Is Social Media Impacting Your Teen’s Mental Health?

How much time do you spend using social media each day?

Most of us will admit that we spend at least a few hours a day switching between one or more social media platforms. Teens today tend to spend a significant amount of time on social media. Whether they’re posting or scrolling to see what their peers are up to, the use of social media is very common, with up to 90% of teens admitting that they’re online for much of their awake time.

How much of an impact does all this time online have on your teen’s mental health?

Are there any positives to your teen using social media?

Should you be aware of any red flags surrounding their social media profiles and use?

Are there any benefits to social media use?

It may surprise a concerned parent that there are some positive aspects to consider about social media. It typically comes down to what your teen uses social media for and whether they are using the sites responsibly.

Some of the benefits of social media use may include:

  • The ability to stay connected to family and friends, no matter where they live.
  • Making new online friends with whom they share interests.
  • Getting support and finding a community of peers for hobbies, sports, and other interests.
  • A creative outlet for sharing music, art, writing, and more.

Not all social media experiences are going to be positive, however. Your teen may struggle with several aspects of social media, and it may begin to take a toll on his mental health. Still, there are proven parallels between the rise of social media use and the treatment for mental health issues amongst children and teens in the past decade that should not be ignored.

Potential downsides to using social media

How much do you know about what your teen is doing on social media?

It could go further than sharing snaps of their lunch or their new shoes. Today’s teens are exposed to a world of potentially dangerous and concerning things on every social media platform that they have access to.

Potential dangers of social media include:

  • Inappropriate or damaging content that includes violence and drug culture.
  • Exposure to and interactions with potentially dangerous people.
  • Cyberbullying and targeted abuse.
  • The oversharing of private information, including where they live or go to school.
  • The risk of identity theft.

Speak with your teen about the rules of the household relating to responsible social media use. Include consequences he could face for inappropriate or excessive use that starts to interfere with his schoolwork and his social life.

What social media platforms are teens using?

It can feel like a new social media website is popping up almost every other month. Do you know which ones your teen is using?

Popular social media platforms among teens include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Periscope

Ask your teen which apps he’s using. There are different security settings for each app. Some will allow you to control the type of content he sees, while others will make it much easier for your teen to be exposed to some inappropriate content.

Stress the importance of communication and honesty with social media use. Your teen should understand that you’re not just trying to be a control freak parent. You are, instead, trying to protect his health and safety.

How social media can impact mental health

The teen years can be infused with high levels of emotions fueled by changing hormones and life events. Teens are rarely far from at least one device. Whether they’re texting or updating social media or simply scrolling through posts, these things have become such an integral part of teen life.

The problem is that these integral parts of your teen’s life can also be lowering his self-esteem, promoting anxiety, and seeing him at a higher risk of depression.

Other ways that social media can impact teen mental wellness include:

  • Increased isolation. Social media may connect us in ways unlike anything else has done before, but the problem is that it’s largely indirect communication. Your teen may spend less time interacting with his friends, as he tends to spend time online. Before social media and the prevalence of communication devices, teens would spend more time together in person. It may have looked like a teen was lazing at the mall or at home with friends. However, this time together allowed them to experience real-time interactions that let them build those important connections and people skills needed to be well-rounded young adults.
  • Body image concerns. So many influencers and even regular folks on social media turn to filters to adjust how they look. Flawless skin, perfectly trim figures, and sparkling teeth are just some things that teens see in others but not necessarily in themselves. This can lead to feeling down about how they look. Your teen may even be at an increased risk of body dysmorphia and an eating disorder.
  • Feeling left out. We’re all guilty of posting many of our highlights and happy moments. It’s easy to neglect to post those moments where things aren’t going so well or when we’re struggling. Your teen scrolling social media may see only happy stories, stories of vacations, grand adventures, and perfectly happy teens. Whether those social media posts tell the whole story or not, your teen is going to find himself feeling left out while the rest of the world lives it up.
  • Bullying and trolling. Cyberbullying is a real risk for the mental wellness of your teen. All it takes is one small social slip up, and your teen could find himself being the target of bullies who are relentless in their attacks on him. There are all too many tragic stories in the news about teens taking their own lives due to being bullied online.
  • Stalking and abuse. Whether from someone they know or a relative stranger online, your teen may find that they are being stalked and abused emotionally and mentally.

It’s strange to think that in an era of what can be considered hyperconnectivity, our teens are lonely and feeling sad about the lives that they are leading.

What can you do?

It’s tempting to want to remove your teen from social media completely. This need to protect them is understandable, but it’s not realistic. What you can do is do your part to minimize any of the risks that are connected to technology. Start by addressing the amount of time that you spend on social media. Leading by example is one of the best things that you can do for your teen.

We’re all guilty of checking social media when we’re bored or simply out of habit. It makes sense that our teens would follow our example. Establish device-free areas and hours in your home so that your family has time to reconnect.

Monitor your teen’s use of social media. If need be, log in to their accounts to see who they’ve been speaking with. You don’t need to read the conversations but rather get an idea of whether they’re talking to friends from school or a stranger in another city.

If your teen is struggling with his mental health, get him the right kind of help to meet his needs. This could look like individual therapy, family therapy, or something a bit more in tune with the treatment needed to address his mental health concerns. You may wonder if a residential treatment center is right for your teen. It may not be the right choice for your family, but many teens find that being removed from the situation they are struggling in can prove helpful.

Residential treatment centers and therapeutic boarding schools offer teens a safe and nurturing space to heal and grow. At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect families with the resources needed to address the mental health concerns that your troubled teen is facing.

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