Social Media Use and Teens
Coping with feeling left out
Q: My 14-year-old’s good friend recently posted photos on Instagram of herself and others at a sleepover. My daughter was disappointed that she was not included, but I tried to explain that everyone cannot be invited to everything and that everyone deals with this. Unfortunately, social media has really changed how teens relate to one another. Any suggestions?
A: Social media has put the world at our children’s fingertips. A typical teen sends and receives 30 texts per day, and some of them deal with nearly three times as many. Their FOMO (fear of missing out) causes many to constantly update their status on Facebook, post pictures on Instagram or hashtag on Twitter. Most teens (92 percent) go online daily with 24 percent online “almost constantly,” according to a Pew Research Center study.
First, the social media basics for parents:
Know what your child is doing online and understand the different sites they frequently visit.
Be hypervigilant about cyberbullying, “sexting” and inappropriate photos due to the convenience and constant access provided by mobile devices.
If your child becomes more obsessed with his or her device, have them take a break. Teens spending more than three hours a day on social media are more than twice as likely to suffer from a diagnosable mental-health disorder.
Though social media can provide an additional way to connect with others and form relationships, it can also cause problems such as social comparison, cyberbullying and isolation.
Your daughter is learning the pain of being left out of her peer group for seemingly her entire world to see. Being left out is the dark side of friendship, and most of us have been victims and perpetrators. Your role is to comfort her and explain that this doesn’t mean the other girls are no longer her friends. Being left out can leave scars, but what some people experience as exclusion is really only the normal balancing of attention that multiple friendships require. Encourage her to discuss her feelings about being left out. By discussing her feelings, you are helping your daughter learn how to be aware of them, regulate her emotions and detach from the drama.
Use this experience to discuss the bigger picture of social media. Talk with your daughter about how messages are perceived through the screen often without knowing the emotion behind the content. Adolescents post photos or videos as jokes without truly engaging with one another, and they make statements without seeing the impact of their comments.
Posts often present an idealized version of what’s happening, what something looks like or how things are going. Perspective is key when interpreting social media messages.
Encourage teens to take a break from looking down at the screen, waiting for the next post, and instead engage with one another by looking up and saying hello.
Hannah Coble is a licensed clinical social worker at Moses Cone Hospital with a background in behavioral health and outpatient therapy. Please submit your questions to “Is My Kid OK?” by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.