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Is Social Media Healthy for Teens Struggling with Their Mental Health?

by Rachel Cohen

Social media plays a significant role in today’s society. It keeps us connected and allows us to express ourselves. While social media has many pros, it can also have negative impacts.

Teenagers may use social media to express themselves and connect with others. They may use social media to find others with similar interests or hobbies. While this can be good in moderation, the mental health impacts of using social media should be considered.

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media can have both positive and negative impacts on adolescents and children. The US Surgeon General reports that up to 95% of teenagers use social media. They also report that up to 40% of children ages 8 to 12 use social media.

The US Surgeon General reports that, on average, teenagers spend about 3.5 hours on social media daily. It may be helpful to have your teen balance their time between social media and other activities.

What Are Some Benefits of the Social Media for Teenagers?

Social media is often essential to how teens connect and express themselves. If you’re a teenager, you may use social media to develop and form new friendships. You may also find yourself in peer groups of those with similar interests or hobbies, which can be a great place to connect.

Teens may also use social media to engage with causes they care about. It can provide a safe space to advocate for themselves and others. Research suggests that social media can help marginalized groups find community, which may be more accessible online than in person.

Social media’s most significant positive impact on teens is finding community with others. Having social support can provide teens with a buffer against stressors and help them feel less alone.

What Are the Risks of Social Media for Teenagers?

Social media doesn’t come without its dangers. A longitudinal cohort study of adolescents aged 12-15 found that those who spent more than three hours on social media per day had double the risk of mental health symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.

Social media usage can also lead to comparison traps–or an increase in comparing yourself to others. These comparison traps can lead to poor body image or unrealistic views of what your body should look like.

Cyberbullying can affect teenagers’ mental health as well. Cyberbullying occurs when there is an aggressive intent to harm someone carried out through electronic methods. While the statistics on cyberbullying are hard to quantify, if you’re online, you can be a target of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can lead to mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. Teenagers can be threatened or coerced into doing things they don’t want to, and the perpetrator can instill fear into the victim that something terrible will happen if they don’t give in to their demands.

Research suggests that children and adolescents who are victims of cyberbullying may have higher rates of anxiety and depression and may be likely to attempt suicide. Teenagers who use social media should be aware of the dangers of potential cyberbullies and report any threats to their local police department.

How to Use Social Media Wisely

If you’re a teenager or have a teenager, you may wonder how to mitigate the risk of social media usage. While nothing is foolproof on the internet, these tips may help keep your teen safe:

  1. Check your privacy settings. On most social media apps, you control who sees your posts; if you only want certain people to see them, adjust your privacy settings.
  2. Find a balance: If you notice you’re spending a lot of time on social media, it may be time to take a break. Read a book, call a friend, walk, engage in a hobby, or do something else to break up potential doom-scrolling.
  3. Adjust your location settings: Social media settings may turn your location on automatically. For safety reasons, consider turning your location off or adjusting your location settings to only those who need to know where you are.
  4. Report harassment and bullying: If you’re experiencing harassment and bullying, report it immediately. You can report threatening posts on most social media platforms. If you believe you’re in danger, notify your guardians and, if necessary, your local authorities.
  5. Be mindful of your posts: Avoid posting information about your current whereabouts, where you live, and other identifying information on social media. Exposing this information online could put you at risk.

The Bottom Line

Social media can be both healthy and unhealthy. Suppose you’re a teenager who struggles with your mental health but enjoys being online. In that case, balancing your time on social media and other activities you want is essential.

It’s also important to be aware of the risk of bullying and report any harassment or threats you receive to authorities and your guardians. If you practice internet safety and limit your social media usage, this can be a healthy way to connect and find support.

If your teenager needs help navigating mental health concerns or you have concerns about their social media usage, consider reaching out to WiseMind Counseling for therapy today. Rachel Cohen of WiseMind Counseling is a Denver-based teen therapist who can help with any behavioral issues that may be stemming from social media use.


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