Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
I was appalled to learn that the notion that social media influences teens, specifically females, has been dismissed by the social media developers. There has been a great deal of research based on how social media impacts teens’ self-esteem. The more likes and followers, the better, right? Well…to the teen, it means a great deal but let’s ponder on how it really impacts their focus and sense of self-worth. Recently, Instagram dismissed the app’s negative impact on teens, leaving a remark that the number of teens affected was “quite small.” According to the Wall Street Journal and other online surveys, diary studies, and questionnaires, the negative impact on teens is much greater than the company reported. Studies have shown that 32% of teenage girls have developed a worse body image since they have been on Instagram. Of those who participated in the study, those who experienced suicidal thoughts linked their detrimental mental health state to Instagram.
Many teens have blamed their increase in anxiety and depression on their consistent use of Instagram. Parents should regularly talk to their teens regarding their self-image and their social media activity. While this article is in no way to blame any social media outlet for teens’ lack of self-esteem, there is something to be said about the amount of time teens spend surfing through these outlets. Also, if we focus on the developmental stage of teens, we understand how much they value the thoughts of others and may continuously strive to meet the unreasonable demands that they see on social media.
Teens are a very vulnerable and highly influenced population. The online community may paint an unrealistic picture that teens may strive to attain. These unrealistic goals may pose significant threats to teens’ mental well-being.
Talk to your teens and monitor what they are doing online. Have gentle conversations with them about what is realistic and what is not. Help them to understand that they are enough and what they may view online is highly questionable and they should be cautious about the “friends” they listen to. Be patient with your teens and keep an open line of communication.
Dr. Angela M. Powell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Progressive Counseling & Consulting, LLC., specializing in youth trauma, anxiety, and depression.