Mindful Social Media For Teens

Written by Kristin McKeown

October 12, 2020

Social-emotional Learning

Stop Negative Consequences of Social Media: A Guide for Teens

For teens, the overuse of social media a problem for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram, teens are using the internet to communicate with their peers more than ever before.

For better or worse, social media isn’t going anywhere. Instead of discouraging social media altogether, educators should encourage mindful and moderate use of social media. Using social media mindfully will help avoid the feelings that come with the overuse of social media, such as comparison, depression, and loneliness.

 

negative consequences of social media

 

To combat the psychological consequences of comparison, we need to understand the primary reasons why teens compare themselves to others. Guess what? These bad mental habits don’t just affect teens! Adults are also prone to comparison, but teenagers are particularly vulnerable because they lack the level of self-regulation that adults develop in their later years.

At the end of this article, we’ve included a printable reflection for teens on how to stop comparisons on social media. Before you teach this material to your class, clients, or children, take a moment to reflect on your own experience with social media. The best way to teach good habits to kids is to model appropriate self-care for yourself.

 

using social media mindfully

Before passing out this printable reflection on using social media mindfullyy, talk about the following pitfalls of overusing social media:

 

1. Seeking Comfort from Our Fears

We are all familiar with the feeling of falling short when we compare ourselves to others. But do we recognize when our comparisons make us feel better in some way?

When you compare yourself to someone else and find that you feel superior, there can be something comforting about it.  You may have your faults and struggles, but at least you’re doing better than so-and-so.

In its more extreme nature, this can take the form of schadenfreude, finding pleasure at others’ misfortune.  But even in its most mild and innocent state, schadenfreude is an empty comfort with a problematic shadow side.

If you feel good about being better-off than some, the trade-off is feeling bad about being worse than so many others.  This is the destructive cycle leading to the second pitfall of social media.

 

1 name each thing that made you smile today

2. Confirming Your Imperfection

Much more obvious, painful, and commonplace is the sense of inadequacy that arises when we compare ourselves to those we perceive as having more than us.

This can be the envy you feel at someone’s perfectly curated vacation photos, or just hearing someone else’s good news.

Comparisons can even lead to questioning your worth.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, you may start to belittle yourself for not being good enough. It’s difficult to appreciate who we are and our inherent value when it seems like other people have it so much better than we do.

 

tip 2 remember that you are a perfectly imperfect human being

3. The Destructive and Unattainable Ideal

Even if we are able to let go of comparing ourselves to others, another potential comparison still remains – comparing ourselves to an idealized version of ourselves.

This can arise as a romanticized version of who we remember being in the past. Or, instead of looking toward the past, some people imagine an unrealistic \ future.  We compare who we are today to a much better-off version we will be “someday, when…

The problem is that this ideal cannot be achieved. We disregard what is actually real – who we are right now – in exchange for a theoretical, better future that will most likely never exist. Even if you did win the lottery or lose those last 10 pounds, the sense that it could be even better will always remain.

 

 

tip 3 reflect on the fact that change is the only constant, and we can't cling to how we used to be

Disrupting Comparison with Mindfulness 

We all experience comparison and self-judgment. However, when you notice that you have fallen into one of these mental comparisons, I invite you to pause, take a few deep breaths, and disrupt the thoughts with some self-inquiry. 

In order to teach this lesson to teenagers, I’ve written the following reflection. Fill in your information below to get a copy of the downloadable PDF. 

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Written by

Kristin McKeown

Mindfulness Teacher, Educational Consultant Kristin McKeown helps educators integrate meditation and mindfulness into their daily lives so they can be at their best for their students, colleagues, and families. As founder and CEO of TeachingBalance, Kristin integrates her experience as a meditation teacher with her 25 years in public education to offer straightforward strategies, humor, and encouragement for teachers ready to prioritize their self-care.

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