Among the countless ways the world has transformed in the last fifty years, the advent of the internet opened the door to a cascade of cultural changes that affect all aspects of society. Social media is one of the most pervasively influential innovations of the last few decades in teen culture.
At Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC), therapists and teens over the age of 18 in our teen drug addiction treatment program thoughtfully discuss the pros and cons of social media during treatment sessions. To learn more about teen drug use and PAATC’s treatment program in Pennsylvania, call 844.442.8673 or use our online form. If you are curious about whether (and how) social media impacts teen drug use, let’s look at some recent trends.
How Common Is Social Media Use?
The vast majority of teens use social media. Of those who engage on social media, the most popular sites are YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. About half self-report that they are online “constantly.”
What are the social media impacts that concern parents? Top contenders are cyber-bullying, access by predators, and teen drug use related to peer pressure and the normalization of drug culture.
Social Media Risks
Adolescence is a period of life when the brain is developing rapidly. Physical and emotional changes can be overwhelming and leave teens feeling vulnerable and confused. During this turbulent time, young people gain increased independence and access to more information, not wholesome.
Social media offers entertainment, an opportunity to socialize beyond one’s geographic sphere, and an outlet for creative expression. However, it also can cause harm, creating obstacles and complications for teens. For example, frequent social media engagement encourages completely unrealistic expectations about self and others, including relationships; distracts from life to the extent that school, relationships, and responsibilities suffer; and risks exposure to predators.
Three Ways Social Media Impacts Teen Drug Use
Social media presents three specific risks to teens regarding their vulnerability to drug use.
1. Social Media Use Can Lead to Mental Health Concerns
By increasing exposure to exaggerated and frightening news and ugly messaging, excessive social media use by teens can lead to depression and anxiety. Teens have fewer coping mechanisms than adults and lack the worldliness to distinguish between alarmist claims and facts. Drug use to mitigate the symptoms of mental health issues is common.
2. Social Media Use Can Lead to Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying on social media is a very real phenomenon that affects many children and teens every day. Such unwanted aggressive behaviors usually involve a power imbalance, and victims feel helpless and can experience profound psychological distress, believing they have nowhere to turn. Studies show that victims of bullying are more likely to engage in unhealthy substance use.
3. Teens Have More Difficulty Determining What Is Healthy and What Is Not
The influence of peers during the teen years is greater than at any other time of life. Social media posts often present distorted perceptions of real life that can adversely affect teen behavior. When social media reflects only the fun, “happy” side of substance use, misleading teen viewers into believing it to be glamorous and risk-free, the resulting alteration of perceived “truth” can both confuse and misdirect them. By normalizing the use of addictive substances and implicitly or directly pressuring others to “join the fun,” these peer interactions on social media can strongly influence a teen’s choice to use drugs.
Learn More At Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge Today
The influence of family is important and has a lifelong effect on us. Though the challenges to that influence that come from peers and the media must be recognized, never think that your teen’s family and loved ones don’t matter because they matter greatly. Teen drug addiction can happen within any family, in any town or state in the US. Rather than blaming yourself or others, you can get your teen needed help to navigate this disease and come out the other side on the road to recovery.
That’s where PAATC comes in. Reach out to us today to discuss options with someone from our knowledgeable staff. Our faith- and evidence-based treatments for the addiction to all substances, from alcohol to fentanyl, are individualized and geared specifically to youth in our teen programs. Use our online form to initiate contact or pick up the phone and call 844.442.8673.