8 Reasons for Tween Social Media Anxiety

Plus 6 tips to restore balance
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Tween social media anxiety is more common than you think.

How can social media be so great for our tweens and their social development when Social Media Anxiety Disorder has become such a common diagnosis for tweens today? In a recent study by Influence Central, 50 percent of respondents reported that their children created a social media account before the age of 12. What parents of tweens are failing to recognize is that the hours using social media comes with an emotional, psychological, physical and social cost; as well as the loss of countless hours of time- time that should be spent developing necessary tween-age social skills.

Reasons for Tween Social-Media Anxiety

  1. Premature detachment from family.  Since the cognitive brain is still being formed, the need for your tween to have a healthy attachment to your family is just as important now as when they were younger. Social media immersion causes them to prematurely lose important connections to their family and view their “friends” as their foundation and life compass.
  2. Not a good fit.  Friends certainly play a vital role in a tween’s social development, however, it is not a good fit to try to make the virtual social process fit the real social needs of a tween. They become anxious because they lose the face-to-face interaction. They must first learn how to develop those relationships well in real life before they expect too much from the virtual world.
  3. Too public. Despite the layers of privacy settings, nothing is truly private when it comes to social media.  It has become this generation's private diary for the world to see and others to comment on. Your tween does need privacy, perhaps a real diary or a journal is a better fit that can meet both their sensory needs and privacy needs as they can jot down their private feelings and thoughts.   
  4. Constant noise keeps them up and anxious. The constant “noise” of social media notifications produces anxiety.  Lack of sleep also compounds anxiety as many kids now sleep with their phones and get less than the recommended nine hours.
  5. Unmet social needs and that “left out” feeling. Believe it or not, tweens can feel more left out when they are on social media than when they are not. The pain of not being tagged, “liked” or commented on increases the chances for anxiety, particularly when tweens replace screen time for personal face-to-face connection.
  6. Graphic images. Young brains are especially impressionable, and odd, novel, gross, and sometimes sexually explicit images cause stress and desensitization.  
  7. Bullying and being bullied. Cyberbullying comes in many forms and can start at a young age on social media as the bully can easily hide behind a screen. Parents have little to no control over this and often recognize the fallout too late.
  8. All play and no hard work. Because surfing social media is just an easy form of sedentary entertainment, it does not provide the creative, productive outlet and true relaxation that are critical for your tween’s emotional health.


  1. Delay access. The longer parents delay access to social media, the more time the child has to mature so that he or she can use it more wisely as a young adult.  Using it as a tween does not prepare your child for better use down the road. In fact in many cases, your child may be stunting their emotional, social and academic growth because of too much time on social media.
  2. Follow and monitor their social media accounts. Don’t buy the lie that they need social media privacy or that it even exists, as it is not private to the rest of the world, so it should not be private to parents. Reducing the number of apps to one or two is also a good idea since you may not have time to follow and monitor eighteen, and knowing your child’s passwords is a must. Your social media rules should be clear and enforced.  
  3. Keep a sharp eye on the clock; they cannot.  Be aware of the amount of time your child is on social media across all platforms. The average tween spends nine hours a day tethered to their social media worlds; work on reducing the amount of time they spend online.
  4. Plan face-to-face time for your tweens with their friends.  Remember that they don’t need 842 friends; four to six close friends are much better for healthy social development.
  5. Exercise and Sports. Kids need to move a lot to stay healthy physically and emotionally. Put the phone away and get outside with your kids for some fun! Do not let them quit sport programs during the tween years, although they may want to. Maybe now is the time for them to try something new; rock climbing, mountain biking, disc golf perhaps? Swapping screen time for physical time is never a good idea.  
  6. Spend more real non-tech time with your children. In this age of screens everywhere we look, we must all be mindful and intentional about keeping non-tech time in a healthy balance. Tweens need time with you more than you think- and more than they will let you know!

​To reduce social anxiety and set your tweens up for success, allow them to develop real-life skills and friendships before they try to make social media fill all of their social needs. Reducing the time spent on social media and the control it has over their lives, and filling that time with more family attachment should be the goal. This is where they will need parents to take an active role in redirecting family time and making REAL life more engaging and fun.

For more tips on managing social media and gaming in your home and making real life more fun than virtual life go to: www.familiesmanagingmedia.com.