Social challenges in teens today are, in some ways, greater than those faced by young people in past generations. Teens in 2018 communicate via the Internet, social media, email, and text. They tend not to have a lot of free time after school and on weekends to simply “hang out,” because many teenagers have part-time jobs, volunteer obligations, extracurricular activities, and other activities that take up a lot of time. Those who struggle with social anxiety have even more challenges. If you are a teen who feels that your social life is not where it should be, you’re not alone. Here are some tips on facing your social challenges, interacting well with others, and moving toward the social life that you have been looking for.
One of the social challenges that some teens are facing is Internet addiction. This can encompass things like social media addiction and gaming addiction, and it’s becoming a prevalent problem. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. An addiction of this type involves:
- a building tolerance (you need to be online more to get the “rush” or positive feeling that you are looking for)
- an obsession (you can’t stop thinking about going online)
- abandoning friends
- not keeping up with school
- other negative behaviors
Simply using the Internet a lot is not an addiction, but it could be negatively impacting your social life. If you find that you’re spending time online rather than going out with friends or talking to people face-to-face, it could indicate a problem. The solution might be as simple as making a concerted effort to go out more, leaving your computer off, or removing certain apps from your phone. If these strategies don’t work, then talk to your parents, a guidance counselor, or a mental health professional for help.
Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that takes place via a smartphone, tablet, computer, or another device. It might include:
- harassing text messages or instant messages
- phony social media accounts created to intimidate or impersonate someone else
- emails that are forwarded to a group of teens uninvolved with the original discussion
- or other bullying behaviors
Bullying generally includes repeated behaviors designed to intimidate or harass and also a power imbalance (for example, if someone from the “in crowd” socially isolates or bullies someone from a less popular group).
Cyberbullying is against many school anti-bullying policies and, in some cases, it’s a crime. Don’t be afraid to report cyberbullying to an adult who can help. If you are being bullied and you feel depressed, anxious, or are having suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor or a mental health professional.
Difficulty Making Friends
Whether you’ve gone to the same high school for years or you are brand new to a school, you might have a hard time making friends. Classrooms aren’t set up for easy socialization in many cases. To make friends, it usually helps to join an extracurricular activity. Whether it’s the soccer team, the marching band, or the Key Club, getting together regularly with like-minded teens can help you make friends.
Sometimes, the issue isn’t that you aren’t exposed to people and opportunity but that you don’t know what to say or you have trouble with shyness. In that case, planning ahead can help. Think of a few topics ahead of time. One of your parents might be willing to role-play with you so you can feel more comfortable approaching others. It might feel awkward at first, but learning skills to help you with social challenges can benefit you now and into the future.
Lack of Time for Socializing
One complaint that many teens have is that it’s hard to find time to socialize. It’s no wonder; today’s teens are busier than ever! If you are in this predicament and you legitimately have no time to hang out and decompress with friends, then it might be time to give up one of your activities. This is a hard call to make and sometimes it’s impossible over the short term. When you look at the upcoming months, however, you should hopefully be able to cut something out.
If you should have time for socializing but you don’t, you might just need to brush up on your time management skills. Learn how to use a planner and budget your time. If you write down the ways you’re spending your time, you might be surprised. If you can cut out some unnecessary time-wasters, you might be happy with the amount of time freed up for being with your friends. Ask your parent, a teacher, or a guidance counselor for help if you need some assistance with managing your time.
Do you dread social interactions? If just the thought of going to a party or otherwise interacting with other makes your mouth dry and your heart pound, you might have social anxiety. Teens with social anxiety can panic when they need to be sociable. Some teens with this type of anxiety are fine with their close friends but have a hard time handling interaction with those they don’t know well.
If this sounds familiar, talk to your parents about making an appointment with a counselor. Therapy can help you overcome your anxiety, as well as other social challenges you may be facing, and become the sociable person you want to be.
As a teenager, you might be worried that the best years of your life are passing you by. The teen years are often a lot of fun and filled with adventures with friends, but if yours aren’t, you have plenty of time! As you grow into adulthood, you’ll begin new journeys that will lead to new and different friends and social acquaintances. Don’t worry that the social life you have now will stay the same throughout your adulthood. Brush up on your social skills and take care of any needs you have when it comes to managing your depression, anxiety, social anxiety, or time management issues. In time, you will be ready to take on the world.