Is Your Teen Or Child Addicted To Social Media?

More than ever before, teens are connected to their phones and engulfed in social media platforms throughout the day, making the effects of social media on teens a growing concern. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of social media addiction in your teen, such as secrecy, defensiveness, and an inability to disconnect.

How Does Social Media Affect Teens?

Social media can negatively impact teens’ lives in a variety of ways, whether it’s a result of cyberbullying or constant comparisons to others. These situations can lead to a variety of emotions and issues, such as envy, resentment, low self-esteem, and body image issues. Furthermore, when a teen becomes immersed in social media, it can lead to isolation and addiction.

Parents and educators play a vital role in cultivating healthy guidelines for social media use, such as creating a balance between online and offline activities and keeping lines of communication open to address concerns associated with social media addiction among teens.

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What Is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is categorized as a behavioral addiction where one engages in obsessive or uncontrolled use of social media platforms to the extent that it disrupts and negatively impacts normal functioning.

Since adolescence is marked by a significant period of growth in the brain, teens are particularly susceptible to the addictiveness of social media during this time.

Excessive screen time is the most apparent and noticeable sign when assessing social media addiction. However, it is important to note that most organizations, such as schools and extracurricular groups, utilize online platforms, requiring teens to spend even more time on their phones or computers. This can make monitoring for social media addiction tricky, as screen time alone is not always indicative of how much time they are spending on social media platforms.

Below are additional signs to look out for if you are concerned that your teen might be addicted to social media.

1. Inability To Disconnect

Teens who display trouble engaging in offline activities, such as face-to-face conversations with others, and who cannot seem to step away from social media may be suffering from social media addiction.

2. Secrecy And Defensiveness

Teens who keep their social media hidden or private or are defensive or overly protective of their social media engagements might be struggling with social media addiction.

3. Neglecting Responsibilities

Missing school or other activities, not completing homework, or ignoring chores to spend time on social media is a sign that teens are having trouble prioritizing tasks, possibly due to a social media addiction.

4. Social Withdrawal And Isolation

Turning down social events or time with family to seclude themselves so they have more time to spend on social media is a troublesome sign of addiction.

5. Fatigue And Sleep Disturbance

Teens who become addicted to social media will experience sleep disruption due to spending time on social media before bed, when they wake up in the middle of the night, or when they first wake up in the morning.

6. Irritability Or Mood Swings

If a teen becomes noticeably irritable, angry, or anxious when they cannot connect to social media, this may suggest an addiction.

7. Relationship Issues

Addiction to social media can begin to negatively impact teens’ relationships because they choose to engage in social media rather than with friends or family.

8. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out (FOMO) describes the feeling that other people are having fun or experiencing new things without you. Teens may be anxious or worried that if they are not constantly online, they will miss important events or updates.

9. Low Self-esteem Or A Constant Need For Validation

The International Journal of Research Publication and Reviews states, “The desire for social validation influences emotional responses, with positive validation leading to enhanced self-esteem and negative validation potentially causing feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction.”

Simply put, teens can be affected by what they see on social media and compare themselves to that standard. If they feel like they do not meet the same standard, they could suffer from low self-esteem or self-worth caused by social media addiction.

10. Physical Symptoms

Teens who are addicted to social media may experience physical issues from spending excessive amounts of time in front of screens. Issues may include:

  • Headaches
  • Eyestrain
  • Back or neck pain
  • Carpal tunnel

How To Help Your Teen With Their Social Media Addiction

If you feel your teen is addicted to social media, approaching the situation with empathy and open communication can be most productive. It’s important to have an honest and non-judgmental conversation, listen to their perspective, and try to understand the reasons behind their excessive screen time.

Some ways parents and guardians can help their teen combat social media addiction include:

  • Establish clear and reasonable guidelines for social media usage, including designated time limits and device-free zones.
  • Suggest and encourage alternative activities that promote face-to-face interaction, physical exercise, and other healthy offline hobbies.
  • Consider setting a positive example by practicing healthy screen time habits yourself.

If the situation persists or escalates, it is best to seek professional help from a licensed therapist or counselor who can help you and your teen learn to manage and decrease social media use.

Explore your online therapy options to start your teen on a path toward recovery today.

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Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW

Photo of Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW