Social Media Safety For Teens

Social media plays a big role in today’s culture, especially to the younger generation. Teenagers and adolescents have more access today through cellphones, laptops, desktops, tablets, and other technology than ever before to social media and the internet as a whole. In the US, surveys show that 90% of teenagers 13-17 have used social media at some point in their day-to-day lives. Of those, Seventy-five percent report having at least one active social media profile and 51% report using social media at least once daily. On average, teens who use social media spend between eight and nine hours daily online. Social media can have positive aspects, but is far often more negative than positive for young people.

Teenagers exposed to social media are often brought to the light about harmful or inappropriate content, dangerous people or situations, cyber-bullying, body image dysmorphia, blackmailing, oversharing personal information, excessive advertisement, privacy concerns related to data collection, identity theft, hacking. Many of these may cause interference with sleep, exercise, homework, or family activities.

Constant overstimulation of social networking can also shift the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode, leading to disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and oppositional defiant disorder. These are amplified in social medias designed to and for shortened attention spans such as TikTok®, Twitter®, and Instagram®. Using social media can be likened to being thrown into the vast, dangerous world with no guard rails, which is why teenagers need support and education in managing and monitoring social media use. Anything put online is up there forever (even if you delete it), meaning that your actions online at 13 or 14 can follow you into adulthood.

Maturity and age should be considered before allowing your child access to social media. Setting family rules regarding social media use and time spent online are important to helping your child understand what he can or cannot say or do online and how much time he can spend online. Families should also implement “no screen time” such as at the dinner table, in bedrooms at a certain time, or until after homework is finished. Website surfing should be limited to age appropriate sites. Web filters are available to keep your child from accessing potentially dangerous or harmful websites.

Privacy should be your number one priority in giving your children a safe platform so social media use. Set rules on sharing full names, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, or passwords. Privacy settings should always be restricted, so that your child’s account is not publicly available to everyone. Monitoring your child’s social media, including friends lists and posts, can help you keep an eye on who your child is interacting with. The internet is full of people with the intent to harm or scam the vulnerable, including unknowing teenagers. Everyone online is not who they say they are. Location services should always be turned off.

Children must also learn that everyone online is not who they say they are. Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else. Catfishing can be to try and solicit money, pictures, or information from your child and is often the tactic used by sexual predators, stalkers, and pedophiles. The internet is full of sexual predators, which is why it is important for your child never to speak or be in contact with anyone that she does not know personally.

Less time spent online and with family or friends in the real world help teenagers stay grounded in reality. Teenagers who spend less time on social media often report lower levels of depression and anxiety in conjunction with increased rates of overall happiness. If you are concerned for your child or feel that your teen is spending too much time on social media, has a noticeable change in mood or attitude, is upset by what he is seeing, or becomes involved with risky friends or behaviors, set appropriate rules regarding social media and its usage before it is too late and something happens that can change his life forever.

Mayo Clinic
Newport Academy
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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