Published On: Wed, Aug 5th, 2020

5 Tips to Help Your Child with Social Media Anxiety or Depression

First of all, let’s break it down. Social media has become a part of all our lives. Whether you are a mega fan or a disgruntled bystander, there is no way to dodge the inevitable interaction. So why do we shield our children from the big bad social media? In hopes that they will choose to find other sources of joy?

Hate to break it to you, but despite our best efforts, our children are social media obsessed. 

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

What does this mean for children? 

“Numerous studies found that greater daily time spent on social media, increased frequency of SMU [Social Media Usage], and multiple platform use were associated with both depression and anxiety. Research suggests that increased social media consumption may lead to negative online experiences, fewer in-person social interactions, and decreased ability to sustain attention.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5904786/

Let’s break it down again. Scientific studies report that our kids are heavily reliant on social media and it’s creating a hostile online environment, complete with less social interactions and a shorter attention span. The scientific community continues to see an increase in social media anxiety and depression as a result of this cultural obsession. 

What does social media anxiety refer to? 

FOMO. Teenagers fear being disconnected from their social circle, which in 2020 happens to mean, social media. What is FOMO you might be wondering…

“Types of FOMO include: missing out on popularity; missing out on information; missing out on social group interactions; and missing out on the chance to prevent negative comments about the self by others.  All of which will drive anxieties.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/digital-world-real-world/202002/anxiety-and-social-media-use

What is social media depression then? 

One more time, let’s break it down. 

Well first, what is depression? 

It’s that ever familiar feeling of melancholy that expresses itself in the ways we think, feel and do. Depression makes us feel solitary and helpless. We lose all interest in the things that once made us joyful and gave us purpose. 

So where does social media fall in this pot?

Social media is the catalyst for this kind of depression. It is the addiction and the weapon that continues to propel us into heightened sadness. 

“Some experts see the rise in depression as evidence that the connections social media users form electronically are less emotionally satisfying, leaving them feeling socially isolated. ‘The less you are connected with human beings in a deep, empathic way, the less you’re really getting the benefits of a social interaction,’ points out Alexandra Hamlet, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.” https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

Basically, our children are forming friendships that don’t have emotional substance. They are not receiving the benefits of real friendship—social interaction and symbiotic expression of feelings, when they choose to connect via social media platforms instead of in person. 

For example, I once tutored a student who kept receiving FaceTime phone calls and Instagram notifications through her computer and phone. She declined a few calls and ignored a few vibrations on her phone. Then began to get worried and hysterical. She almost broke into tears. The student asked me if she could text her friend to let her know that she was in a tutoring session. I said, “Yes. Of course.” Then I asked my student why she was so worried about her friend and she explained. ‘If I don’t tell her where I am, she’ll think I’m mad at her. Then she’ll tell everyone at school to stop talking to me. She’ll even tell my boyfriend, if I don’t respond right away.’ Hearing this horrified and saddened me. I couldn’t believe she would be so ostracized for having a life and not being on her phone 24/7. 

Unfortunately, this is the reality our students and children are growing up in. While technology can be so rewarding and so useful during this time, it also comes with negative impact. So if we can’t dismantle the power of social media, what can we do? 


5 Tips to Help Your Child with Social Media Anxiety or Social Media Depression

  1. Limit their screen time on the phone. Use parental settings to only allow for social media during specific times of day. Pick a few hours per day to enable this usage. Allow your child to be a part of the decision-making process. When is the most crucial time to be social media alert? When can they do with less or without?
  2. Engage with your child. Find ways to get them outside moving and interacting. Allow them to bring their friends on a hike or to the beach. Encouraging in person friendships that don’t require phones is the best way to help break the habit. Even during social distancing, they can enjoy hanging out with masks.
  3. Take time to explain social media’s positive and negative attributes. Choose to remind your child how social media is a skewed perception of reality. 
  4. Enter their world. Make a profile and keep an eye on them. Allow them to be expressive, but without adopting negative, self loathing tendencies. To be honest, when a student told me their mother did this I immediately froze in shock. I thought it was such an invasion of privacy, but ultimately I see the value. Her mother, although strict, was finding a way to allow her daughter to express herself in a medium she felt she could control. 
  5. Talk to your kid. Are there reasons behind their reliance or obsession? Are they running from their present life? Are they in need of therapy? Be open and honest with your teenager. The more you can share about yourself and the way social media makes you feel, the more they will open up. 

Want more on social media?

To learn about how social media can be utilized in the college admissions process, check out our blog on The Role of Social Media in College Admissions.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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