In the last few years, it has become apparent that our teens and young adults face dangers to their mental health each and every day. These dangers are unavoidable and inescapable. They travel with us in our pockets or purses everywhere we go. We are facing a mental health crisis. This crisis is the presence of our teens and young adults on social media.
Social Media and Mental Health
Over forty percent of teen girls and 20 percent of teen boys claim that they are online more than three hours per day. Forty-five percent of adolescents claim that they are online constantly according to a recent survey.
Studies indicate that social media may have negative impacts on our mental health. As the amount of time spent on social media increases, the amount of time socializing face to face with friends and family seems to decrease. This reduction in face to face socialization seems to cause an increase in mental health problems.
Other researchers have questioned whether social media may affect our self-view or self-image. Studies are currently being conducted to determine whether social media may have this effect and why.
The Negative Impacts of Social Media
With a large portion of our younger population glued to their phones, we have to wonder what the consequences are of using this technology. Social networking sites, specifically, appear to be a cause of negative impacts on our mental health. Let’s take a look at what these negative impacts are.
Overuse of social media seems to correlate with low self-esteem. It is an issue that teen girls have always struggled with, but the prevalence of it among young people has exploded in the last decade.
Researchers believe that social networking sites lower our self-esteem because we are constantly seeing the best of everyone else. We are seeing the most exciting things that they do, the most attractive pictures, and overall the best side of them.
In reality, their lives are very different, but we don’t see that. We see our own imperfections every day, but on social media, everyone else appears to be perfect. Instagram users report the highest number of feelings of anxiety, depression, and body-image issues.
Another negative impact of social networking sites is cyberbullying. The practice has garnered a lot of attention in the last five years. We are constantly hearing about suicides that stem from cyberbullying in the news.
Over ten percent of social media users at any given time are the victim of cyberbullying. As many as seventy-two percent of teens claim that they have been cyberbullied. Many of those who did not report cyberbullying, reported hateful comments and hurtful statements.
Platforms such as Twitter, offer the perfect space for online bullying. Lies, rumors, and hurtful statements spread quickly. These words cause deep wounds. Cyberbullying is more likely to lead to suicide than in-person bullying. This is due to the chronic nature of it. It occurs online and follows the young person wherever they go and it is often out of sight from adults.
Feelings of Inadequacy
Social media often causes feelings of inadequacy. These feelings can come from the low self-esteem caused by analyzing everyone else’s perfect life and appearance. But, these feelings of inadequacy also come from our own posts and photos.
We want to fit in, so we post our best pictures and most interesting activities. When our friends react positively to these lies, we assume that they like a version of us that does not exist in reality.
Depression and Anxiety
All of these negative impacts of social media come together with lack of sleep and lack of face to face interaction to increase the risk of depression. Teens report sleeping with their phone and waking up to check it constantly due to their fear of missing out. A lack of sleep naturally causes negative feelings of depression and anxiety.
Because young people spend so much of their time on social media, their social connections wane and weaken. This lack of social support causes feelings of loneliness, which escalate to depression and anxiety.
What We Can Do
As adults, we can encourage our teens to spend less time on social media. Encourage face to face social interactions. These interactions could be social gatherings, participation in sports or clubs, or even specified times spent with family.
We could also monitor our teens’ time spent on social media. Talk to your teen about limiting their time spent on their phones or adding you to their social media account. Provided that you agree not to embarrass them, they should comply with the request.
The final thing you should do is be informed. Ensure that you have all the information regarding teens on social media. Inform yourself of the negative consequences this technology can have and know the warning signs. Check out the following links for more information.