5 Main Signs Your Teen Is Addicted to Social Media

Social media can be a serious addiction that affects every facet of your family’s life. Learn the signs of addiction here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: There are signs to help parents identify social media addiction. This article outlines main signs and what parents can do about them.



Signs of Social Media Addiction

Parents often joke about how their kid is constantly glued to their smartphone, but for parents of teens with a social media addiction, this is no laughing matter. While you knew that most teens enjoy setting up profiles on Instagram and Facebook, you had no idea that it could become a serious issue that affects every facet of your family’s life. If you suspect that your teen has a social media addiction, ask yourself these questions to find out if they can benefit from a professional assessment and treatment.

Do They Check Their Accounts First Thing In the Morning?

Like many addictions, a teen who is unable to stop using social media will begin using their phone or laptop before they do anything else. Checking their accounts first thing in the morning is a sign that your teen is worried that they may miss out on something that happens overnight. In some cases, the problem may be so severe that you find them checking their social media accounts in the middle of the night.

Does Everything Have to Be Shared?

For a teen who is addicted to social media, events in their life do not seem real until they are shared across their various profiles. Your teen may need to snap a pic of every meal they eat, or they are constantly posting an update about what they are doing at the moment. While it is normal to share a few highlights, you should be worried if your child consistently posts even the most mundane events of their day.

Is Your Teen Neglecting Their Responsibilities?

The constant need to interact on social media cuts into your teen’s time, and the consequences eventually become noticeable to everyone. For example, your teen may stop doing their chores, or they may have a huge drop in their grades. If your teen has a job, then their manager may reprimand them for being on their phone when they are supposed to be working. Listen to the other adults in your child’s life as you watch for signs that your teen is struggling. When a teacher constantly takes up your child’s phone, it is likely that they were using it when they were supposed to be learning.

Do They Show Signs of Distress If They Cannot Access The Internet?

Most teens may groan if you take their phone away or decide to go on a vacation to a place where there is not cell service. However, a teen who has an addiction will exhibit an extreme emotional reaction, such as crying or begging and pleading to get back on social media. A teen with an addiction will also resort to other methods to access their social media profiles. For instance, your teen may try to use the library’s internet service to go on their accounts or use their friend’s cell phone.

Are They Being Bullied?

Bullying and social media addictions often go together, but this can take several different forms. While some teens use social media to boost their self-esteem after being bullied at school or in their neighborhood, other teens find that social media opens them up to online bullying. In either case, you need to watch for these signs that your child may be addicted to social media due to an issue with bullying:

  • Your teen seems depressed or overly happy after being on social media
  • Your teen has expressed anxiety about social situations such as lunch at school
  • Your teen no longer spends time with their former friends
  • Your teen self-harms or has another mental health issue such as depression

What Happens If Social Media Addiction Goes Untreated?

As a parent, it is sometimes tempting to brush off odd behaviors as just another teenager phase. You may originally think that your teen is just excited about being old enough to have a social media account, or you may feel like all of the kids are constantly on their electronic devices. Sadly, the overuse of social media has been linked to many different issues.

For instance, a study reported by CNN found that teens who use social media frequently have a higher risk of developing symptoms of ADHD. Constantly checking and updating statuses can eventually take a toll on your teen by rewiring their brain to seek instant gratification.

Teens who spend all of their time on social media also lose sight of who they are as a person. Social media filters and comments from others give teens a skewed view of who they are, or your teen may feel as though people only like them when they look like they are having the time of their life. Since interacting on social media often requires little more than sending a quick like or comment, teens also miss out on learning how to interact in face-to-face social situations.

In a worst case scenario, your teen could begin to see the effects of their addiction on their life. Kids who cannot stay off of social media may stop focusing on school, and it is common for teens with one type of addiction to also have an underlying mental health issue that needs treatment.

What Can I Do As a Parent to Help My Child End Their Addiction?

Your first instinct may be to take your teen’s electronics away and make them shut down their social media accounts. However, teens are very wily, and you can bet that they will find a way to regain access.

The best thing you can do for your teen right now is open up a conversation about their social media use, and begin to explore options for treating the addiction.

With professional treatment, your teen can learn why they need to use social media so frequently while also gaining coping skills such as developing new interests that make using their electronics less enticing.

When your teenager’s social media use spirals out of control, there is no need to lose heart. While it could just be a phase, you need to make sure. A professional assessment helps to identify addictions in teens, and there is help available if your teen needs assistance learning how to find joy in their normal daily activities again.

About the author
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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