Teens Are Spending Less Time Than Ever With Friends


teen isolation

Teens Are Spending Less Time Than Ever With Friends

Friday, July 7th, 2023

While you may have fond memories of going to the mall or the movies as a teenager, today’s children are unlikely to share that nostalgia as they grow up. Many modern American adolescents have swapped in-person interactions like sleepovers and study groups for the allure of social media. As a result, they’re spending less time socializing in the real world.

The Dangers of Teen Isolation and the Benefits of Adolescent Friendships

Often, loneliness leads to depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and an increased risk of substance abuse – especially among young people whose brains and bodies are still developing.  A lack of social connections can be particularly problematic among teens who are in marginalized groups due to characteristics like disability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religious beliefs.

During adolescence, friendships are vital. They help young people forge a sense of independence and identity, while teaching them valuable skills like compassion and empathy.

Other benefits of adolescent friendships include:

  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Happier, more optimistic outlook
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Stronger conflict resolution skills
  • Improved cognitive function
  • More feelings of trust toward others
  • Emotional resilience

Does Your Child Spend Too Much Time Online?

In the smartphone and social media era, nearly half of the nation’s teens say they are online “almost constantly,” according to a survey from Pew Research. Though social media can help friends stay connected, these platforms can adversely affect teen friendships and mental health. Teenagers who spend most of their time online have a high risk of isolation, unrealistic viewpoints, cyberbullying and misinformation.

Social media addiction can adversely affect your child’s health and relationships. If you worry that your son or daughter spends too much time online, you can take steps to curtail their use.

  • Impose a time limit on devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. Make your child’s bedroom a tech-free zone. 
  • Set up age-appropriate parental controls on all the devices your child uses. These tools can shield children from accessing unacceptable or illegal online content.
  • Monitor your kids’ screen time and the media they consume by keeping your TV and computer in a shared area and watching or playing with them.
  • If you always have your head buried in a screen, consider the example you’re setting for your kids. Improving your behavior is one of the best ways to encourage your children to change theirs.

Encourage Your Child to Make Real-Life Friends

Healthy parent-child relationships create a foundation for positive teen friendships. Being supportive and actively listening to your kids can help them develop lifelong communications skills.

You can also support your child by establishing an “open-door” policy – let them know they can always talk to you if they have questions or problems. Make sure your child feels comfortable inviting friends over, and give them plenty of space when they do.

If your child has trouble making in-person friends, think about their interests and strengths. Based on these, you can look for new extracurricular activities they might enjoy, such as volunteering with a local nonprofit or joining a club or team. Meeting like-minded people is an excellent way to make friends and build confidence.

Improve Your Family Dynamic

Feelings of loneliness and being misunderstood can contribute to teen anxiety and depression. Family counseling can help your child be more comfortable communicating and realize they are not alone. As trained therapists, our team at R&A Therapeutic Partners can help you identify any stumbling blocks in your family dynamic and ways to be more responsive to your child’s needs and personality. You may also wish to explore your parenting style to hone your problem-solving abilities, decrease conflict and better understand your experiences alongside your child’s.

To learn more about how we can help you with compassionate support, connect with us today.

At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.

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