How social media overdose impacts teenagers mental health



“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, 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 persons’ mood.

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 anger 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 that requires a person to be busy offline
⦁ Enrol them in a new hobby
⦁ Use less of social media yourself to set an example for your teens’
⦁ Seek help early from a mental health professional

The 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 derogative comments on a person posted on social media reach 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. Users need to keep a check on the amount of time they spend on social media. They need to recognize the signs of social media addiction and 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 thirty minutes of social media usage helps give a boost to a persons’ 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 showcase their talents and skills.

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