• Behavior
  • Parenting

Is your teen fishing for emotional support on social media?

  • Posted
Teen girl with a sad expression lays her head on a desk and takes a selfie.
In this article, you'll find answers to questions like:

1. What is sadfishing?
2. Is my child really depressed?
3. How can spur personal interaction?  

Has your teen been posting social media photos or videos of themselves looking sad or crying?

If so, it’s to draw attention from friends and followers, and it even has a name: sadfishing. Unfortunately, it perpetuates the cycle of sadness and depression, which isn’t healthy.  

So how should you handle this behavior? Here are some tips.  

1. WHAT IS SADFISHING?  

While the term might be new to adults, it’s not for adolescents.

Sadfishing centers on hopelessness and negativity and “can be an extremely toxic echo chamber for teens to get caught in,” Cassidy Littleton writes in a Teen Talk column titled, “A Parent’s Guide to Sadfishing, Explained by a Teenager,” on Parents.com.

Littleton explains that it was easier to post about her struggles than to ask for help when she was 14 and depressed because the internet is anonymous and non-confrontational.

2. IS MY CHILD REALLY DEPRESSED?  

It can be hard to discern if your child is miserable based solely on social media posts. Some teens use sadfishing as irreverent jokes, which undermines the seriousness of depression and anxiety. Consequently, that makes followers less likely to offer help to those who really need it, Littleton writes.  

Most young people feel down, confused or moody at times, according to 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast’s helpline website. Remind your teen it’s vital to talk to someone directly instead of posting online, especially if troubling feelings persist or worsen.  

You should consider the nature, intensity, severity and duration of a problem within the context of knowing your child to determine whether behavioral changes are out of character, says Renée Layman, chief executive officer for the Center for Child Counseling, which is funded in part by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.  

3. HOW TO SPUR PERSONAL INTERACTION?

If you see concerning posts, or hear about it from others, ask your children if they feel overwhelmed. Talk to them about social media trends like sadfishing to build awareness and open communication.

Encourage your children to connect in person with other teens, says Kelly Powell, vice president of Community Services for Community Partners of South Florida. The Teen Outreach Program, known as TOP at local middle and high schools, uses a teen club model to help students foster healthier communication that promotes resiliency.

“Let your teen know they can trust you to listen without judgment,” Powell says. “And discuss how to react if they see friends sadfishing so they can be ready to offer their friends more appropriate tools.”

You or your teen can have an anonymous online chat from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily on the 211 helpline website or get professional support around the clock by calling 211 or texting your ZIP code to 898211. Trained resource specialists can assist with crisis intervention, suicide prevention, information, assessment and referrals to local community services.  

SOURCES:

  • “A Parent’s Guide to Sadfishing, Explained by a Teenager,” Cassidy Littleton, Parents.com
• Kelly Powell, vice president of Community Services, Community Partners of South Florida 
211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
• Renée Layman, chief executive officer, Center for Child Counseling

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