If you’re like many other teens, you probably have a social media account or two (or seven). And you probably don’t just check it here and there. Girls spend an average of an hour and a half every day on social media, and boys spend a little less than an hour.
How Much Social Media Do Teens Use?
It’s estimated that between 75% and 97% of teenagers (ages 13-17) use at least one social media account.
That’s not always bad news. In a lot of cases, social media can do the job it was made for — to help you make connections.
But in other cases, social media can take a toll on mental health. Before you stop reading, don’t worry — we’re not going to tell you to stop using social media. What we are going to do is help you make sure that you’re using it safely and in a positive way.
1. Slow down with the selfies.
Waiting for those likes and comments can bring on anxiety, and if you don’t get the response you’re looking for, it can be a blow to your self-esteem. And it’s not only posting selfies — it’s viewing other peoples’ selfies. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and to become fixated on your appearance or develop poor body image.
You don’t need to totally stop with the selfies. But take it down a notch or five, and try to pry yourself away from selfie-stalking.
If seeing someone’s posts on your feed are making you feel anxious or upset, hide them. They won’t know, and you won’t have to see their posts all of the time. (However, if someone is making you feel unsafe, don’t worry about the drama — block them ASAP and let an adult you trust know what’s going on).
When it comes to celebs or influencers, unfollow them if they aren’t being positive influences.
Look for people who post things like mantras about self-acceptance, or even just pictures of their pet. At the same time, avoid those who trash talk others or constantly talk about their own or others’ bodies.
3. Follow the golden rule.
Yes, it’s super cheesy. However, it’s also important: treat others the way you want to be treated.
If you ever find yourself about to post a snarky comment, or you’re tempted to send a screenshot of someone’s post to a friend so you can laugh at it, step back. Remember how much it hurts to get a negative comment on your own post or how you would feel if people were making fun of your posts behind your back.
4. Embrace the positive aspects of social media.
If you’re struggling emotionally with having a disability, coming out as LGBT+, or going through treatment for a chronic illness, chances are that other teens have, too.
Social media is filled with support groups where you can talk to others who are going through the same struggles and help each other find ways to cope.
Social media gives you a microphone and a platform — so use your voice to spread positivity.
5. Take stock of your mental health.
Before you check social media, take a moment to see where your mental health is at. If you’re already in a bad mood, it might be a good day to skip it.
Remember that while it’s totally normal to have “one of those days” sometimes, having too many of those days could be a sign that there’s a problem that’s deeper than social media — and it’s time to get professional help.
Reach out to your parent, healthcare provider, or another adult you trust if you notice that you’re no longer enjoying the things you usually enjoy, are always feeling down or anxious, or are experiencing any other symptoms of depression or anxiety.
And if all else fails…
Go on a cleanse. Challenge yourself to stay off of social media for a week and see how it goes. It may surprise you how nice it feels to have social media not be a part of your daily routine.
Whether it’s brought on by social media or not, mental and emotional health struggles are real — but you don’t have to let them control you. Reach out to your physician or a behavioral health provider if you need help.
NEW: Adolescent Medicine at Children’s
Have you heard the news?
Children’s Physicians has always treated adolescent patients. But to even further meet the unique needs of this age group, we have opened a new department focused solely on adolescent medicine.