Studies have reported the possible connection between social media and teenage depression. This article takes a look at a few of these research and what parents can do to help their teens cope in a social media dependent world.
Social Media and Teenage Depression – Pitfalls of Social Media For Young Ones
There is no argument that we have all benefited from social media. It has dramatically improved the way we communicate, socialize, and make and maintain friendships. Bit it is not all rosy. While there are benefits to living in a digital world, it has also come with risks especially for the younger generation. Today’s youth miss out on critical social skills development when they spend the majority of their free time connected to and interacting through a screen. They can also get lost in a world of unrealistic comparisons, cyberbullying, and feeling left out.
Research on Social Media and Teenage Depression
Although more research are needed on this topic, a few of the studies conducted have reported a connection between social media and teenage depression. Research shows an increase in major depressive episodes from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults. The increase was larger and only statistically significant only in the age range of 12 to 20 years.
An example of such studies is one report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK which surveyed 1500 young people, ages 14 to 24, to determine the effects of social media use on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and body image. Their findings show that YouTube had the most positive impact, while Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat all had negative effects on mental health.
Taking A Closer Look
Clearly depression is on the rise among teens, the question we need to ask ourselves is how much does technology and social media contribute to it?
It’s no big secret that connecting via texting, Instagram, and Facebook can include bullying, harsh comments, criticisms, corrections and all sort of unrealistic comparisons. It’s easier to make statements on a screen that would otherwise be difficult to verbalize face to face. And disjointed shorthand conversations can easily result in misunderstandings. It doesn’t help that digital communication occurs at a rapid pace, one that is difficult to process at times.
While these findings might make you want to delete all social media apps and ban your teen from any digital communication, avoidance isn’t the answer. Teens use social media to connect, seek friendship and support, and even ask for help at times. A better bet is to understand how and why your teen uses social media, stay connected, and know what to look for if your teen shows unexplained emotional changes.
Social Media and Teenage Depression – A Few Symptoms To Watch For
Although, depression has many faces, the defining feature of a major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. For teenagers and other younger ones, you are more likely to see irritability than depressed mood. Other symptoms of depression from social media can include the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in normal daily activities
- Irritable mood
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Diminished self-care
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Excessive guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Physical complaints: headaches, stomachaches
- Social isolation
- Recurrent thoughts about death
- Suicidal thoughts, actions, or plans.
Concerning social media and teenage depression, the symptoms of depression exhibited by teens are likely to negatively affect school attendance and performance. Teenagers with social media depression might steer away and take a break from social media or any online activities for a while. Effects of this fallout might affect friendships, and even family relationships. The tricky part about teenage depression is that it can be gradual sometimes not easily noticed by parents.
Complaints of difficulty sleeping or frequent headaches seem age appropriate, and in many cases they are. They shouldn’t happen regularly, though. Parents should pay more attention especially when typically active and social teenagers appears isolated, sad,easily irritated and unreachable.
How to help your children manage social media
Believe it or not, your teen does want your support and guidance, but it can be hard to strike a balance between helping and trying to fix everything. Follow these tips to support your teen:
Connect With Your Teens
Teens want a measure of independence in their lives, so always spying and trying micromanage their online use can backfire. The best thing parents can do is connect with their teens. Ask which apps your teen uses the most often and why. Give your teen the space to tell you about the benefits of social media.
When difficult situations arise online, either in the news or in your teen’s life, ask your teen how she or he would handle it. Your teenagers will benefit more when they know they have your confidence and are better prepared for challenges they might face online.
Set A Model Example
Modeling is very important during adolescence. Teens are confronted with new and confusing information almost daily. Growing up in the digital age is no easy task. When parents follow their own rules and stick to their own boundaries, teen learn important lessons in self-care and setting limits.
When teens begin to internalize the importance of limits and boundaries, they can set limits with their peers. This is an important life skill that is sometimes overlooked when teens are stressed, busy, and constantly connected.
Parents play a critical role in helping teens process and cope with what they’re seeing online. Talk about your own experiences with social media. Have you ever experienced envy when scrolling through your feed? Have you accepted a friend request that turned out to be a fake profile because you didn’t take the time to look? When parents share their own experiences and talk openly about the highs and lows of social media, teens are more likely to open up about their experiences.
Advice For Parents
In addition to the harmful exposure that children might be open to when engaged with social media, it’s too easy for teens to get stuck on the treadmill of social comparisons. Parents can also help teenagers manage their social media experiences by sharing with them both positive and negative experiences they have had with social media.
Discuss with them what is not advisable to share, when they may or may not add comments, maintaining a measure of privacy amongst other important topics in a refreshing and encouraging atmosphere. Talk about interesting Instagram accounts, twitter feeds, or Facebook pages that share information about certain topics. Guide them toward their areas of interest using social media to help them expand their experiences and learn new things.
You would agree that communication and bonding is key when it comes to parenting teenagers in this digital world. The single best thing you can do for your teen is make time for face-to-face connections and simply be there for them.
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