The growing popularity of social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have solidified their place as a cornerstone of modern communication. As of 2023, over 4.9 billion people in the world use some form of social media. Social media is a powerful tool that is shaping the way we interact and share information. It keeps us connected globally, making it possible for communities to exist outside the boundaries of geographic location and within the confines of the digital web.
At the same time, the growing influence of social media can also have harmful effects on individuals and society. For parents, ensuring their children’s safety is a top priority. With the advent of the Internet, however, it can become challenging to monitor their online activities. Even though social media has the potential to provide educational and creative opportunities and serve as a source of entertainment for children, excessive use can lead to negative consequences like deteriorating mental health.
Statistics on Teen Social Media Use
An article published by the AACAP states that 90% of teens from ages 13-17 have used social media, with 75% having at least one active profile and 51% visiting a social media site at least once a day. Clearly, social media use has become a permanent staple in teens’ everyday routines. With the increasing availability of smartphones and internet access, teens are spending more time online than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, teens are split when it comes to gauging how difficult it would be to give up social media. About 54% of U.S. teens believe it would be very (18%) or somewhat hard (35%) for them to stop using social media, while 46% of teens believe it would be somewhat easy. Not to mention, 35% of teens use at least one of the five top online platforms—YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.
With all this in mind, it begs the question: how is this excessive use of social media affecting teens?
How Social Media Affects Teen Mental Health
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety: Many studies have been able to draw a positive correlation between social media use and depression and anxiety. What this means is that the more one uses social media, the more likely they are to experience feelings of depression and anxiety. There are many factors that contribute to this relationship—like a distorted reality or a sense of isolation from viewing content on these platforms.
- Low self-esteem and negative body image: The idealization of the “influencer” lifestyle has made it pervasive and influential in shaping societal standards. Many images and posts on social media are curated or staged, yet teens are easily susceptible to believing that these portrayals are accurate representations of reality. The unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy that result from the constant exposure to social media can negatively impact one’s perception of themselves.
- Cyberbullying and online harassment: The anonymity that is afforded on social media platforms can create avenues for cyberbullying and online harassment. People are more likely to voice hurtful or negative opinions because they are able to remain hidden behind a screen. Cyberbullying can lead to severe psychological consequences for teens, as the continuous exposure to harmful messages can erode their self-esteem, self-worth, and overall mental well-being. These negative effects can spill over into their academic performance and social relationships as well.
- Sleep disturbances: Social media apps are designed to keep users scrolling and engaging with content. Their addictive nature makes it difficult to disengage and limit usage. Not only that, but the blue light emitted from device screens can interfere with sleep patterns by suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
- Attention and concentration difficulties: As short form content dominates social media platforms, people are finding it harder to maintain attention and concentrate on tasks for extended periods. Social media provides us with instant gratification, conditioning us to seek constant stimulation; the second we encounter something that isn’t of interest, we have the option to immediately scroll or switch to another piece of content.
Ways To Address Teen Social Media Use
- Set clear and consistent rules: Establish clear guidelines and boundaries regarding social media use for your child. This can include rules on time limits, appropriate content, and responsible online behavior.
- Monitor screen time: Many devices have parental control apps or features to set limits on screen time. It may be more difficult to set rules regarding social media use for teens, as they tend to be online more independently and may resist strict restrictions. However, it is still important to be mindful of how much media your child is consuming.
- Check in with your child: Remind your child that you are there to support them by engaging in open and non-judgmental conversations. Ask them about how they are feeling and check in on their mental health to make sure that their social media use is not negatively impacting their well-being.
- Encourage a healthy balance: No child wants to be told what they can and cannot do. Rather than banning social media use for your child altogether, frame it in a way that promotes responsible and mindful usage. Allow them the space to think for themselves and make their own decisions, but also take note of when you would need to step in.
How Student Hires Can Help
Here at Student Hires, we understand the importance of prioritizing one’s mental health. We hope to educate and equip students with the proper resources and tools to manage stress and anxiety effectively. We partner with schools, districts, universities, and employers to create experiential K-12 after-school, summer, and youth educational programs led by local college and university students. Our vision is to help shape students into well-rounded individuals with strong academic and interpersonal skills, ready to pursue higher education or enter the workforce. Through our programs, we aim to promote mental wellness and provide students with the support and resources they need to thrive.
All this to say, social media is not all negative. It has its benefits when it comes to connecting people, sharing information, and fostering communities. Without it, people would miss out on opportunities for communication and engagement. Parents just need to be proactive in guiding their children’s social media use, ensuring that children understand the potential risks and practice responsible and respectful online behavior. As children navigate the online world, parents should remember to encourage mindful use for positive engagement.