At Ascend Healthcare, we’re the behavioral health specialists that can help you figure out what’s going on with your teen. Learn more about social media addiction’s effects on your child today.
Is Social Media Actually Addictive?
In a clinical setting, addiction refers to the way alcohol and drugs change your brain chemistry. While device usage and social media do stimulate the same areas of the brain as these substances, no lasting physical changes occur. Because of this distinction, social media usage and device mismanagement are considered habit-forming rather than clinically addictive. While technical terminology is important, many people refer to the habit-forming use of social media as addictive.
Why Does Social Media Lead to Device Misuse?
Social media sites and apps are compelling by design. Receiving likes, comments, and other notifications can light up the brain’s reward centers, producing a small rush of dopamine. Posting something that might receive a great deal of attention can be exhilarating for anyone, let alone a teenager. Social media and teen mental health are linked because the feelings of pleasure you get from using these apps can be habit-forming, much like other substances that produce dopamine like opiates, alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine.
Other Habit-Forming Features in Apps
How else can social media lead to device misuse? Recent changes to the newsfeed of the most popular social media sites make it harder to know when to stop scrolling. Instagram changed its feed in 2016 from a reverse-chronological order, which showed the newest posts first, to an algorithm based on what individual users are most likely to interact with. This makes it challenging to find a stopping point. Developers design these apps to keep users scrolling, interacting, and posting for as long as possible.
Social Media as an Outlet
Social media and teen mental health are also linked because some teens may use social media as an outlet for stress, loneliness, or mental health issues. Teens who are struggling socially might make friends or find community through compelling social media apps. While this isn’t always negative, relying on virtual connection and interaction at the cost of real-life relationships or responsibilities can be dangerous.
How Social Media Impacts Teen Mental Health
In addition to being habit-forming, social media use is often linked to low self-esteem and other mental health issues. When sharing about their lives, many people tend to share only the most excited and important moments. They’ll exclusively post about their successes while omitting their struggles. For teens who are navigating the pressures of school, friendships, and their future goals, seeing the filtered and edited online personas of others can lead to anxiety and lower their feelings of self-worth.
Signs of Device Misuse
You think you see the signs of social media addiction’s effects, but you aren’t sure. If you’re concerned about your teen’s use of social media, look for the following signs of social media or device misuse:
- They can’t seem to put their phone down and would spend all of their time on social media if possible.
- They have tried to stop using social media in the past but have not been successful.
- They have trouble completing their responsibilities at school or home as a result of their social media use.
- They hide their behavior and use of social media from you.
At Ascend Healthcare, we offer mental health treatment programs for gaming and device management that are designed to help teens thrive. We’re here to help guide your child towards better coping mechanisms, build their self-esteem, and ensure continuing mental health.
Contact Ascend Healthcare for Treatment for Teens
Like with many addictive substances, you should talk to your teen about social media and device misuse and how it can affect their lives. If it’s too late to help your teen break away from the negative social media cycle, it may be time to reach out to Ascend. Speak with our team about how social media affects your teen’s mental health and start the admissions process today.