Today I wanted to discuss a real 21st-century problem – social media addiction in teens. It’s no secret that social media has become an integral part of teenage development. With so many social media platforms available, teens are using them to connect with friends and family, learn about new interests, and get information and advice.
While social media has many benefits, there are also some potential risks. With teens spending more and more time on social media, the consequences are clear and social media addiction is on the rise. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, social media use among teens has tripled over the past decade. In fact, a massive 43% of teens now say they are “addicted” to social media, which is more than any other type of addiction.
One of the main risks is that social media can harm teen development. For example, social media can increase anxiety and stress levels in teens. It can also lead to depression and other mental health issues because it can give teens a false sense of self-esteem and isolation. In addition, social media can interfere with teens’ schoolwork and relationships. It can also make it difficult for teens to focus on their education or relationships. So while social media has many benefits, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
If your teen is struggling with social media addiction, there are resources available to help. You can find support groups and intervention programs online, or in your local community. But whatever you do, don’t ignore the signs – social media addiction in teens can be a serious problem, and it needs to be treated as such.
Here, Dr Brian Boxer Wachler, author of INFLUENCED: The Impact of Social Media on Our Perception, gives his 911 or 999 to parents (depending where you are reading this from!) on why we need to wake up, understand and prevent social media addiction in teens.
It starts innocently with users consuming content but often the reinforcement of dopamine (a feel good neurochemical) in the brain is what keeps people returning for more stimulation. Dopamine is the same reason that people become addicted to drugs and gambling. Social media addiction interferes with students’ relationships (family and friends)and schoolwork.
The two most prominent tell-tale signs to look out for are:
1) Checking social media first thing when you wake up or go to bed.
2) Spending hours on social media without realizing how much time went by.
Studies show among youth that there is increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidal attempts, and feeling bad about their bodies. One study found over 30% of young adults who accidentally stumbled upon self-harm posts went ahead and harmed themselves as a result of that accidental exposure. Children and teens very susceptible to these influences.
Children are losing their childhoods to social media. There is the collateral damage of socially withdrawing from others which can affect their social development. One important brain development is critical thinking skills to not believe everything at face value. The bottom line is that social media is hampering the development of those skills.
Some examples include:
1) Forgoing going out with friends
2) Lack of interest in dating
3) Not taking any interest in achieving key milestones in their life – e.g. having driving lessons and getting a driver’s license
Parents play a major role in identifying and reducing the likelihood of their children being addicted which are detailed in the chapter of my book entitled Living with Social Media. It’s vital that you have a discussion with your child and if you are concerned, implement the program outlined in the book to help your child.
Social media addiction is a huge problem in teens, and it’s growing every day. Teens are spending more and more time on social media, and they’re developing an addiction to the dopamine rush that social media provides. This rush is what keeps teens hooked on social media, and it’s also what makes them feel good about themselves.
But the dopamine rush only lasts for a short while – after a while, the social media addiction becomes more and more difficult to overcome. And when that happens, teens start to withdraw from real life and develop other problems, like depression and anxiety. There’s no easy solution to this problem – but we need to start talking about it more and as parents and guardians we have a duty of care and stewardship around this issue.
We need to educate our kids about the dangers of social media addiction, and we need to help them find healthy ways to spend their time online.
If you’re worried about your teen’s social media use, talk to them about it. You can also try to set limits on their use of social media, or remove it completely from their devices. In the meantime, be sure to monitor their social media use and provide support when needed.