Social Media, Teens & Perception

Social Media, Teens & Perception

By Erica Holbrook

Since social platforms operate in virtual reality, much of the content, including pics, cannot readily be verified as true or real. So when your tween/teen is perusing the personal pages of friends, followers and influencers, they cannot discern if the picture perfect selfie or moment is real or not. Their perception can become subjective and distorted when your tween/teen starts comparing themselves to others unblemished portrayals. 

Perception is very important as your tween/teen will constantly compare their everyday lives to that of others displaying epic adventures with their gorgeous, fun friends. We know as adults with developed brains that naturally use perspective taking more often, that these scenes are mostly pageantry, showing their best looks, outfits and moments. But to your tween/teen, those portrayals are something they look up to, want to emulate, be a part. Their impulses fire and they want it “now.” Where we might try to look at accomplishing a goal over 1-2 months, they are thinking 1-2 hours or 1-2 days.

What does this mean for your tween/teen? They will spend hours creating and recreating posts and videos of their best face and body pics and their most fun times with their equally flawless friends. Once again, instead of participating in school, sports or hobbies with real life friends they are hooked on living in a make believe world with fake friends who they will probably never meet and definitely won’t find support from.

Because of smartphones and other technology, they have instant access to seeing their friends at their best. This hyper connection to constant information, through pics and posts, of their friends can lead to a phenomenon called Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO for short. It’s not a new concept. We all have experienced it in high school without having the technology of today. But, we wouldn’t hear about it until way after the event happened and weren’t instantly shown pictures of the fun they were having without you. FOMO for your tween/teen is exacerbated by social media. 

Think about them looking at their own life and comparing it to hundreds of beautiful “friends” having incredible fun without them. Your tween/teen will likely believe that they will never measure up and their lives are boring and depressing. They may also exhibit compulsive behavior to keep up these social connections by having constant contact with them through posts. This demands even more screen time from your tween/teen to post their latest and greatest content and pics all the while being inundated with competing images.

Constantly viewing these perfect depictions can make your tween/teen feel socially inadequate. Their perception of not having the right friends, not being at the right events or not having the right  look, can make your tween/teen fear being left out, or FOBLO for short. Afraid of being rejected and intentionally not included because of who and what they portray in social media, they may start posting risqué pictures, videos and comments to get attention from and be included with the “it” groups. However, posting these types of pictures and videos can backfire on your tween/teen by being negatively judged and even shunned. They can also attract predators who prey upon vulnerable tweens/teens who are more receptive to deceptive suggestions and ideas. 

Tweens/teens who overuse social media have not put in the time developing real relationships that can become social safety nets when online life turns negative and even dangerous. They may think that no one likes them, have nobody who understands their struggles and become depressed. They are wrong. They have you. You are going to be your tweens/teens greatest ally, carefully and strategically navigating with them through the rocky social media waters.

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