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Signs That You Should Worry About Your Teen's Social Media Use

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 09, 2021

Studies show that 90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 are on social media. Too much time on social media can lead to health and behavior problems for your teen. Learn what signs indicate that your teen’s social media use is concerning.

Too Much Screen Time

One sign that your teen is on social media too much is their screen time. The average teen spends around 9 hours per day using a screen. You can monitor your teen’s use of phones, tablets, and computers to see how much time they spend on social media.‌

Screen time takes away from other things like homework, spending time with friends in person, and staying physically active. If you’re not sure how to address screen time with your teen, talk to their pediatrician. They can help you by providing resources and tips for how to help your teen with social media.

Lack of Social Plans

Your teen may show signs that they don’t get enough in-person social interaction. Your teen is likely scrolling on their phone or tablet while doing other activities like homework. Additionally, your teen’s downtime may be consumed by social media use. This leaves little time for seeing friends and family face-to-face.‌

If you notice your teen’s social activities declining, social media time may be a concern. Social media has benefits, but online social interaction does not replace seeing people in person. Your teen needs to learn how to read social situations by understanding:

  • Nonverbal cues
  • Body language
  • Facial expressions‌
  • Tone and vocal reactions

Poor Self-Esteem

Social media use with teens can lead to lower self-esteem. Friends and family make their lives look nearly perfect online. This can make your teen feel like something in their own life is missing.‌

The foundation of healthy self-esteem is understanding your own feelings and emotions. Teens need to know how to effectively share what they think and feel. Social media strips them of the chances to practice these skills.‌

Social media also provides some anonymity, allowing them to say things they wouldn’t otherwise say to someone in person. Your teen may experience negativity and rude comments from friends online. This may be confusing when their friends act a different way face-to-face.

Fewer Friends

Your teen’s friendships may change because of social media. If you notice your teen doesn’t talk about friends as often or spend time with them, social media may be a concern. Your teen feels connected to their friends because of social media, but they don’t spend time together.

Anxiety

If your teen seeks to have their needs met through social media, that is a reason for concern. As in-person social interaction decreases, so does your teen’s comfort with being face-to-face. Navigating new relationships becomes difficult. As your teen begins dating and working, they may feel anxious about what to do and how to act.

Tips for Addressing Social Media

Your teen may not see the negative impacts of social media on their life – but you do. If your teen is already irritable and overwhelmed, taking social media away may make things worse.‌

Instead, you can slowly introduce new social media rules. Talk to your teen and involve them in setting expectations. This gives them a sense of control and helps them be part of the solution.‌

No screens at night. A good first step is to have your teen leave their phone or tablet outside their room at night. Devices can charge overnight in a neutral place like the family room or kitchen. Set a time each evening that all devices get turned off and put away. Ideally, your teen should have at least 1 hour of screen-free time before bed each night.‌

Focusing on activities. Once you establish this habit, encourage your teen to put their phone or tablet away during other activities. Ensure that mealtimes are screen-free. Put screens away during family and homework time. Encourage your teen to focus on one task at a time instead of splitting attention between social media and other activities.‌

Talk to your teen. Keep an open dialogue with your teen about social media. You should have parental controls on all devices, but don’t limit your knowledge to what you see there. Instead, talk to your teen about concerns. Ask about friends by name and talk to your teens about the people they talk to online.‌

If your teen shares concerns or drama, be a good listener. Help them work through the issue so they learn how to problem-solve. Encourage them to take difficult conversations offline and talk to friends over the phone or face-to-face.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Social Media and Teens.”

Child Mind Institute: “How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers.”

Harvard Graduate School of Education: “Social Media and Teen Anxiety.”

Kid’s Health: “Teaching Kids to Be Smart About Social Media.”

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