What have all generations of teenagers had in common? It’s not a wardrobe, hairstyle, music preferences, or language. While teens of every decade have looked and sounded quite different, there is a similarity between today’s teens and yesterday’s teens. This is a thread of comparison based on my experiences as a therapist working with teens at Creative Wellness and Counseling!
The Role of Brain Development
Suppose you read my other article titled 3 Factors Influencing Teen Mental Health. In that case, you already know that the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision-making, impulse control, and abstract thinking abilities is just starting to develop during adolescence and does not finish development until roughly age 25 or 26. The undeveloped prefrontal cortex is why teens appear to be overly emotional or “moody.”
The Misbelief That Emotional States Are Permanent
The other problem that teens tend to encounter because of brain development is that they often believe emotional states to be permanent. This is due to a lack of experience and a brain that does not have the functions to think abstractly.
This Comes From a Lack of Experience
The lack of experience comes from being young and not having enough years on this earth. The older we get, the more evidence we have to prove that emotions and situations get better in time. This lack of experience is a big factor that leads to teen suicide. Teens think that the feeling of heartbreak or humiliation will last forever. It is difficult for them to see beyond the hurt. Not only is this because of a lack of experience, but it is also because, without a fully formed prefrontal cortex, it is impossible for teens to see the bigger picture and think abstractly.
Teen brains have continuously developed in this way!
This means that your parents and your parents’ parents also went through a time of heightened emotional turmoil. They too may have been labeled emotional, moody, or impulsive.
Why Teens Compare
Part of what comes as a result of teen brain development is an obsession with comparison. This is also not a new facet for adolescents.
The Influence of Others
Teens of past generations have been heavily influenced by seeing how others around them look and act. This is why you see different style trends catch on and suddenly everyone is wearing the same oversized t-shirts that cover their shorts and putting their hair in high-side ponytails.
Comparison Becomes Hyper Fixation
Teens see what others are doing and because teens are incredibly driven by socially fitting in, the comparison of what I am wearing versus what they are wearing becomes a hyper fixation.
But Where Do The Trends Even Come From
Teens of today and teens of yesterday similarly have found their style and behavioral inspiration from celebrities. Musicians and actresses that are front and center of the world’s attention become what teens emulate. Today it’s Billie Elish, in my day it was Britney or Avril Lavinge that everyone wanted to look like.
Subliminal Pressure to Fit in
A lot of the pressure to fit in and compare ourselves to others is subliminal, meaning we don’t even realize it is happening. We see images over and over again that tell us this is what we need to look like to be happy. This makes what we consume via advertisements and other forms of media something to be aware of.
The Messaging is Everywhere!
I have talked a lot about the similarities between teens of today and those of past generations, but there is one factor that is drastically different for today’s teens.
You’ve guessed it… It’s social media!
Back in the day, teens struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and mood swings just like teens today do. Those teens suffered as a result of the images that they were consuming in the world. The images came largely from magazines, movies, billboards, tv commercials, and the celebrities they saw being portrayed in those images. Teens subconsciously saw those images and began to copy what they saw in order to achieve greater satisfaction. But because not every teen has the funds, genetics, or resources to portray what they see in the media, the absence of meeting the status quo could be devastating.
Overconsumption of Social Media has Become Detrimental
This is still happening today but on a much more detrimental level! Teens of yesterday had to physically have a magazine, be watching tv, or ride in the car to consume advertisements. The overconsumption of media has become progressively worse with more and more technology, especially with technology.
Today’s “Normal” is Overstimulation by Constant Access to Social Media
It is now commonplace for teens to be scrolling and scrolling and scrolling for hours on end on Instagram or Tiktok, where every other post is a celebrity-endorsed advertisement about tea that will make them skinnier and leggings that will make them popular. Teens are routinely bombarded with videos of influencers showing off their flawless skincare routines that leave teens wondering “why can’t I achieve perfect skin?” All the while, their phones are lighting up with Snapchat notifications showing them that their classmates have more friends than they do.
Today’s Teens Have no Escape From Subliminal Messaging
Teens today have no way to escape the subliminal messages that lead to comparison and ultimately anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more when they are unable to meet standards put forth by media.
Time to Step In
With this information, you may be wondering how you can help your teen survive the unruly world of social media. Let me give you a few tips!
Modeling: No I don’t mean become an Instagram model!
Even though we did not grow up with cell phones or social media to the extent teens today do, parents are usually just as guilty with the screens as they are. We’ve become obsessed with checking our email, responding to text messages immediately, answering work calls on Saturdays, and posting Facebook pictures of our “perfect weekend.”
The best way to influence behavioral changes in your teen is to be an example of how you want them to be. Try putting your phone away when you are with them, show them what it means to be present and intentional.
Boundaries: Set boundaries around screen time!
You can do this by setting rules in your home about screens.
Maybe encourage screen-free dinner time every evening, where all phones go in the drawer until every person is done eating? Maybe the rule is everyone puts their phones on the charger in the entryway when coming home from school/work and that is where they remain. Another idea could be screen-free Saturdays! Get out and do something without phones and enjoy the world around you through your eyes not the lens of a phone!
Perspective: Your teens need help to see the bigger picture.
Since their brains are still forming, it is difficult for them to see that Instagram and Tiktok are superficial and no one is actually as perfect as their feeds suggest.
Talk to your teen, learn about their favorite influencers, and why they are drawn to them. You will have an easier time helping your teen gain perspective and navigate the forcefield of social media if you show genuine interest and build trust with them. Keep doors of communication open and allow them to feel like they can share with you! Avoid interrogating, overexplaining, or lecturing. Nothing makes a teen shut down faster than that! You want to remain a source of support.
Address Social Media and Anxiety in Teens in Metairie, LA Today!
If your teen is struggling with their mental health and it’s impacting their ability to fully live and enjoy life, Therapy for Teens at Creative Counseling and Wellness is here to help. As a Therapist, I have both personal and professional experience with these issues and am prepared to walk this journey of self-discovery with your teen. Follow the steps below to get started. Through ownership, balance, and practice, your teen can own the stage and the stage called life!
- Reach out to me via my convenient online contact form.
- Get to know more about me and my story here.
- Begin the journey to self-discovery and healing
Other Mental Health Services Offered at Creative Counseling and Wellness
I specialize in working with teens and their families. I work with a wide variety of individuals such as LGBTQ+ Teens, Teens with Anxiety, Theater Teens, Creative/Artistic Teens, Teens Questioning Gender Identity, High Achieving Teens, Teens with Social Anxiety, and Teens Struggling with Perfectionism. My own life and experience give me a unique perspective that lends itself to working with teens especially. Reach out today!