Social Media and Teenagers

   Girls between the ages of 15 to 19 spend at least three hours a day on social media, and most can’t go a couple of hours without checking their Instagram or Snapchat. This near-constant use of social media have inspired researcher to delve into the addictive nature of social media and the emotional damage it can cause. Even here at NDP, we have conducted our own research to find out how social media can influence a girl’s application to college, recruitment for a sports team, or even job hire.
1. Addictive Nature of Social Media
Teens spend about three hours a day on social media and check sites upwards of 17 times daily. In its video, ASAP Science describes five ways social media changes teens’ brains:

  • Like substance abuse, social media addiction and the validation of “likes” on a post release endorphins or “feel good” chemicals in a person’s brain.
  • Frequent social media use affects areas of the brain that control attention, emotion, and decision-making processes.
  • Teenagers’ brains are wired differently than adult brains, leading to a disconnect between generations and a generally different thought process when sharing information with adults.
  • Teens post to validate feelings and possibly “become famous.” With media outlets promoting social media personalities, teens try to gather as many followers as they can in order to get what they hope is positive attention.
  • Social media affects a teenager’s emotional function and maturity.

2. Emotional support leading to validation

Teens frequently self-critique when posting to social media, which often leads to negative self-image. In one Common Sense Media survey, “Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image,” girls revealed that they are particularly vulnerable:

  • 35% are worried about people tagging them in unattractive photos.
  • 27% feel stressed about how they look in posted photos.
  • 22% felt bad about themselves if their photos were ignored (i.e. did not receive enough likes).

One Cosmopolitan article, “‘Why don’t I look like her?’: How Instagram is Ruining our Self Esteem,” addresses how posted photos affect women’s self-worth. The women surveyed report they have specifically requested photos be unposted because they did not like how their body appeared in the photo. Others have “trained” themselves to smile in a specific way so that flaws in their teeth or smile do not appear in photos. In its “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign, Dove soap reports that more than 54% of women globally are their own worst critics when looking at photos.

How does this criticism affect teens who are obsessed with Instagram, where they see only retouched photos of fitness models, bikini photos, and six pack abs? When teens look at their bodies, they compare themselves to this unattainable perfection and consequently feel bad that they do not resemble those images. In extreme cases, such self-criticism can lead to depression, eating disorders, or worse.

While seeing images on Instagram leads to self-critique, not receiving likes on images can also negatively influence a teen’s self-worth. Many teens look to their posts to validate their looks, the way the dress, their hobbies, etc. When they do not receive the validation they want, teens will take down the post.

3. Current trends that could affect her future
In an NDP survey to more than 100 college admissions counselors conducted this past summer, 23% reported that they use social media or Google searches when evaluating applicants. One hundred percent of the colleges, coaches and businesses surveyed responded that they review social media accounts during the recruiting process. Knowing this, what are some trends that could negatively affect your daughter’s college admission or job prospects?

      1. “Finsta.”Finstas,” or fake Instagram accounts, are the wild west of the social media world. On Finsta, teens tend to post less filtered content and reserve their positive-looking selfies or group pictures to their regular Instagram accounts, which typically have many followers and are used less frequently. Finstas are normally set to private, have far less followers, and posts are made more frequently.How are Finstas harmful? Many teens do not realize that an ill-selected profile picture can often reveal the account owner’s identity. In addition, all content—the good, bad and ugly—may still be seen even with privacy settings. Inappropriate Finsta postings can be seen by colleges, athletic recruiters, and businesses and could negatively impact a teen’s application to a school, team or job.

      2. Middle schoolers more so than high schoolers tend to use, an app that allows people “make awesome videos and share with friends or to the world.” The trend with involves teens dancing in music videos in little to no clothing. Sharing these videos with others could easily come back to haunt a young person in later years.

Here are some helpful tips parents can use to navigate the social media waters with their tweens and teens:

      1. Discourage your daughter from using filters on her photos. Stress it is not the number of likes or how she looks, but how she feels in photo that she posts.
      2. Know your child’s phone password and be aware of any apps installed on the phone. If you do not know what an app does, search for it on the App Store or Google or ask your child to show you how it works.
      3. Have open discussions about the content your children post on social media sites and how it makes them feel when they post something.
      4. Help stop social media addiction. Encourage your children to have a critical eye for what they do post but also encourage them to do things without a phone. Schedule key times without phones, such as dinner or family gatherings.

Resources used for this article:
The National – How Social Media is affecting teens
New Parents Guide for Social Media – Common Sense Media
 ‘Why don’t I look like her?’ How Instagram is ruining our Self Esteem
 Common Sense Media – Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image

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