It depends on who you ask. The answers are: “yes,” “maybe,” or “hell no.” The questions are: “ how,” “why,” and “what can I do?”
First, a little background about teenagers and social media. The landscape is always changing with teens who are on the leading edge of this space. TikTok is now the top social media platform among teens ages 13 to 17, second only to YouTube. Facebook has plummeted from 71% a few years ago to 32% today, according to a Pew Research survey.
On the plus side, platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram can be lifesavers for teens who feel isolated or marginalized. Pew Research says social media gives them the ability to instantly connect with others. But there’s a negative side like bullying or feeling pressure to present themselves in a different way.
Influencer marketing is another plus. According to Vox, a teen influencer who has between 10,000 and 50,000 followers, can make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a year. Social media influencers with millions of followers can earn thousands of dollars with one post.
So, what’s the problem? Social media sounds harmless enough, even beneficial. Many think otherwise.
Newport Academy, a world-renowned mental health treatment center, says the impact of social media on youth can be extremely detrimental to mental health. Specifically, social media and teen depression are closely linked. And overuse exposes teens to cyberbullying, body image issues, and tech addiction, and that means less time spent doing healthy, real-world activities.
Social media is a big reason teen depression has increased over the last decade. Surveys show that teen depressive symptoms and suicide showed exponential increases, especially among females. Teenagers who spent more time on social media were more likely to have mental health issues. Those who spent more time on unplugged activities, like in-person social interaction, exercise, sports, homework, and books were less likely to experience these issues.
Over the last decade, this theory has been confirmed by more research linking teenagers’ use of social media with increased depression. For example, in a 2018 study, 14-to-17-year-olds who used social media seven hours a day were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression, have been treated by mental health professionals, or take medication for psychological or behavioral issues.
Law firms are now suing popular social media sites because they may have contributed to teen suicide and mental harm in teenagers and children. Seeger & Weiss law firm says social media companies should be held accountable for dangerous practices that manipulate minor-age users. Lawsuits may force companies to be held accountable for wrongful deaths and other harms.
They contend that while teen social media use has risen almost 97%, mental health concerns have also risen. Between 2007 and 2018, social media may have contributed to an increase in the teen suicide rate almost by 146%. Social media use may contribute to:
- Eating disorders
- Body dysmorphia
- Sexual exploitation
So, what’s the solution? There is no definitive answer. Social media and teenagers are tied together as tight as a double knot. If anything, the inseparability will get stronger.
Parents can monitor their children with apps like Bark, KidLogger, or Google Family Link – but do you have the time, and do you really want to spy on them? Maybe you need to make time if you think your child needs help. How about a good old-fashioned talk? Confront and comfort your child. Encourage open communication. It’s always been difficult to have a heart-to-heart with a teenager, but it’s even more important today, so they won’t seek help from someone you don’t know, or they might not know, on social media.