As if being a parent in the digital age was not hard enough, the world suddenly took a quick turn to the rise of social media dominance.
Based on many studies conducted in the third quarter of 2020 alone, Teenagers comprise 34% and 18% of TikTok users from the US and the UK. Combined with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and many other social media sites, children in this era are more exposed to the world than their parents have ever been. And as promising as it may sound, being too exposed may also lead to dangerous situations.
COMMON PROBLEMS AND POSSIBLE EFFECTS
Media and the beauty standards it promotes have been around for centuries. But with the emergence of social media and its purpose as a platform for expression, teenagers are more prone to becoming insecure with the typical beauty standards perceived by online society. As thinner torsos, bigger hips, and smoother skin become the requirements for acceptance, adolescents’ self-esteem gets harder to maintain.
As the need to be liked becomes normal, accepting one’s appearance becomes harder. These insecurities eventually lead to self-esteem-related eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia.
Another typical phenomenon the youngest generation experiences is FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out.
With low self-esteem and a strong fear of missing out, teenagers in this age find dangerous trends like the Benadryl TikTok Challenge more appealing since the more dangerous challenges are, the more viral it gets. Seeing the highlights of other people’s lives is a strong trigger for harmful comparisons.
The fear of missing out on a good time can usually be attributed to teenagers following celebrities and influencers with certain accomplishments that aren’t typical to people of their age. This may become an early trigger of a deep unhealthy sense of envy or, worse, clinical anxiety.
Aside from low self-esteem, insecurities, and anxiety, the most alarming issue caused by too much exposure on social media is the combination of depression and aggression. Cyberbullying has been a topic of debate for decades now. But with the current growth pace of social media relevance, cyberbullying has reached greater heights. Even the comment section of nursery rhymes on YouTube contains name-calling. This is harmful to the victims and all the other people who get to see it.
EASY STEPS TO FOLLOW
Communicate. Establishing open communication builds trust and understanding. Teaching kids how to share and receive thoughts and feelings early leads to healthier social habits. Help them understand that what can be seen online is only a fraction of what’s real. Images can be easily edited. Stories can be manipulated. The emotions of people undergoing puberty are usually amped up. Make them feel safe by giving them an offline platform for expression and a healthy perception of reality.
Respect. Give them the space that they need. Not knowing what children do online can be daunting. But there are ways to regulate their online safety without having to fight about their privacy. Establishing boundaries and rules for online usage is much healthier than snooping around teenagers’ phones.
Trust. Allow them to handle the consequences of their actions on social media gives them a sense of accountability. Having to handle the responsibility of their digital footprint instills the discipline they need in life.
And finally, support. By taking an interest in their life online and offline, confidence and self-awareness can grow. By showing them how beautiful they are physically and intellectually, their self-esteem gets strengthened.
LOOKING FOR OUTSIDE HELP
Of course, not everything is simple. Mental health is important and having all the resources to make sure teenagers are mentally healthy is crucial.
Looking for professional help is never unnecessary. For kids with tendencies to have eating disorders, knowing the nearest bulimia treatment centers and the best anorexia treatment plan is always an advantage. Being open to psychiatric advice from professionals is better for more advanced cases of anxiety. And having the family psychiatrist on speed dial when faced with alarming cases of depression and aggression is advisable.
Parenting has never been easy. And as the digital age progresses, more mental health issues are being discovered. Getting scared and not knowing what to do is understandable. Researching and understanding what teenagers are feeling and how to help them is already a good start. The mental health of the children can also be a reflection of the mental health of the parents.