Is Instagram giving teenagers anxiety?

From looking at a friend’s Instagram account, I thought her daughter was having the best high school experience. Yesterday, my friend told me her daughter hates high school.

The conversation made me think about the “picture perfect” lives teenagers portray on Instagram and the stress it causes.  “Teenagers think everyone has a better life than they do,” my friend said to me. “It gives them anxiety.”

I am SO thankful I didn’t grow up in a time when I had to worry about my life being Instagram fabulous. It’s a lot of pressure to be so caught up in social media and it’s hard as a parent to watch our teenagers trying to handle it. Have you watched your teen take a photo again and again until they think they look good enough, and then, add a filter or two to make themselves look even better? The standard for how a teenager must look on Instagram is “perfect.”

I recently had a discussion with my son about how someone’s Instagram life may be different from his real life because most people only post the good stuff. I advised he take social media for what it is — a snapshot that doesn’t reflect the full reality. He shrugged as if I am a crazy mom, but I’m hoping a smidgen of what I said got through.

Teens Speak Up about Instagram

In a segment last week on The Today Show, a group of teen girls talked about the stressful nature of social media in their lives. They said they feel like they have to constantly be taking “super cute” pictures for Instagram, and they need to be checking their accounts all the time to see where their friends are and what they are doing. Keeping up on Instagram sounds really stressful.

I decided to ask a 13 year old girl if Instagram gives her stress. She didn’t even hesitate for a second before nodding her head yes.

She had two reasons why:

Reason one: It’s very stressful to see your friends together somewhere and you weren’t invited.

Reason two: There is a lot of pressure to post pictures that will get a lot of likes.

Teens are obsessed with Instagram

From my 17-year-old son’s tech habits, I have seen how Instagram is a huge part of his social life. It’s definitely a way to connect with other teens and share life’s happenings with friends, which can be a good thing. Unfortunately Instagram also is a huge addiction. My son and I argue all the time when his homework gets pushed to the side for a scroll through his feed.

According to Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day online. I have had teens tell me they can’t go to bed until they check their Instagram.

Teenage girls on their phones

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But as much as teens love their Insta, there’s a lot of bullying, gossip and drama that goes on. One day I looked over my son’s shoulder while he was scrolling through his feed. I noticed some rude comments girls had made under another girl’s post. When I pointed it out to my son, he replied matter of factly…”They do that all the time.“

I really like the Instagram parenting advice Commonsense Media offers: “If your kid uses Instagram, make sure she knows how to comment respectfully and deal with haters.”

Teenagers use Instagram to show off relationships

The Today Show segment titled Girls Open Up About Dating in the Digital Age addressed how hard teen relationship are and how difficult breaking can be in the age of Instagram. Teens say it’s especially hard when you can see how easily your ex has moved on and who he is with now. Being able to see where people are at anytime is a good and bad thing, they admit.  The girls said if know someone is home, they wonder “Why aren’t they on their phones? They admitted sometimes it just feels like way too much!

As a parent, I guess we just have to try more to talk to our teens about the stress and anxiety that Instagram may cause them. I know some parents who try to ban their teens from using social media, but I just don’t think that works, do you? Do you think Instagram causes your teen stress?

 

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