As adults witness the rising tides of teenaged anxiety, it’s tough not to notice a common thread that runs through the epidemic — something that past generations never dealt with. Clutched in the hand of nearly every teen is a smartphone, buzzing and beeping and blinking with social media notifications.
Parents, all too often, just want to grab their teen’s phone and stuff it in a drawer. But is social media and the omnipresence of digital interactions really the cause of all this anxiety?
The short answer is: It’s complicated.
Recent studies have noted a significant uptick in depression and suicidal thoughts over the past several years for teens, especially those who spend multiple hours a day using screens, and especially girls. But many of the pressures teenagers feel from social media are actually consistent with developmentally normal concerns around social standing and self-expression. Social media can certainly exacerbate these anxieties, but for parents to truly help their children cope, they should avoid making a blanket condemnation. Instead, parents should tailor their approach to the individual, learning where a particular child's stressors lie and how that child can best gain control of this alluring, powerful way to connect with peers.