The virtual world of social media is a dominant force in the lives of many teenagers. Nearly 40 percent of teens carry a smart phone, according to data released by Pew Research Center. But these days the online world is having dire effects on the way some girls are trying to navigate the real world.
“I think with social media it’s just this realm that parents don’t understand,” said Jamie Shannon, a certified teen life coach.
Shannon is the founder of the Anchor Society — an organization based in Bellingham that provides counseling, coaching, tutoring and homework help for kids and teens. Behind closed doors at the waterfront location nestled along Bellingham Bay, teens share their secrets and seek Shannon’s council for issues and challenges they’re facing in their lives.
For more than a year, every teen girl Shannon has coached has had one similar issue: anxiety brought on by social media.
“It’s like this double-edged sword,” said Shannon. “They love it, they need it, they wouldn’t get rid of it, but it hurts them all the time – it’s this very scary reality.”
Social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat are teeming with communities that have the power to change the way teens live their lives.
“Everything is on social media,” said Kennedy Ash, a senior at Bellingham High School.
The 17-year-old admits to spending hours day on Facebook and Instragram. She’s been a client of Shannon’s for several years and says the teen life coach has helped her navigate the complicated world of social media.
Ash says it’s more awkward to talk face to face with strangers and even friends than it is to talk online. Social media platforms have become the primary and preferred way to communicate and connect with friends. Ash describes talking in person with peers as “awkward.”
“It’s easy for me to talk to my parents and family face to face,” said Ash. “But people I don’t know well, like school mates and stuff, it’s way harder to talk people.”
Ash says she feels anxiety and nervousness when put in a normal, everyday social situation. And she’s not alone.
“I’ll catch her trying to slow down her breathing and trying to calm herself down because she getting anxious, said Kennedy’s mother, Leslie Ash.
Shannon says she sees anxiety manifest in different forms in teens girls.
“When it comes to talking over the phone, I just get so nervous,” said Megan Spady, who attends Lynden Christian High School.
Spady admits to having little self control when it comes to putting her smart phone aside and says she almost thrives off social media. Instagram is the 16-year-old’s favorite social network.
“It makes me feel pretty bad sometimes,” said 16-year-old Spady. “I just feel like I’m not living as much as I should be.”
And that’s part of the problem, says Shannon. There’s more pressure than ever for teen girls to be perfect and popular. Especially in a virtual world where everyone is watching and commenting.
“It’s this ability to see and believe they are part of a world that doesn’t really exist, said Shannon. “It’s all about the instalikes and being Facebook famous.”
Spady says it’s easy to compare how many “likes” she gets compared to her friends, admitting she wonders why they’re getting more.
It’s a world where instead of participating in life, teens sit back behind the screen and observe life. And that’s where social media gets complicated and according to Shannon is causing serious developmental issues for teen girls like anxiety and nervousness when it come to basic face to face communication.
“Kennedy completely lost the confidence in herself that she can actually do something like talk to others in person,” said Leslie Ash.
Shannon believes the anxiety all stems from the consequences of social media — fear of missing out, friendships that lack deep connection and the constant comparison teen do with one another online.
“It’s this triple treat that effects every waking moment of many girls lives,” said Shannon.
It’s a treat that needs to be taken seriously to avoid lasting harm.
“We’re almost socially handicapping kids by letting then exist in this world and feel comfortable there,” she said.
Kennedy Ash has overcome some of her anxiety by taking time away from her phone everyday. Shannon recommends family’s have a “technology free time” daily.
She encourages parents is to wait as long as possible to give kids a cell phone.
“Teens need parents to be aware of what’s going on online so when or if something major does happen they can come to them,” said Shannon. Social media overload causing anxiety form many teens. “Technology Free Time (TFT)” is critical for teens’ growth and personal development.
Are you aware of your teen’s phone anxiety cause by smartphones and social media? What has been stopping you from moving forward with change? What rituals (or habits) do you want to change in your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Republished by: Invigorated Solutions, Inc.
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