Instagram is Not the Enemy

There have been many recent articles warning of social media platforms harmful to young people’s mental health. Instagram of course is on this list. While this new study is concerning and should be taken to heart, I think we need to look deeper.

Instagram is not the enemy. And, if we make Instagram the fall guy for every issue we have with our teens, we will miss many other factors at play here.

I recently read an article in Time Magazine on teen depression and anxiety. It was both an enlightening and tough read. The article gave some sober numbers on teens and depression. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2015 roughly 3 million teens ages 12-17 had at least one major depressive episode and over 2 million suffered depression that impaired their daily functions. And those numbers are just the cases reported. Meaning the true numbers are likely higher.

So, is Instagram the enemy? And is social media fully to blame for this increase in depression and anxiety our teens are feeling?

No, Instagram isn’t the enemy.

Let’s look at a few big contrasts between the world in which we lived and in which our kids live.

Pre 9/11

Post 9/11

Teens generally felt safe in the world


Terrorism and school shootings aren’t uncommon events
The economy was generally stable Teens are witnessing a tough economic recession
Computers existed but communication wasn’t largely handled instantly online Technology and social media have transformed how we live and communicate


The adage “I was a teen once too,” really doesn’t help us connect with our teens. Our world was much different than theirs. Technology and social media play a large part, yes. But our kids need to feel safe, secure, and unrushed in a world that offers them so little of that.

In the Time article, Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery stated, “Every fight or slight is documented online for hours or days after the incident. It’s exhausting.”

How do we help our teens build margin into their lives so Instagram is a tool and not something that rules them?

Ensure Instagram Isn’t the Enemy by:

  1. Having a Family Media Plan
  2. Having device down times
  3. Having open family discussions

Then guide your teens through Instagram and any other social media platforms they use.

Show Your Teen:

  1. How to report harassment or abuse for the apps they use
  2. How to block someone
  3. How to keep their information private

Discuss with Your Teen:

  1. Ways to say “No” (Here is where role playing helps.)
  2. Respect for self
  3. Peer pressure

Enter Your Teen’s World by Talking with Them About:

  1. Dangerous Social Media Games
  2. Sexting
  3. Texting Lingo
  4. Emojis

Instagram is not the enemy. It’s a social media platform. There is always another social media platform waiting to be the next “dangerous app.” We must begin teaching our kids to be wise, respectful, and safe. And, we need to help them create margin in their lives so they have room to breathe.

Instagram is not the Enemy

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