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How social media overdose impacts teenagers’ mental health

"There are many effective modalities in psychotherapy which can help young adults to break free from excessive use of social media", said Dr Vihan Sanyal

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
December 7, 2021 5:06:44 pm
teenagers-parentingDon't fret about your teenagers. Here's how to help. (Source: Pexels)

By Dr Vihan Sanyal

“Doctor, my son is spending too much time online. He is constantly on Instagram and Facetime. What should I do?” Such questions have become a norm for most mental health practitioners who work with children and young adults. Most teenagers use social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram these days. It keeps a person connected to friends across the globe and gives them a window into the lives of people they are connected with.

Multiple studies have shown that teenagers who use social media excessively, do so because they are either bored, need an escape from their immediate physical environment, are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, are lonely, have few real-time friends or need to feel appreciated and validated.

Using social media in moderation isn’t bad. In fact, it can help boost serotonin and other feel-good chemicals in the brain and can help uplift a person’s mood. Most people click a selfie of themselves and post it on social media and feel good about themselves when people like their post and comment on it. It becomes a problem when this becomes a habit. Many people feel compelled to post photos of themselves multiple times a day and then keep checking their accounts for the number of likes they have received.

parenting-759 Here’s how you can take care of your teenager’s mental health. (Source: Pexels)

Let’s now go a little deeper and see the signs a person, a parent or a loved one can look for to differentiate between social media usage and addiction. We can safely say a person is addicted to social media when we can spot some of the following:

*If a person is thinking about and talking about social media most of the time.

*If they have formed a ritual of using social media multiple times a day.

*If they are using social media instead of attending to other important things in their life.

*If they are procrastinating on other important tasks and using social media instead.

*If they get frustrated and throw tantrums if they are unable to use social media.

*If there is a fear of missing out on “life” if they don’t stay connected on social media.

*If social media usage has affected their studies.

*If they keep checking their social media accounts during conversations.

*If a person avoids social events to be on social media.

*If they lie about the time they spend on social media.

*If they have not been able to reduce the time they spend on social media.

A few tips for parents

The following things parents have found to be effective in teenage social media addiction:

*Discussing in a non-hostile and loving way with the teenager about their social media use. Keep reminding them that you are coming from a place of concern for their well-being

*Help them to plan their day and follow the set schedule.

*Set a “no mobile phone” policy at different times of the day/night. No cell phones during meal times, while watching TV, during family time and at bedtime.

*Set tasks which require a person to be busy offline.

*Enroll them in a new hobby.

*Use less social media yourself to set an example for your teens.

*Seek help early from a mental health professional.

Use of social media has also resulted in many teenagers globally being subjected to name calling, harassment, embarrassment, humiliation, stalked, threatened and becoming victims of fraud through social media. It has led to a spike in teenage mental health issues and even death.

If a teenager is subjected to any form of online bullying, it can leave a lasting negative impact, which can stay with the individual for years to come. The power of social media in my opinion is not fully comprehended by many. In school a person may be subjected to an incident of bullying or harassment which usually is restricted to a small group of people. Negative or derogatory comments on a person posted on social media reaches a wider and global audience. It is also permanent, to be seen by all. This can really damage an individuals’ self- esteem and level of confidence.

There is also a correlation between excessive social media usage and mental disorders like anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, ADHD, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. It is very important for users to keep a check on the amount of time they spend on social media. They need to recognise the signs of social media addiction and to take necessary steps quickly to ensure they do not become addicted to social media.

How much time should someone spend on social media?

Studies have found that 30 minutes of social media usage helps give a boost to a person’s mood while using social media for more than two hours a day can increase the risk of developing depressive symptoms. One needs to strike a balance and use social media tools effectively. When social media platforms are used responsibly then they become a source of enjoyment and fulfilment. They can help a person to feel good about themselves, help them in staying socially connected with friends globally, connect with other like-minded people, share ideas and thoughts, stay informed of news and current affairs, become aware of social events and to showcase their talents and skills.

What can you do if you are addicted to social media?

There are many effective modalities in psychotherapy which can help young adults to break free from excessive use of social media. Here are some effective tools professionals use to help people:

Counselling – Mental health counselling allows a person to explore their inner feelings and emotions in a safe and non-judgemental environment. It promotes awareness and helps a person to come up with alternative options to deal with the situation.

CBT – CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT helps a person to recognize unhelpful thoughts and the errors they are making in their thinking. A trained CBT professional helps clients recognise such thoughts and help them to correct the errors they may be making in thinking. This helps to correct the behaviour and results in better moods and feelings.

Mindfulness – Mindfulness is another very effective way to help build awareness, reduce hyperactivity and restlessness. Mindfulness helps people to become more grounded/centred and recognise their feelings and emotions. Many underlying emotions are allowed to surface and to be released.

It is important to connect with a mental health professional who can help in this area and help a person to live a fuller and a more meaningful life. Social media use and abuse has increased during the pandemic and many are struggling in reducing time spent on social media. Sometimes, it’s not something a person may be able to achieve themselves. External professional help may be required.

(The writer is a Psychotherapist.)

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