Author: Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
Apr 3, 2023
Teen girls face numerous challenges that can negatively impact their mental and physical health, such as bullying, cyberbullying, dating violence, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse. Girls are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to boys, and they are also at a higher risk of suicide. Additionally, teen girls are more likely to experience sexual violence, with nearly 1 in 5 high school girls reporting being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
Why such a dramatic increase in depression reported in teen girls? According to a recent CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) press release, there has been a 60% increase from 2021 in teen girls reporting persistent sadness or hopelessness.
Teens all over the world face these challenges, but American culture tends to place a high value on individualism, which can lead to competition and social comparison between individuals. This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of aggression, including relational aggression.
Relational aggression is a type of behavior that involves damaging or manipulating social relationships with others, such as spreading rumors or excluding someone from a social group. While both boys and girls can engage in relational aggression, research suggests that it is more common among girls.
Perhaps it’s because girls are socialized to value close relationships and social connections more than boys, which may lead to more frequent use of relational aggression as a way to protect and maintain these relationships. Another theory is that girls are less physically aggressive than boys, and therefore, may use other means to assert power and control in social situations.
Social media can provide platforms for individuals to engage in behaviors that are harmful to others. Cyber bullying, exclusion, spreading rumors, and public shaming are some examples of this dynamic on social media.
Relational aggression in social media can have serious consequences for the victim’s mental health , self-esteem, and social well-being. It can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It is important to educate adolescents about the harmful effects of relational aggression and promote positive social behaviors on social media platforms.
It is very difficult to ban social media altogether. Most parents of teens understand that this only encourages secret behavior. Most teens are drawn to social media because it is tied to pop culture, which is a necessity in helping teens’ interpersonal relationships with each other.
So how do we as parents, caregivers, and educators, monitor and address incidences of relational aggression on social media to our teens and offer support? Here are some suggestions:
Educate adolescents about the harmful effects of relational aggression and teach them healthy ways to resolve conflicts.
Encourage positive social behavior, such as inclusivity, empathy, and kindness.
Monitor and limit access to social media and other online platforms where relational aggression can occur.
Take complaints of relational aggression seriously and investigate them thoroughly.
Work with school administrators and counselors to create a safe and supportive environment for all students.
By taking steps to prevent and address relational aggression, we can help create a more positive and supportive social environment for adolescents.
Please check in again soon for Part 2 on “How To Communicate With Your Teens”