Social Media, Teens, and Substance Abuse

Posted on September 23rd, 2015
Posted in Teens

Social media is big for teens. It’s a major way in which they interact with each other, and it can be positive. There are many downsides to social media use too, as many parents know, and substance abuse and mental health issues are two very important ones. Social media use can become obsessive in some teens and lead to a type of behavioral addiction. Cases of substance abuse as a result of peer pressure on social media sites are also on the rise. Parents need to know the risks of social media use and put limits in place to protect their teens.

Does Social Media Contribute to Excessive Drug and Alcohol Use?

Peer pressure has always played a big role in teens experimenting with drugs and alcohol. It’s natural for teens to want to fit in with their peers and also to want to take risks. These are normal aspects of growing up, but when drugs and alcohol are involved, that pressure and risk taking can have dangerous consequences.

We know that peer pressure is an important factor in substance abuse for teens, and social media is just another way to exert that pressure. Teens may brag online about drugs they have used, how much they drink, or they may dare their friends to do the same. With social media, many teens feel the pressure to fit in, both in the real world and online, and this can lead to excessive use of drugs and alcohol.

Is Social Media Dependence a Mental Health Issue?

Another concern for parents of teens is the connection between social media and mental health. Some teens become obsessed with using social media and spend way too much time keeping up with all their accounts. This behavior can become a type of addiction, and it can also be an important mental health issue. A teen may take her sense of self-esteem or self-worth from how many Facebook likes or retweets she gets. She may get depressed when she doesn’t get enough attention online. She may even experience online bullying.

If you are the parent of teens, you need to be aware of the risks of social media use. Teens face peer pressure, bullying, impending mental disorders and dependence on social media sites. The answer is not necessarily to ban social media, but to limit it and teach your teen about responsible use of these sites. Modeling is also important. Many parents use their devices compulsively. As a parent, you should limit not only your teen’s time online, but also your own so that you can demonstrate what responsible use of social media and handheld devices looks like. With you as a guide, your teen can learn to have a positive relationship with these online tools.

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