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Social media has changed the way that we communicate and interact with each other and the world. Many of us did not grow up with cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms. But for Generation Z, connectivity through social media is the only reality they know. As toddlers, their exhausted parents gave them the phone to watch games and educational videos. Before third grade, many of them had their own cell phones. Most of them had access to a social media account by the time they were 12 or 13. How has this phenomenon affected them? Is it addictive? Here’s what we know.
The Statistics on Teenage Social Media Addiction
Here are some of the mind-boggling statistics on teenage social media addiction:
· 92% of teenagers go online every day and 24% say they go on constantly
· 76% of teens utilize social media. 68% of teens are ages 13 and 14
· 71% use Facebook, 52% use Snapchat, 33% use Twitter, and 14% use Tumblr
· 77% of parents say their kids don’t pay attention because of the distraction from their phone use
· 59% of parents say their teens are addicted to their devices
· 50% of teenagers feel addicted to their mobile device
The Science Behind the Addiction
Part of what makes social media so addictive is the dopamine-reward phenomenon in our brains. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that is produced as a result of excitement. Excitement is stimulated by uncertainty. It’s no wonder why many find themselves addicted to social media. Did someone like our post? Did my ex-boyfriend see my picture of me and my new flame? Did she “heart” my photo of me and my new hair?
Our addiction to social media is no different than an addiction to drugs or alcohol, albeit it has much milder withdrawal symptoms. Yet withdrawal can still be fairly uncomfortable. Those who give up social media feel anxious, depressed, on-edge, and a sense that they are missing out on something important.
Teenagers are especially susceptible to this addiction because their brains are still developing. Many of us remember a world without cell phones and social media platforms, but they do not. Teens who give up social media have nothing to compare it to. They don’t know what it’s like to live without social media because they’ve never had to do it. It’s like weening a baby off of heroin because their addicted mothers used while they were in the womb. It’s the only normal they are used to, and it’s become a serious problem.
Teen Social Media Use Replaces Real Experiences
Unfortunately, many teens mistake their social media friendships for real friendships. They won’t benefit if they substitute social media for a true, authentic friend. A study found that 82% of young adults who utilized social media to connect with others had a decline in quality of life and an increased sense of isolation.
One expert puts it succinctly. “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”
Social Media Teen Addiction Causes Depression
Social media addiction causes depression because of the tendency to compare oneself with others. Researchers found that frequent young adult Facebook users increased their tendency to overthink and ruminate because they constantly compared themselves to others.
Unfortunately, most of the posts we put on social media don’t reflect the reality of our everyday lives. We look our best, we seem happy, we use the best filters that make us look the thinnest. Teens don’t see the reality behind the picture or post. Many of those individuals posting this inauthentic content are just as unhappy and insecure as they are. But appearances can be very deceiving, especially to young, vulnerable minds.
What Parents Can Do
If you think your teen is spending too much time on social media and are concerned about the quality of their mental health state, here are some tips:
· Talk openly with your teen about their addiction. Ask about their feelings associated with their constant usage
· Create strict boundaries with “screen-free” zones. Only allow them to utilize their phones for a short time during the day
· Take the phone away if the child is not abiding by these rules
· Keep tabs on their social media accounts. Help younger teens set up an account and instill privacy protections to ensure security. For older teens, know which social media sites they are on and track their posts
· Set a good example. It’s difficult to tell teenagers not to be on their phones when you are always on your phone. Show them that life is possible without having 24/7 access to a device.
· Have phone-free days where the entire family spends time outdoors doing something fun. This will help show kids that they don’t need to have their phones to enjoy life. It will also help them get used to experiencing life as it is, on its own without taking a photo of an experience and uploading it to Facebook.
· If the addiction is out of control, do not hesitate to take the phone away entirely. We’ve survived for thousands of years without these devices-and they will too.
Is your teen addicted to social media? Are they experiencing anxiety and depression as a result? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to help you.