3 min read

FOMO: Why Social Media Could Be Bad for Your Teen’s Health

A recent survey found that 39% of Canada’s teens sleep with their cellphone.  It seems FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is so prevalent in adolescents that not even sleep is off limits when it comes to staying connected and accessing their social networks.

But FOMO is also a serious form of social anxiety which we’re all prone to experiencing.  A recent study from the University of Glasgow found that students who were active and emotionally invested in their digital lives reported worse sleep, lower self-esteem and higher instances of anxiety and depression when compared to students who cared less or spent less time on social media.

Research even goes so far as to propose the implementation of a Digital Sunset; a setting which would allow parents to disable smartphones and tablets at a certain point in the evening.

Gail Smillie, Carya’s Teen Brain Expert, has specialized in child and youth mental health for over 30 years.  She believes depriving teens of things rarely makes a good strategy for change and instead suggests looking at their offline activities.

“The problem with social media is that when we feel FOMO we immediately reach for our phones or our tablets to alleviate those feelings of stress.  But that only feeds the problem.  We need to create new habits and help our teens do the same.

Exercise and getting outdoors can be a great way to get rid of the handhelds.  Getting away from Wi-Fi and doing something physical not only takes away our options to engage online we also get the benefit of endorphins which are a natural stress reliever.  Take a family hike, go for a ski lesson, go camping; these are all great ways for getting away from that social media environment.

Sleep is also an important indicator of your teen’s well-being and lack of it is a major cause of stress not only for the teen but also within the household and teens struggle to keep their emotions balanced.  Teens need more sleep than adults and their body clocks are set to switch off later than adults, combine this with early waking times for school and too much screen time late at night and you’ve got a recipe for a very stressed and unhappy adolescent. 

How do we address that?  Talk to your kids.  Explain the biology to them and help them make healthier choices around their use of technology.  If all else fails, let them nap when they need to and accept that if they’re snoozing in the middle of the afternoon that’s a positive thing, it doesn’t mean they’re being lazy, it means they’re listening to their body’s needs.”

Find out more about the teenage brain at Carya’s Enspire Learning Series Event

Gail will be presenting Crazy by Design: Exploring the Adolescent Brain on November 4th at the Cardel Theatre, SE Calgary at 7pm.

Tickets cost $35 and are available here.