Growing Social Media Use Among Teenagers Affecting Their Mental Health, Study Shows

In Education

Rising teen mental health issues over the past decade have prompted concerns about the role of social media. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s 2023 advisory links social media use to youth mental health harm, sentiments echoed by the American Psychological Association. The complex issue suggests potential risks, yet acknowledges the need for more research for conclusive answers, leaving parents in a challenging position.

Impact of social media usage among teenagers

Linda Mayes, MD, chair of the Yale Child Study Center, draws parallels between current social media challenges and past television issues. Like TV, social media has both benefits and drawbacks for youth.

The advisory by Dr. Murthy, based on a comprehensive review, highlights concerns about teens’ social media use, including time spent, content exposure, and potential disruptions to health-related activities. The report emphasizes the sensitive period of brain development (ages 10-19) and suggests that frequent social media use may impact emotional learning, impulse control, and emotional regulation. However, social media can benefit teens by fostering positive connections, self-expression, and diverse peer interactions. A 2022 Pew Research Center survey indicates that many teens feel more accepted, supported, creative, and connected through social media.

Excessive social media use among teens, especially girls and those with pre-existing mental health issues, poses risks like depression, anxiety, cyberbullying-related problems, body image issues, and poor sleep quality. Dr. Mayes highlights algorithmic influence, potentially exacerbating negative perceptions and impacting overall mental health.

How parents can control social media usage among teens

Social media use among teenagers is widespread, with up to 95% of surveyed teens using it, and over a third doing so “almost constantly,” according to Pew Research Center. Parents can navigate this by establishing a social media plan, considering the right age for access, and introducing devices gradually.

YCSC experts advise keeping devices out of bedrooms to improve sleep quality and maintaining open communication to build trust. It’s crucial to let teens make mistakes and learn, fostering open dialogue. Parents should model desired behavior by following screen time rules and engage in honest conversations about challenges with their teens.

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