Teenagers spend a majority of their daily lives using social media due to the ease of access to websites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat on cellphones and laptops. Humans have the innate desire to connect to others in meaningful ways and social media outlets have made this easier for most, but what effect is excessive social media use having on teenagers? 73% of teenagers with cellphones engage in use social networking websites, a statistic that continues to increase over time (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010). Social media use has been found to increase self-esteem and perceived social support, while also decreasing depression and loneliness (Shaw, & Gant, 2004). However, other research has found the opposite effect with social media use increasing depression, stress, and loneliness. Continued Internet use has also been correlated with lessened communication with family members in the household.
Specifically, social comparison can cause negative mental health outcomes, such as depression and anxiety, in adolescents. When teens compare themselves to others on social media, who present themselves favorably, this can cause them to feel further ostracized and lonely. It is important to understand the way teenagers are using social media. In order to better understand how your teenager uses social media, you can ask the following questions: Why do you use social media? How does it make you feel? Who do you hang out with? What do you like best? What isn’t so great? (Walsh, & Walsh, 2017). It is also important to encourage teenagers to continue to engage in face-to-face social interactions by limiting the amount of time they spend on their phones. By engaging in compulsive social media use, they may become further disconnected from reality. Scheduling enjoyable family activities, such as game night or daily family dinners, may help to reengage your child while still allowing them to use social media in a healthy way. If you or your child need are struggling with mental health difficulties and would like more information or support from a mental health professional, please contact Interact at 215-487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services.
Author: Samantha Algauer, MA, LAC, NCC
Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social Media & Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults. Millennials. Pew internet & American life project.
Shaw, L. H., & Gant, L. M. (2004). In defense of the Internet: The relationship between Internet communication and depression, loneliness, self-esteem, and perceived social support. Internet Research, 28(3).
Walsh, E., & Walsh, D. (2017). It’s Complicated: Teens, Social Media, and Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-parenting-smarter-kids/201709/its-complicated-teens-social-media-and-mental-health