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The Pros And Cons Every Parent Should Know About Social Media & Teen Health

Social media is a daily part of life for most of our teenagers. In fact, Common Sense Media conducted a report that found 75% of American teenagers have social media profiles. Undoubtedly, our teens are under great pressure to be available online all the time. But many parents worry about how the use of social media impacts the health of their teenager. And there certainly are plenty of reasons to be concerned. Here is what parents should know when considering whether to let their teenagers use social media: 

Social Media Use Creates Mental Health Concerns For Teens 

The largest concern related to teen use of social media is the impact it has on their mental health. Mental health issues have significantly risen over the last decade. Research performed by the American Psychological Association has found significant increases in the number of adolescents and young adults who report experiencing negative psychological symptoms, with no corresponding increase being observed in adults. This may be because adults have much more stable social lives offline than teens do. Recent research suggests that increased social media use is associated with increased reported symptoms of social anxiety, isolation, feelings of loneliness, lower self-esteem, depression, sleep deprivation, cyberbullying, and even suicidal thoughts. Research has found that cyberbullying has a harsher impact on teens than regular bullying, possibly because of the far-reaching public impact associated with cyberbullying. If teens are already at risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, social media can increase this risk. The adolescent years are a period of rapid brain growth and development, so social media should be used cautiously during this time. 

How Social Media Can Be Used To Positively Impact Teens

Despite the concerns that social media usage creates with mental health, there are also a few ways it can impact teens positively. Many teens are able to use social media to find a community they fit into when they otherwise may not fit in as easily. For example, teens who struggle with their sexual identity or who have difficulty making friends at school have an increased likelihood of finding like-minded peers online who can provide support and make them feel less lonely. Social media has the ability to provide teens with a safer space to explore their identity, gain social support, and increased opportunity for self-disclosure. Many teens report that social media helps them better understand their friends’ feelings and feel more connected to them. 

What Parents Should Do To Decide If Their Teen Is Ready To Use Social Media 

So how do you decide whether your teen is ready to use social media or not? The answer lies more in why and how your teen uses social media than it does their age. Generally speaking, parents should try to keep their teenagers off of social media for as long as possible. But if you have reached a point where your teen is constantly asking to create a profile, you need to evaluate their motive. Take into consideration the reasons they want to create a profile and their maturity level. 

If you do decide to let your teen create a social media profile, make sure you are friends with them online and monitor their activity. You should also try to limit the amount of time they spend on social media. Establish technology-free zones in your home, such as your child’s bedroom. Make sure your teen is not using social media to replace in-person interaction. Parents should set the example by following the same rules their teens have for social media and technology use. 

Social media use by teens is all about balance – finding the help and support they desire online while also being able to filter out the negatives. 

Discuss Concerns About Your Teen & Social Media With Their Pediatrician 

Your teenager’s pediatrician is a great resource when it comes to concerns about their mental health and social media usage. To schedule your child’s annual wellness visit with one of our board-certified pediatricians, contact Children’s Medical Center today. We have four convenient office locations in Palm Harbor, Westchase, Trinity, and Lutz. We also have extended hours and are open 7 days a week! We look forward to meeting you and your child!