Effects of Social Media on Teenagers

The internet has broadened humanity’s reach in a way previous generations could only dream of, connecting people worldwide with shared experiences and new forms of self-expression. This sense of being part of something larger is especially vital for teens who are discovering their identities and learning how to communicate with others.

Since teen socialization in today’s landscape looks vastly different from the things you did to make friends and build relationships in your adolescence, you may worry that overexposure to social media is taking its toll on your son. More than 60% of kids receive their first cellphone between the ages of 9 and 14 – an age range where peer engagement and developing social skills are critical. How does social media affect teenagers, and what can parents do about it?

Teens and Social Media

While social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube give teenagers a vital outlet for healthy self-expression and allow them to stay abreast of world news and events, there is also a dark side to spending too much time online. Social media’s nature makes these apps difficult, if not impossible, to regulate. For example, there is ample anecdotal evidence suggesting YouTube’s algorithms, with their intent to keep people watching, tend to steer young male viewers toward increasingly far-right propaganda.

Because teens’ rational brains are still developing, they may impulsively overshare content on social media, such as intimate photos or highly personal stories. Digital natives who have grown up documenting their lives online might create posts without considering privacy concerns, which could lead to cyberbullying or harassment. Social media can also be a source of peer pressure or a place where teens compare themselves unfavorably to others, causing depression and social anxiety.

Social Media Advice for Parents

As a parent, how can you shield your teen son from the potentially damaging effects of social media?

  • Set ground rules around phone use: Before giving a teen a smartphone, establish firm boundaries about acceptable use. You might want to designate specific tech-free times or activities, such as family meals.
  • Model the behavior you expect to see: You can’t hope for your children to follow principles you don’t display yourself. For example, if you chide your son for scrolling through his notifications instead of paying attention when you’re talking, you owe him the same respect when he is speaking to you. Lead by example and unplug when you want your teen to do so.
  • Be familiar with your teen’s online activity: Set up profiles on the same social media platforms your child uses. If you see anything that looks unsafe or appears to be a red flag of activities like harassment, don’t wait for the situation to escalate before talking with your son.
  • Help your student find enjoyable offline hobbies: The photos and information people choose to share online can have long-term consequences. Authority figures like hiring managers and college admissions officers may review a teenager’s online presence, and if they have any reason to question what they see, it could put your son’s future at risk. Extracurricular activities like sports, volunteerism and tutoring look impressive on a resume or university application and can help show a student in the best possible light.

Academics, Adventure and Adolescent Recovery

At ARCH Academy, we provide a secluded setting for adolescent boys aged 14 through 18 to recover from substance abuse disorders. We know this time of life brings distinct developmental challenges, and we are here to meet teens with our structured support and 12-step community. If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help your family, please contact us today.

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