The Effects of Social Media on Teenage Mental Health


Social media has become a large part of our lives, particularly in recent months, as most of us have needed to isolate due to the pandemic. A survey conducted in 2019 by the Pew Research Center determined that as many as 97% of teens between 13 and 17-years old use one or more social media platforms. And as many as 45% of teens said they are online or on their devices almost non-stop.

These numbers may not be entirely surprising to those who have teenagers. It does seem like all of us can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and other platforms at least several times a day.

But what impact does this frequent use of social media have on the developing and often impressionable teenager?

The harm of social media

Social media can be a powerful tool, but it can negatively influence the lives of those who spend too much time on it. Social media can be a distraction for a teen, impact sleep, and become a source of cyberbullying. It can also offer an unrealistic view of how other people live. After all, the vast majority of us tend to post only the highlight reels of our lives.

Studies have shown that there has been a marked increase in depression and even suicidal behavior in adolescents since social media has become such a large part of our lives. Those who use social media often tend to have more concerns with depression, anxiety, and poor sleep quality.

How social media is used can also determine the impact that it has on younger users. Those who just view what others post, their photos, and videos tend to find that they struggle more with depression. While those who post their own photos and content, or just use social media to keep in touch with others, don’t always experience the same depressive decline.

Spending time with family and friends off of social media has been shown to increase mood levels and overall happiness with their lives. Versus those who spend excessive time online, with the idea that others have happier lives than they do.

Another serious concern is that teenagers can often post highly personal photos and stories on social media. Those who have supportive online social circles will not have much blowback from those who follow them. On the other hand, some teens may experience harassment, bullying, and even blackmail.

Troubled teens often post content without much consideration to privacy issues or consequences that they may face.

Spotting signs of depression in your troubled teen

The signs and symptoms of depression in your troubled teen could be gradual, or they may seem to appear overnight. They could include a change in behavior and attitude that results in distress at home or school.

The symptoms of depression can vary in severity. Some signs of depression include:

  • Unexplained sadness, including crying that seems to have no apparent reason.
  • Anger, outbursts, frustration, or irritability over what may be minor concerns.
  • Confessing to feel hopeless or worthless.
  • Loss of interest that once brought enjoyment. Such as withdrawing from sports or social activities.
  • Losing interest in spending time with family and friends or picking arguments.
  • A decrease in self-esteem and confidence.
  • Uncharacteristic self-criticism and a fixation on perceived failures.
  • Sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia.
  • Appetite changes.

It can be difficult to determine whether your teen shows some of the regular ups and downs that come with being a teenager or whether they are struggling with depression.

Protecting your teen on social media

You can take some steps to protect your teen and help your troubled boy learn how to protect himself from the blast of negativity that social media can bring.

  • Set limits that are reasonable for your teen. Discuss how he can avoid allowing social media to interfere with his daily life, routines, and activities.
  • Encourage an evening routine that severely limits the use of electronics and exposure to social media. You could set a positive example by following through on this yourself.
  • Take an active role in monitoring your troubled teen’s social media accounts. This will allow you to step in if something seems amiss.
  • Strongly encourage interests and activities that are away from social media.
  • Define what is not okay to see and engage in online, including gossiping, cyberbullying, and saying things that can damage someone’s reputation.

Remind your entire family that social media platforms can be very limited in what they show of the lives of others. Everyone has struggles, but not everyone is posting about depression, stress, peer problems, or school challenges.

Social media isn’t all negative

According to studies, more than 80% of teens report that social media helps them to feel a greater connection to their friends. In a pandemic world, this can be incredibly important for teens who have seen a sharp decline in their ability to socialize.

Adolescents are also readily admitting that a main positive to being on social media allows them to connect with friends and family. They feel that they can have more profound and much more meaningful conversations due to the connections established via social media.

While cyberbullying is always a concern, there are some interesting signs that point to social media being able to promote a sense of belonging. This is particularly important for teens who struggle with their mental health or belong to an otherwise marginalized group. They may not feel this same sense of acceptance and belonging purely through social interactions at school.

In a similar thread, social media can provide teens with the ability to establish new friendships and connections. This is important for a troubled teen who may not otherwise have access to peers who can provide the right type of emotional support, such as those who identify as LGBTQ.
Those looking for a creative outlet may find that social media offers this-- from makeup tutorials to cooking videos, musical videos, and more. There are almost endless ideas for a creatively inclined young person to express themselves via social media.

Social media can be a valuable tool and a valuable part of a healthy social life. If your teen has been experiencing mental health concerns as a direct result of time spent on social media, it might be that this is not the right time in their life for them to have access to these platforms.
If your troubled teen seems to be struggling with mental health troubles, it is important to seek professional help. With the right treatment program, your troubled boy can learn valuable coping skills to help with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.

Reach out to Liahona Treatment Center to help your troubled teen get through mental health difficulties. Call us to learn more about how we can help your family find the right focused treatment.

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