• September 1, 2016

Online communities have become an essential part of our adolescents’ lives and could have a direct impact on their mental health. Today, our teens are exposed to thousands of indirect attacks on self-esteem via written messages, pictures, videos, and the like via social networking sites (SNSs). Social media provides distance and anonymity to individuals who like to utilize it as a means of communication with the sole intent to do harm. According to the article How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers | Child Mind Institute, Rachel Ehmke reports that “experts worry that the social media and text messages that have become so integral to teenage life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem.” Cruel and short “punch” lines used to demean and humiliate are the aggressor’s weapon of choice to attack others’ identity, individuality, and other aspects of the victim’s personality. Perpetrators are aware of the short time span they will be allowed in the vast cosmos of competitive social networking; therefore, they use pictures, shocking posts, and simple, short, and concise “punch” lines that will take a moment to read but will have a major impact on many unsuspecting SNS participants.  A concise “punch” line will be enough to cause irreparable damage, such as depression, anxiety or stress and the issue pleads for Behavioral Health Care solutions that counteract the negative effect these attacks have on our adolescents’ emotional wellbeing, such as low self-esteem and anxiety issues.

Unfortunately, our cyber-connected teens see social media as the best source of connection and belonging to a particular social group, clique, or interest and letting go of this new channel of communication is not seen as an option. Although social media channels provide our adolescents with greater social assets, this type of social interaction may not always provide the belonging and connection our adolescents are desperately seeking. Studies show that use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media channels may be related to adolescent low self-esteem and high anxiety symptoms.

Tracking Your Child’s Self-Esteem

According to YoungMinds, a U.K. charity dedicated to improving emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people, children with low self-esteem display behaviours such as negative self-image, finding it hard to keep friendships, inability to deal with failure, tendency to put themselves down, lack of pride in their achievements, and constantly comparing themselves to peers in a negative way, thus paving the way to the need for mental health counselling.

YoungMinds also sustains that “children and young people with low self-esteem are more at risk of developing depression, anxiety, self-harming and other mental health problemsas they struggle to grow into adulthood, and will often find the ups and downs of life in general harder to get through.”

Parents must identify and address unhealthy levels of low self-esteem and anxiety before they affect the child’s level of functioning at school and within their social environment.  Although working on improving a child’s self-esteem may prove itself difficult, parents must address the issue before it becomes a barrier to the child’s success in life and social functioning. Addressing children’s self-esteem may entail staying abreast of the latest trends in social networking, identifying the concerning low esteem behaviors in children, and developing unconventional strategies to prevent that children internalize the “punch” lines that are wrecking their teen’s self-worth.

Tackling Your Teen’s Self Esteem

In an article published by the Child Development Institute (CDI), Self-esteem: How to Help Children & Teens Develop a Positive Self Image, the agency noted the importance of self talk to improve self-esteem. According to the CDI, it is important to “teach your child to practice making positive self-statements. Self-talk is very important in everything we do. Psychologists and Mental Health Care providers have found that negative self-talk is behind depression and anxiety. What we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave. Consequently, it is important to teach children to be positive about how they talk to themselves. “

Parents’ Role

Parental involvement is critical to counteract the negative effects social media may have on their teen’s self-esteem. Social media is notorious for feeding social stereotypes related to race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities, to name a few. It is important to point out to our adolescents that, what is amusing for some individuals, for many on their list of friends will feel like an attack to their identity, self-worth, and self-esteem.

One way of approaching the subject with your adolescents is addressing the subject without making use of shame or critical statements. Beginning your conversation with current trends and not with “in my time” may be more effective or welcomed by your teens. Clarify that it is important to question other people’s beliefs, values, and behaviors to avoid negative effects on their self-worth. It is significantly important for parents to emphasize to their adolescent children that it is their decision to accept or reject the damage.

Approach with Caution

Approach the topic with caution and with the realization that social media is an unavoidable and essential part of your teen’s life.

At first, it is not going to be easy for parents to engage their children in open conversation about how social media affects their self-esteem. Awareness of context, communication style, and timing is critical when communicating with adolescents. Parents must be fully aware of their child’s personality and identify the best approach for dealing with the topic of preservation of self-esteem with their adolescent children. Most importantly, parents must build a relationship of trust and understanding with their teens. Maintaining wise communication to address teens’ self-esteem is more effective than making unattainable threats such as denying your children access to social media. Pinpointing teens’ accomplishments and personality traits will help them identify the actual source of self-worth.

If you have a teenager at home suffering from anxiety or depression caused by low-self esteem, click here to learn more about our Behavioral Health services and how to meet with one of our Mental Health Counsellors.