Many teenagers report using social media almost constantly, which makes parents ask what qualifies as too much? Overuse can be quantified as having a negative impact on your teen’s daily life. The following are four factors you should look out for as a parent so you can warn your teen if they seem to be getting too attached to social media.
Addiction to social media is a clear sign of overuse. If your teen is on social media because they feel like something is wrong when they can’t check their accounts for updates, it could be a sign of addiction. Your teen should be able to go without social media for a while without feeling withdrawal. Another sign of addiction is if your teen doesn’t have time to do their work, see friends, or engage in other hobbies due to their social media use. When it starts to take over other critical aspects of your teen’s life, it might be time to consider a cutting back. Otherwise, your teen will continue to prioritize their digital life over developing other parts of their life.
- Lack of Physical Awareness
Some teenagers become so engaged in the social media lives, they start to ignore the world around them. If your teen frequently loses track of time, walks into people or objects, or can’t hear when others address them, they might be overusing their devices to access social media. This detrimental effect on your teen’s attention means they are having trouble disconnecting and being present. If they don’t seem to be aware of their physical environment, you might suggest setting some boundaries on your teen’s usage.
- Lack of Socializing in Person
If your teen’s socializing on social media replaces socializing in person, they might be overusing. This is considered overuse because face-to-face interactions are crucial for developing social skills. Your teen might miss out on various learning experiences with social context, understanding emotions, and reading body language if they only socialize online. This could put your teen at a disadvantage for relating to others and forming close relationships outside of a digital community. Plus, teens that can’t find healthy ways to express themselves bottle up their emotions or let them out in harmful ways, both of which increase their chance of risky behavior.
- Sleep Deprivation
Your teen might be up late at night and losing sleep because of social media. If your teen is using social media up until the point they go to bed, it qualifies as overuse. This is because the brain needs to unwind before bed and using social media exposes your teen to blue light and a highly stimulating environment, both of which reduce the release of the sleep-inducing molecule, melatonin. In addition to preventing your teen from feeling as tired, your teen might stay up late using social media to stay caught up on content. If you notice your teen is slow during the day, try to get your teen to put away the social media before bed so they aren’t overusing.
These signs of overuse might not be apparent at first, but if your teen shows a pattern of these behaviors, it could be a sign that they should reduce their social media use. You might consider using parental controls to restrict certain access. It helps to know what to look for so you can encourage your teen to find other parts of their life to invest in for a healthier future.
These signs of overuse might not be apparent at first, but look for a pattern of these four behaviors. It could indicate that they should seriously cut back.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.