For teenagers, social media can be one of their favorite things just as much as it can be their worst enemy.
However, the idea that social media is causing more harm than good is actually still a fairly new concept. Thankfully, there are lots of ways for healthcare professionals to learn more about how to support young people who might be struggling with the psychological issues that social apps can bring.
In this article, we take a closer look at some of the main health concerns facing teenagers when using social media, and how nurses, in particular, can help to support them.
Are nurses able to help teenagers with all their social media woes?
In many cases, nurses can help teens break down some of the bigger psychological struggles they might face through excessive social media use.
What’s more, some teenagers won’t feel comfortable discussing mental health problems and those associated with social media with their parents or friends. In this case, nurses can provide much-needed advice and guidance in times of stress and anxiety.
Nurses who take on BSN to FNP online programs, such as those run by Carson-Newman University, will learn how the work of a family nurse practitioner (FNP) is crucial in supporting young people experiencing mental health problems.
Carson-Newman University’s online coursework provides nurses with extensive knowledge on how to approach sensitive problems not only with teenagers, but also older people.
What are some of the problems that teenagers face when using social media, and how can nurses help?
Social media has benefits, but there are a few downsides to scrolling, sharing and liking. Below, we explore a few of adolescents’ bigger concerns when using their favorite apps, and how nurses can help them turn around their negative experiences.
Feelings of inadequacy
Using social media sometimes means that teens will be comparing themselves to others. While lots of social networks have evolved beyond just people sharing stories about themselves and are now mini-news sites in their own right, everyone using apps such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat creates their own ‘characters’. These are idealized versions of themselves.
Nurses can help teens who feel that they compare themselves too often to others by getting them to step away from their apps and take time-outs. This might be as simple as encouraging them to switch off notifications and adopt more active lifestyles outside their phones.
Alternatively, it could mean creating a program with them where they can gradually wean themselves off their devices and learn to build self-esteem. The opinions of others, ultimately, shouldn’t affect the way that they carry themselves from day to day.
FOMO is ‘fear of missing out’, and it ties in with our previous point. Teenagers’ social media accounts are filled with photos and videos of vacations, parties, relationship updates and everything in between.
Social lives are extremely important when growing up, and nurses can help to move teens away from their screens by encouraging them to make new friends through social groups and clubs.
While it’s easy to talk to people through social media apps, teenagers will find it more refreshing and satisfying to start building relationships off their phones. If a young patient shows signs of becoming withdrawn or feeling that they’re missing out on life, nurses can help them find local connections and prevent app addiction.
Body image issues
Adolescence brings along strong feelings of awkwardness and low confidence, especially in body image. Social media does nothing to support this – having strangers comment on how you look and constantly scrolling through celebrity and social media model accounts can lead teens to unfairly compare themselves.
Again, nurses can help in this regard by reassuring teenagers that they are physically healthy and that the standards we see online often aren’t realistic. They can encourage patients to look for clubs and support groups and potentially find therapy centers if they show deeper signs of eating disorders, for example.
Body image issues are complex, which is why it often takes a specialized nurse and potential rehabilitation support to ensure that teenagers get the care they need.
Cyberbullying is all too real and a big problem for teenagers. Many teenagers feel that everything they post needs checking, reading through and manipulating to seem as ‘perfect’ as possible, in case a small mistake or difference become ammo used against them.
Nurses can provide mental health support through talking therapies and by encouraging the use of specialized helplines where appropriate. In many cases of cyberbullying, victims just need someone to talk to, and for someone to hear them.
In this case, a trained nurse can be a great active listener or can help to guide teenagers toward resources.
What are some further tools and resources that teenagers can use if they struggle with social media?
Teenagers have access to a variety of resources and tools to help them bounce back from social media malaise.
Refer to school counseling
When in a crisis or needing immediate help, teenagers can turn to their school nurses or counselors for help, advice or references for other helpful resources. School nurses are trained and well-versed in various aspects of modern teenage healthcare needs, and can offer direct support for social media struggles.
Refer to primary physicians
Some teenagers may feel uncomfortable discussing mental concerns with nurses or school counselors, but they might feel more at ease speaking with their doctor or physician.
Depending on how a case progresses, nurses may refer patients to their doctors if specific action or advice is required.
Nurses can encourage simple breathing exercises and introduce young people to mindfulness concepts, with the idea of stepping away from a screen and taking a moment to refocus.
Nurses can help prevent social media distress
While it’s impossible to completely control what teenagers do online, nurses can help adolescents and their parents find resources and support even if they have access to information 24/7. As nurses advance through their careers, they will also likely find new, innovative ways to support young people.
Sometimes, we all need a little encouragement to step away from our screens – and for teens, this is not always easy. Thankfully, help is always at hand.