Finding Identity Beyond Social Media

Teen life today involves more social media now than ever. Research finds that 94 percent of teens go online daily, and 74 percent of teens use more than one social platform. While social media creates connections in creative, fun ways (think: Snapchat face filters!), it also has many risks. Teens are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying, isolation, perfectionism and comparison on social media. You as a parent play a vital role in helping your child navigate social media and identity.

Here are three ways to help your teen cultivate identity beyond social platforms:

Help your teen set boundaries

Boundaries are critical for teen social media usage. When you develop boundaries for social media, be sure you and your teen do it together, as a team. Ensure the boundaries are centered on love. “Rules are fear-based, but boundaries and guidelines are more relational,” says Julie Faddis, Assistant Clinical Director at Shelterwood. “If you and your teen are struggling to have open communication, work on solidifying the foundation of trust and forming that positive relationship.”

When your teen establishes boundaries around screen time, they have more time to cultivate offline interests. Boundaries free up time to build relationships, stay active in their hobbies and serve in the community. Help your teen create realistic boundaries and then follow through with love and consistent reinforcement. Read more on how to help your teen set boundaries here.

Help your teen build a support system

Teens may be connected to hundreds of “friends” digitally, but they also need in-person community. Research shows that more social media time can lead to isolation and loneliness. Help your teen expand their circle, so they know they have a network of people who love and trust them beyond their screen.

Create opportunities for your teen to further engage with people who could be a positive influence. Support systems connect your teen to meaningful relationships beyond your family. Your teen can learn his or her value as a person beyond the image projected on social media. Read more on how to help your teen build a support system here.

Be aware of warning signs of technology addiction

Technology addiction is a growing concern for teens, particularly on social media. Addiction can be defined as someone engaging in a behavior that is repetitive, and that person has lost control over that repetitive behavior, says Ken DeBlock, Shelterwood’s Director of Substance Abuse and Recovery. Social media is marketed and designed to engage teens for a long period of time.

“It is a fundamental principle that people need connection,” Ken says. “Yet these devices provide a very different type of connection. Connection to other people is not through personal experiences but through this online resource. This makes it easier for teens to project who they want to be and how they want to feel. There are many more opportunities to be inauthentic. These platforms center on a controlled environment that is easier to dictate than actual life.” Read more about how to help your teen with their screen time, and how to tell if your teen may have an unhealthy relationship with technology here.

Utilize these three tips to support your teen’s healthy social media usage. If you’re concerned about your teen’s technology usage, consider Shelterwood. At Shelterwood, we offer real hope, real heart change and real restoration for struggling teens. We are committed to bringing heart change to teenagers and restoration to families. Connect with admissions today: 866.585.8939.