How Does Social Media Affect Teenagers?

Social media affects teenagers in so many ways. Both for the good and potentially the bad. Social media has become such a big part of teenagers lives. They use it as a means to stay connected to their friends. Where once we would connect much more by phone or in person social media has become a primal way of communication. It is also a huge component of entertainment for teens. 

What we also see are teens getting pretty numbed out when involved in social media too much. It’s really hard to identify exactly how social media impacts teens since there are so many factors to consider. From the amount they consume, to the type of social media use, to the confidence within the teen that’s on social media, and whom they connect with. Along with the videos and content they consume on social media. 

Maybe your teen on social media looks like this: 

It’s about an hour before dinner and you pop in to say hi to your teen. She’s laying in bed on her phone (of course you tell yourself). You suggest she come on out and hang out a bit before dinner. She says “k, ill come out soon.” And an hour passes. Dinner is ready. You go in and tell her to come out for dinner. She’s still on her phone. 

As she’s walking over to the table you glance at her phone and she’s on instagram then pops over to tic toc and back again all within a minute. You think to yourself “what is she doing there all the time?” You decide to ask her about the videos she’s been into that you peeked at earlier. She tells you a bit about it. But you can tell she’s preoccupied. She then tells you that she is upset because Tiffany went out with Samantha without inviting her. And how it doesn’t make sense because she thought Tiffany had plans. 

Something you know about your daughter is that she can take things a bit personally sometimes and also she compares herself quite a bit to her friends. You try to give her some thoughts as to other possibilities that her friends didn’t invite her (other than it being personal) but that doesn’t seem to sink in. 

Two teens sitting next to each other on a couch smiling

There comes a point where you truly ask yourself “how does social media affect my teen?” 

You see that she gets pretty consumed into it. You also see that she has moments when she’s happy and feels confident. And you definitely want her to be social and have friends since you know that this is the thing to do now. But you also see that she can feel down sometimes, compares herself to her friends, and waits on feedback about things she posts. Maybe she checks it way too much. The truth is that asking this question as a parent is quite common. The reality is that the answer is that it affects them in many ways. Some of the ways are helpful for their development whereas others aren’t as much potentially. 

Let’s take a look at some of the “How’s” when it comes to social media and the effects on your teen. 

Social media affects teenagers #ONE: Builds up their confidence 

Yes, social media can definitely build up a teens confidence. Social media gives them an opportunity to be where their friends are. They can feel included. That they belong. This is the ultimate confidence booster for a teen. Their friends are a huge source of support and confidence. 

When it comes to building confidence with a teen and social media the underlying component is how they are processing information as it comes up via social media. Are they reinforcing the belief that they are accepted when they are on social media? OR are they being hard on themselves? What is the proportion of each? It may be hard to always be kind and feel accepted but do they feel this way most of the time? 

In teen therapy in Simi Valley, Ca we work with our teens (in person or online teen therapy) on building their self-talk in ways to help them build their confidence rather than break it down. 

hands holding a cell phone looking at a social media profile

Social media affects teenagers # TWO: Negatively impacts their confidence 

Social media can negatively impact a teens confidence when they are overly hard on themselves. In the scenario she was overthinking why she was or wasn’t invited with her friends after seeing a picture posted on social media. Although there may be some appropriate understanding of friendships through this many times this is done because one takes things overly personal. As a result their confidence is impacted. Teens also get consumed in what others are commenting and saying about their posts. Many teens get their sense of “I am good enough” from what others say about them. This can be something that can negatively affect their confidence if they take in any negativity too much to the point that it is ingrained in their sense of self.

Teens often compare themselves to others on social media. This can become detrimental if they are overly judgemental of themselves in the process. Our team of therapists in Simi Valley work with teens on reducing the ways in which they are critical of themselves through social media. We help them find ways to build their confidence within themselves. 

Social media affects teenagers #THREE: Helps them stay connected 

Since social media is such a platform for teens to connect with their friends this truly does help them feel close to one another. They have the opportunity to be apart of one another’s lives. If a teens friends are on social media and they aren’t then they will likely feel excluded. 

Of course, we don’t want social media to be the only way a teen feels connected to their friends. We want there to be much more authentic ways to connect with their friends. The value of real authentic conversations and sharing can’t be replaced with social media. However, social media can supplement ways of connecting and being a part of one another’s lives. 

At Simi Psychological Group, we help teens connect in deep ways with their friends so they truly feel valued and loved. We want to ensure that teens feel valued above all and this happens when friendships are more than the top layer superficial level.

girl sitting on a cement wall using the headphones on her cellphone

Social media affects teenagers #FOUR: Increased anxiety 

Teens often become overly focused on having the perfect posts, pictures, and overall on the presentation on social media. This can lead to a lot of mental preoccupation on what others think of them. Teens often play the comparison game thinking that they aren’t as good as their friend. Or they can think that others are happier than they are. Social media can often show peoples “presented selves” that look more flawless than is reality. 

Teens can also have impacted sleep due to anxiety with social media use. Numbness can happen when they are overfocused on their electronics removing them from being more present in their lives. 

It is important to help a teen recognize their own anxiety and how they can reassure themselves and put things in perspective. In teen therapy we help teens challenge the comparison game and allow more space for kindness. We also help them with anxiety symptoms so that they can think clearer and are less hard on themselves. 

The question of how social media affects teenagers is complex. Since there are many ways that it can be helpful but also harmful. Overall we need to find some balance for the teen so that they don’t get over consumed but are able to take some of the positives of the digital world we live in. 

About the author 

Donna Novak, Psy.D. 

Simi Valley Psychologist Dr. Donna Novak

I specialize in working with anxiety and in helping adolescents and their families, adults, and couples better their relationships and find direction. Rather than shy away from the tough stuff in life, I prefer to face it head-on, together. I believe that challenges are part of being human and that everyone has the potential to become their own life’s navigator. So they never have to feel out of control or at the mercy of their circumstances. Learn more

Therapy services offered at Simi Psychological Group 

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At our Simi Valley therapy practice we offer Child therapy and family counseling, Teen therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Neuropsychological Testing