Social Media Mental Health
The adolescent years are a time when connecting with peers becomes a focal point in your teen’s life and online social platforms offer ample opportunities for interaction. However, while social media allows teens to connect with each other, the platforms also open teens up to mental health issues. Even though there are a host of benefits to using online platforms, such as forming groups, staying in touch with far-away friends, and even providing social support, social media often affects teens in negative ways.
A recent study published in The American Academy of Pediatrics reported roughly 25 percent of teens think social media has a negative effect, but over 30 percent think the impacts are mostly positive. Studies have also shown over 20 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds report bouts of depression and anxiety. Depression in particular is seeing a sharp increase among teenage girls and some researchers believe this is at least partly due to using social media. To help you stay abreast of the dangers, here are five ways social media affects teens’ mental health:
1) Indirect Communication
Before the advent of social media, teens spent most of their free time hanging out with friends or talking on the phone. However, today’s wide range of electronic devices allows teens to be online at all times. Texting and making online posts have replaced talking and direct human interaction with more impersonal communication. This loss of in-person interaction often leads to teens not developing the social skills crucial to forming productive adult relationships.
A new phenomenon referred to as “Facebook depression” is characterized as depression resulting from spending too much time on social media platforms, and not just Facebook. Researchers found that teens who spend the most time on these platforms exhibited more of the classic symptoms of depression, and at a much higher rate, than those who spent less time engaging in online social activities. Researchers believe this is due to the increased quantity of online social interaction, giving teens the ability to interact with a larger number of peers.
One of the biggest dangers teens face online is being bullied. Cyberbullying is related to the phenomenon of “keyboard bravado,” where a person has the courage to say hurtful things while hiding behind their keyboard. Clinical and developmental psychologist Donna Wick reports this is especially true of teenage girls who most often won’t be as vicious to someone offline. Wick says social media is teaching teens to be more extreme in their disagreements, instead of learning how to work out conflicts in real life.
While researchers have not been able to reach a consensus, a fair amount of evidence supports the theory of social media addiction. A study performed at Nottingham Trent University examined research on the effect of social media on psychological characteristics. Researchers concluded this type of addiction is a real possibility as many of the standard addiction criteria, like moodiness, neglect of personal life, and trying to conceal the addictive behavior, are present in many teens who spend excessive amounts of time on social media platforms. So teens should stop being so addicted to social media platforms.
Studies have found a durable link between envy and depression and seeing how well their peers seem to be doing only adds to the pressure teens feel as they compare their life to those of others. Studies show that seeing their friends and classmates going on exotic vacations and getting a new car often triggers feelings of envy. Researchers also found the number of envy-inducing incidents on Facebook alone can initiate a vicious cycle of making teens feel envious enough to create their own jealousy-inducing posts.
Adults often forget the struggles of their own teen years and as such, it can be difficult to understand what their teens are dealing with. Additionally, with all the pressures of life parents have to deal with, it can be challenging to know when your teen is having issues. The most important thing you can do is make sure your children understand they can always come to you with emotional issues. This is easier said than done as many parents don’t know how to approach these issues. For those parents, it is imperative to seek professional help for your teen as soon as any drastic behavioral changes are noticed. If requires, take a break or delete social media profiles for your mental health.