How to Stop Social Media Addiction

Many parents worry about how much their kids use social media, given its potential to harm young people’s mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many solutions to social media addiction that parents can explore.

Below are a few tips on how to stop social media addiction.

What is social media addiction

Social media addiction describes the compulsive need to use social media that negatively impacts a person’s daily life and mental well-being.

The Bergen Social Media Addiction scale measures the behavioral and psychological impacts a person with an addiction might experience. It shows that constant social media usage may be diagnosed as an addiction similar to other addictions. It measures the following impacts: , 

  1. Salience: How much a person is focused on social media.
  2. Mood modification: How much a person’s mood is impacted by using social media platforms.
  3. Tolerance: How much more a person needs to use a social media app to get the same positive feelings from it.
  4. Withdrawal: How much psychological or physical discomfort a person might experience if they go without social media.
  5. Conflict: How a person stops other activities to use social media.
  6. Relapse: How a person resumes constant use after trying to change their usage.

Meta, the parent company of both Facebook and Instagram, has also identified the problem of social media addiction. Internally, Meta personnel call it “problematic use.” They define it as “[s]erious problems with sleep, work or relationship that they attribute to Facebook AND concerns or preoccupations about how they use Facebook (e.g., a fear of missing out (FOMO) or lack of control).” 

If you are a parent and are concerned that your child may have a social media addiction that has a negative effect on their lives, we urge you to connect with a mental health professional. They can help diagnose any mental health conditions and prescribe appropriate treatments to improve your child’s overall well-being.

Why is social media addictive?

Social media platforms can induce addictive behavior in users in a number of ways, including: 

  • Flow states: Social media apps produce an endless stream generated with an algorithm designed to keep people scrolling on the platforms.
  • Intermittent variable rewards: People may be rewarded with positive social reactions at a nearly random rate. These rewards can modify dopamine levels and keep people focused on their social media notifications.
  • Trophies: Social media apps, like Snapchat, may have rewards for users who consistently engage on the platform.
  • Constant notifications: People may receive notifications about engagement. They may also be bombarded with updates about what their peers are doing. These notifications can create FOMO for some users.

Learn more about why social media is addictive here.

Tips for how to stop social media addiction

Given the addictive design of social media platforms, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy described teens trying to resist social media use as “just not a fair fight.”  

However, parents can help their kids overcome social media addiction in several ways. These digital detox steps could include:

  1. Monitor social media use: Parents can work with their teens to understand how often they use social media apps. This can be a crucial first step to identifying a potential social media addiction. As an added benefit, research shows that simply monitoring social media use may decrease anxiety and FOMO. 
  2. Set a time for social media use: Setting a time to check social media can help teens focus on other activities while still allowing them to catch up with friends and family in a healthy, appropriate way. Reduced screen time can mean more time for a new activity.
  3. Find a new hobby or activity: Parents can help their teens break their social media addiction by encouraging them to take up new hobbies. This suggestion may be more effective if the replacement activity allows them to interact with their friends in real life, taking away some of the appeal of social media.
  4. Uninstall social media apps: If you want your kid to maintain some presence on social media, they can uninstall the apps on their phone and access them on a computer. Uninstalling the apps also helps prevent notifications from enticing teens to constantly check social media.
  5. Keep the phones out of bedrooms: One potential problem with social media apps is the potential to disrupt teens’ sleep habits. Sleep deprivation may lead to teens experiencing depressive symptoms.  Keeping your teen’s phone outside the room can help prevent them from deciding to check their social media accounts in the middle of the night.
  6. Model good behavior: If parents follow their own advice about reducing social media use, it may help teens stick to new habits. As an added benefit, parents may find similar psychological benefits from reducing social media use.

Social media addiction symptoms to look for

Parents who aren’t sure if their teens have social media addiction may want to consider the following signs: , 

  • Is your teen constantly using social media, or is otherwise preoccupied with it?
  • Does using social media regularly alter your teen’s mood?
  • Does your teen seem to need more time on their social media apps to get the same level of enjoyment?
  • Does your teen become more easily agitated or physically ill if they don’t check social media platforms?
  • Has your teen stopped doing other activities they enjoy to spend more time on social media?
  • Does your teen immediately re-immerse themselves if they take a break from social media?

Only a medical professional can diagnose your child with a mental health condition. Please consider reaching out to one if you’re concerned that your teen’s social media use has crossed a line to addiction. They can also help with other mental health issues that may be caused or worsened by social media use.

If you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts about suicide, know that free, confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 988 for help or visit the Lifeline online at https://988lifeline.org/.

Resources for help and treatment

The following resources may assist you in finding help or treatment for social media addiction:

General Mental Health Crisis helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), www.nami.org.

Behavioral Health Treatment Services assistance: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov.

Sources
  1. Andreassen, C. S., Billieux, J., Griffiths, M. D., Kuss, D. J., Demetrovics, Z., Mazzoni, E., & Pallesen, S. The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: a large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychology of Addictive Behavior. 2016 March;30(2):252-262.
  2. CNN. Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media.
  3. Hunt, M. Marx, R., Lipson, C., Young, J. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2018 Dec.;37(10):751–768.
  4. Roberts, R., Doung, H. The Prospective Association between Sleep Deprivation and Depression among Adolescents. Sleep. 2014 Feb. 1;37(2):239-244.