Social Media and Youth Mental Health

In today’s digital age, it’s important to understand how social media influences the lives and well-being of young people. Social media is a big part of their lives, shaping their decisions, behaviors, and beliefs. By learning about this impact, we can better help and guide them towards healthier online habits.

Understanding the Influence of Social Media on Youth Mental Health

Mental health

Social media connects us, informs us, and entertains us, but it also poses unique challenges, especially for the mental health and well-being of our youth. As parents and caregivers, understanding these dynamics is crucial.

The Harmful Effects of Social Media on Youth Mental Health

young teen sits alone on a park bench, scrolling on his phoneCyberbullying – Cyberbullying involves the use of technology to harass, threaten, or humiliate others. This kind of harassment often leads to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among young people. In 2022, New Hampshire’s rate of electronic bullying was 20.1%, the highest among all U.S states.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) – The constant exposure to others’ seemingly perfect lives on social media can negatively affect young people’s mental health. The Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, arises when individuals feel excluded out or inadequate compared to what they see on social media. This persistent sense of not measuring up can lead to emotions of loneliness, social anxiety, and inadequacy.

Sleep Disruption – Sleep disruption caused by excessive screen time and late-night use of social media can harm a person’s overall health, including their mental health and well-being. Lack of quality sleep affects mood, cognitive function, and emotional stability, emphasizing the importance of healthy sleep patterns for young people.

Social Media’s Role in Shaping Substance Use Behaviors

Social media plays a significant role in shaping how young people perceive and engage with substance use.

Making It Attractive – Social media has a knack for subtly making substance use look attractive through captivating images, tempting videos, and persuasive influencers. Posts and videos often show substance use as part of an exciting lifestyle, making it seem appealing and common.

Vulnerable Adolescents – Adolescents, in their search for identity and belonging, are easily influenced. They’re susceptible to the influence of social media and may conform to perceived social norms, including substance use. According to data from the National Library of Medicine, about 85% of high school students say they feel peer pressure from their friends and classmates.

Protecting Our Youth: What Parents and Caregivers Can Do

portrait of caring parent and young teen together

Parents and caregivers play a key role in safeguarding the well-being of youth and young adults. By staying engaged, communicating openly, and setting healthy boundaries, you can guide and support your adolescents as they navigate the digital landscape.

Recognize Warning Signs – For parents and caregivers, it’s important to watch for behavioral changes, like increased secrecy, withdrawal, mood swings, or unexplained absences (remember, sometimes these warning signs are simply symptoms of being a teenager!). Establish open, non-confrontational communication to understand their experiences and choices. For help in getting these conversations started, check out our blog post on navigating substance use conversations with teens, or listen to our podcast interview with Cindy Pierce.

Educate Yourself – Learn what you can do to create a healthy and safe home, school, or community. Check out the following resources.

Resources, Supports & ServicesResources

Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media: What parents should know to protect their kids

Family Engagement Toolkit: Resources to support healthy media and tech use at school and home

Social Media: A guide for parents and carers

Tips on Social Media Use and Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon Generals Advisory on Social Media Use and Mental Health

Wait Until 8th – A public awareness campaign encouraging parents to delay giving their child access to a smartphone.

Media Power Youth – A New Hampshire-based organization providing young people, parents, educators, and communities with curricula, training and workshops to build media literacy knowledge and critical-thinking skills to navigate our media-rich world.

Social Media and Youth Mental Health

The Reward Foundation – A sex education charity dedicated to providing resources to people, parents, professionals and policymakers to make informed decisions and take appropriate action about their sexual health.  

Fight The New Drug – A website with educational resources that raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn and exploitation.