Let’s face it- teens are not known for their wonderful decision making skills. Adolescence is a time where hormones rage and the brain undergoes a surge of growth. These ripe conditions create the perfect storm for moody and impulsive teenagers.
Historically, a lot of bad choices have been blamed on a teen’s lack of sound judgement. In modern times, we have charged the atmosphere by adding social media to their environment. Now, our teens are caught in a turbulent cycle of ups and downs all being recorded on the internet.
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In the storms of life, a lot of factors influence what direction we take. It’s important to pause and consider how social media is affecting teenagers’ brain development and decision making skills.We need to be aware of some of the common danger signs to watch for and when we should be worried that our child is heading for trouble. The last thing parents is to send children into a brewing storm completely unprepared.
There are a multitude of elements working inside the brain of a teenager when it comes to making good decisions.These include cognitive, psychological, social, cultural, and societal factors. Research has found that adolescents find it more difficult to control impulsive behaviors if they are with their peers or if high emotions are involved.
Most teenagers want to be accepted by their peers and desire to belong to the group. This group mentality makes it difficult to predict a teen’s influence by social media. Jumping on the bandwagon for cyber bullying and inappropriate sharing of images may be hard to resist when group mentality streams in and starts to brew up trouble.
Social media has the power to influence a teen’s decision making skills by connecting them to their peers. Teenagers are able to be connected 24 hours a day to social media, allowing them constant exposure to carefully molded profiles that project perfected images. Social media has been known to produce anxiety and low self-esteem problems in teenagers and adults. People, especially teenagers, work feverishly on maintaining their reputation on social media.
The constant connectivity and peer pressure can place a lot of stress on a teen. According to Dr. Donna Wick, a clinical and developmental psychologist, children never get a break from the social media and that produces anxiety. She feels everybody needs “a respite from the demands of intimacy and connection; time alone to regroup, replenish and just chill out”.
Unplugging for certain periods during the day may benefit brain development. Research has proven that rapid paced television programming affects children’s ability to focus and complete tasks. However, given the recent onslaught of social media, there is little data to examine regarding social media’s effects on brain development. Parents need to recognize that updates and comments create a very intense and fast paced environment that is similar to fast paced television programming. A person could conclude that social media might produce similar results in brain function.
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Social media can damage and inflict chaos on teenagers, but social media can also be used for good. Teenagers are able to access a world of ideas and knowledge where they are able to develop friendships with people who share similar interests and hobbies. Social media can also promote acceptance and tolerance to combat common teen problems like bullying, eating disorders, and social concerns.
It’s safe to say that social media is a lot like the weather. We can bask, enjoying the warmth and calm posts, but parents need to keep an eye on the changing social conditions. Social media can easily turn into a violent and scary situation.
As parents, we need to keep informed and monitor what teenagers are doing. We must realize that “just saying no” is not going to work and search for other alternatives to keep children safe. Open the line of communications and give children the tools they will need in life to protect themselves from a potential social media downpour.
Amy Williams is a journalist in Southern California. As a mom of two, social media is a constant force to be reckoned with and she finds that keeping open lines of communication is often the best way to keep a healthy balance at home.