Social media has grown exponentially over the last 10-15 years. Whether it is TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the effects of social media on teenagers are becoming more pronounced. Everyone from politicians to influencers to celebrities has a significant footprint in today's social media.
As this type of public communication grows, social media's effects on teenage mental health have come under scrutiny. Many studies show the negative effects of social media on teenagers. We have some info that may help protect your teen's mental health.
Yes, if used properly, there are actually positive effects of social media for teens. It can allow them to create online identities to communicate with others and build social networks. These networks can provide teens with support or advice, especially those experiencing exclusion, handicaps, or chronic illnesses.
Among LGBTQ youths, 52% stated that social media helps make them feel better when experiencing difficult emotions. These can act as impromptu support groups when used properly. Other positive uses for social media include:
During the Covid-19 pandemic, social media platforms helped teens feel more connected and less isolated during lockdown. Some social media aspects that are humorous or distracting allow some teens to connect with other teens/peers, which may even help teens avoid depression.
Unfortunately, there are many negative effects of social media on teenagers. The anonymity of the internet increases the risk that it can encourage those who wish to use it badly. The spreading of rumors or unrealistic views of other people's or celebrity's lives can create an almost "fake reality” and lead to:
These risks may be related to how much social media teens are exposed to. The Mayo Clinic points to a 2019 study of more than 6,500 teens in the United States aged 12 to 15 who spent more than three hours per day using social media and may be at risk for heightened mental health problems. Another study in 2019 from England of more than 12,000 teens aged 13 to 16 found that those using social media more than three times a day predicted poor mental health and well-being.
Telling a teenager to stay off social media may not be practical or realistic. So how do you minimize the effects of social media on youth mental health? Believe it or not, there are ways to promote online safety and shield them from negative effects.
Social media can be a positive experience if utilized properly. Unfortunately, many have used it to spread unrealistic lifestyles, bullying, lies, and even hatred. Avoiding the negative effects of social media may seem difficult, if not impossible, but it can be done. The key is communication and parental oversight.
Take a proactive stance on your teen's social media use and practice these guidelines yourself. Don't impose rules on your teens that you wouldn't follow yourself.
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Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.
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