How to Help Your Teen Cope With Anxiety and Social Media Pressures

We live in a time when anxiety is spreading like an epidemic among teenagers. Anxiety can be difficult for most people, but a teenager can find it especially hard to deal with due to hormonal changes, peer pressure, and the added stress of their phones constantly buzzing and pinging with social media notifications.

Key takeaways:
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    The majority of teenagers feel anxious at times.
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    Research shows that the more time a young person spends on social media, the more likely they are to have a mental health issue like anxiety, loneliness, and despair.
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    Anxiety is a natural response to adolescent challenges.
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    You can help your child deal with anxiety by talking to them, spending quality time with them, and teaching them appropriate boundaries.
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    If your teen is displaying symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek professional support from your GP or school counselors.

In this article, we examine strategies for assisting teenagers in managing their anxieties, developing resilience, and coping with the pressures of social media.

Anxiety is common in teenagers

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one-third of teenagers (aged 13–18) have experienced some sort of anxiety problem. It is important to recognize the signs of anxiety in your teenage child to guarantee that they receive the necessary assistance if needed. Fortunately, anxiety disorder is a treatable condition, and with the correct support and improvement, your child can flourish throughout adolescence.

Signs of anxiety in teenagers

The teenage years are often when we feel the most self-conscious. Your teenager could have worries such as: what will my friends think of me, will I be laughed at if I wear that, or why did I not get any likes on that IG post?

Some of the following are examples of signs and symptoms that may point to anxiety in a teen:

  • Academic performance drops sharply for no obvious reason.
  • Bad moods last longer than a couple of weeks.
  • Persistent worrying thoughts that they can't control.
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy.
  • Trouble concentrating at school or at home.
  • Overly irritable.
  • Isolating from friends and family.
  • Staying on their phones late into the night.
  • Feeling tired throughout the day.

You should also keep an eye out for physical signs of anxiety, such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to sleep
  • Bedwetting
  • Disturbing, persistent nightmares

When anxiety is persistent and severe, it can develop into an anxiety disorder. Typically, people with anxiety disorders respond well to professional help. The sooner anxiety problems are dealt with, the less likely it is that they will have long-term effects on a teen's mental health and development.

Social media and teen anxiety

Studies have shown a rise in teen insomnia, loneliness, anxiety, and addiction since the first iPhone came out. We've all heard stories of adolescents being driven to tears by social media's continual contact and comparisons. As a result, teens who spend over five hours a day on social media are at higher risk of developing mental health issues.

Children are now getting near-constant feedback on their attractiveness and degree of likability through their “likes” and "follows." In so many cases, this may be traced back, at least in part, to excessive usage of social media platforms like WhatsApp, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Social media triggers

Some of the pressures brought on by social media include:

  • Not being invited to events that others are posting about.
  • Pressure to post attractive and appealing images.
  • Pressure to get comments and likes on postings.
  • Nasty or abusive comments that they have no control over.
  • Pressure to respond immediately or risk rejection from friends.

The best ways to deal with social media

It is important to tailor your approach to the individual needs of each child. Teenagers need a range of different types of digital support in the same way that they require social support from their parents. If your teen seems agitated or overstimulated by social media, pay close attention to what is triggering those emotions.

Talk to your child about what's going on in a sensitive, empathic manner. It's understandable to want to shout at them, but this will only bring up defenses and resistance. Parents can and should offer their teens support and problem-solving assistance, but they should also recognize how difficult these situations can be. Therefore, here are some strategies for helping you deal with a teenager who is suffering from anxiety or social media pressures:

  • Resist the urge to take away their phone as a first option.
  • Negotiate screen-free times, such as an hour after homework, during the morning commute to school, on the odd screen-free weekend, or for longer periods like summer camp and other school breaks.
  • Train teenagers to pay attention to "red flag" feelings: the gut sensation that something is (or might be) amiss.
  • If they are helping fragile friends, they will need assistance in establishing boundaries that are respectful to their friendships and themselves.
  • Set a positive example with how you use your own devices.
  • Maintain an open dialogue — in which both parties are heard.

The best outcome is for your child to learn to unplug on their own so that they can learn to manage their social interactions both with and through technology, which is a life skill that we can all learn.

Helping your teen manage anxious feelings

Learning to manage anxiety is an important life skill that can help your child learn. Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage your child to talk about their fears and anxieties. Talking and listening help you understand what’s going on for your child. In addition, when you understand, you’re better able to help your child manage anxieties or find solutions to problems.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Your teens' anxiety is very real for them, even if you know the problem they feel anxious about probably will never happen. It is therefore important to acknowledge their feelings and tell them you believe in them and their ability to get through it.
  • Develop your empathy. The ability to "self-soothe" under stressful circumstances is enhanced when parents show empathy and sensitivity toward their children's emotions.
  • Encourage them to use positive self-talk. Such as "I can manage this," I can fight this”.
  • Teach them self-compassion affirmations. For example, “It's okay to be upset,” “Everyone gets upset sometimes,” or “I don’t have to be perfect. No one is.”.
  • Affirm them for tackling an issue that is causing them anxiety.
  • Spend quality fun time with your child.
  • Develop family routines such as mealtimes or evenings when the family sits together to watch a movie.

Your child may be hesitant to open up to you about how they are feeling. They may act defensively and retreat in an attempt to hide their feelings, or they may insist that nothing is wrong. If that's the case, you could refer them to their school counselor or even a trusted or favorite relative. Take your adolescent child to the doctor if symptoms persist. Your GP will refer you to a qualified professional.

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