It’s not surprising that rapidly texting in group chats, uploading disappearing videos, and constantly updating social media profiles comes more naturally to today’s teenager than riding a bike. They’ve been raised with devices in hand and it’s a part of their generation’s make up. So, when a 2016 study of 790 teenagers found that nearly 60 percent had taken social media breaks — parents everywhere were a bit perplexed.
Teens Look For More IRL Moments
It turns out that the reasons behind these social media breaks vary from forced parental punishments (like, grounding) to willingly logging off to connect more IRL (in real life). The teenagers who took social media breaks voluntarily chose to step away in order to gain more time for other things and decompress from the pressure of always portraying the best version of themselves online.
These teens tended to feel positive about their time away from social media, as 60 percent took three or more additional breaks to decompress. Conversely, teenagers who were forced to take breaks due to parental punishments felt anxious, disconnected, and were eager to get back on social platforms. So, although many parents would love to force their teenagers to take a social media break, it appears they only reap positive benefits when the decision to step away is their own.
The recurring reason for why teenagers are temporarily breaking up with social media seems to be psychological. They simply need a break. It’s downright exhausting for teens to be constantly in communication and competition with one another on social media. Especially since social media never sleeps – which means a teenager can feel overwhelmed 24/7. It’s easy to understand why teenagers (and social media users in general) could use a little break. But how long is enough?
A Week-Long Break Might Be All That’s Needed
While the study found 50 percent of teenagers took social media breaks that lasted a week or longer, certain factors like gender and socioeconomic status affected the duration of these breaks. Nearly 40 percent of teenage boys took social media breaks of two weeks or longer in comparison to only 22 percent of teenage girls. Similarly, teenagers of lower socioeconomic status tended to take longer social media breaks than their peers.
Even though the majority of teenagers in the study participated in social media breaks, it’s important to consider why others have not. Over 55 percent of teenagers who have never taken a break cited FOMO (fear of missing out) as the main reason. This is significant since it doesn’t indicate that these teens don’t want to take a break, but rather that they are afraid to do so.
Voluntarily deciding to take a social media break is a largely individualized decision that is dependent on a variety of factors. However, it appears that the leading factor is a healthy level of self-awareness. When teenagers decide to step back from the often artificial and stressful world of social media they demonstrate an impressive understanding of their psychological needs. Maybe they’re tired of comparing their bodies to celebrities or simply sick of the constant stream of notifications. Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that teens need a break and it’s reassuring to know that most aren’t afraid to do so.
Do you suggest social media breaks for your kids?
If so, are you willing to see if they’ll get there on their own?
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.