Social Media and Adolescence
Social Media plays a major role in our lives, today and especially, adolescents are impacted by the use of social media the most. Thanks to our dependence on technology, it is difficult to control or limit the use of social media. It is also impacting our physical and mental health in ways that we don’t immediately realize. Statistically speaking, there has been a significant rise in the number of internet addiction cases in India alone. Internet use also accounts for a rise in screen time which we know can affect a lot of factors. Social media is the biggest source of information today. It does not help when apps like Tik-Tok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook amongst many others introduce features that make these apps more addictive. Of course, we cannot deny how these apps have made important information accessible to millions of people but at what cost?
Social Media and Adolescence: Impact
Social media has seriously hampered our communication skills. Interaction amongst family members has now been replaced by endless scrolling on social media and binge-watching TV shows and movies. This has impacted the way families and children converse with one another. In fact, a lot of parents feel they will get a response from their teens faster if they send them a text on Whatsapp. That is the reality now and we must acknowledge the harm this is causing. Lack of communication eventually leads to parents not knowing much about their kid’s life.
Excessive use of social media and screen time is linked to lack of sleep too. Sleep deprivation can also affect your teenager’s mental health and is linked to health problems like weight gain and a weak immune system. Sleep is especially important for adolescents whose bodies need ample rest just like they need exercising.
Social Media is one of the biggest causes of declining mental health amongst youngsters today. Social media can impact your teenager’s sense of self-worth, body image, and fear of missing out aka FOMO, and can also cause a sense of isolation. All these factors may lead to anxiety or depression too. Features on social media apps like filters that make you look better can cause serious self-image issues and cause body dysmorphia.
Another crucial aspect to consider is anonymity over social media. This makes it easier to bully and get bullied. Trolling via memes and making fun of someone has become a trend and it can have serious issues for an individual. As an adolescent, it can cause a severe impact on one’s self-esteem and is linked to higher suicidal tendencies.
Social media is also a breeding place for lots of dangerous things like paedophilia, identity theft, scams etc. Youngsters may fall prey to such things and endanger themselves. There are also dating apps these days that may attract your teen’s attention. There have been instances of people luring youngsters into meeting them and taking undue advantage.
Tips for parents
- Having a dedicated gadget-free time every day will help to keep a check on screen time and also help you with communication and family bonding.
- Install apps on all phones in the family to check social media use. This can be an efficient way to keep track of everybody’s phone use.
- Encourage face to face interactions with friends. When you encourage personal interaction, you are letting your teenager know the importance of spending time with people instead of on-screen. This will create a good habit for the future as well.
- Explain what is not okay to your adolescent. When you clearly communicate to your kids about what is not permitted on social media, you are drawing boundaries for them. They are also aware of what is not okay and why it is not okay. This will also keep them safe from online predators and other dangers.
- Discuss Social Media and its effects and advantages. Keep talking about the social media apps you are using and what you found interesting or alarming. Ask your kid’s opinion as well. That will give you an insight into what they think and do.
As parents, it is your responsibility to ensure that you protect your children from all dangers of digital media but it is important that you do so without placing too many restrictions on your child as it may do more harm than good. Make sure you trust your child and keep an open mind when communicating. Instead of judging them, ask questions and try to understand their point of view. By doing this, you are keeping that channel of communication open. Your child will feel safe sharing with you. And that’s what we need to keep them safe.