Social Media: How It Affects Adolescent Mental Health


Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tik Tok… Social media has quickly become a primary method of communication for all ages. We are all subjected to scrolling, liking, and posting — teenagers especially. Like anything, there are pros and cons to the use of social media. Both impact the well-being of adolescent’s mental health.

Benefits of Social Media

  • Building social networks: Having access to a wide variety of different online groups can help broaden social supports. Some teens find comfort in engaging with online communities where it’s easier to find individuals with similar likes and interests. It also helps geographical barriers and fosters relationships with people overseas.
  • Entertainment: It’s no question that social media has been the cause of some pretty hilarious viral videos over the years. Social media that’s humorous and distracting can help improve adolescent’s moods.
  • Self-expression: Media platforms can allow teens to express their interests, tap into their creative side, or share personal content.

Harms of Social Media

  • Bullying: One of the largest criticisms of social media is how it can be used to harass people anonymously. Bullying is common amongst social groups during the adolescent stage of life. With access to social media, it makes the name-calling, teasing, and rumor spreading that much easier. This is a large contributor to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression in teens.
  • Low self-esteem: Another issue with social media is its ability to promote unrealistic views and expectations. With filters, photoshop, and editing, people post videos and photos that appear flawless. Teenagers struggle with body image and how they view themselves, and seeing these types of posts online will only add to these negative feelings.
  • Distractions: Sometimes these are needed after a long day or a stressful situation. However, excessive use can become a problem, and even an addiction. Relying on the media for satisfaction can be a slippery slope into developing anxiety and depression.

Long-Term Effects

Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to social media. One negative impact is the issue with indirect communication. A lot of adolescent’s free time are spent browsing media and texting. FaceTime or video chat is becoming more popular than hanging out face-to-face.

There is a sense of protection behind a screen, and it can be almost anxiety-inducing to communicate to others directly. We, as humans, are reliant on social cues to help navigate conversations. With technology being a main source of communication, teens and adolescents are not developing critical social skills that may be needed in adulthood.

Mental health is also largely impacted by social media. Due to lower self-esteem, cyberbullying, and decrease of social interactions, anxiety and depression have spiked in the adolescent population. Teenage years are challenging to begin with, and with the added stresses and pressure of the media, mental health symptoms are increasing.

What Can Parents Do?

There are steps to take to promote healthy social media use and how to educate your teen on the negative impacts.

  • Set limits: Only allow a certain amount of time for social media use. Encourage use for only a few hours a day and do not let it interfere with daily activities, school, work, or sleep.
  • Monitor their accounts: Check in with your child about what they are posting and who they are communicating with.
  • Encourage direct communication: Explain the importance of socializing face-to-face and help them understand the dangers of constantly talking to others via the media.
  • Talk about the positives and negatives of social media: It’s important to have an open and honest conversation about the dangers of social media. Educate them about caring for themselves and their mental well-being.

If you notice negative signs and symptoms due to media, it may be best to reach out to mental health professional for help. Contact us today to schedule your first session.