The relationship between teens and social media is constantly changing. Since its introduction, social media has transformed the way future generations communicate, socialize, and maintain lifelong friendships. Though there are many benefits to being “plugged in,” there are also risks for teens. Social media can offer a world of cyberbullying, poor time management, decreased self-esteem, and feeling left out.
Over the last decade, anxiety and depression have become common mood disorders among teenagers. A 2017 report concluded that the number of U.S. teens exhibiting classic symptoms of depression increased 33 percent from 2010 to 2015. Teen suicide and suicide attempts increased 31 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Outside of the normal stressors of school, family, and work, social media has increasingly been believed to be a significant factor when understanding teenage and young adult stress.
It’s normal to be concerned about the effects of social media on teens’ mental health - but before you delete their apps, reconsider working with them to build a healthier relationship with social media. It’s okay for teens to use social media in a way that helps them build support, make connections, and create new friendships. If you fear that your teen may not be engaging with social media responsibly, keep an eye out for unexplained or sudden emotional changes, outbursts, and behaviors.
What is Social Media?
Social media is a term used to describe the constellation of Web-based platforms and applications we all use to interact with each other in a social manner online. In the earlier days, it might have seemed novel to have your own Facebook or Twitter page. However, social media has since expanded to include popular social and communication platforms that make it easier to share, connect, and find each other online.
There are many types of social media platforms, with new ones appearing all the time. It can be difficult to keep track of what your teen may be utilizing to connect with friends. For clarification, the term “social media” can refer to one or more of these social platforms:
Social Media and Teen Mental Health: What to Know
Social media’s considerable impact on teen mental health stems partially from their use of it. A 2012 study concluded that teens that spend five or more hours a day on the Internet were 71 percent more likely to have at least one risk factor for suicide. Excessive use of social media only increases the risk for symptoms like low self esteem, anxiety, depression, and a sharp drop in school performance.
Poorly managed access or time spent on social media can lead to a variety of issues, including:
- Suicide or self-harm ideation
- Cyber bullying or fighting
- Loneliness; jealousy; self-loathing or doubt; fear; anxiety
- Increased aggression and hostility towards others
Warning Signs to Watch For
The effects of social media on teens is becoming a popular and prolific area of scientific study. While we have yet to understand how social media truly impacts us emotionally or mentally, certain symptoms of negative social media usage have been attributed to at-risk teens.
These symptoms can include:
- Inappropriate or excessive guilt, sadness, anger, aggression, or irritability
- Confused thinking; problems with concentrating; decline in academic performance
- Avoiding friends, family, and social activities
- Changes in eating habits (increased or reduced eating)
- Increased engagement in risky behavior, including a change in sex drive or drug usage
- Abuse of substances
- Self harm or suicide ideation
- An increased concern in appearance or with weight gain
Some symptoms are often mistaken for “typical” teenage behavior While it can be normal for your teen to display one or more of these traits during a stressful or difficult period, prolonged or intense reactions can be a red flag.
How to Help Your Teen’s Mental Health
If you’re concerned about the effects of social media on your teen’s health, it’s important to find ways to address this with your teen directly. Try talking with your teen about their social media usage or current mental health state. You can work together to find the best resources to help address these negative impacts on their mental health and happiness.
Avoidance may not be the answer! You might find it easier to restrict or reduce how and when your teen accesses social media. It’s always okay to have them take a break, too. Whatever your goal, approach the situation with good intentions. Try not to shame them about their usage or attachment to social media. Building better habits to improve mental health can be a fulfilling process that takes time and support.
If you feel that you need help or guidance with your teen’s mental health, it’s important to reach out to a mental health counselor, professional, or facility that you trust. San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is a leading provider of teen mental health services, and offers empathetic in- and outpatient services.
Our experienced team of adolescent specialists will help you address any immediate and future concerns you may have about your teen’s behavior or mental wellness. We offer a comprehensive assessment to determine the best treatment options for your teen, and provide a variety of services, including group therapy and family therapy sessions. Contact us online or call us at 210.541.5350 to learn more about how we can help with your mental health.