In my last post, I explored the prevalence of social media use among teens. A 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that using social media is one of today’s teens most common activities; the statistics may surprise you. The study found that:
- 22% of teens log on to the favorite social media site more than 10 times a day
- Over 50% log on to at least one social media site more than once daily
- 75% of teens who have their own cell phones
- 54% use cell phones for texting
- 25% use cell phones for social media
We’ve all read stories in the news about teens who’ve been cyberbullied, sexually exploited and otherwise harmed online, as well as cautionary tales about teens who’ve grown addicted to social media. Given the extent of digital technology use among youth, many parents are asking “How much is too much?” At what point does the social media environment become negative or even unhealthy?
These warning signs can help parents determine if your teen’s social media use is healthy — or veering out of control. Look for:
- Decreasing grades
- Withdrawal from face-to-face social activities, skipping dinner, and neglecting homework in favor of social media
- Texting at inappropriate times, such as dinner or after lights out
- Fatigue or sleep problems
- Secret profiles on Facebook or email
- Texting/ Facebooking people not on the approved list
- Depression and low self-esteem
- Weight gain or loss
One of the most common forms of social media misuse, as many as 16% of high school students experience cyberbullying, or bullying that takes place through electronic media such as offensive texts, rumor-spreading emails, embarrassing photos, cruel Facebook posts, or even the creation of fake profiles. Cyberbullying is particularly insidious, because it can take place at anytime, anywhere — and there’s very little your child can do to stop it.
Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to:
- Avoid going to school
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Have poor grades
- Experience health problems
- Have low-self esteem
- Experience depression and anxiety
Though teens addicted to online media may not display physical withdrawal symptoms, the issue does involve dependence on technology in a way that’s unhealthy. If your teen is spending eight or more hours a day on social media or interactive gaming activities, it may be time to seek help. Other warning signs of addiction include:
- Lack of sleep
- Neglecting school work
- Suicidal, violent or otherwise inappropriate behavior when social media is withdrawn
In part 3, we’ll discuss what parents can do to prevent and protect against unhealthy social media use.
Dealing with parenting issues such as social media use can be a challenge; professional intervention can make all the difference. If you’re seeking a licensed teen psychologist in Littleton, Colorado, Dr. Steven Lazarus can help your family work through these rough patches together.
Be sure to see part 1: