The Science Behind Your Teen's Constant Need to be On Social Media

Some teens check their social media accounts over 100 times a day.
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If your teen is like most other kids her age, she’s likely checking her social media accounts dozens--if not hundreds--of times each day. And if you’re like most parents, seeing your teen’s nose buried in a smartphone is likely to drive you crazy at times.

The ‘internet addiction’ many teens experience causes them to miss out on what’s going on around them. Look around at any sporting event and you’ll likely see teens starting at their smartphones.

And you don’t have to look very far to see teens scrolling through social media while completely ignoring the people right in front of them.  

The apparent “need” for constant social media access is mind-boggling to many adults. Fortunately, CNN conducted a study called, “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens,” to shed some insight into why social media seems to matter so much to today’s teenagers.

Teens Gain Affirmation From Social Media

Researchers monitored the social media feeds of over 200 eight grade students. They discovered that social media is highly addicting to teenagers because it provides instant feedback about their popularity status. Here are some key findings from the study:

  • 21% of teens said they wanted to make sure no one was saying mean things about them
  • 36% of tends said they wanted to see if their friends are doing things without them
  • 61% of teens said they wanted to see if their online posts are getting likes and comments

    The heaviest social media users in the study checked their accounts over 100 times per day. Those teens tended to experience a lot of distress and concern that others would be talking negatively about them.

    Many other teens greatly feared being left out. They compulsively checked Instagram or Facebook to see if there was a party they hadn’t been invited to or to see if friends were socializing without them.

    And most teens acknowledged using social media to gain information about their social status. The more likes or shares they received, the more popular they felt.

    What Teens are Exposed To

    Many of the teens admitted to saying things online that they’d never say in real-life. Even researchers were surprised by the level of expletives, sexual content, and references to drugs.

    Alarmingly, 50% of the teens in the study reported receiving inappropriate sexual content. Many of them were afraid to tell an adult about the photos or graphic images they’d received.

    Many of the participants in the study admitted to sexting. Then, after the break-up of a relationship, they expressed a lot of concern that the sexually explicit photos would be shared publicly. This added stress makes breakups especially devastating.

    The Importance of Parental Involvement

    The study found that 94% of parents underestimated the fighting that occurred over social media. Sadly, many of them weren’t aware of the harmful negative effects online conflicts were having on their children.

    The good news is, parental monitoring of social media had a profound effect on teens’ psychological well-being. Teens who knew their parents were interested and invested in their online activities experienced more positive effects from being online.

    Get Involved in Your Child’s Online Activities  

    The good news is, there are several strategies you can take to ensure that your teen’s social media interactions remain healthy and positive.

    Implement social media strategies that will help you stay involved in your teen’s online life. Set time limits, take away smartphones at night, and become Facebook friends with your teen.

    Educate yourself about the various social media sites teens are using. Hold regular conversations with your teen about the dangers--as well as the benefits--of using each site.

    When stories about social media are in the news, talk to your teen about them. Whether it’s a security breach or a cyberbullying issue, share the story with your teen. Talk about steps your teen can use to stay safe.

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