Social media is a much more powerful tool than a lot of people give it credit for. Yes, it isn’t very serious in many ways, but it is also the main method that many us communicate with one another. Appearing in the right way on social media can feel just as important as appearing in the right way at a social event, except that the pressure is there all the time!

This pressure is even more pronounced for teenagers, and it can lead to an increased risk of anxiety and depression if their social media usage is left unchecked.

What is social media anxiety?

Social media anxiety is feelings of anxiety that are triggered or exacerbated by social media use. 

It’s common for teenagers to experience social anxiety to a greater or lesser extent. They might worry about making friends, how they are appearing to other people or that if they present themselves as they really are that they will be rejected. If social media use is unmoderated, these anxieties can be a constant presence and can start to develop into a chronic issue.

Some signs that social media use has become an issue are:

  • Spending more time on social media than with people in real life.
  • Making unfavorable comparisons of yourself against people on social media.
  • Taking risks to get a favorable reaction online, for example, playing pranks, bullying others, or posting embarrassing material.

You may also notice that your teen seems to have become shy and withdrawn, that they are displaying nervous behaviors like nail-biting, or that they seem depressed.

When to get help

If your child’s anxiety has become quite severe, then you may need to get professional help. 

If you notice that your child is severely anxious, that they appear visibly distressed after spending time on social media, or that they are experiencing some physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomach pain, headaches, or weight loss or gain, then it’s definitely a good idea to speak to your physician. They will be able to offer you advice about which treatment options are appropriate for your child, as well as ruling out any physical issues which may be contributing to symptoms.

Another option is to contact a specialist in social media anxiety-like ignite teen treatment, who will be able to provide you with advice and resources on the best ways to help your child.

What can you do to help?

There is a lot that you can do as a parent in order to help children to moderate their social media usage, and therefore lessen the risk of developing anxiety around it. Some things to think about are:

  • Encouraging self care. If your child has become upset after a session on social media, suggest that they take a short break to do something away from the screen to make them feel better. Try to do this without judgment, so that they see you as the person to turn to when they are feeling sad.
  • Talk about their feelings. Give them a safe place to talk about how they are feeling.
  • Encourage their life offline. Try to engage them in fun activities away from their phone, so that their life feels richer. And they’ll have more to post about!