As I mentioned in the first post in this blog series (check it out here!) I wanted to take some time to really explore and discuss what it is like for teens to be teens in our current culture. As a person who grew up in the 80s (apparently that makes me a Xennial or a millennial depending on who you ask), I had a gift of a childhood without much technology or screens. Since I spend a lot of time with our stressed out, anxious, and sad teens these days, I wanted to share with parents more of what I observe and why I genuinely do think that teens have things a bit harder in our current cultural climate.
Today, let’s talk about social media.
Social media and technology in general are impacting our world to such a dramatic extent. I can’t tell you how often I have conversations with adult clients as well as my teen and child clients about social media and how it feels to see people hanging out without you, or having it all, or pretending to have it all. So often. These are daily events in my office and I can’t help but think that if adultsare struggling to mitigate the images they are seeing and to remember that just because someone’s life looks perfect on facebook, doesn’t mean it is actually perfect or any “better” than yours; then what are our kids and teens thinking?
Adolescence is a growing period of independence and development outside of your family and home. During this time, we have a biological desire to fit in and belong with the group due to the social nature of being human and our need for both human connection and safety in a group. This desire is so strong in the teen years that we genuinely do have urges to just go along with what our peers are doing. I remember feeling this way even though I of course didn’t know it was a biological urge rather than just a silly teen thing. I remember being devastated when I found out people all hung out without me in high school over a weekend. The challenge for teens now is that they find out all of this information in real time. They get snapchats, DM’s, and Instagram stories telling them just how much fun everyone else is having without them. Not only that, but they see all of these edited versions of those events that make them look that much more fun, perfect, and enviable.
Since social comparison is at an all-time high for teens, having social media only increases the tendency to feel inadequate, less than, and generally like a “loser.” We now have continual access to images and commentary from others to show us just how “not good enough” we all are. For our teens, this is leading to increasing rates of anxiety and depression. And I have to say, it is not that the teen generation is just not “tough enough” as some might think, it is that they most likely lack the skills to help them discern reality from fantasy and real-life connections from fake ones. These are skills that usually take time to develop but are much harder now when we are just inundated with images, connections, and information through social media and not often taught how to evaluate it more critically. I believe social media makes life more challenging for all of us, but definitely makes it harder for our teens and children.
What can you do as a parent?
So, now we come to the discussion about how parents can help. I believe that discussion and awareness around these challenges and just how normal it is to struggle with feeling insecure, lonely, and like your life is just not good enough while viewing social media or seeing people hang out without you is crucial. Parents can be a catalyst of these conversations and can help their kids manage their use of social media if needed. Taking social media breaks or breaks from internet use in general can be helpful as well as making sure that your child has activities that occur IRL (in real life) rather than only online. This helps develop face to face connections, which can be more meaningful for some people. (I do want to mention that for some people who struggle to connect with people face to face, online connections can be an amazing source of support and a great resource. I believe that for many of us, we thrive on in person relationships but for those who feel uncomfortable or who struggle to develop those in person relationships (which can happen for many reasons), online communication can really be a wonderful source of contact and support and is 100% better than no communication and social contact).
Good questions to ask about social media:
As parents, we need to remember that we set the tone in our households and even if our teens are seeming particularly tone-deaf to us and our messages, we are still a huge example for them. So, if your child or teen is struggling with their social media use and the effect of social media on their lives, I would invite you to also consider how you use social media. What kind of example are you setting? Would you want your child/teen to use social media how you do or are there areas you feel you could improve on?
With the innovations of technology, parents are really at a disadvantage. This current generation of parenting teens is filled with parenting pioneers who are trying to figure out how to manage these resources for themselves but also for the humans they are responsible for. It’s a lot of pressure and definitely not something to take lightly. At the same time, go easy on yourself. None of us grew up with these things or have a ton of role models in terms of how to set limits and boundaries around social media. The most important thing is to consider how you are talking about it and what messages you are giving your child/teen about what they are seeing and taking in.
If you would like to talk more about parenting your teen with a Thrive therapist, contact us today!
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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