Social Media and Mental Health: 4 Tips for Teens on Building and Protecting Self-Esteem
The benefits of social media are undeniable. With just a few clicks, we can build new connections with people from around the world. We can plug into our favorite interests, enjoy entertaining content, and learn more on subjects that intrigue us.
Social media also empowers us to express ourselves, share our unique stories, and broadcast our diverse perspectives and experiences like no other generation before. Nevertheless, there are both pros and cons of social media.
A recent study by the U.S. Surgeon General found that young people are more likely to say that social media negatively affects their mental health especially when it comes to body image, self-esteem and self-confidence. When asked about the impact of social media on their body image, nearly half (46%) of adolescents aged 13–17 said social media makes them feel worse.
“Social media platforms can be harmful because of beauty influencers and models who project unrealistic beauty standards,” says Kathleen G., Club teen at Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica. “It causes many to ask, ‘Why don’t I look like that?’”
Ideas For Boosting Self Esteem
When kids have the confidence, they are better equipped to handle the negative aspects of our digital age. Here are some ways to boost self esteem:
Practice accepting that you are enough just as you are.
At any age, practicing self-love is one of the best ways to be calm and confident.
“Don’t hurt or force yourself to fit into those beauty standards,” says Kathleen G, a Club youth. “They are labeled as unrealistic for a reason. And many of those standards can’t be met without doing something that is potentially psychologically or physically harmful.” Kathleen practices self-acceptance by actively showing herself compassion, challenging her inner critic, and appreciating her natural traits and abilities.
“I think about things I love about myself, things that are unique. These positive thoughts often outweigh the bad and make me love everything about me.”
Fellow Club teen Lesley A. adds, “We really shouldn’t change ourselves to fit in with any standards. We should be happy with who and how we are, but I know that’s easier said than done.”
Beauty standards change but a healthy self-esteem can last a lifetime.
All throughout history, society and pop culture have redefined what does and does not constitute beauty.
While ideals of “perfection” are always shifting, having a healthy self-esteem can be a foundation that supports young people through every trend.
Putting your personal health, happiness and peace of mind first can help you redefine what “beauty” means to you. Social media influencers who are comfortable being themselves and who use their platform to promote positive messages are often the ones who have a supportive impact on others.
Take a break from social media
In 2018, researchers found that limiting or taking extended breaks from social media may significantly reduce depression and improve overall well-being.
Nohemi H., a Club teen, says, “I like to spend time in places where I truly feel like myself. I like surrounding myself with nature, family, friends, and other spaces that make me feel truly happy to be where I am. Once there, I try to keep my mind at ease and remind myself that life is purposeful and that everything in my life has had a purpose.”
Besides being a major mood booster, taking time away from social media can reduce the incidence of eye strain, headaches and neck pain as well as FOMO or “the fear of missing out.” Social media sabbaticals also help improve sleep quality, self-confidence, self-awareness and the ability to focus for increased academic and work productivity.
When asked what helps during a social media break, Club teens said:
– “Taking a good shower, listening to music, taking a nap, going outside, and hanging out with others”
– “Spending time with friends who I know will support me and aren’t judgemental”
Repeating positive, affirming words can be helpful in providing a boost of confidence during moments of anxiety, stress or diminished self-worth.
“We are our greatest motivator,” says Nohemi “During times when I feel as if I do not belong, that’s when I tell myself, ‘I am doing great. I belong.’”
A positive affirmation is a brief, truthful statement that represents who and what we want to be in life. These concise personal declarations are quick, easy strategies to reflect on personal values and combat negative thoughts.
Some self-affirmation ideas:
“I am enough. I am powerful.”
“I am deserving of good things.”
“I am beautiful as I am.”
“I have gotten through hard days, and I will get through this.”
Supporting Strong Self-Esteem at Every Developmental Stage
At Boys & Girls Clubs, young people can build the critical life skills and self-assurance they need to take on modern challenges with confidence.
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