social media habits

Being Anti-Social: When to Take a Break from Social Media

Social media can be an entertaining way to spend a little time. Who doesn’t love cute animal videos, photos from beautiful destinations, or checking in with friends? But at what point have we become a little too “social”? From its more modest beginnings of connecting with friends, social media has expanded into corporate advertisements, influencer promotions, news and current events, celebrity goings-on, activism, and much more. It’s become more of a lifestyle than a way to find out where all your old high-school buddies ended up.  

As social media has grown so have the dangers for children and teens. How much time they are spending on platforms, what content they are interacting with, and how being online affects their mental health are some of the very real concerns with their growing internet use. And growing it is. The New York Times recently reported significant increases in social media use over the last two years by younger and younger age groups.

Given the effects of COVID-19 on the social lives of students, this news is none too surprising. Many have turned to their favorite platforms to keep themselves somewhat connected to the outside world, and to pass long hours while being cooped up inside.

But how fine of a line is there between harmless fun and unhealthy obsession?

Identifying the warning signs of possible social media and screen addiction is a good first step. Ask yourself these questions:

Is your teen trying to keep up with the Joneses?

If they are consistently comparing their life to an influencer’s or feeling the need to live up to a certain standard, it may be time to shift their perspective. Comparison is the thief of joy and this type of behavior can trigger depression and other mental health issues.

Is the first thing your student checks in the morning their social media?

The compulsive “need” to be on their timelines and feeds that urgently could signal an addiction and lead to other negative behavior. 

Does your teen become irrationally upset when they are unable to log on?

This, too, is a compulsion that can rear its ugly head. The idea that they somehow cannot get through an activity or moment without being able to access their feeds.

Does it seem like your student is spending all their time on their device?

If they are choosing to spend time on their device versus spending time with friends and family, that could be a red flag. Replacing offscreen activities that they once enjoyed with more screen time could signal overuse.

Have friends or family commented negatively about their social media time?

Others generally see the things that we cannot. If friends or family are noticing large chunks of time spent on social platforms, it might be time to unplug.

Does your teen feel as if they didn't post, it didn't happen?

Oversharing, and feeling the need to do so, is a common issue. It is often connected to an unhealthy desire for validation.

Knowing your social opponent is important as well. Diana Graber of Cyberwise, a website for adults who want to help young people use technology safely, suggests asking questions about why your student likes certain content, platforms, or a particular creator.

Frank discussions about the reality of influencers’ work, and fake media can help set healthier expectations about what they are seeing online. For more insight into the phenomenon of social media influencing, check out HBO’s documentary, Fake Famous.

If you have determined that your student could have a problem, talk with your pediatrician or healthcare provider.

If a little break is in order, stay tuned for some fun challenges to give your student (and yourself!) a well-deserved digital detox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.