The Sandringham clinical psychologists helping teens navigate the difficult social media landscape

April 9, 2019

In recent times our Sandringham-based clinical psychologists have noticed an increase in the amount of teens struggling to separate themselves from social media, often blurring the lines between their digital self, life in school and life at home.

Navigating the complex social structures of a school can be extremely stressful. Friendship politics and bullying are commonplace, and young people’s bodies start to grow and change in surprising and confronting ways.

Hormones start influencing moods and behaviour, and the pressure to conform takes on a whole new physical level. We’ve all been through it. But what we may not have experienced is all this, with the added pressure of having to deal with the alternate universe of social media.

It’s not all bad

Social media, at its most basic level, allows people to connect. Teens with social anxiety, or who might not have the same opportunities to connect with other teens for whatever reason, are allowed access to a world in which genuine friendship might be made. Particularly for teens in marginalised groups, such as LGBTQ+ teens, can find connection that can sometimes be vital to prevent them from living in isolation.

The pitfalls

The downside is when teens start becoming desperate for “likes” on their photos, and deriving their self worth directly through this online recognition, or get stuck constantly making comparisons between themselves and the presentation of others’ lives.

It’s easy to know that online profiles do not represent the entirety of a person’s life, but it’s much harder to avoid making constant comparisons on everything from physical appearance to perceived life success. And then there is cyberbullying, which can be every bit as harmful as the face-to-face version and can continue well beyond school hours.

There are less visible effects, as well. Decreasing the amount of human connection young people receive can impact on their development of social skills, which require daily practice even as a teenager. Developing important traits such as empathy and compassion can be difficult for someone whose connection to other people is mainly done online.

Social media can heighten the pressures of being a teenager, making them seem inescapable. This intensification can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep issues, or other mental health concerns.

At Reflection Psychology, our Sandringham clinical psychologists are experienced in therapies for children and teenagers, and can help them develop strategies for coping with whatever pressures they are facing.