10 Warning Signs of Instagram Addiction in Teen Girls

Written by, Stacey Waites, LCSW

As parents of daughters, we start worrying about external influences as soon as they are born. The broader sense of this becomes real when they receive their first smartphone. Instagram is the “thing” in our culture now. All pre-teens and teenagers want to know what it is and how they can be a part of this “thing.” You know your kid more than anyone, so the signs of a problem may appear in many ways. Here are some of the signs parents should look out for if they think their daughter is addicted to Instagram:

1. Spending Excessive Time on Instagram

Spending excessive time on Instagram usually shows up when it interferes with daily responsibilities and family values. If teen girls spend most of their time on their phones or check Instagram excessively throughout the day, it may indicate an Instagram addiction. The constant ping of notifications of social media content that is designed to capture your teen’s attention makes it even harder for a teen girl not to develop an Instagram addiction.

2. Neglecting Responsibilities and Hobbies

Neglecting these responsibilities could cause a disconnect between relationships and things teen girls may have normally loved to do. For example, a teen girl who is choosing to use Instagram rather than getting her homework done may be struggling with Instagram addiction.

3. Experiencing Anxiety When Not on Instagram

Some teen girls may find that using Instagram provides a sense of calm and control, possibly due to a lack of positive coping skills for dealing with anxiety and depression. The calm teen girls may get when they use Instagram as a coping skill may make them feel better but ultimately may cause them anxiety when they are not spending much time on the app.

4. Obsession with Posting and the Number of Likes

Continuous affirmation is a big part of Instagram addiction. Self-identity is very rooted in how others feel about us. The more “likes,” the more awesome we must be. As teens associate getting likes on Instagram with feeling good, it can become addictive behavior for teens who are seeking that validation in the future.

5. Withdrawing from Real-Life Social Interactions

When affirmations don’t appear in our “real” world, we now know where we can go to find them. This can cause teens to leave or withdraw from in-person interactions and go in search of “likes” from people on Instagram, further fueling their addiction and impacting their daily lives. Social isolation due to Instagram addiction can have severe mental health effects on teen girls.

6. Disturbed Sleep Patterns Due to Late-Night Scrolling

Sleep patterns will most likely be disrupted due to Instagram addiction, resulting in morning fatigue and a lack of motivation for teen girls. The constant scrolling and use of phones before bed can lead to difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep quality. This cycle of sleep disturbance can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and impact the overall well-being of a teen girl’s mental health, making it important to address the issue and limit distractions before bedtime.

7. Exhibiting Signs of Low Self-Esteem Linked to Body Image or Lifestyles of Others

We have all read articles and news reports about poor body image and how it correlates to low self-esteem. Teenagers love the new features of their smartphones, namely the apps for “Filters”. Filters show us perfection in a non-perfect reality. It’s no wonder that teen girls may have body image concerns when comparing themselves to others on social media apps like Instagram or filters that make them look unrealistic.

8. Reacting Defensively When Instagram Use is Questioned

Dopamine is a powerful chemical that is being dumped into our daughters’ brains every time they push that Instagram button. Asking to give that up before it wears off is like taking a Ribeye from a German Shepherd. The anger can be intense when asked to stop feeling that “high” that comes with using social media platforms such as Instagram.

9. Suffering from Academic Performance Decline

Even teenagers who have big dreams and aspirations in their school performance can fall victim to social media addiction. Sometimes, these teens fall under the radar because they have always been responsible beyond their years resulting in not needing the constant check-in by parents. For these young people, Instagram addiction may cause academic difficulties and school issues that can impact their lives for years to come.

10. Showing Signs of Emotional Distress When Restricted from Instagram

The constant need for validation and connection that social media provides can make it challenging for teen girls to cope when they don’t have access to Instagram. This reliance on virtual connections may indicate deeper emotional or mental health issues that need to be addressed for teens.

How Does Instagram Addiction Affect My Daughter’s Mental Health?

Even though social media addiction isn’t considered a formal diagnosis, the signs and symptoms are similar to other forms of addiction. The relationship is complex. Social media can be mood-altering, which leads to impulsivity, withdrawal, social isolation, anxiety, and depression.

Anxiety

Anxiety shows up in many ways. Teenagers have an intense fear of missing out (FOMO). Missing out, not being a part of, not being invited, not having the right make-up or the right kind of clothes, or even the right kind of friends can cause some mental health concerns. Of course, social media allows you to be anyone you want, but this can lead to social isolation, depression, and negative emotions. Teen girls may also increase social anxiety as a result of extended time spent on Instagram.

Depression

We have seen more depressive symptoms in our teenage population since COVID. The absence of face-to-face interactions with peers and the community led to finding these connections online. We quickly learned that online was “safer” and less real. Returning to face-to-face living and interactions caused fear, worry of abandonment and rejection — two important factors of depression. Finding your authentic self has proven to be more difficult for teens with Instagram and other social media addictions.

Teen girl feeling depressed and lonely due to Instagram addiction.
Little girl feeling depressed after reading text message on mobile telephone in home bedroom. Concept of bullying and loneliness among preteens

Social Isolation and Withdrawal

Social isolation and withdrawal may be common outcomes of Instagram addiction among teenage girls. The constant need for virtual connection can lead to real-life disengagement as online interactions replace face-to-face relationships. This behavior may perpetuate feelings of loneliness and hinder the development of authentic self-identity for teen girls.

Impulsivity

Impulsivity may manifest from excessive social media use, especially on platforms like Instagram. Instant gratification from likes, comments, and followers can drive teen girls to constantly seek validation through their online presence. This impulsive behavior can lead to a cycle of dependency on social media for a sense of worth and self-esteem. As the addiction deepens, teen girls may struggle with controlling their impulses to engage with the platform, sacrificing real-life responsibilities and relationships in the process. This can have detrimental effects on their mental and physical health and overall well-being in real life.

How Can I Help My Teen Daughter Overcome Instagram Addiction?

Overcoming Instagram requires lots of patience and understanding from a teenager’s immediate support system. Some ways parents can help their teen overcome Instagram addiction can include:

  • Setting boundaries on Instagram use
  • Encouraging offline activities and hobbies
  • Discussing excessive social media use
  • Creating a support system at home
  • Being a role model for breaking the cycle of addiction and promoting a healthier relationship with social media. This includes parental figures and caregivers, teachers, therapists, coaches, siblings, peers, and other support outlets.

Set Healthy Boundaries Around Instagram Use

Having a clear written plan that outlines boundaries around Instagram use, with lots of buy-in from the teenager has the highest success rate. This written plan can be in the form of a “Social Media Contract.” Within this contract, there will be a list of healthy boundaries, a list of offline activities to pull from, a safe space for conversation with support people, an intentional self and caregiver monitoring program on available devices, and name those who provide a safe space for conversation, and names of positive role models. Working on this contract with your daughter can be rewarding while building trust and attunement.

Encourage Offline Activities and Hobbies

Encouraging offline activities and hobbies can be a great way to help your teen daughter overcome Instagram addiction. Suggest engaging in sports, arts and crafts, music, or volunteering to shift focus away from social media. These activities provide a mental break from constant digital stimulation, promote physical health and detox from social media. Helping her discover new interests can boost confidence and reduce the urge to constantly check Instagram.

Facilitating Open Conversations About Social Media Use and Addiction

Facilitating open conversations about social media use and addiction can help your teen daughter combat her Instagram addiction. She can feel supported and understood by creating a safe space for discussion with trusted individuals like parents, teachers, therapists, and friends in her journey towards healthier habits. Encourage her to express her feelings and struggles freely, without judgment, and listen actively to what she is saying.

Teen girl with Instagram addiction and excessive social media use challenges talks to mom.
10 Warning Signs of Instagram Addiction in Teen Girls 3

Create a Support System for Teen Girls at Home

Ensure there are open lines of communication with trusted individuals such as parents, siblings, or other family members who can provide emotional support and guidance. Encouraging mutual respect and understanding within the household can help foster a healthy environment for your teen daughter to navigate challenges related to social media use effectively.

Be a Role Model for Healthy Social Media Use

Showcasing a balanced approach to social media can inspire your daughter to adopt healthier habits. If you are prioritizing offline activities, hobbies, and meaningful connections over excessive screen time, you can subtly reinforce the importance of moderation in her online interactions.

Within the contract you develop with your daughter regarding ways to overcome Instagram addiction, you need to include the expected consequences. This could consist of a higher level of care, such as seeking professional help. When safety and impulsivity become severe concerns, more help outside the community may be needed. There are many programs out there that can provide a safe and supportive environment for working through addictions, even social media addictions.

Chrysalis is a Therapeutic Boarding School in the beautiful mountains of Montana. We work with teenage girls who struggle with anxiety, depression, body image, identity, trauma, and poor school performance. Instagram addiction is real, and our therapeutic boarding school can help teen girls who are struggling through our nurturing residential environment and healing treatments like adventure therapy.

Instagram Addiction: Moving Forward

If you find yourself struggling to figure out the next steps in seeking support for your teen’s social media addiction or any of the mental health concerns we have discussed, please call 406-998-6313 or contact us to reach out to our top-notch and super caring admissions team.

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