How Does Social Media Affect Teenagers’ Mental Health?Dec 09, 2023
Social media can be such a minefield for our teens. It can offer benefits like opportunities for creative expression and the deepening of friendship connections. However, it doesn’t come without its downsides.
In fact, the negative impacts of social media can affect even an adult’s mental health. So, it’s understandable that it has the potential to be detrimental to a teenager’s mental health too.
In this article, I’ll cover the most common ways that social media can affect a teenager’s mental health as well as discussing what some of the benefits of social media are too.
Seven ways social media can affect teen mental health
Here are some ways in which social media may influence teenagers' mental well-being.
Not enough face to face interaction
Screens, social media and messaging apps can be a huge part of the average teen’s daily life. In fact, much of their social lives may be played out through digital interaction. While this can be a good way for them to foster communication and find connection, it can also mean they’re missing out on developing their in-person social skills.
Socializing via a device can mean that your teen isn’t spending enough time learning to read body language, facial expressions, and other physical cues. This may mean that they struggle to socialize outside of the digital world which could lead to feelings of social anxiety and isolation.
Issues with self-esteem
One of the main concerns about the impact of social media on a teen’s well-being is the potential for it to contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Social media is filled with often enhanced and unrealistic images of other users’ “realities.” This can cause teenagers to compare themselves to those unrealistic ideals and lead to feelings of low self-worth.
Issues with low self-esteem can go hand in hand with distorted body image. Social media often portrays unrealistic standards of beauty, which can contribute to teens developing a negative body image. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to this because of where they are in their physical and cognitive development.
Cyberbullying and online abuse
Anonymity is a big problem on social media. Individuals can hide behind their accounts and profiles and feel empowered to treat others in a way that they may not do in person.
This means social media platforms can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying. Teenagers may face harassment, exclusion, or other forms of online abuse. On top of that, teens may feel like there’s little escape from cyberbullying as they are always contactable via their devices. All of this can significantly impact their mental health, and lead to issues such as anxiety and depression.
Read my guide for parents to tackling social bullying online.
Seeking validation online
Social media apps are designed to give our brains little bursts of happy hormones to keep us coming back for more. This can be particularly problematic for young, developing minds.
Teenagers may rely too heavily on that “high” that likes, comments, and follows may give them. This can mean that they struggle to find satisfaction and validation outside of social media. On top of that, it can be detrimental to their mental health if they’re not receiving online validation.
A healthy sleep routine is vital for a teen’s cognitive development and function. It can also impact their mood and overall well-being.
Excessive use of social media, especially before bedtime, can be overstimulating and affect your teen’s ability to get to sleep (or disrupt their sleep pattern).
The benefits of social media for teenagers
The presence of social media in your teenager’s life isn’t an entirely negative one. It can be a great place for them to seek connection and support. They’re at that stage where they’re really beginning to explore their identities. Social media can help them find communities where they can socialize with other like-minded teens.
Social media can also allow your teenager to express themselves creatively. They can explore their passions by creating, sharing, and finding all types of digital content.
For more information on helping teenagers navigate the online world, read my guide to parenting in the age of social media.
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