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How to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Written by: Veronica Renderos, LMSW, Clinical review by: Jacqueline Mitchell, LMSW

Throughout the years, social media has grown significantly, especially in the past decade, leading people to spend more time online. Today, many people, including teenagers, rely on social media daily to connect with friends and family and for entertainment. Beyond these connections, social media is now used to share creativity, health tips, beauty advice, culture, and to learn about others. However, social media can also have a negative effect on teens’ well-being.

During adolescence, part of development involves exploring identity and self-perception. Self-image plays a significant role during this phase, forming the basis for self-esteem. On social media, receiving likes and comments has become a primary source of self-esteem among teens. While connecting with others can be positive, teens often have negative experiences online. Cyberbullying and peer pressure can severely impact how they view and think of themselves.

As a parent, you may be increasingly concerned about your teen’s extensive use of social media and its impact on their self-esteem. Research has shown that prolonged social media use can increase issues with depression and anxiety. Social media content can also misinform teens about body image and health, leading to unhealthy behaviors. Many teens rely on posting online as a norm of social acceptance, which can further lead to poor self-esteem. It is important for parents to be aware of these factors and teach their teens to use social media responsibly.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I know the signs and what can I do to intervene?” Below, we outline the signs and red flags to look out for, along with tips to support your teen through self-esteem challenges.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem for Parents to Look Out For

According to studies, depression is one of the leading indicators of low self-esteem. Look out for behavior changes that are out of the norm and disrupt daily routines. Here are some common signs expressed by teens:

  1. Isolation: While some isolation is normal during adolescence, it becomes concerning if a teen stops communicating or engaging with family or friends. Persistent isolation is a red flag.
  2. Excessive use of technology: Teens may use their phones or other devices excessively, leading to less sleep and trouble focusing on priorities. Teens need about 8 hours of sleep; lack of sleep can cause more depression and anxiety.
  3. Anger: Increased anger, aggression, or frequent anger episodes that are out of the ordinary can be responses to high stress or negative experiences on social media.
  4. Appetite changes: Concerns about body image can lead to skipping meals or significant changes in weight, potentially resulting in eating disorders. Social media can misinform teens on healthy body care.
  5. Self-harm or suicidal thoughts: Look out for statements expressing hopelessness, plans of self-harm, isolation from loved ones, and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Immediate action, such as getting them evaluated at a local crisis unit or hospital, is crucial.
  6. School issues: Avoiding school, skipping classes, poor attendance, or declining grades are signs of low self-esteem.

Recognizing these signs is the first step to supporting your teen. The next step is considering mental health services such as therapy. Therapy allows teens to openly express their experiences and emotions. Additionally, parents receive support in intervening in their teen’s self-esteem challenges.

How to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Child’s Self-Esteem

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about all forms of social media and how they function. Pay attention to online trends that could impact your teen. Understand how to filter or block harmful content.
  2. Initiate frequent check-ins: Regular conversations about your teen’s emotional well-being can increase trust and help you stay aware of their issues, enabling effective problem-solving.
  3. Practice empathy and active listening: Teens want to be heard without judgment. Practice active listening by paraphrasing what your teen says and validating their emotions.
  4. Encourage positive influence: Help your teen identify positive influencers and content that bring motivation and joy. Use tools to block harmful accounts and limit negative content on their social media feeds.
  5. Limit online time and device use: Discuss the pros and cons of online overuse with your teen. Work together to create a plan with agreed time limits and healthy routines for shutting down devices.

It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Social media presents challenges to many teens, but help is available. Mental health treatment is a great option for addressing these challenges. At Backpack Healthcare, we provide a safe space for adolescents to understand and work through their issues. With the right support and resources, teens can navigate social media in healthier ways than before.



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