How to Manage Social Media Anxiety

Are Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter making your teen feel anxious or depressed? Your son or daughter is not alone. Recent studies and surveys reveal that social media is one contributing factor towards rising mental health issues among teens. An increase in teenagers’ inability to sleep, loneliness, and distress began around the same time that the first iPhone was released. Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence.

Teens who use social media for hours each day tend to feel more anxious, more insecure, and more alone. Yet, social media is not the only cause for reduced mental health. Typical teen dilemmas, like social and academic pressures, also contribute to these fairly common feelings. What’s most important is to support your son or daughter in coping with overwhelming emotions—no matter the source.

There is not a “one size fits all” approach to parenting a teenager with social media related anxiety. Just like teens use social media in various ways for different purposes, there are numerous ways for parents to support their children. Here are some helpful strategies to consider: 

First, pay attention to when your child seems frustrated, stressed, or upset by social media. Does your teen become anxious when posting photos of himself or herself? Does your teen get upset when he or she sees videos of his or her friends hanging out without him/her? Notice when social media is triggering these feelings. Be sure to take note of what aspect of social media is most triggering for your teen.

Then, establish an open conversation with your teen about his or her social media usage and how it could be negatively impacting him or her. Check in with your teen every so often—especially when you notice that he or she is distressed. When talking to your teen, validate how he or she feels. Show that you understand where he or she is coming from and how challenging things can be. In addition, offer to lend an ear and work through your teen’s problems together.

Avoid taking an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to social media. By taking your teen’s phone away entirely, you may create more conflict in the process instead of addressing the matter at hand. Consider that removing the device entirely prevents teens from using the aspects of social media that they enjoy. Instead, work with your teen to set screen-free times. You may have screen-free time during dinner and an hour or two before bed, for example. Your teen might also want to try a screen-free weekend every once in a while. Form a plan that you and your son or daughter can both agree on. 

With academic, social, and digital pressures for teens, it’s no wonder that mental health issues keep increasing. As a parent, you can be there for your teen by helping him or her address social media related stressors and finding solutions together. Encourage your teen to take charge of his or her digital habits, so that he or she can have a healthy, improved relationship with technology.