Social Media and Mental Health

Shot of a young couple using their cellphones in bed at night back to back

Being a parent is hard, and being a parent in an age of social media is extra hard because it is uncharted territory. Parents 30 years ago were deciding what CDs were appropriate for their kids, not whether or not they needed a smartphone and access to social media. The decisions parents make now are much different than past generations, and studies are showing that too much social media use in adolescents can actually be harmful to their mental state.

Through the rise of social media, there has been a rise in the number of young people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Though these two are not necessarily related, the numbers have caused researchers to pay attention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has defined something called “Facebook Depression” within their field. Though the American Psychiatric Association does not list Facebook Depression as an actual diagnosis, it is defined as “depression that develops when teens and preteens spend time on social media sites and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression due to the intensity of the online world.”

Basically, the feelings that young people have looked at their peers in the best light possible causes them to feel inadequate, or portraying themselves in the best light possible causes them to feel even better about themselves. When you have a child who is already working on low self-esteem, then seeing popularity on social media through page likes, picture likes, shares, etc. makes them feel even worse about themselves.

Instagram, in particular, is directly related to higher percentages of poor body image in people using the platform. Because Instagram is primarily photos and offers filters to enhance those photos, frequent users see beautiful images on the platform and in turn, hate what they see in the mirror.

None of these statistics are to say that every adolescent who uses social media will have low self-esteem and feelings of depression. These statistics instead show some of the scenarios of extreme use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. So, what can be done?

Parental supervision is just as important online as it is offline. This doesn’t mean you are required to watch over your child’s shoulder as they peruse social media sites, though. Talk about appropriate media use with your child. If you set boundaries and expectations up front, then both you and your child are on the same page, and when situations arise that should be addressed your child will feel more comfortable coming to you with those. For more advice on how to manage online activity in your teens and preteens, check out these sites – Common Sense Media, Connect Safely, and Caring for Kids.