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Lessons ‘The Social Dilemma’ Teaches Us About Our Teens

Netflix’s documentary “The Social Dilemma” has caused a stir across the country. Countless people are realizing, some for the first time, how much social media plays a role in our lives. Many people have known for a while that social media can be a bit of a time-suck, but this documentary has shown exactly why it steals our time and how much it can influence our everyday actions. Even more importantly, it has shown how detrimental teen social media use can be to teen self-worth.

For teens who struggle with resiliency, the ability to overcome the negative feelings that they get from too much of the time on social media can be especially difficult. This can lead to lowered self-esteem and increased feelings of depression. If this is the case for your teen, you might want to consider sending them to a residential treatment facility like Sundance Canyon Academy where they can experience a positive environment and have constant access to counselors.

If you haven’t watched “The Social Dilemma” yet, give it a shot — especially if you’re the parent of a teen or tween who likes to spend a lot of time on their smartphone. It highlights the way that social media companies vie for our attention. Unfortunately, social media companies’ methods of attention-grabbing are especially devious and destructive to teenagers. The apps were developed with adults in mind, but they are having the biggest impact on teens.

How does social media use affect teens?

As teens and tweens are spending more time interacting with one another through screens, they are spending less time interacting with people face to face. This is leading to an increase in feeling “awkward” when they have to interact with people in society and making it more difficult for them to develop meaningful friendships.

At that age, developing positive social connections is already difficult, and spending so much time on their phones is making it even more difficult. Many teens also lack the social skills necessary to make personal connections. They haven’t had to develop the ability to read social cues and communicate in person, and this leads to anxiety and self-doubt in social situations.

Not only that, but social media gives us the opportunity to present our best selves at all times. It’s easy to take a selfie and add filters to make every picture look good. Even when you’re not doing anything special, the right angle and background can make it look like you’re doing something fun and exciting. When teens log into social media apps, they only see what everyone else wants them to see. The messy moments and the hard moments aren’t shown — just the glamorous, perfectly curated moments.

When teens only see that their “friends” are having a great time and looking perfect, it can lead to sadness. Teen self-worth drops when they compare themselves to their friends, even more so when they compare themselves to fake versions of their friends.

How to counteract the negative effects of teen social media use

As a parent, there are a few things that you can do to help your teen overcome the negative effects of too much social media time. Here are a few “Social Dilemma” lessons for parents of teens and tweens:

  1. Talk to them. At first, this might be difficult. If your child already spends hours each day on their social media apps, they might not see anything wrong with it. Get them involved in the process of spending less time on social media and more time engaging in real-life activities.

  2. Monitor your child’s social media time. Knowing how much time they’re actually spending on social media can give you a glimpse into the hold that it might have on them. Discuss it with your child, and set boundaries around how much time they spend on social media.

  3. Encourage them to spend time doing physical activities without their phone. This could include joining a sports team or an outdoor club that gets them to interact with other teens in person and get some exercise. As they develop new skills, help them realize how much they’re accomplishing.

  4. Encourage them to stop comparing themselves to others. Even as adults, this can be very difficult. It’s easy to compare how we’re doing in life to what we see from others on social media. Teen self-worth is often based on comparisons with friends and other people at school. Let your teen know that social media posts aren’t the same as real life, and they are in control of their self-worth.

If your teen son struggles with his self-worth or self-esteem and doesn’t see his value in the world, consider sending him to a residential treatment center like Sundance Canyon Academy. Removing him from his present surroundings and giving him therapeutic intervention can help break the negative cycle that social media use can cause.

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