Erica’s teenage daughter took out her phone for her daily ritual—taking photos of her outfit possibilities before school and waiting to see which one got the most likes before deciding what to wear. Erica tried to hide her exasperation. Her daughter’s obsession with social media had reached ridiculous levels. She already placed far too much value on what her peers think of her, and social media was making it worse. Ready to throw her daughter’s phone in the trash, Erica wondered how she can get her to stop relying on social media so much—especially for her self-identity.Absurd as it may seem to us who grew up without social media, our teens have no frame of reference for life without it. So for all of us with teens engaged on social media, although it might seem “ridiculous,” we need to embrace the fact that this is a big part of their world. That doesn’t mean social media use shouldn’t be controlled (it should) or that it should drive their identity (it shouldn’t), but it does mean giving up the illusion that a teen can live a normal life without it today.
It also means recognizing that if we want to guide our teens away from relying on anything (social media included) for their self-identity, we have to enter into this part of their life, rather than trying to keep them entirely from it. We need to understand their motivations, how they use social media, who their digital friends are, and what they think about it all. And the good news is that, statistically, our teens probably want us to!
Let’s see what the research says.