Social media-related stress may ramp up for teens this holiday season
While you're stressing out about last-minute gift shopping and making sure the house is ready to handle a carousel of visitors, keep in mind the holidays also may be stressful for your teenage child — in a way you never had to worry about as a kid.
Social media-related anxiety among teens could be heightened during the holiday season, according to Rutgers-Camden psychology expert Charlotte Markey. Many young people "are living for what they will post later," she said, and the pressure to present their lives and selves in a favorable light could ramp up during the last week or so of the year.
"This sense of needing to present themselves as having a wonderful holiday can sort of up the ante," Markey, a body image researcher, told New Jersey 101.5.
Around the holidays, she added, there's a greater emphasis on taking pictures. Many teens, meanwhile, feel the need to share said pictures through apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
And while on a break from school, teens have more free time to post, and may use social media as their primary means of interacting, she said.
"Whether they are opening gifts, doing fun things, or meeting up with friends and family, taking and posting pictures is what everyone does," Markey said of teenagers. "But with that comes a heightened awareness of how they are being viewed and the added pressures to present themselves favorably."
Kids won't police themselves
Perhaps the perfect gift for your kids, Markey said, would be to get them off social media for the holiday season. But she understands that seemingly impossible quest can easily backfire.
"I don't think that social media is inherently terrible. A lot of people use it to a positive end," Markey said. "I just think that teens are going to be a little more vulnerable to some of the negatives associated with social media."
So in order tor avoid a scenario in which social media is a nagging source of stress on teens, she said, parents can set boundaries on when and where it is okay to check their social media feeds or incoming messages — no phones at the dinner table or during the gift exchange, for example. Parents, she said, can emphasize the importance of just living in the moment with family and friends.
In addition, teens should be encouraged to get rid of "bad" online influences — those who make them feel inadequate, for example — and to follow positive influences on social media. Markey said parents should teach kids to be "careful of comparisons" — kids can easily feel inferior when comparing their lives to the highlight reels of others' lives, especially celebrities.
"Teens need guidance. They may say they don't, or they don't want it, but they need guidance," Markey said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.