Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, the list goes on; in today’s rapidly evolving digital culture, social media is central. And as the parent of a teenage daughter, it’s normal to feel concerned about how it might affect her mental health.
Though there are studies that link social media with anxiety in teens, does this mean you should confiscate your daughter’s phone? Not necessarily—it’s a lot more complicated than that. As Harvard researcher Leah Shafer states, “Correlation does not equal causation.”
Social Media & Social Anxiety: It’s Complicated
Not only are there different social media variables that can impact the depth of social anxiety in teenage girls, but this relationship can also work the other way around—anxiety and other mental health issues can lead to more social media use.
Therefore, it’s not about pointing a finger at social media; rather, it’s about viewing social media as one factor within the whole equation. And by understanding its potential repercussions, you can better understand how social media fits into your daughter’s life. More importantly, you can better assess how you can help her build a healthy relationship with social media.
4 Ways Social Media Can Affect Anxiety in Teenage Girls
First things first—what are some ways social media can trigger and aggravate social anxiety in teenage girls? Here are four ways.
- Creates a Façade
What types of channels and content does your daughter look at? When it comes to social media, teenage girls tend to use more image-based social media platforms. For example, Pew Research reported teen girls are more likely to use Instagram and Tumblr than teen boys.
Social media has also bred a new wave of minor celebrities—influencers. Many of these influencers, often beauty experts/models, can compel girls to compare and contrast their lives and bodies to those on their small screens. This can warp your daughter’s perceptions of herself. Even “real people” posting perfect, heavily filtered photos can have this effect.
- Triggers FOMO
FOMO, or fear of missing out, is prevalent during teenage years. For example, if your daughter hasn’t been checking in on the latest posts/trends on her social feed, this can cause FOMO, especially if her peers are avidly talking about them at school. Or say she sees a post of her friends at a party she wasn’t invited to; this can upset her and make her feel isolated.
Feeling left out can bring on feelings of tension and nervousness. And if this occurs in environments like school, it can further aggravate social anxiety and potentially lead to other issues like bullying.
FOMO can also cause problems unrelated to social media to resurface. For example, if your child has dealt with immense loss due to the passing of a loved one, these feelings of sadness may return while they experience FOMO and isolation at school.
- Fuels Pressure to Get Likes & Comments
Sometimes, social media can feel like you’re in a popularity contest. Likes and comments bring instant gratification. And when this gratification isn’t fulfilled, it can bring feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness. Twenty-six percent of teens say social media sites cause them to feel less happy about their own lives.
About half of teens said they post their accomplishments. This can make girls feel pressured to do the same and turn to social media as a source of self-fulfillment.
- Creates Drama & Social Tensions
Who follows whom? And who isn’t being followed? Why not?
Though social media has helped teen girls build closer friendships—and in some cases can make it easier for girls with social anxiety to reach out—45 percent of teens report feeling overwhelmed by the drama social media creates. In addition, four in ten teens unfollow or unfriend people because of this drama.
How are social platforms affecting your daughter’s relationship with her friends and peers? Who she engages with and how she engages with her friends on social media is essential.
What Can Be Done: 4 Tips
Here is how Renewed Hope Ranch can help. Instead of condemning social media, establish social media expectations with your daughter. What does she struggle with and how can she gain a healthy control of social media?
Here are four tips we recommend to help you communicate and establish these expectations. Keep in mind, every child is different, so we encourage you to individualize these tips to help meet your daughter’s needs.
- Have an Open Conversation
Instead of confiscating your daughter’s phone, work with her on establishing social media expectations. Offer validation on how navigating social media can be tricky and how you can lend a hand.
What are some things your daughter struggles with? How can social media exacerbate these issues or create new ones? How can your daughter avoid these pitfalls and proactively gain control of her social media use? Use these questions to guide meaningful conversations.
- Encourage a Healthy & Active Lifestyle
Social media isn’t everything. Let your daughter be aware of this by encouraging her to seek out a healthy and active lifestyle. This can involve getting adequate exercise and sleep; engaging in a healthy, in-person social life; and even squeezing in some reading time. Aim for balance.
An active lifestyle can encourage your daughter to productively manage her time and interactions with technology. Most importantly, this can help your daughter find joy in the smaller and more meaningful things in life.
- Be a Good Tech Role Model
It all starts with you. Be a role model for your child when it comes to social media use. This requires:
- Being conscious of the time you invest in social media apps, as well as the content you engage with.
- Balancing your screen time with healthy social and physical activities. Consider engaging in activities your daughter can join in on.
- Giving your full attention to your daughter when she needs you—no eyes on your phone!
- Engage with Positive Peer Culture
If you suspect social anxiety in your teenager, look into Positive Peer Culture. This is a form of therapy that helps your daughter:
- Confront negative behaviors in herself.
- Cultivate relationships rooted in care.
- Inspire positive values.
- Develop social competence.
At Renewed Hope Ranch, we have Positive Peer Culture sessions three to five times a week.
Lean on Renewed Hope Ranch
If you’d like more guidance on how to help a teenager with social anxiety disorder, contact our team at Renewed Hope Ranch. Surrounded by supportive peers and trained professionals, our residential treatment center will provide the support and resources your daughter needs to thrive in her path of healing. So reach out to us to learn more about our team and how we can help.