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  • Rachel Maizel, LMSW

Executive Functioning and Social Media For Teens

Updated: Feb 23

Social media has become a huge part of many people’s everyday lives. And for the teens and adolescents who grew up using social media, those digital platforms are especially integral pieces of their daily lives and routines. There have been many discussions and conversations about the effects of social media on teens' mental health and well-being. But in addition to social media impacting teens, it also can have an impact on their executive functioning as well.

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive functioning refers to the set of skills and mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember, and multitask. There are three main components to Executive Function. Working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Executive Function is an essential everyday skill. One that allows us to learn, work, and manage our daily lives. We usually start to develop these function skills early in childhood and adolescence. But continue to develop them into our mid-20s.


Signs of Executive Functioning Challenges

  • Difficulty starting and completing tasks.

  • Difficulty prioritizing tasks.

  • Having trouble following directions.

  • Panicking when a routine changes.

  • Having trouble managing time.


Social Media and Executive Functioning

When it comes to social media and executive functioning, social media and internet use can place a burden on the cognitive processes involved in executive functioning. One of the major components of executive functioning is inhibitory control. Inhibitory control is substantially lowered with excessive use of social media. The concept of instant gratification in social media creates the assumption and culture in our normal day-to-day lives of wanting and expecting things quickly, easily, and with minimal effort. Teens translate instant gratification culture into their personal lives.

This can contribute to increased difficulty in attention span, studying for exams, doing homework, practicing sports, etc. Teens and adolescents may not find pleasure or purpose in tasks that have delayed gratification. The constant availability of information and instant gratification through social media can hinder a teen’s ability to delay gratification and make thoughtful, future-oriented choices. This lack of impulse control can have detrimental effects on productivity, relationships, and overall well-being.


Additionally, the multitasking nature of social media has impacts on working memory, which is a big component of Executive Functioning. Working memory refers to the type of memory that allows a person to temporarily hold a limited amount of information at the ready for immediate mental use. The concept of information coming, going, and disappearing with social media impacts a teen’s ability to process and store this information.


How Can Parents Help Their Teens

  1. Set rules. For example, keep devices in common areas of the home and turn them off during meals and before bed.

  2. Educate your kids on the impact of social media and check in on theirs on a regular basis.

  3. ‘Friend’ or follow your children on social media. 

  4. Recognize any behavioral changes and offer to talk.

  5. Model desired cell phone usage behavior.

If you’re worried about your teen and their Executive Functioning and social media use, you’re not alone. If you’d like support navigating this tricky topic, Liz Morrison Therapy is here to help. Feel free to get in touch with us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have, see whether we’re a good fit, and start working toward a better future today.

Help Your Teen Navigate Executive Functioning With Therapy For Teens in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New York, or anywhere in the state of New York!

Are you noticing your teen struggling to start or complete tasks, prioritize responsibilities, or manage their time effectively? Social media might be playing a larger role than you realize. Excessive use can hinder their executive functioning skills, leading to decreased attention span, difficulty studying, and trouble with impulse control. If you're concerned about your teen's well-being and their relationship with social media, At Liz Morrison Therapy, we're here to offer support and guidance with therapy for teens. Follow these three simple steps to get started:

1. Contact us to schedule an appointment for Therapy for Teens

2. Begin meeting with a skilled teen therapist

3. Start seeing positive changes in your teen!

Other Services Offered at Liz Morrison Therapy

At Liz Morrison Therapy, we offer services for the whole family. So in addition to helping your teen with their executive functioning skills in therapy for teens, our services also include Parenting Support for those looking to create healthy relationships with their children to help them live their best lives, Life Coaching for individuals looking for support, guidance, and real-world strategies to help them deal with their struggles, and Anxiety Therapy for those wanting to cope with their anxiety in healthy ways. For more about us check out our Blogs and FAQs


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