Find out the potential warning signs of an unhealthy attachment or addiction to social media…
This is a common fear shared by many parents. After all, this tech-savvy generation truly are the age of social media. They live and breathe it. From TikTok and Snapchat to Instagram and Twitter, our kids hop from platform to platform with ease – sharing, liking and engaging with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people from across the globe.
For most teens, social media is incredibly important. It’s fun, popular and often the most accessible way to keep in touch with friends and to keep their finger on the pulse of the latest news, events and celebrity gossip. Put simply, social media is an absolute essential for most young people and they couldn’t imagine living a day without it. This is the normality for teenagers, but it can edge into an unhealthy attachment. Here’s how to spot the signs that your child might be addicted to social media, as well as our top tips for dealing with them…
PUT THAT PHONE DOWN!
Is your teen forever checking their phone or tablet throughout the day or even night? Do they become particularly anxious about checking their status or how many people have liked or commented on their posts? It can be particularly worrying if your teen becomes very stressed or angry when they can’t locate their phone or are unable to reply to a comment instantly.
WHAT TO DO:
Set some boundaries around the time your teen spends on their phone. A simple first step is to ban phones from the dinner table and to set a ‘shutdown’ time in the evening. Let your teen know that you expect them to turn off or put down their phone at a certain time every night. Setting some restraints around phone or tablet usage can help your teen to become less reliant on social media and hopefully will encourage them to engage in more face-to-face quality time with family and friends.
POST, AFTER POST, AFTER POST…
If your teen is constantly sharing updates, posts and stories, this could be an indicator of an over-reliance on social media and an obsessive need to share every last detail about their daily life online. This can be more worrying if you’ve also noticed your teen detaching from relationships in the real-world, such as drifting away from friendships and spending more time alone or losing interest in the hobbies they once enjoyed.
WHAT TO DO…
Talk to your teen about why sharing too much information is unhealthy and potentially dangerous. Read our How To Stay Safe Online guide together to focus on why it’s so important to be sensible and cautious about what we post online. You can also talk about the importance of finding a healthy balance between real-life activities and friendships and online relationships. Again, you may need to negotiate some social media usage restriction limits to curtail your teen’s time spent online. Click here for more advice on how to reduce your teen’s screen time.
SOCIAL MEDIA ANXIETY
A teen who has an unhealthy relationship with social media will often become extremely anxious or agitated about their posts and content, especially if they receive little or no response to something they have posted for all to see. A like on a post is validation from their peers and so it can feel humiliating or frustrating when they get a negative response to a post that may be deeply personal or something they have put a lot of thought and effort into. This then leads to feelings of worthlessness and anxiety.
WHAT TO DO…
Talk to your teen and try to get them to focus on real-life validation, rather than seeking it online. You can help to boost your child’s self-esteem by reading helpful tips and articles such as How To Boost My Child’s Body Image. Help your teen deal with anxious thoughts and feelings in the moment by doing simple breathing exercises and keeping calm.
INSTAGRAM VERSUS REALITY
The more time a person spends on social media, the more they can become detached from real-life. This can make a person lose perspective and become fixated by the ‘perfect’ images and lifestyle they see online. This, in turn, can really affect their mood and self-esteem, and can contribute to mental health problems.
WHAT TO DO…
Speak to your teen about the posts and pages they like and follow. Point out that people only ever share the best parts of their life – they don’t share the realities. Encourage your teen to follow body-positive influencers, rather than people who share overly-filtered, ‘fake’ images. It can also be helpful to encourage your teen to take a social media break for the sake of their mental health. Even a week off Instagram can help to give them perspective and some much-needed headspace.
WHEN TO GET MORE HELP
If you continue to have serious concerns about your teen’s addiction to social media, please reach out for more help. You can talk to your GP about your worries or find more information and support here.