Can Social Media Use Impact Teen Mental Health?

Young man looks up smiling from tablet pcA Pew Research Center study reported in April that 92% of teenagers go online daily, with 71% using more than one social media site. Twenty-four percent of the teens surveyed said they went online “almost constantly.”

Though no cause-and-effect link has been proven, new research shows that teens who spend a significant amount of time using social media are more likely to report unaddressed mental health concerns.

Does Social Media Harm Mental Health?

To explore the effects that social media use might have on mental health, Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga and Rosamund Lewis analyzed the responses to a health survey taken by 750 Ottawa teens in grades 7 through 12. Almost two thirds of respondents reported “very good” or “excellent” mental health. A fifth reported “good” mental health, while 17% characterized their mental health as “poor.” About a quarter of respondents said they had unmet mental health needs, and the rest said they were getting adequate help. Thirteen percent of participants said they had considered suicide.

Researchers explored the teens’ use of social media sites and found a correlation between frequent use of social media and a greater risk for mental health problems. Heavy users of social media were also more likely to report thoughts of suicide. Overall, teens who reported using social media for more than two hours a day were more likely to report having “poor” mental health. They were also more likely to say their mental health needs were not being adequately addressed.

Though the researchers did not directly explore the reasons why social media may have a negative impact on mental health, the study, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, suggests that social media anonymity can increase exposure to cyberbullying. Social media sites might also encourage teens to compare themselves to others. One recent study found that women who use Facebook to compare themselves to other women are more likely to experience issues with body image.

However, some teens who are experiencing mental health issues may use social media to connect with other individuals, thus combating isolation and loneliness. Spending time online may increase the risk of cyberbullying or make it easy for young people to compare themselves to others, but many teens are able to build strong friendships and become part of online communities through social media and other Internet use. Therefore, it is possible that some teens reporting untreated mental health issues obtain some benefit from their use of social media.

Because the study uncovered a correlation, not a cause, the research team cautions against drawing conclusions about the negative effects of social media use. Instead, they advise limiting social media use to two hours a day and encourage parents and guardians to monitor children for changes in mental health.

References:

  1. Lenhart, A. (2015, April 08). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015
  2. Mozes, A. (2015, July 31). Too much Facebook, Twitter, tied to poor mental health in teens. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_153889.html

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 4 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Linda

    Linda

    August 4th, 2015 at 5:59 PM

    Many of my friends have the same issue. They are bullied at school through social media. The other girls like to post what I would call catty comments that are clearly referencing my friends. This really affects their personalities and interactions during the week.

  • tatum

    tatum

    January 15th, 2016 at 8:17 AM

    this is a great site.

  • Brian

    Brian

    November 1st, 2016 at 11:11 AM

    really good info im usinfg for my paper

  • lamil

    lamil

    May 17th, 2018 at 1:52 PM

    same

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.