The Teenage Allure of Risky Social Media Challenges

Modern day teenagers are prone to risky social media challenges. The reason behind this is no different than the other reasons many people act out during their adolescent years: testing their limits, succumbing to social pressures, and wanting to appear cool and hip among peers. As these challenges become more and more popular, it’s important that parents are aware of the appeal behind these viral trends and how to help teens resist them and avoid the associated risks.

Every generation of teenagers can fall victim to social pressures. But modern teens tend to have less in-person pressure and more on-screen pressure. Our parents and grandparents only had to deal with pressures coming from other teens in classrooms and extracurricular activities. Today’s teens face the entire world on their devices. And many haven’t yet built up the strength to resist the pressure of conforming to norms, even when they are dangerous. Having unlimited access to a much larger social network makes it more difficult for teenagers to resist pressure.

A 2023 study found that teens who are exposed to substance use on social media were more likely to engage in substance use offline. Substance use can be glamorized online and made to seem like it’s what the “cool kids” are doing, especially when posted by celebrities, influencers or anyone who posts content that garners lots of likes. This can be daunting for parents.

Here’s a list of things you can do to prevent your teen from leaning into risky social media behavior.

  1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
    If you lack understanding about digital environments, the best person to ask is a digital native. Ask your teen what their favorite social media apps are and consider downloading one or two of them yourself! The only way you can truly understand the dangers – and the benefits – of social media is to engage with it. This will also help you learn what is appropriate behavior on each platform and learn what are healthy boundaries to set for your teen.
  2. Ask Open-Ended Questions About Their Experiences
    A great way to make your teen more aware of the potential dangers of social media is to directly ask about them. Try asking a question; something like, “Have you seen anything on social media recently that’s upsetting you?” or “What do you think is dangerous about social media?” Asking these questions encourages teens to think more critically about their social media use and creates an open line of communication.
  3. Create Boundaries Around Social Media Use
    Social media is a major part of modern social interaction. To completely remove access from your teen would be removing them from many conversations their peers are having, potentially leaving them feeling socially isolated. However, establishing clear boundaries between your teen and social media use is extremely important, given the proven links between excess social media use and dips in mental health. Establish a family media plan that fits both your and your teen’s needs.

Most teens will likely roll their eyes if you try to convince them that social media is not real life. They will say that they “understand,” while still subconsciously comparing themselves to the influencers and celebrities they follow. It’s important to remove teens from their digital bubble and remind them that there is more to life than living through a screen. Check out our blog about how to spend quality time with your teen if you’re looking for inspiration.

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