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Home|Mental Health|How Does Social Media Affect Adolescent Mental Health?

The emergence of social media has improved communication and raised awareness on several topics. Social media is the force behind the globalization of the world in terms of connecting people. While the benefits are evident, the impact on teenagers’ mental health is questioned. Parents are skeptical of the prolonged use of social media and how it might affect their young ones’ development.

Adolescence is a delicate stage that needs special care from parents. This stage is quite sensitive and can influence a child’s adulthood. Social media is becoming an essential part of this stage, and if misused, the effects can be devastating. Scientific studies showed that adolescents aged 14 – 21 have shown increased rates of depression, with an increase rate of 89.1% between 2009 and 2017. This survey also showed that this increase started after the advent of social media and the Great Recession. This proves that social media affects mental health.

This blog looks at how social media affects teens and solutions to regulate its rising use among adolescents. 

BNI Treatment Centers offers teen mental health treatment in Los Angeles. Contact us today to learn more about our adolescent inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities.

The Role of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health

So how does social media affect adolescent mental health? Almost all teens have a social media account they use to keep tabs on the latest happenings. However, this can cause addiction and reduce in-person communication. Additionally, teenagers could become lackadaisical in their responsibilities.

According to medical researchers, smartphones are addictive. Our brains release dopamine when we log into social media on our phones, making us think we reward ourselves each time we pick up our device. When addiction sets in, it is challenging to snap out of it. This could affect our mental health and interpersonal relationships with other people.

Regarding relationships, social media has made teens experts at indirect communication. They no longer communicate personally, which creates a nonverbal society where body language and facial expressions become invisible. Instead, they occupy themselves with texting and socializing online. Missing out on these crucial social skills or real-time interactions can affect a teen’s self-esteem and how to form lasting friendships – not online ones. 

Information is another aspect. The information shared on social media can influence us in a good or bad way. Humans, especially adolescents, are obsessed with gratification, so they base their self-worth on the images they post and the likes they get. They filter and manipulate content before posting them to get commendations. When they get criticized, they retract and feel humiliated. They start questioning their bodies, often drawing comparisons to others, which lowers their self-esteem. It is common among females. It can lead to depression and suicide.

Social media eases access to information and people, which is positive. But when used in the wrong context, it can harm people. The advent of social media has presented opportunities and traps. For teenagers, it pressurizes them to do things they shouldn’t have – to become who they want to appear as and not who they are. It is more like the imposter syndrome. Self-esteem stirs from whom you are. The more identities you create to impress others, the harder it is to feel good about yourself.

10 Ways Social Media Effect Teens

There are some positive effects of social media, such as learning how to communicate with others and express yourself. However, teens may suffer a multitude of harms due to bullying, shaming, and feeling less than others while on these platforms. Consider these effects of social media on teens:

  1. Harms their self-esteem. Teens are very sensitive to how they are perceived. One problem with spending so much time on social media is the misguided belief that everyone is better than you. The teen thinks the people on their feed are better looking, happier, and smarter than them.
  2. Being bullied. Teens can use social media to inflict emotional harm on others. They may use the platforms to bully. They berate a schoolmate and spread lies about them and gossip about them. Online bullying can have tragic results, including suicide.
  3. May cause depression. Studies have shown that teens that engage in heavy social medial use may feel more isolated and lonely. They may have been left out of social events they saw postings about on social media. All of this can bring on depression.
  4. Lack of sleep. The more the teen uses social media, the more it gobbles up their time and the less sleep they will get. The lack of sleep then has spillover effects, such as low mood, low energy, and poor concentration in school.
  5. Reduces productivity. Social media is a major distraction in a teen’s life. It interferes with the ability to focus on tasks, such as homework or any project that requires attention.
  6. Poor fitness. Teens often trade off physical activity in favor of sitting around and scrolling through social media, sometimes for hours. This can lead to obesity, poor fitness, and health problems.
  7. May cause anxiety. Teens may use social media to vent their drama, such as tiffs between friends or romantic interests. Some teens might share unflattering or revealing photos of the other without asking. Social media can become a source of anxiety.
  8. Loss of interest. Some teens become so preoccupied with the people they follow online that they lose interest in real life hobbies and activities. This can lead to social isolation and loneliness eventually.
  9. Body dysmorphia. Teens are very sensitive about their body image, and social media only worsens this tendency. Teens view the steady stream of perfect bodies and begin to compare those images with their own shape. They start to fixate on their perceived flaws, and some may believe they are even obese when in reality their weight is normal.
  10. Fear of missing out. Teenagers have a deep desire to feel accepted, so they fixate on social media in order to never miss out. The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is very real.

The overall effect of social media is negative for teens. They haven’t developed the skills yet to manage their time or to critique what they see on their feeds. They are susceptible to being swept up in the drama and can become insecure as a result.

Social Media Fuels Teen Insecurity

The bottom line is that social media has the ability to create a deep sense of insecurity in teens. Adults are much better armed, having lived longer and acquired coping skills and perspective, to assimilate what they see on social media platforms and take it with a grain of salt. Teens, however, are much more exposed to nasty, cruel behavior and a more aggressive form of peer pressure to conform to the dominant cultural mindset. This fuels a sense of insecurity that can result in going along with the crowd instead of thinking for oneself. When so much emphasis is placed on the number of likes one receives on a post, or how many followers one has, insecure feelings will be ever present. Teens will stress over a dearth of likes for their posts, taking it as a sign of not measuring up or being irrelevant. They also may feel inferior to peers who have substantially higher follower rates or social media engagement.

How Social Media Can Become Addicting

Studies and brain mapping research have been undertaken to demonstrate how social media has the potential to elicit the same types of brain chemical responses as a drug. The brain’s reward system comes into play each time a teen sees that their post has received a “like” or they have acquired a new follower. These jolts of dopamine establish a desire to use the platforms more and more—just like a drug. Just as with substance abuse, as the use of social media escalates, consuming more and more of the teen’s time and drawing them deeper into the emotional folds contributing to how social media affect teen mental health, the more engagement they crave.

Signs that Social Media is Affecting Teenagers

We’ve answered, “How does social media affect adolescent mental health.” Now is the time to observe your teens more closely. First, as parents, look for behavioral changes in your young ones. Below are signs to look out for:

      • They seem lazy and prioritize chatting online over other activities.

      • They have suicidal thoughts and talk about escaping from the pains of this world.

      •  Your child spends more time alone than associating with others.

    Tips for Better Social Media Use

    Social media is here to stay, but we can regulate how teens can minimize their use for their mental health. For teens, staying away from social media can help preserve their mental health. Here are other things parents and teens should do;

        • For parents, create a template for appropriate social media use for their children. Develop a schedule and make them understand it is essential for their upbringing.

        • They should speak to their children about the importance of safeguarding their privacy and the effects of cyberbullying.

        • Become a model to your teens. Keep phones off the table during dinner, make your presence felt, and make out enough time for the family. Kids are watching your every move.

        • Switch on time controls so that you’ll be logged out when you reach the limit. Set a reasonable time.

      Teens can still use social media positively. All it takes is some discipline and consistency. If your teen still finds it hard to curb social media use, contact a medical expert like those in BNI Treatment Centers to help with your addiction. If you still want more answers regarding how social media affects adolescent mental health, contact us now, and one of our staff will be glad to attend to you.

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