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Social Media and Teen Mental Health Guide for Parents

teenager using social media and developing mental health issues who may need to consult clear recovery center teen program

The AACAP reports that at least 90% of teenagers between the ages of 13-17 have used social media. The Mayo Clinic reports that almost half of teens who use social media daily use it nearly 100% of the time. These statistics show the vital role that social media plays in the lives of today’s teenagers.

Youth Mental Health and Social Media

Teens and adolescents are constantly available to respond to notifications of likes, retweets, posts, and direct message requests. All these notifications are competing for attention against classwork, household chores, and engaging with friends and family offline. With constant access to an infinite amount of information, it’s no wonder that young adults today are facing more mental health challenges than ever before.

Social Media for Students, Parents, and Educators

It is essential for parents raising teens to understand the value of social media use for their kids and how to help their children use social media safely. Young people’s mental health is at risk in the digital age. Although the simplest solution would be to encourage your child to disavow social media sites altogether, parents and educators need to realize that the online world and the real world have become one and the same for today’s youth. Although our child’s mental health is of primary concern, it isn’t realistic for young adults to not engage with any social media platform. In fact, many schools and universities now require that students and teachers communicate using technology, social media, and other forms of electronic communication. It’s a far better idea to educate children on healthy technology use and healthy habits they can adopt when engaging with the online world.

Read on to learn more about social media use, teens, and the teen mental health crisis affecting young people.

Teens and Mental Health

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in five American adults experiences some form of mental health issue in a given year. This number has been steadily increasing since 2003. Teenagers are especially vulnerable, as they are still developing emotionally and intellectually.

Studies have shown that social media use can lead to negative moods and anxiety disorders in teenagers. It can also contribute to depression, self-harm behaviors, addiction issues, eating disorders, sleep problems, and academic problems. Although social media companies have promised to place obstacles in the path of teens at risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with the online world.

Tips for Parents

Talk with your teen about why they want to use social media. Are they looking for social interaction? Fame or attention? Do they feel like they need to be connected all the time? Are they afraid that they will miss out on social events? Discuss these motivations with them and see if there are any ways you can help them address these motivations using healthy coping mechanisms.

Popular Social Networks for Teens

You are likely familiar with most of the social media platforms on this list, but young people are constantly adopting new digital spaces to communicate. Are there any you don’t recognize?

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Snapchat
  4. TikTok
  5. Twitter
  6. Discord
  7. BeReal
  8. Pinterest
  9. Reddit
  10. Twitch

Teen Social Media Statistics

The average time teens spend online per day is around 9 hours. Spending this much time on social media can make it challenging for struggling students to form healthy relationships with their peers and themselves. Teens who already have anxious tendencies, those with undiagnosed mental illness, and those who suffer from isolation may struggle the most.

Mental Health Concerns for Students

Mental health experts and psychology researchers say that most students and kids feel anxiety when they don’t have healthy ways to analyze their environment against the false impressions of perfection they see on social media. A study by the University of Michigan revealed that teens who spend over an hour per day using devices connected to the internet are at greater risk for developing eating disorders than those who spend less than 30 minutes per day. Teens frequently using social media platforms may be more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and body image problems. Social media use can have a long-term negative impact on their psychological well-being if they rely heavily on these networks as a source of self-esteem and peer relationships.

In the midst of the mental health crisis our country is facing, teenagers may be hit the hardest. According to the CDC, teens are drinking more alcohol, smoking more marijuana, and doing more hard drugs than ever before. These kids likely feel scared and are confused about how to cope. Students, teachers, and parents need additional resources, support, and mental health services to preserve our children’s mental health.

7 Tips for Teen Safety on Social Media

Parents of teens and young children can use the following seven tips to promote safety.

  1. Avoid sharing personal identifying information.
  2. Turn off location services whenever possible
  3. All social media platforms have privacy settings that allow you to control what people can see when they view your profile and post comments.
  4. Make sure that only approved friends and followers can see the things your child is posting on social media.
  5. Block unwanted accounts from interacting with your child on social media.
  6. Encourage a screen time limit for the social media apps or sites your teen or young child visits.
  7. Promote open communication with your kids about social media. Be honest with them about your concerns and encourage them to police themselves online.

Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Teen on Social Media

Agree with your child about which websites and social media channels they will use. Educate them on the dangers of using social media and disclosing personally-identifying information like their first and last name, address, or phone number. Ask your teen about internet trolls and if they know that not everyone on social media is who they say they are. Remind them that we see only a tiny snippet of a person’s life on social media. Be explicit about when and how social media is allowed. Ensure everyone in the family knows the rules and enforces them consistently.

Can Too Much Social Media Cause Depression in Teens?

It is very possible that a child can use social media to such an extent that they begin to develop mental health disorders. Social media can alter the way we perceive the real world. If you begin to notice behavioral problems or behavioral changes in your teen, and you suspect that social media may be the culprit, you should watch out for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. It is important for parents to start talking to their kids and students about the lingering effects of social media.

Signs of Depression in Teens

If you notice signs of depression in your teen, it is important to seek the help of a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Below are some of the warning signs that your teen may be depressed:

  • Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy and enthusiasm
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss or weight gain
  • Drug or alcohol abuse or restlessness
  • Inability to sit still
  • Social isolation
  • Declining academic performance
  • Declining personal hygiene or appearance
  • Acting out or taking part in risky behavior

Where Teens and Parents Can Get Help for Social Media Addiction

If you are concerned about your child’s social media use, or if you are worried that their social media use is negatively contributing to their mental health, reach out to a mental health professional as soon as possible. Consider Clear Recovery Center’s Teen Program, where our psychiatrists, therapists, and practitioners are trained to help young adults overcome and persevere through their social media and mental health-related issues.