By: Carey Robey, MS, LPC Intern
Are you concerned about the amount of time your child spends on social media? Do you think about its impacts? In today’s day and age, social media use is abundant. With improvements in technology and increased access, kids are spending more and more time glued to their phones.
Social media can have its pros. Kids report being inspired by things like art and music, appreciate the ability to talk with others from far away, and are more engaged in current events. However, social media also has its cons. It can lead to decreased mental health and symptoms of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, and increased exposure to substance use.
Kids are spending more and more time on their phones.
Poor Mental Health and Low Self Esteem
Why don’t I look like that? Why isn’t my life like that?
Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are a few of the known effects social media has on mental health. With platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, it is easy to idolize the experiences of those we see on our tiny screens. However, many often forget that the content portrayed is glamorized and curated. It is not a true reflection of reality and daily life. In therapy, individuals mention that they feel inferior or inadequate due to what they see on social media.
Why don’t I look like that? Why isn’t my life like that? These are just a couple of questions of the many that people ask themselves daily. Social media heavily influences the way people see themselves. This leads to a decrease in their self-esteem. Many are in a perpetual loop of comparing themselves to others and constantly seeking approval through likes and views.
When not getting this approval, they report feeling not good enough or even worthless. This can often lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Many state feeling isolated when they see others doing activities on social media that they are not engaged in or have not been invited to. They report having feelings of “FOMO”- fear of missing out- and seek to experience whatever it is they feel they are missing. This feeling of wanting to belong and fit in can at times lead to engagement in risky behaviors
Exposure to Substance Use
Along with the risks of kids experiencing negative feelings such as inferiority and isolation, they are becoming more exposed to negative behaviors. These behaviors include underage drinking and illicit drug use. Seeing drug and alcohol use on social media has many feeling curious and even at times pressured to experiment themselves.
Kids can be desensitized to the dangers of drugs and alcohol. They often see a glamorized version of substance use, whether it be celebrities posting or their fellow peers at a party. They are willing to make risky choices in order to fit in to what they perceive as the status quo. Social media can also drive teens to drugs and alcohol through self-medicating. These feelings of depression and anxiety associated with low self-esteem and social comparison has kids seeking to find comfort. Teens especially are at risk to replacing healthy coping skills with substance use to manage their unhappiness and difficult feelings.
How To Help
A simple talk with your child should not be underestimated. Ask them about their experiences on social media and their feelings about what they see. Talk to them about how those we see on social media are typically putting their best out there, and it is not always a true reflection of reality. At the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we offer Middle School and High School group sessions where we process and reflect on these topics.
Restricting your child from social media entirely may be unrealistic; however, having open and honest communication and placing some restrictions on the amount of time they are on social media can be helpful. These measures could decrease their chances of falling into unhealthy thinking patterns and help them maintain a more positive mindset and better mental health.