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How Social Media Affects Teen Girls’ Mental Health

by Sarah Bolin

The constant scrolling and swiping through social media has created a pandemic within a pandemic. Unfortunately, it is the type of pandemic that affects the mental health of teenage girls.

As parents we can think back and reminisce on how the world worked for us pre-social media. We saw pictures of our friend’s vacation only if we went over to their house and shuffled through their stack of photos. We knew we didn’t get invited to the party over the weekend only if we overheard someone talking about it at school.

In the wise words of REM, “It’s the end of the world as we know it;” however, I don’t feel so fine.

Our teens are subject to the constant, in-your-face reminders they are not enough. Social media often leads to an overarching feeling they are lacking in one area or another. Constantly feeling they are not enough leads to some pretty challenging issues that can affect the mental health of teens. Have you seen any of these present in your daughter?

  1. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness

Our teen girls are struggling with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and loneliness like never before. They are seeing the highlight reel of their peers plastered all over social media. The comparison trap has never been bigger. 

Teens are able to be more connected than ever before through social media, but at the same time, loneliness is at an all-time high. They may have more so-called ‘friends’ listed on social media, yet lacking genuine real-life friends.

  1. Lack of communication

Recently my daughter had a misunderstanding with a friend. After discussing the issue with her, I suggested she simply pick up the phone and talk it through. My daughter quickly let me know my suggestion was absurd. She replied, “Mom, no one our age calls people. It would be so weird. We send snaps [through Snapchat].” 

Seriously? What in the world?! I had no idea her generation rarely ever uses the phone to actually talk. It explains the sheer panic when I ask my teens to complete a simple task like calling to order a pizza. 

The bottom line is our teens struggle with meaningful communication. Our teens would rather be tucked safely away behind their device. No real talking with real feelings and real emotions. Only typed out words in comments and messages. 

  1. Exhaustion

They are walking around in zombie-like states glued to their devices. They are sleep-deprived like never before. The addictive nature of scrolling social media is like a drug. It is seemingly impossible to keep it from overtaking their sleep. And choosing social media over sleep is contributing to this epidemic.

So as parents how do we take steps to limit social media? 

Here are a few tips that worked with my teens:

(Full Disclosure: This is not an easy process – especially in the beginning. But it is, in the end, most definitely worth it!)

  1. Discuss a plan to limit their usage of social media.

I began to notice an alarming trend with my teenage daughter. The more she engaged in social media the more she stopped engaging in life outside of it. I would peek in her room and see her lying on her bed and scrolling in a trance-like state for hours. Gone were the days where I would hear her in her room making up a dance routine or planning an event with friends. 

My husband and I were concerned. What was happening to our formerly active daughter who was full of ideas, creativity, and motivation for life? 

We decided to talk about our observations with her. She opened up and let us know she didn’t like who she was becoming. Also, she was frustrated that social media was stealing so much of her time and energy. She realized she was choosing to sideline her dreams and watch other people post their dreams and achievements on social media. As difficult as it was for her to acknowledge it, that is actually the easiest part. The difficult part is what to do about it.

  1. Plan a time to leave devices in a designated space out of your teen’s bedroom before going to sleep. 

Sleep is important at every stage of life, but sleep is especially critical in the teenage years. Studies have shown teens need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Their attachment to social media is making sleep even more challenging. 

By having their device out of their bedroom, it allows for less temptation to spend late nights (and even into early morning hours) scrolling. It also ensures their last thoughts before going to sleep is not about the lives of other people. 

After my daughter made decision to keep her device out of her room at night, we noticed an immediate change. She seemed more rested and overall happier (and teenage parents know that is a real miracle).

  1. As a parent make sure to model healthy social media habits for your teen.

The conversation my husband and I had with our daughter was the catalyst to making changes as a family around social media. My husband and I were open and honest about how our screen time was not only affecting our teenager, but it was also affecting us as parents. 

We realized we were inadvertently scrolling through social media without engaging in conversation with our family sitting in the same room. If we were going to ask our teenager to change, then the change needed to start with us. Instead of making all kinds of rules for our teens, we discussed our goals. We came up with a plan we all would embrace. We weren’t aiming for perfection, but instead we wanted progress.

Whatever you do, make sure to keep the conversation going with your teens around social media. Be open and honest about the struggles you face when you overindulge in your own life. 

 Social media is a relatively new thing for us parents, but I have a feeling it’s here to stay so we need to make sure we are talking about it with our teens. Especially if it is taking a toll on their mental health. Mom, give yourself credit for learning and growing so you can help your daughter navigate this new world she is growing up in. You are doing a great job!

We hope these parenting tips were helpful! To see more tips like these, please keep scrolling at Nongirly. At Nongirly, we want to build a community that helps parents, teens, and children, so please leave a comment in our blog posts!

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