Teens and social media
By Ambah Den Ronden
I wonder what it feels like to be a teenager in today’s world?
It’s a question I’ve had to consider a lot lately, as my own journey now leads me to try and make a difference in lives of young people, and as my eldest child is about to enter the teens. What I can say straight away about my own experiences of being a teenager is that I certainly don’t think I could do it again, and I don’t really feel that I would want to!
Just because I have had my turn however, doesn’t mean that it becomes an irrelevant age, and irrelevant time. I know far too well that the teenage years can be what makes or breaks you. Potentially having effects that echo all through adulthood.
Which is why it makes it all the more important to not ignore what is going on in their world. To be present for them, supportively and non-judgmentally…
As they wade through the complexities of fast growing and changing bodies.
As they are rocked by the surges and urges of new hormonal, emotional and relational experiences and challenges.
As they are expected to navigate social and peer groups that now extend past the classroom and local playground/shopping centre jaunts, and into their homes, their rooms, their beds, all via their phones, laptops… and glorious social media.
It’s hard enough as an adult to get a grip on all of this stuff!
Yet how much do we consider the effects on teenagers? They are undergoing the largest transition of their life, growing into their uniqueness and potential… yet there is the strong paradoxical need of wanting to fit in and belong. Of which, in this day and age of social media, becomes a whole new ballgame… One that is unique to the teens of this generation.
But are our teens in danger of losing themselves by not being ‘real’?
Social media allows us to create alternate, ‘perfect’ versions of ourselves in order to gain the most Likes, validation, and sense of belonging.
I think it’s a really delicate time for teenagers, whilst trying to form their own sense of identity and self, to have a giant tool of manipulation at their fingertips.It may be easier for us adults to discern through the layers of fabrication and doctored images,- to see that through the glossy media we can be fed lies, and through social media we can live them. In the adolescent mind however, the understanding of this may not come naturally. Perhaps the positive feedback of receiving the ‘likes’ and attention, far outweighs the negatives. And the issue of whether what they are sharing or saying is truthful or ‘real’ becomes secondary to the immediate gains they experience.
Are we explaining to our teens that the amount of Likes they get for a photo or a post has no bearing on their worth as a person, whatsoever?
Are we teaching them that they are entirely capable of finding and valuing their inner strengths, magic, and originality without it needing to be validated by the media, by peers?
Are we encouraging the exploration of their own creative expression, and how this differs from creating a false identity?
Are we showing them that no matter how uncomfortable and vulnerable it may feel, that to stand in their own distinctness and uniqueness with utter self acceptance is priceless beyond any number of Likes and followers?
Because there’s only one Like that will ever truly matter and make a positive difference in their life. And that is their own.