Social Media Addiction in Youth
The problem of social media addiction in youth has risen rapidly in the last five years. Researchers tell us that the psychological disorder of internet addiction is occurring faster than modern research can keep up. Little is known about internet addiction disorder or the sub-classifications of video game addiction and social media addiction compared to other psychological disorders.
We do know however that social media addiction in youth is correlated to shyness and increased trust that chance determines the course of his or her own life. People who are addicted to social media make intense and frequent use of it both in terms of days per week and length of each session in chat rooms, online games, or emails.
We also know that students are considered high risk for social media problems because of flexible schedules and unlimited access to the internet. The finding of social media addiction in youth being correlated to the belief that chance places a high bearing on the determination in life is otherwise called locus of control in psychology.
Social Media Addiction in Youth: Shyness and Locus of Control
Shyness and locus of control are two of the major known predictors of internet addiction and problem social media use. What this means is that youth who have a social media addiction tend to see external forces as having determination over their life. Generally, this is associated with higher levels of pathology. For example, a person with high external locus of control might have the belief that they made a bad grade in school because “a teacher hates me.” This is an example of placing the power on an external source.
Conversely, internal locus of control is correlated with low levels of pathology. An example of an opposite belief would be that the poor grade was earned because the student chose to not study. Or, more positively, the belief that the student made a good grade because they chose to diligently read their assignment, create note cards, and commit the class subject matter to memory.
We can see examples of an external locus of control beyond high school. For example, an adult with high levels of pathology might say to him or herself, “why should I even bother looking for a job, just look at this economy!” In this example, the individual places the power on external forces and therefore chance. External and internal locus of control can predict the probability of social media addiction in youth as young individuals will be drawn to social media that are lonely, shy, anxious, self-conscious or depressed.
Social Media Addiction in Youth: First Signs
Parents generally first notice social media addiction in youth when certain behaviors appear. These behaviors can include interacting on their smartphone outside of normal times such as staying up past bedtime or checking social media applications as soon as they wake up. If your teen is checking their device hourly and seems Inseparable from their device it may be time for an intervention.
Begin by setting some basic limits for use and remind them of the value of experiencing life firsthand and not through a device. Parents may also first recognized social media addiction in youth when grades have dropped. In a recent study, more than half of all teens have reported putting off doing homework to check on social media or play video games. If your child seems depressed or anxious after checking their device talk with them about this behavior and ask to go through their social media.
Therapy for Social Media Addiction in Youth
Therapeutic treatment for social media Addiction in youth generally begins with an initial detox followed up by the teen and therapist looking at social media accounts together. A therapist may then ask a child the purpose for a post they made, in order to explore if it filled a need they may have or if they were trying to make a peer feel a certain way. In one way, social media can give a therapist a wealth of information and insight into what the child is thinking and how the child views themselves in the world. Posts can indicate narcissism, feelings of inferiority, or cries for attention. Other times a therapist may discover a child is participating in online bullying or is posting inappropriate content about themselves of others. Often, this can indicate an underlying issue for the teen.
Generally, some accounts can be cleaned up and made to be more appropriate while other accounts need to be completely deleted. If the behavior of checking social media has completely taken over and is present in all social environments for the child with the teen checking their phone every time there is a buzz or ring, parents may wish to limit the child’s data plan or set up limits on their Wi-Fi router to help establish boundaries.
Social Media Addiction in Youth: A Modern Problem
One issue with social media addiction in youth is that teens tend to know more about social media accounts than their parents do. As parents today, we are truly the first generation raising teens in a hyper-connected world.
Ultimately, the effect of unlimited screen time on childhood development has yet to be seen. We do know through scientific research that excessive checking of social media is correlated with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Never in human history have young people then acclimated to a device in such a widespread manner and never has a new behavior been normalized so quickly.
Social Media Addiction in Youth: When To Intervene
Generally, parents know best when it’s time to have an intervention. If your child has become preoccupied with social media use and has ignored other areas in their life they used to be interested in, they may have a social media addiction. As with most mental health issues, early intervention is key.
Sit down with your teen and ask what limits and boundaries should be appropriate for someone their age. Remind them how social media addiction has affected their grades, moods, and overall behavior. Remind them of late night texting, gaming, or posting and let your teem know you are serious about their mental health status.
Also, keep in mind that you are not alone. Recent surveys tell us that 59% of parents feel their teen is addicted to their mobile device and 92% of teens go online daily, of that 24% report they go online almost constantly. For older teens, 81% use social media applications. 77% of parents report that their teen gets distracted by their mobile device and does not pay attention to the parent on family trips. We also know that social media addiction in youth is a reliable predictor of teen depression and can also indicate an underlying mental health disorder primary to the social media use.
Research has found that teens who check Facebook or other networking sites between 50 and 100 times per day are 37% more distressed than teens that check social media just a few times a day. Believe it or not, there are were some teens in this study that checked social media apps more than 100 times per day. These teens were surveyed and found to be 47% more distressed than the average.
Social Media Addiction in Youth and Strained Relationships
Social media addiction in youth is often first identified by a parent or guardian. Strained family relationships and interpersonal relationships are often the first indications of true addiction. As with other addictions, social media addiction in youth is correlated with strained relationships. While the original purpose of social media was to connect people and to be fun, pathological use of social media is known to create feelings of being disconnected, especially when teens are comparing themselves to others and feeling inferior.
Today, social media plays an important role in identity development. Teens use social media as a primary way to connect with others as parents of previous generations used the telephone to connect. We know through research that social media addiction in youth has a profoundly negative impact on real-life relationships. If your teen has become so obsessed with their online presence that they neglect real-life relationships, it is time to consider a residential intervention.
Generally, parents start by establishing rules, boundaries, and time limits on their teen’s device. However, if your teen is constantly testing these boundaries and sneaking their device at every opportunity, it is time to call on a professional for help. The problem with most therapists in an outpatient setting is that while they can talk about social media addiction, a true detox cannot take place unless the child is completely separated from their device. In this way, a residential facility that has control over access to social media is a much better solution to social media addiction in youth.
If you are worried about your teen’s emotional or behavioral health, please give us a call today so that we can guide you to the right solution for your child. We can help you find the right program for your child to reset the relationships with peers, family members, and with social media.