Today on social media, teens use “hashtags” to add their images and posts to a feed that aggregates all posts with the same hashtag. Even if you teen’s profile is private, the use of a hashtag makes their post public. Best case scenario it’s a way to join a conversation and find other like-minded people. The flip side is a very dark reality that most parents don’t even know exists.
The simple yet powerful words “I believe in you,” make a huge impact on teens.
Many students are struggling with pain and depression today. I hear adults say all too often that “kids are resilient” when they are actually most likely to internalize trauma. If not addressed and treated in some way, it can manifest in depression or self-harm.
These teens have found a quick way to connect with a group of peers through social media by using hashtags like #depressed (10+ million posts), #suicide (6+ million posts), and #cutting (4+ million posts). This group of mostly young teens posts pictures and comments encouraging one another to go deeper into cutting, depression, and suicidal ideation. If a teen is feeling alone or down, all they have to do is explore one of these hashtags to find a false sense of friendship and belonging. Some kids are even finding fame for their obsession with death and self-harm. This has become so serious that Instagram recently implemented a popup that warns of the dangers of searching for certain hashtags, including death.
Science shows that they more likes they get for their posts, the more they feel worthy, appreciated and understood. This is why they are looking for love and find it in communities like #depression, #cutting, and #drugs. Just like all of us, teens are searching for someone to validate them and tell them they are worthy just as they are.
I recently asked a high school junior if Twitter was still relevant? Her response, “TWITTER IS LIFE.” Whether intentionally or not, our kids are being affected on a daily basis by what they are exposed to on social media. It is critical to see your teens through their social media world. It is a mask, and while many students don’t see it as real life, it is actively shaping some kids sense of self.
The simple yet powerful words “I believe in you,” make a huge impact on teens. So be on Team Teenager. Don’t turn a blind eye or assume your kid isn’t following a destructive community on social media. Be a person who cares enough to know what they’re exposed to.
If you or someone you know is hurting,
please talk to someone you can trust!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1 (800) 273-8255