No matter what century a person is born in, their teenage years will probably come with some difficulties. This turbulent phase is filled with hormonal changes, adult expectations, and first-time experiences with romance and sex. It’s also filled with a lot of pressure, especially now that the Internet has created a situation in which teens are expected to share their entire lives online.
The Pressure to Show Up and Look Good
Teens have always been pressured to grow up properly, do well in school and become attractive, healthy members of society. They haven’t always been pressured to publicly document that journey by running a Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and posting a constant stream of perfectly lit photos to each.
Never in the past have human beings been so intertwined with each other, and experts aren’t sure that all this connectivity is a good thing. Anyone who goes online regularly knows that there is no escape from the ongoing bombardment of tweets, photos and personal information coming through the social media feeds. Deleting profiles and going offline has been deemed unacceptable in many social circles, and even attempting to take a break can often lead to questions, comments and ridicule from peers. There is so much pressure on teens to show up online, update about their lives, and make themselves look good, and when they can’t accomplish this, the effects can be devastating.
Social Media Worsens Body Image
Recent research at New Flinders University suggests interactions between young peers on social media websites are more influential than everyday interactions. Researchers interviewed 1000 young girls about their social media usage and feelings of self worth, starting at 8 and 9 years of age. They were then interviewed again at 10 and 11 years of age, and it was discovered that by this time, over 90 percent of them had their own Facebook page and were uploading photographs of themselves on a daily basis. It was also found that over half of the girls claimed to be unhappy with their weight, even though most of them would be classified as healthy.
Giving Away Power and Feeling Left Out
Social media provides the opportunity for young people to give their power away to others. Many teens are basing their self-worth on the number of “likes” they receive instead of their scholarly accomplishments or the way they treat others, which can lead to serious hurt feelings when people respond negatively to something they post. Social media can also cause feelings of being left out, as less-popular teens can see photos and hear updates about parties and events they were not invited to. These feelings of missing out can lead teens to become obsessed with updating their social media profiles, especially when combined with the need to post attractive photographs and the inherent pressure to fit in that has always existed. When this happens, the teen’s self-esteem, schoolwork, friendships and relationships with family can all suffer.
Of course, this isn’t to say that all social media is completely evil. It allows people to connect to each other, provides a basis for grassroots activism and helps businesses advertise their products in a more effective way. However, for young teens, it’s important to keep things in perspective and limit time on social media as much as possible.
I know this is a tough call parents, but it’s important for your teens self-development to limit their time on social media sites and it’s up to you to educate them on the effects.