursts in inappropriate moments and require attention when you think they should be able to “handle it on their own”.

    In today’s world self-soothing, the act of calming oneself, is being replaced by the phone or iPad screen. For kids with social media challenges, anything they feel any type of discomfort or dis-ease they look to their social media friends for, something that momentarily changes their mood and makes them feel something other than whatever is bothering them.

    This path of avoiding the real feelings and distracting from our mood is the same path that other addictions take and as a habit need to be avoided. To put it simply, it’s a slippery slope that can lead to other more challenging addictions as your teen ages.

    Bottom line: If you want your teen to grow out of this kind of avoidant behavior, he or she needs to learn how to sit with their discomfort and work on real solutions to the issues they face.
  4. Bullying
    In my opinion, online bullying among teens is an epidemic. For many teens social media has become an avenue of choice for bullying. It is less confrontational while being more damaging. One type of bullying that’s particularly harmful to young girls in school is slut shaming. This is the act of labeling a girl as a sexually out of control woman and then punishing her socially for possessing this identity.

    Today, these accusations can be shared with an entire school with a simple mouse click. This type of abuse has caused young girls to change schools, destroyed self-esteem and in some cases commit suicide. We need to nurture and be kind to our daughters. By teaching them self-respect, how to set boundaries and be assertive we can help them learn to protect and help themselves.
  5. Life is presented in sound bites, still frames, and one-liners
    I compare this to when we first start a relationship with someone. Media such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter make it easy to share the prettiest, funniest, and best version of ourselves. It is an unrealistic image. It is the mask we want the world to see. When an adolescent is unable to live up to the images they see on this internet, it can trigger self-loathing and self-harm.

    Social media can lead to heightened insecurities, especially if your child believes they are being scrutinized and need edited versions of their photos in order to look good. Adolescence is traditionally a time of insecurity and finding oneself. The pressure that some teens put on themselves to be and act a certain way can be very damaging and last for the rest of their lives.

The good news is there are things we can do to minimize the negative impact social media has on our kid’s lives.

One suggestion I often work on with my clients is the creation of a phone box. Have your child place their phones in the box when they get home and you do the same. There is no greater gift than connecting as a family and being present with one another.

Another suggestion is to practice mindful breathing to connect more directly to your body. The practice of mindful breathing allows you to become more clearly aware of your thoughts and what you are feeling. You will hear the negative thoughts playing over and over again and then you can begin to confront the truth of those thoughts.

Mindfulness makes you the ruler of your thoughts and emotions and you can learn to conduct the music playing in your head. I often tell my clients that your mind is like an instrument, it is either playing you or you are playing it. So start practicing!

Just remember that the bottom like is that if you teach your kids to love themselves and help them build their self-esteem you will increase their happiness this will lessen the negative effects of social media.

If you are struggling with your teens dependency on social media or worried that the hook it has on your child is too great, I can help. Contact me for a consultation at 561-260-3617 or email me directly at healing@brentberman.com .