What parents should know about the 'constant pressure' of social media for teens

ABC News(NEW YORK) — For some parents, understanding the pressure of social media can be difficult, and as a result, some teens may feel they cannot talk to their parents about cyberbullying, body image problems and other struggles they face in their day-to-day life.

“One of the hallmarks of adolescence is to make mistakes, part of adolescence is figuring out who you are,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, an expert in parent-child communications, told ABC News. “Sometimes you make choices that aren’t so great, but … those choices are an opportunity for growth.”

“The challenge with social media is that it doesn’t give a young person freedom to make mistakes without being defined by them,” she added, saying she believes that social media plays a “huge role” in causing anxiety for teens.

In an experiment set up by Good Morning America, a group of 15- to 17-year-old girls candidly discussed the stresses they face, especially as a result of how pervasive social media is in their lives. Unbeknownst to them, their mothers sat behind a glass mirror to listen and learn about their daughters’ struggles.

Approximately 79 percent of parents said that their teens use social media, according to a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association. Additionally, 69 percent of the parents of teen girls reported that they worried about the influence of social media on their child’s health, compared to only 39 percent of parents of teen boys.

A majority of the teens in the “GMA” experiment said they felt stress was a big problem in their lives.

Most of the girls, who wished to only be identified by their first names, also said that social media was also a big part of their lives. The group answered a collective “no” when asked if they ever went a day without being worried about their online profile.

“Every girl thinks she has to be better than another girl and it shouldn’t be like that,” one teen, Cayla, said.

Another, Booch, added, “There’s just constant pressure, I guess, with everyone and social media.”

Anyaa said she felt like social media causes her to question herself, saying, “Sometimes they’ll say, like, ‘Your stomach area is fat,’ I’m like, ‘Wait, is it?'”

Cayla also said she questioned her own body as a result of social media, saying, “a lot of my friends think I’m anorexic.”

“I have a high metabolism, they just don’t understand,” she added. “Sometimes it can hurt, but you’ve got to grow tough skin.”

Alexus added that she feels she is criticized for almost everything on social media.

“I choose not to pay attention to it,” she said. “They can talk about things that you post, things that you wear, things that you say.”

Booch said that during her first year of high school, the criticism directed toward her that started online affected her even offline.

“Cyberbullying translates to real life,” she said. “And you have people taunting you while you’re right there.”

Anyaa added that it can be hard to simply brush off the criticism that you face on social media.

“It’s like, ‘Wait, I think I look great,’ so then it’s, ‘Who cares what they say?’ but then it’s like … ‘Somebody just said that to me … are you kidding me?'” she said.

Destiny added, “I don’t hate my body, but I do feel like there’s room for improvement all the time.”

The teen girls also said that they also feel pressure from social media when it comes to relationships.

Some of the girls said they feel pressure to hook up or to have a boyfriend because of social media, to the shock of their mothers in the next room.

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