Teens and Social Media

I realize this is my third post on the topic of technology/ social media in the past week but I had to share what I learned from an article* in today’s newspaper. The headline was, “Parents, Here are Teen Girls’ Rules for Instagram.” As a therapist working primarily with adolescents, this immediately caught my attention; more so, I was blown away that the article was built upon interviews with teenage girls. In this post, I’ll share some of the insights that I gained.

Instagram has pros and cons for adolescents

  • While there are good reasons for being mindful of our screen time, it’s important to understand that Instagram and Snapchat have become integral communication platforms for teens.
    • My teen clients report that they use DMs (direct messages) on Instagram and Snapchat more than they use text messages. Interestingly enough, a lot of teens don’t even have their friends’ phone numbers because they rely on these social media platforms to communicate.
  • Correlational research has linked the use of Instagram with body image and mental health challenges for adolescent and adult users.

Tips for helping young people have healthy digital lives.

  • Curate your newsfeed.
    • Unfollow accounts that trigger comparison and other emotions that don’t make you feel good.
    • Instagram also allows you to “mute” the posts of an account so that you don’t have to see when the person posts. This option is helpful for young people who fear retribution if a peer discovers that they’ve been “unfollowed.”
    • Follow accounts that are encouraging, informative, and that add value to your day.
      • “The people you follow and that you allow to follow you can make a big difference in how you feel.”
  • Use the privacy tools.
    • Encourage teens to have their profiles set to private. There’s less pressure when you don’t feel that the whole world is watching.
    • Instagram allows you to filter comments and DMs from accounts you don’t follow or from accounts that recently followed you.
  • Turn off “likes” and limit comments when you post.
    • My teen clients look at me like I have two heads when I suggest this. But when you consider posting something without the ability to see how many people “liked” the post, you’re able to consider the rationale for posting it.
    • Parents need to understand that adolescents tend to judge each other based on how many follows, likes, and comments their posts have. Turning off the feature reduces this pressure.
  • Stay away from the “Explore” page.
    • It’s no secret that Facebook (the owner of Instagram) has a monopoly on monetizing user data and online activity. The explore page is one of the places that they use this information to target ads and content that will keep users on the platform longer… It’s how they make their money! Hence all the heat they’re getting about a potential launch of “Instagram Kids.”
    • Fight back against the algorithm and avoid the rabbit hole that is the “Explore” page.
  • Take breaks!
    • iPhones and Androids offer screen time features where you can limit the amount of daily use on an app.
      • I recommend no more than 30mins daily per social media platform, not to exceed 2 hours total.
        • 2hrs may seem like a lot, but trust me, the average teen spends more on their smartphones daily than most adults spend working their full-time job.
    • Teach young people about mindfulness and living in the moment.
    • Encourage phones to be silent and face down when at the meal table or gathering.
    • Prioritize living your best life offline. Social media is (at best) a snapshot of our lives, it should not be the platform from which we live out our lives.


If you’re a parent or caretaker of an adolescent, I hope that this post has made you feel more informed; however, I encourage you to implement these tips through a series of conversations with your young people. I guarantee, if you go into a social media discussion guns blazing, you will be met with resentment and the teen will likely tune you out. Patience and active listening are essential.

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*Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/parents-teen-girls-guide-to-better-instagram-11633125456?st=ugfap665gik7pqg&reflink=article_copyURL_share

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2 thoughts on “Teens and Social Media”

  1. Ashley says:

    I’m glad social media wasn’t around to have to navigate when I was a teen!

    1. It made an appearance when I was in the middle of high school. I wish I knew then what I know now. Thanks so much for consistently reading. Means a lot 🙂

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