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Residential Treatment Center for Boys Ages 14-18

 > Anxiety  > Social Media Warning Signs for Boys
social media addiction

Social Media Warning Signs for Boys

Given the high prevalence of technology in our everyday lives, children are beginning to become exposed to a much wider range of content at much younger ages. It’s inevitable that children and adolescents are going to be exposed to social media, as well as the risks that come along with it. Due to the particular cognitive and behavioral vulnerabilities that adolescence places teenagers at, they are intuitively more prone to the risks that social media poses. Although there have been controversial studies on whether or not teen boys are equally as damaged by social media as teen girls, it can be concluded that all are impacted in one way or another.    A recent study has found that youth who spend eight hours or more on technology and/or social media are five times more likely to be sad or depressed. Social isolation is a key element of depression, and excessive use of technology can equate to fewer in-person connections with others. Thus, it is important to be aware of the extent of time which your child is spending online. Depression is not the only thing to be cognizant of regarding social media risks and “red flags”. Listed below are some of the most common warning signs of social media amongst teens:
    1. Age-inappropriate content – apps may feature user-generated content that isn’t appropriate for a specific age, and one may not need to follow users who are posting explicit content in order to be exposed. 
  • Public default settings – some apps are set to public profiles by default, meaning that their name, pictures, and posts are available to everyone automatically unless otherwise changed. 
  • Location tracking and sharing – social media apps know location and allow location identification often tracks within a city block. Posts may also include location. 
  • Real-time video streaming – live streaming makes it easy to share something unintentionally, given that all moments captured may later be shared. Although certain apps may be used privately, personal information may be inadvertently – and unwittingly – shared without knowing exactly who’s watching. 
  • “Temporary” pictures and videos – nothing that is shared between devices is truly temporary, so compromising pictures and texts hold a significant amount of risk for teens. All exchanges on technology are stored on servers, and such information may possibly become public and permanent at any given moment. 
  • Subpar reporting tools – not all apps have systems for reporting abuse or violations of their terms of use, and the level of moderation varies significantly (i.e., some apps monitor posts and use automated filters to flag content).
  • Anonymity – anonymous sites give people a sense that their comments are consequence-free. Thus, one may feel safe enough to openly share things that would otherwise likely remain private, and often are attacked rather than receiving the necessary support or help being sought out in that situation. 
  • Cyberbullying – this can happen on any social media platform but is likely to be more prevalent among the apps that follow an anonymous format (especially those that are used in schools)
  Again reiterating that all teens who are on social media are exposed to the risks that are involved, teen boys are more prone to certain dangers that typically don’t affect girls in the same manner. Social media dares are especially appealing to teen boys (i.e., Internet “challenges” and extreme stunts), given that they are drawn to such events for the excitement that each dare promises, paralleled with the adrenaline rush, thrill, and potential internet popularity. Unhealthy relationships are another risk that threatens all teens on social media, as many feel the increasing need to become romantically involved at a younger age. On average, boys as young as thirteen are attempting to form “serious” attachments. Without the proper boundaries, the emotions and sexual risks that are implicated in such young relationships may quickly become out of control. More specifically, fifteen to twenty-four-year-olds comprise half of the population of reported STDs. Unfortunately, social media is often the “supplier” of these risky relationships. If young teens are seeing friends engaging in intimate behavior or new relationships, they’re more prone to try and find new experiences of their own. Another downside to social media is that there is a large prevalence of pornography and other sexually explicit material on the internet that catalyzes natural teen curiosity towards unsafe sources of information and experimentation. Body idealization has become a very significant part of our internet culture, thus there are risks associated with body image that affect both teen boys and girls equally. Teens are conditioned by social media culture to believe that whatever body image is being idealized during that time is what is considered to be “attractive”, therefore without a healthy self-image, teen boys can become obsessed with obtaining the “perfect body type” in unhealthy manners.    Watching for warning signs and keeping open communication with your teen is absolutely essential for preventative measures of future damage as a result of social media use. During the open dialogue, it’s important to explain the dangers and risks that may be associated with particular social media activities, along with encouraging your teen to be honest about their online activities. In today’s modern society, what your teen is being exposed to and is going through is normal and common amongst most. Therefore, it’s important to be able to establish a healthy form of communication to be able to safely navigate through these risks together. More specifically, teen boys are more willing to listen to a loved one that talks to them openly and honestly about the risks they are and will likely face.

Casey has been working with teens and young adults since 2009. He specializes in mindfulness-based approaches to therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, motivational interviewing, and family systems work.