Social media has become an ever-present force in our modern lives and this is especially true for teens.
However, this new technology, which was intended to provide greater connectivity between people, has also created a new set of problems for teens.
Social Media Stress: Sleep Problems
Many teenagers struggle with sleep issues, especially with today’s demands of school, extra-curricular activities, sports, and even work. Teens should be receiving between 9 and 9 ½ hours of sleep each night, yet they often fall short of this mark at around seven hours.
Social media, though, has injected yet another distraction into the equation. Why?
- The desire to check for incoming messages.
- Wanting to respond to those messages.
When we have less sleep and poor sleep quality we are less able to adequately cope with stress and are more likely to experience mental health problems such as depression. Sleep isn’t a convenience, it is a necessity!
Social Media Stress: Cyberbullying
Unfortunately, bullying has been a common experience for many students. Yet, those bullies have now moved from the school hallways to the online world, and they are attacking their victims mercilessly. There have even been stories in the news of teens who were the subject of cruel bullying and later committed suicide.
The effect of bullying online is amplified, as it can seem as if everyone believes in what the bully is saying. On top of that, everyone else has the ability to see those hateful words.
Social Media Stress: Shaming
One part of the bullying that occurs online is the shaming of a teen by their peers.
This can be because of:
- The way they look.
- Actions they did offline, such as doing something embarrassing at school.
- Content that they themselves have posted and then the content was used against them.
- Rumors being spread both online and off.
The effects of shaming on girls:
The effects of social media stress on girls are especially troubling. Sadly, according to the Pew Research Center older teen girls between 15-17 are 41% more likely to experience cyberbullying than other groups. One study found that while cyberbullying for boys increased 3% from 2006 to 2012, the rate for girls was 10% over the same period of time.
Problems that girls face daily are only amplified online with terrible consequences. “Slut-shaming,” for example, has crept into the lexicon to describe shaming girls and women who either intentionally, or not, post sexual content online.
What Can Parents Do About Social Media Stress for Teens?
As with so many issues negatively affecting teens—such as drugs, alcohol use, or having sex—parents need to have frank conversations with their teens about social media. Don’t wait until they are 17! If they are on social media, then the discussion needs to happen now.
Some things to remember for a discussion include:
- Refrain from being reactionary or dramatic.
- Be open and empathic to your teen.
- Ask your teen to share with you why social media is important to them, how they use it, and what benefits it has for them.
- Continue to ask questions about what they perceive as dangers in social media (what they already know may surprise you).
- Encourage them to have a healthy balance of online and off-line time.
- Role-model handling social media stress to your teen by having your own boundaries around its use.
No question, social media will continue to be a driving force for today’s teens, especially as they mature into adults. It is important for parents to be aware of the potential risks of social media and to have frank discussions with their teens about the topic.
Lauren Ross, MA is a licensed professional counselor intern and licensed marriage and family therapist associate at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. A specialty area of her practice is working with teens and parents. Contact her at 512-270-4883, ext. 107, or request to schedule an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.