Today’s teenagers are digitally native, born into a world where online connectivity is the norm. This digital generation heavily relies on social media and online gaming platforms as primary sources of entertainment, socialization, and self-expression. This article delves into the impact that social media usage and online gaming behavior have on the emotional and social well-being of teenagers, the potential risks and benefits, and the role of parents in providing guidance.

Social Media Usage

Social media has become an integral part of teenagers’ lives. Platforms such as Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter serve as virtual spaces for teenagers to connect, communicate, express themselves, and share their experiences. But, with the increasing prevalence of these platforms, there is growing concern about the risk of exposure to inappropriate messages, cyberbullying, excessive usage, or even addiction.

Social Media as a Way of Being
The nature of teenagers’ social media usage goes beyond merely being a pastime. Instead, it has evolved into a way of being, an integral part of their identity. Social media platforms serve as a stage where teenagers portray their ideal selves. At the same time, it also serves their needs of feedback seeking and social comparison. Which also highly associate with their senses of self-efficacy and emotions.

Online Gaming Behaviors
Online gaming has become another popular digital pastime among teenagers. Much like social media, online gaming platforms provide a virtual space where teenagers can engage, interact, and compete with others.

Online Gaming as a Source of Entertainment and Socialization
Online gaming is not just about entertainment; it also serves as a platform for socialization. Many online games are multiplayer, requiring cooperation and coordination among players, thus promoting teamwork and communication.

Impact on Family Relationship

The digital generation gap between parents and teenagers can lead to conflicts over device usage. Many parents struggle to understand and navigate their teenagers’ digital lives, leading to potential relationship problems and emotional strains.

The Struggle for Balance

Social media and online gaming, like any other activities, come with their own set of risks and benefits.

Balancing the benefits of digital technology with the potential risks is a common struggle for many parents as well as their adolescents. On one hand, social media and online gaming can provide a platform for teenagers to connect with others, express themselves, and learn new things. Likewise, online gaming can also improve cognitive skills such as problem-solving, spatial awareness, and teamwork.

Nonetheless, excessive social media usage and online gaming can lead to various risks such as addiction, decreased academic performance, sleep deprivation, and reduced physical activities.

Social media addiction is characterized by excessive preoccupation with social media, and continued usage despite negative consequences. Similarly, gaming addiction is presented by a preoccupation with gaming, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge, withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away, and continued excessive gaming despite negative consequences. Online gaming addiction may also lead to negative impacts on academic performance, sleep patterns, and interpersonal relationships.

The online content of social media, short videos, and gaming is programmed to inflict the urge of continuous watching or using. Even adults may not be able to resist the desire for extra screen time. Thus, our teens need to learn how to utilize these platforms while manage their desire for excessive usage at the same time.

Impact on Emotional and Social Well-being of Teenagers

Adolescents are more susceptible to the addiction of social media and gaming due to their impulsive tendencies, needs to establish their identity among their group, and stronger urge for social influences. Like other addictions, excessive screen time can lead to various emotional problems such as increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Social media, in particular, may lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem due to constant comparison with others.

Furthermore, neuropsychological research has revealed that the prefrontal lobe is the most affected region of brain in adolescents with digital addiction. Which underscored the negative impact digital addition can have on adolescents’ cognitive control, problem solving, and emotion regulation.

While social media and online gaming can provide opportunities for socialization, excessive screen time can also lead to decreased face-to-face social interactions and potential social isolation. As Sherry Turkle, the psychoanalyst in MIT mentions in her book “Along Together” that “The ties we form through the internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy.”

Guidance for Parents of Teenagers on Device Usage

As digital technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, it is crucial for parents to provide guidance and set boundaries for their teenagers’ device usage. Parents can help prevent excessive usage, potential addiction, and other risks through the following strategies:

Setting Boundaries
Parents are encouraged to set clear and reasonable boundaries for device usage. This includes setting limits on screen time, ensuring that technology use does not interfere with important activities such as homework and family time, and setting rules about appropriate online behavior.

Encouraging Healthy Device Usage
Parents should encourage their teenagers to use digital technology in a healthy and balanced way. This includes encouraging regular breaks from screen time, promoting physical activity, and encouraging face-to-face social interactions.

Learning More About Their Digital Life
To foster an open conversation about their device usage, parents can learn more about what their teens are engaging in. You can navigate new areas of learning, fun discoveries, or even concerns together. Letting your teenagers know that they can come to you about any kind of their online experiences is the key.

Setting a Good example
Don’t forget the best way of educating your teenagers is by being their role models. Tell them what you are doing when you need to stick to your devices for a while around them. As they may lack effective skills of controlling their usage, you can share how you manage the distractions from your device by setting screen time limit or turning off notifications.

Conclusion

The digital age brings with it new challenges, particularly for today’s teenagers who are growing up immersed in a world of social media and online gaming. Which is why we have to nurture responsible digital users at this early stage.

While these platforms bring numerous benefits, they also come with potential risks, including addiction. It’s crucial for parents, educators, and mental health professionals to understand these risks and take proactive steps to promote healthy device usage among teenagers. With a balanced approach, we can harness the potential of digital technology while minimizing its pitfalls.

Megan Chang & AM Team

Please refer to the AM articles page for Elise and the AM Team articles.

Please complete the AMindset intake form to start therapy with an AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

If you are not quite ready, please click here to subscribe to the AMindset Newsletter with articles and podcasts to learn more about your mental health and how AM can help you.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.