The Rising Tide of Teenage Anxiety

In today’s fast-paced, hyperconnected world, teenagers face a unique set of challenges that contribute to the rise in anxiety. Compared to our past teenage experiences, today’s generation’s concerns are far more complicated. What are these anxieties?

Social media pressures

Academic demands

Uncertain prospects

The ever-present fear of missing out (FOMO)

If you would think about it, the last three factors are pretty much the same anxieties we had back then. Should be easy to handle. But, these kids being the digital natives they are, create a perfect storm that often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And thanks to social media, these anxieties are magnified 100x. Dare I say, Social Media is the culprit? Yes, I would. The impact of these anxieties on teenage mental health is essential in understanding the full extent of the anxiety epidemic.

95% of all teens are now online. They may encounter judgement, criticism, and targeted attacks on social media platforms – a breeding ground for cyberbullying and online harassment. Their mental health may suffer as a result of feeling confined and scared, fear of humiliation in front of others, or pressure to conform to society’s expectations.

Recognising these instances of social media pressure and comprehending how they affect our kids’ mental health is important.

We can:

Assist teenagers in navigating social media in a more constructive and resilient way by:

Encouraging open dialogue

Advancing digital literacy, and

Supporting healthy online behaviours.

Here are several social media networks that parents should be aware of:

  1. Instagram: Instagram is a visually-focused platform where users share photos and videos. Its emphasis on appearance, filtered images, and carefully curated content can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and body image concerns. The constant exposure to picture-perfect lifestyles and the pressure to gain likes and followers can heighten comparison and self-esteem issues.
  2. Snapchat: Snapchat is known for its temporary photo and video-sharing feature. It promotes a culture of real-time updates and “streaks,” where users try to maintain a continuous exchange of messages. This constant need to be available, respond promptly, and present an exciting lifestyle can create anxiety and fear of missing out if teenagers feel pressured to stay connected 24/7.
  3. TikTok: TikTok is a popular short-form video platform where users can create and share content. While it can be a source of entertainment and creativity, the algorithm-driven nature of the platform can lead to addictive scrolling behaviours. Spending excessive time on TikTok, along with the pressure to create viral content, can impact productivity, and sleep patterns, and contribute to anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
  4. Facebook: Although Facebook has a diverse user base, it can still play a role in teenage anxiety. The platform’s focus on social connections, accumulating friends, and comparing one’s life to others can create feelings of self-doubt and social pressure. Additionally, exposure to negative news or contentious discussions on the platform can contribute to anxiety and emotional distress.
  5. Discord: A communication platform designed for communities to connect and engage through voice, video, and text chats. Within Discord communities, teenagers may compare their achievements, interests, or skills to those of their peers. Seeing others’ accomplishments or talents can trigger feelings of inadequacy and lower self-esteem. Additionally, constant exposure to individuals with similar interests or skills may lead to heightened competition and performance anxiety.

I was browsing Facebook one day, and at that time, I did not notice that my daughter was also in our room. She heard some “terrible” noises coming from my phone and said, “Mommy, why are you watching that?” It wasn’t anything major, but I never imagined the sound she was hearing was a touch excessive that made her react that way. I felt humiliated. However, it was a good sign of my daughter’s vigilance to Facebook content.

Remember that when you established that you have a healthier relationship with social media, it may result from equipping your kids with the skills to critically assess content, put mental health first, and foster sincere connections.

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