According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, around 90% of teens aged 13 to 17 actively use social media platforms, showing just how big of an influence social media can have in their lives. It’s not all bad news though. While there are some negative effects of social media on teenagers, there are also many positive ones.
Social media can help teens stay connected to friends and family, which is especially important if they don’t live close by. Social media is also a powerful tool to help children and teens stay up-to-date on current events and news.
However, there are also some potential negative effects of social media on teenagers. If you’re a parent of a teen who loves to spend time on social media, it’s important to understand how young people’s mental health might be affected by social media. Doing so can help you take steps to mitigate any negative effects.
Eating Disorders, Jealousy, and Envy
There’s no denying that social media can have a major impact on how teens see themselves and their place in the world. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that girls who spend more time on social media are more likely to develop negative body image issues, and social media posts during the pandemic might have led to a higher risk of eating disorders.
Boys aren’t immune to these effects either. Both boys and girls are susceptible to the effects of social media. While social media might not cause eating disorders directly, it can contribute to negative feelings that could lead to eating disorders. Such feelings include:
- Negative Body Image: Teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to have negative body image issues. This is especially true for girls, but boys can also be affected. Constantly being exposed to “perfect” bodies can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
- Jealousy and Envy: Social media can also fuel jealousy and envy. When you see people living what appears to be a “perfect” life, it’s easy to compare yourself and feel like you don’t measure up. This can lead to negative feelings and, in extreme cases, depression or anxiety in addition to poor life satisfaction.
- Inadequacy: Social media can make it seem like everyone else is doing better than you. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. With low self-esteem comes a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. including eating disorders.
Anxiety and Depression
Unfortunately, another risk of teens posting on social media platforms is a decline in mental health. Studies showed that college students having access to certain social media platforms such as Facebook could increase the risk of anxiety by up to 20% and depression by up to 7%. Nowadays, teens aren’t using Facebook as much, and have moved on to platforms that move faster, are more visual, and are more addictive. But, how does social media affect teenagers and young adults? While healthy social media use might not have an effect on anxiety disorders or depression, harmful social media sites and more time spent online might affect a teen’s well-being.
Anxiety Due to Social Media
For starters, young people online are more likely to come across negative comments and cyberbullying. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Additionally, social media can be a trigger for those who already suffer from anxiety or depression. Seeing posts about happy families, successful careers, and perfect relationships can make someone struggling with mental health feel worse about themselves.
Imagine having an anxiety disorder, where it’s difficult to leave your house because you’re afraid of what might happen. Now imagine being able to see into the homes and lives of others with just a few clicks. It’s not hard to see how that could make someone feel even worse. With more studies showing that anxiety is increasing in the teen population, it’s important to be aware of the role social media might play.
Some signs that your teen might be more obsessed and anxious with social media include:
- If they’re spending more time on social media than they are sleeping
- If they feel anxious or sad when they’re not on social media
- If they’re only happy when they’re on social media
- If their self-esteem is based on the number of likes or followers they have
- If they’ve stopped hanging out with friends and family in person
- If they’ve started missing school or work because they’re spending too much time on social media
If you’re concerned that your teen’s mental health is being affected by social media, reach out to a mental health professional. They can help you and your teen figure out how to best use social media in a healthy manner and get to the root cause of their anxiety disorder.
Depression Due to Social Media
Studies have shown that teens and college students who use social media have a 13 to 66 percent higher chance of developing depression than those teens who don’t spend as much time on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Some of the many reasons teens might develop depression include:
- Isolation: When you’re spending more time on social media, you’re spending less time interacting with people face-to-face. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are both risk factors for depression.
- Cyberbullying: As we mentioned before, cyberbullying is a big problem for teens. As many as 59% of teens have been harassed or bullied online. When someone is constantly being ridiculed or made to feel bad about themselves, it can lead to depression.
- Comparing Yourself to Others: While many teens thrive off of being individual and unique, social media can sometimes make them feel like they have to fit in. Constantly comparing yourself to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, which are both risk factors for depression.
If you think your teen might be depressed, look for signs such as:
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Changes in eating habits
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Increased irritability
- Problems concentrating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Talk of death or suicide
It’s never a good idea to diagnose your teen yourself. If you’re concerned about your teen’s mental health, reach out to a professional. They can help you and your teen figure out what might be going on and get the help they need.
How to Mitigate Negative Effects of Social Media
If you’re concerned about how social media might be affecting your teen’s mental health, there are some things you can do to help mitigate the negative effects. Learning how to use social media in a more healthy way can help your teen’s mental health in the long run.
Here are some tips:
- Encourage face-to-face interaction: As we mentioned before, one of the main problems with social media is that it can lead to feelings of isolation. Make sure your teen is still spending time with friends and family in person. They should also be involved in extracurricular activities, like sports or clubs.
- Set time limits: It’s important that your teen still has time for things other than social media. help them set time limits for using social media each day. Once they’ve reached their limit, they should put their phone away and focus on something else.
- Encourage positive posts: If your teen is only posting negative things on social media, it can lead to feelings of depression. Talk to them about posting positive things as well. This can help shift their focus from negative to positive and make them feel better about themselves.
- Monitor their activity: It’s important to know what your teen is up to on social media. Take some time to look through their posts and see what kind of content they’re consuming. If you see something that makes you concerned, reach out to them about it.
- Talk about cyberbullying: Talk to your teen about what cyberbullying is and how to spot it. Encourage them to tell you if they ever see or experience it. Some teens might be hesitant to tell you if they’re being bullied, so it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about it.
Is There Hope For Teens and Their Social Media Use?
Recently, there have been a few developments in the social media landscape that suggest that social media use among teens is improving. For starters, many outlets have reported that teens have largely abandoned Facebook for other platforms. This may not necessarily be good news, however, as newer social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are more fast-paced, more visual, and more addictive.
That being said, although teens use social media now more than ever, many teens and young adults seem to be more aware of their social media use and overuse. Many teens frequently comment on the amount of time spent online with a negative connotation. Slang terms like “doomscrolling” refer to wasting too much time on the internet consuming content detrimental to their well-being. “Touch grass” is a command regularly uttered by young people imploring their peers to spend more time outside and offline.
At the time of the writing of this article, one of the fastest-growing social media platforms among young people is BeReal. This social media app encourages its users to post daily images of themselves at random times of the day so they can show what they are doing at that particular moment. Because the time is different every day, it enables prevents individuals from posting unrealistic portrayals of themselves. Moreso, the app is built in a way that does not allow users to endlessly consume content. If this particular platform will last very long remains to be seen, but it could be an indicator of young people’s social media use improving.
Getting Help For Your Teen at Clear Recovery Center Teen Program
While social media can have some negative effects, that doesn’t mean your teen should stop using it altogether. If you need more help with a mental health professional, we at Clear Recovery Center Teen Program have a team of specialists who can help you and your teen. We offer a variety of treatment options, like individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. We also have a wide range of resources that can help your teen in their recovery journey. Our anxiety and depression treatment programs are designed specifically for teen mental health. We also offer a variety of other programs, like our partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient treatment program can also help your teen get the care they need. Call us today to learn more.