Social media is a great resource that makes it possible to keep up with what loved ones are doing. In the best-case scenario, this form of interaction has the potential to strengthen relationships and provide opportunities for people to plan events that draw them together.
The down side of social media is that it can become such a major part of our lives that it begins to interfere with the process of living. Anyone, including teenagers, can become so addicted to social media sites that they begin to let lift slip by. Here are some of the more common signs that your teen is hooked on social media and is in danger of sinking deeper into social media addiction.
1. Your Teen is Unusually Concerned about the Number of Follows or Online Friends
One of the first signs that your teen may be spending a little too much time on social media platforms and developing a social media addiction is a preoccupation with the number of people who are following or friending them on different sites. While everyone enjoys making contact with others through any medium, those with a more balanced approach to social media tend to be more concerned with the quality of the interactions and not the quantity of people on their lists.
If you notice that your teen agonizes over the fact that someone unfriends him or her, doesn’t respond to a friend request, or gets upset when someone unfollows his or her posts, that is a sign of a problem.
You should also be concerned if your teen is upset because one of their other friends has more online friends or followers. Social media is not intended to be a competition. In the best-case scenario, it’s a way to connect with people you want to stay in touch with. If it’s become a numbers game rather than a way to keep in touch, there is a definite problem.
2. Your Teen is Sharing Too Much Information
While everyone likes to share a little of what they are doing by posting an image or checking in before a movie or a meal out, most people only do this type of thing a few times a week. A teenager who feels the need to check in and share what is happening right this minute several times a day is well on the road to a social media addiction. There may be several motivations for this over sharing, but none of them happen to be constructive.
3. Getting Involved in Every Conversation
A teen who is getting too wrapped up in social media finds it difficult to let any post go without some type of interaction. It may be liking the post, posting a quick comment, or getting into an involved conversation on some innocuous subject. Most people with a more balanced use of social media sites will comment or like something now and then, and may even share a funny meme or a recipe with their other friends. When it becomes almost a necessity to have something to say about every post in a timeline, there’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.
4. Your Teen is Tagging Everyone
It’s one thing to tag a friend when he or she happens to be in a photograph that your teen is posting on a timeline or respond to a comment in a conversation by tagging another person who is also involved in the discussion. Things are getting out of hand when your teenager is tagging people who have nothing to do with what is being posted and who are not likely to have the slightest interest in the topic.
5. Social Media Accounts Must Be Checked Before Breakfast
If upon waking up the first thing your teen does is reach for the smartphone and find out what he or she missed during the night, he or she might have a social media addiction. In a way, it’s almost like a smoker who must have a cigarette before getting out of bed in the morning. Until the teen checks to see what posts have been shared, how many people liked that final post from last night, and who has a birthday today, nothing else will get done.
6. It’s Awful When No One Reacts to a Post
Many people who use social media read posts but never get around to liking or otherwise indicating that they have read those posts. It’s just the way they choose to use the medium. If your teen feels hurt or discouraged because no one liked or commented on a post and allows those feelings to ruin the entire day, it’s time for some kind of intervention.
7. Having a Meltdown When a Site is Unavailable
The world does not come to an end for most people when a social media site is temporarily unavailable. For the teen who is obsessed with sharing information and reading what others are up to, the minutes or hours when a site is down can be sheer agony. The teen with an addiction honestly does not know how to deal with the temporary separation and may find it impossible to figure out a way to manage until the site is up again.
8. Neglecting Friends in Real Time
If your teen prefers to interact with people in an online setting rather than go out and enjoy activities with friends or family members, there is definite an addiction. People with a healthy life balance understand that while social media is wonderful it cannot replace spending time with people in the here and now. Someone who would pass up a chance to go to a movie, a sporting event, or out to dinner to stay home and browse social media sites needs help before things can get any worse and develop into a social media addiction.
In addition to the signs listed above, there are other various signs of a social media addiction which signal that your teen is getting a little too involved with social media. As the parent, part of your responsibility is to be on the lookout for behavior patterns that ultimately harm your child’s self-confidence and limit the ability to interact with others in the real world. Even if your teenager does not exhibit all of these symptoms, take the time to sit down for a serious talk. It could be time to seek out a counselor and help your teen regain some balance between what’s happening online and what’s going on in the real world.