The Major Concerns 

Sleep

The extent to which social media interferes with quality sleep is surprising in its pervasiveness, with 1 in 5 teens checking their phones in the middle of the night. Not only is mental health and well-being closely associated with sleep, but also a new study finds that the lack of sleep contributes to feelings of loneliness. Because others pick up on one’s of lack energy, it makes them less inclined to initiate engagement.

More than 60 minutes on social media was found to undercut one’s time for sleep–there are only a finite number of hours in the day! Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8-10 hours for teens.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is on the decline with 13% of teens reporting they have experienced it at least once. Of those instances, 8% were severe to somewhat severe.  80% of young adults think it’s easier to bully someone online than in-person because it’s easy to hide behind a screen and cyberbullying is often anonymous. Cyberbullying remains a legitimate concern for our youth today and is defined as “using technology to harass, threaten, or embarrass another person.”  Some teens say they compulsively check social media to make sure no one’s saying anything bad about them, and teens can also feel pressured or bullied to share inappropriate photos or videos of themselves. Historically, only 1 in 10 teens reports the cyberbullying to their parents.

Addiction

While there is no sufficient evidence that social media is addictive, the fact that social media companies have intentionally designed their platforms to keep users hooked is deeply troubling. With financial incentives to promote ads, social media companies have employed persuasive design techniques to manipulate human behavior. This type of manipulation can create isolation pulling kids away from engaging with family and friends, or focusing on school. Hundreds of psychologists have registered their concerns by signing a letter of protest, directed to The American Psychological Association. 

Body Image

Already, 68% of adolescent girls ages 10-14 report dissatisfaction with their bodies. The risk of developing a negative body image and consequent eating disorders is directly related to the number of images one posts. This holds true regardless of gender. When posting selfies, one’s appearance is open to praise or condemnation. Social media can exacerbate one’s insecurities and need for external validation by reinforcing the belief that one’s self worth is tied to the number of likes or followers.

Body shaming is major concern, with 94% of girls and 65% of boys reporting cyberbullying incidents of this type. It’s no wonder teens can feel a lot of stress and anxiety before posting. 

Anxiety

Anxiety is a major theme in how social media is affecting our teens, especially now that social status can be visibly measured by the number of likes and followers. As posts on social media typically reflect only the best of times, teens can invoke the ‘compare and despair’ phenomenon, feeling that everyone else’s life is more exciting. Anxiety levels can spike when preparing for a post, with teens worrying how their post will be received. If their post doesn’t ‘perform’ well, teens may feel embarrassed and want to take it down it immediately. This ‘pruning’ further perpetuates the ‘perfect life syndrome.’Teens also check social media because they’re worried someone’s saying something unkind about them.

However, on the positive side, teens who experience social anxiety in real life can feel that social media makes it easier to connect with friends. It can help to spark a conversation in-person.

Fear of Missing Out

Teens can feel pressured to check social media frequently, so they know what everyone’s talking about, or don’t miss out on an invitation to hang with friends. Teens experience the Fear of Missing Out, or ‘FOMO’, when they see friends congregating without them and experience disappointment if not invited in the first place.

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