How Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health: Social media is already everywhere, especially among teens and young adults.
According to a 2018 study, around 97 per cent of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 used at least one social media platform. The average usage of social media is also at record highs. According to insights from Statista, people used social media for 2 hours and 27 minutes daily, on average.
While social media has connected everyone across the globe dramatically, it’s gradually taking a toll on users’ mental health, especially teenagers.
A 2019 study of over 12,000 English teenagers found a link between excessive use of social media and poor mental health and well-being. If you’re a parent, teacher, or guardian looking for answers, we’ve created this article for you.
In this article, we’ll explore how social media affects teen mental health. You will also find a few tips to help your teen improve their habits and quality of life.
How Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health
Social media affects teenagers’ mental health in a variety of ways:
Can lead to depression
Multiple scientific studies have begun to show a link between depression and social media usage. A 2020 scoping review of multiple studies conducted between 2011 and 2019 affirmed a significant correlation between the quantity of social media use and depression among teenagers.
Studies also show that using multiple social media sites also predisposes a person to depressive symptoms. In a 2017 study, this was established. The results showed that people who used seven or more social media sites were thrice as likely to have depressive symptoms as those who used two or fewer. There is depression treatment for teens all around the US.
May increase anxiety levels
Today’s teenagers are more emotionally invested in social media than ever before. With crisp photos of vacations and videos at top-tier locations all over Instagram and Tiktok, teenagers are now even more pressured to look their best on social media. Teenagers spend more time obsessing over the perfect picture or outfit for an occasion, which may lead to unnecessary worry and anxiety.
Research has also shown a correlation between larger online social circles and increased anxiety levels. In other words, teenagers who have more friends or followers online tend to be more anxious. Social media can be unforgiving, which means that teens always want to present their best front. That causes many teens, especially young girls, to worry about how others may see them and their image online.
Causes dependency symptoms
The gamification of social media has made the environment even more toxic for young teenagers. Today’s teenagers are rewarded for their engagement on social media by likes, shares, and comments. According to studies, this hacks the pleasure centers of the brain.
By providing quick bursts of dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter), teens can become used to these quick bursts of pleasurable feelings. That can lead to a feeling of dependency in teenagers.
Scientists now estimate that up to 10 percent of American teenagers may suffer from social media ‘addiction.’ Such teenagers may experience feelings of anger when social media is taken away. Dependency also leads to several other symptoms, such as reduced physical interactions, reduced empathy, and disrupted sleep patterns.
Increases feelings of envy
Envy may be a normal (though less commonly admitted) emotion among humans, but social media multiplies it a bajillion times. In the past, when no social media existed, teenagers only had to compare themselves with their peers who lived around them. With social media, teenagers have 24/7 access to people’s lives worldwide, in every social context. With everyone posting happy pictures of outdoor trips, vacations, and picnics, teenagers can feel as though their lives are not exciting.
However, many teenagers fail to see that people mostly post their successes or happy moments online, and everyone also has their struggles. If teenagers do not deal with their envy, it may lead to behaviors such as bullying, loneliness, and other issues. This can have real-life consequences if not stopped in its tracks.
May lead to low self-esteem
The constant barrage of social media content has been shown to affect teens’ self-esteem. By observing the filtered and curated lives of people from their screens, they may often be confronted by feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency. This is particularly bad for teens with low self-esteem, especially when looking at the future.
The teenage years are a time of great potential. When a person is in these years, they can essentially be whatever they want to be. But to achieve these potentials, teenagers need to believe in themselves. Teenagers with low self-esteem may feel unmotivated to do anything, which could affect their ability to improve their quality of life.
Leads to communication issues
Excessive social media use negatively affects the quality and quantity of interpersonal interactions between teenagers and their immediate social circles. Social media interactions are not like those of physical interactions, which means that teenagers are losing valuable interpersonal skills that could be developed on an in-person basis. Worse still, many teens spend so much time on social media that they forget to interact with the people right across the table. Because of this, friendships and family relationships suffer, becoming shallow and inauthentic.
Helping Your Teen: Strategies to Reduce Social Anxiety
As a parent, having a teen constantly glued to your phone can feel worrisome. But there are a few (effective) things you could do to help your teen:
Set limits on their social media use
As a parent, you can establish ground rules for your teenager to follow regarding their social media usage. Encourage them to follow a routine that does not affect their normal daily activities, such as sleep, meals, chores, and homework. It’s also important to explain the benefits of these measures to them so they don’t develop feelings of resentment.
Talk to them about safe social media use
Social media platforms are largely unregulated spaces, and different kinds of people roam these platforms. Cyberbullies, trolls, and gossip mills are always looking for vulnerable young people to prey on. It’s important to equip your teenager to understand these dynamics to avoid such interactions.
Encourage face-to-face interactions
With high social media use, in-person social skills are becoming less common. Social skills are valuable in many contexts, including college interviews and building a great career. Help your teenager to improve their social skills by encouraging face-to-face interactions with family and friends.
Find a Balance for Your Teen
Undoubtedly, social media offers numerous benefits, from connecting with friends, building a network, and even risk communication. However, excessive social media use can harm your teen’s social development and mental health. A residential treatment center for teens can provide help for those struggling with the effects of social media.
To help your teen deal with their social media use, you’d need to take deliberate steps
Encourage in-person interaction and help them understand the dangers of excessive social media use. That way, they can improve their mental health and quality of life.