Social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok appeal to teenagers and adults alike. They provide a nearly endless stream of information and entertainment about every imaginable topic, while keeping people connected to each other and exposing them to new ideas. However, there is a dark side of excessive internet use – the possibility of addiction. Learn more about this problem and how to recognize its characteristic warning signs.
The Problems With Social Media Addiction
Social media is habit-forming for the same reason gambling is so enticing for some people – a principle called positive intermittent reinforcement. The algorithms behind these platforms “learn” what someone likes by tracking what they click on and engage with. Once that happens, users will keep seeing similar content in a self-sustaining feedback loop. Because there’s always something new to see, it activates your brain’s reward center.
While anyone can develop a social media addiction, teenagers can be especially vulnerable to this mental health problem if they find online communities that connect them to like-minded people. One dangerous example of this is exposure to radical or extremist political viewpoints, which can further worsen today’s polarized climate. Teen boys who are starting to explore their identities and do not know how to safeguard themselves online can quickly fall down a rabbit hole of unfounded conspiracy theories and violent racist or sexist ideologies.
Red Flags of Social Media Addiction
Teens can become more susceptible to social media addiction if they are facing a lot of peer pressure during adolescence. If you think your teen boy is addicted to social media, look for a few warning signs and behavioral changes.
- He values his online relationships more than his real-world ones.
- He feels compelled to be online and experiences withdrawal symptoms when he isn’t.
- He uses social media to escape reality or cope with difficult emotions.
- He negatively compares himself to other people he sees online.
- He would rather be online instead of with friends and family, even if his excessive social media use is causing anxiety, depression, poor body image, substance use issues or low self-esteem.
Teenagers and Social Media Dangers
Many parents and teens believe social media’s benefits outweigh any potential harm it may cause. Still, it could play a much more significant role in your son’s life than you ever expected by affecting his self-image, grades, relationships and mental well-being.
If you notice any warning signs of a social media addiction, be aware of the ripple effects it can have and start a conversation with your son about it. Professional counseling can help your family overcome this issue with customized treatment. At ARCH Academy, we can set your son back on a positive path with our unique combination of recovery, academics and adventure. We exclusively treat adolescent boys and their families.
Through our 12-step addiction program, ARCH Academy treats the whole child, including co-occurring mental health issues, family conflict, relational barriers and poor academic confidence. Contact us today when you’re ready to learn more.